A Trip to Bountiful

I saw a movie 25 years ago starring the great Geraldine Page called A Trip to Bountiful. It was about a an elderly woman, living in Houston, who wanted to make one last trip to her old home in Bountiful. I’ve often thought of the movie, about how things change and going back is never quite the way you expect it to be. I’ve also often thought of that beautiful title. Tonight it’s time to write about a trip to bountiful. I’ve written quite a bit about our minor difficulties lately. I think it’s time to balance that with a word about the blessings.

It’s chilly here! Oh my, what a blessing to this Midwestern/Oregonian heart! After 7+ months of 90’s and 100’s, I’m wearing a long sleeve t-shirt and using the fireplace for heat! It’s bliss!

The fireplace is, of course, completely fake looking, but boy, does it ever pump out the heat! Henry and I nearly froze last winter in front of our little space heaters with the cold air seeping in through invisible cracks and crevices. We’re happily toasty now. While it’s blustery outside, there are no wind whistles and unbidden drafts inside tonight. Of course, it’s only gotten down to 44.  I’m sure we’ll need to run the furnace some nights. Tonight, coffee and the pretend fire are keeping us both warm. (Of course, Henry doesn’t care for coffee, but I’m on my second pot). It’s so cozy I wadded up my napkin and started to throw it in the fireplace. 🙂

Our gate guarding job seems to be coming to an end. The word is that Lantern 17 will be pulling out as soon as this weekend. It may go back to Smiley. It may be called back to the un-gate guarded areas of Louisiana. We’re waiting to see if the repair shop bid is approved by Good Sam so we’re in a bit of limbo, but the 5 weeks we’ve been here have been good – very micey –  but good.

We’ve loved the past 10 months with Forest Oil. The guys have been both kind and gracious to work for and with. It’s been a gift. We’ll miss them. We may soon be sitting with some of you who read Fork, waiting at a new fork in the road for another assignment.

A few nights ago, one of our Company Men stopped for a chat. He’d asked us to hold sales calls for a few days. We’d been sending the presents the sales reps dropped off back to the CM with our rig guys: cases of soda, steaks, sausage, peanut brittle, notebooks etc…  The CM said: You should snag yourselves some of that stuff, we don’t need it.

We thanked him but, of course, with no intention of taking anything. Still, it was a nice gesture.

He was back, 20 minutes later, with a garbage full of coffee and steaks and shrimp and sausage and chicken breasts stuffed with Craw fish Jambalaya!

The freezer is overflowing with ribeye and prawns and peppered pork. Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude.

Red meat is not bad for you.  Now blue-green meat, that’s bad for you!  ~Tommy Smothers

Last week, as those of you who read my other blog know, I got a late night call saying my 3-year-old grand-daughter was being rushed to the E.R.

She had all but stopped breathing. The admitting doctor said it was a close call. She’s such a sweet, kind little one. It was a terrifying night. She’s doing OK now. That’s a gift that can’t be measured.

This is a bit of a  spoiler if you ever decide to watch the movie. The lesson learned in A Trip to Bountiful is that you can’t ever really go back, but you can count your blessings where you are today. Tonight, I’m very grateful. What are a few mice and some repairs and a bit of job uncertainty compared to the kindness of strangers and the sweet breath of a 3-year-old?

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  ~G.K. Chesterton

55! Stay Alive!

Me with sweet 3-year-old Ro last week

Do you remember that highway slogan? My cousin’s husband was the creator (is that the right term) of the 55! Stay Alive! campaign when he was a highway patrol officer in Los Angeles.

Although Bob had driving in mind, I’m applying it personally as I’ve managed, barely as of late, to stay alive for 55 years. Today (Oct 1st) is my birthday. I’m 55. Depending on who’s reading this, it’s a Goldilocks moment: Really Old, Really Young, or Just About Right.

I remember when 55 sounded really old (that would have been as recently as yesterday). Gosh, I remember when 25 sounded really old! I also remember when you got to order off the senior menu at 55.

Not so much anymore… They start sending pretend AARP cards at 49. I can’t see that there are any special perks at 55 – but maybe they’re yet to come!

At age 50, everyone has the face he deserves.
~ George Orwell

There are quite a number of things that surprise me about where I am at this age and stage of life.

For one thing,  I’m surprised at where I am in life at 55. I never, ever, would have guessed I would be in Texas. Texas is a lovely state, but I’m a Yankee. I don’t like hot weather. I’m incredibly arachnophobic. I’m not terribly fond of snakes, scorpions, cactus, caliche or Tabasco.

I’m equally surprised to be a Level II Security Guard since I was always one of those too soft, touchy/feely types. I hated my first job after college as a correctional worker and left it to become the counseling director of a crisis center. So much more my style.

Always talking and always active, the quiet life of a gate guard has been a big change for me. Possibly the biggest surprise  at 55 is that I really like the peace. I think it stems from something that happened on my 40th birthday.

My friends paid for me to go on a 5 day retreat at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in beautiful NE Iowa. Because my birthday is in the fall, the hills were a mass of golds and greens and reds and oranges. It was very beautiful and very quiet!

The gift was supposed to help me learn to slow down and to be quiet, too. Nothing too subtle there!  😀  It was a surprise trip, not only because they dropped me off without telling me about it ahead of time, but also because I’m not Catholic!

Adding to the surprise, it’s a cloistered Abbey of Benedictine Sisters (I’d never heard of cloistered or Benedictine) so all my chatter was greeted with a smile and a nod. It was very lovely and very quiet. Did I mention that it was quiet there?

With nothing else to do, (no phone, no TV, no radio – you can see how this prepared me for gate guarding) I began going to services in their little chapel. Vigils began at 3:45 a.m. Once again, preparation for being awake when everyone else is sleeping!

I fell in love with the quiet and with the Sisters.

For the next 10 years, Heidi and I went each spring to help with a week of spring cleaning in the guest houses and again each fall for a week of retreat to write our next seminar.

By the way, the Sisters support themselves by making the most wonderful caramels. They ship all over the country. If you’re interested, see the OLMA link above.

They recruited us to help at the candy house one fall, but I was a complete flop when assigned to making the trademark swirl at to top of the caramel. I kept making curls instead.

We stopped by OLMA last week on our way from Minnesota to Iowa. We went to Vespers and Compline and had a grand reunion in between!

The Sisters, who aren’t always quiet, provided the pizza and Pepsi and an hour and a half of joy!

Of all the people we saw while back home, they may have best understood why we love our job. Funny, huh?

So here I am, waving in mud trucks, passing out donuts to drivers and counting my blessings. I’m guarding a gate, packing a BB gun, and assuring the circling buzzard that I’m still alive at 55!.

Life is full of the unexpected, isn’t it! 😀

Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.
~Larry Lorenzoni

Guest Post by Lorien Sage

Some friends from our last site dropped by tonight to say hi and to let us know that the rattlesnakes problem is getting really bad, in addition to the great proliferation in wild hogs. Apparently this is a particularly unfortunate combination. They said the hogs go right for the rattlesnakes. The rattlers have caught on and have stopped rattling. Now that the southern Texas rattlesnakes are silent, there’s no warning before they strike.

Steve and Cindy wanted us to be more careful than ever since they’re seeing them all over the place around here. I appreciate that. I took at look at my new  Guardian Angel, but I doubt that shouting Stop! while waving my invisible weapon would be very intimidating to a non-rattling rattler during a silent late night encounter.

I’ve been a bit under the weather (unrelated to rattlesnakes or wild hogs) so I asked my 4 1/2 year old grand-daughter if she would be willing to guest post for me since  she’s a very prolific writer. She graciously agreed.

The writing process is as follows: Lorien dictates the story to my daughter, Jennielee, who types it out, word for word. Jennielee then prints each page separately to create a new book.

Lorien illustrates each page, since she intends to grow up to be a very famous artist (I’m sorry, I only have the text for this one). Personally, I think she could also be a very famous author, but that’s not her passion. I may be a little biased. Still, she is only 4 1/2…

I don’t know that there’s a solution in Lorien’s tale for the rattlesnake problem. But I do think if we put more effort into trying to understand each other, we might indeed have more happy endings!

The Knight with His Shield and the Fire-Breathing Dragon
By Lorien

Once upon a time, there lived a knight.
He woke up out of his bed, and he
heard a dragon.
He went outside, and it was a dragon!

He tried to fight it, but he couldn’t.
Besides, it was really hard for him, because
the dragon was next to his
house. If the knight fought there, he
might kill the dragon, but it would
hurt his pretty knight house, and he
didn’t know where else to go.

The knight tried to fight on top of the
mountain, but it was too wobbly with
two of them on it.

He tried in the pond, but if he fought
in the pond, his armor would get wet,
and he would have to stay that way for
the whole morning, and it would
make him itchy, and he doesn’t like

They tried on the logs, but the beaver
was bothering the knight, so they
couldn’t fight on the logs.

He tried in the tunnel, but the tunnel
was breaking his knight shield.
Also, the dragon’s horns were poking
the tunnel, and it was making blocks
of ruined tunnel fall on the knight’s

When the knight saw the dragon
breathe fire, he was scared, even
though he wasn’t supposed to be
scared because he was a knight.

And then the knight understood that
when the dragon was breathing fire, it
meant, “Come back, I love you!”

So the knight snuggled in the bed with
the dragon, and they had a happy
sleep, and a happy morning.

The End

Thank you, Lorien. I love you very much!

Grandma Debbie