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, 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!