Through The Storm

Lisa and I had planned to be in Kingman, Arizona this week.  Unfortunately, those plans were derailed by Lisa’s breast cancer diagnosis.  We are now waiting for surgery and radiation treatments.  We are hopeful that we will soon be back on the road as we anticipate a full recovery.  But, for now, we wait.  I am reposting an article I wrote August 30, 2013 during our previous assignment in Arizona.  I wrote this with a friend in mind who was also going through breast cancer.  We never dreamed that it would eventually be us going through that storm. 

Arizona has some crazy weather patterns.  Currently we are in what is called “Monsoon Season” when sudden, torrential rain can wash out roads and cause massive flooding.  In the last two weeks we have been alerted almost daily to flash flood warnings and the heavy rains have us avoiding the lower roadways and streets as we navigate Mohave County.

Desert storms bring some of the most breathtaking, if not ominous, cloud formations.  With the wide-open vistas of the flat landscape, it is not unusual to watch rain falling a few miles away on a distant mountain.  Often rain can be seen all around us but never make it to Kingman.  The summer weather has been, for the most part, dry and hot with every daily forecast calling for more of the same.  As the seasons begin to change – we are experiencing these storms more and more frequently.

Yesterday Lisa and I traveled to Bullhead City, Arizona.  Bullhead City sits just across the Colorado River from Laughlin, Nevada – a gambling mecca for many in the area who like to avoid Las Vegas.  Bullhead City offers shopping that Kingman cannot and we go there periodically for that purpose.  On the way home we experienced one of the most severe storms since we have been here in Arizona.

As we got into our truck and began our trek back to Kingman we immediately noticed the strange color of the sky in front of us and dark clouds further on ahead told us we were in for quite a ride.  Behind us to the west the sun was setting in a clear sky but straight ahead in our path the sky was turning orange and dark blue and the clouds seemed to be bubbling with pressure.  This was not good.

Still we drove on.  Lisa and I listened to the radio weather warnings every few minutes.  Kingman was just about sixteen miles ahead and we continued to drive straight into the storm – looking for places to turn off if need be.  Flash flood warnings had us mindful of rushing water from the mountains all around us and though we had not encountered the rain at this point – we were heading straight toward it.  We talked about possibly pulling off the road until it passed – but the severe lightning flashing all around us made us unsure if stopping was a good idea. Sitting still in the desert just does not seem like a smart move and so we drove on – in silence.

Just twelve more miles to Kingman.  The rain began to splatter onto our windshield and almost instantly we were hit with a deluge of water that limited our visibility.  Cars started creeping to a near stop as we navigated around the slow-moving traffic.  We just kept driving into the storm – hoping and praying to make it to the other side.

With about eight miles to go I noticed a dim light of color above the mountain straight ahead of us and commented that I could see some clearing.  To the right and left – the storm seemed to be slamming the areas around us – but the direction we were headed revealed this small window of light that lifted our spirits and began to calm our nerves.  With a little more acceleration – we continued on toward that clearing ahead.

With about four miles to go the rain began to let up and the sky continued to lighten.  We realized that the storm was now mostly behind us and we had come safely through to the other side.  The twinkling lights of Kingman could now be seen in the valley between the canyons and we breathed sighs of relief knowing we were safe.  The storm was over and we were home.

There are storms in life and sometimes it is smart to pull off the road and let them pass.  Last night we learned that the best way to deal with danger was to drive straight into it and get to the other side.  Just get to the other side.  Hang on long enough and the storm will pass.  Just keep driving on even though lightning is flashing all around you and the rain is falling so hard you can barely see the road.  Just keep going.

I read yesterday of a teacher back home who is fighting breast cancer.  I hope she just keeps going and gets to the other side of her illness.  On that other side she will find the storm has passed.  I pray she just keeps going – keeps living – and refuses to stop until she finally sees the twinkling lights of home.



Golf and Getting Older

I’ve been playing golf here in Kingman with my RV neighbor, JC.  We found a course just outside town called “Valle Vista” and we can each play for just fifteen bucks.  He really loves the game – I just tolerate it.  I’ve never been real good at golf – although I am getting better.  Apparently the more you play the better you get.  I had no idea that I actually needed to play to improve.  All the years I have played (and it has been sporadic) I never saw any improvement in my game from about the second time out.  I will hit one really good shot and then botch the next four.  My best score ever is a 91.  Golf has been for me a game of endurance – enduring the heat, enduring bad shot after bad shot, enduring my desire to wrap a club around a tree or my partner who never seems to hit a bad shot.  Just endure it and get back home as soon as possible.  I started measuring my game not on my score but how many balls I lost.  “Hey, Lisa! I played really good today – just lost six.”

Back home I would play (maybe) three times a year (if that) and often with friends from the school system where I worked.  One thing I learned is that teachers have a lot of time to play golf and work on their game in the summer.  I never had that luxury as a twelve month employee.  So most of the people I played golf with were much better than me.  I hate those people!

Here in Kingman I have struggled to find much to do with my spare time other than swim, read, ride my bike and take care of all the domestic chores.  There is no battlefield to walk and study like there was at Gettysburg and a foot in need of surgery has limited my ability to walk like I did in Loma Linda.  Playing golf seemed like a good way to use up chunks of time during the twelve-hour shifts Lisa is at work.  During her seven days off – we always find things to do.

The first order of business was to find some clubs since I did not bring mine from home.  Wal-Mart had a good deal on some cheap clubs and I invested under $200 rather than continuing to drop fifteen bucks per round to rent them.  Now I have two complete sets of cheap Wal-Mart golf clubs.  At least I can use my cheap clubs as an excuse for my poor play.  “If I had a set of $800 clubs I could play that well too.”

JC and I usually play on Mondays and Thursdays and in order to get the fifteen dollar deal we have to play between two and six in the afternoon.  Around 3 o’clock Kingman Arizona starts to warm up.  It is hot here almost all day – no let me rephrase that – it is always hot here.  But in the afternoon it gets lava hot – fry an egg on the concrete hot -melt the bottom of your shoes hot – hell hot!  So here we go for a nice, leisurely game of golf and before I can get my clubs loaded onto the back of the golf cart – my skin is sizzling.  Of course – I forgot my sunscreen (again) and my nose will be burnt for the seventh time.  Sunburned skin does not peel off out here.  It just fries into crispy pork rind-like pieces much like the burnt bacon residue of a hot skillet.  Just scrape it off and hope more skin arrives to replace it.  I’m just hoping my nose survives until October.

We tee off and as usual my first shot is train wreck.  Somewhere in the concrete-hard, brown gravelly area to the right – my ball has landed.  It is lost somewhere behind the cactus where a rattlesnake is probably waiting to attack me or maybe fell into a nice scorpion hole.  Straight ahead is nice, soft, lush, green grass inviting me toward the newly manicured green of my destination and here I go clomping into the briar and cactus field.  I’m also getting hot – if I failed to mention that.  My second shot is from this parking lot like terrain that has not seen rain in years and I grind off a third of my five iron as I whack it toward the first hole.  I actually hit it really good – too good – and it soars and soars – over the green – over other golfers heads playing the next hole – over the out of bounds stakes and into someone’s back yard.  I am as far away from the green now as I was before.  In fact – I would probably be better off starting over.  “Mulligan!”  And so goes my golf game.  I never know where my ball is going.  (At one point during our round I noticed a coyote roaming the course and even he kept a safe distance from my shots.)

Mercifully I manage to land on the green and three putt – put me down for about an ‘eight’.  I think they call that a “snowman” in duffer parlance.  Oh sure – I’m dying here in the desert and they have to call that a “snowman”.  Only seventeen holes to go.

My golf game has actually improved over the course of our playing for the last month or so.  Unfortunately, I have started having some additional aches and pains as a result of all the hacking, duffing, hammering and sometimes actually swinging my clubs.  It would help if I didn’t have to swing the things a hundred and ten times to get through eighteen holes.  At one point I felt this slight twinge in my left side as I teed off and for the next three days could hardly move.  Not sure if I ripped out a kidney or just pulled a muscle.  I think both would feel equally painful.  My left elbow feels like it is broken and my right foot (still needing surgery) throbs with each step, each swing and now has started hurting just pressing the accelerator on the golf cart.  You know you are in trouble when it is too painful to drive the stupid cart.

I’m just getting older and I feel it each time I play golf.  I know I could benefit from losing about twenty pounds and hitting the fitness center a few times a week.  A few golf lessons would probably not be a bad thing either.  But the fact is – I just don’t feel like it.

My foot, side and elbow hurt too bad.

“Four!”  (Postscript:  It was brought to my attention that this should be spelled, “Fore!”  Seems I can’t even warn other golfers the right way.  Yup! That’s about right.)

Life Will Go On

There is a change in the air here in Kingman Arizona.  It is actually feeling a little like fall in Kentucky.  At least it has felt that way the last few days.  We have been hit with some consistent rain over the last week or so and with that the temperatures have finally fallen into the mid 80’s during the day and low 70’s at night.  Although not quite sweatshirt weather – the change in seasons has reminded Lisa and I how long we have been have been away from home with still two more months to go here in the Mohave Desert.  Everyone tells us that September and October are absolutely beautiful here with lower temperatures and less concern about the monsoons.  We look forward to that.

We have seen children waiting for buses here as they began school in full last week.  Here, we learned, elementary school begins a week before all the rest (not sure the reason) but now all the kids are in school in full swing.  I noticed one little girl this morning at the bus stop wearing high heel shoes that looked two sizes too big as if they were all she had to wear.  I immediately thought of all the kids back home that are helped with school clothes through various agencies and how blessed they are to have such a caring community.  Kingman is not a wealthy place and by the looks of the homes in the area my guess is that many families are struggling to buy school clothes. There are a number of “thrift stores” and outreach programs here that, I assume, provide families assistance.  In some of the neighborhoods we drive through – it appears some are living in abject poverty. But this is nothing new.  Everywhere we have been – be it in western Kentucky, southeast Pennsylvania, southern California or here in northwest Arizona I have been reminded of Jesus words – “The poor will be with you always.”

There is a large number of native Americans living in Kingman and Lisa has come to know one who works with her at the hospital.  She is a fascinating woman with an incredible story that I will be writing more about in a future post.  It is apparent that many native Americans are still struggling to make a living and alcoholism and drug abuse are abnormally high for that population.  It is sad to see such a proud culture being destroyed by drug abuse.  Lisa and I have learned that the problems we may have thought were only in Kentucky are, in fact, shared by all other communities in America.  I don’t know whether to feel better or worse knowing that.

With the change in the seasons fast approaching – we find ourselves starting a countdown of our final sixty days here in the west.  By the time we arrive home the leaves will have turned colors and turned loose from their branches.  The high school football season will be nearly completed with Halloween just days away.  And life here in Kingman will go one.  Children will be at their bus stops, golf carts and four-wheelers will be driving down the road, flash flood warnings will be a weekly occurrence and here at the KOA campground – site #96 will be home to someone other than the McFarland’s.

And life will go on.

Have a great day!

Steve and Lisa

Finally – Familiar Faces

Being away from home for long stretches of time creates an intense longing for our family and friends.  Lisa and I know our grandson, Conner Jack, has grown and changed so much in the time we have been in Arizona that he may be practically unrecognizable when we finally see him again in late October.  Our life in Kentucky is waiting for us and we are missing those we love back home.

So it was pure joy spending a week here with good friends Wes and Kim Page who flew out to vacation with us during Lisa’s seven days off this past week.  To say we kept them hopping for seven days is an understatement.  From Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon and from Sedona to San Diego – it was an action packed week that we all may need a few days to recover from.

We were like kids at Christmas counting down the days until they arrived last Thursday.  Lisa managed to get rooms at the Trump Tower for our one night stay in Vegas and we enjoyed some good restaurants and the Vegas sights and sounds before heading to Hoover Dam on Friday.  From there we brought them here to Kingman where they were able to stay at our campground and quickly understood what we meant about living in the desert.  They must have brought some of the rain with them from Kentucky as it rained for only the second time since we arrived in late June.  We were fortunate to be able to reserve the campground “lodge”, an apartment sized cabin that provided them all the comforts of home.  Had we been forced to house them in our little RV for the week – they would have gone home after about two days and I am fairly certain we would no longer be friends.

Kingman does not offer many site-seeing venues but we did make reservations to eat at the “Hualapai Lodge” and there we were able to see elk and deer feeding just outside the restaurant window.  Elks are enormous animals that I would hate to encounter with my car or alone in a dark alley.

On Saturday we headed to Williams AZ and to the Grand Canyon.  Williams is a very ‘touristy’ place about fifty miles from the Canyon but we managed to find a nice hotel where we got checked in before traveling on to the canyon. Although the Grand Canyon is just one hundred miles from Kingman – Lisa and I had decided to wait and enjoy our first trip there with Wes and Kim.  We are so glad we waited.

Rain began to fall about the time we arrived at the national park and we got stuck in a railroad depot for about an hour waiting for it to subside before we could finally gaze at the great hole in the ground.  I have to confess I was a little skeptical about how “grand” this experience would be and really thought all the pictures I had seen in my life of the canyon would probably be about it.  The rain subsided enough for us to make a run for the El Tovar Hotel famous for being the place Teddy Roosevelt stayed in 1903.  After stopping to buy a couple of hoodie sweatshirt (matching no less) for Kim and Lisa – we walked across the hotel lawn and slowly approached the canyon.  All four of us arrived at about the same moment and gazed across the vast expanse – in awe of what we were seeing.  We were speechless for a few seconds – stunned at what God and nature had created.  The Grand Canyon is grand indeed.  From there we used the shuttle service to travel along the more famous “south rim” and even managed at one point to hike about a mile down into the canyon.  What an amazing place.  Now I know why so many foreigners travel here to see this.

After our day at the canyon we returned to Williams for the night and then on to Sedona on Sunday.  In some ways Sedona is equally impressive as the Grand Canyon and many of the locals here in Arizona had told us about its beauty.  Sedona is famous for the brilliant orange and red sandstone formations and although warmer temperature wise than Williams, Sedona offered some of the prettiest vistas of our trip.  We stopped to ask about things to do and were advised to ride the train through the Verde Valley Canyon.  The four-hour ride was around $50 each but well worth our time and money.

We headed back to Kingman for the night and then loaded up and traveled five and a half hours to San Diego on Monday morning.  On our way we drove through our old stomping grounds in Loma Linda, CA and stopped to visit Lisa’s co-workers at the Loma Linda Hospital.  It was fun getting to show Wes and Kim around our little California community where we spent almost four months back in the winter.  The landscape had changed drastically since we left in late March.  The green hills and lawns were gone as the summer heat had scorched everything into a rust color and the temperature was not nearly as “paradise-like” as we remembered it in January and February.

We arrived in San Diego and checked into the Westin Hotel in the “Gaslamp Quarter” district of downtown.  Just a few blocks away from our hotel was “Petco Field” where the San Diego Padres play baseball.  Well – what do you know but the Pittsburgh Pirates were in town for a three game series.  I had no idea they were playing – hmm!  Actually Wes, Kim and Lisa found out about my ulterior motive weeks ago and managed to secure tickets on the internet on the way into San Diego – just hours before the game.  It was wonderful!  The Pirates won 3 -1.  “Is this heaven? – No! It’s San Diego.”

San Diego may have the nicest weather on the planet.  It was comfortably warm during the day and sweatshirt cool in the evenings.  One lady we spoke to said it tends to stay around 75 degrees year round.  We decided to spend a second night in San Diego and went to Balboa Park on Tuesday where all the museums and the famous San Diego Zoo are located.  I commented that the city planners knew what they were doing in designing this area and placing all the museums in a central locale.  This is an enormous area and shuttle services allow visitors to move from one museum to the other.  We visited the Automobile Toy Train Museums (I know – but I love toy trains – what can I say?). After supper we walked along the pier and got pictures near the famous WWII aircraft carrier “Midway”.  I did not know that the ship was not only used in WWII but during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. I have to admit that it was tempting to take a sharp right turn and walk a few blocks to see the Pirates play again – but I resisted the urge.  (By the way – they won 8 – 1).  Our second night in San Diego was at the “US Grant” Hotel – an incredibly ornate older hotel that first opened in 1910.

We decided at the last-minute to travel on to Los Angeles on Wednesday where Lisa and Kim wanted to shop at the “wholesale” district ( I will say more about that in a moment).  On our way we stopped off at Huntington Beach and put our feet in the cold, cold Pacific Ocean.  The ocean side of California has such a different feel than the inland side where we stayed in Loma Linda.  Traffic is crazy along the I-5 and two-lane Pacific Coast Highway.  But the views of the ocean were magnificent.  Huntington Beach was massive and it took several minutes to walk from the parking lot to the water’s edge.  We stayed just long enough for a few pictures and to get our feet nice and frozen in the sea water before heading on into Los Angeles.

Finally we arrived at the “wholesale district” in LA.  I had been here once before with Lisa when we were here in the winter but the place is still almost beyond words to describe.  Wes commented that it reminded him of the marketplaces in Haiti.  Shop after shop after shop were lined along several city blocks that sold everything imaginable.  Areas were sectioned off according to the items being sold.  There is a large floral area, large fabric and textile area, a fashion district and even a toy district.  We managed to cover only a tenth of the entire area – if that.  Wes and I became the pack mules for Kim and Lisa’s purchases and stood for a few hours just waiting for them to finally leave one store only to have them go into the next one.  I considered telling Lisa someone had called from our campground in Kingman saying our RV was on fire and that we needed to leave right away.  Wes had a look on his face of – ‘You mean I flew all the way from Kentucky for this?’

Finally it was back on the road and back to Kingman.  What a trip!  Lisa had to return to work on Thursday and after lunch I drove Wes and Kim back to Las Vegas to catch their flight to Louisville.  It was hard seeing them leave and turning the truck around and heading back to Kingman.  We have two more months before we are able to turn for home ourselves and we look forward to that.

In the eight days total that we spent with Wes and Kim there were many memorable moments.  Moments of belly laughter and moments of honest conversation and moments of just sharing a view of something or a good meal.  We had seen so many things – wonderful things – and yet it was during a blessing over our lunch on our final day together that it hit me.  I offered to pray over our meal and the first words out of my mouth – completely unplanned were, “God, thank you for our friends!”  I think my voice broke a little at the profound simplicity of that statement.  I think I saw Kim wipe her eyes at the same time.  Lisa and I love our friends – perhaps more now than ever before.  Our traveling and being away from home for long periods of time allow us to appreciate those important people more and more each day.  We miss them but as strange as it may sound – we are glad God has given us a chance to miss them.  When you are far from home – knowing people are waiting for you there – make the long days and weeks seem easier to endure.

“God, thank you for our friends!”

Love, Steve and Lisa

Who is that Young Man?

For twenty years I worked with seventh and eighth grade children in a public school and must confess it was, at times, depressing.  They often acted bad – disrespected teachers and staff, turned on one another (sometimes violently), dressed inappropriately, cursed openly, hated school and hated adults including their parents.  Being in that environment day after day had an ill effect on me – tainting my opinion that all young people were worthless wastes of time just needing to grow up and get on with their lives as soon as possible.  Periodically a child would do something kind or completely unselfish and my opinion would change once again.  It was really an ebb and flow emotional ride.  Now I find myself a year removed and firmly planted in retirement and my perspective has changed again – somewhat.

It may have been good for me to get away from that world every ten years or so – could have used take that time to heal up.  If I could recommend anything to my friends still working with young people day in and day out – time away periodically may be the best medicine to help regain a healthy perspective.  I’m not sure two months off in the summer can quite do that.  Take a year away – even if it means financial sacrifice and then get back into it.  It may make your next decade much more satisfying.

As I retrospect my years working with kids – I am aware that I am sounding more and more like the old farts who have been disparaging young people since the fifties. The generalization that all teenagers are juvenile delinquents is wrong-headed at best and dangerously destructive at worst.  I would never have wanted my two children to be lumped into the same categories as the young criminals that are making headlines daily.  It is completely unfair to allow the destructive conduct of a “few” – shape ones viewpoint of the “many”.  Admittedly – I had reached that point in my career where it became more and more difficult to find the good in any of the young people I worked with.  I knew – it was time to get out.

Still I am fighting the urge to judge kids I see – even here in Kingman – with the preconceived idea that they are worthless, trouble makers.  I have seen enough kids being escorted out of the local Wal-Mart in just the two months we have been here to have reason to believe the youth culture here is in real trouble.  About the time I am close to convincing myself all teenagers are Satan’s seed – something happens that changes my mind.  Something like what I observed yesterday.

There is no place to shop here in Kingman except Wal-Mart.  Because of that – I spend a good deal of time there – far more time than I would like.  One thing about it – Wal-Mart draws people from all walks of life and if I’m really bored I may just sit and watch all the “Wal-Martians” go by in the latest “Wal-Martian” hair and clothing styles.  (I never knew hair could be so green or purple spandex so tight).  Yesterday afternoon must have been Wal-Mart ‘Mardi-Gras’. I would say the place was a zoo but that is being cruel to animals.

As I sat drinking my Diet Coke at the Wal-Mart McDonald’s (could there ever be a more deadly combination) I noticed many young people milling around and making a lot of noise.  Several of the young men were wearing the latest style in sagging, underwear revealing jeans.  For one young future leader of America I noticed he had to keep one hand on his waistband at all times for fear his pants may slide all the way to the floor.  The young ladies bounding behind the guys were equally impressive in their costumes that would make “Hooters” shut down.  I was immediately disgusted and prepared to leave before the party got too intense.  As I was gathering my things a man in a wheelchair rolled up to the booth next to me and I noticed he was a double leg amputee struggling with his food and a case of soft drinks laying in his lap.  After he finished his meal – I watched as he rolled his chair to refill his drink and he had to ask the gathered throng of punk kids to clear a way for him to maneuver.  As he balanced the case of drinks in his lap – I noticed one of these geniuses with his girlfriend walk up and thought they would certainly make a joke about the poor man – which may have sent me over the edge and probably in jail.  The young man walked up and asked if he could help the man with his drinks.  What?  Am I seeing this?  I cleaned off my glasses and blinked a few times.  I could not believe what I was seeing.  The young man then took the case of drinks (I’m not lying about this) and with his girlfriend at his side began walking with the man through the store while he finished shopping and then walked with him outside to his car.  At first I thought they may have known one another – may even be related.  But I soon realized they were complete strangers.  What a moment – what an incredible young man.

I don’t know if I will ever see that teenager again – but you can bet I will be looking for him every time I go to Wal-Mart.  He made me change my mind about young people – again.  There are some amazing kids out there doing some amazing things while overcoming some incredible obstacles.  Now I remember why I worked at a middle school for twenty years.

Whoever that young man is – thanks!

See Ya!

A Ministry Unexpected

It was in an airport in Texas.  Lisa and I were flying from California to Orlando and had to change planes in Austin.  The airport was busy – people were everywhere walking, running, drinking coffee, looking at their phones.  We stopped for lunch at a counter service restaurant to wait on our next flight and it was in that moment that I recognized the quiet.  Surreal quiet.  All these people – everywhere and hardly a sound was being made.  People were silently in their own little world of looking at newspapers, eating lunch, staring out windows and simply trying to get through their day.

“If the Lord had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.”  Psalm 95:17.

This is a busy world we live in – sometimes crazy in terms of the activities, deadlines, obligations and busy-ness of what seems at times like a mad, mad world.  My retirement and our traveling with Lisa’s job has taken away a lot of the mind numbing, body breaking deadlines.  And though we have eliminated much of that type of lifestyle – we have found ourselves now immersed for the third time in the lives of people still battling the world and, in some cases, losing.  Lisa has been able to bring a little light and energy to otherwise sad, frustrated people who God has thrown in her path and in mine.  I am proud of how she has been able to share the love of God with a lot of desperate, lonely and sad people with just a few kind words and a very, very good work ethic.

Yesterday she told me of a young nurse at her hospital who she noticed never spoke to anyone.  She did her job, ate her lunch, walked down hallways and simply existed in near silence.  As they were eating lunch, the lady blurted out – almost unknowingly – that she wished she knew how to coupon.  Lisa overheard her say this and then sat mulling over whether she should speak up and let her know she had found the right person.  For a few years now Lisa has couponed like the pros and has stockpiled tons of items that we will be using for the next decade.  I am fairly certain there is no “Colgate” toothpaste left in western Kentucky.  It is stored in our cabinets in Owensboro.  Her experience has led her to even teach several classes explaining her coupon technique.  She found herself hearing this very quiet person spill out this desire and knew God was once again up to something.  And (with the help of her co-worker, Gary – who is never at a loss for words) she introduced herself and explained that she could help her coupon.  The lady was ecstatic and began talking a mile a minute.  Others would later say they had never heard her say so much and the two are now planning to go shopping together in the coming days.  I’m interested in seeing how this relationship develops in the coming weeks.

It is my hunch that many, many people are living in quiet desperation.  They go about their lives without saying much about their pain and put a good face on an otherwise excruciating sadness.  We (and I have to include myself) are masters at “faking it”.  It does not take much (really) – just a kind word – a deliberate interaction – a breaking of the silence to make a difference.  As the Psalmist wrote “If the Lord had not been my help – my soul would have dwelt in silence.”  It is in silence, I believe, that many are living out their pain.

There is a couple living here at our campground (originally from Ohio) who after their retirement decided to move to Arizona.  They are in the process of building a house outside Kingman and are staying here until it is finished.  The man’s brother came out to visit for a few weeks and I would see him sitting by himself near the pool day after day.  On occasions I would say “Hi!” or “Nice day!” but would never get a response.  Finally, I decided he just did not want to talk to me.  After he went back to Ohio I had an opportunity to ask the couple about him.  I told them how sorry I felt for him and that he seemed so sad – often just sitting with his head in his hands.  They explained that he had some mental problems and was just unhappy no matter where he was or who he was with.  They went on to say that he would probably never be any better.

I have to wonder if many people are nearing a point in their lives where their quiet sadness will someday be irreversible and find themselves at a depressed point of no return.  It seems that Lisa has been given this unexpected ministry to be tuned into those around her that need a kind word or maybe a coupon buddy.  Her ability to reach out to people hurting has resulted in new friends now scattered across three states.  In September we are planning to meet up with some of those friends we made in Loma Linda as we will travel to Redlands, Ca. and spend a weekend with them.  We hope to get back to Hanover and visit with the friends we made in Pennsylvania.  Someday, I feel sure, we will want to return here to Kingman and see our friends here again.

It is true that Lisa is the one working and I’m retired.  I tell people that she could not make it without me.  I joke about that – but it really is true.  I cook, clean, do laundry, take care of our RV (swim and play golf – I had to throw that in). But the fact is I could not do without her.  And it is not because of her work and income.  I need her to continue pushing me to (as she says) “put myself out there” and meet people.  I am learning how to do that.  She has shown me the importance of breaking my silence in order to help other people break theirs.

Our legacies will not be what we leave in a bank account – but what lives have been brought out of an abode of silence because of a kindness we have shared.


Steve and Lisa

Senior Day at the Movies

The movie theater here in Kingman features four movies you can choose from at any given time.  Apparently the theater is incapable of handling 3-D movies and many of the films Lisa and I would like to see never make it here.  Kingman has less than 30,000 residents which explains the reason for only a four screen theater.  We can live with that.  Sometimes too many choices is just that – too many.  Lisa and I have probably watched more movies here in Kingman in the short time we have been here than we watched in a year back home in Kentucky.  When the weather outside is 110 degrees – you look for any place with air conditioning.  Movies are a good place to stay cool for a couple of hours.

We have also discovered that many people living in RV campgrounds search out the best deals in terms of restaurants, grocery deals, and entertainment discounts.  My golf buddy, J.C., told me about a golf course nearby that cost just $15 bucks per person and that includes cart.  These “full timers” know how to find a deal – and we’re good with that.  We overlook the fact that often they want to eat supper at 3:00 in the afternoon – when prices are discounted.  We feel like we are living in Jerry Seinfeld’s parents community in Florida.

Today (Wednesday) Lisa and I took advantage of one of those “senior discount deals” and took in a 10:00AM movie at the theater.  Every first Wednesday of the month – a 10:00AM movie is featured for $1 and that includes popcorn and a drink.  You read that right – one dollar!  Since Lisa was off work today – we decided to take advantage of the deal along with several others from our RV park.

When we arrived we learned that the featured dollar movie was not a first run film.  In fact, the feature today was an old Elvis movie from 1961.  Oh well – what should we expect for a buck?  The popcorn and soft drink alone was worth the price of admission and besides – what else was there to do today?  So we entered the theater and immediately realized we were (by far) the youngest people in the place.  I noticed that the lady taking our ticket looked me over pretty good but did not ask my age.  I think you had to be at least seventy and show proof of age with either an AARP card or a “Depends” box top – which Lisa and I had neither – but she allowed us to go in anyway.  Now feeling completely stupid we made our way into the theater dodging walkers and oxygen tanks.  The smell of buttered popcorn, moth balls, Vicks Vapor Rub and some unmentionable smells permeated the theater air as Elvis took the screen.

Soon after the movie began – a gentleman across the aisle from us began choking on his popcorn and Lisa and I discussed which one of us would do CPR on him.  She was just re-certified last week – so she was chosen for the job.  Fortunately he made it through the movie but hacked and gagged periodically all the way to the end.

I use to think teenagers were the loudest people in a theater but Lisa and I both learned today they can’t hold a candle to senior adults.  Cell phones rang louder than train whistles throughout the movie and not only that – they answered them.  Also, Elvis must have been hot stuff back in their day – he still created some “Oohs” and “Ahhs” from the crowd and many felt the need to comment about everything that happened.  About halfway through the movie – Lisa and I, almost simultaneously, started laughing. This is one of the moments we will talk about a long time from now.

The movie ended and we began inching down the aisle behind the walkers and wheelchairs. I am glad Kingman has this service for its seniors – they seemed to enjoy their morning at the movie and in the end – Lisa and I enjoyed it was well.

We will have two more opportunities to see a movie with our new senior friends before heading back to Kentucky.  I told Lisa – not to worry next month.  Those dates are on me.

Laughing at life!

Steve and Lisa

Wind, Rain, and Sun

Living in the west has many advantages – particularly sunny weather year round.  Lisa and I experienced our first western winter this past year in Loma Linda and understood the appeal of the west coast climate.  You could not ask for anything better.

Arizona weather has come with a few surprises that we have learned to live with.  It is hot here (obviously) but the evenings are extremely pleasant and we have discovered that many people here do not go out until the sun goes down.  This past week Lisa was called into the hospital (while on-call) at 2:00 in the morning and she noticed a crowd outside the local McDonalds as well as many older residents riding their bikes – two freaking O’clock in the morning!  I recently had a conversation with someone who after  hearing I was from Kentucky said she loved the skin complexion of Kentuckians compared to  people here in Arizona.  Here, she said, people’s skin look like boots.  I never really thought about Kentuckians skin complexions until she said that.

But as I thought about it – it really does make sense.  To be outside during the summer months in the Mohave Desert is a test of endurance.  We have learned to never be too far away from water as the dry air will turn your skin to ash and your throat to sandpaper in a matter of minutes.  We are now buying our skin lotion by the drum.  Lisa’s co-workers advised her early on to drink plenty of water – even if you are not thirsty.  Likewise we have tried to adjust to excessive sun exposure and my “skillet skin” (as Lisa calls it) has burned, pealed, tanned, burned and pealed again going on about the fifth cycle.  If my skin gets too much more sun exposure I’m afraid someone will confuse it for beef jerky.

But the dry, hot conditions we were expecting.  We were not ready for the winds.  It is very unusual to find no wind blowing here in Kingman.  Riding my bike feels like I’m pushing against a jet engine at times.  Our RV has not stopped swaying almost from the time we arrived and on occasions high winds will blow through in sudden gusts creating huge dust clouds and blowing away anything left unsecured.  Forget pulling out an RV awning – it would not last a single day.  But with the strong winds – usually comes cool breezes at night and it has on a few occasions almost felt cool – almost.

Finally we learned about monsoons.  We experienced our first and only (so far) monsoon and flood level rain this past week.  All the streets, sidewalks and parking lots were left caked in mud when the waters receded and the “washes” (large trenches designed to carry away the flood waters) flowed like small rivers throughout Kingman.  We received four inches of rain in a three-hour period and the waters carried many vehicles down stream as they moved across the area.  Some are saying it was the biggest rain they have had here in years.  Well of course – right up there with the hottest temperatures they had experienced in a hundred years and the McFarlands have seen it all.

It seems that Arizona is a state of extremes.  Here you don’t just have a summer shower – you have floods that can kill.  Here you don’t have summer breezes – you have hurricane force winds.  Here you don’t just have hot summer temperatures – you have saunas.  Some have told us that it can get cold here in the winter months.

I can only imagine.

Thanks for reading!

Steve and Lisa