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!!

Colorful Attitude

IMG_2278Tears fell, leaving streaks of dirt across her face. My words were more than her young heart could bear.

“I hate to say it Kay, but you’ve grown out of that pink shirt.”

I don’t know what was more overwhelming for her, the pile of clothes and toys surrounding her, or the uncertainty of change. With arms folded and brows furrowed, she stared at me with defiance, as if it was my fault – for feeding her.

Going through closets and drawers, preparing for our spring garage sale, Makayla was hit hard with this new reality. I took into account the fact that it was the end of the day. She was a little tired and probably hungry too. Letting go of that garment sent her over the edge.

A lot of times I find myself in the same place. God tells me it is time to clean out the closet and drawers of my heart. One by one, He will very gently reveal the places I have grown out of. I often times park myself in the middle of the overwhelming mess, and with arms folded, I wrestle with the idea of letting the “good things” go.

Later that evening, Makayla’s daddy surprised her with a new shirt, similar in style and color, but this one was in her size. She bubbled with joy!

Something I am learning in this season of my life, is that any time our Heavenly Father asks us to surrender something, it is always for our good. Anything that becomes more important to us than our relationship with Him simply must be stripped away.

Idols come in many styles, shapes and colors. As an adult, the things I hold on to tend to be more complicated than a pink shirt. Is God asking you to give something comfortable and familiar up my friend? He is a tender Father, and His ways can be always be trusted.

It’s okay to pout a little, He know how much it hurts.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. ~ Ezekiel 36:26

Thirty Thursday

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August is my birthday month, and as I’m gearing up to turn 31, I’ve started to reflect back on the past year. There are a few things I’ve learned this past year.

1.) I’m no more famous now than I was a year ago. Darn.

2.) Hydration is actually very important. Water is good for your body and skin. Don’t underestimate the power of water.

3.) Kids really do grow very fast, and time seems to go even faster. Cherish the small moments.

4.) If something is on my mind, it’s best I stop whatever I’m doing and complete the task I’m thinking about. No matter my good intentions, it will NOT get done later.

5.) Don’t underestimate the power of the wand and the wonders it can do for your self-esteem. A little lipstick/lipgloss and mascara are powerful mood lifters. One little swipe is all you need to boost your appearance and attitude.

6.) Grudges are silly.

7.) Friends are imperative.

8.) My husband will never read my mind. It’s best I just spell it (whatever “it” is) our for him.

9.) Exercise and myself will always have a love/hate relationship.

10.) And the last and probably most important piece of knowledge I’ve gained over the past year, no matter how often or how many times a day I clean my house-as long as little people live with me, my home will always looked lived in. Thank God!

Erin6Erin Bevan was born and raised in Southwest Arkansas. She spent her teenage years working for her aunt at the local gas station flipping burgers and making milkshakes dreaming of the day when something better would come her way.

Fast forward ten years later, she found herself stuck inside an apartment in South Korea while her daughter went to preschool and her husband went to work. Alone and unable to speak the local language she turned to books for a friend. After reading a few hundred in such a short time, she decided to try her hand at writing one.

That first one sucked, but by the fifth and sixth book, Erin started to get the hang of this writing thing. Getting the first contract in the mail was a dream come true. Now, with three babies at home, she squeezes in stories one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one day at a time. She’s a full time mom, a full time wife, with a little writer sprinkled in whenever she can get the chance.

Be Kind & Generous

be kind

Teaching my child to be a kind and generous person is very important to me. I feel like the bullying problem in schools is due to parents failing to impart these two very important traits to our children. Even the poorest of us here in the United States are so much better off than many people in other countries and instead of feeling appreciation, we have children with an unfortunate sense of entitlement.

I don’t want this for my child.

One way in which I’m teaching my child to appreciate what he has been given is by giving back. My son is 9 this summer. So I felt he was ready to participate rather than just seeing his father and me donate or give back in the various ways that we do throughout the year. We looked at volunteering his time at a nursing home, volunteering in a soup kitchen, collecting can goods for a food pantry, or running a school supply drive.

My kiddo chose running a school supply drive. So many families in our own community can’t afford to feed their children, much less worry about getting them a box of crayons each school year. This made my son really sad, so he wanted to help other kids like him.

And Aidan’s 1st Annual School Supply Drive was born.

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We set up a Facebook page, told all our family and friends, and watched the ads around our community for the best deals. I’m happy to report that we received a huge response and were able to deliver so many much needed supplies to the school we chose to donate to. The day we made the delivery, the admin looked in the first box and exclaimed, “Oh, watercolors. I just had a teacher in here asking for some of those.”

Watercolors, folks. That teacher was going to have to go out and buy them herself because the school we donated to has to provide a completely free education after the school district was sued some years ago for asking their students to provide their own school supplies. This comment put everything into perspective.

When we left that day, my 9 year old said, “That was worth it.”

In that moment, I knew I was doing the right thing. We’re already planning our next giving back effort, volunteering at the old folks home.

I’m always looking for new ways and activities I can do with my son to give back. If you have some good ideas, I’d love to hear them. Please comment below!

2015-2016 Author photoSabrina A. Fish is the author of three Shine novellas, Lost Haven, Road to Nowhere and The Gilded Cage. Owner of a thriving Oklahoma trophy company, she collects interesting names to use in her writing from lists of award recipients. She’s been married to a wonderful man for 10 years and has been mommy to a beautiful little boy for 9 of those. You can learn more about Sabrina at www.SabrinaAFish.com or find her on Twitter @SabrinaAFish, and Instagram @SabrinaAFish, on Goodreads, and Facebook /AuthorSabrinaAFish

Grandpa and the Railroad

My grandparents came from Dundee, Scotland. And even though I was very young when grandpa died, I still remember his tall, lanky form, and his fondness for bouncing me on his knee. He was a hard-working man who helped create the rails for the railroad near Altoona, PA. He’d been in this country for five years before he could scrape together enough money to bring my grandmother and their children to join him.

railroad museum Aunt May

Several years ago my Aunt May took us to visit the Railroaders Memorial Museum and Horseshoe Curve in PA. My grandfather is part of a large mural on the third floor of the museum. If you look at the picture of Aunt May, you’ll see she’s standing in front of the wall-size photo. My grandfather is the third from the right with an open-at-the-neck shirt and a cap. Below is what my other aunt wrote on the back of the picture.railroad museum back

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, while we were there Aunt May had to take us to Horseshoe Curve. This was a very important stretch of rail that connected our county, and had been a marvel of technology in its day.  We even took the Funicular up to the track for a spectacular view.

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The Horseshoe Curve was so important that the Nazis had it on a list to be destroyed during the war. At one point, the threat became dire and my grandfather was asked to join a line of men that stood within arms-reach of each other at night to protect the curve.  Each man was issued a Billy Club, and my husband is now the proud owner of that bit of weaponry.

We never know what part we’ll play in history.  My latest story is a time travel romance, set in the Highlands before the Clearances. The heroine comes from our time, and she does what she can to help the Mackays before they are driven from their homeland.

I hope you’ll read Highland Yearning. It’s the first book I’ve written where I include a dog, a West Highland Terrier-mix named Scruffy. He may be a little, white dog, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in personality. Find my books at www.Dawn-Ireland.com.