Back into the Junk Drawer

It is time for my annual cleaning of the junk drawer of our little blog.  Like anyone’s junk drawer at home, ours tends to accumulate to overflow capacity in a very short amount of time and it becomes necessary to throw some things out – eventually.  Here there is a lot of “this and that” and a few “thingamagigs” along with several “doo-dads”.  Lets take a look inside.

Going Home.  First up we find this little item.  We are going home.  After being here in Ohio since early May, we have been home only once and that was a very quick overnight trip.  This upcoming Labor Day weekend allows us to be home for a few days and it will be good to see everyone.  Can’t wait to see Conner Jack and Agnes (the family dog).  Oh yeah – It will also be good to see our other family members.

It takes us a couple of months to make friends.  Everywhere we have traveled with Lisa’s job we have made friends.  Lisa and I realize that it usually takes us a couple of months in one place to really make friends that we are comfortable hanging out with.  I don’t think we are hard to get to know or are unfriendly.  It just takes at least that long to know who we want to befriend.  There is a selection process that takes place in settling in with people and at the risk of sounding snobbish, there simply are some people we just don’t connect with as well as others.  Now that we have been here in Cambridge, we have made friends and they are people that we care about and who care about us.  Nothing makes us feel more at home than that.

Pumping Up.  Lisa has now got us involved with an exercise program through the hospital where she works.  We went for a preliminary assessment and are now involved in the program twice per week.  Her assessment determined she was in the moderate or mid-range category as far as fitness.  I tested out in the “low” category.  Well, of course I did.  Lisa only bragged on that for the next four days.  The problem for me has always been that dreaded BMI chart that has determined that at five foot seven I should weigh about 160.  WRONG!  I have not weighed 160 since the sixth grade.  One of the things I inherited from Tom Lea was a set of legs that look like tree stumps.  Each one of those suckers must weigh seventy-five pounds.  I’m not saying I don’t need to lose weight.  I do.  But to get to 160 will require amputating something.  Anyway – we have scheduled our thirty minute work-out appointments and Lisa was first to experience the thrill of starting the journey of getting into shape.  She returned from that first work-out looking like she was about to pass out and could barely lift her leg to get into the truck.  My thought was – how bad could thirty minutes be?  Let me answer that: BAD!  Holy Crap!  Josh, our really nice, Christian, fitness trainer turned out to be pure evil as he put my body through torment that only Satan himself could appreciate.  I came close to punching him in his smiling, enthusiastic face as he urged me on from one very simple exercise to the next.  The thirty minute work-out felt like three hours and it was all I could do to walk to our truck and drive home. Yep! I’m out of shape.

Doing the Right Thing.  Some of our family visited a couple of weeks ago and during a trip to a local department store, Lisa’s dad, Vernon, discovered someone had left their wallet in one of the stores electric scooters.  He and I went immediately to the service desk and turned it over to the store manager.  We were unable to find a phone number but did find the owner’s name.  The wallet contained several thousand dollars in cash and we saw that he was a veteran.  Our daughter, Heather, found a web-site that could locate a phone number and she paid a two dollar fee for that information.  We left a message with him that we had found his wallet and had left it at the store where it could be picked up.  We also left our phone number and address with the store manager in case he had questions.  About thirty minutes later we received a call from the man.  I was expecting him to thank us for our honesty but instead he accused us of taking some of the money. I explained that we never counted the money but could see there was a significant amount of cash.  I further explained that we had paid two dollars to locate his phone number.  None of that seemed to convince him that we had not stolen anything.  The question remained: Why would we leave our phone number and address if we stole your money?  No ‘thank-you’ was given – he just hung up on me.  I wonder if the original good Samaritan got a thank-you?  P.S.  We later learned that the man had sent a “lady friend” to pick up the wallet for him.  Maybe he should check her pockets.

New RV!  New RV!  Yes Lisa is still chanting those words on a regular basis.  We drove to Columbus this past weekend to scout out the new models.  All I can say is:  I wish I had kept that man’s wallet.  Would have made a nice down payment.

Coming Home!  Love, Steve and Lisa

 

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Making Connections

I was standing in the lobby of the Holiday Inn here in Cambridge, Ohio when I learned that Robin Williams had died.  Immediately I turned to the woman working behind the check-in counter and relayed the news.  I did not know her and she did not know me – but for some reason I thought the news worthy of telling a stranger.  Her reaction was one of shock and disbelief.  Like me she could not believe that the greatest comic genius of our generation had died.  It all seemed surreal.

I thought back to that moment a few days later and realized that Robin Williams had touched the lives of every day people all over our country and, probably, the world and this woman (who I did not know) and I were now strangely connected to this sad, grievous moment.  We were connected by this shared experience and we never knew each other’s names.  But more than that – and this may sound strange – it felt like we wanted to be connected even if in a small way during this moment.  This was news that one just does not want to experience alone.

As Lisa and I travel around the country we have learned how very much alike we are to people we meet.  Friends we have made along our journey have made us laugh, cry, become angry with, frustrated and inspired by.  People may have different accents everywhere we have been and different parts of America have different interests, styles and eating habits.  But mostly – people are just like us.  They love their families, work hard, want what is best for their towns, and many, if not most, love God and love their country.

Perhaps the most important learning in our journey has been that most people want to make connections with other people.  I know there are exceptions to this rule.  Trust me, we have met a few people in the various RV parks where we have stayed who make it very clear they don’t want to talk or be talked to.  But most are people who do want to connect with others.  In fact, we have discovered that there seems to be an epidemic of loneliness and isolation among many of the people we have met along the way and that is both sad and disturbing.  Some people seem absolutely starved for companionship.  Even though we are surrounded by people everywhere, loneliness seems to be at an all-time high level and as we become more connected through social media, we seem to be growing more estranged from one another.

Recently Lisa and I visited the Cambridge Glass Museum and were amazed at the collection of glass products that were produced here in Cambridge from the early 1900’s up through the 1950’s.  The glassware on display harkens back to a day and age when people dressed up for their meal and tables were set with elegance and style.  Serving meals during that time was the social connection of the day and meals were eaten slowly and often would take a couple of hours to complete.  Our guide made the comment that people hardly talk during meals today or they are staring at their smart phones instead of interacting with one another.  (In fact, it is sad to say, many children will grow up not knowing what it is like to eat food from a glass dish.)  Before television took over our schedule and rushed us through our meals, people savored food and conversation.  I also wonder if blood pressures were lower then.   Sometimes I wish I could experience life at a slower pace without technology.  Who knows?  Maybe food tasted better and people felt less lonely.

Lisa and I are now entering another thirteen week stay here in Cambridge.  We have made some connections with people – we have made friends – but our lifestyle is as fast paced as ever.  We eat off of plastic plates and drink from cans or plastic bottles.  Often we go into a restaurant and look at our phones rather than each other.  We did buy a piece of vintage Cambridge glass – a finger bowl from 1926.  I don’t know who owned the bowl originally or what it was really used for.  It is too small to eat cereal out of and not much good for soup.  It may have very little practical use.

But maybe it will remind us to put our phones away while we are eating.  People ate from this bowl when there was no television or internet.  And they seemed to get by just fine.  Maybe this “finger bowl” will remind us that we can survive a thirty minute meal without “Facebook” or “Instagram”.  I’m glad we made that connection.

Love, Steve and Lisa

 

With Us

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Our daughter, Heather, and grandson, Conner Jack, along with Lisa’s mom and dad came up for a visit this past weekend.  It had been a couple of months since we had seen them and having them here in Cambridge for a few days was a blessing.  In fact, it was a miracle.  But more on that miracle in a moment.

We were proud to show off our little town to the family and share with them the good places to eat and cool things to see.  That took about two hours and then we sat and stared at each other the rest of the time.  Heather, Vernon and I saw the Pirates play in Pittsburgh and it was great sharing that experience with them.  And, certainly, the highlight of our weekend was spending time with Conner Jack.  Heather’s laughter has to be the most contagious laugh on the planet and she had all of us in tears laughing mainly at all of us.  We had a tremendous time.

But now about that miracle.

While driving Heather and Vernon to Pittsburgh on Sunday my mind flashed back to June 14th.  While riding up to Amish country near Dover, Ohio, Lisa and I learned that day of the motorcycle accident that involved her dad, brother, and friends.  That accident took the life of our good friend, John Worth, and almost the life of Lisa’s dad, Vernon.  I thought back to that day and Lisa and I hurrying to the hospital in Evansville, Indiana unsure of the true condition of her dad and unsure if he would live through the accident.  We drove that day mostly in silence – praying and thinking about him and those involved in that wreck.  It was not a good trip.  Now here we were with Vernon in the backseat of our pick-up heading to Pittsburgh to see the Pirates.  Heather and I talked away the two-hour trip and we laughed at funny things and we talked about future plans and possibilities.  It was a very hopeful, fun trip.

And then I realized that the moment was really a miracle.  Seeing Vernon sitting in that backseat reminded me of how good and gracious God had been to us.  It could have just as easily been Vernon to have lost his life that day and yet here he was – with us.  Something inside me wanted to shout for joy.  Maybe it would be appropriate to pull the truck to the side of the road and shout, “Hey everybody! Vernon is with us”.  They would have thought I had gone nuts and decorum calls for more restraint.  And though the thought of this miracle kept pressing against my mind, I managed to push it aside to simply enjoy the moment and the day.  God gave us this – God gave us Vernon, Lisa’s dad, my kids “Pap-Paw”, God gave him back to us for reasons only His sovereign will can explain.  All I knew was that we had this day – together and that we should cherish the moment!

In recent days the world has been shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of the comic genius, Robin Williams.  Many have said they wished they could tell Robin how much he meant to them.  But now it is too late.  Death has been called the great equalizer – but it is also the thing that takes away that last chance to say the one thing you always wanted to say.  Death takes away that baseball game, the ride in the car, the next birthday party.  It seems we cannot get our minds around the truth that we only have now – nothing else is promised.  There is a wrong-headed idea in our culture that believes this life of ours is permanent and we should resist any thought of our mortality.  Life goes on forever according to Madison Avenue so live it up.  No greater lie has ever been perpetuated on us and our world view.  Perhaps the latest shocking death out of Hollywood will open our eyes to the truth that nothing is guaranteed except that life will end for us all.  Say what needs to be said to those you love while you can and enjoy every day until that final out.

During the seventh inning stretch we sang and laughed and swung our arms to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.  We were happy to be at the game and happy to be together.  The Pirates were losing and would eventually lose the game.  None of that mattered.  In the course of our lives we will probably not remember much about the game – what was the score, who won, who hit home-runs.  But we will remember the day that we were together.

We will remember that Vernon was with us.  And we will be thankful.

Steve and Lisa

Thirty-One Years

Lisa recently revealed to me that she secretly thought our marriage would struggle while traveling with her job.  Her fear was that we would get on each other’s nerves so bad that it would not take long to realize life traveling in our RV away from family would just not work.  After all – for the previous twenty-nine years of our marriage her and I had a healthy daily separation as she went to her job and I went to mine.  There were many days when we hardly spoke as our busy lives seemed to barely cross paths with one another other than sleeping in the same bed.  Such is the life of a working couple raising two children and that life, though not easy, seemed normal and even comfortable.

Two years have now passed in this new life of traveling from city to city with her job and me, retired – taking on the new role of domestic house husband.  The truth is that these past two years have proven our marriage is the greatest asset in our lives.  We just simply could not travel without each other and the thought of sending Lisa to the next place alone is almost unbearable.  We need each other but more than that – we are blessed to have each other to share these amazing experiences with.  Life for us is each other.

Thomas is in his eighties and lives in the RV next to us.  He pulled in to “Spring Valley Campground” in mid-July and Lisa and I have become friends to him as our heart goes out to this senior adult – who is alone.  We don’t know what the story is with Thomas other than we know he has a son and he has called Valdosta, Georgia his home.  He seems happy and independent though a recent stint in the hospital was confirmation of his fragile health.  Seeing him alone is just a sad sight.  There may come a day in my life – when I will experience loneliness as I fear Thomas does on occasion.  Having companionship is something no one should ever take for granted and Lisa and I are aware how fortunate we are to not be living life alone.

Lisa and I have had some fantastic adventures in our marriage.  We have raised two marvelous kids who now have marriages of their own – one of which has produced a grandson we can’t wait to see and hold.  We have family and friends that we dearly love and dearly miss.  Over the last two years we have seen some marvelous places while living out of a leaky, twenty-nine foot fifth wheel camper. We have made friends from Gettysburg to southern California and several places in between.  I can’t imagine experiencing those things alone.  When we add it all up – we realize the greatest treasure of our lives is each other.  Allow me to speak my heart for a moment.  Nothing in our lives has been more difficult, nothing more demanding, nothing more emotional and nothing of greater value than our marriage.  It is why I am so disturbed by people who throw marriage away or quit without a fight.  Our marriage is the most important thing in our lives and seeing it regarded as “old fashioned”, obsolete or unnecessary is beyond sad.  It is an insult.   I liken it to laboring for thirty-one years constructing a cathedral only to watch as in seconds someone burns it to the ground.  I do realize that some marriages are broken beyond repair and I do not disparage those who have tried and failed.  Their pain is real and understandable.  But there has grown in our world a culture that pushes real commitment to the curb and regards legal marriage as restricting and impossible.  It is that attitude that insults me and the hard fought marriage Lisa and I have created.

This week Lisa and I celebrate our thirty-first anniversary.  We will be here in Cambridge Ohio thirty-one years to the day we married on August 5, 1983.  We may go eat at “Theo’s” and enjoy their home-made raspberry pie.  Perhaps we will stroll down “Wheeling Avenue” and go into a “Penny Court Antiques”.  Who knows what will happen?  What we do know is that we will be together and we will share that day with each other as we have every day for thirty-one years.  We have no idea how long God will give us together.  All we know is that today – we are not alone.

Thankful for thirty-one years!  Steve and Lisa