Reflections

My snow-birding adventure in Florida is rapidly coming to a close. Winter is over. Tomorrow morning we will embark on a new chapter, as we walk through a door that the Lord has opened and follow His divine direction for our lives. It seems like a perfect time to review and reflect upon the past three months.

I am so grateful for my husband; he is my hero. He has sacrificed so much for my health and comfort; most recently in his decision to file for an early retirement and spend the winter in Florida, working via up-link from our tiny RV. He will not officially retire until the end of April and certainly would have been more comfortable spending his last months on the job in his office in Michigan! Adjusting to life in the RV has been a challenge mostly due to the confined space (and in sharing that space with the cats!). We call our Maine Coon “the House Monkey” because he insists on finding high spaces to inhabit and doesn‘t mind climbing over anything to reach them, including important papers. He has added many a wrinkle to my husband’s attempts to stay organized.

A job lead brought us to Florida’s western panhandle, but my first month in Florida was spent in physical recovery. I battled influenza, a urinary tract infection, and wrapped up January with a viral upper respiratory infection. Other than trips to the Santa Rosa Medical Clinic, my days were mostly spent in bed, listening to sermons or watching DVD’s on my laptop. The job lead fizzled, but I was too ill to care.

This snow-bird experience was not what I had imagined. While in Michigan, I envisioned a winter of summer-like days spent by the water with a book. The weather in January and February was too chilly for extended outdoor activities, I was easily bored, and missed interaction with people. Everyone stays inside when the weather is cold and wet, and only venture out to quickly walk the dog or do laundry.

By February I was feeling better and had my fill of campground life. I asked the Lord to open a door for me, and He led me to the Santa Rosa Pregnancy Resource Center where I became a “full-time/short-term volunteer.” It takes many willing hands to make a ministry function and this filled my days with a variety of activities, from addressing banquet invitations, answering phones, meeting with clients, sorting baby clothes, general housekeeping, and assembling baby equipment. I got to know wonderful godly women, help the ministry run smoothly, and be a blessing to others. The reality is, they were even a bigger blessing to me! I enjoyed every moment spent at the PRC. In this short time I have made friends that I hate to leave.

As I reflect on the past three months, I can say that God is faithful. He protected us from the many storms, answered a multitude of specific prayers, and showered us with innumerable blessings. Jesus came that we might have life to the fullest, and walking with Him is never dull!

Are you bored, frustrated, or lonely and wondering just how and where God will ever use you? Abundant life is waiting for you. I urge you to start investing yourself in others. There are many opportunities for service in your community; not all ministry happens in a church! Ask the Lord to lead you and direct you to where He has already prepared a place for you. You will be blessed beyond your wildest dream as you become a blessing to others. Listen for his voice and be willing to follow whatever He directs you to do. Life’s great adventure is waiting for you just outside your door!

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A slice of life and morning coffee….

Since beginning our snow birding adventure, I am often asked about how the cats are adjusting to life in the RV. They are indoor animals and now, instead of having a big house to roam and a screened in room for fresh air, they are as cramped as we are in these tiny quarters. Surprisingly, they have adapted very well, possibly easier than we humans. Here they are allowed on most of the furniture and have their people underfoot at all times, answering to their every need. It is hard to forget to feed the cats when they trip you and yowl when they are hungry! There is no escape! They are here, there, and everywhere!

We share our RV with two cats; Boots and Buster. Boots was my daughter’s pet in her childhood and is the sweetest, best natured animal I have ever met. Now at 18 years old, he sleeps most of the time and weighs only 6 pounds, a purring, grey tiger and white fur-covered skeleton. His favorite spot tends to be anywhere that I am sitting, quickly occupying the space as soon as I stand up. Consequently, I have learned to look before I sit down, to avoid landing on him!

Buster is a 17 pound, red Maine Coon. He is still a kitten by Maine Coon standards, and acts like one, despite his size. He is a bundle of energy; jumping, pouncing, climbing, and leaping. These are all highly entertaining activities unless your living space is roughly the size of a hallway in a standard suburban house. His favorite spot is perched on the dashboard, stalking the squirrels that torment him through the glass.

Because of their age differences, the cats do not play together. Boots tolerates the kitten, but remains the boss. Buster is not allowed to sit in his cat bed, nor usurp which ever spot he happens to be enjoying at the moment. Despite this, they get along with one another and never fight; sometimes it feels as if they even work together to accomplish Boots’ goals.

For example, this morning I poured a cup of coffee and sat down at my laptop to read my email, my daily Bible devotion, and check Face book. Our space is restricted so the dinette table is stacked with books and electronics, including my laptop, I pad, phone, camera, and headphones. Buster decided to join me for coffee this morning, wanting to perch on the top of the pile, like Snoopy pretending to be a vulture on the corner of the doghouse. I don’t like cats on the table or the counters so I tried verbally shooing him off, and was ignored. After telling him, “Down” several times I picked up a pill bottle and shook it, commanding him “DOWN!”

Buster startles easily and did not expect to hear the rattle. He EXPLODED in a scrambling flurry of orange fur; feet clawing the air in every direction as he frantically tried to regain his balance. Books flew off the table, knocking over my full cup of hot coffee, and soaking everything! My husband and I sprang into action, scooping up soggy electronics, mopping up coffee, and rescuing books, the dinette cushions, and carpet below.

Buster retreated to the safety of the dashboard and Boots immediately hopped into my now vacant seat and began to purr.  Mission accomplished.

A Twist of Fate

I have been battling homesickness on this Snowbird journey, so I was elated when my husband announced that we needed to spend the following week in Michigan for an important work meeting. A week of living in a real house, seeing my friends and family and doing laundry in my own (free) machine was definitely worth a two day drive with drugged cats. My week’s activities were quickly planned and I was terribly disappointed when the meeting was suddenly cancelled.
That cancellation meant that instead of being on the road, we would now be spending the weekend in Florida and I didn’t like the weather forecast. The weatherman called for severe thunderstorms, gale force winds, and tornadoes. The thought of riding out a twister in a trailer park made that two day drive on winter roads all the more appealing.

Authorities tell you to go to a safe place in case of a tornado, only there are no safe places here. There are no basements because the water table is very high, and ditches quickly fill up with water, snakes, and gators. The desk attendant at the RV Park told us the standard procedure for dealing with tornadoes is “get in your car and try to outrun it.”

So, we prayed for God’s protection and sat and watched and waited. The sky turned black in mid-afternoon and the tall trees began to whip from the wind. The RV began to rock and shimmy. The torrential rain was so strong we couldn’t see outside of any of the windows.

At the peak of the storm’s fury, the RV sprung a leak. A seal on a stationary window gave way and water poured in and down the wall. It soaked the floor in the front third of the RV, including everything stored under the sofa and in front of the driver and passenger seats. We moved what we could to higher ground and went to bed.

The next morning we bought a shop-vac and pulled at least a quart of water from the carpet, washed the towels, and tried to dry out. We have been running electric heaters, the air conditioner and a small dehumidifier to dry out of the flooring before it grows mold and mildew. The window is now resealed and survived last night’s rainstorm, but the carpet is still damp three days after the flood.
I can only imagine the mess we would have walked into, had we followed our original plan and returned to Michigan for the week. The storm and flood would have hit on the first day of our absence. Outside temperatures are ranging in the mid seventies, which would have turned the inside of our soggy RV into a mold and mildew breeding ground. Chances are, the interior of the unit would have been destroyed.
Now I look at the cancelled meeting with grateful awe at God’s protection. Not only did He protect us from the storm itself, He protected us from the property loss that would have ensued had we been away.
And it makes me wonder how many times our plans don’t work out because a merciful God was protecting us from very unpleasant consequences. Yes, I am disappointed that my week at home didn’t happen, but I am ever so grateful for God’s providential intervention on my behalf!

Discoveries on the journey…

I met a woman yesterday who spends her winters here at the park. She is retired and lives in a 19 foot long travel trailer. When I asked if living in such a small space bothered her, she replied that she only sleeps inside the trailer; she spends all of her time outside. Her “living room and dining room” are under the canopy, on her patio slab. Which is fine, if you don’t mind wind, rain and chilly temperatures. She bundles up and sits in her lawn chair all day long, watching camp life happen around her.

Winters are still nippy in Northern Florida. Last night the temperature dipped to 27 degrees. We were warned by a neighboring camper to disconnect the water hose to our unit so it wouldn’t freeze and break the brass fittings. Now, at 9 am, the sun is streaming into the windows and the outside temperature is up to a balmy 39 degrees. This is a temporary cold snap; the locals reassure us that we will be topping out in the 70’s again by the end of the week. For the next few days, I will be holed up inside the RV.

We have had to make adjustments to life in small spaces. I am not willing to spend my days wrapped in blankets to sit outdoors during the cold snaps. That defeats our purpose of coming to Florida to escape the cold weather!

Getting the RV road-worthy was only the beginning! We find ourselves adding to our list of missing essentials on a daily basis, as we adjust to this new life-style. We have already added three electric space heaters, one for the bedroom, bathroom, and main living quarters. These RVs are not well insulated and must be driven to the refill station to refill an empty propane tank. Heating by electricity is the easier choice. We will find out how pricey the electricity is when our bill arrives at the end of the month.

Other discoveries:

After years of living with an automatic ice-maker in my refrigerator, I needed to buy an ice-cube tray. Simple pleasures of life; ice in your drinks.

Our motor home was stocked with a set of unbreakable Melmac dishes. We have seen them for sale at Camper’s World stores, hawked as the best camping dishes on the market. I remember Melmac dishes from my childhood. They truly are unbreakable and are a nice alternative to paper plates, but I have discovered that they do not hold up well in a microwave! They melt! Off we went to Wal-Mart for a 4 pack of Corelle dishes.

The glass tray in the microwave oven is a perfect fit for my frying pan. Of course, there is no handle so a lid to fit the frying pan is on my list for a future trip!

Our coffee-maker sprung a leak early in this journey and we replaced it for less than $20, at Wal-Mart.

The air quality is greatly improved since switching to unscented kitty litter. We are glad Wal-Mart also carries pet supplies.

Cooking presents another challenge because my little kitchen only has a 12 inch span of counter space. It is manageable, but meals are by no means elaborate or complicated. Space is at a premium so most of my kitchen tools stayed at home. The process of meal prep reminds me of the years I spent living in a college dorm, fixing weekend meals in my room. At least I have a small stove here, and don’t have to figure out how to cook everything in my popcorn popper!

My daughter jokes that we really are “retired” despite my husband’s job allowing him to commute to work by phone. It seems that every time she phones us, we are at Wal-Mart, picking up groceries or those missing essentials to make life easier. And, if I get too bored, maybe I can apply for a job! I can smile and say, “Hello, welcome to Wal-Mart!”

CATastrophic living

Snowbirding takes major adjustments. How do you transition from living in a sprawling 2500 square feet to 300 square feet – a space just slightly larger than a college dorm room? From the nearest neighbor being 1/8 of a mile away to life in a trailer park? How does one transition from commuting to work in an office to working “at home” from a laptop? And, how do you adjust to living with two cats in that tiny space? What do you do with the litter box?

At home, the litter box is a non-issue. The cats have their own space in a room under the basement stairs (which is actually larger than this RV!) where their beds, food, and litter box reside. Odors are no problem. Clean the box daily when you feed them; it is out of sight and out of mind. Here the litter box presents a major problem.

We thought we had the problem preemptively solved . My husband removed a chair from the “living room” section of the RV and replaced it with a cabinet. The top houses the TV and printer, but the litter box is hidden inside with an opening for easy entrance for the cats. And, because we occupy a very small space, I purchased a new brand of kitty litter that is specially designed for small spaces. One would think we had the problem solved.

However, I did not factor in sensitivity to scents. I have allergic reactions when burning scented candles and sitting near someone wearing strong perfumes. A heavily deodorized kitty litter is not the best solution!

My husband’s workspace is next to the cabinet and he has complained since we arrived about the “landfill odor.” It gives him a headache and has talked about moving to a different town just to escape the smell. I have developed a “stomach bug” and have battled an upset tummy and headache, which increases when I step into the RV. Oddly enough, we don’t notice the “landfill odor” when we are outside!

The proverbial light bulb went off today and we finally connected the dots! The rank smell is from the litter box! Since we are using the showers here at the camp, which are far more spacious than the tiny shower stall in the RV, we have relocated the litter box to the bathroom shower stall. We must keep the door ajar for kitty access, but can open the ceiling vent, and hopefully, dissipate the smell.

And, after work today, we have a date planned to visit Wal-Mart for some unscented litter. I can hardly wait!