As I started thinking about a blog, I thought I’d show you our Christmas decorations. In looking at pictures, though, I realized that this year’s decorations look very much like last year’s…and the year before that. What it’s more about is the meaning behind each part of our display. Many of our ornaments go back at least to 2010 and a few have a history many years before that. My sisters may remember this one.

The bulbs were blue when I first remember them in my parents’ window on the farm. I don’t know when they started being part of Christmas, but I remember driving in the driveway when our kids were small and seeing these lighted candles made me feel like I had come home. Here, we have five tall thin windows on the end of the living room and this candelabra has a place of honor in the middle. Almost all the other windows in the house have these battery powered ones that come on before dark and go off about bedtime.

In front of the dining room mirror is my collection of nativities.

The large one with the angel on top is the oldest. It started in a time when my sisters were young marrieds with small children. Mother bought each of them the stable and then a figurine or two each year. Of course, she couldn’t leave me out, so I got the same thing. I remember having it in my bedroom at Christmas. By the time we got to the last king, the gray kneeling one, the papier mache ones were no longer being sold at Duckwalls, so he is plastic. The little blue ceramic set came from a church friend of mine. I think everyone in our Sunday school class had one of Judy’s nativity sets in one color or another. Judy has been gone for 30 years or so, but is always remembered when that comes out. The others are things I have picked up at Branson or other places over the years.

The two little angels in the upper left are from our second or third Christmas as a married couple. Dime store purchases, but valuable to us. We scrimped and saved then for something that cost less than a dollar, I think. Candles placed in the holders in front of them make their little faces glow. The china cup with the cardinal came from my long time boss and it make my face light up!

This year I retired one ornament, a glass heart given to us 32 years ago by our friends Jim and Linda Anderson. It says 25 years together, but this year is our 57th married Christmas.

Since we lived in Liberty for 8 1/2 years before we made our park model our winter home, our tree is too small for the ornaments we now display. We started collecting Hallmark ornaments in the 1990s when we had a huge tree in our house on 21st St. They are mostly birdhouses/feeders except for the church. The Best Friends bear came from who else? Our best friends Johnny and Karen Schmidt, along with an eagle carved out of an antler in honor of our Silver Eagle bus.

On the other side are the vehicle set. They make me smile!

The tree does have a few ornaments, but the most sentimental are a snowflake and a Christmas tree tatted by LeRoy’s Aunt Tressie. When she was too blind to see to crochet, she could still tat because she did it by feeling the knots as she made them. They are beginning to fall apart, but I think our kids have had one or more at one time, too.

It’s always so much fun unwrapping each ornament and remembering, not so much fun when the time comes to put them away at the end of the holiday. The wonderful thing, though, is that Jesus doesn’t get put away until the next year. He is the gift that keeps on giving throughout the year.

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Successful trip

This fall our migration looked different in several ways. Not only were we traveling in our car pulling a flatbed trailer, our route was different. We took three days instead of 5 and we stayed in motels, not RV parks. With the price of gas now, it saved us a couple of hundred dollars, even staying in motels. This was an experiment to see if I would travel without as much concern as I have been experiencing in the motor home. I love living in it, but it just feels so big when I’m in the passenger seat and the road sometimes seems very small with no shoulders, in addition to other drivers not always taking our size into account. Even LeRoy noticed that I wasn’t fidgety, so I guess it must have worked. It also helped that we went through Pie Town, NM and brought home a New Mexico Apple Pie, with green chilies and roasted pinon nuts. It has to be just about my favorite. I have the recipe and I plan to make one very soon.

We found our place in very good shape, other than the fact that the toilet decided to flush once and quit. 57 years ago I married a man who isn’t afraid to tackle anything and I have no idea how much money that has saved us over the years. For the price of the tank “innards”, he had it back up and “running” very quickly. We borrowed two of our pastor’s kids to come help clean up the dust and grit of an Arizona summer in the house and especially clean blinds and mirrors. We’ve also washed curtains, scrubbed the shower and washed the patio doors inside and out. There’s still a lot to do, but we’re not leaving any time soon.

It felt good to be back in church at Desert Grace this morning and we already have assignments for the Journey to Christmas presentation next weekend. That is what we used to call the Hanging of the Greens when we lived in Tonkawa. There will be a catered meal first. It’s a church function! You know there will be food! We also have an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner, so there again, food!

Locals are apologizing to us for the cold weather and wind! Our highs have been in the 60s this week, with winds kinda like a Kansas breeze. I’ll take it!

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If you ask me

Why do I like being in Wichita? It’s because of weeks like this one. A week ago, our church had a Trunk or Treat event in the evening and we went to see how inventive the trunk decorators were, as well as to watch the kids and parents in costume. Everyone seemed to have a good time and the weather couldn’t have been more ideal. The same was true for Monday evening, Halloween night. I remember times when we had to dress the kids in warm clothes both under and on top of their costumes. The effect just isn’t the same with an added coat. We haven’t been anywhere to have trick or treaters since the very early 1990s, when my nephew brought his children by our house. We were kind of the dark, spooky house set back behind a tall fence and even with a porch light, it was rather forbidding. We sold that house in 2010 and have always been in our RV, mostly in a rural setting, on Halloween since then. Our grandkids came by, but no one else. This year, though, we had a small but steady stream of kids of all sizes for a couple of hours. One set of parents even got in the spirit, dressing up as Caesar and Cleopatra.

LeRoy was raised in Cherokee, OK and while very few of his friends still live there, we are just up the road from some he considers to be good friends to this day. Steve Schiffner and his wife came from Oklahoma City Saturday just to spend time with us. What a fun time! Of course, our house is new to everyone, so we showed them around and told them what our future plans are for the place. While they were here, granddaughter Jordan and her family stopped by to visit and we all went to lunch together. I didn’t get pictures of Schiffners but couldn’t resist our great granddaughters. Not sure why their daddy didn’t make the pictures, but Marc was there, too. Nothing makes me much happier than to have my grandkids come to see us!

Ben was here on Thursday and we went to lunch with him. Since we talked to him, he has accepted a new job in Ellsworth, KS where Marc and Jordan live, as a corrections officer at the facility there. No picture of him, but these grown grands don’t change as much as the littles!

Most of our grandkids have birthdays that fall between January and April, except for one. Jadelyn’s birthday is November 8, so we have traditionally left for warmer weather on the 9th! This year, her 18th birthday, comes at a particularly busy time for her, so we celebrated with her and the rest of the local family at our house! THAT’S why I like being in Wichita!

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Busy weekend

If you’ve been following our activities this summer and fall, you know that garage sales and Facebook have been very beneficial to our progress at our new place in Wichita. The small kitchen appliances are almost entirely from garage sales and estate sales and even half of our new fence came from Marketplace. On Friday, we picked up another Marketplace find and our living room actually looks like someone lives here!

Friday afternoon we said a final good-bye to a friend/family member, Carolyn Moncivais. She is the sister of our friend Johnny Schmidt and we are sorry to lose her. Why is it that memorial services are the only places we get together with extended family? Her boys, Johnny and Karen’s kids and our kids spent many hours together, even though we lived hours away from them at times. Our kids thought of her as Aunt Carolyn and even in adulthood, our children are still friends. She will be missed.

One real highlight of this weekend was a singalong concert celebrating Rich Mullins. If you aren’t familiar with his music, he did songs like Awesome God and Hold me, Jesus, but Screendoor on a Submarine is also one of my favorites. He graduated from Friends University as a very non-traditional student in 1995 and was a fixture on campus during those college years. He passed away 25 years ago but his music will live on while he rejoices in heaven. In his honor, close friends and family put together this concert and we participated, singing right out loud in front of God and everybody in Alumni Auditorium at Friends University!

Each year we try to attend the Haysville Fall Festival, where they have a lot of vendors and a terrific car show. This year was no different. We even found some really good bierocks to take home for lunch! The car show includes a wide variety of vehicles and paint jobs. Some of the work is just amazing!

These last ones are just a couple of outstanding older vehicles that I happened to like a lot.

We spent the afternoon at a volleyball tournament at Remington High School up by Whitewater. I love watching those girls move around the court! Congratulations on a 38-1 season, Lady Cardinals! That’s impressive by anyone’s standards. Don’t let anyone steal that from you!

This week we’ve had nights where we covered the mums from cold and days in the upper 80s. It’s always a wild ride in Kansas in the shoulder seasons when we are here and today the wind showed up. I’m so glad we’re not on the road in an RV!

This next week we are planning a get together of past Golden Bell volunteers. Mike and Gloria have already left for south Texas, so we’ll miss them this time. More on that next time!

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When LeRoy and I moved the furniture out to allow for the floors to be refinished, I told him that we were NOT putting it back in by ourselves! A week ago on Saturday, Tim and Heidi came to help us move our furniture back into the house. The floors are done and they are beautiful. I think this picture was when they were still a little wet, because they are really more satiny than reflective now, but all the stains and scratches are gone.

Sunday, after a good night’s sleep in our own bedroom and enjoying worship at Northridge, we left on a Sister roadtrip. My sisters don’t travel much anymore, so since we are mobile, we wanted to visit them both. Florence Marie lives in Weeping Water, NE and we went there first. Weeping Water has one of the neatest old style hardware stores downtown and we visited it Monday morning. There are always jobs that Florence Marie, at less than 5′ tall, can’t do. Having a tall guy around is an added bonus for her, beside seeing her baby sister.

We dropped Florence Marie off to have her teeth cleaned and drove on to Manhattan to visit sister #2, Mary Jo. It happened that her youngest son, Bryan, was visiting so we got to see and catch up with him, too. Mary Jo started a round of chemo a few days later, so we were glad we had time to visit when we did. None of us, even my nephews and niece and our kids, are getting any younger, so we’re taking every opportunity to see them all.

Since Medicare wants seniors to have a “wellness visit” every year, we needed to get back to Wichita. We dutifully drew clock faces and repeated three words, stood up from chairs without using our hands and answered questions about our home, handrails on stairs (good thing) and throw rugs on floors (bad thing). We passed! Whew!

This weekend was the opportunity for the congregation at Northridge to meet the pastoral candidate and his wife, Shane and Randi Shetley. LeRoy went to the men’s breakfast and I attended the women’s brunch so that we could get acquainted with them individually. I’m glad we had that one-on opportunity. After I got home, we left on another roadtrip, to Dexter, KS. A few years ago, they had a large gathering of really well done vintage camper remodels but this year’s collection was much smaller, 5 I think. Here’s a sample.

Speaking of vintage trailers, the Dawson RV Trading Post at Golden Bell, which I’ve posted before, is an early Hicks model. We put our heads together with Mike and Gloria Newsom and decided that the store would get more traffic and be more convenient for us to run along with our other camp host duties if it could be moved to a position where it could serve as both office and store. We more or less hounded the Golden Bell staff about moving it, but we all really almost expected it to be sitting in the same place next year. After all, they are busy people. Lo and behold! Yesterday we got pictures and it is a done deal. No photoshopping, either, because we got messages and pictures from two different people.

Today after church where Shane preached a terrific sermon and lunch with family, we drove to Anthony to meet a friend from LeRoy’s childhood. She is a coordinator for Quilts of Valor and makes quilts herself. She had personally made the one she brought for LeRoy and wrapped him in it after the presentation ceremony. He was honored and humbled.

I think we’re home for a little while, but you never know about us! Later!

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Progress sometimes starts with taking a step back. Yesterday we took the bed apart and put the frame in the garage. The interior doors are also in the garage, and this evening the recliners will join them and the house will be mostly empty. Tomorrow the floor refinisher is coming! By the end of the week, we should be able to reverse the process and move everything back in. In the meantime, we’ll be camping out in the backyard in the RV.

When we got back from Colorado, the RV couldn’t get to the backyard. The bush beside the house blocked the way and pictures below don’t do justice to the overgrowth of shrubbery woven into a chain link fence.

Winsor Landscape did a great job of moving out all the rubbish and laying the new driveway extension and LeRoy went to work planting fence posts. After a day to solidify in place, he started putting up fence panels. I helped, but he did most of the work. The gate hardware is about all that’s left. I think it really dresses up the place and so do the neighbors.

We have made friends in so many parts of the country and we were blessed this weekend to spend a short time with a young friend from our time in Tucson, Dustin Scott. He’s working on his Master’s Degree with Friends University and is in town for a week-long session. We also met another man with ties to the Northwest Community Friends Church in Tucson, Will Bell. We’ve heard about Will but if we had met, it was briefly. Will is a counselor here in Wichita, so we may see him around town.

Sedgwick’s volleyball team brought home a second tournament championship in two weeks. We were too busy to attend, but Heidi sent updates throughout the day. This week we may get to watch that well-oiled machine in action again.

Our weather has had a real roller coaster since we got back. We had several days of record breaking heat, one day of rain with a high in the 60s, back into the upper 80s and 90s and now today a high in the very low 80s. I’m hoping that we don’t see 100 again this fall, but I do enjoy the 80s!

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I am blessed!

This has been a beautiful birthday week. The weather has been warm, well, hot some days, but no sweatshirts! I’m not sure what my birthday wishes were, but I’m sure they came true. LeRoy took me to Longhorn Steak House for lunch on my birthday, just about my favorite place to eat for a special occasion.

This week was homecoming week at Sedgwick High School, so in addition to watching the volleyball team remain undefeated we also watched Jadelyn in the parade with her homecoming escort.

and on the field at the football game as a part of the homecoming court.

Jade and some of her friends made special jeans for Friday at school. Most of the decorations were painted on, but she wanted the stars made out of bandana fabric, so I was able to borrow fusible web from a friend to make it happen.

I was delighted to receive a beautiful plant from Rob and Shelly, along with French macaroons. I’ve been doing so much better about keeping plants alive, and I’m hopeful this one will thrive as well. It adds some color to our sparsely furnished living room.

What furnishings we do have will have to be moved into the garage next weekend, because the floors will be refinished beginning on the 26th. We’re fortunate to have a motor home as a spare living space!

This weekend was the Fall Festival at Sedgwick and they always have interesting cars at the car show. This time a rebuilt vintage trailer caught my eye. The work on it was done by the industrial arts students at Sedgwick High School.

Today was the last celebration for the week, or at least the last one I know about. We got together with Heidi and Tim, Jadelyn, Bailey and Brett for lunch after church. We ate at HomeGrown and I had my favorite Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with lemon curd. I didn’t order the whole meal and I still didn’t get through all the pancakes. They are wonderful! Heidi brought a birthday cake for us to share as well as a box of homemade candies. Nice roundup to a week of birthday celebrations.

Earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to get acquainted with long time blog readers Arnie and Arlene Klaassen, whom I had never met. They read the article about us in Active Aging when I retired from the paper in 2010 and have been following us and our travels all these years. What a pleasure it was to know that someone besides my family reads and enjoys what I write!

Another hot week is ahead, along with work on a new fence. Progress by next week, I hope!

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Home is where we are

We’ve often said over the last 12 years that we may be houseless, but we aren’t homeless. Home is anywhere we are together, whether it’s in a park model in Yuma, AZ or an RV in Colorado or now in a two bedroom house in Wichita, KS. We arrived here on Wednesday afternoon last week and we are already familiar with the household departments of at least four Walmart stores and Lowes. First we measure, then we buy, then we return what didn’t fit or didn’t work after all. Our “grocery list” is comprised more of racks and holders than food these days. We have already met three neighbors and learned more about the neighborhood than we really wanted to know!

Today, LeRoy picked up a new-to-us Softub hot tub while I stayed home to wait for the landscaping crew. They were delayed and didn’t get started until about 11:30, but when we came back from lunch, the side fence was gone along with all the jungle that had grown up in it. They are currently digging out a new driveway to the back yard, which will be filled with asphalt millings to become a parking place for the motor home. This fast, efficient group of workers called Winsor Landscapes put in our gravel driveway up at the Landing on 125th St.

This project will probably be done by the end of the day, including hauling off all the shrubbery and fence they pulled up this morning and all the limbs LeRoy had pruned from the front yard trees last week.

Our lunch date was so much fun. My first cousin Andra Nations and her husband Scott from Wasilla, Alaska have been in town visiting her college roommate and they took a couple hours off to spend with us. We spent a few days at their house before our Alaskan cruise in 2015. We had a lot of fun catching up on the goings-on of our respective families. Andi is several years younger than I and got a later start on having kids, so her grandkids are closer in age to our great-grands than our grandchildren. What a fun day!

We’ve been so thankful for Facebook to keep up with family and friends all over the country. Without that, we wouldn’t really know Andi and Scott nearly as well as we do.

We’ll be moving on to inside projects soon, like patching and painting walls and finding someone to refinish the wood floors. Some bigger projects, like working on the kitchen, may wait until spring if we don’t get to them in the next two months. We have fence to put up along the street after the driveway is completed, so that’s our priority at present. For the moment, we’re enjoying our little house.

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Summer at Golden Bell

Our summer here is at an end. It started back in mid-May with our first glimpse of Pikes Peak.

And a week later, our campground looked like this!

This antique trailer used to belong to Mr. Dawson, the man who laid out the RV park, and he donated it when he upgraded to an Airstream. This young woman and her brand new husband came to spend a few nights of their honeymoon here because she is, I believe, the great-granddaughter of Mr. Dawson and she has fond memories of time spent here. She and her mother, I think, were here several years ago. We remembered talking to them then.

For years, the “Dawson mansion” was housing for volunteers who weren’t RV’ers, but in the last few years, it has been transformed into the Dawson RV Trading Post, a little store with ice cream, candy and odds and ends of other supplies. The bathroom had been improperly prepared for winter awhile back and this year LeRoy and Mike took out the tub, broken stool and lavatory. Then they moved on to the kitchen. Next year, we have a new dream in mind for this vintage Hicks camper!

The summer wasn’t without incidents, but fortunately none of them included personal injury to us or our campers. Trailers, tow vehicles and trees took the brunt of them.

Over the years we’ve made good friends with other senior volunteers, but the highlight of our years has been the relationships we’ve built with the college senior staffers. This summer Taylor Rodriguez, now a young Marine sergeant, came to visit with us while he was home from Okinawa to attend a funeral service. It was so good to see how far he’s come from the very quiet but memorable young man he was when we first met him.

We’ve had lots of “favorite” volunteers, but Wayne Reif and his wife Mary hold a special place in our hearts. Mary passed away within the last couple of years but Wayne came back to visit more than once this summer. That man has the best bear hug in existence!

Our favorite visitors always are our family. This year granddaughter Jordan and her family were here in July and we’ll see them again on Wednesday as we go back to Wichita. I imagine Sara will have changed immensely and we’re anxious to hear from Rae about her days at “school”, if we can keep her still long enough to ask. That sweet girl is never still!

Joel Garcia is the director of Golden Bell. We met him and his wife Olivia first in 2014 when he was the facilities director and their older three children were infants and toddlers. We have had the privilege of spending time with those three this summer, as well as the two younger ones. Daniel is a teenager and works in the kitchen. I don’t have a picture of him. It’s been a while since we’ve had little bitty grandkids and these are so fun. This is what happens when Zoey has access to my phone!

Jacob is a real helper. One day he even helped a single woman put up her tent in the rain.

The Garcias believe in putting their kids to work early! I couldn’t help grabbing a picture when I saw Joshua trying to push the sweeper. He will be a year old this month and he is a sweetie, always has a smile for everyone.

Miss Sophia was occasionally a Disney princess and always a drama queen!

As usual, God provides some of the best things each summer. We’ve had snow, lots of rain, grauppel, and even hail this summer. Thunder storms, too. This double rainbow was about the brightest I’ve ever seen.

Not all God’s provisions are scenery, though. This is one of our campground kids from last year being baptized after recommitting her life to Christ as a counselor in training this summer.

Earlier in the summer, Loren and Vicki Duerre from Idaho came to volunteer for a month. Vicki had to go home due to family obligations after that time, but Loren stayed a couple more weeks. They were so easy to get along with and we hope they come back again.

So that about rounds out the summer. This weekend was the family camp for the Colorado District of the Church of the Nazarene and tomorrow morning’s breakfast is the last hurrah. Our co-hosts, Mike and Gloria Newsom, will be leaving tomorrow morning. They’re just the kind of volunteers we need, younger and ready to serve. They make great camp hosts, easy to talk to and not afraid of much.

We’re mostly ready to go as far as our RV is concerned. We’ll just have to gather everything up from the RV park and take it back to the lodge office and we’ll be ready to hit the road Tuesday. See you down the road!

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That’s how many more days until we head for Kansas. One more weekend full of Golden Bell family campers and then we will be packing up the electronics to go to the office for the winter, hanging signs to tell campers to check in at the lodge and giving everything one last once over before we load up and pull out. It has been a long summer and we’re hoping to be out of here before the snow flies…again. It snowed about 24 inches just after we arrived in May and I don’t think it will be snowing in Kansas when we arrive there!

In the Nazarene Church, the senior’s groups are called Prime Time and this weekend, the Prime Timers have taken over the camp. We didn’t have many here in the RV park, but sometimes even one can be plenty. We don’t get many “entitled” people among the RV crowd and I’m glad. They do make for good storytelling in years to come, though.

We really like the ones who are appreciative, though. This summer we’ve had one couple who came about the time we arrived. They were in a trailer in a relatively small site and when they bought a very large Class A motor home and moved into it, we helped make arrangements for a more suitable site to spend the rest of the summer. The resident couple have been gone much of the summer but the RV stayed. We’ve watched over it in their absence and they expressed their gratitude to us and Mike and Gloria by giving us gift cards to McGinty’s, the quaint little Irish pub in Divide, so we’ve gone there together a couple of times recently. Last night we went to the weekly fish fry to use the remainder of the value on the cards. We did appreciate those gift cards!

We’ve been thinking about our priorities as we go back to becoming homeowners in Wichita. Paint samples are being gathered and projects are being lined up. Some things need to happen before others! Others are more “While we’re at it, why don’t we _____” things. We have people lined up for the big projects we don’t want to tackle ourselves and I’m beginning to see that it doesn’t all have to be done in the two months we will be there before we leave for winter. Some of the work was waiting for us when we walked in and it may still be waiting come spring. The house is livable as is and we will enjoy it.

Speaking of houses, Robert and Shelly have a signed contract on a nice one in Lacey, Washington, not far from their jobs in Olympia. They’ve been looking since they got there in April and I know they’re itching to get the belongings shipped to them. They have been in Air BnB housing and I know Robert has missed having his motorcycle, among other things. I don’t know when closing will happen, but congratulations anyway!

Have a great week!

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