Anything for Love

It’s quite uncanny the lengths we will go for the ones we love. I am writing this from a motor home in a campground so that is sufficient evidence for my love for the man I married but I took it a step further today.

It’s been a surprisingly cold and rainy few days in Jackson Hole. The first day we relished in a game drive and afternoon nap. The kids woke ready to rally for a bike ride since the rain had cleared. Tommy was hesitant. After a lot of pushing, he agreed and we were confused about his response and laughing at his resistance. Cycling is the one thing he truly loves to do daily and he had the four people he loves begging to go on a ride with him. He’s conquered Leadville and had plans to rock the challenge called LeadBoat (back to back races in Leadville, CO and Steamboat Springs, CO) but of course, the coronavirus has changed all of this. He was even genius to realize he could cycle to the rental car center and pick up our car at our Rocky Mountain campground. The boy loves to bike.

An hour or so later after our begging to make the most of the rest of the afternoon, he was a sweaty mess. He fixed the tire that busted while driving down the road, lubed the chains of all five bikes, swapped a seat cushion, and more. It was all a big effort and none of us know enough about bikes to help. We just wanted to enjoy the ride. He knew all that would be needed to go into it. It gave us all a bigger appreciation and it made us want to make the most of the ride together. Thankfully, it was well worth his big effort it and we had a muddy blast.

The following day the kids were invited to drive over to Yellowstone to see Old Faithful with their cousins. Tommy and I had a whole day to call our own. Of all of the things we could do, we saddled up on our bikes in the cold spitting rain and rode into town. I felt fierce after logging the 17 mile ride in my Orvis fishing jacket and yoga pants. He was pumped I was up for it. It was a big expression of love for me because of my willingness to lean into something he loves and try to understand it a little better.

This is the thing about love. It’s one of the greatest gifts but it is also some of the hardest work we will do. Most of us are likely familiar with the famous chapter in I Corinthians 13 that shares how love is patient and love is kind and all of the great expressions we expect from our partner. What struck me as I reflected the on the chapter today is the last part tucked in before the final verse: Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Love is learning to know yourself fully and knowing someone you love fully. It’s seeing the shadows of weakness and exploring them. It’s sitting with the truth that stretches between the two of you and honoring it, no matter how difficult it might be. It’s choosing to go through the unknown and stand with each other. It’s bracing for impact and coming out stronger. This seems far easier to do as a parent. There is a responsibility felt in creating a little being and taking ownership for your creation. You almost have to love your little monsters despite their bad behaviors.

It can become far harder to apply in marriage because of the perceived choice you made to connect …which then may allow for the possibility of disconnect. It’s humbling to take the time to explore yourself. Love begins with loving yourself and accepting all the parts you find. It’s pretty clear in I Corinthians 13:2: And if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

There is a new normal stirring and the quaranteam you had may be shifting because of it. Re-entry is hard enough when you are alone in your opinions but coming out of the safe space together can be harder because there are so many different points of view to consider. Baby steps can take you a long way. Make the small adjustments necessary. Start with finding ways to love yourself. Then take the time to look at those around you and understand what you might need to appreciate their choices. Put in the work to be known and to know. It may feel like a long road ahead some days, but when you believe you are in it for the long haul, the road opens up to far more possibilities than you could ever imagine.

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Reality Check

Transparency is important to me. I do my best to answer honestly if asked. I was raised to believe your name is your word. You can build an entire business by it. So this is the moment I share some of the fun realities of traveling in an RV and give insights and tips. For those who are just catching up, it took years to come around to this way of traveling. I was raised in the hotel industry and I now travel with a bedroom loaded up on my own rig. It is what it is. I realized despite my history, I can be my own person and own my future forward. I’ve always felt different and I’m working to own it.

Since we upgraded to more space in this rig, there is less potty talk, thank the good Lord. In our new space we have two full bathrooms and far more privacy. We worked our way into the larger model after using our travel trailer for almost 10 years, but having a bathroom on board has been crucial. I can’t recall the last public restroom I’ve been in on a trip and that’s a gift in and of itself.

Believe it or not, this rig has a washing machine and dryer. Bad luck is we can’t get the washer to work properly and we didn’t have time to call in the repair before hitting the road. Laundry has piled up but we packed enough clothes we should be ashamed. I even brought my fuzzy slippers for comfort.

We run a generator for power when we don’t get full hook ups and we have a 90 gallon water tank this go round so running out of fresh water would be a challenge. The real challenge is watching the grey and black tanks but we are pros pretty much now. We have mostly hot showers, and a bed full of pillows to have a good night’s sleep. It’s cozy as can be.

We have ample technology on board. Despite my hope to unplug while spending time together, we landed in a campground with enough service to download fortnite…and use the Xbox for a few other games. The giggles and sense of competition make me feel the time on screens is worth it.

Rainy days are for playing poker and watching old movies like Tommy Boy and A Devil Wears Prada. Parenting skills at their finest.

If we weren’t dealing with the the effects of Covid-19, we’d be fine to stay in remote places since our refrigerator/freezer holds more food than we could possibly eat and we stocked it heavily. We love to grill and I love be in the kitchen. The views aren’t too shabby most of the time.

However, we like to hit some favorite spots in Jackson Hole and happy to take all precautions because we want to be coming back for years to come (PinkyGs, Cowboy Coffee, Pearl’s Bagel and Cafe Genevieve to name a few) We want to support local in the places we love…we just opt for carry out this year.

Campgrounds have all sorts of layouts and not all campgrounds are the same. We look for wider lots and creek views when we can. We’ve learned through the years to choose the campgrounds wisely, but even then we don’t always get to pick our neighbors or our view. Despite this, we’ve found people to be extra friendly and we scored extra firewood from a family headed back to TN.

I’ve learned to take photos to feel as if we are in a space all of our own, but that’s just the art of photography. This year at our most favorite campground Gros Ventre, we had to camp out for a spot because our first night in was completely full. We were more than grateful to be allowed to camp in the overnight lot. T woke early to be the first in line to ensure we could stay for the stretch we wanted. Of course I’m grateful, but we landed a center spot next to the restrooms. Not my favorite, but it will do.

The bonus is the next rainy morning a moose was walking out by the creek and the front window of our rig was a perfect viewing point. Along with a double rainbow. Perspective.

This is the thing about camping. It’s about the thrill of sight-seeing, hiking the trails, the campfires and the family connection. It’s a shirtless wonder.

It’s throwing the manual out and winging it. Go big or go home. Laugh hard and laugh loud. That means expect the use of duct tape on mirrors falling out of place, bikes busting along the bumpy roads, and outside showers not running hot. There are a whole lot of headaches that come with the unknown but being on the road means you know what is ahead.

All that matters for this moment, is this: when you take on the unknown with the people who know you the best, you can take on anything.

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Continental Divide

In order to make our way to Wyoming, we cross the Continental Divide. It makes me think about how divided we are in this country and across the world. This divide follows along mountainous peaks of the Rocky Mountains and it seems insurmountable to approach. It stretches all the way from the Straits of Magellan to to the Bering Strait. It’s purpose is to direct the flow of water.

Much like what we are going through as a country, there are histories and maps and truths written through experience that help mark this territory as the Great Divide. Hundreds of thousands of travelers are made aware by the signs on the road. Likely many may never research or understand the landscape, it’s purpose, or it’s significance. It’s their loss. Yet, it’s my hope we can use the markings to talk about the divides that exist in relationships and how we manage the flow of communication, especially when we feel we are moving in opposite directions. My prayer is we can find we have more in common than we could have imagined. We are all more broken than we allow most people to see. Like the long lines building outside the entrance to explore the parks, what if we were all lined up to explore our hearts?

Like these sea gulls who are a long ways from water, we might feel lost too. It’s not too late to change directions or ask for help to find our way back to a space of understanding.

You may be carrying a burden that feels too heavy to bear any more. It could be bitterness, hatred, hurt, anger, pride or any number of emotions related to your own experiences. Maybe it stretches across your life and has created a divide between you, someone you love, or worse… between a community of people. Maybe you have carried the burden around so long you don’t even realize how heavy and deep it goes and how it affects you and those around you.

It’s time to acknowledge what’s keeping us from being loved or from loving others well. Let the waters flow over you, examine you and carry you in the right direction. Feel the freedom you were meant to know. Do all you can every day to understand you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) to reflect One image…not a divided self. So is every person around you. Let the great divide be what brings us together to go forward in love.

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All In

When you think about how Covid hit without a lot of warning, it makes me think about who you have to hang with, stay in place with and ultimately quarantine with should it be necessary. We certainly weren’t prepared for the downfall of the world changing, but we were in it together from the beginning so we have been riding it out as best we can, all in, all together.

This doesn’t mean we are always in the same place emotionally. Sometimes you need the forced time to rewrite the script of coming together. If we had been bracing for a normal summer, we would have been a family divided by camps and practices and likely a dozen other interruptions. We have always carved out two weeks together for a family trip but this year feels both heavy and significant.

I continue to push myself to understand where my kids are in all of this. With so many unknowns on the horizon, I love that we are learning about the unpredictability of what happens next in our game drives. Sightings are not expected at the National parks. It’s a hope, an anticipation, a curiosity that fuels the drive but you cannot get your park pass money back if you see nothing. It’s a gamble. The time spent pursuing the outcome is worthy in and of itself. We hike big hikes and see big skies and if we stumble on something super special like a bear or moose, we count it as a gift. Being present is the present.

It’s been a great stretch at Rocky Mountain National Park and we climb in to bed exhausted in all of the best ways.

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Showing Up

It’s interesting for the recent celebration of Father’s Day and all that dads do to make the world go round, the day in nature following this special day was all about mamas. We spend the morning on the lower lake watching the kids paddle board and joke around in the cold waters. The wind picks up occasionally and a few tumble in beneath the surface, coming up breathless from the frigid surprise. The sun warms us all up and birds continue to soar above. After lunch, we hike all through the aspen groves searching for elk sheds but instead come home with a beautiful piece of quartz. It’s a perfect Monday.

Our hopes were met later in the day when we came across baby coyotes and a mama nearby. In a scene feeling a bit like Out of Africa, we watch and study the grassland for movements. It’s remarkable how the young creatures have been coached to stay below the surface in their den while the mama goes out hunting. If only coaching kids to stay put could be so easy.

We head out to a patch of land to watch the sunset and take our group pictures, absorbing in the fun we’ve had all being together. A nearby woodpecker is dodging into the small hole of an aspen as a chorus of chirps crank up as she enters, feeding her babies.

Just as we rise from the picnic tables to circle up the boys for a photo, the quick hush from my brother in law signals the scene behind. A mother moose and her baby are running just behind us in a mad sprint. She’s thrashing and stomping and although we don’t know what has her so upset, it’s a sight to see. She seems to be in full protection mode. After sprinting into the lake, her baby doesn’t follow so she hurries her baby across the dry field and they tuck into the woods just behind us. It’s clear she’s using us as a buffer from the other mama coyote and her pups. Later in the evening, the kids will see two more coyotes so we feel certain the mama was scared for their safety.

It’s nature’s way. The need to teach our young, to protect our young. Our instincts for survival are strong. We do whatever it takes to keep harm from happening even under clear blue skies.

The most striking is the position in which we each find ourselves. Three types of mamas out in the fields protecting their people. Parker was convinced we were in harms way. Despite my reassurance, he felt we were putting too much at risk by standing and taking in the views. I’m sure the other babies were watching their mamas for cues to understand their safety.

Nothing I can say any of my children can really be for certain. I’d like to say you will not get hurt under my watch, but I know that’s not something I can promise. All I know to do is to show up and be there. . .to promise I will do my absolute best to protect them. Whether I have to act crazy mad or stow myself away for a little while, I’m always thinking of their safety.

As I head to bed at the end of the epic day and think about being a mama, it does take me back to the Father of all Fathers who is our ultimate protector. The skies are my reminder that our God is always watching and looking for ways to provide and protect us.

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Time Warp

In the same way that this has felt like the longest year, it somehow has passed quickly enough to forget what day it is. It’s how a road trip can feel. The same drive going home feels far longer than the drive at the beginning, despite the time passing is the same. Call it anticipation on the way out and disappointment on the way home, I am vaguely aware of both.

We have spent nearly 1,200 miles making our way out to Colorado and everyone has loved having a front seat view. Today was about changing things up. We played new songs and learned new games. A few takeaways: 1) a game of poker lasts a lot longer than I realized 2) it’s easy to raise the bets when real money is not at stake 3) word search competitions only work when you are looking at the right page (try to find airmail😉)

We have laughed. We have snacked. We have slept. We have drained our hot spot capability according to ATT …and we still have one hour to go. Even our dog Cleo begs us to stop by staring at the exit.

It’s all worth it to me because we are actually having a blast even in our boredom. We know what’s ahead. The view through the windshield is clear for now. The next few days we’ll soak up the sweet and precious time with cousins and I can’t think of anything more important than that in the middle of the road driving across the country in a pandemic.

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Back up

Sometimes it’s important to back up before you fully understand where you are headed. As I mentioned, tracks are always left.

We’ve left out a few details so I thought I’d play catch up. In an effort to be fully transparent, I’ve been in a place lacking all creative juices. I’m self described manic since Covid-19 hit the states …and my state of emotions is unstable at best. I work hard to feel differently but I’m a hugger by nature and I feel a bit lost in social distancing. So I fake it. I know how to laugh and smile and put on the show but for those who know me well enough, it’s just plain tough to feel happy on some days.

One of the most important pieces of buying a new rig is stability. It must be able to handle the road with all of the construction zones, wind, and storms. The final landing spot is equally important. The need to set up and open slides and stay parked for a while requires balance and equilibrium. It’s not just the vehicle that needs stability, but it’s the person behind the wheel. I’m not there yet so I’m grateful to have this man owning the road for us. Our little Cleo (our Italian retriever) is a good companion and seems to be enjoying the views too.

Another shocking thing in upgrading is there is no license necessary to learn how to drive this much of a bus. We spent three hours being checked out on the exterior and interior hoses, generator, plumbing, air brakes, etc. At the end of the tour, they just hand over the keys. It’s yours to drive off the lot; no questions asked. We had a lot to learn and did our best, despite a storage door popping open after taking our first turn out of the sales lot. And the gas pump could use a little more instruction about how close you should get to fill up your tank. We stretch ourselves in the newness of it all and still we feel invigorated.

The kids. They are just plain excited about the space. I think they are excited for both the extra space to move around and the space to be together again. It’s the definition of time. We spell it out in a way the kids are not only prepared but ready to take it on with us. Let’s be clear. For all of the room we have bought into, it’s still a tight fit. Attitude is the only way forward together.

We wrap up the first of our 8 hour drive realizing the firsts. Parker barely remembers Jackson Hole and he and Wilson have never seen a windmill because typically T and I drive the long legs out west.

As we cross into our KAO in Kansas, we still hold the tradition of playing AC/DC loud to make ourselves known.

Our first night to stay in our new rig is overall a success. We have a few wires crossed with the black water (never something to play around with) but our induction stove top and convection oven work like a champ for dinner. Ramen noodles for the win.

And after a long day, we know it’s time to settle. We head to our carved out spaces and get comfortable. We say our prayers and we can only hope and pray tomorrow brings about the plans we made.

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Coming on Strong

2020 has been a year like no other. It came on stronger than any one of us could have imagined. We went from thinking we might stay in place forever, to finally waking up from then numbness of this strange new space. Instead of laying down, we decided to strong arm our way back. It’s time we embrace the new normal so we ramped up our plan to take back the summer we love.

We have always loved the open road, mapping out the adventures of traversing national parks. We feel ahead of the Corona curve in that we decided nearly ten years ago to purchase our first travel trailer and explore East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains. We not only needed a change of scenery but we needed a shift in the pace of life. We were out of balance with work and family and we took to the road, squeezing in time together in our truck with our travel trailer hitched to the back. I like to tell the story of how unhappy I was in our first road trip until I hit the cool waters of a concrete pool just outside Gatlinburg and felt baptized in a new way of connecting with my family. Their giggles gave way to the fun I had been missing. Life had become so complicated. This stretch of time helped us simplify and reset our priorities.

Years have passed and we still lean into this time and hold it sacred. Stuart is a rising senior and likely next year will look even more different as he makes plans for college and beyond. We decided to make the most of our time and upgrade the family experience. There is no squeezing into tightly packed spaces of trucks and trailers this year. We traded in for comfort. We call this big rig Trona, based on last year’s nearly 12 hour truck ride through Death Valley and Trona, CA where an earthquake hit mere days after we came through. It’s our safe word. We need it more than ever this year.

We have saddled up every thing we possibly can because there is more square footage in this bus than a New York City apartment. It’s home for two weeks and the first stop is to see my sister and her crew who we haven’t seen since the world changed on a dime. We have a plan but if we have learned anything during this time of Covid -19, plans change.

I’ll end with this thought. Just like the rings of a tree can tell the story of how it lived, I hope this time speaks to my crew about living with what matters most and loving well those who cross your path. Time is something we can’t get back. How we spend our time and use our energy leaves an impression that can be traced. Our future depends on learning from our past.

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Navigating our Independence

It’s difficult to read maps sometimes, either when you don’t have all of the facts, or if you are inherently directionally challenged like me.  It also helps to understand scale.  We (ahem, I) made a few mistakes when mapping out our destinations and misread some of the mileage, but what a journey we had. In all, we covered almost 1,600 miles, and countless more going in and out of the 6 National Parks, exploring all they had to offer. IMG_3796 It was epic and exhausting.  It’s time to face the sad fact that all good things come to an end.  The longest drive planned was jammed into one day so we could maximize every little bit of Lake Tahoe before we made the descent into life as we know it.  We agreed to the almost 8 hour drive by our family fist bump.  It’s how we counted down time, every hour we crossed in the car together.  That’s a lot of fist bumps.IMG_3741

There is little to take in across Nevada but it is the state the helped us stay connected a bit longer.  I’ll be forever grateful for that 500 miles to Utah, savoring the time before it ends.IMG_3779

We will make our way back to Tennessee to celebrate our nation’s independence but I will still be reeling in the beautiful independence I experienced with the each of the people I call mine.

Happy Independence Day!


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Full Throttle

IMG_3643Lake Tahoe was a refreshing surprise as we rounded out of the grasslands of California and rediscovered the dense woods and roaring waters again.  There were plenty of cabins as we made our way closer to the lake and it did my heart good to know we were going to be in cold weather and surrounded by mountains.  IMG_3646

Camping in the woods is so special.  The trees allow for the perfect resting spots of enos tied up.  The canopy of comfort I feel under the trees with a fire going is just good for the soul.

Lake Tahoe is embraced by all of us full throttle.  There are so many lake activities to take in and we do our best to enjoy the ability to unwind, without the looming feeling of getting back into the truck. . .that will come later.   We wiggle travel plans around to stay one extra night here so we can just be by the beach and be together without any agenda. The real El Capitan has arrived and he has a contender. . .I’ll take both.

We log in a lot of firsts for the kids. . .first dinner cruise taking in the sunset, first time on a wave runner and first time parasailing.  It’s a wonder to watch the wind lift all three of our kiddos up into the air. . . they have their own personal experience flying together and all we can do is take in the backdrop of the mountains as they fly high above us. That’s what every parent wishes right?  For their kids to fly high and live life to the fullest. . .sure there are supports and there is cheerleading and there is a moment of nail biting too, but in the end, we want to say we helped our kids soar.

That is what I’ll remember most about Lake Tahoe. . .you only live once.IMG_3701

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