Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Home to Roost (for now)

After four years of traveling this amazing nation and volunteering at national parks and forests all over the country, we have come home to roost in Orlando, at least for a while.

During the time we were away, my blog posts were sporadic. I have numerous excuses for that: Life was too fun and full of adventure... We had poor signals and could not use the internet... I had some health problems... but the bottom line is simply that I lack discipline. Will I be any better this time around? Who knows, but I'll have fun trying and hopefully you'll have fun reading, and we will just see what happens.
Bingo and I lack discipline. I'm retired, he's just lazy.

Gloria holding a Lulav during Sukkoth.
We left off blogging in July, 2015, working on choosing our next assignment. As it turned out, we signed up for duty at Mitchell's Landing, deep in the Everglades and part of the Big Cyprus Preserve. Our duties were not to start until December, but we were to finish up our work at the Osceola Nat'l Forest October first. We needed a place to park our rig for two months, but uppermost in our combined mind was Sukkot, The Feast of Tabernacles, which began September 27. As planned, we set up our rig at Kol HaMashiach Messianic Congregation for the amazing eight day celebration and worship. 
Davidic dance.
We have received a special blessing.
These warm and loving people graciously offered to let us stay on until we needed to leave for South Florida. Incredibly, they had full RV hook-ups, so we parked there and commuted for the few days we had to work at Osceola. During that time, we saw some lovely insects... The Creator has filled the universe with beauty!


You would think that sitting around for two months with nothing to do would be boring, but our lives are never boring. There were some really big doings in Colorado, so we made the trip by car and left our disgruntled cat with Bingo's groomer. I'll tell you about all the excitement in my next post.

In addition to the big trek out west, we made a snap decision to buy a new (to us) rig. I'll fill you in on that, too, during the next blog post. It will be sooner than you might expect since I am planning to be more disciplined.

But before I close now, I must let you know where we are. We've rented a pad in an RV park out in the boonies as far as we could find and still have an easy commute to Walt Disney World where Richard has gone back to work.... yeah, you guessed it, I'll tell you why later.
Our home for now. Shady with a lake out back of the patio.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Where, Oh Where Will We Go Now?

Yes, it's time to choose a new place to live and volunteer. We've been here almost a year and we had planned to stay no longer than six months. We long to return to our loved ones in Las Vegas, and we'd love to spend a season near cherished souls in Orlando, Dothan, Colorado and California... There are endless choices, so we're glad we don't have to make the decision all alone. We will go anywhere G-d sends us, but we don't expect Him to appear at our picnic table and point to a place on the map or lead us to some wilderness with a pillar of fire, smoke or cloud.
Not exactly a pillar?
Like all volunteers, our options are limited to places needing our services. There are few workamper or live-on-site opportunities near most large cities, and they are usually booked years in advance. Of course, finances also play a part in choosing our next gig. The IRS and ongoing medical expense have taken a big bite out of our coffers, so we will not be considering anywhere far away... not this season, anyway. 
Time to move on... What new duties will we have?
So, how to go about securing just the right place? First, we pray, and keep on talking this over with the Almighty as we scroll through the listings at http://volunteer.gov, jotting down openings that make us smile or quicken the pulse. We keep the search to nearby states. As of this writing, all are in Florida and Mississippi. The list is short, only five places... The final choice is in G-d's hands.
In reality, we're all pretty laid about it all.
Next, we pray again and call each place and get a feel for the position plus let them get to know us a bit. We also simultaneously send a brief cover letter and skeletal resume. We do not follow the web site directions to fill out the on-line application until and unless they ask for it. Usually, they don't ask for the application after they have seen what we have sent and visited with us on the phone because they now have all they need.
We'll miss fellow volunteer John and Kenny and the gang at Osceola NF
This is an exciting time and, with only two more months left here, we are preparing our hearts for saying Goodbye to dear friends we have grown to love... We are also wondering about what challenges our new assignment will bring. Will we be close to a Congregation? A Moose Lodge (We are Mooses? Meese? hehe)? Will we have phone and Mifi signals? We'll need to organize and pack it all up, then set up in the new digs. We always loose or break a few things in this process. That's part of the adventure of it all.
Setting up and taking down, all part of the fun!
Yes, of course, we consider these factors when we search for openings, but really never make a true issue of them if it is clear G-d is leading us to a place. How do we know? For sure? It is a matter of faith and circumstance. In each move, we really made no choice. I mean things fell in place in odd and unexpected ways so that we were both convinced we should follow the lead. Perhaps, after all, it is like the ancient Israelites following the pillar...
Following the Cloud?
So, now we wait to see where and how the pillar leads. We'll keep you posted when we have a Mifi signal.

Monday, May 4, 2015

How Long Should We Stay?

We've been in the Osceola National Forest since last October, but we began duties over here at Olustee in February and are now the only volunteers serving here... again. The other volunteer couple, who have only been here matter of weeks, left Sunday morning. They weren't here long enough to fully enjoy the local culture and color. They were still tourists, visitors. And perhaps they preferred it that way.

We began duties at Olusrwee Beach in Feb, 2015
When we first began wandering and volunteering we thought we'd want to be on the road, rolling one place to another most of the time... six week volunteer posts would be plenty long. Well, there aren't many of those short term posts and, as it turned out, we wanted an assignment near our granddaughter in Las Vegas and that meant a six month commitment. That's when we learned an important lesson... at least for us.


Richard and I enjoy Peach at Kol HaMashiach
To some degree, like most folks, we have a need for "community." We want to belong, build bonds, no matter how casual... think of the old sit com Cheers, "where everybody knows your name." We find ourselves to be like that. We like to get to know the local culture and people, but we still have the wanderlust.
We felt like family at KHM's home style Pesach (Passover) Seder. Note Richard on the far left top.
For example, for us, Passover is a big deal and sharing the special meal, the Seder, is extremely important to us. How nice it was to have been worshipping and fellowshipping at KHM long enough to not be "visitors" any more. We've been here seven months and feel truly bonded with these blessed folks.

Six months is a good length for us, but how do you go about getting well connected in that time? Church or synagog is certainly one way. Being Messianic believers, we have a harder time finding like believers locally. In Vermont, we made a 260 mile round trip for Shabbat Torah studies. There was not really a traditional Shabbat service.

Of course, most volunteers build relationships with the people they work with and for and the campers they serve. Volunteers come in all sorts of styles... the loners, the partiers, the organizers, the servants, the closed and the open books. The same is true of park and forest employees, but they also have roots, whereas the volunteers tend more to float.

Getting to know the community and becoming a part of it in six months requires a conscious effort and a deep love and acceptance of other people. But before you build a rapport with folks, you need to get out there amongst them. 
VFW Bingo, a larger post and crowd than we usually visit.
One of our methods is Bingo. We go play at as many places as we can find. Bingo is a common fund raiser and they welcome walk-ins. We play at Moose Lodges, Grange halls, the VFW and the American Legion. We play at the "over 55" mobile home parks, Catholic churches... it's not high dollar, but warm and friendly folks are there who are intrigued by our lifestyle and my impressive collection of sparkly Bingo daubers.

We also eat out a lot, seeking small mom and pop eateries where we can get to know the regular diners and the staff. We drop in on car shows, city park gatherings and attend local plays and concerts by local performers. 

We're out and about and because we talk to strangers and smile a lot, people notice and remember us. True, part of that is because we have a distinctive look that people remember. I have long hair and wear a kippah (Skull cap) and tzitziot (tassels), and Richard is tall and has a uniquely charming face and voice. We love people and perhaps that shows. Sure hope so! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Love Passing Through

Is it time to go, yet?
We worked today but left early because our youngest was on her back from military duties far away. She serves our country in places and ways we can't speak of, and like three of her sisters, has given many years to full time National Guard service. All five daughters are amazing, bold ladies and world travelers, four in the military, one in academia. 


I'm ready to go.
Yes, she's brave, adventuresome and independent, a capable soldier in all kinds of situations, what modern folks would call a "kick butt woman"... but she's still our baby. And we haven't seen our baby in a long while, so we were holding our breath until time to close up shop and head for Jacksonville Naval Air Station where Crystal's plane would land.

Our GPS took us right to the base and they have a convenient lot for folks awaiting incoming planes or meeting military personnel. We didn't have to wait very long.
Our beautiful Crystal back on American soil!
We won't have long to enjoy time with Crystal. She is only on leave and must return to her post in just eight days, so her stop here is just that, a layover on her way home to her hubby and children.
Father and daughter, so happy together! 
It seemed we never stopped smiling, even during our meal...
Crystal looks so good, so healthy and happy.
So we only had a few hours to have a nice dinner together and talk of happenings old and new. So many things we take for granted. For example, the ability to practice our faith. Where Crystal is, there are only a handful of Jews and keeping G-d's dietary laws is difficult. It is also a problem celebrating the Feasts and holidays such as Passover, Shavuot, Purim, etc. 

Crystal has been working hard within the military structure there and through chain of command to provide religious needs for all manner of Jews. She has rallied the Jews, who often shun Messianic Jews, so this is a real breakthrough. She was able to arrange a Hanukkah and a Purim observance and is trying to get a Rabbi for Pasach (Passover). So proud of her.
Crystal's meal

She could not discuss the details of her living situation other than to say it was primitive and to talk about the food and how she was able to reasonably keep Kosher. She was SO HAPPY to eat her meal here... a nice, but not gourmet repast, but to her, it was heaven! Only Richard could eat his whole meal, but that's what "doggie bags" are for.
I'm standing on the curb and Crystal in the gutter.
All to soon, it was time to drop Crystal off at the commercial airport for the rest of her journey home. She'll travel back this way again at the end of her leave as she resumes her duties of protecting our freedoms.
We sure love this girl!
Is it proper for parents to brag? Who cares, we're so blessed to have this loving, honorable, wonderful, wholesome, happy and capable woman as our daughter, we just can't help but talk about it. Come to think about it, we feel that way about all our kids... bet you feel the same about yours.
So long, Crystal, See ya on the backstroke.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Olustee Depot. Really?

Richard and I have been train fans for years, so when the Osceola National Forest made plans to reopen a historic railroad depot, we talked with them about changing our volunteer status from camp hosts at Ocean Pond Campground, where we were slated to be until May, to hosts of the Olustee Beach Day Use Area, the Landing Group Campground and the Olustee Depot Visitors Center. After some adjustments to accommodate our faith, the transfer was set and we moved over to Olustee Beach.
I am happy with the move and love the Polaris!
The idea that we would ever get such a perfect assignment really never crossed my mind. We would take care of the Depot and the group camping facility and fill in for another host two days a week taking care of the boat ramp and other day use facilities.
The boat ramp is open and used 24-hours a day!
That's what was intended and that's how it started a month ago, but then the other host had a family medical issue arrive and had to leave, so... 
The Depot, Really!
We operate the Depot three days a week and the day use area is open every day. It includes a 24-hour boat ramp, improved swimming beach, playground, outdoor game area, covered picnic facilities... you name it. Very well appointed with rest rooms and hot showers, it is a popular recreation area. We open up each morning and lock up the day use area each night. So we truly live in a gated community!

The Beach is being readied for warm weather use.
It is peaceful here and quiet at night. There is a fair amount of use in the daytime and we hear that really picks up as the weather warms and summer approaches. Water facilities always attract fun loving folks. We hope another volunteer is brought in before things get really crazy, though. We've agreed to stay until October.
Home Sweet Home... for a while.
So, we have a private paradise and get to operate a depot... how amazing is that? Lots of work, though. But then, we are volunteers, and that's what we came for. Soon as we get caught up, we'll set up our screen tent, oh, and try to get around to posting some blogs looking back at some of our other wonderful domiciles.
Meanwhile, Richard and I are having a blast!

Monday, December 15, 2014

No Wedding Pictures

Yesterday, December 14, was our 39th wedding anniversary. I posted that fact on my Facebook "Wall." http://www.facebook.com/ionaruth11 along with a picture taken nine years ago when Richard and I renewed our vows on our 30th anniversary with most of our close family there. There were no guests and no pictures of our actual wedding, or the entire week of our wedding for that matter.
Married 30 years when we renewed our vows 9 years ago.
It was an unusual affair, our original wedding, and it followed an unusual courtship. We had each experienced the unexpected end of a marriage and were deeply wounded and basically in shock. We had known one another all our lives and were already good friends, but going through so much pain at about the same time brought us even closer. I had nine children who were also going through the trauma of divorce, and Richard hung out with us a lot... he was good for the children, too. 
Our son Norman's Wedding picture near the time we were married.
Of course, we ultimately fell in love in a romantic way, but marriage is scary when you've been recently hurt, so our relationship was on again - off again. It didn't seem we really had a future together, so I moved from Utah to California to be near family. My brother lives there and we were always close. Being near him brought comfort, but there was still an empty spot in my heart. I missed Richard. Finally, we made tentative plans to marry, and I packed up my precious brood and headed back to Utah.


After getting a house and a job lined up, I felt I was ready to take the big step. The kids loved Richard and were all for him becoming part of the family. They even helped prepare our clothes and Richard and I, who were both driving truck at that time for C. R. England, asked dispatch to put us on the same rig and send us west. We couldn't afford time off to meet Utah's marriage license waiting period and we certainly could not afford two households for very long, so we "eloped," sort of.

I pulled the rig up along the curb near the courthouse in Reno, NV at about 4:00 AM, and we both slept until things opened later that morning. Dressed in jeans and boots, we went inside and got the wedding license. We had already decided not to use one of the commercial wedding "chapels" available in Reno, so asked about getting married at the court house. Yes, that was a regular event there, we were told. Good.
After about 20 years of marriage, still happy together.
Still, we stood around in the big ante room of the court house discussing whether we really wanted to do this or not. Someone had left the Sunday Funnies on a window sill, and we leaned against the wall most of the day, reading comics, saying we should go change into our "wedding clothes" but still not sure what to do. Every so often, we took a little walk, going out to feed all the meters where we were parked. Amazingly, we didn't get a ticket.
We share fun together; he makes me laugh.
It was close to closing time when a clerk came out to tell us that if we wanted to get married, we needed to come in the office and do it because they were leaving in a few minutes. We hurriedly, albeit nervously followed her inside, and ten minutes later, we were out on the curb, still in our jeans and boots, a married couple... Wow!
And when life brings sorrow, we share that, too.
There was no time for a honeymoon. We had a load to deliver and another to pickup and haul back to Utah. That ten minutes in the courthouse, where we pledged to love and stand by one another no matter what life might bring, changed my life completely, and even with all the indecision leading up to it, that commitment and love have grown ever stronger with each passing year for us both.
We are blessed with warmth and trust and love... we fit, we're comfortable together.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thanksgiving in the Campground

Too excited about life?
Did you ever read a book where the author jumped all over the place in time? Flash backs and leaps forward until you cannot make any sense of it? Well, that's what this blog has become. The reason is I let time race away and leave me behind, and there is so much I want to share with you that I throw it in even before I have posted older stuff I want to give. It's the sign of a disorganized mind and that I find life so exciting, I want to tell it all at once, sort of like a four-year old. I'm working on controlling that and on convincing myself that I can work in smaller time slots, then piece it together later. We'll see; meanwhile... Thanksgiving!!!
From Left: Jim, Mark, Ila, Susan, Richard and me (Iona). Linda shot the picture.
There are seven volunteers here at Ocean Pond Campground, all thankful to be here, all happy to share life and duties with one another. So, we planned to give thanks together and share a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, camping style.
Jim watching over the turkey.
Mark tending the camp fire foods.
We each contributed something, and the main elements were prepared outdoors, for example, Jim did the turkey in a fire ring. It was moist and wonderful, probably the best turkey I've ever eaten! Susan baked yams in a fire ring also, and you'll see her camp fire cooking in several of the pictures below.
Jim, Ila, Mark and Susan at Susan's camp fire.
Jim presenting the turkey.

I said a blessing in English and an ancient Hebrew blessing, too. Later, Jim said the Hebrew blessing touched him deeply. I was so blessed by his candor.

We had much to be thankful for... of course, the food and fellowship, our families and friends, our health, America, the life style we all live as volunteers. We live away from the cities in the great outdoors, the forests and the deserts, the mountains and the plains. I doubt any of us would go back to the sticks and bricks lives we left for life on the road, at least as long as we can live it this way.

Jim and Linda keeping warm.
The day was brisk, a chill in the air, but we enjoyed warmth and camaraderie.  We ate a lot and laughed a lot. All the foods were yummy and there were plenty of left overs... even pie. 

Our menu was complete with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams (or sweet potatoes?), green bean casseroles (2), rolls and pie! Hope I didn't forget anything.

Richard and I were in charge of pie. I am not so great in the kitchen and our small oven is a joke, so we bought four nice pies, pecan, apple and two traditional pumpkin plus lots of whipped cream. Seems all of us like pie, especially ME!!!
Mark and Ila don't look a bit cold.

Our campground was nearly full. This is Florida and folks camp year round, especially on holidays. We were intrigued with the many ways campers celebrated Thanksgiving and prepared their foods. Quite a few spent the morning fishing and the afternoon cooking up a fish feast with all the trimmings.

We volunteered to take Thanksgiving duty when our work schedules were made up. The volunteers arrange duty schedules among ourselves, and the others have been very gracious about our need to have the Sabbath day (Saturday) as well as our other holy days off , so we gladly take duty on any other holidays.
Richard and I getting ready to make our rounds among the 67 sites at Ocean Pond.
VERY soon, We'll return to the beach to sail away on daydreams about our recent cruise. See you there... if I don't get side-tracked again, eep!