Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Goodbye, 2014, Hello 2015!

At Shady Lane RV Park, Plainview, Texas...

What are we doing on the high plains of Texas, sitting in Phannie with snow on the ground outside? Attending Jeff's and Leah's wedding, that's what. Jeff is the son of longtime friends and fellow RVers Bubba and LouAnn, and we think Jeff has snagged himself a real jewel in Leah Ford, a lovely west Texas girl who will undoubtedly make him very happy.

Jeff and Leah
I provided some piano music during some of the festivities, something I was honored to do.

Below are a couple of photos to authenticate the cold weather in which we find ourselves, a situation so averse to us that it would only occur at the behest of friends and family.


Since we don't find ourselves in frozen tundra like this very often, I had sort of forgotten that, in cold weather, we have a bit of a water supply problem due to the exposed water hose connecting to Phannie. Frozen hoses can usually be overcome by dripping water during the night, something the park management here warned us not to do due to the limitations of their septic system.  Soooo, that meant we had to disconnect the water while the temperature is below freezing outside. Finding that a bit annoying, I decided to order a heated hose in the event we find ourselves again in some Siberia-like land which, I promise you, won't be very often.

We had a very enjoyable Christmas vacation with our kids in Houston, which we had to abbreviate somewhat in order to make it out to west Texas for the wedding. Below is a photo of yours truly in Houston, sitting in Phannie with younger grandson Pryce. Note the inscription on my t-shirt, which I think is entirely appropriate:

Below: Older grandson Mason is dying to drive Phannie, but he's content for the moment with blowing the air horn. Neighbors are not all that amused.

For times like these, being retired is such a blessing in allowing us to roam wherever and whenever we like. I guess I'll get used to my new freedom someday, but that day hasn't come yet. Since we were en route to Plainview on Christmas day, we took advantage of FaceTime to watch the grandkids open their gifts from Santa. Isn't today's technology amazing?

As 2014 draws to a close, I feel a need to reflect on the year and consider how this time may have contributed to any new insights and learning experiences from which I can benefit in the future. With this in mind, here are a few things that immediately come to mind:

1. Faith and family have become increasingly important. This is probably to be expected in a person's latter years, but it is indeed affirming to know that the evidence for the Creator is actually being strengthened instead of diminished as scientific knowledge expands. You may recall, for example, the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) project begun in the 1950s, consisting of powerful radio telescopes located worldwide that have never produced a single crackle, pop or any other kind of signal deemed possibly to have emanated from anything with a brain. With untold millions spent on the project, it was declared unproductive and was defunded by Congress 20 years ago. With continued private funding, the project continues to live but remains as silent as ever. E. T. seems not to be calling home or anywhere else. 

There may be a reason for the failing interest in SETI: 
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, it is also becoming more evident among the scientific community that the profound uniqueness of the complex circumstances that allow life on Earth is likely not duplicated elsewhere after all, even among billions of planets in the universe. And there has been zero progress in explaining how the writer of this blog, for example, evolved from swamp slime. (Frankly, knowing him as I do, I could personally believe that he came from swamp slime, but science, unfortunately, is at a loss to prove it.) 

So what's the takeaway from this? Well, having a greater assurance of a God in heaven gives great comfort and peace, something I wish for everyone.

Our family is not a large one, but we treasure every year's memories. We think about the birth of our children and of Mindy's growth through the years. (Our son Jordan passed away from cancer at age two). Mindy is now a beautiful and loving wife and mother of our grandsons, whom we plan to do our best to spoil, something with which we think we've had some success. Mindy and Tyler and their kids always seem solicitous of our visits and are remarkably tolerant of my hijinks, luckily for me.

2. With each passing year, I see an increasing importance in maintaining a positive outlook and disassociating with negative things and negative people. I immediately think of RV blogger friend Ed, who closes each daily blog post with an affirmation that "life is good." I will strive in 2015 to be more like Ed in that regard.

3. Retirement is turning out to be a far better gig than I even imagined. I think of my hometown good friend John, who was smart enough to retire when he was a relatively young man. Having always resented him for that--mostly, but not fully, in jest--I take a little consolation in my belief that he didn't actually work long enough to really enjoy being retired. I think that's why I'm still speaking to him.

4. What have I learned in the last year about our retirement budget? Well, I had heard that people tend to maintain their lifestyles after retirement if they can, and that has turned out to be true for us. Frankly, we haven't wanted to give up much of what we were doing while we were working and, fortunately, it doesn't appear we'll need to do that. Had Sandy and I not worked all those years and made provisions for retirement, we would certainly not have a choice but to diminish our lifestyle now. I hope to be able to influence young people--especially in our family--about the importance of preparing early for retirement; it will be here before they know it!

5. Like everyone as they get older, we sense time passing more and more quickly each year. We feel compelled, therefore, to strive to actualize our dreams sooner rather than later. We notice that physical limitations are beginning to creep into our lives, and we have so much left to do and so many places to go. We need to keep moving forward with those dreams; it's not gonna happen when we're in the rest home.

By the time you read this, we will be on our way back to Houston with a few days' layover at home on our way there. After that, we're tentatively planning to make our way back to the Rio Grande Valley in February. We had a really good time there last winter, and we're eager to get as far away from the cold as possible.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Holiday Downtime

At home near Fort Worth, Texas...

Since this is mainly a travel blog, I don't post very often during downtime at home, mainly because we don't do all that much that we think would be of interest to anyone. 

Part of our current hiatus has been spent with both of us snorting and sniffling with colds, so that took up a good bit of time when I didn't feel like doing anything, much less blogging. I think it was from Sandy's side of the family I heard the old bromide that says a cold is "three days coming, three days here and three days going." That has proven to be about right, I think.

The other distraction--and one much more pleasant--was a visit by daughter Mindy and her husband, Tyler and grandsons Mason and Pryce and Sandy's sister, Brenda, over Thanksgiving. Sorry, but you will be forced to view these family photos; we are, after all, grandparents, and that is our right and privilege. So there.

Sandy, Pryce, Brenda, Mason and Mindy

Tyler finally got in the photo. A good guy; you'd like him.

Mason and Pryce; easily the smartest and best looking grandkids on the planet. Dissent will not be tolerated.
We treated the kids and their parents to three nights at the Great Wolf Lodge and its indoor water park in Grapevine, and did they ever have a great time! Mason declared his experience there as the "best time of my entire (five-year) life." I must say, this place was a wonder to behold. Brenda characterized it best, calling it Las Vegas for kids, an entirely apt description.

Since the Great Wolf experience occupied much of Mindy's family's time, she suggested that we do something radical this year and eat Thanksgiving dinner out! In our family--especially in earlier years when so many more of our extended family members were still living--this would have been the equivalent of blasphemy! But the more we thought about it, we decided it was really a good idea to suspend the many days and hours of preparation and cleanup, leaving those chores to someone else while we just enjoyed each other's company. And so we did. We had a nice dinner with all the trimmings at a local restaurant, where they did all the work and we did all the laughing and carrying on. Afterward, while the restaurant help did the dishes, we were taking a nap! While we love traditions, we must admit that this was a nice diversion that we will keep in mind for possible future use.

Pryce discovered sweet potato casserole. Not much question about whether he likes it or not!

We are usually not idle during downtime between travels. In fact, we had always heard retired people wonder aloud how they ever had time to work, and the same is true for us! There are always chores that involve the upkeep of the house and vehicles, as well as church-related activities when we're in town. We just finished three performances of "Believe Again," a Christmas special featuring Stephen Curtis Chapman, a popular Christian recording artist, at the First Baptist Church of Dallas. As members of the 250-voice choir, supported by a 40-piece orchestra, we got an extra helping of real Christmas spirit, along with the nearly sold-out crowds.

First Baptist Dallas Worship Center
Downtime is also an opportunity to take care of any motorhome issues that may have cropped up. For some time, I have wanted to upgrade Phannie's dashboard radio, an old Pioneer model that is now dinosaur-like in technology years, plus it recently developed an annoying loose connection somewhere that would cause it to operate only intermittently. Now I have the good fortune of having at my beckon call Russ Clark of Clark's Mobile Installation Service, who is a friendly genius in all things related to tv, radio, satellites and the like. He's the kind of smart guy who doesn't make the technology-challenged among us feel bad about being dumb. I had him install a fancy new Kenwood system, and I am very pleased with it. He also cured the loose connection, so he is my new hero. If you are ever in the DFW area and need help with this kind of issue, Russ is your guy. You can call him at 817-336-8329.

This is Russ Clark, local entertainment system genius.

We will be loading Phannie over the next couple of days for a trip to Houston and Christmas with Tyler and Mindy and their kids. More later; merry Christmas, everyone!