CHAPTER SIX

SURRENDER ON THE TRAIL

CHAPTER SIX

When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
Psalm 56:3

8:15PM

When we arrive at our campsite, I am surprised. Beyond our parking spot, all I see is waist high grass and trees. It does not look like a camping spot to me.

Of course, what do I really know about camping?   

SunFloJo points to the 1-foot-wide path that leads to a sign with our reserved spot number 1A1. 

That is where we are going to sleep? In there? Inside all that green stuff? Oh dear.

I grab my 3.5 lb. tent sack; ultra-lightweight sleeping bag and the few things I may need overnight like one of the last of two Pepsi cans from the cooler. I mentally prepare to let go of life conveniences. We sleep at a campsite tonight. Tomorrow morning we begin the trail.

We walk down the narrow path. I try not to think about what is lurking in the tall weeds near my ankles.  

The clearing for site 1A1 is small. We discover there is already a tent in that location. I notice that tent’s spot is on top of soft earth compared to the rest of the area.

We do not see a person. They appear to be inside for the night. We can see a lantern and the shadow of a book. 

Down the path from us I see a big family size tent by the post in the ground that reads 1A3. Their tent is a big orange ball, out of place inside the soft green forest.

We set up near the fire pit and picnic table. There are many gnarly root systems and not much space for our 3 tents. We are either setting up in 1A1 with the mystery human, or the area we are in is 1A2. But I do not see a sign for that number.

Paul suggested before I left that even though I have learned to set up my own shelter, it would go faster if we ladies give each other a hand steadying the poles. Set up one tent, then the next and so forth. Seemed like a good idea.  

The younger gals are already a team because they plan to share a 2-person tent. They get to work pulling out their supplies.

I notice SunFloJo has the exact same brand of 1-person tent as I do. I ask if she wants to take turns helping each other with the poles. “Oh no, I’m fine,” She says busy and very into the solo process. 

Note to self: I have got to remember that part of this trip for SunFloJo is about doing things on her own.

So, I set up my tent alone while eyeing every leaf and blade of grass for potential creatures. It is a few simple steps. I stake in the ends into the ground hoping the sides do not collapse on me overnight. I consider the extra cord staking. It is not supposed to be windy tonight, so I skip it. 

I look over to SunFloJo who is already done. She calls her tent “the womb”. She looks forward to getting in there. I do not feel the same. Proud of her progress, she moves on to the task of starting a fire. She goes to get a lighter from the car.

I dig out my snake and rodent repellent plan, then place bags of moth balls at the head and foot of my tent. I place a bag behind the girls’ tents because I promised Stalker C that I would. I wonder if SunFloJo would mind me messing with nature in this way, but I am not going to ask.

Stalker C and Sunshine Rat giggle at themselves. They just about have their 2-person tent together.

I turn my eyes to the deep woods side of camp wondering what is in there. Then lo and behold I see a deer climb the forest hill and walk right up to our camp. It is a large doe with zero fear of us. She looks elderly.

Not wanting to make sudden movements, I whisper toward the girls’ tent, “Stalker C! It’s Rosemary.”

Stalker C and Sunshine emerge carefully from their tent to the awe of Rosemary’s presence. Night is setting in. We could not be happier with our visitor. It is too dark to see our smiles, but I feel the shared energy.

SunFloJo makes it back just in time, “Aw, Stalker C, you got your wish. How about that. Your sweet grandmother is thinking of you.”

“She is,” Stalker C chokes up.

Rosemary the deer leaves gracefully as if to say, “Just stopping by. Have fun.” We settle into the joy of our brief visitor.

We search for sticks to roast hot dogs. From the limited supply of what we can see, we choose sticks that are a bit soft. Sunshine opens a little Rubbermaid container of onions. I like onions usually, but the smell tonight turns my stomach. No thank you.

Sunshine and I try to roast the first dog. It slips right off the stick into the fire. Yuck.

We fashion the flimsy sticks to hold the dogs better. Night is here. We are going to eat most of these hot dogs half raw. I am sure of it. 

Finding our headlamps, the party continues. No one wants to wander into the woods to find better sticks. We make the best of our cooking limitations.

The smell of the fire combines with the crunch of old leaves on the ground and the smell of fresh spring leaves above us.

SunFloJo is happy with her hot dog and one beer.

I take one bite of my dog. That is good enough dinner for me.

Sunshine enjoys her dog with onion, “Mmm.”

Stalker C drizzles a ketchup packet along her bun.

Soaking in the experience, Sunshine announces, “We’re in the Wild and the Wild is in us.”

Well said. We toast to that.

A gallon size Ziploc bag is opened to collect smelly items. Any food or trash will go back into the car. 

I sense this might be the birthday moment I am looking for. And I do not want to carry anything into the woods unless I absolutely need it for survival tomorrow.

The small lamp goes dim inside our 1A1 neighbor’s tent as I jog to the vehicle to grab the mini Babe Ruth cake and candles.

Stalker C knows about the flammable glue. When I return, I see acknowledgement in her eyes under the headlamp. She is ready to put out the fire or deal with an explosion if needed.

Darkness surrounds us and sleep calls to our internal clocks.

I light the candle, “SunFloJo.”

She turns my way. I say, “I didn’t get to celebrate your birthday properly this year so tonight we are celebrating you and your dream to begin hiking the AT. Happy Birthday! Many wonderful adventures await!”

SunFloJo tilts her headlamp toward the crafty cake, “Oh, I love it!”

She clasps her hands. SunFloJo makes a wish and blows out the candle. “This is so cute.  Babe Ruth is my favorite candy bar. Let’s eat dessert right now.” She rips open a candy bar and puts it in her mouth. We begin to do the same.

I see SunFloJo make a yuck face. “It tastes like…”

She continues, “Glue!”

Oh, no.

The girls laugh.

SunFloJo reaches for the garbage Ziploc bag that quickly turns into the garbage and spit bag.

“Awful!”

I whisper, “I’m sorry!”

But we all think it is funny–even me reluctantly.

Oops. I ruined that adorable candy bar cake with glue somehow seeping to the nougat through the wrappers. Fortunately, SunFloJo has more to drink to wash out the terrible taste.

We gather the things going to the car and shove them into the hatch.

It is time. We are going to have to pee before bed. 

The girls are not up for finding a spot in the weeds.

SunFloJo says, “Wanna go out on the pavement? We can turn off the headlamps.”

There is a collective sigh. That is the best option for tonight. No going back home now.

We line up about 5 feet apart along the parking lot and turn off our lights. 

I think carefully about how to squat and not get my pants or feet wet. It is time to put into practice the lessons I have learned from YouTube.

Urine flows in unison. We snicker in the dark.

Then pants are pulled up. 

Someone says, “Alright ladies.” Headlamps turn on. We observe 4 lines of pee streaming downhill.   

Stepping over our success, we traipse down the path back to camp. Time to climb into our tents as the triumphant four that we are.

We whisper good night. I inspect the brush and leaves outside my tent near where my head will be.

I take a deep breath. I am going in. The tent opening is short. I stoop to crawl into the doorway. 

Zipped inside the tent, I remember and am glad that I used unscented deodorant today. I do not want to have any curious smells in here that animals would want to investigate.

Hmmm.

It is lonely inside the tent.

And dark.

And tight.

It is just my body and mere inches to the nylon material around me.

Not much space.

My body wiggles in an attempt to be comfortable. Ouch to the left. Ouch to the right. There is no avoiding the rough ground beneath me.

I turn back on my headlamp. I try to read. I attempt the same sentence several times. Not happening

I close the book. I peek at the plastic urinal near my feet that I brought just in case.

I move the tent zipper pulls so that they are lined up at the top of the tent, not the bottom. Nothing is getting in here with me if I can help it!

Being tall there is no way to sit up well in my 1-person tent. When I attempt to sit up, then I feel like the whole thing is going to fall apart.

The girls in their 2-person tent about 8 feet to my left are talking softly. I can visualize their attempt to get settled also. 

It is getting more and more quiet outside in the night air. A new sound emerges from SunFloJo’s tent about 4 feet to my right. She is sawing logs. I recall that she did a sleep study last year for snoring. No CPAP machine available out here in the wild. Good, maybe the sound will keep animals away. Or will it invite them to investigate the sound?!

The girls become silent. Good for them.

I toy with hanging the headlamp from the top of the tent, but it falls on my head.

The worn-out sleep pad is not helpful. I twist, turn, and repeat.

Cutting through the quiet I hear Stalker C call out, “Surrender?!”

I hesitate, then say, “Yeah?”

“Is there still a hot dog in the fire pit?”

I pause to consider the question.

I think about the last time I saw the fire pit. SunFloJo and I kicked the ash around to kill the fire before bed. I do not recall seeing any remains of the first slippery hot dog that fell.

A responsible big sister type person would get out of her tent and go check the ashes. That is not me tonight. There is no way I am getting out of this tent in the dark.

I send my voice in their direction, “It burned up in the fire.” It must have, right?

Silence. Through the nothingness I hear her concern.

I add, “I promise.”

Stalker C says, “Thank you.”

I really really really hope I am telling the truth. I did not see the hot dog. It must have burned. Surely.

My heart races thinking about how many videos talked about being odor and food free at camp. Our one vital task was to put everything smelly into the car tonight. One task! And now I lay here questioning everything: every crumb, every move we made setting up camp. Were we careful?

The girls softly giggle and talk again. They probably are discussing the hopefully burned up hot dog.

Then from beyond the girls’ tent I hear a new voice. 

The person resting on the softest terrain in 1A1 sounds like a “he”. 

Words sail out from the mystery tent that was set up before we arrived. 

He says into the night, “Shuuutttt Uuuuuupppp.”

If you’d like to listen to the Audio Version or support this creative work, click here for my Podcast SURRENDER ON THE TRAIL.

© Copyright 2016 Surrender On The Trail – Glenna S. Edwards

Thanks for reading or listening. Check back next Sunday for CHAPTER SEVEN.

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CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER FIVE

Hear my cry for help,

My King and my God,

For to you I pray.

Psalm 5: 2

1:30PM

Courtney takes note of multiple roadside food options, “This looks like a good exit.”

JoAnn darts off the highway. The four of us strain necks to compare restaurants along the hilly terrain.

In a JCPenney parking lot we point back and forth around us, “Maybe this one.”

“No, not that one.”

Then we all say at the same time, “Maybe Applebee’s.” 

JoAnn does a 360 degree turn with the Toyota.

“Whoa!” The girls hold the backseat as we spin. 

The young ladies have not driven with JoAnn before, but I have. Wild driving here and there is guaranteed.

An arm leans forward to point, “Applebee’s is over that way.”

JoAnn parks safely. She scans the console. Finding Flat Kevin, she says, “Kevin! You can come inside with us.”

As we step outside of the vehicle, we stretch legs and arms.

Inside the restaurant, JoAnn holds Kevin so that his likeness can observe the menu.

“Hmm, Flat Kevin is going to have barbeque and water,” she says then dances Flat Kevin over to lean on the table’s kiosk tablet. “Kevin will play some electronic games while we wait.”

I notice that Courtney and Rachel plan to split food. “Ok, no wings this time,” Courtney says. I admire their agreeable relationship. 

Rachel says, “Tell us more about Kevin, JoAnn.”

JoAnn talks about Kevin and his wife Erin, “They chose to enjoy a large family with five children. Kevin coached their kids’ baseball and soccer teams. When Erin became more of the breadwinner, Kevin chose to stay home with their little ones. He has loved every moment of being a dad and husband. It is so hard to see him sick. And their kids are still quite young.”

Courtney turns to our guest, “Thanks for going on the trip with us, Flat Kevin.”

Food arrives. We munch with noticeable focus. No one says it, but I suspect we all consider the importance of savoring this meal before heading onto the trail. The group is relaxed with one another. Conversation is easy. Silence is acceptable.

Walking back to the vehicle, an observation slips out my mouth, “I can already tell this is gonna be a supportive group. Not a sh*thead among us.”

Rachel repeats with a smirk, “Not a sh*thead among us.”

“Seriously,” I chuckle. “I think we will work together well.”

Courtney agrees, “We’re off to a good start.”

Look, I love Jesus, but I cuss a little.

JoAnn places Flat Kevin on the dashboard so he can watch the road.

5:00PM

The backseat takes a nap.

I watch out the window while thinking about the prior weekend.

FLASHBACK: MAY 19

9:00PM

Paul says, “Are you going to the Women’s Conference at church this weekend?”

“I didn’t sign up. Originally Jacob was leaving on the 24th so I didn’t want to be gone two of the days right before he left.”

“You can go now,” he says.

Given the amount of time I am away from home each week and that I am leaving on a trip soon, it is odd that he is suggesting it.

He says, “I think it will be good for you.”

MAY 20, 2016

I know Paul is right, so I go. Best friend since birth Amy and her 14-year-old daughter Maggie are coming too. I save them two seats and send a text.

Glenna–FRONT RIGHT SIDE, 4 ROWS FROM THE STAGE.

The auditorium is packed. The crowd of ladies swell as the music builds.

So many people are here, but I feel alone. I am empty and numb. Life seems so messy. How did I let things get this difficult?

One of my favorite local singers, Ashton, steps to the microphone. She sings Hillsong’s I Surrender.

…Find me here

Lord draw me near

I surrender.

…Drench my soul

As mercy and grace unfold

I hunger and thirst.

…I know you hear my cry

 Speak to me now

I surrender

I surrender

I want to know You more

I want to know You more

The church lights are dark which I appreciate when tears flow. I think about the word surrender in-between droplets. 

Do I want to know God more or do I want Him to fix my problems?

A sea of worship arms raise across the room. The women are pumped for the music, an inspiring message and fun after party stations. I am standing but not praising. My head bows just trying to get through this feelings fest.

Upbeat songs play by the time Amy and Maggie scoot into the aisle. They give me a quick hug. They may not see my wet face and I am glad. I love them dearly. There is not one day in my life that I can remember without Amy in it. Our moms knew each other and went to the same church when we were little. We were born two months apart.  And now two of our own children, Maggie and Ben, are just 9 months apart.

I continue to think about the word surrender. What a complicated word. What does it even mean in the spiritual sense anyway? I barely listen to the rest of the program.

After the service, we find a variety of activities, food and desserts. We play around in a photo booth and paint pottery. I make JoAnn a mug with a sunflower on it. By the time it is fired in the kiln and returned to church I can give it to her as a “thanks for the trip” gift next month.

FLASH FORWARD:

JoAnn sees a sign, “Hershey’s ice cream!”

We hit another exit.

“Do you see where the ice cream shop is?” She asks.

The car riders are fully awake now. JoAnn drives up the hill behind a star shaped complex with several stores inside and a gas station outside. We see there are no buildings up there. JoAnn turns to speed down the hill back toward the complex.

She goes too fast. There is a curb with a sizeable drop off! She stomps the brakes just short of flying over the large empty space that could have damaged the car (or worse) and ended the trip early. Whew!

Rachel and Courtney laugh softly.

I am slightly more terrified of JoAnn’s driving than bears at the moment.

We go inside what appears to be a roadside food court to discover that the Hershey’s ice cream consists of pre-made frozen milkshake cups in a cooler.

Rachel and JoAnn purchase two cups and put them in the self-serve milk shake machine to stir. I eat a Reese’s ice cream sandwich and toss the wrapper.

We find the restroom, pass up the tourist items available for purchase like wildlife tea towels and collector spoons and mugs, then are back on the road.

6:45PM

We arrive at Shenandoah National Park! Excitement and nerves fill the car. Trees are lush and tall all around us.

I feel scared because within what seems like mere minutes, I must figure out how to sleep outside in a 1-person tent.

Our plan is to check in the first night at Loft Mountain campground, cook hot dogs and go to bed. I think the three gals are interested in a little beer too. Not my thing, but I bet that will help folks sleep. 

The CR-V approaches the Ranger Station entrance.

Ranger Anita, according to her name tag, welcomes us with instructions. We pull over for a moment and each fill out an official Backcountry Use Permit. The form is in triplicate and has a bread wire through a hole on one end. It is from the U.S. Department of the Interior for the National Park Service.

I feel pride over such a legit document. The form number is 10-404. We write our name, home address and general hiking plan for the week.

Oh. Is this like leaving breadcrumbs for a future Search Party? Probably.

We pull off the top layer for Anita and attach the remaining individual tags to our backpacks. I try not to think that these tags could be the first item used to identify our bodies if things do not go well. I see the thick forest from here and marvel. We are going in there. 

At the intersection beyond the Ranger Station, we see a male and female hiker. They look exhausted and dirty. He is limping. Maybe they are attempting to hitch hike? Not sure.

“I really need to pee,” Courtney says.

“We can pull over,” JoAnn says.

“Nah. Not quite ready to pee outside yet. I know we’re going to have to soon, though.”

Rachel and I make eye contact. We are not quite ready either. 

JoAnn says, “Oh, honeys. I have perfected peeing outside.” 

Of course, she has. Ah, if only we all felt the same.

Driving along Skyline Drive we see a spectacular view of mountains stretching far and wide. Our elevation is over 3,000 feet and rising. There is a blue haze everywhere with sprouts of bright green, white and purple blooms.

“Look!” I point to a groundhog scaling a small rock wall along the road edge.

“I bet we see a lot of creatures,” Rachel says.

“What’s everyone thinking their trail name is going to be?” JoAnn asks.

“I still don’t know yet,” Rachel responds. “How about you?”

JoAnn says, “I am SunFloJo because I love sunflowers, and I love how sunflowers lean toward the light.”

I offer, “Courtney, I think because of your amazing investigative skills you could be Stalker C. You impressed me at the speed you found Dick’s picture on the internet.”

Rachel says, “I like that. Court, you really can find anyone online in like 3 seconds or less. It’s a superpower of yours.”

Courtney says, “I’ll think it over, but I could lean that way. Sounds good.” Then she asks, “Glenna, how about you?”

I exhale. “Well, one of the reasons I need to go on this trip is to let go and embrace life changes coming up. Sometimes I try too hard to force things to fit.”

I add, “I’ve been thinking about the name Surrender.” 

There is a group murmur and collective head nod.

We continue taking in the beauty of the mountains and valleys around us. The sun drops into a sunset position creating ribbons of soft blue and gold light everywhere.

Rachel ponders out loud, “I love how the sunshine is flowing through the leaves.”

Our jaws open and eyes widen. SunFloJo, Stalker C and Surrender all say together, “Sunshine!”

And that is how Rachel was given her trail name Sunshine. 

I share randomly, “Sunshine is so much better than Rat. Before I knew Rachel’s full name, she was in my phone contacts as Rachel AT which looks like RAT if you read it too fast.”

Stalker C makes a note of that comment and will sometimes call her friend Sunshine Rat thereafter.

“Hey,” I say. “All our names begin with S.”

SunFloJo says, “Ooo. I like it!”

Stalker C says, “We can call ourselves the Steam Team.”

“Yes!” In unison we agree.

Then the dashboard begins blinking an orange light.

SunFloJo looks at me. I look at the dashboard.

We are almost out of gas! We are not quite to our campground yet.

SunFloJo has an “oops!” look on her face. She glances at me in a she might laugh kind of way. Funny, not funny.

She makes a speedy U-turn.

“How far back is the last gas station we saw?” I ask turning toward the backseat.

Sunshine says, “That exit was a while ago.”

I check my phone, “I don’t have reception.”

Stalker C is on it. “One bar.” She searches.

We are on fumes going back down Skyline Drive, back past the ranger station and down the hill toward the last town we saw. The dashboard gas light is increasingly brighter orange in my mind.

Stalker C says, “Got it. There’s a Bear Country Store & Deli with a gas pump .9 mile from here.”

“Good,” I say.

“They close at 7:30pm.”

It is 7:25pm. SunFloJo and I look at one another. She steps on the gas—what’s left of it!

We see the store! A giant faux bear is propped on top of the building. 

I run inside to tell them we are there in hopes they won’t turn us away.

We made it. Whew! We didn’t even notice this place on the approach to the park the first time. JoAnn pumps the gas from the one and only pump. 

Inside there is a tiny closet with one toilet and mini sink restroom. This might be our last porcelain toilet for a while. 

There are two large barrels with checkerboards on top inside the store waiting for visitors to play. 

Sunshine buys a bottle of local wine. I soak in the community feel of the place as the shop owner vacuums their welcome rug. There are posters and invites to summer events tacked to a bulletin board. I notice at the register a town newspaper dedicated to “The Most Wanted” people in the county. The front page is covered with many square pictures of faces, with names and a list of their alleged crimes. Watch out for those guys and gals

Sunshine and Stalker C pose for a picture outside with the store sign. The sun is getting low now. We better get moving.

Retracing our drive back into the park, we see the hiker couple possibly still looking for a ride. We have zero space or seats in our vehicle to pick up anyone. We trek on.

Stalker C shares that she is most concerned about bears on the trail. I respond with info from YouTube about how to make noise if we see a black bear and suggest we do our best not to get in-between a momma bear and her cubs because that is the main time that a black bear might become aggressive.

“Yea, we’re lucky that there are no grizzlies here. I read they are more aggressive,” I say.

Stalker C eyes me.

We enjoy the ascension views all over again.

Then I say, “Look! A Bear!” I am serious, no joke.

SunFloJo slows and stops the CR-V. Two wee black bear cubs cross the road. Their much bigger momma follows. I know from my side of the car there is no point in trying to get a picture as the bears climb into the brush and trees left of the car. From the driver’s side SunFloJo takes a few pictures.

I am not sure if this was a good thing to happen to soften Stalker C’s fears or a bad thing to make her bear fears worse.

The vehicle hums along again. We are in a wondering state of mind thinking about the bears and the nature around us.

Stalker C says, “I really would like to see a deer.”

“Aw,” I say.

SunFloJo, “Any special reason?”

“One year ago today, my grandmother Rosemary passed away. As we left the care facility the first thing we saw was a deer. The whole family thinks of her now when we see deer.”

“It’s her spirit animal!” SunFloJo says with confidence.

“I hope we see one,” I say to Stalker C. “Especially today.” 

But there’s not much light left.

© Copyright 2016 Surrender On The Trail – Glenna S. Edwards

If you’d like to listen to the Audio Version or support this creative work, click here for SURRENDER ON THE TRAIL Podcast CHAPTER FIVE.

Thanks for reading or listening. Check back next Sunday for CHAPTER SIX.

Oh, and there is an EXTRA CONTENT B on the podcast this week! In those extra minutes, I describe some new things I have been exploring.

 

Chicken Salad Vacation

Two of my favorite self-care options are “time with a friend” or “time away”.

Time away can be almost anything out of the ordinary. A vacation would be nice, but since that is not an option right now, I manage to find even small amounts of time and declare them to be vacation minutes.

Oxygen in. Oxygen out.

So naturally when my friend Deb invited me to stand in line for the Grand Opening of the Chicken Salad Chick restaurant in Oakley, Ohio, I was lured in by a double win potential. Time with a friend and the first 100 people in line would win FREE chicken salad for a year.

Ummmm…out-food guaranteed monthly? Yes, please.

I set my alarm for 4am. I made a checklist of equipment needed: folding chairs, Cudl duds, triple clothing layers, boots, hat, gloves, a scarf, and a book to read. I downloaded the Chicken Salad Chick App and read the Grand Opening rules.

The temperature was 20 degrees as I pulled into the parking lot to find my friend taking a selfie next to the “first in line” sign. She became famous for the next several hours! People were in awe of the line leader. “What time did YOU get here?” people asked her many times.

My face froze into a smile. We set up camp and settled into the cold darkness. I visualized that the parking lot was a beach just ahead of my toes.

We giggled a bunch when we learned the first three of four people in line were named Deb! What are the chances?

3 Debs

We saw the kindness of strangers help one another with various challenges. Extra blanket? Extra chair? Information and legendary tales of how this works? These were no problem for complete strangers to handle in the dark before dawn.

The Chicken Salad Chick employees, photographer, and Chamber of Commerce arrived as daylight approached. The wise employees brought us toe warmers. The line grew.

I watched my Deb of the three Debs manage a conference call as if she was not freezing. I busted out laughing at the contrast of her serious work and the fact that we were waiting in line for a chance at free food.

When the dark sky turned winter white, I felt a ping of sadness. The fun was nearly over.

After the official store ribbon cutting, we scanned our free chicken code proudly as Miss First In Line #1 and Good Friend #2.

We sat with the new friends we made in line and already have a favorite Chicken Salad Chick employee. Shout out to Tamika!

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Then we headed to work. Back to reality. It was a good tiny vacation!

May peace find you this holiday season–perhaps in a most unexpected way.

Love,

Glenna

Ecclesiastes 2:24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil….

* This post is dedicated to Dr. Phil of Marysville, OH because Deb and I (or Ethel and Lucy as he sometimes calls us) think you’d get a kick out of the story!

* And extra love to my Hubby who I simply told after leaving the house “I may have a fun story to tell you later”. I was so frustrated with home life the night before Chicken Salad Chick bliss. Then he sees me on Deb’s Facebook and types, “Who is that lady with my (his) hat and gloves?!” He can be a pretty funny guy.

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2 Free Gifts

“I have no gifts to bring parum pum pum pum...”

I feel the Little Drummer Boy’s pain in this season of life.

You may not have material items to give others, but there are free gifts you can give to friends and family during the holidays and throughout the year.

1. CLEAN SOMETHING. Recently in borrowed work space someone said, “Oh, we are not going to sweep. It was already a mess when we got here.” That comment made me feel sad. Aside from the fact that sweeping is on our checklist, I believe in leaving places better than they were whenever possible. The broom and dust pan stood in the corner. I collected debris in 5 minutes. No one may notice, but I know that caring for someone’s space is an act of love and appreciation.

Deposit positive energy. At someone’s home, you can do dishes without making a fuss or be the person who collects discarded wrapping paper. If the trash can is full, then take the bag outside. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Just do the deed that alleviates someone else’s stress.

2. GIVE QUIETLY. Long ago someone told me about how a visiting family member was helpful but then offered a whiny soliloquy about how they mopped the floor and how they ran a load of laundry. Listen, no one wants to hear about the dust bunnies you cleared or the obstacles you faced when searching for the perfect gift. Have a funny story? Then maybe share. Or ask yourself, is your intention to draw light to show how you should be noticed for your efforts? If so, then no. Hush.

Do you volunteer at church? Then do it with grace. People need the peace that can be found in church rather than the distraction of a grumpy volunteer.

Did you just clean your house for guests? Are you exhausted because cleaning was way overdue? Then check yourself before opening the front door. Don’t greet people with your stress. People need your warm welcoming smile.

Just do or not do…quietly.

We could talk about being present for others. We could talk about self-care and doing less around the holidays. We could talk about the Mary and Martha story in the Bible. As much as we hail Mary for simply being with Jesus, there’s a place for Martha in the story too.

An able bodied someone can help others in the spirit of love and kindness without any need of accolades. With ALS in our home, I often find myself silently thanking God that I have legs that can climb stairs and a body that can bend to pick up things. I don’t say that out loud to Hubby, but I do lift my thanks to my Higher Power. Quiet gratitude renews my spirit even in the moments when my body wears out for the day.

Martha might not be mentioned in Luke 10 if she gave quietly.

Be a stealth Bible Martha.

And please take out the trash & recycling–quietly.

Love,

Glenna

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Romantic Book Club

I hugged our snowman tree this week.

Mr. No-Name-Snowman is prickly but part of the family and the right height.

I miss simple things like Hubby being able to stand for a hug. The hair band Cinderella was right about some things, “Don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”

Fortunately Hubby is not gone. We find new ways to connect. I have heard that long marriages are like several marriages in one. I believe that. We are in a new act of our musical.

Last month we agreed to begin a two person book club. We have Hoopla to download free library audio books. Hubby picked the first one.

First Flight Girls

We took multiple weeks to independently finish The Flight Girls by author Noelle Salazar. It is a love story and about women in aviation during World War II. I started over once because I had a hard time remembering who was who among the character names. Once I re-listened to the first nine chapters, then I engaged eagerly to find out how the story ends.

We checked in with one another about chapter progress. I pondered how our book review would go. This is a totally new activity for us together as a couple.

I remembered one of the best lessons I know about marriage dreams: tell your spouse exactly what you visualize happening in the new fun. Do not assume they will know. What do I want?

“You write three questions about the book, and I’ll write three questions,” I share. “No random trivia unless beyond the three questions that promote conversation. No yes/no asks. The goal is we have a nice dinner and talk about the book. We’ll light a candle or go to a handicap accessible restaurant. Cool?”

He agrees. We finish the book. We write our questions. I set the scene for a quiet dinner. He did not feel physically up to going out. We create an indoor picnic.

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We compared observations from the book as we took turns answering one another’s questions. Spending time enjoying one another’s thoughts warmed my soul.

Our home was quiet other than our words and the occasional pop of a candle. It was a good night to look into his blue eyes.

Love,

Glenna

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Colossians 3:14: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

What We Think vs. What Is, Plus Tea

Dear People,

I admired her. I wanted her to like me. I hoped we’d be friends.

And–I was fairly sure she didn’t think anything at all about me.

That lady was busy doing important things that I liked being part of even if on the fringe. She might not have known my first and/or last name.

I attempted a conversation or two. I doubted my spoken words connected to her brain.

Isn’t that how it goes sometimes? We like someone. We share similar ideas with them. They do work we think is cool. We are confident they have zero interest in getting to know us.

Years later she calls me. Wha…wha…what?

She wants to meet at a restaurant.

So I go.

And it turns out she likes my brain too.

She has been reading my blog and asks me to help her think through a couple things.  Then she asks me to pray for her weekly in the months ahead as she works on a project.

I say…ok.

Like, O and K together softly, genuinely.

Before agreeing I took a few seconds to think about whether I could fit her request into my life. Which, I gotta say, is one of my most grown up moments. To consider if I could make time for something new, to think about if I could honor her and my word, ah, yes, that is an adult moment for me.

Connection isn’t always obvious, dear readers. Sometimes less is more. We don’t have to force anything. Be present. Be kind. Carry on. Don’t compromise. Be you. Things come around if they are meant to be.

This example gives me hope that a relationship with a literary agent will come into my life too. It’s happened for others. It will happen for me too. I’ve written two novels in three years (dog gone it) while in the midst of serious life changes.

The pressure is on and off at the same time. My coal is being pressed. I’m learning all I can about who might be my #DreamAgent. It will happen. I know you’re out there.

Until then I am sipping Hot Cinnamon Spice tea on a Sunday morning. I’ve learned that quality tea and taking time to breathe is valuable. I’m putting my mug out there and wishing peace for you and your dreams too.

Love,

Glenna

 

Put It In The Bear Box

I could not physically go on. After walking sunrise to sunset miles down a mountain and then miles back up, I was d-o-n-e done.

In fact, I was not sure I could make it from the large rock where I sat to where we were supposed to pitch tents for the night. My feet felt as if each toe was on fire.

SunFloJo [trail name] returned from scouting the campsite while the group of us stayed with the backpacks and overnight equipment.

I confessed, “I don’t think I can do this another day. It is your dream to hike all week and you should not miss the chance. I’m slowing you down, and I’ve thought it through. I absolutely will be fine if you leave me behind. I’ve got a book. And I am sure I’ll be safe. You must go on without me.” I even carried a fairly lethal knife that my oldest son insisted I have in my pocket during the trip. Whether bears or other probs, I would be fine. My biggest challenge would be disappointment in myself as I watched the other women leave me behind.

I gauged her facial expression to be a mix of “so true that you are slowing us down and yet no, I can’t leave you alone“.

I hobbled to camp and collapsed for a while as daylight slipped into night sky.

My mind spun around options regarding what to do next. I felt beyond grateful to no longer have a sweaty back and backpack attached. The group ate and laughed.

We placed food or items that might cause animal smell curiosity into a bear box.

The bear box was a new concept for me. I marveled at its purpose and convenience. To prepare for the trip we had brought a bear bag and rope to place items away from us and up a tree. This night, though, we had the fancy metal box.  It felt like we had a community chest of drawers out in the woods. I appreciated the safety and kindness of the bear box.

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One Benadryl later, I fell asleep too tired to wonder what that scurry sound was swishing by my single person tent.

Birds became my alarm clock that week. I lay thinking hard about what it would take to continue the trail.

What if half of what I had been carrying simply stayed behind in the bear box? Could we swing back by this place at the end of the week when we have access to a car again?

Long story short, that is what we did. Everyone, especially me, lightened our load. The bear box held the burden. I dared to lace up hiking boots again and head back to the trail knowing the next stop did not have the convenience of a bear box.  The next stop we planned to be much deeper in the woods.  I didn’t want to miss the next level challenge.

The bear box has become a mental metaphor for me when times are tough.  What can I leave behind for now?  What do I need to deal with today, tonight, and leave the rest for later?

In many ways, the bear box represented my faith during that trip.

Best wishes to you this week. If you can’t carry the burden, feel free to stick it in the metaphorical bear box for now.

Love,

Glenna

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Matthew 11:28-30 28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

Bestie Mantra Weekend

Driving 3 hours to her house, I think of all we might do in a 24 hour getaway. I will go as far as karaoke. I’m all in.

Good food and laughter are guaranteed. I need a minute away. Home is stable. This is my chance. Hubby wishes me well with my favorite, “Have fun.”

I appreciate and love my girlfriends so much. They keep me sane. I could listen to stories about what goes on in their lives forever. They listen to me too. And this bestie, Bestie B, was my college roommate. We survived living together, studying together, random outings, heartbreak, and the dawn of adult living. She knows the recipe for my go-to final exams breakfast omelet. She knows I clean to alleviate stress. I have not seen her in many months. Every second will be savored.

After visiting with her daughter and a tour of her new place, we moms go out to eat Mexican. We dive into life stage ponderings and problem solving which leads to a weekend project and of course, duh, the craft store stores. We visit JoAnn’s, Target, Walmart, & Michael’s. Shopping is something I hardly ever do these days. It feels good to wander.

Back at her home, the project ensues. We seek words that will lead to a personal mantra. A mantra is a slogan or phrase that one can use to meditate. It may be for a season or a lifetime. We hope creating a mantra will help steer our brains in a healthy way. Through conversation, we write down positive words and watch for the most important words to elevate. Our intent is to have a ready thought to help with current challenges.

I mean, my gal is an engineer and I consider myself a social scientist, so this was fun. Hours unfold. Words emerge. We are well past our usual bedtimes. I anticipate she will land on 3 separate words, but I am wrong.

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With a sound effect of introduction well after midnight, a word phrase moves to the top of the post it note chart. We agree to sleep on the results and see if the mantra sticks. She has a mantra statement “Manage My Mind”. I have a mantra question “Is that thought helpful?”.

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I wake up in a different place and watch Netflix undisturbed for an hour. As if I wasn’t already in Heaven, then I share in a bestie chocoholic breakfast. Yum.

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Our fresh minds agree that the mantras fit even after sleep. These are our phrases for this season.

We move into craft time. She makes vinyl stencils with her Cricket (Thanks Daughter M for helping Bestie B figure it out over the phone). We place the stencils on decorative wood from Wal-mart ($2.97ea). We use one of the 12 paints in a set from Michael’s ($9.99set) and sponge brushes ($4.97set) to paint the words.

While paint dries we listen to the podcast “My Favorite Murder”. On the second round of paint drying, I nap a little and have to Google the rest of the podcast story. Then it is time to remove the stencils and fill in any missed spots.

I want to add glitter. We find cute large rounds of glitter at Walmart ($3.99). I use Elmer’s Glue to apply the sparkle.

Wah lah! Our mantras are ready to be placed in a spot where we will be reminded daily.

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When it’s time to depart and without discussion, she finds a Ziploc bag to keep my new favorite sign from leaving glitter in my car. #Love

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My mantra “Is that thought helpful?” reminds me of the Bible verse that talks about taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).

I’ll pay attention to how my brain functions over the next few months with this mantra hanging in my office. I don’t want to get stuck on “thinking” that is not useful. I want to train my brain to keep moving my thoughts and actions in a good direction.

If you get a chance to do a mantra making project, I would love to hear about it. I hope it is as fun and useful to you as it was to Bestie B & me.

Love,

Glenna

Not Forsaken

Is that a trick question? I wondered.

The Wells Fargo operator had asked, “Is this a time of hardship?”  I didn’t understand why she asked at first, but then realized it was because I paid the October mortgage bill on the last day of the grace period.  For me I felt like we were winning–aka, no penalty. The mortgage company sees this differently than I do.

A month ago I wondered how in the world we would get the house ready to sell.  Hubby’s muscles have left us.  The 16yo has to be taught how to do every odd job plus has homework.  The 20yo is 1526 miles away with the Air Force.  I have multiple jobs.  We gave most of our money away over the years doing the ministry I thought God asked me to do.  The clock is ticking.  We have one asset, the house, and it needs to go in order to start over.

Help comes from unexpected places.  Someone I work with said she’s been reading scripture and decided she would get people together to help.  Two miracle gift cards showed up to help purchase paint.

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I prepped the house as best I could and busy friends took time to help me move furniture around and patched a ceiling hole.  A neighbor and co-worker helped me sell other furniture and miscellaneous items to make room and to assist with the cost of more paint and supplies.

October 13 came and I had little idea who would come.  I thanked God in advance for whatever muscles that would arrive.

First, dear friends near my age came along with a 32yo new dad who could choose to be anywhere but chose to paint with purpose.

Around mid-day two young guys arrived.  I thought they were going to be disappointed that the basketball goal was already sold the hour prior.  “We’re here to paint,” they said.  When one took off his sweatshirt and out popped an arm with Jesus’ face tattooed on his muscles, my tears were unavoidable.  I knew right then miracles are happening.  The hands and feet of Jesus are present.

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As the weekend progressed people came for different reasons.  Some said they want to give back because their life has been better lately.  Some because of their love for the Lord.  One couple came partly because familial ALS is in their family too.  I began to pass out house keys like candy.

One young man looked deep into my soul, sized up the situation, asked me to list out the projects that scare me, and promised he’d stay by my side until the jobs are done like he would for his own mother.  He’s 26 and has a lot of carpentry, plumbing, etc. skills.  Wow. Wow.  Wow.

We’ve been full steam ahead with volunteers ever since.  I’d love to say some of their names, but I haven’t asked for permission.  I do my best to thank them personally.

On Tuesday night I went with my best friend since birth to see Hillsong.  I had no idea how I could stand on my sore feet and I stressed internally that I should be home working.

During the song I Am Who You Say I Am God mushed my heart like Playdough.  In a prayerful time I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, “You answered the call.  You gave up a lot.  You never let go of the house or lifestyle, and you’re going to have to let go of that now too.  It will hurt.  And you will go on.”

Like the song says:

I am chosen, Not forsaken

I am who You say I am

You are for me, Not against me

…I am a child of God.

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The castle I painted for our sons is gone, covered by “falling snow” white semi-gloss.  We are packing for a new adventure.  I am struck how the answer is “surrender” every time I am perplexed.  I look forward to sharing the manuscript Surrender on the Trail with readers one day.  As it turns out the trail was merely the beginning of what I am learning about surrender.

Love,

Signature GSE

P.S.  Thank you to new and old friends from Springdale Nazarene Church and SNC Norwood who took time to help our family.  May you be blessed abundantly.

In About A Year…

She energizes me every time we are together.

We make a plan of attack.  We let go of stress.  We choose to focus on our project and nothing beyond the scope of that project.  We slash 12-15 occupied hours from our week to make this happen.  This is bold and brave in my tangled world.  This is unpaid time to create something bigger, better, broader.  This choice frees our minds and invites creative space.

We have been so busy delivering the service that we miss consistent time to compile, gather, and finish content for the workshop series.  We’ve done the research.  Now we write what we’ve wanted to complete for three years.  More youth and children can have access to the opportunity in upcoming days when we hit pause so we can adjust our work.  As a different friend says, “Sometimes you need to take a minute.”

We pick a date for our next meeting and hit the bi-weekly calendar repeat button.  It feels good to be with a fellow creative person.  And she’s so smart.  She’s done the surrender work in her own life.  She is at peace.  I want peace.

Back in the car I think, In about a year we’re going to meet our goal.  Maybe in six months!

My car rattles.  I make my way to the highway, then catch myself.  No.  Not in a year.  Not in 6 months.  We will do the work and it will happen as it happens.  This project will unfold as it is meant to be.

I will not force it.

I will surrender to the process.

I will do my part of the work and we will see the reveal in time.

I pray, Show me the way.

I am a planner who can also be spontaneous.  I get hung up in the goal setting and walk in circles around the straight line that would be the easiest route.  I make things harder.  Not this time.

Make me a new vessel, Lord.  Guide my path.  Not my will, but Yours.  I don’t want my work-all-night-to-meet-a-deadline mode of operation.  No.  Not this time.

And so, the project begins with fresh air and a relaxed attitude.

       Proverbs 37:7 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret….

In about a year…  We will diligently do the work with an open mind and see what happens.  I will rest when it’s time to rest and I will work when it’s time to work.

Does this make sense to other artists/writers out there?  Does surrender lead to a better way through life’s path?  I welcome your thoughts.

Pictures from the Cincinnati Nature Center on 9/17/18.  I was there for a training event.  The instructor gave us time to explore.  I saw deer, frogs, turtles, and I watched the leaves begin their seasonal descent.

God bless you,

Signature GSE