Back at Home

Cambodia, what a time it was! This time last week I was still on the other side of the world saying goodbye to everyone and now it feels like it was ages ago. I made so many new friends, strengthened bonds with others, wandered a bit out of my comfort zone and survived. I saw God doing the things he does best – changing people.

One of the joys of travel is getting to come home again, back to a life that seems familiar but altered and fresh in some weird way.  I love being home again.

It’s taking me forever to get all my photos of Cambodia in one place and organized.  I put an album up on facebook but didn’t have the heart to tell people that it was only half of the pictures that I had taken.  The rest have yet to be posted. One thing I did take time to put up was a new profile picture of me in my tuktuk riding garb.  I was told more than once that I looked like Audrey Hepburn (when all of her facial features and hair were covered up… right, striking resemblance.) We all rode around with masks because of the dust and because of the Stinky River, aka open sewer running along our street.  It’s a good look and I’m thinking of trying it here at home.

dressing for tuktuk ride
dressing for tuktuk ride

Back in my usual Florida life I’ve been cleaning house, washing clothes, grocery shopping, going to work AND buying a different car.  Different as opposed to new.  I am now a proud Mazda owner, zoom, zoom.  It was quite an ordeal and I’m going to write about it in a different post but for now I just want to say hi to the guy who  drew up the final papers, the one and only Jim Carey.  Not really, but he did look and act just like him and can you imagine what it would be like – in a movie, buying a car from Jim Carey? I just sat looking at him and not getting over the resemblance, which probably creeped him out a little but he deserved it.  He’s a car salesman.  He did say he wanted to check out my blog and we’ll see if he did the next time I’m in for an oil change.

Have you ever toured a rubber plant?  Well, I have (in Cambodia) and there are pictures to prove it.  Check back in a couple days and you will know all about it.  I’m just sayin’ it was pretty interesting in a third world kind of way…

Winter comes.

the cold season
the cold season

Hayward, Wisconsin is a place where it snows. The flakes were flying as we drove into town last Thursday for Thanksgiving.  The white blanket covered the ground and the fallen logs where we walked through the woods the next day.  Every gust of wind through the branches of the pines sent snow raining down all around us. At first, the cold was frightening but as I stayed out in it and worked up a sweat, I got used to it.  Now, four days past Thanksgiving, it is snowing again and this time it’s a storm big enough to deserve a name. Cleon.

Our trip into town proved the roads were icy with wet slush.  The sky is one solid, gray cloud that descends down to meet the horizon, cutting the visibility to about a quarter mile. Variations on muted gray, black and white with a little brown thrown in are the only colors nature has today. Things would seem dull if it weren’t for the colored lights and Christmas decorations up and down the streets. Hayward is a small town, a very small town, but it is the only real town in quite a large area of forests and lakes. And it is large enough to have a Walmart, which was a very busy place today.

I grew up here, in the country outside of Hayward.  I left and came back after I was married.  My children were born while I lived here and although I’ve been away again for more than twenty years it is still very homelike to me. My parents and my brother and his family still live in a development on the edge of town, on land that once belonged to my grandfather. We visited Hayward last June when it was all shades of green, brilliant blue skies, fields full of flowers, flowing rivers, and more than it’s share of the world’s mosquitoes. Now it is different.  It is white, very quiet, dark a good deal of the time, and there are no mosquitoes at all.

It is really quite magical to be able to stay in one place and have it change all around you. You would think you had been transported. I’m just sayin’ I am glad to be here for this first big snow of the year.

white on the road
white on the road
white in the woods
white in the woods

Here we go again…

???????????????Here we go again…

I am excited.  It is only hours before a season of travel begins, and instead of getting ready I’m sitting here writing about how I’m not ready.  Thoughts about traveling are fighting to get out of my head.

I am going to my first, original home to be with family and friends, celebrating Thanksgiving.  I love everyone I am going to be with. Even before that, I love talking to strangers in the airport and on the plane.  I love being free to watch what is going on around me and observe people.  There is such freedom in not having a job to do other than keeping bombs from being planted in my luggage. Almost every routine of my daily life is changed to something new.

Flight attendants bring me the beverage of my choice – this happens never at home.

I get to sit in/drive a nearly new car.

I can eat fast food without feeling guilty because it’s about the only choice.

And at my destination I have that unique position of half guest, half helper.  It allows me to work alongside others and see what is going on in their lives.  It means I can stay up late visiting if there’s an opportunity, or get up early and have that first cup of coffee with someone special.  It means I can probably take a nap if I’m tired, or take a couple hours off to write or read.  There’s time to think about living while I’m doing it.

And even while the excitement builds, there’s a conflict. I feel it every time.  I am a split personality when it comes to travel.  There is so much to like about being away, and yet I am as much a home body as anyone could be.  I love my home, the husband, the cats, the yard, the old car, the commitments, the friends, even the job (sort of) (don’t spread that around).  To be happy and involved in one place, you have to lose touch with where you’re not.  And even when I know I’m coming back, there is a bit of sadness in stepping away from the familiar.

Will the husband be able to find food in the refrigerator?

Will my strawberry plants die if we get a freeze?

Will my cat forgive me for being gone?

Will I come back to a mountainous pile of junk mail? Laundry?

Will I be the same person that I was?  Probably not.

I’m just sayin’, here we go again…

Unusually Long Silences

sunny gift from a guest
Unusually long silences in which readers get bored and lose interest are a dreaded reality for me in my blogging life.  I think I speak for many people when I say that sometimes the things we generally like to be doing (writing) isn’t what we want to be doing most (entertaining out of town guests) or have to be doing (work).  But it is crucial that we avoid guilt over things not done if we are being true to our priorities.

What I’ve been doing:

– a pre Thanksgiving event for the husband and other friends and relatives that I won’t get to see on the actual Thanksgiving Day.  This took me days of prep, planning, cooking and cleaning. Twenty two of us had a great time and a good meal.

thanksgiving thoughts from guests
thanksgiving thoughts from guests

– reconnecting with a long time friend and her family, visiting from afar. We kayaked, walked the beach, swam in the ocean, braved the mall, and ate several meals together. Oh, and Mexican Train up to number 7.

dining out with Cheryl
dining out with Cheryl

– worked for my employer, who is having trouble with staffing right now.  I am a so called resigned, retired nurse who works about as much as I did before I resigned. Go figure.

– spent  much enjoyed time doing music for my church (for my God).  Volunteered a little more than usual since others were out.

-spent hours and dollars on my computer, resurrecting it from death (or near death). Now if I can just figure out where all the missing files are, we’ll be fine and functioning.

– put out my fundraising letter for medical supplies for the Cambodian orphans.  I don’t want to go empty handed. God will supply what is needed, but I have to ask.

– overseeing major house washing.  Who knew it could take a week to pressure wash a house? It looks great again, except in the places where the paint needs to be replaced – but we knew that would happen.  All the accessory trees got trimmed too.

In the big picture, I think I made good choices,

putting God first,

people second

and things last.

I have to say, being a consistent writer is not easy when you have another life of any kind …

Dear John,

Dear John Deere,

I don’t know how it started, but I have an awful lot of your stuff.  I have pictures of your tractor.  I also have a small replica of your tractor that children play with when they visit me.  Actually, I know you have more than one tractor too – I have a book with pictures and stories about ALL your tractors from the first to the last.

I have one of your tablecloths, a miniature gas pump of yours, a toothpick holder with your logo, a set of dishes, some giant soup mugs, numerous metal boxes, a clock, an outdoor thermometer, a rug, a shirt and a couple hats – all in various shades of green and yellow, and with your name on them.  I honestly can’t remember everything in this collection.  It appears that there aren’t many things that you won’t put your name on.

John, you are my link to the past and all that was good about life on the farm.  I remember those days whenever I pour my morning coffee into the John Deere mug and toast the new day.  That’s why I’m sad to tell you that it’s over.

Today there was a crash and an exclamation of anguish from the kitchen where the husband was cleaning up his breakfast.  John, he dropped your mug and it shattered.  It’s gone.  I threw it in the trash.  Please don’t hate me.

Wishing it could have ended differently…  (but after all, it’s just “stuff” and I can find another one in about 30 seconds on the internet)


Thoughts on a Clean House

It’s embarrassing to be reminded.  Some people clean their houses every week, on the same day of the week.


I’ve come so far from that, and I don’t necessarily call it progress.  My house gets… no wait, a room in my house may get cleaned when it becomes difficult to navigate through it.  My whole house gets cleaned only when I’ve lost something and need to find it. Of course, I might find it in the first room I clean, in which case only one room gets cleaned.

Spot cleaning is my specialty.  Spots on the floor, piles of mail on the table, sink full of dishes, a cat mess, a dead plant, are all within my 15 minute tolerance for housecleaning.  In fact I often turn to these obvious, flagrant crimes against clean to avoid other things I don’t want to do.  High levels of anxiety over other areas of life can be temporarily muted by these small but visible improvements.

My most effective tool against messy, dirty house is to invite company.  I like to have dinner time company and that is my most compelling reason to clean the living room, dining room and kitchen. If it’s the first time in my house for a visitor I am aware of how important that first impression can be.  I can get close to being fussy clean for those people.  If the company “knows” my kitchen from having been there many times, I skip being tidy because I’m counting on that first impression over-riding everything they’ve seen since.   It works.  Kind of…

Overnight company is more of a problem. I should really clean the whole house, except for rooms I keep locked (!!?) My solution is to only invite family, meaning people who have lived in my house before, to stay overnight.  I leave the cleaning supplies where they can find them and if they’re bothered they can do a little cleaning in their spare time. They are on vacation and have lots of that.

My bottom line is keeping relationships as the most important thing.  Remember that little poem?

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow

For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow

So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep

I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.

I don’t know who wrote it but I have it memorized from those days in the rocking chair with my little daughters.  It applies to company too, of all ages.  Better to let them know I like them and want to be with them, if they don’t mind my messy house. I’m just sayin’ they might even be relieved to see that my house looks kind of like theirs…

Round Lake

I grew up on a small farm in northern Wisconsin – a place where  nature is not all that friendly to farmers.  Summers are short and cool, winters are seem endless with lots of snow and cold weather.  The area is kept alive by tourism and is a playground for hunters, fishermen, outdoor sports enthusiasts and others who just want to get away from the larger cities in Wisconsin and nearby Minnesota.  I is a land of lakes and I have been on many of them, but my favorite is Round Lake.  Others will say the same.

A road winds past my childhood home, around a small pond and climbs a wooded hill. I spent a lot of time looking at that hill from the front yard and from my second story bedroom window.  At some early point I must have seen some people on horseback riding up the hill at a gallop because I recollect a romantic notion of there being a castle up there waiting for knights to arrive on their steeds.  My family later became friends with the people on the hill since they had children close to our ages.  The hill became Kendall’s Hill and we also came to know their cousins who did indeed visit them on horseback.

For some reason today I started thinking about that hill and the nearby geography and wondered why I had never thought of it in the bigger picture before.  The centerpiece of it, to me, is a beautiful, deep, spring fed lake with a very unimaginative name – Round Lake.  Parts of it might be kind of round, but I would never have named it that.  In many places it has a very rugged, high and steep coastline. People owning those pieces of lakeshore have their log cabins that we can see through the pine trees and long stairs zig zagging down the bank to their boatdocks.

There is another outstanding feature of the lake and that is a peninsula of high ground that circles out into the lake and back toward the shore.  It had to have been connected at one time because there is a sand bar across the narrow space where it doesn’t connect. It has to be dredged for boats to safely cross into Hinton Bay. Hinton Bay, by the way, is almost perfectly round and maybe that’s the part someone was looking at when they named the lake. I would love to know what kind of geologic activity has gone on to form this lake, and its surrounding hills.  I know there was a lot of glacial activity that gouged out some pretty crazy river beds and valleys and  left a lot of rocks of various sizes. Once I found a fairly large Lake Superior red agate in the lake so I’m suspecting a relationship with the Great Lakes chain.

But there are also some fairly flat lands where people have attempted to farm, as my family did.  The pond between my house and the hill had a couple of springs that were probably fed from the same underground reservoir that feeds the lake. We children who skated on the pond in the winter were always afraid to go too near those places we could tell had frozen over last. The pond has gradually become more marshy and filled in with sediment – it may disappear someday but I probably won’t be alive to see it.

Last month I visited the hill and took another one of many pictures, looking out over the pond to my old home. I’m always hit with nostalgia at the view. What a privilege it was to grow up in such a beautiful place. I spent many years drinking that clear, cold well water and eating food grown in that soil so it’s pretty safe to say it is in my bones. I will always be “from” Round Lake and Hayward, Wisconsin.


my old home from the castle on the hill


Reader, blogger, and essayist Andrea Badgley is collecting “Show Us Your State” stories for her Andrea Reads America website. Submission guidelines are here if you would like to participate.