Mount Rushmore

We’ve all seen it before. It might just be the most famous icon of America (next to the Statue of Liberty). As a matter of fact I had seen it so many times, in one form or another, that I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about seeing it in person. How incredibly short-sighted I was.

The park we stayed in while in South Dakota was only 20 minutes from Mount Rushmore and there is a certain point when you round a corner on the road where you can see George Washington’s profile. At that point all my previous apathy toward the monument was transformed. My mouth hung open and my eyes bulged and there were still three presidents waiting to be seen.

george washington profile

It was not only the sheer size of Mount Rushmore, nor the amazing skill it took to create this colossal sculpture, nor even the fact that in the 14 years it took to sculpt this mountain in to a work of art not one of the 400 men involved died; no, it was more than all of these.  It was a feeling of nostalgia for a time I never lived in.

mount rushmore 2

Mount Rushmore was created during the Great Depression and yet there was more hope and reverence in the act of creating Mount Rushmore than I think I have ever seen in my entire lifetime or ever will.  It speaks of a time when America still strove to be great and Americans still thought their country was the best place to live. The people weren’t preoccupied with bringing everyone one down to their level, but recognized that it was partially do to the brilliance of these men and others like them that made America the envy of the world.

m.r. model

If you have the chance to see it don’t pass it up.

 

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Never Leave Children to Themselves*

“We talk a great deal about independence, but we loathe it as much as we loathe the blessed freedom of nothing to do. Children no longer play because we have taken from them the opportunity and, I’ll insist, even the capacity to play. And this, if we want to kill the imagination, is an altogether healthy thing.”

The above quote as well as the title of this post come from a book by Anthony Esolen:

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

I have been reading this book for the last three months, not because it is an exceptionally long book or because I am an exceptionally slow reader, but because I generally have four to five books going at once. And this is the kind of book that is so full of wisdom you don’t want to miss a thing.

Mr. Esolen writes in a satirical style (as you can gather from the title) using literature, history, personal anecdotes and more to show us how the imaginations of our children are being destroyed by things like: political correctness, a lack of outdoor play, the over-organizing of their lives, etc.

In the chapter Never Leave Children to Themselves, he writes about how children use their imaginations, when they are not over-supervised, to create games and art and even their own culture.

I have seen this in my own children during the time we have been on the road. It’s so easy to get ourselves and our children involved in a hundred different activities. Anything from sports, to drama, to church, and this leaves very little time for them to lose themselves in their own play and creations.

In the time that we have been here in Cloudcroft my three little ones (as we still call them although the eldest of the little ones is 11) have found at least ten ways to use a pinecone. They have built fairy houses and started their own form of commerce using shiny rocks, pine cones and flowers for trade. They have learned what makes good tinder and have diligently gathered it in the hope that they will get to play in the camp fire.

Since leaving behind the television, activities schedules, and fenced grassless yards their imaginations have truly blossomed. And we have, and will, all benefit from it.

The children decorated pine cones with flowers, shells and the mint leaves they found.

The children decorated pine cones with flowers, shells and the mint leaves they found.

Each child made their own bows and arrows.

Each child made their own bows and arrows.

A fairy house the children worked on together.

A fairy house the children worked on together.

 

The Trials of Traveling

sickness

 

To those of you who read my blog I would like to apologize for the lack of activity here over the last month. Let me explain why I have been so unproductive lately. You see I come from a the flatlands of Indiana where the highest point in all the state is 1257 feet and I lived no where near that ‘high’ bit of earth. For the last five weeks I have been living at the unnatural elevation of nearly 9000 feet. This can have some rather unpleasant effects on the body, such as headaches, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, and shortness of breath; all of which I have been suffering from in one form or another everyday. It also seems to have another strange effect in which all the victim wants to do is veg out on season after season of The Duggars (strangely this symptom isn’t listed on WebMD).

You would think that this would be enough suffering for one poor Hoosier who’s just trying to explore this vast country of ours, but you would be wrong. Cloudcroft is a tiny tourist town and when the cool-weather-seekers go home the population dwindles to about seven hundred people; not enough to support a proper grocery store. So to retrieve the weeks rations you must descend the mountain and visit one of the more populated towns. This is when my old friend Mr. Motion Sickness kicks in. So even if my oxygen-deprived body was giving me a bit of a reprieve all I have to do is take a short drive to bring back the nauseousness that I have grown so accustomed to. So between napping and vomiting I haven’t been able to do much writing.

Needless to say I have had to scratch climbing Everest off my Life Goals List. ; )

Thanks for sticking with me,

M.A.

Immersion Traveling

When we travel, our goal is to stay in each place for at least a month. Not only do you get a better rate at the RV park, but you have a chance to really experience the culture of the community you are residing in.

My husband calls this Immersion Traveling. We spent two months in Llano, TX and in that time I immersed myself and my children in the community, or at least part of it.  Mainly the public library.

While we were there the Summer Reading Program was going on; I knew that I wanted my children to be a part of it and the library also needed volunteers. So ‘Voila’ here is my chance to not only involve myself in the life of Llano but my children as well.

Now of course there won’t always be opportunities for immersion, but if you’re looking for it something might present itself.

Thanks to our purposeful joining in we got to know the people and culture of Llano and if we happen to pass that way again it won’t be as strangers.

20140619_131417As part of the program the children were able to so a science experiment.

20140620_190540To help raise money for the Friends of the Library I volunteered to sell concessions in the Llano movie theater.

20140615_112426We also enrolled the children in two VBS programs.

You Might Live In A Camper If…

RV stuffed

 

RV stuffed 2

I thought that I would try my hand at a Redneck-Esque joke.

You might live in a camper if your canned goods are stored under your couch. Or … You might live in a camper if when your daughter asks you where the washcloths are you respond with “Behind the potatoes and onions of course.” 

They might not be very funny, but they are very true. One of the great challenges of six people living in a 35ft travel trailer is SPACE. Where do you put everything? And I’m not talking about frivolities. No, I’m talking about food and toilet paper and soap and sheets and pots and pans and paper and pencils and… well, you get the idea. So what do you do with all of these needed items? You start looking at every nook and cranny as a possible place of storage. Now there aren’t too many spots left in the ol’ Zinger, but I did notice that under the couch there was a bit of territory that had not yet been conquered. So I set about finding a container that would fit in that meager spot.

After searching the Dollar Store to no avail, Jim and I headed to the Lowes, not the home improvement store, but the highly over-priced grocery store, which has the privilege of being the only one in LLano. Here we found FREE cardboard boxes that were just the right size for storing canned goods and extra Windex and whatever else will fit under the couch. It’s not pretty, but it sure is practical; and that’s what matters most (in a camper at least ; ).

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Won’t You Be My Neighbour

20140508_202140

This evening Jim and I went for a walk in downtown LLano. We had a little rain earlier in the day and the air was sweet and cool and irresistible. So we took some time to be alone and exercise our long-sitting bodies.

The Llano square pretty well closes down at 5:30, but there are a couple of restaurants and a bar that stay open for people under the age of 75. ; ) While we were walking past one of the said restaurants Jim spotted a man who was packing up his heavy laden bicycle and asked him where he was going, it being obvious that he wasn’t just heading down main street to his local abode.

This is something that I would never do. I tend to imagine that most people would really rather not be bothered by strangers, and that might be true, but I am so happy that this man was not one of those people.

He was fascinating. One of the many fascinating people I hope to meet on this journey. Like us he had given up the settled life and had taken to the open road.  Having left Salt Lake City last March he is peddling his way around the country with the plan of eventually ending up in South Africa, obviously trading in the bike for some other form of transportation upon reaching the ocean.

We talked with him about many things in that twenty- five minutes or so. And found several points of common opinion. It was truly a joy to have met him and have shared a small part of his journey.

Something that we had talked about before taking on this lifestyle was all the different ways we hoped to change because of it, and engaging other human beings, face to face, is a change I would like to make. And for an introvert that’s a big task.

So wish me luck as I summon forth my inner Mr. Rogers and sing to everyone I meet (well anyone who doesn’t look too scary) “Won’t you be my neighbour.”

Mr-Rogers

The First Week

The Adventure begins.

The Adventure begins.

So here we are, all but Jim that is, he’s behind the camera. That’s the benefit of being an awesome photographer, you never have to be in the photos.

This was taken nine days ago when we picked up the Zinger and drove off to start a new life. Driving to LLano, Texas was the first time Jim had ever pulled anything so large as this and although we were all a bit tense, I must say he did a great job.

The first week of living in an RV park was a little stressful to say the least. But you would never know it by watching Jim. For at least the first four days he never quit smiling, I even caught him grinning in his sleep. I on the other hand was not as quick to embrace this new lifestyle, even though I was the one who pushed for it to begin with.

First, there was the struggle of trying to find a place for everything ( I plan to post a video tour of the inside of the camper soon). We actually made another trip to Goodwill to rid ourselves of excess weight. And I know that I am going to have to let go of a few more books. : (

Second, there was the miniature stove, and gas to boot. I know many of you cook with gas, but you probably also have a kitchen bigger than my whole ‘house’. And cooking for six people on three tiny burners, none of which line up properly with the pan, is a very awkward task. I’ve yet to use the oven.

Third, the internet went out for two days. I know what you’re thinking, “what a cry baby”. But a teenage daughter who cannot text her friends does not make for a Happy Camper.

I could go on about how hot it is or how dull it is, but lets get positive.

The RV park is lovely. It’s clean, quiet and has a great clubhouse, with private showers and an adult size stove which I have used several times now.  There is a river running through the park and there are swings and playground equipment for the children.

I must say that even with my genius for pessimism this might turn out alright after all. : )