Sunday, April 20, 2014

Harvest Church in Summerdale, Alabama

John and Bonnie having fun with the kids
The next morning after arriving in Alabama, I felt like it was important to attend church as it was Easter. I googled "churches near me" and the first link was for Harvest Church.  I looked at their website and saw that the pastor had five kids (all grown),  It seems like anyone with 5 kids must be alright, so I decided to go there that morning.

Harvest Church was a real blessing to me and the rest of the family. The church was much smaller than we were used to, and the members were more senior than we were used to, but everyone was so incredibly welcoming and friendly. The pastor and the whole congregation have such a big heart for people, and it shows in the way they love on everyone that walks through their church doors.

The pastor John and his wife Bonnie invited me out to lunch after church that first day and we became friends. They really looked out for me during the time I was here in Alabama alone.  They were excited to meet Linda & the kids when they finally arrived from Utah.  John & Bonnie invited the whole family over for lunch and blueberry picking after church one day.  They have over 20 blueberry plants, & they were prolific producers this year!  We all got to experience blueberry picking, and we filled our little RV freezer with lots of plump, juicy blueberries!

We really enjoyed attending Harvest Church for the first three months of our stay in this area, until my work moved my office location to Milton, Florida at the end of July. Even though we are no longer nearby, we plan on maintaining our friendship wherever life takes us.

Jake was upset when it was time to leave

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Goodbye Utah, Hello Alabama -- Steve's Journey

Alabama Sunrise
In December 2013, I interviewed for a position in Pensacola, Florida.  I was still working on a project for my employer in Salt Lake City, so I wasn't ready to make a move yet.  However, in March 2014, the same position was open again, I interviewed again, and received an offer the following day.  The timing seemed perfect as we also received an offer on our house on the same exact day, March 19th. Hindsight, of course, is always 20/20, so knowing all that I know now, I'm not completely convinced that I made the absolute best decision by accepting the offer immediately.

Fast forward two weeks, and unfortunately, our potential buyers changed their minds and backed out of the deal.  Our house was back on the market....and, I had already given notice of my resignation at work.  We were moving forward, in spite of the new reality.  I spent my last week in Utah helping Linda pack up the house & put as much in storage as possible.  It was a whirlwind, with not nearly enough time to get it all done, much less squeeze in one last skiing adventure, which I'd hoped for.

Beautiful view of the mountains south of Moab, UT
On April 13th, I pulled out of our driveway in Sandy with the RV and drove to Green River, Utah with Jake & Genna for company, through rain & snow!  If you'd like to read about our adventures in Green River, check out this post.

Saying goodbye to the family wasn't easy.  I pulled out of Green River, Utah in the morning on Tuesday, April 15th.  It was a long, but uneventful day of driving all the way to Santa Rosa, New Mexico.  I did have one potential screw up when I tried to avoid the I-40 & I-25 intersection by taking a shortcut.  After I got on it, I realized that it was labled "No Trucks".  There weren't any low bridges, but I think the signage was there so the rich people of that part of town wouldn't have trucks driving through their area.  Thankfully, I made it through without a problem.

The following day, I drove from Santa Rosa to Highland Village, Texas, nearby where we used to live.  The next day, I stayed put and got to see many friends from our old church in the small group I used to be a part of.  Later that day, I got together for dinner with the Gordon and Hargus clans and had a great time catching up.  It felt great to be in such a familar place and made me consider the possibility of living there again.

I drove by our old house which we owned from 2002-2011
All the kids just keep getting bigger. Lots of personality from these kids we've known since birth!
Site 6 at Pilot Knoll--this is one of our favorite places to camp ever.  Love this back yard.
After I left the Dallas area, I stopped in East Texas to attend to a rental property I owned,  It was a big mess and I wound up having to spend a lot of money to get it fixed up.  After I left there I made the trip all the way to Alabama in one day.  It was hard, but I knew that if I could do it, then I would have a full day to rest up & orient myself before starting my new job on Monday.

My favorite East Texas BBJ joint
For my first stop, I decided to stay at the Escapees Park in Summerdale, AL. We have been Escapees members for a few years so that we can use their mail service.  They also own a few parks across the country with this being one.  The drive to my office across the border in Florida was a little long, but for a first stop, it was good knowing what to expect.  I wound up staying there for 3 weeks before moving closer to my office.  I loved the shade and massive space between sites.

My first campsite at the Escapees Rainbow Plantation
For the first seven weeks in Alabama, I was alone, even though I flew back to Utah twice.  One thing that I really hated was coming back home to the RV after work, opening the door, and silence... The RV was so lifeless; now when I come home, there is so much life there, and I never want to take that for granted, even if it gets a little loud and chaotic sometimes. I confess that I also do.not.cook.  Don't misunderstand me, it's not that I don't know how to cook, or that I don't prefer to cook, it's that I don't know how to and I lack any desire to learn.  Coming home to the smells of dinner cooking and having my lunch magically appear in the same spot in the fridge each morning is definitely a gift.  

Another incredible Alabama sunrise

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Goodbye Utah -- or at least "See ya later..."

Goblin Valley State Park
Steve had a start date lined up for April 21st in Pensacola, Florida.  Therefore, despite the fact that the house sale fell through and Shanan still had her braces on, it was time for him to leave....and time for the kids & I to stay behind, hopefully sell the house, get Shanan's braces off, and pack up.

We decided that Steve would leave with the RV on April 13th, and we would follow him to Green River for a much needed mini-getaway as a family, away from the pressures of keeping the house show-ready, leaving for showings, and trying to empty & pack-up the house.  It also happened to coincide with my birthday.

One last Sunday-after-church lunch with the Valdez's before heading out.
Although it seemed a bit like extra hassle at the time, I'm so glad we did it this way.  The last few weeks, even months, had been ultra-stressful, so it was so great to get away together as a family for a last hurrah at one of our all-time favorite spots -- Goblin Valley State Park & Little Wild Horse Canyon.  The large hole at the entrance to Little Wild Horse Canyon was a good reminder as to how quickly things can change!  Not quite one year ago, we hiked this same trail & the hole simply wasn't

Enjoying lunch overlooking the Valley of the Goblins
This is the entrance to the canyon.  There is a giant hole that wasn't there in 2013 when we visited. 
The most narrow part of Little Wild Horse Canyon
Our third hike up Little Wild Horse Canyon and certainly not our last
We have more kids each time we visit
The sad part of all of this, was that the next day we would be going in different directions
After a full day playing & just enjoying being a family, we stopped for dinner at the nicest, best joint in town--Ray's Tavern!  A couple months later & the kids still talk about that place---mixing up their own dipping sauce for their fries from ketchup, mustard, & mayo was oh-so-much-fun to them!  Sometimes, it's the little things that make us so happy! :)

It was hard to say goodbye, but alas, it had to be done.  Steve drove away & the kids & I took off to the little museum down the road to kill a little time to ensure we wouldn't arrive home before the scheduled showing was over.

Genna posing on our favorite hoodoo.  We almost gave up looking for it, but eventually found it.  
The last time Katie was in this spot, she was on the inside.
The finest restuarant in Green River.  Nothing but the finest for Linda's birthday!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The last three months in Utah -Making lifelong friends

One of the hardest things about our time in Utah was the difficulty in making really good friends.  We tried, but it was just hard.  However, our season there ended with some fantastic friends.  Sometimes things don't happen on our time schedule. ;) When Shanan turned 12, she was old enough for youth group, and since parental involvement was required & we had a new baby, Steve filled the role.  It really was a great thing, and they both met some really awesome people.  Steve even asked to "bend the rules," so Alyssa could attend, even though she wasn't technically old enough.

Brianna and Alyssa were born on the exact same day.  How cool is that?
We also met another family new to the area, the Valdez's.  I can only say I wish we'd met sooner.  I love how sometimes God surprises you with amazing friends that nearly instantaneously become family.  It is uncanny how quickly some friendships can form!  Joel & Jona' have the gift of hospitality, & they bless so many with it, including us.  In the last few months in Utah, we shared lots of good food & fellowship.  Alyssa & Brianna became fast friends, as well as Genna & Aida, & Jake & Jude.  I think even Shanan & Josh had fun playing poker. ;)  We miss you all so much, Valdez's!

We also met an awesome family, the Cameron's. This was taken at Hannah's 13th birthday.
Hanging at the Spring concert.  I promise they weren't all trying to have creepy eyes.  They are just naturally that creepy! ;)
Headbands were required to attend the party.  Note the large vat of carrot juice, every teen girl's party beverage of choice! ;)
Just another chance to play with makeup
Aida reading Genna a story in a toddler bed
Linda and Jona
Best buddies & biggest mess makers
We loved the Rock Church
Joel speaking at youth group
At youth group: The kids were supposed to make a house out of food
The kids were part of an amazing youth group that we'll certainly miss.