Milestones

How do we define milestones in life? What makes one event more noteworthy than another?  I was recently looking on that famous greeting card website for an anniversary year designation, and noticed that there comes a time, after about 15 years, that the designation is rather ho hum.  As if those years don’t really deserve much mention.  Seriously- it said for year 23, the “theme” is air.  Air?  Am I to assume, then,  that I can put a lid on a mason jar and hand it over, for a gift of air?

I have been pondering this because today is my 24th anniversary.  A rather ho hum year according to that famous card company web site.  This years theme is stone.  I wonder, how did we go from a Diamond at year 10 to stone at year 24? Have these past 14 years not amounted to more than a rock?

Let me tell you – 24 years is nothing to sneeze at.  Marriage is so much more than the ceremony and reception.  It is all those small things, those ho hum days and events that never get the recognition they deserve.

The  day he clips a rose from the garden and puts it on the table because it’s pretty.

When she brings him Vernors because he’s been sick, and she knows it will make him feel better.

It’s laughing at your silly jokes, a hug just because, dancing in the kitchen to annoy the children.  Being able to disagree, but know, no matter what, you love them.  It’s laundry and shopping and cooking and cleaning.  Dealing with being sick, aging family and bills.

Marriage is hard, it’s fraught with pitfalls that devour many and  leave many more with bruises unseen.   It’s messy, and stressful and there are three sides to it-his, hers and the truth.

So when I look at that greeting card website that says year 24 is stone- and the big milestone of  year 25 is silver, I can’t help but shake my head and disagree.  Each of these 24 years has been a milestone to celebrate, to shout to all that those ho hum events and days have had as much meaning as that year 25.

So today, on this day of stone for my husband I , I want to publicly shout out to all, that we have persevered through all those ho hum moments.  We have fought and made up, laughed and cried, supported and cheered, and most of all loved each other as we promised we would.  You see, we made a choice, those many years ago, and though it’s been hard at times, I can’t imagine another I would have loved the way I love him.

Happy 24th anniversary my dear love.

Flat Anthony

Funny thing about kids, they grow up. We have 2 sons that are growing into such fine young men, we  are so proud of both of them. For Mother’s day a few years ago,our oldest gave me a pillowcase with his picture on it. Seems kind of funny, but I love it. I bring it with us when we travel.

We have been an RV family for about 6 years, and in that time we have traveled thousands of miles around the country. We have been from the Pacific to the Atlantic, summer and winter. Some of our favorite memories happened because of a chance to buy an old RV..As a parent, it has been rewarding to know that we have been able to give the gift of travel and love for our country to our boys.

Our oldest son is now 22 and, as a young man starting out, no longer has the time to take off for weeks or months at a time. When we travel now, I feel a sadness that he isn’t able to continue to share in our adventures. Our remedy? We call it Flat Anthony- the pillow with his picture on it.

Flat Anthony comes along with us whenever we travel, and this last trip, well, let’s just say he had some adventures.  How could we not take him along?

We didn’t want him to miss beach combing, or climbing on the rocks, the dune buggy ride, whale watching, 4th of July or the evening campfire watching the ships on the river.

It clearly isn’t the same as having him along with us, and I sometimes feel guilty having fun without him. We are so proud of all his accomplishments, and maybe some day, when he is older with a family of his own, he will remember his youthful trips and want to do the same with his family.

For Love of Trains part 2

 

As we travel in our Rv, our trips always include some sort of train activity.  It is a given, a necessity for survival when your autistic son lives for all things train.  As we plan our trips we include train rides or visits to train museums to ensure  harmony along the way.  These plans give us locations to see, and something for our son to look forward to, as he puts up with activities he might not otherwise enjoy.

In the small Northern California town of Dunsmuir, there is a small Amtrak stop, and the Union Pacific yard.  We happened to be camping in the area and decided to go to Dunsmuir for lunch and to watch for whatever train might arrive. Andrew brought his small video camera so  he could film the trains.

We parked nearby and headed toward the Amtrak stop. Looking at the schedule, we found that we would not be seeing Amtrak – it makes its pass through town very early morning.  Andrew knew, however, that other trains travel this route all during the day so it was only a matter of time.  As he set up his video camera  we noticed some workers on the other side of the track.  We didn’t have long to wait before the horn of a train could be heard, and the shout from Andrew “here it comes!”

Pulling in to the station was a Union Pacific train.  The train pulled in slowly and stopped at the small station.  As we watched, the 2 workers we had seen on the other side of the track  picked up their bags and headed to the cab. At the same time, the 2 workers that had just arrived on the train, grabbed their bags and climbed out. This  was a simple crew change,  exchange in a normal workday of some train employees. We didn’t speak to the workers but what came next was so kind- an act of generosity that  reminds me there are great people out there.

The new crew climbed in the cab and suddenly one of them leaned out of the cab and called to Andrew to come closer. Andrew walked  closer, and the employee  opened the side cab door and leaned out, handed him a  lantern!  As he handed it to Andrew, he claimed he didn’t need it anymore.   Just like that, this man gave a boy something he always wanted. As quickly as he came out of the cab he went back in, told Andrew to cover his ears, blew the train horn and they were off. Andrew calling for them to drive safely.

We watched as the train disappeared down the track, another day in the life of a train lover..

 

 

 

 

For Love of Trains part 1

Andrew LOVES trains. That is a fact that is obvious the moment you meet him, almost as obvious as the fact that he is autistic. For us, this love affair is part of our family experience, it is a daily staple. It is woven in our conversation,our travels and yes our home decor. The love he has for trains however, has brought opportunities and has brought out the kindness of people that is so incredibly heartwarming. Two recent incidents, with regard to trains, have touched our family in such a warm way.

We travel in our RV as often as we can, summer being the longest trips for obvious reasons. This year we had a few trips already so our summer trip was not as far or long. It was however, one of the best we have had.

Part of our trip took us back to Portland and the Oregon Rail Historic Foundation (http://www.orhf.org/), home of Andrew’s favorite train, the 4449.  Visiting this museum and seeing his favorite train, was all he talked about for most of our trip. The day came to visit the train and you would have thought it was Christmas.  We had been to the museum before so Andrew knew just what he wanted to see. As he walked around, you could see the excitement in his eyes, his love for these big machines just radiating from his every pore.

While speaking with the gentleman in charge that day, I commented about Andrew being autistic- he said he knew- has a son on the spectrum as well.  We finished our conversation and then he looked at Andrew and told him to follow him. They walked over to the 4449 train and he told Andrew to go ahead and climb up in the cab, ignoring the please keep off sign, then he called over one of the workers to climb up with him.  Here was a sudden kindness to a young boy from a man who could see the thrill this small act provided.  The thrill that he was IN the cab of his favorite train, the thrill to “drive” that train-if only for a moment even if it never actually moved. We can’t thank him enough.

 

 

 

 

A trade off

I love camping, always have. There is something about being outside, sitting next to a fire, the smoke filling the air, seemingly always blowing in the direction you are sitting. Marshmallows roasting, hot dogs cooking, all the traditional activities. When I was younger, camping meant a tent and sleeping bag, small camp stove and a chair. The lure was the outdoors. So many places to see, all with their own appeal. I’m old now.

Sleeping on the hard ground,and invariably a rock, has lost its lure for me. Camping has changed over the course of my life; it is now done with much more comfort. A real bed, bathroom, kitchen and air conditioning and satellite tv! Not really roughing it anymore.

Some may think that this isn’t real camping. As I walk around the campground I notice everyone is doing the same thing. When you pull in you set up your spot.  For some, that’s pitching the tent, others it’s plugging in and hooking up the sewer line.   It’s fun seeing all the different types of rv’s and tents; seeing where everyone is from is interesting. I notice, as people take walks around the campground, they give a sideways glance or point. Being from California and currently in Ontario Canada, we get our fair share of looks. Some will stop and ask if we are lost, or why are we here. Not lost and we are here because we can be.

So we set up our “summer home” and have all the comforts, but we still go out each day and explore something new. The wonders of the outdoors, the history of the area, the local flavor of the city. In the evening we may come back and sit by that fire, talk with the other campers, hear of their travels, share ours. It’s nice to know, if it rains, we wont be soaked and miserable.Yes, we have moved on past the tent on the ground and really roughing it. Our biggest issue seems to be trees.

I love a campground with shade and trees- but they block the satellite signal. Oh the horrors! We have spent time positioning our rv just right in the spot to get the signal, have even gone so far as to move spots. Not always with success. In the end, it comes down to a trade off- beautiful spot under the trees or satellite tv? Because it’s about the camping, the beautiful spot wins. Tv can wait, enjoying a campfire with new friends or family, well that always is my first choice.

Wants and Needs

Merriam Webster defines Need as:

“something that a person must have : something that is needed in order to live or succeed or be happy”

It is always funny to me, when my son comes to me and says, ” I NEED this!”  This, of course, being whatever latest toy/Lego he just HAS TO HAVE. He doesn’t just want it, he NEEDS it, and is quite persistent in his announcement. With him though, that NEED can change as quick as the next commercial, or the turn down the next aisle at the store.  For him, NEED versus WANT are equal.

It isn’t always material things people insist they NEED.  Relationships can fall into that category at times. I have listened as people espouse how much they NEED the other person in their life.  That all-consuming, can’t spend a minute apart, what do I do without you, NEED.   It is wonderful to have a partner to share your joys and sorrows, your adventures and boring days, but to place your happiness on their shoulders  becomes smothering and draining. Why would anyone want that?   Isn’t it better to be proud of yourself and your achievements, secure in the knowledge you can take care of yourself and be self-sufficient, bringing all that to a relationship?  Encouraging the other person to be all they can be, not basing your happiness on them?

I would guess most people confuse what they want with what they need. Do we NEED that 3000 square foot home, with a pool? Or that fancy car? No, of course not.  Do we WANT them? I know I do. Do I have them?  No. What I do have is a decent size home, no pool. We have decent cars, no Mercedes or BMW, but decent.  You see, we didn’t go overboard with what we bought. We bought what we could afford, we worked hard and so far we have done pretty well.   We have planned for our wants and made certain our needs were met first.  Now we have the opportunity to purchase a really big want!  A new, well new to us, RV.

Yes it is big, and a bit costly, o.k. really costly.  Do we NEED it? According to Merriam Webster no.  Do we want it? Absolutely.  We had an RV before, and spent 5 years taking cross-country  family vacations.  We had our easy trips where everything went rather smooth.  There were those trips that became “adventures”.  You know the type; where it seems any and all mishaps occur, and during the trip it is all so stressful you think why in the world did we do this?  But, in  hind sight, those adventure trips are the ones you retell, with fondness and laughter, well after the stress has worn off.

Our summer travels will take us to the familiar and the new,  to family and strangers.  We anticipate “adventures” and hope for smooth rides.   Clearly this is not a NEED, according to Merriam Webster.  It is not a must have,  we can live without it, be successful without it and happy without it.  By all means,  it is a want.  So, for our youngest son, who says he “needs to travel” and for us as parents, who find comfort in the adventures, we will embark on new journeys.  We will experience new adventures, and working  together, find what truly brings us joy, as individuals and as a family.

Make A Plan

“Make a plan”,  my husband tells me that all the time.  I try, I really do, but  he’s so much better at it.  I can get one started but I am so indecisive, and I procrastinate, that he just takes over and finishes the plans.  That isn’t always a bad thing either.  It’s not that he does it all, it really ends up a collaborative effort.

A few years back we were planning a cross-country trip in our RV, talk about a collaborative effort! It took many nights of pouring over maps and searching for places to stop on the way.  The only thing that was a certain, was that we needed to be in Michigan for my husbands parents anniversary/birthday party.  His parents were both turning 90 years old and it was their 65th wedding anniversary.

Coming from California, we have a couple of route choices, each with their own positive and negative aspects.  Not only was it the route to get to Michigan that needed to be decided, but the entire trip.  How long would we go, what else would we see, where would we go? And so the planning began.

We had one month for our trip .We chose to start on what is known as “The Loneliest road”, highway 50.  We would than go to Mt Rushmore, and on to Michigan. After the family party we would head to Niagara Falls, and New York city.  We planned to go to Washington DC, but when we heard our son’s friend was playing baseball that summer for the Cape Cod League, the plan changed, and we went to watch him instead.   A decision that turned out to be a true slice of all American fun.

The route home was a bit more direct, with a stop in Kansas to see the Wizard of Oz museum, than pretty much straight home.  All in all a lot of driving, tons of fun, a couple mishaps, that we fondly recall as “adventures” now.  But to be sure, one of the best trips we have taken to date.

What has become most important for me, for us, is that we had a plan.  Everything seems to come down to having a plan.  When my husband and I got married, we had a plan.  From the music played before, during and after the ceremony, to our vows, we had a plan.  For our life, after that ceremony, we have had a plan.  I admit, some of our plans have gone  awry, but we have adjusted, and are actually ahead of ourself and our plan. Countless nights have been spent pouring over bills and maps and music and  forms, making choices and putting it all into the current plan.

I believe that, as a family, we have made plans, shared our points of view, and though it may seem a bit lopsided at times, we have worked as a team.  While no plan is without its share of pitfalls,  we have weathered those adversities and are still hanging in there.  Each one of us has contributed, and I marvel at all we have accomplished so far.