“Frenchy” of Assisi

July 17, 2018

Frances rebelled and made spiritual history.

But before he did, he was like most young boys growing up in the 1800’s in a wealthy family in Medieval Assisi. The town as well as Frances father, had become rich because it sat on a busy trade route between Rome and northern Europe.

Frances hung out at the town square, and played with his friends on the pink limestone pavement, while the city around him dabbled in free-market capitalism, and democratic self rule.

As business boomed, people poured into the small city and everyone seemed to be focused on making money…

….except for the young idealist they called “Frenchy.”

Maybe “Frenchy” wanted to slow life down, keeping his town small and peaceful, or maybe it was the war with Perugia that changed him, after all everyone knows war changes a man. I think it was probally both, but what is known for sure is that after being captured and imprisoned for a year by the Perugians, he returned home a different person.

Frances spent a lot of time outside the city gates fasting, praying and searching for something. He avoided friends, and anything to do with his fathers cloth business, which caused conflict between he and his father.

It all came to dramatic head in the town square as he confronted his father, stripped off his clothes and threw them at him. This was his way of turning his back on the comfortable material life he knew, and declaring his life to God only.

Young idealists flocked to Frances who became a cult like figure who wandered Italy preaching in Italian (not latin) a non-materialistic simple life, full of love and where one can find God in the beauty of nature. He took a vow of obedience, chasitity and proverty and founded the religious order known as the Franciscans.

After becoming a Catholic Friar, deacon and preacher, Frances died at age 45 and was declaired to be a saint only two years later. Today, St Frances is the patron saint for ecologists, honoring his love for animals and nature.

Although I am not Catholic, and don’t plan on taking a vow of proverty or chasity anytime soon like Frances, I do understand the obedience to God and the draw to the simple life. Frances found the Creator in creation and love and peace in caring for it all.

I think we could all learn a few lessons from St Frances of Assisi.

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Slow Food and Politics

July 12, 2018

In America, we have fast food.

In Europe, they have slow food. No really, it is an actual global movement and their logo is a snail.

I thought some of the restaurants we visited were just not efficient or maybe they didn’t understand how to turn a table and a profit.

In reality, their aim is to slow the pace of life, by “embracing a comprehensive approach to food that recognizes the strong connections between plate, planet, people, politics and culture.”

You can read more about it here.

https://www.slowfood.com/about-us/our-history/

My point is after traveling almost three months across five countries, mostly by foot we have slowed our pace of life too, so that we are able to better engage with each other and with the locals. We have slowed our roll to enjoy the present. Especially the food, the people and the culture. We have especially enjoyed our home stays. We have found that as guests and not tourists, the locals are more kind. They share their homes, their hearts and their thoughts, especially over slow food.

When we are kind and respectful, they relax. If they like us, they may open up and share. This usually takes a bit of time, and a lot of active listening practice (eye contact, no glancing at our cell phones) except to help with translation.

The result has been rewarding. We are better listeners and we have a better understanding and appreciation for people and their role in and throughout history. We have become more culturally sensitive.

Below is a brief snap shot of their thoughts that we humbly share with you in the context of a non-political, political post. It is not meant to stimulate a debate, only to share what they shared with us.

Belgium couple: We are a small country of around 10 million. Life is very good there. When we are young we work and when we are old we don’t have to worry about money. We are given more then enough to live on comfortably. I work hard, and some do not but we all get the same when we are older. This is frustrating.

We are concerned about the amount of migrants and refugees. It is too easy for them to make Belgium their permanent home, whether they are legal or not. They are taxing our small countries resources, this is a problem.

UK couple: Brexit has caused problems for us. They said it would be good but we tend to act without looking at the long term ramifications. The details were not well planned out. London has changed, and prices have skyrocketed. Inflation is a big problem!

Young single woman from Spain: Good jobs for young people are scarce even if we have a degree. Universities don’t educate students in real life or teach them to think for themselves, they just teach us to pass tests.

Middle aged man from Swedan: I am concerned the US tarriffs negotiations is going to hurt the Swedish economy and drive up inflation.

Middle aged woman from Portugal: We are worried there will be another dictatorship. There used to be diversity in our Parliament causing checks and balance. Now the parties are too aligned, to much the same. There is no balance.

Middle aged man from Portugal: Goverment is not good. I am concerned there will be another dictatorship.

Young Tour Guide from Portugal: It was very difficult for people in Porto during financial crisis of 2008. It caused us to take a look at what we had to offer and reinvent ourselves to the world. It made us stronger and better.

Venitian, Airbnb Host/European Architect: Be careful of the immigrants, especially the Eastern Europeans (Don’t automatically judge him because he said this, you know nothing of his situation).

Tourists come to snap pictures and say they have been to Venice. But they don’t know Venice. They don’t understand our culture or learn our history. Our history, our art, our architecture is all very important.

Venitian Airbnb Hostest: (Note: She works with a non-profit legal firm that focuses on international humanitarian efforts pertaining to refugees in war torn countries around the world)

Why can’t we all be one human race with no boarders? Why can’t we come together to solve problems like we did with the boys in Thailand?

Young man from Pakistan: I came to Italy by myself. I have no family here and it is very hard. I am legal but can’t find work. I don’t like Italy, I want to go to London.

Even though we are all different, we basically want a lot of the same things…. to feel safe, to belong, to matter.

We want to live and love, and work and worship and raise families all within the framework of peace and freedom.

We want to be loved, appreciated, understood, heard and respected.

We want opportunities for a better education and a better life for ourselves and our families.

However life is full of challenges and the struggles are real. Maybe, just maybe if we all eat more slow food, and practiced active listening, we would build a little trust and the world would be a better place.

Living the RV Daydream

March 16, 2018

There is a reason we were given this RV dream. The seed was planted long ago and our dream grew. An RV seemed like a great way to travel and see the USA.

Caught up in our busy day-to-day responsibilities and activities, all our ducks never seemed to line up perfectly which held us back from taking that first step. Besides, we had other dreams like starting our own business and having a family that became the priority. We put the RV dream on the back burner but our adventurous spirit still smoldered just under the surface.

As our family grew, we were blessed to be able to experience great family vacations that fed our adventurous spirit. We introduced our boys to houseboating, camping, water skiing, hiking, road trips, cruising, resort destinations and even some international travel. However the three trips I value the most, we’re more like 2 to 3 month sabbaticles between careers. Each one gave us the opportunity to reevaluate, expand on who we are and what we were doing in that particular season of life. Looking back, the depth we gained from the environment created during these travel sabbaticles was priceless.

When our three boys had what I would call simular life sabbaticle opportunities, we did everything to support them. Our middle son backpacked Europe by himself after high school. Our youngest son went on a misson trip first to Italy and then Australia when he was in Jr High. Although he went with a group of kids from all over the USA, he knew none of them. Our oldest went to Oaxaca for a summer out of college. I think if you asked each of them, they would say those sabbaticle trips were life changers for all of them.

We learned that a season is only for a period of time and how important it is to take advantage of the season we are in. We are called to this adventurous, nomadic lifestyle for this season. We have been full time RVers for two years already. Our goal is four but we are letting this season define itself.

What has surprised us the most is that it isn’t all about the RV. Our experiences have become our classroom and our RV is part of the curriculum.

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This inexpensive lifestyle, coupled with no fixed cost at home has not only allowed us to travel the USA but it has also opened up international travel opportunities. Think about it, all we need to do is store our RV for about $100 a month and the money we would normally spend on gas, rent and food can go towards funding our trip to Europe.

Oh, did I not mention that we are returning to Europe to hike the Portuguese Camino de Santiago? This is different then the popular French route we hiked across Spain in 2016. Our distance will be about the same, 500 miles.

Presented with the opportunity, we took the first step and booked our flights. In our gut we are excited and feel the buzz. We also have mixed feelings of nervousness.  Adventures are like that.

Follow along on our blog and Facebook at Living Greatful, Wild and Free and we’ll take you with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Happens

September 12, 2017

Once again Dan and I are alone.

While we made our plans to go to the Grand Tetons, life happened. Our truck has been in the shop in Bozeman, MT for seven days now and they are still working on it. Apparently a cracked head in our F250 and diesel leaked into our coolant system. So here we are at Bozeman Hot Springs RV Campground. It isn’t a bad place to be stranded. It has been in the mid to high 80’s and we have the Hot Springs to soak away our cares…until we heard the weather forecast of a winter storm watch. For Bozeman this means thunderstorms and rain.  Hopefully our truck will be fixed tomorrow and we can leave before the weather hits. If not, well we will deal with it when and if it happens.

FB_IMG_1505279322335Our truck at M&W Repair in Bozeman.

DSC_9286_Boz-hot-springs2Pools at Bozeman Hot Springs

It was a bittersweet moment as we watched our son, daughter-in-law and grandkids drive away yesterday morning from Bozeman Hot Springs to return to the life they built in beautiful Bigfork, Montana. At the beginning of summer we went to Bigfork to work, to help, and to play with family. They were in the midst of a total remodel and they had no usable dinning room, kitchen or living room and a leak in the roof.  We were extremely tired at the end of each days work, but we managed to find time to play too, teach the grandkids new games and relieve some of the burden of cooking and cleaning.

While there we celebrated three birthdays and cried with them as they buried their beloved family dog, Bruce.

20170701_094816Bruce kept us company while working on the house.

20170630_102516Dinning room during painting.

20170630_102536Working on the kitchen before cabinets.

20170720_103316Me and my daughter-in-law did all the painting.

20170720_095209Kitchen cabinets are in. That’s my granddaughter getting something to eat.

20170720_095455Fixing the roof.

We accomplished our goal and so it was time to move on.

Our plan was to travel to the Grand Tetons spending scarce one-on-one time with our oldest Montana granddaughter. Our son and his family would then join us later to enjoy the Grand Tetons and then they all would return home. No matter how well we plan something, we know we should always expect the unexpected. Instead of the Grand Tetons, they came to Bozeman. We had to change or cancel plans going forward but being retired makes it easier to be flexible and go with the flow. However we still have to work at letting go of expectations and disappointments. After all life happens.

This morning we walked to The Coffee Pot Bakery Café, a local favorite which is right down the street. Their bakery goods were amazing.

1174870_origCoffee Pot Bakery Cafe

We did some laundry, walked 4 miles, organized some cupboards, wrote a blog, and did some reading. We ended our evening soaking in the Hot Springs and eating a $1 ice cream cone.

Tomorrow is another day. We don’t know what it holds but we will try to stay positive and productive, making the most of the day if our truck isn’t finished yet instead of begrudging what we can’t control anyway.

 

 

The Mountains are Calling

September 7, 2017

“The mountains are calling and I must go”                                                                                              John Muir

and so we did.

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Something within me desires to connect to nature and it’s creator. I hear His voice in the wind, the rivers, the roaring of a waterfall, a peaceful lake, and the rustling of leaves. His handiwork is all around us. It is above us and beneath our feet. He envelopes me and speaks directly to my soul.

This is why we go.

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We find a clear path to personal growth and transformation, through a forest wilderness

and so we go.

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I think John Muir’s wife Louisa was a wise woman. She understood her husbands desire to go to big, beauitiful, wildness loaded mountains and often urged her husband to go for his health.

We go for our health too, mental and physical.

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I am so grateful to my parents for sharing their love of nature, hiking and camping with me. The legacy they left is forever etched on my heart and Dan and I have in turn, encouraged our kids to go, seek, explore, awakening the same yearnings to seek the creator of all things created on his own turf.

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We know it is a legacy because our children are sharing this same love for creation with their children, our grandchildren.

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Glacier, Jasper, Banff and Kootenai National Forest reminded me that we are still wild at heart. There are still places where we can open our door into a world untamed and unspoiled wilderness. Finding awesome is a good place to be.

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As awesome as this was, the smoke from forest fires and bare charcoaled sticks where green forests once flourished, was a sober reminder of how little control we actually have and how quickly everything we take for granted could be gone in a instant, including our lives.

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As we drove through Kookenay National Park, we stopped at a small gas station to fill up. There were small pick-up trucks lined up to get gas, they were being evacuated from their homes. Each truck was loaded with what was important to them, kennels holding their dogs.

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And so they go…..

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to who knows where to wait out the fire and then they will return because the mountains are calling and they must go.         

 

 

 

The Maze

August 26, 2016

We paired off with a partner and headed into the 15 acres corn maze except for our son Phil. He went alone because seven people is a odd number.

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The race was on! Running forward was easy. So were the first left and right choices we made.  After that, the adrenaline created by the desire to stay ahead of the others kicked in and spurred us on.

We came to an intersection and our natural tendency to choose our own way and take shortcuts only lead my six year old granddaughter and me in circles or caused us to backtrack.

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There were five markers total with clues. I’d like to say that by working together we came up with a strategy or a plan that helped us find the first marker but the truth is we stumbled across it.

We heard laughing and talking coming from others as they negotiated paths off in the distance. We were sure they must be on the right path while we were still on the wrong one, but thick walls of corn stocks kept us apart.  Their voices faded and we were left to find our own way through the labernath.

We slowed down and started to talk about options.  We talked about the story of Hansel and Gretel and how they dropped bread crumbs to find their way home. We found corn on the ground and broke it into small pieces to drop on the path so we could tell where we had already been.

We soon found a bridge and climbed it to get a bird’s eye view of where we were and where we wanted to go.

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We met three families who were traversing the maze together while pulling two wagons of small, hungry, tired children. They had enough of the maze and were ready to find the exit. They asked me if I knew which direction was out. I pointed to the path that lead the way back to where I had seen a person with a maze shirt. “I think someone who can show you the way out is down that straight, and narrow path” I said.

“No”, one of the tired fathers said. “We came from that direction already, we just want to move forward.” “There has to be short cut out of this place that’s closer.”

I thought to myself, I remember those days. When we were young and felt trapped in a maze, not knowing how to get out and not wanting to backtrack or accept help. We thought if we just kept moving we would find the shortcut.

It’s not easy to admit when we chose the wrong path or made an impulsive decision. At the time we thought we were right or at least justified in our decisions. It was life experiences and consequences that humbled and matured us.

“Sometimes making wrong choices can sometimes lead you to the right place. ”

Author Unknown

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Note to readers: Our son beat us all out of the maze!

 

 

 

 

A Simpler Time

August 21, 2017

We hit the open road to explore past and present through cool towns nestled in the foothills.

Our first stop and admittedly my favorite was High River, home to Maggies Diner, where scenes from the modern Western TV series ‘Heartland’ are filmed.

I’m not sure why my husband and I have enjoyed this television drama so much. Maybe it’s the beautiful scenery or the focus on home and family values. Maybe it’s the love and respect they show each other no matter what life throws their way.  In a time of social uncertainty where moral issues are not clear cut, it’s refreshing to watch a story line where the family pulls together and not apart.

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We took a step back in time at High River’s Museum of the Highwood to experience past Western life as well as to view present ‘Heartland’ props and photos. The museum had something interesting for all ages.

20170819_134504.jpgHead ’em up, move e’m on!

Next we drove to Bar U Ranch in Longview to discover the life of a ranching cowboy from the late 1800’s.

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bar-u-ranch-nationalBar U Ranch

20170819_162828.jpgOur posse headed for the ranch.

20170819_163301.jpgBetter then a computer!

20170819_163623.jpgThe tack room.

20170819_165921.jpgLearning to rope a steer.

20170819_164700.jpgA wedding party passing through.

I asked a few people what they thought a real cowboy was and I got answers like they wear cowboy hats and boots or they ride horses and chase cows.

I even offered to pay the grandkids a dollar if they asked a cowboy they saw but they we’re too embarrassed to ask.

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I certainly am not an expert on cowboys, and I probably have watched to many Westerns but somehow I think a real cowboy is more then boots, a hat and a herd of cows. I think being a real cowboy comes from deep inside himself.

What about you, what do you think makes a real cowboy?

Cowboy wisdom: “Real cowboys don’t need to correct people. They just smile, nod their head,and say yep. Each to his own. That’s the cowboy way.”

Note to reader: The Bar U Ranch is a National Historic Site. I read it is a preserved ranch and for over 70 years was one of the leading ranching operations in Canada.