Going back to school, or the Accidental Vacation?

First Published On Larinna Chandler’s personal Blog.

“Well, that’s the last of it. You ready to go?”

My husband leaned over and kissed me as he asked. I wasn’t really ready, none of us wanted to go…but this was an opportunity to get him the education he needed to further his career.

He builds custom cars, and he fixes peoples cars. Heading west to a big car school, going back to college for him at 30 years old was a pretty huge deal. We were all excited, but sad too. Going back to college is a big life changing event, even more so when you are bringing along a wife, children and a lot of sad wishes from folks who don’t want you to leave the place you have always lived.

But, we left. And it was a somber drive. The children had never been away from their ‘gramma’. Ever. In their whole lives. The first leg of the journey felt as though we were grieving. I guess we were. I know the kids were. We drove only about five hours the first day as the kids were still crying, we had gotten a really late start and it was getting dark.

The hotel was a horrible spot to try to park at with a fully loaded truck pulling another fully loaded truck on a trailer. I wont even go into that. Suffice it to say….it sucked.

Day two found us still on the road. The kids were still sad so we stopped at the Quality Inn in North Platte, Nebraska. The trailer hauling the big ‘Ol 1955 International was a heavy haul for the Tahoe, and it wasn’t tracking the way we wanted it too. We needed to stop and adjust everything anyway. We had been to this hotel before, and it is a great place.

The kids swam for about 10 minutes, and then they just sat there  on the cold cement next to the pool and cried. And Cried.  We tried everything to console them, but they were grieving. You can’t cure grief, even if it is only temporary. Grief is simply grief…and they were hurting.

Eventually we make it to the school in south eastern Wyoming. And it all went downhill.

The school tacked an extra $7000 onto what Curtis was told he was supposed to pay back via scholarships, stafford loans and Pell Grant. But $7,000 is a big deal when you are broke as ****, and you are working toward a dream. Curt’s Customs and Repairs has been in the works for many, many years.

Then we found out that the children had to walk to school. Keep in mind, we are country bumpkins. Our west central Wisconsin town has about 463 people and the kids ride the bus for an hour to get to school. Yes, that small. That’s our roots. But, walking to school was a new thing for them and they were excited. We were a little nervous, but ready to let the kids sprout their new city wings.

Of course, and fortunately, we met a nice business owner who dabbles in the neatest little antique store. Oh, we talked for almost an hour. She reminded me so much of my friend here in Wisconsin. Antique store owners are such crafty, creative and personable people. She asked if I had checked the “offender registry”. I finally realized she meant the sex offender registry and found out my new place was SURROUNDED (well four houses all within two miles) by pedophile held houses; one was a friggin GROUP HOME for pedophiles. Off topic, but why don’t we kill pedophiles? We kill dogs that attack children, why don’t we kill other beings that assault and attack children so terribly?

We decided on day two that we had to go home. Our family. The kids Gramma, for the kids, for my oldest who couldn’t move away from his Dad and step-mom. They love him…and he does exceptional at his school with his teachers, but starting a custody battle that pits parental units against parental units isn’t something we wanted him to endure. He’s never known strife between his parental units, and I wasn’t intending to start. The kiddo needs normalcy, and his dad and incredibly loving step-mom can give him that, rather than a fight over “who gets the kid”. That’s not for this sensitive little dude! Well, he’s WAY taller than me now, but he is still my little boy!!

So, here we are. Ready to go home….Home. Where our roots are. We get ready to jet and my bank account is empty. Bone dry. Now, I KNOW I didn’t spend it! But where did it go? Fortunately, I had JUST signed up for online banking and after a lot of trial and error on my (supposedly) smart phone I was able to access my account. Three times our ‘new home’ and ‘new landlords’ had charged us for the spot we were staying. Draining the account.

So here we are, at a hotel. In the middle of no-where Wyoming, stranded. On a holiday Weekend, because the banks are closed. My book royalties won’t come in for some time.

So we spent the weekend making the best of everything. We are here. We are together. We are family. We are one.

So we laughed. We sang songs. We watched Harley and the Davidsons. We watched car shows and planned out our next car build that was in the works when we left. A 1941 Chevy Coupe.  We weren’t able to sight see or run around the country side but we did find a Wendy’s one mile away that served up 50 cent frosties! That was quite the find! We found a neat little Safeway store that had really good deals. And some not so good.

We found that living here in Wisconsin where Cheese isn’t always cheap…but it’s GOOD…so being in Wyoming and seeing “real cheese” that said Sharp Chedder on the label, we bought some! It might have said sharp chedder but it was more like colby cheese with just  a slight hint of mild chedder in there. Kind of tasteless, but it was on sale for $1.48 for an 8 oz block.It was most certainly not the kind of Aged Sharp Chedder that we get anywhere in Wi.

Ultimately, Tuesday after Labor Day the banks opened back up and I called my bank. My bank is full of awesome folks. They said, “They did what???” and then they made a few calls and fixed it in about five minutes!  My account was operational again! Woo-hoo!

So…we started the journey home. All went well until somewhere in the middle of Iowa. We  stopped for gas and noticed one of the trailer tires developed a huge lump in it and some of the tread was peeling off. No big deal, we’ll just change the tire…only the rim we bought to fit the trailer…didn’t fit.

We spent a good hour or so changing the tire on the rim and a bunch of stuff to get the trailer and truck back on the road. Most people would have been stranded until a mechanic could come to the scene. Fortunately, Curt has changed tires on the rims many, many times before by hand and he made it look  nice and easy, and  about  hour later we were back on the road! We did call a mechanic shop two miles down the road to change our tire on the rim,(because we were feeling exceptionally lazy)  but they said “we want to close early tonight. So sorry, you’re on your own.”

The part where Curtis had to run over the flat tire with the front tire of his Tahoe made for some confused faces on the way past us! What on earth is that guy doing? A few truckers and car guys passed. Gave my Curtis the thumbs up. They knew he was breaking the bead of the tire so he could take the tire off the rim that DID fit the trailer.They sure wanted no part of that, and looked away quickly after they waved. One guy waiting for the air hose after we changed the tire on the rim was convinced that the tire could never sufficiently bead on the rim with a regular gas station air pump. It did. It almost always does!

We arrived safe and sound back home after the trip. No stops by cops, no major mechanical issues, everyone healthy. Everyone happy to be home. Everyone safe and sound. Back from the accidental vacation.

Moral of the story? Everything is always how you look at it. Would we have been right to be pissed off, stay pissed off and tell everyone about how it was unfair? Of course we would have. But that’s ok. By looking at everything good about it, we can weigh it out. Of course we were angry, but that doesn’t mean we should have spent the entire time being angry.

Yes, we could have posted numerous hate-filled F***MyLife diatribes. We actually had many reasons to be pissed off. Stranded. Hardly any money. No sightseeing. Spending the last bit we had on a new receiver hitch so the trailer would track better. School messed up. A ‘swarm’ of ‘yucky’ people. But we didn’t. That isn’t us. We have children to lead, to follow our example. I want children who see roadblocks, speedbumps and all those life changing things as stepping stones. We don’t always get our way.

Sitting back blaming everyone and each other for shit, even if it is deserved doesn’t help anything. I want kids to problem solve, to see us making the best of every situation. And we did. We had our selves a REAL “Accidental Vacation”!!

Life is exactly what you make it. WE could have made it a living hell. We could have EASILY made it our own living hell. Trapped in a hotel room a thousand miles from home. Barely any money. Bitching to everyone who would listen so we can make them miserable too. We could have taken our frustrations out on each other, snapped at each other, “this is YOUR fault!” It would have been miserable for us, and for the kids…and everyone around us.

But we didn’t. We reveled in being together. And while we couldn’t drive the Snowy Range Scenic bypass, or see the historic ghost towns, territorial prisons and old US Army Fort ruins….we did see a lot of other things.

A praying mantis on the hedge. Birds we have never seen before. We scraped up our change and bought the kids fried ice cream from the mexican restaurant next door. They’ve never tasted it before, so it was a real treat. We watched the sun rise over the mountains. We walked hand in hand to a few parks. We watched fish swim in a lazy little pond on the edge of town. How beautiful life truly is!

When we left, we gifted a woman who was terribly down on her luck the remainder of all the food we had packed. She got cereal, canned meats, potatoes, onions, pasta and all sorts of things. We also left her the milk and yogurt from the fridge since we couldn’t take that with on our journey home. We were able to help someone, and it felt great.

We stayed social media silent and drove home without saying a word to anyone, except my boy,  and we have been surprising folks over the last couple days! How fun it has been surprising folks who thought we were going to be gone for a year! How great it was when the babies went back to their regular school and ALL their friends ran up laughing and crying and hugging them. Life is awesome!

Negative begets negative. Positive begets positive. We stayed positive the whole time. Or as much as we could. It is the only way you can go through life. Things will always work out. They will always get better. If plan A doesn’t work, there is an entire alphabet of plans behind that one. Pick one.

Life is full of surprises. Things didn’t work out exactly like we planned, and that is ok!
Things didn’t go the way we wanted them too, and that too is perfectly ok!
Life isn’t supposed to go the way you expect. You can have plans, but know that all plans in life are negotiable. Your life is yours alone to live. It’s great, and it’s all yours, go out there and make the best of every single moment that you have been gifted with!!


Summer Has Never Been Brighter!

Previously published at my personal blog.

Once in a while, I feel inclined to do a product review. We have a new series coming out for product and travel reviews, called “Free-wheelin’ Friday’s”.  This is kind of one of those reviews. It probably is going to sound like a sales pitch, but it’s not. Buy it or don’t buy it, that’s up to you…but for me I am just completely enamored with this product! In the words of my children, “Dude! It’s awesome.!”… or maybe that’s what I say. Hmm…well, either way, I’m excited to tell you about this nifty one of a kind product.

Actual Customer Review: I earn nothing and have been paid nothing for this review. Just my thoughts on this amazing product that I personally purchased and still use.

Most ‘new-fangled’ products designed to make our lives easier or somehow better usually earn a scoff or an eye roll from me. Most not all. There is one product that I liked so much that I gave it the highest rating possible in my scoring hierarchy.  FIVE wine glasses on the old one to five scale. Yes. That good.

I first ran into David Beaudette a couple of years ago; a really brilliant down to earth guy and Daddy extraordinaire!  When I heard of his product Liqua Lights and actually saw them for the first time, I all but ran over to give him my money; complete with barely restraining myself not to shove my own kids out of the way so I could get mine first. Yes. That good.

liqua lights 3
To contact and order your LiquaLights, you can just hit up this Link right here: Oh! I want one too!!



His product is efficient. It’s simply a well designed coozie, with LED lights in the bottom. The light shining through your drink makes your drink glow! It’s a BRIGHT idea, and it puts into use what we already have and already use. Liqua Lights. The must have product of the summer. What’s even better? You can use it all year long.

No longer will you have to use the old fold up coozie with some odd saying you bought in a gas station. No longer will you have to suffer warm beer because you didn’t want to use the old orange coozie with the old faded letters on it someone bought for you from a gas station somewhere.

Now you can go out and let your drink REALLY SHINE!

liqua lights 1

“The one and only LED Lighted drink Cozy that makes your drink glow up to 100 hrs on 3 AAA batteries and works as a very bright flashlight ! Just stick it in your pocket or purse and when the lights go down, turn it on insert your drink and let it shine ! Pop your drink out and you have a flaslight to find your way home. Free shipping, and a 100% Satisfaction Gaurentee !!!”  – Liqualights.us

There is however a very pronounced down side. This product gets attention non-stop! You won’t be able to drink anywhere, without everyone asking you where you got it and where they can get one. You wont be able to just set it down without worrying someone might come by and decide they should have one- for free! You won’t be be able to simply carry your drink around, without having one or two in your pocket, since many people will want to buy the very coozie you are using. It is the first and only lighted coozie light in the world. Seriously. I have that problem.

The upsides to this product are limitless. Your beverage in a cup or bottle will look awesome. You won’t lose your drink. If your kids have their gatorade or water bottles in their own liqua lights coozie, you won’t lose your kids either!  You can remove your beverage and have an extremely bright flash light. It requires three triple AAA batteries that are included and it shines for up to 100 hours. That’s right, it could shine, nonstop for up to four days!

liqua lights 2

 Have a company and want to REALLY stand out from your competition and hand these out at the next summer parade? Yeah, I see they can take care of you there too. I’m super impressed by this product and company. “We can also custom print your logo on the Cozy for wholesale orders of 100 or more, it’s a great way to get your company noticed or celebrate that special event.” -LiquaLights.us

But before us adults get too selfish and imagine all the adult beverages we could place in our Liqua Lights coozie…sippy cups, baby bottles, water bottles, gatorade bottles can all fit in the Liqua Lights coozie just fine! This product is a win-win. I am honored to try this product out, and happy I bought some!

I actually bought about four or five of them two years ago, and they all still work GREAT!  I haven’t noticed any separation of the fabric and LED platform. It still performs as great as it did on day one.

Tips: If you buy one, buy two or more as well. I wasn’t kidding when I said people will try to hand you money to buy the coozie you are currently using.

As always if you want us to review your product, please shoot us over an email from our contact form!


It Was Like Any Other Day; Until We Knew it Wasn’t

(original posting here)

Laughing. Singing. Winter road trips. New kinds of Beer. Awesome food. Friendship. Love. Smiles. Terrible off color jokes. Stupid pranks. Singing the weirdest songs.

There were so many words that described you guys. There were so many words that described us all. Our little silly crew of friends. We were always up to some kind of shenanigans. Until one day. 

Once you said, “That’s the thing about the day before your life changes, it feels like any other day.” 

And it did. It felt like any other day. That morning too, felt like any other day until the news reports started rolling in. We sent texts and Facebook messages. Why aren’t you answering? Why won’t you pick up? Answer me!

Slowly as sun rose higher into the sky it became clear why you weren’t answering. You would never answer again. Not a call. Not a text. Not returning a smile.

That chapter in all our lives was over. The WE and the US that we were all  so familiar with would never be again. You were gone. All that was left was for us to pick up the pieces that were left behind. 

To sweep up the pieces of our broken hearts and go on through life, without you. And what beautiful souls you were. Always laughing. Always smiling…until you weren’t.

That somehow we missed that hurt you had so deep in your soul. That you were wounded, so deeply and we all missed it. 

That you hurt, and we couldn’t stop it from hurting. That it hurt so badly, that death was  a relief; and none of us had known just how badly. We didn’t know, Cory. 

That I would be left with so much anger. How much I wanted to hate you. How I wanted to hate you for being selfish and taking your brother with you. He should have stayed here with us on earth! How I wanted to write you off…but I couldn’t. You were my friend. You still are my friend. That forgiving you was a balm to my own hurting soul. That we all make terrible decisions, terrible mistakes…we all do, in one form or another. 

Forgiving you helped to heal my heart. There are still going to be moments when I am angry with you. When I am incensed at you. When I am livid…but in those moments I will chose to remember all of the good. The smiles, the laughter, the back handed compliments and off key singing. I will remember how many lives you touched in your life. How many people loved you. And so do I, my friend. So do I. I can be angry, and I can be hurt, but hatred is a poison, and I will not let hate poison how we all felt for you. We loved you. 

I promised you, that somehow-someway, I would teach, I would help and that you would not have passed in vain. Either one of you. And I will.

If you are hurting out there, if the pain is so very deep please talk to someone. If you feel have no one else to talk to, you can contact me. I will listen. I will understand. It’s ok to feel that way. How you feel is uniquely you, and no one can take that away from you. It is also up to you to fix that. No one else can fix it for you, but you can find those who will listen, who can help. Use them for support. Ask them for help. Talk to them. Cry with them. I promise you, that there are so many people out there that will help if they only know how. Let them.

One of the last things your brother ever posted on Facebook is now tattooed on the inside of my left forearm, the arm closest to my heart. “Everything is Good Forever.” 

It is, you know. It is.

Somehow, someway, things actually do find a way of working out. Life can be hard, and it can be cruel too. Just know that it doesn’t stay that way.

Help yourself to find your passions and nurture them. Use your pain to help others. Learn as you grow, and teach others as you go. Life is not meant to simply be endured but to be enjoyed every single moment you can. Be the person you are meant to truly be, don’t fall victim to believing that others should dictate WHO you should be, HOW you should act and WHAT you should say. You be that unique person you really are, and let that shine!

Perhaps, you have found yourself with a broken heart. You will hear placates of “it’s for the best” and “everything happens for a reason” or simply “they just weren’t meant for you.” That doesn’t really help, but sometimes people just don’t know what to say, but they want to try.

What I want you to remember is that EVERY single person that comes into your life, has come into your life for a reason. They have come to teach you. They have come to push you to be even better than you were before. Every thing that happens is there to be a stepping stone to the YOU that you are meant to be.

If you are contemplating suicide, please call a hotline and ask for help. It is anonymous. Call 1-800-273-8255.  If you are suffering from depression, please talk to your doctor. There are tons of people who are standing by to help you, perhaps you just don’t know it yet. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Life is a beautiful and wondrous thing, don’t miss out. There are so many people out there that love you and care. If you are feeling down, let us help.

If you have lost a friend or loved one to suicide, please talk to someone. Know that it was not and is not about you or your fault. That you can learn and grow from it, slowly in your own time. Know that it is going to hurt, it will always hurt, but that you will be ok. It is perfectly ok to grieve in your own way. Don’t let others tell you when enough is enough, you must process and grieve your way, on your time for how it feels in your heart.

A wise old man once said, “As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.”

Grief IS like a shipwreck, and it hurts like hell. Here is the link to read the entire posting on grief penned by a self professed “old man”.

Life is beautiful and meant to be lived. Live it wildly, lovingly and happily. Learn to smile through the tears and go on living even when it hurts. To know that you can learn and help others heal. That you can live happily. You deserve a life well lived, and I can’t wait to see the places you go. Everything is good forever. Somehow, it will all work out.