This Road We Walk

At what point do you stop believing what you see

 and reach for the golden ring that passes by each waking turn?

At what point do you grasp at the straws that lie scattered at your feet

and build with them a mansion spun in gold?

At what point do you take the stars and toss them wild to the wind

to wish on them the million dreams that fall in a twinkling shower before your eyes?

5310747696_0f1c8c239f_z

Is it possible that simply trying to see with new eyes

might be all it takes to

reach beyond hope

dance beyond dreams

and live beyond every obstacle that jumps out like a monster in a long and lonely night?

And so with heart in hand, and bravely or not,

you wrestle with demons, and find solace in sunsets, and count all the bleating sheep that wander past your sleepless nights

… And you walk on.

Over the ups and the downs. Through the ins and the outs. Past the rights, and forgiving the wrongs

…. you walk on.

With each weary step, every unsure nudge, and all the inevitable stumbles along the way

… you walk on.

3782030265_ef4326c4e7_z

And you look for his footprints on the narrow, dusty trail.

And you listen for his small, still whisper in each rage storm.

And you reach for his hand that reaches to you

holding-hands

… and you walk this Calvary Road together

finding that, somewhere along the way

– in the pit of your deepest fear and in the corner of your furthest dream –

you begin to taste the sweetness of this gentle Truth:

You are right where you are supposed to be

– tethered to His love forever –

with new eyes to see.

240389468_eae91116d1_z

A big shout out to Mor, Jenson Lee, Tim Parkinson and Lee (Shoothead), all @ Flckr Creative Commons respectively.

Joining with Lyli, Jennifer, and Kate

On your mark, Get set…

TrafficSignal         In the beginning…

I learned pretty early in my time here on Earth, that I don’t like beginnings and endings. Beginnings brought the ever-looming reality of endings that inevitably caused pain. Whether those beginnings were for projects, or stories to be written, or new recipes, I decided I would avoid them as much as possible…

like I’m doing right now

Take Two

In the beginning…

I don’t like writing beginnings and endings. They can make or break a piece; the responsibility is too much. I remember in high school I’d procrastinate until the 11:59th minute. Not because I didn’t do the research, or put in the time, but because of those darn beginnings and conclusions.

And it wasn’t just in writing. It was everything. I didn’t know how to begin a friendship — so I wouldn’t. I didn’t know how I would possibly finish a project — so I never started. Or I started so many stinkin’, imperfect times that the motivation peetered out and I was left with an unfinished mess…The end.

 

Geesh!

Take Three

In the beginning…

Sigh.

Beginnings suck.

Take Eleventy-billion

So, here I am. On my mark. Getting set. Still wrestling with this ‘interesting’ character flaw and I read:

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”

Bah-dah Boom, bah-dah Bing!  Ouila! Done deal! (Insert a little happy dance.) No more worrying about beginnings or endings! No more false or floppy starts. No more faltering or fall-flat endings. What a relief! And now all I have to do is the ‘in-between’ stuff. NO sweat.

So yes,  there’s this beginning in January.  There are hopes and dreams and heart-felt commitments to make them come true. And yes, soon enough we’ll see the ending approaching and there will be December again. And we’ll look back and see all the ways that we succeeded and failed. We’ll see that we tried hard, and loved big, and if nothing else we tried hard. But in-between? Ah, in-between, is the good stuff. In between is Life: God-given, wonderful, glorious, messy Life.

Wahoo! Bring on the good stuff. On your mark, get set…  (I’m good to go. How ’bout you? )        

ButterflyGirl

photo by stevendepolo (creative commons @ flickr)

Everyday Promises

 P1010481

Last year, something remarkable occurred:

I actually kept my New Year’s resolution.

Seriously.

… the whole year!

I don’t think I’ve ever achieved such a feat intentionally. Sure, I’ve renewed good intentions and yes, I’ve restarted some wavering beginnings… but an honest to goodness New Year’s commitment? Nope. This was a first.

It started simply as a New Year’s project with me and my fourth grade students discussing the tradition of making resolutions– nothing special really.  But every now and then these kinds of conversations can become magical moments.

…And Magic happened that day.

We talked of why promises are important, even those — and maybe especially those — to ourselves. We shared ideas of new beginnings and second chances, and discussed the value of making resolutions that were real and serious and worth keeping.

We touched on the usual New Year’s intentions of better health and mind and spirit. But most importantly, we talked of pledging ourselves to changes that would make a difference in the world around us, and in those people’s lives we touch everyday.

Bam! That’s when it hit me: I needed to hug Dad everyday.

It seemed, at first, like such a small, silly thing. Then, it stung with accusation: “Jane! People need hugs; they need touch everyday. You know that! You and Chris have each other… how could you have forgotten Dad for so long?” I was discouraged and dismayed all at once. Yet, from somewhere in the crossfire, I knew that this was a problem worth resolving. A promise worth keeping.

… At first hugging Dad was a little awkward. At first it felt contrived and stilted. And yes, at first, it did feel like a small and silly ritual designed to ease my guilty heart.

But this is what I can tell you now, one year later:

Everyday, as I reach to hug Dad and he reaches back from his sofa perch, I still see his eyes brighten and the twinkle return, and I see each yellow tooth flash in excited joy.

Everyday, I watch him sit taller and reach out further, and when he holds me I hear his gentle Eastern Colorado croon,”Ohhhh, I was just wonderin’ about you, Lady.” Pat, pat, pat. “Have a good day, didya?”

And everyday, with that simple squeeze, I always realize I am more blessed than he.

Yep.

Magic happens.

New. Every. Day.

But that’s the wonder of New, isn’t it? … whether or not that “Something New” begins as a promise on January 1st,  or on the next day, or on a lifetimes of Next Days after that.

Every new moment we’re given is opportunity for simple choices, secret challenges and sweet second chances to reflect, repent, revise, re-form, rebuild, restore, renew, revive, re-create and re-solve again. Everyday we can re-solve all the problems of our daily madness with simple resolutions of Love — resolutions that reach into lives beyond our own, and yet somehow rebound their miracles right back to us. Amazing.

So this year, I won’t be looking for any big, hyped-up, self-improving promises. Nope.

This year I’m going straight for those new and fresh ones … those “small and silly” ones. This year I’m going to practice starting fresh. I’m going to make daily promises that are real and serious and worth keeping.

This year I’m counting on seeing Magic happen everyday, in all the lives I touch along the way.

How ’bout you?

Here’s wishing you a new year, filled with new moments that are packed to the top with daily and exponentially amazing miracles.

Dad

The Perfect Gift

I’m a recovering perfectionist.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been dancing this particular step called Not Good Enough: Not tall enough, not cute enough, not social enough, not ‘Whatever’ enough. And I spent a lot of years blaming it on my dad and his perfectionist ways.

In my early adolescent memories, I have these laser-sharp images of my dad listening to me play the piano, and at the end of each song he’d say, “That was beautiful, honey, but you could have…” Then he would critique whatever it was that he thought could have been better.

I never heard the “That was beautiful, honey.”  I never heard the love in his voice, or see the pure enjoyment on his face when I played. I never heard the heart that was giving me the highest praise of trusting me with gentle suggestions.  I only heard, “It’s not good enough.” I only heard “You should have…” Consequently, I spent a lot of years trying to play that perfect song for him.

I never did.

After a while, I just stopped trying. Instead, I got A’s in school to try to tip the perfection scales in my favor. But by then, Dad was preoccupied with plans of his retirement, and not quite the gung-ho cheerleader for good grades that he had once been.

And to be honest? I was done. I thumbed my nose at all things Dad thought perfect: Catholicism, Education, Order. I didn’t even fight for “Better” anymore. Instead, I fought for “Why try?” and “Who the hell cares anyway?” I became the perfect rebel that didn’t care.

But the sad truth was I did care. I always cared. And the sad truth was it wasn’t Dad’s perfectionism anymore, it was my own. I just didn’t know it.

So outwardly I rebelled, but secretly I strove for Perfect in those deep-down dark places where no one would see the desperation of how much I cared. And when I couldn’t find perfection in me, I tried to find it in experiences. And when that failed, I looked to others. And when people failed, all I was left with was a bankrupt soul. Imperfect. Ugly. And flat on my face.

And it was there on my face, he found me– my Prince Charming, my sweet, Nazarene rebel. He took my “Not Good Enough” monster and slayed him right in front of my eyes. It was there, he lifted my face, and showed me Love in those big, brown, beautiful, caring, Mideastern eyes . . . with not even the teensiest hint of critique.

It was there I finally found all the perfection I would ever need.

It’s been thirty years since then. Everything changed that day, and yet sometimes it feels like nothing changed. I’m still Jane. I still wrestle the monsters that shout, “Not good enough.” I shake my fist at this fallen, imperfect world, all the while reflecting its ugliness every time I judge, or point my finger, or shake my head and mutter in self-righteous indignity.

And I still try too hard to play that perfect song for my Dad again …

But then comes that gentle suggestion that whispers I might be judging my heavenly Dad the way I used to judge my earthly one. I am reminded that God isn’t waiting to hear a perfect song, or critique an imperfect life, and he isn’t occupied with thoughts of retirement — Instead, He’s waiting with love in His voice and enjoyment on His face.

He’s waiting to help me find my way to that simple Bethlehem stable, hoping I’ll unwrap again the Love that lay bundled in the manger.

The unbelievable Truth is:

He waits for me, and He waits for you, every moment of every day.

Perfect Love. Perfect Peace. . . The Perfect Gift.

And for this recovering perfectionist, this is definitely news of great joy!

 

Merry Christmas everyone.

In Tragedy’s Wake

So lost at sea

we search for land

some direction to set our sights on

a sign that says we’ll be okay

–adrift, tossed, and turned around–

we no longer know

from where we’ve come,

or which way

to now go

And above,

so far above

the sun shines its direction

east, west, here, there

But we’ve come too far without compass

and we’ve lost our bearings along the way

Which way is nearest?

Which way is furthest?

Which way do we put our hope?

One mile is as one thousand

and this distant sun that holds our answer

now holds our fate

— brutal, harsh, and taunting–

So in desperate thirst

we shake our fists

and spew our anger

and lash out at each other

as our hearts scream

“What has happened to us?”

“Where do we go from here?”

But we’ve come too far without compass

and we’ve lost our bearings along the way

— and we’ve forgotten

there’s no one to blame

— and we’ve forgotten

to hold each others’ hand

And we’ve forgotten

that we’re all just looking for home.

…we’re all just looking for home

Oh sweet Jesus

please guide us home

Kaleidoscope

This week I wrote report cards for my fourth grade class. I wandered through the piles of scored papers — the mounds of mental notes — and I put a grade on a child’s blossoming life. Sigh. It’s not easy, grading. It can sometimes feel too clinical, impersonal, even harsh. And then come the comments — the real grade. The words that need to give life, hope and encouragement but often have to entwine some truthful ‘ow-ies.’ Sigh.

And this year the principal is reading every. single. report card. So, now, in essence,  I’m the one being graded. Sigh.

…I’ve been sighing a lot this week.

So, today I woke up exhausted, still tumbling in the kaleidoscope of last week, mixed together with all the pieces of my life that often collide — things unfinished, not started, some forgotten. Some needing loving attention. Some I thought I discarded, yet are still maddeningly there, tumbling with all the rest.

And then I thought about this blog.

Already there are beginnings of blogs I have stashed away that someday will be dragged out, worked on, published. Already I feel a sense of commitment in this area even though I intellectually know that its just a small thing in the big scheme of things. Already there are apologies I want to make, and computer things I want to tweak, and an internal ‘deadline’ I want to keep. (Can you sense another sigh coming?)

But today, I’ve just decided,  I’m laying the sighing aside. I’m going on a rare date with my hubby. I’m leaving our “Alzy Land” in the hands of a sweet friend who has a heart for Dad, and Chris and I are going to laugh, and eat, and buy a Christmas tree — and enjoy, this day — this precious gift of time — this moment.

Today, I’m going to leave my life ungraded. Or better yet, I’m going to leave the grading to a God who took the test for me and thankfully passed with flying (resurrection) colors. (I’m not going to even revise or edit this blog post.) Sigh.

Now THAT is a good sigh.

Instructions Not Included

 

P1010481

I don’t know what I expected when you first arrived. A catatonic version of your old self? A distant stranger?

Would that sweet twinkle now be missing from your eyes?

After one long month of uncertainties, you and Chris were finally coming home. Chris: wearied, burdened, but calmly resolute. You: lost, confused, with the dreaded “A” word newly branded across your brain. Everything within me screamed from the depth of my gut: “Warning! Danger! Alzheimer’s Patient: Proceed at your own risk.”

… all I knew was fear.

Chris’ voice had sounded tired. Stressed. “We’re just arrived. We’ll be at the curb.” I had driven one hundred miles to take you home. Your new home. Your into-forever home. A new beginning for us all.

Would you even know what was happening? Would you even know who I was?

I could see you in the distance, as I waited in traffic to pull up to the curb. You steadied yourself against the post, staring at the ground just beyond your feet. Chris hovered nearby, furrowed brow; I could see his already weighted shoulders.

Oh sweet Jesus, can we do this?

Slowly traffic inched ahead.

Can we be who he needs us to be?
Stop. Go. Clutch out, clutch in. Wait. Breathe.

Is there a way not to lose ourselves when witnessing so much loss?
Closer now, inch by inch. The traffic so mercifully slow.

How can we still live, Lord, while his mind slowly dies?
How can we still love, Lord, while we watch all loveliness Fly. Away. Gone.
Jesus?… Can we really do this?


And through my own gridlocked brain, I sensed his answer:
Inch by inch, Jane.
Stop. Go. Wait, Jane.
Breathe, Jane.

Such simple words, but I felt their gentle Truth.

Drawing a slow, deep breath, I pulled up to the curb, and caught Chris’ eye.

And Jane?
Yes, Lord?
It’s really not a whole lot different than taking your first child home.

A smile smacked across my face.  I wasn’t expecting that. I chuckled.

I remembered taking Trevor home. I remember Chris and I wondering why he hadn’t come with instructions. And I smiled remembering, now, that first wonderful, daunting, holding-our-breath night

… a first night like this one.
Okay, Jesus, thanks. I needed that … but the first poopy diaper, I’m outta here.

Smile.

We were going to be just fine.

 

(Postscript, eight years later…)

And we were.

And he was.

And even in the grips of a horrific disease there still rained down a sweet, sweet mercy:

He would never know his journey back to infancy.

Back to the One who loved him first.

 

You’re free now, Dad. Fly away home.

P1010391

Carroll Lloyd Williams ~  July 20, 1926  – June 28, 2016

 

The Dance

My father-in-law died from Alzheimers this week. He died peacefully in the hands of a facility full of life and hope and angels dressed in flesh. And though, unmistakably, Alzheimer’s is a hideous and heart-wrenching disease. To those of you living out this life with your loved ones, my heart goes out to you. Yet, I am thankful that this disease is mercifully forgetful, for the one living in its tangled grip. And for the ones watching it play out, dare I say, in struggling past the initial shock and grief, there can sometimes be found – even just briefly – beauty in the ashes. I pray you have moments of beauty, albeit different and stark and always sad, but beauty nonetheless.

In the early years my husband and I cared for Dad at home, until we couldn’t anymore… This poem is the dance we danced. 

 

astaire (1)

We dance this dance
you and I
between magic
and tragedy
and the innocence of life
reduced to a Saturday picture show
whose cutting room floor we waltz gently upon
strewn with
images and scripts
and tangled nests of
stories…

those reel too real stories
that circle tirelessly
and feed endlessly
onto Silver Screens of nickel talkies
and kerosene-lit rooms
spliced with fiddle-played tunes
and a dad who hunts badgers on sunlit prairies
with his 10-year-old son
softshoeing closely beside

On this dance floor we dip
and in dipping we slide
into The Great War
of a 17-year-old sailor
fueled by honor
and duty
and a dream of life at sea                                                                                                                 haunted by Japanese boys with eyes too big and wanting

to forget

Swinging to a different song
we twirl through manhood
past marriage, and fatherhood, and too many years
sliced and forgotten
on Sundowner’s cutting room floor                                                                                                      buried
too far beyond reach to protect

so we glide and sachet and tap past all the madness

… and we gently circle back

 

to Saturday’s picture show and its nickel talkies
and this waltz                                                                                                                                       between magic
and tragedy
and the innocence
of a mind
brought back to simpler memories

 

of Life that keeps dancing on

astaire (1)                                                                                      Dance free now, Dad. Dance free.

The View from here

It was the beginning of my summer, June 14th, 2011 — the last day of teaching my 4th grade class, and the first day of the first summer to shed my empty-nested heart and embrace a new season of Life with my husband. I raced home with a school girl anticipation and excitement I hadn’t felt in quite a while. Bursting through the door, hoping to see matched enthusiasm, I was instead greeted by a look on Chris’ face that told me somehow, somewhere tragedy had struck. As it turned out, 1,237 miles away, my father-in-law (84) had been found wandering, lost, in a hospital parking lot — disheveled, disoriented, distraught…alone.

Hospital attendants were called. Dad didn’t know where he was. He didn’t know how he had gotten there. He didn’t know he had just admitted his wife of two years for a severe break to her arm. He didn’t even know she was his wife. It was quickly determined that the dementia he was exhibiting, (exasperated by trauma), would need indefinite 24/7 care. In gathering him back to the hospital (to get his wife’s consent to admit him until such care could be arranged), they discovered that her depth of dementia was worse than his … A new season of our lives had begun with a vengeance.

July 5th, 2011, one month and a lifetime later, my husband brought Dad home to live with us.

July 5th, 2011. We began caring for a man who is, sadly, a lengthening shadow of the man he once was.

On July 5th, 2011. We began redefining Life.

My husband Chris and I have been thrust into a world we knew nothing about: caretaking, Alzheimer’s, aging parents, unfamiliar isolation. We have walked this new life cautiously, carefully, and honestly? by the seat of our pants. I don’t know anything more about this insidious disease, or losing someone in plain view, than any one of you out there. What I do know I’ve googled and witnessed in only this ONE elderly man’s life. Plus, I am ‘just’ the daughter-in-law; I can’t speak from the perspective of watching a lifetime of memories being strangled to just a few by this insipid white plaque. I can only speak as one who has loved this man and known him for 30 years, longer than my own father. I can only share Life from my plain (Jane) view.

So, what do I hope for in this blog?

* I hope, from the perspective of this new, much smaller and different world, I will be able to adequately put into words some of the circus of emotions that so often get tangled in heartache, anger, laughter — and yes, even gratefulness.

* I hope that what I have to share through ‘in-the-moment’ poems, stories, questions, jumbled thoughts and prayers, might resonate somewhere in your lives, and we can share that understanding nod that says “I understand” … at least a little.

* I hope this can be one small corner where anyone who’s shared the heartache and hard work of caring for a loved one (young or old, sick or well) can find a refuge, or perhaps a community willing to help each other live Life. Really (still) live Life — even here in the trenches.

Iceland Dreaming … “As is” (Part one)

Bright and early, we headed on to our three two day stay in Egilsstaðir

and were greeted along the way by a highway that was sometimes gravel!

 

the eastern fjordurs dotted with hay bales

 

and around one corner… this guy. Caribou!

Yeah, we couldn’t see him well enough either, so you better believe we stopped and got as close as we could.

Finally, we arrived at our first mega tunnel.. 7 km long! (that’s 4.3 miles English speak)

And eventually were ushered into Elgilsstadir … how nice of them to greet us so warmly. 🙂

 

But from here on out, this stay offered us a series of problem solving opportunities in a twisted humorous kinda way.

It turns out that the international phone plan we had purchased wasn’t working. And add to that, we got a $238.75 charge warning from our credit card company regarding gas we had bought the day before. Couple that with trying to get a hold of our new landlord regarding when we might arrive  – who turns out is a sheep farmer and its summer (meaning they work almost 24 hours out in the fields to get their work done while they can). So, not only was he out where they are not getting timely airbnb messages on the wifi that you can only use at the last place you stayed, but he was a bit new at the whole renting kinda thing and we had no idea how we were supposed to get the key.

Good news:  Thorsteinn (pronounce a little bit like Thurston, but with a harder ‘t’ sound) got the messages late and was waiting for us (for a couple hours I guess).

Bad news: he left without giving us the Wifi code… and so we were back to square negative one, because now we couldn’t even get a hold of him on the nightly rental Wifi, because he was our nightly rental.

 

(Good news: it was okay to be without wifi for a night.

Bad news: not when you need to figure out a crazy big gas charge,  and phone service glitch and are feeling a little ‘naked’ without connectivity.)

 

Problem Solving in a Foreign Country 101: Find someone and ask for help.

Enter stage left: Bokacoffi

 

Good news: I had been listening to Thorsteinn’s broken English telling us about a internet cafe down the street!

Bad news: I had to try to explain this whole series of events to an unsuspecting Bakery attendant and ask to use her phone to get a hold of Thorsteinn.

 

Good news: found a great cafe attendant (and a great place to come back in the morning)

Bad news: there is none.

Got a hold of Thorsteinn,

muddled our way through explanations (with sheep baaing in the background),

went back up to the house – got the wifi working

went down to the gas station and figured out when you push “fill,” it automatically pre-authorizes you for a huge amount and reimburses you later… Chris had read about this, and had been fairly sure that is what happened, (but in my ignorance I had sent a “something’s wrong” notice to the credit card company and seemingly had cancelled our card, which needed to be reversed if we were to get gas again, which is why we needed connectivity which is where this all began

sooooooo, yeah that was kinda how this two day stay went…

 

We were definitely ready for a vegetable infused Annie’s mac and cheese and bed at our new digs!

 

So let me say right here. I loved Thorsteinn’s place. I love any place with a view that I can feel like I’m still enjoying outdoors, while chilling after a long day. I love checking out new gadgetry, and glimpses of a different way of living… and I love plain ol’ setting up camp in a house.

But Thorsteinn’s house was his home –  most likely his winter home – and as such, to me it felt a bit ‘sacred.’ It was a peek into someone’s life and it came ‘as is’ much like my home would: broken outlets, dusty cluttered pantry, locks that didn’t work quite right – if at all. (Yep, got stuck in the bathroom once!) A dryer that was never meant to be used, I think (or so the burning belt smell indicated). A jury-rigged drying rack over the heater… and NO drying line outside! (Unheard of in Iceland.) Hard beds, no microwave, a very funky shower set up with a half curtain meant for standing sideways in the tub, toilets that ran, sticky (really sticky) kitchen drawers and a refrigerator without a freezer (somewhat common, I guess.) Rabbit ears on the flat screen. Ha! These things just endeared itself to me, and were causes of lots of laughter.

 

It was definitely a study in contrasts.

And I fell in love with the toys that were there.

WordPress won’t let me show you a video of how this toy worked. It was just a marble shoot (with one “wing” missing. Ha!) but it made the most cool sounds as the marbles made their way down from the top.

I mean, honestly, how can you just not love a real peek into typical human-ness.

We’d only have one full day to see this part of Iceland, but we had seen so much already in this one endearing home.

 

 

 

 

Iceland Dreaming…On the road again

One of the biggest blessings of this trip is all of the surprises on the way. I love surprises and Iceland has been chock full of them.

After leaving “The Garage” (in southern Iceland) we began our way further east and then headed north along the eastern coast.

And what better way to continue the road trip then another waterfall.  (Dare I say, Ho hum! 😉 )

Head into some more roadside majesty (It never stops.)

and spy a glacier through all the beautiful lupine

Gotta love the Viking theme here (and about the only way I can “willingly” get a picture of him. 🙂

 

Then it was into some Atlantic Ocean magic on steroids!

And then check out who came to visit us! Ol’ Puff McPuffin himself!

They were flying all around, and nesting on the cliffs. We even got to witness a seagull attack one on the beach. (He got away!) Found out later, the seagull was not trying to kill him (could have fooled me) but rather, trying to take the fish from his mouth. Whew!

Then up to our church parking lot over looking Vik for our lunch.

Not a bad place to water some lupine, I’d say. (I know, too much information… but like I shared before the WC (water closet) search is a tricky one in Iceland!… and yes, I keep my camera ready at all times. Ha!

And thought the church was closed, I’m glad we don’t need to be open to say “Takk takk” to the Big Guy for another amazing morning.

 

Then we rambled off to finish our trek for the day at a quick overnighter (This was a last minute change of plan “motel” because I finally figured out that “4 hour drive” would take at least 6 (I thought)  and I didn’t know I should have added on to that estimate at least an extra hour (or so) because of gravel roads, and LOTS of one lane “take turn” bridges, and the infamous “the GPS doesn’t know where the heck you want to go!”  … Yep, some fun times.

But I’m glad we didn’t have to blow by these glacier scenes

 

or this surrealistic iceberg lake

… Then after much ado, and our love/hate relationship with our GPS, we arrived in our glorified (and way too spendy) hostel, (The real hostel was also on the property.) And by ‘glorified’ I mean picture a dorm room…maybe.) But no complaints, honestly. It was a needed respite. We got to watch a hay bale get wrapped in plastic. We got to see a grandpa teaching his granddaughter to work the tractor. And we got an amazing breakfast lay out in the morning (a huge plus!)

with a view.

 

Ready for the road again.

 

Iceland Dreaming… Sheeping, hiking and sailing pt 2 (AKA: perfect date night!)

Off to the Westmann Islands and the perfect date night! the youngest (newest) volcano in the world. (Erupted from a fissure in 1973… then formed a cone they call Eldfell – “Fire Mountain”. No one was killed, but 400 homes were destroyed and buried under 45 feet of lava and ash. 1500 people did not come back to the island to live.)

Coming to get us.

Summer ‘cabin’ anyone?

Yes, that is a house, and yes there are sheep grazing all the hillsides!

Love finding this artist’s work all over Iceland~

Great fish and chips… and by Iceland’s standards pretty cheap too. (Only 18.00!) Hey, but a date night with each other, in a quaint fishing village, under the blue sky’s of an Iceland evening worth every wonderful $2.00 bite.

And my hubby knows one of my most favorite vacation joys is a walk after dinner strolling the streets of the neighborhoods.

And this one had a system of trails hugging the edge of the city. Did I say PERFECT date night?!

And below is the picture he was taking.

And in the bottom left corner, you can see a memorial stone marking many peoples’ home that were buried under the 16 meter lava and ash. Seemed fitting to photoshop the picture below.

And then we headed back to less somber moments – more typical kids playing in their neighborhood

And more cool art

And the ship’s whistle blew to call us in…

and take us home

Grateful is such a puny puny word to express how I feel right now

but I guess it is going to have to do.

 

Thank you, Jesus, for this… for all of it.

Iceland Dreaming … sheeping, hiking, and sailing “Oh my!” Part 1

When you wake up to this, you know it’s going to be a good day.

And no better way to start it than feeding the local, wandering neighborhood mama sheep and lambs.

Anna said, if you shake a plastic bag of bread at them, they will come… Wonder what they’ll think of granola?

 

 

And then, of course, you have to climb to your own personal waterfall…cuz, why not?

Our valley sentry

Along the way

Chris – another hillside rock in my view

Our island destination

The “pool” I thought I would find.

And Siggy saying, “Go west, young men!” Or in this case, south west… because everything it south!

To the Westmann Islands we go.

Iceland Dreaming … it’s the “little” things

In all the Iceland grandeur, I’m finding again and again that it’s the little things that are the most fun for me.

For instance, check out these hidden treasures that Anna leaves for her guests to discover. I told her how much I appreciated the obvious care she put into the place, her humor, the special touches (like bringing us two pieces of homemade chocolate cake our first night!) She beamed. And how I particularly liked her fun surprises …”‘because you just know we’ll peek.”… She smiled and her eyes twinkled a lot like an elf’s.  

I love scoping out the culture in every aspect,

… feeling slightly off-kilter every time I go grocery shopping.

They LOVE their yarn (lopi)! Knitting is a required subject in school for all the kids. Most stores have a yarn section.

I love the adventure of driving the streets of a small “vik” (village), figuring out a street map without GPS and being guided by unfamiliar signs.

As a teacher, I have to wonder: Exactly how do you teach spelling (let alone correct it!)

Lots of these “one lane bridges”… Life is always about taking turns.

This is a rest stop sign. But take note: there is only ONE picnic table. And if there is no WC (water closet) posted on the bottom of this sign, there is no bathroom. And the added WC signs are few and FAR between. Never knew you had to plan a road trip around rest stop facilities or the apparent lack thereof. (Yeah, and with no trees (or even rocks) to hide behind, you’ve got yourself a bonafide problem!)

 

And possibly because of that road trip “hiccup” or possible because my mom would scrutinize every place we went by their bathrooms “You can tell a lot about a place by their bathrooms.” I seem to have a real affinity for bathroom pics Ha!   Thanks, mom. (And by the way, Iceland, you would pass my mom’s standards.)


Baby “hostel” sink.

This one had piped in (and a little creepy sounding) Christmas music. Albeit a Christmas store, but still!

Check out the window etching!

All the toilets have these depressors. Push the small side for peeps … Push large sides for poops.

Crocheted hangy thingies.  ??  But another cool etching.

Chess, anyone?

And that’s enough of this crap. Hee hee, simply couldn’t resist.

 

I love new gadgets and new ideas and all the laughter of figuring out crazy new ways of doing things.

These gas stations have been a blessing and a first timer’s (second, third) nightmare! Finally “getting” the process.

Can you say orange!

And check out this neighborhood food cart, Portland! 

 

There have been so many things to love.

I love new birds, familiar flowers and so, so many unafraid roadside sheep.

I love figuring out the sun’s pattern – taking a lap and doing a quick dip on the horizon rather than a deep dive – a little like a hoola hoop gone just slightly askew.

 

I love snooping someone else’s summer cabin, the ones that aren’t really doing the professional-Airbnb-catering-to-the-customer-thing (or aren’t sure how to yet), but are rather just lending out their house ’cause “if you rent it, they will come” (and they are coming for sure!)

I love eavesdropping on families, grandmas, moms, kids, friendships, working folk

and other wanderers…

… I love being warmed with all our sameness.

 

I know more seasoned travellers may consider all of this “old hat”but I hope I never do.

Because mostly I love the wonder of a big, big God,

in his great, big wonderful creation,

who cares in the most extravagant of ways

for the little things

like you and me.

 

 

 

 

 

Iceland Dreaming… Day Whatever. Let me check the sun.

Had our first real night’s sleep (because of Anna’s blackout shades!) However, the shades don’t help tell the time in the middle of the night though, ’cause light bursts through all around them. I find myself making sure I sleep with my phone next to me (which I never do at home) just so I can check where my sleep cycle should be when I stir awake at night! So weird. I never knew how dialed in to the sun’s cycle I am. I cannot even imagine living here when it never rises. We asked Olaf about living in the darkness… She said the nation’s “happy” index always rates very high. Good cost of living, family ties, job satisfaction etc… but even still, the suicide rate is high and so “Yes, I think the darkness is hard.”

Anyway, our day cycles these days seem to be this kind of rhythm: one day go until the wee hours of in the morning, then sleep in and have a lazyish day the following day – marked with drinking in all the beauty and ‘normal’ sleeping times –  followed the next day with an all day and all nighter again. My body clock is beyond broken. (Jet lag will be a breeze for me now.) Makes me appreciate the rising and setting of the sun simply for my health.

But it also makes me SO appreciative for the extra daylight now: there is never the nagging rush to see or do things before it’s dark. Makes for a fuller than full experience.

Sections of time start to feel like added days, blending into one big glorious lump of a two week day…  a series of blessings heaped up, pressed down, toppling over each other.

(In fact, this series of pics was one of those “sections of times, an ‘added’ day that I’d actually forgotten was a part of the last post’s “hecka long day” … )

After the waterfall we also headed for a small hike up a valley to a local “hot pot.”

 

Just up this valley and around the corner…

Pay dirt! Oh yeah.

Is it time for bed yet?

Hmm… not sure.

Let me check the sun.

Nope, not yet.

 

Iceland Dreaming… Another hecka full new day

So lest you think things are all rosy and cheery…

I lost my journal last night.

I was using it for everything – notes, thoughts, sketching, even grocery lists – all documenting snapshots of me and it blended into the shopping cart … sigh, and that’s all it took. It had been a present, so it had a heart string attached. We went back to the store in the morning. Gone.

I let it sting for a minute. Then remembered that in my own way I’d honor the giver’s spirit and “Deal with it… ’cause that’s what I do.” I had done my “due diligence” in trying to find it and now I could let it go.

So, before we left for our next adventure further east, I took Chris to check out a playground I’d spied earlier on my morning walk.

Good choice to lift the spirit.

 

Not sure how this skatepark would excite our American kiddos… but can’t beat the view!

And right across the street was this cool park. The day before in pouring rain the park was crammed. Now, on this beautiful day? Not so much. Weird.

And by far the coolest addition to any park! This zipline was the bomb! (Is that still a current saying?)

Yep, don’t really care… ’cause it was!

And just like that, we said our goodbyes to Reykjavik

and were on our way to “The Garage” and Anna, Siggy and Einar.

 

Goodbye Reykjavik.

 

Hello Ring Road.

 

Had to stop for these Icelandic beauties. Short, squatty… and so stinkin’ cool! We even got to see one with its rider doing its famous “tolt” gait (insert two dots over that o) … Oh for some more time and a lot more horse sense!

They are supposedly very sweet with humans. But they always seemed feisty with each other.

Here’s a site if you want to learn more.

https://www.ishestar.is/en/icelandic-horse

 

 

 

And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we got to our next (two night) destination, “The Garage”

and met the owners Anna and Siggy and their son, Einar. For twenty five years, this has been their working dairy farm.

Our own private waterfall! Can you say heaven?

Next year to be Einar’s house.

 

(You know you were curious.)

Then, what do you do with a “couple hours” of sunlight to spare and renewed adrenaline?

Go check out another waterfall of course.

And the ever present, everywhere sheep.