The past 9 days of our journey have been incredibly busy, full of history and learning and experiences and tons of fun.
They have also been full of extremes.
We saw buggies in Amish country, and rode the subway in New York.
We ate lobster on a beach in Maine, and pretzels off of a food cart in Central Park.
We saw Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.
We looked at Babe Ruth’s bat and paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso.
We drove through the woods of Pennsylvania and across the Brooklyn Bridge.
We visited Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts and Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue.
And we took in the stunning views of Vermont and the lights of Times Square.
Through it all we walked and talked and saw friends and family.
And we truly enjoyed being together.
One of the highlights of the trip for me occurred at about 1:00 AM after our final day in New York City.
We had just come back from a taxi ride that none of us will ever forget. (I will spare you the details, but heed this warning: If your kids are prone to getting carsick, DO NOT take them in a taxi. Trust me.)
We had finally gotten back to our tent, everyone was gathered around our bed, and the kids began to talk. They shared their favorite things they saw, asked questions, and laughed at funny memories.
As I listened to them, I realized that those are my favorite moments of this trip. When I get to see my kids learning and growing, right in front of me. I see their minds working, see them processing things, and see them teaching and learning from each other.
And it is truly incredible.
In just a little over two weeks our trip will be over. Davey will start teaching, and we will get to know our new community. The kids will start school and sports, and we will settle into our new routine.
Until then, though, we will continue to enjoy our journey. We will be seeing more friends and family, visiting historic sites, and eventually ending up in my favorite place in the entire world: Ocean Beach, California.
The best part, though, is that I know the kidlets will continue to talk, and laugh, and learn, and grow.
And I also know that it won’t stop once we’re done traveling.
And I love that.
See you soon!
When I was growing up there was a staple that we had at every fancy meal: Pink Stuff Salad. It was a combination of cottage cheese, cool whip, pineapple, and Jello powder. Sometimes it was strawberry flavor, sometimes raspberry. Sometimes we got adventurous and used lime flavor, which, of course, changed everything and made it Green Stuff Salad.
The only problem with this salad was that no one liked it.
I mean, sure, we all took tiny helpings to be polite, and we choked it down as quickly as we could. But it was not tasty.
Finally at one Thanksgiving we had The Talk with my mom.
“No one likes the Pink (or Green) Stuff Salad.”
She took the news quite well, and never again have we had that stuff on our table.
Well, a few days ago I wondered if this Journey was the kidlets’ Pink Stuff Salad. Was this something that Davey and I love, but they just don’t enjoy? Were they going to look back on this summer as something annoying that they had to endure, or do they love it too?
I got my answer in three very unique places: Just outside of Winnemucca, NV, just outside of Lincoln, NE, and just inside the Pennsylvania state line.
In Nevada the kidlets were talking about whether or not they wanted a teleporter to just get to where we were going. The answer was a resounding no.
“Then we’d miss The Journey,” The Girl said. “The Journey is a big part of the fun.”
In Nebraska, Davey and I were trying to decide whether or not to stop at a hotel or drive through the night. The kidlets just listened to our conversation, not saying anything. We finally realized that in order to get where we wanted to get, we needed to just press through. Once the kidlets heard our decision, they all responded in the exact same way.
“Yes! We love driving through the night!”
Finally, we crossed into Pennsylvania just as it was getting dark outside. I looked and saw a firefly, and I got so excited.
I love fireflies.
I pointed it out to the kidlets, who were watching a movie at the time. They decided to turn off the movie so they could watch the bugs outside.
For the next hour they stared out their windows, excitedly pointing out every time they saw a flash of light.
So I am so happy to know that they love this just as much as we do.
No Pink Stuff Salad here.
Speaking of this…
Since my last post we have travelled an additional 2900 miles, bringing our total 6700. We have also spent 60 more hours in the car, bringing that total to 125.
We saw more great friends, camped in ridiculous wind, and visited our nation’s Capitol.
We walked along the Vietnam Memorial, slowly looking over the seemingly endless list of names.
“That’s so sad,” Jar said.
“So many people,” The Girl added.
We stood on the spot where Martin Luther King delivered a speech about his dream. We looked out over the same sights he did, and wondered about what he’d say today.
We read the Gettysburg address, etched on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial. We talked about division. And turmoil. And hope.
We read the signs of the protestors outside of the White House and Supreme Court, and we talked about freedom. Freedom to speak out, and freedom to stay silent.
We walked the steps of the Supreme Court, and we talked about decisions that impact the lives of people everywhere.
And today we rest.
Once again we are settled in a campground, and as I write the kids are reading, journaling, and playing with the little trinkets they’ve picked up along the way.
Tomorrow we head out again. We will make a few stops along the way, but our destination is Cooperstown, New York.
We will spend two whole days exploring a town that is devoted to baseball.
Those will be great days.
Until then, we will continue to rest.
Oh, and eat soft shell crab and Philly cheesesteaks, because what’s a Journey without food?
See you soon!
I am going to jump around in the Proverbs passage today because I absolutely had to write about these three lovely ladies in one post. You see, when we were in college, I had the privilege of being their RA, and we had a lot of fun.
A whole lot of fun.
All three of them were in my wedding, and I have always considered it an honor to be their friend.
The verse that makes me think of Kathy and Melissa is Proverbs 31:18:
She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
Kathy and Melissa are both wives and mothers, and they both work as nurses.
I am a huge fan of nurses. Through my four C-sections, my dad’s many surgeries, and my mom’s heart surgery, I have seen firsthand just how important nurses are, and how much they truly impact recovery.
I have also seen that their job is unbelievably difficult, requiring so much strength, patience, grace, and wisdom.
They work ridiculously long shifts, many times through the night, serving people who most times can give absolutely nothing in return.
This is the career that Kathy and Melissa have chosen.
And I am not surprised.
As long as I have known both of those ladies – Kathy since college and Melissa much longer – I have known them to be kind, caring, loving, and gracious.
I have also known them to work through the night, doing whatever needs to be done.
I admire these two more than they will ever know.
The verse that makes me think of Gina is Proverbs 31:22:
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Now, on the surface this makes sense, considering the fact that Gina is an incredible interior designer, and she also has an absolutely adorable personal fashion sense.
But the reasons this verse makes me think of Gina are far deeper than that.
Gina brings color to her world. Whether through her humor or her adventurous spirit, she brightens up life, not only for her husband and kids, but for everyone who knows her.
She also passionately fights for those who are cast out and scorned. She rallies people together to love and serve the least of these, demonstrating with her life the importance of being a voice for the voiceless.
Gina shows her children how to love without prejudice or discrimination.
She makes this world better, in both the temporal and eternal things, and I can’t believe I get to call her my friend.
Kathy, Melissa, and Gina are women of noble character. They inspired me so many years ago, and they still inspire me today.
In one sense I feel proud of all that they have accomplished, like I have watched “my girls” grow up. But in another way I look up to them, and strive to be the type of person that they are.
Either way, I am so thankful that we were put on a hall together, all those years ago.
See you soon!
Darlene lived cross the hall from me our freshman year in college. From the very beginning, she and I were very different from one another.
She is tall, I am not.
She had curly hair, I did not.
She was in a sorority, I was not.
Her room was beautifully decorated with coordinated floral prints, mine was not.
And Darlene was usually very graceful, proper, and dignified.
And I was… not.
Despite our differences, though, we became fast friends. We would study together, eat together, and when I wanted to break curfew and go to the beach at midnight, DarDar was my accomplice.
One thing we had in common, though, is that we were both night owls. Some of my fondest memories of that time in college are the early, early mornings, sitting in the hall with Darlene, talking.
We would talk in detail about what we wanted our lives to look like when we got older, and in even greater detail about what we didn’t want our lives to look like.
We were passionate and idealistic.
And had no idea what reality would bring.
You see, in all of our conversations of what we wanted for our lives, never once did Darlene say that she wanted to eventually be a single mother to two boys with autism.
Yet here she is.
The verse that makes me think about Darlene is Proverbs 31:17:
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
I will never forget the way that Darlene let the general public know about her divorce. She posted a Facebook status about completing a small home-improvement task, stating that she had reached a major milestone for a single mom.
And that was it.
A strong, bold statement that although she had not chosen this for her life, it is what her life became, and she would handle it with her usual grace, dignity, and courage.
She vigorously works for her family, and her arms – and will – are strong for her tasks.
She is there for her children – loving them, serving them, helping them, and fighting for them. Tirelessly, fiercely, and without recognition.
She is keenly aware of educational policy and advocates on behalf of those who cannot advocate for themselves.
She volunteers her time to help the outcast and overlooked, and she is a devoted mother, daughter, sister, and friend.
Oh, and on top of all of that, she is also a classroom teacher, faithfully serving the students in her care.
Darlene is truly a woman of noble character, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for all that she is.
She inspires me to learn more, to serve more, and to love more.
I am so honored to call her my friend.
See you soon.
A couple of summers ago I felt like my family was falling apart. The kids were bickering much more than usual, my husband and I were constantly on edge, and the general concepts of teamwork and service – which are usually major components of our family life – were just… gone.
One day, after breaking up the fifth argument of the afternoon, I decided that I needed to do something drastic.
“That’s it!” I said. “We’re going to a campground.”
Now, before you start picturing a fun family camping event, re-read what I said. You’ll notice that I did not say we were going camping.
No. That’s an entirely different thing.
I said we were going to a campground.
And that’s what we did.
We stopped by the house and grabbed blankets and pillows and a box of matches. We stopped by the store and picked up a package of hotdogs, a package of marshmallows, and two jugs of water.
And then we went to the campground.
At first the kids were confused.
“Where’s the tent?”
“We aren’t using a tent.”
“Uh… where are the chairs?”
“We aren’t using chairs.”
“Okay… where will we sleep?”
“In the van.”
“Where will we sit?”
“On the seats that we will take out of the van.”
“Are you serious?”
With that one word, AWESOME, I got my family back. The kids all jumped into set-up camp mode. They took the seats out of the van and placed them around the fire pit, made up beds, and then went out to forage for firewood and roasting sticks.
That evening we sat around the fire, eating our gourmet meal of hot dogs and marshmallows, and talked. We talked about some of our favorite memories, we told funny stories, and we planned the adventures we wanted to take.
Then we went around the circle and everyone shared what he or she appreciated about everyone else in the family.
It was… Awesome.
The next morning as we got ready to leave, my youngest son went and climbed into the bear box.
“What are you doing?”
“I want to stay here. I want to stay camping.”
“But if we take the van, where will you sleep?”
“I’ll sleep in the bear box.”
The rest of the kidlets didn’t think that was too shabby of an idea.
And so we stayed.
We didn’t sleep in the bear box. Or in the van.
My husband went home and got our camping gear, and we spent the next two days hanging out and having fun.
Although we have never again gone as simple as the hotdog and marshmallow episode, we still love to camp. In fact, last summer we spent an entire month at a campground. Most of our friends and extended family questioned our sanity, but we knew that the campground was probably the only thing keeping us sane.
It was home.
Recently I have done the technological equivalent of putting everything aside and heading to a campground.
Well, you know, as much as I can. I still have to work, and 99.92% of my work is done online. And I am staying in touch with my closest friends and family, and 99.92% of them communicate via text only.
But I have kept it as simple as possible. No social media. No visiting countless news and gossip sites.
And no taking online quizzes.
The results have been incredible.
I am reading more. Like actually reading books. Lots and lots of books.
I am writing more. I am working on both personal projects and professional projects, and I am so excited to write every day.
My house is cleaner.
I am exercising more.
I no longer feel rushed or distracted, and I feel a sense of calm that has been gone for so long.
But the best part?
My connection with my family is stronger.
Gone from my home is the constant echo of, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom…”
See, I thought that was just part of being a mother to four children. I thought that it was normal.
What I have learned, though, is that it’s not normal. Not for my home, at least.
Once the kids realized that they no longer had to compete with my phone, they relaxed. They saw that saying my name once was enough.
They know that I am here – both in body and in mind.
Spending less of my free time online means that I spend more of my free time just being present.
It’s amazing how six people can all sit in a room together, reading quietly, yet still feel like they are connected.
It’s not like that when we are online.
When we are online we are connected with everything other than what’s right around us.
And that can cause issues.
I absolutely love what my time offline has brought my family, and I don’t really want to give it back.
So I am going to stay offline as much as I can.
I do miss interacting with my Facebook friends, though. But right now, I just can’t. My family needs me. And I need them.
So I’ll sleep in the bear box.
I am going to continue writing and blogging, and I may share some of those posts on social media, but I may not. If you want to get email updates when I post something, you can subscribe to my blog. Or if you follow me on Twitter or follow the Jane Rodda Books Facebook profile, those will also automatically update whenever I post.
Until then, pass the marshmallows.
See you soon!
Right now my husband and I are on almost completely opposite schedules. He leaves the house at 6:00 every morning to commute into work, spends his day trying to help a bunch of eighth graders understand the Pythagorean Theorem – while deftly avoiding questions about why they need to know it and if they’ll ever use it in real life – and then comes home to hang with the family, help shuttle kidlets to sports and church stuff, and also fit in time to work at his online tutoring job.
Oh, and he’s working on getting his Master’s degree, too.
So by the time 10:00 PM rolls around, he’s exhausted. Exhausted to the point of falling asleep mid-sentence.
I, on the other hand, have a much different schedule.
I work 100% from home – meaning no early alarms and no commute. I homeschool our kids, take care of the house, and write. I do work hard – and he knows and appreciates this – but at the end of the day I do not have the sheer exhaustion that he has. So when 10:00 comes around, and he falls asleep, I do my own thing.
Sometimes I work and sometimes I read.
But lately I have been using that time in the most valuable way possible: watching teen dramas on Netflix or Hulu.
Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls – they all pop up on my list of recently watched items. The other night my husband heard the intro to 90210, woke up and said, “Yep, there it is.”
He promptly rolled over and went back to sleep.
There is something that I have noticed that all of these shows have in common (aside from the obvious). In every series there is a storyline that revolves around the girl catching the attention and heart of the “bad” boy. Whether it’s Kelly and Dylan, Joey and Pacey, or Rory and Jess, all of the relationships involve the boy that somehow learns to love. The girl has been able to reach his heart in a way that no one else ever really has.
There is something so captivating, so compelling, so delightful in her that he is willing to change his ways and open his heart.
And it leads to true love. Or a boat called True Love…
And it’s not just the dramas that do it. Even on Friends we saw Rachel capable of making Joey have feelings. Joey, who does not share food. Joey, who climbed into a cabinet. Joey, who had an endless parade of women coming in and out of his bedroom. That Joey fell in love.
And, actually, it isn’t even always romantic love that we see played out. Isn’t one of the most compelling things about the Blacklist the fact that a vile criminal, with seemingly no regard for human life, can do incredible and selfless things, all for the love of his daughter? (Or his not-daughter? It’s not exactly clear, but that’s beside the point.)
Whether we want to admit it or not, those story lines get right to the heart of what we desire: We want to be loved. We want to see love.
We want to be capable of inspiring others to love.
I have worked with teenagers for nearly 20 years now, and in that time I have seen a lot of things change, and I have also seen very little change.
The technology and methods of communicating with each other is obviously vastly different than it used to be, but the things that are being communicated have not changed.
Attraction, desire, insecurity.
Love, admiration, fear.
Those have not changed.
Sure, the terms have changed. Going steady, going out, dating, seeing each other, hooking up, in a relationship… the words are different but the scenarios are the same.
People looking for love. Affection.
People wanting to be wanted.
People wanting to know that they are accepted and that they belong.
I hear the arguments that teenagers are so much worse than they used to be and the moral compass of our nation is gone.
I don’t know.
But what I do know, though, is that teenagers want to know they are loved.
Just like adults do.
They want to know that they matter. They want to know that someone thinks that they are worth it.
Just like adults do.
So here is my challenge to you: find a way to let the teens in your world know that they matter. Find a way to let them know they are loved.
Find a way to let them know that they are worth it.
Because they are.
And they deserve to know it.
Just like adults do.
See you soon.
When I was 18 years old I spent eight weeks overseas.
Eight weeks of serving and exploring and learning and growing.
Eight weeks that – although this is cliché –changed my life. From the minute I returned from those eight weeks, I began to make decisions that would completely alter my life course.
The last night of my time there, though, was one of the most frightening nights of my entire life.
My cousin was on the trip with me and we had learned how to get by without being noticed. We didn’t make much eye contact with strangers, were neither too friendly nor too rude, and tried not to draw attention to ourselves.
We did everything we were taught and the summer went by without many incidents.
Until that last night.
There was a group of men who would sit outside of our apartment every day, and they would watch us leave in the morning and come back in the evening.
They would say things when we would pass, but we never felt threatened. We simply went about our business, pretending they were not there.
Until that last night.
On that last night one of the men stood up and stepped in front of us as we tried to pass.
“Americans, yes?” he said.
We kept our eyes down and tried to pass him, and he blocked us again.
“American girls, yes?”
We didn’t respond, but quickly stepped around him and hurried into our apartment, hearing his taunting laugh as we shut and locked the door.
For the next two hours we heard shouts and calls about the Americans.
After that, he started pounding on the window of our room, shouting that he wanted some love from the Americans.
At one point he actually broke into the apartment, ranting about getting to the Americans. Our host family pushed him out and called the police, and told us to stay locked in the room.
An hour or so later the shouting and pounding on the window resumed, and continued until three or four in the morning.
During the entire night my cousin and I were barricaded in our room. We sat huddled together, praying and singing, completely terrified.
It was one of those experiences that you never, ever forget.
Here in the United States, I don’t know what it’s like to be a minority.
I am a white, Christian woman. I am very much in the middle of the road when it comes to politics – you know, liberal enough to annoy my conservative friends, and conservative enough to annoy my liberal friends. I am straight, and happily married.
So I don’t know what it’s like to feel like I don’t fit in here.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color in this country, because I am not a person of color.
I don’t know what it’s like to not be a member of the dominant religion, because I am a member of the dominant religion.
I don’t know what it’s like to be gay, because I am not gay.
And I am not going to pretend that I do know what it’s like.
But what I do know is that I remember that night when I was 18 years old. I remember how it felt.
So when I see my Muslim neighbor, I try to smile and nod hello. Because I remember what it felt like when I was threatened.
When I drive by a group of men, desperately searching for work so they can provide a better life for their families, I try to feel compassion. Because I remember what it felt like to be mocked.
When I see people feeling hurt and angry, wondering if their sexual identity makes them less of a person, I try to listen and reassure. Because I remember what it felt like when I was seen as nothing but a sexual object.
I know that things are a mess right now. I see the news. I read the stories.
I scroll through the Facebook posts.
And do you know what I see? I see anger and fear. I see hate and hysteria.
I see mistrust, misrepresentation, and misinformation.
I see each “side” firmly convinced that they are right.
I see people feeling threatened.
I see people mocked for feeling threatened.
I see people longing for safety.
I see people mocked for longing for safety.
And it makes me sad.
So very, very sad.
And I want to do something. I want to fix it.
But I can’t. I can’t control what other people do – or do not do.
I can’t control what other people say – or do not say.
But I can control me.
And I will keep trying to smile, listen, and reassure. I will keep trying to feel compassion.
I will try to escape the fear, avoid the hate, and see through the lies.
It’s not easy, and I often fail.
So many times I react without thinking and respond without reason.
But I will not stop trying.
Because I can’t forget that night.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
See you soon.
Today is moving day. Ish.
I guess the better way to say it is today is pack up the moving truck, take all of our stuff to storage, and get ready to camp for three weeks while we finish out the baseball season day. But that’s a mouthful.
So… today is moving day. Ish.
And as excited as I am about our new adventures, it is still hard to leave our friends and family here in our little town.
We’ve been through a lot together.
Truthfully, we’ve been through more in these past two and a half years than some people will experience in a lifetime.
It’s been good. It’s been terrible.
It’s been real.
As we gear up to leave, we have heard from a lot of people how much they will miss us. And as much as we appreciate the sentiment and are happy to know that we have impacted your life, that’s not what we want to hear.
Don’t tell us you’ll miss us.
Instead, tell us how you’ll carry forward the things we’ve tried to put into motion, the things that we’ve seen you do, and the things that we are so grateful you’ve allowed us to be a part of.
Tell us how you’ll continue to mentor the young athletes in our town, letting them know that grit and hard work will serve them better than raw talent, and that skill doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t come with passion and perseverance.
Tell us how you’ll continue to see the outcast, continue to reach out to the hurting, and continue to love the people who seem the most difficult to love.
Tell us how you’ll continue to push for programs that allow high school students to mentor the younger students in town.
Tell us that you’ll continue to appreciate just how awesome these teenagers are, and give them the opportunity to strive for excellence.
Tell us how you’ll continue to let people know that they are loved and that they are not alone.
Tell us you won’t get comfortable.
And we won’t either.
We’ll move on, move forward, and keep trying to do what we can do.
But we won’t forget you.
We can’t forget you.
Our hearts and lives are forever changed because of all of you.
So thank you for allowing us to walk through life with you. Thank you for allowing us to walk through life with your children.
Thank you for loving us, and thank you for loving our kidlets.
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
See you soon!
Yesterday my family and I had the opportunity to do one of our favorite things: We worked an aid station at a marathon. Every year our little town hosts a marathon, half-marathon, 10K, and 5K race. Local groups work the different aid stations, and it’s just a lot of fun.
One of the things that I have realized is that for many of the runners, the water, Gatorade, and snacks are not the most helpful things that we give them.
What they seem to value most is the encouragement.
Yesterday we were situated at mile 2 of the half-marathon, and miles 6 and 14 of the full marathon. We were also at the top of an incline.
We could see the runners starting to make their trek up the hill, and so we’d grab our poms and start cheering. The athletes would look up, smile, and pick up their pace.
Every single time.
We’d make eye contact with them and yell to them:
Way to go!
You are amazing!
You got this!
And they would be on their way.
After the last of the runners passed our station, we moved to another one. This one was at mile 24.5 for the marathon.
Here we yelled:
You’re almost done!
Less than two miles to go!
You got this!
It was such an awesome thing to be a part of.
(During the downtimes my youngest son would pretend he was racing. He would run through the station, throw water on his face, pump his arms, and laugh hysterically. My other kids joined him. That was also an awesome thing to be a part of.)
All day yesterday I thought about Proverbs 16:24: Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.
It is so true.
Kindness. Simple kindness.
Let’s do it.
Right now in my own life I am in the middle of some marathon-type stuff.
I mean, I am actually training for a real marathon, so that kind of puts a funny little spin on this, but I am also referring to non-race stuff.
And I am so thankful that I have people there, cheering me on. Or even running next to me if I need it.
My family and I are getting ready to move. In less than five weeks we are trading our small mountain town for a large desert city.
In less than two weeks we are moving out of our house and going camping until we get to the large desert city.
Which means I’ve been knee-deep in packing, right? Well, you’d think so. But since I am also coaching two baseball teams, helping coach a third, and have one son playing on a fourth…
Yeah, not so much with the packing. Close to 30 hours a week at the ball fields (YAY!), but, again, not so much with the packing.
Nana is coming up to help me. She lands late Friday night and leaves Sunday night. And in between she will help pack up our house. Oh, and watch the kids play some ball, of course.
Thank you, Nana. Because of you, we got this!
Oh, and remember the post I wrote about a month ago about being All In? Well, I still am.
Right now I am currently working on three different projects: a novel, a devotional book, and a book all about the adventure of parenting. I am so excited about these projects, and I will give more information about them soon.
But as excited as I am, with everything else going on, it can be easy for me to set them aside.
Debbie is one of my closest framily members (framily: friends who are family, family who are friends…you know, the very best people in the world). I sent Debbie a writing schedule, and she is keeping me on task.
With texts, and promises of caramel and chocolate treats, Debbie is keeping me going. A simple text saying: It’s 1:30, what have you written? Translation: You got this!
Thank you, Debbie. I’m on my way.
So that’s me.
Where are you? Are you encouraged?
Are you encouraging?
Here’s a challenge. Find three people today that you can help along their path. Tell them they can do it. Tell them they are amazing.
Tell them they’ve got this.
You can do it.
You got this.
See you soon!