Monday, December 19, 2016

Classic RV Horror Story

Though it’s well beyond Halloween, this story may haunt you…

Do you cringe at the thought of dealing with the black tank – the RV waste holding tank?  Just collecting putrid waste day after day, stewing it up into a horrific funk just inches below your living room floor?  Considering the general foulness of this necessary RV component, it’s critical to ensure you don’t commit any boneheaded errors, or you might find yourself in a very unpleasant position.  Such was the case when passing through Pennsylvania late this summer. 

Sometime in September, 2016:  We arrive at our campground – just an overnight stay with an opportunity to thoroughly clean out the tanks after staying with friends (and no hookups) for few days.  Everything is going along swimmingly (perhaps a poor choice of words here), up until I go to connect the sewer hose.  The hose connects to a 3” PVC that hangs down from the holding tanks, capped off with a simple two prong cover.  I twist off the cover and a rampage of angry urine and filth roars down the PVC.  I frantically replace the cap, but it’s too late.  I’m soaked from the waist down.  We were operating without water hookups for several days, so this is a full concentrate, smell burning your eyeballs kind of urine.  I see my tragic error:  the black tank valve handle is fully extended, fully opening the tank.  I close the valve.  I want to find someone to blame, but I know I must have left it open after flushing it the week prior.  *Sigh*  At this point I figure there is probably only a bit remaining in the lower portion of the pipe below the black tank valve, and I might as well just let these last few drops splash down to the ground with the rest of the sewage puddle I now stand in.  Off goes the cap, and out rushes gallons of addition urine, soaking me once again.  That PVC holds a lot more than I expected! 

I whimper momentarily, and then feel a sense of relief and gratefulness that Brynn wasn’t the one hooking up the sewer today, as she does on occasion.  Sleeping on the couch wouldn’t even begin to describe what I might suffer after something like that.  I gather myself, avoiding a complete breakdown, and realize I resemble a child’s papier-mâché project.  Bits of toilet paper are plastered to my arms, legs, and sandals.

The next hour can most accurately be described as such:  The Ace Ventura - Pet Detective scene where Jim Carrey cleanses himself in the shower following an unpleasant experience of his own.  He is contorted into ball of despair, wailing, just hoping the boiling hot water can do something to purify him.  But it’s hopeless.  No amount of scrubbing will make him feel clean, as the memory is burned into his brain.  This was my experience in the campground shower that afternoon.

You can understand why it’s been so long before I was able to write about this experience.  There was some emotional healing that needed to happen first. 

A practical tip:  Before removing the tank drain cap, check to make sure all valves are closed.  If they aren’t – don’t freak out!  Just get a large, preferably black heavy duty garbage bag, and open the tank with the bag fully around the pipe.  No spill, no mess.  Easily poured down the sewer pipe when complete.  Just the strong smell to deal with, but that’s a far cry away from what could have been.

Image result for ace ventura pet detective shower scene
Ace Ventura.  Notice the flames from clothing burning in a trash can.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


     As I sit in my hammock with two dinners already weighing me down (at only 4pm), I'm reminded that Thanksgiving actually does a pretty great job of allowing most of us to take more than just a moment to give thanks.  Most people gather together with friends and family, and are putting first what they are most thankful for - each other.  (Football is a close second).  It's a neat holiday made possible by a fellow named Abraham. Lincoln to be more specific - President number 16.  Since first reading his Thanksgiving proclomation, I've always enjoyed reflecting on it.  I encourage  you to read it in full,  but it culminates with this:

"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."
     Never should a day go by where we fail to  thank God for our many blessings,  but it's cool all the same to make a holiday of it.  And my last couple of days have provided additional perspective on thankfulness. 
     I've been pouring over old medical records lately,  literally searching for hours on end for several days,  and I was amazed at how vivid some of the memories were that surfaced from something as simple as a medical report.  I was brought back to the time when Brynn and I excitedly realized we were expecting our first child,  only to quickly and painfully endure our first loss as a married couple.  That hurtful memory stayed with me as I fast forwarded two years in the medical records to when we discovered we were pregnant once more.   I had forgotten the fear we experienced in those first few weeks as Brynn's Hcg and progesterone levels were tracking  low again,  reminiscent of our first pregnancy.   This time,  however , we were blessed to have the medical team at the Pope Paul VI Institute providing a solution.  And now we have AJ, such a smart and wonderful young boy to love and raise up.   How very possible it was for him too to be taken from us before even having a chance to know his sweet face.   We wouldn't even know  what we would be missing.  The same is true for each of our the children.   How thankful we are for them, and to God for blessing us in this way. 
     I also took a rare scan at Facebook this week.   Not at anybody else's life, but at my own history of posts (I know, I'm self absorbed).  In just a few minutes I was able to reexperience so many cool things we've been able to do this year as a family.   We've seen oceans, rivers, (Great) lakes and bays; waterfalls, rapids, cliffs and caves.  Counted stars brighter than the moon.  We witnessed pine cones small and large, palm trees and grand forests, leaves of fiery reds, yellow and orange.  We've had campfires in New York, West Virginia, Texas, Florida and everywhere in between.  We even dressed up as dragons for Halloween.  We've hiked sandy dunes, damp caverns, and steep terrain.  We've run through beaches, fields, forests, city parks - Central Park, even through the rain.  We've seen 23 states and gone on more "bear hunts" than I can remember.  And of course we've been able to do it all as a family,  and I'm so thankful for it.  
     But none of the above would have been even remotely possible without my absolutely incredible wife. She is so wonderfully passionate about her faith, her commitment to loving and raising her children, and to working hard every day to grow in her marriage and business.  I'm blessed to be married to someone who does not accept life as something that happens to her.  She happens and life adjusts to her, all the while knowing and trusting God with everything.  To know someone that makes the world a bettter place is pretty special.  To be married to her - now that's something!  I am so thankful for my wife, who never lets me settle for less than what God desires of me.
     And while I am endlessly thankful for my family, I am most thankful for a loving God.  It seems like God has been appealing to my love for all of my life.  He is a God that seeks me, and asks that I seek Him.  Huh?  I'm baffled.  Even my own children would sometimes rather have nothing to do with me.  And yet the God of the universe is forever patient with me, forgiving all my sins.  Among the scariest things I can imagine is where I would be if it were not for God and the Holy Spirit at work in my life, long before I even knew it.  I am thankful for this God who saves and is at work in this world, even though I'm usually too selfish and blind to see it.  

"We love because he first loved us."
-1 John 4:19

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Many (Messy) Faces of LJ

An ongoing post with the mess of a boy that is our second son.  Over a year passed with us amused with how quickly his face goes from clean to wrecked, but eventually we started taking pictures to enjoy the moments.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


We spent a good amount of time in South Carolina visiting Savannah and Charleston.  Two places I've always wanted to visit.  We even got a bonus visit with some friends from Nebraska, who were passing through on their summer vacation!!

Then we headed up to North Carolina to visit with my sister, Aunt and Uncle.  The weather was a bit cooler and the views were awesome!!


My name is Gump, Forrest Gump

 South Carolina:  The Low Country Museum in Yamassee.  (AJ rode a mile each way on his own bicycle)

Magnolia Plantation, SC:

Hand Carved Canoe used by the Plantation workers

The trees are beautiful!!!

LJ's nemesis.  Once the Goose realized we were not going to feed him, he took out his frustration with a peck to LJ.  He has yet to re-enter a petting zoo.

This is Jon.  On his bicycle.  We hit stopped traffic on our way into the mountains, so Jon hopped on his bike with AJ and headed up the mountain.

Our campsite in NC.  The boys slept over a small cliff...yikes!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

“No Problem!”


[DisclaimerThe events in this post occurred in August 2016, and have been retold fully and completely, absent any intention of false or misleading information.  Any similarity to any person living or dead is fully intentional.]

     What a great spot!  A pull-though with a hard dirt/gravel pad toward the end of the road.  It is perfectly level laterally, with only a slight downward slope at the head of the trailer.  And for whatever reason the neighboring trailers are staying several spots away, leaving us with a three to four space clearing for the kids to play.  Even more strange, no ant hills!  There are always ant hills, so this is pretty great.  The only minor worry is a fairly serious puddle at the end of the road, but we don’t have to “cross that bridge” until moving day with house in tow.

                Curiously it seems all the annual site owners are elsewhere in the campground, leaving us smack dab in the middle of some “transient row”.  Immediately after a 30 minute Florida-style downpour, my curiosity was no more. 

                We returned from our awesome visit to Savannah, visiting old friends from way back in Nebraska, topping off the trip with a stop at the Carolina Cider Company to find something far less exciting.  Our campsite was flooded.  Not washed away, destroyed or otherwise alarming, but ankle deep water stretched across the land, including our front door stoop.  With no dry way to exit the vehicle after pulling into our usually grassy spot, we quipped, “No problem!  Just swing around the road on the backside and enter by the back door.  It looks considerably drier.”  I nudge the throttle to pull out of the lake we’re sitting in and back onto the dirt road.  A sinking feeling outside is met with a similar sink in my gut.  The truck’s rear end has sunken deep into the mud, and all the throttle gives is spinning wheels...deeper we sink. 

                “No problem!”  I put her in neutral, Brynn reaches over and engages the 4x4, and surely we’ll be on our way in no time.  [Throttle, tires spinning, wheels sinking.]  “No problem.  I’ll put her in reverse.  We’ll go out the way we came in, or at least rock her free.”  [Throttle, spinning, sinking, *sigh*]  “No problem… there is some gravel nearby, and our leveling blocks can help us garner some traction."

                I step out of the truck and sink shin deep into the water.  With each step the mud claws at my shoes, threatening to swallow them clean off my feet.  With a Playschool brand bright blue frilly trimmed umbrella in hand (ironically from the children’s water table) I gather some gear to shove under the tires.  Brynn hops in the pilot seat, ready to coax this Beast of Burden out of its pit.  [Throttle, spinning wheels, tires grinding on plastic blocks now buried deep beneath the mud].  “No problem…?”  Fortunate to have some asphalt chunks and broken brick sitting in a pile at our campsite (I swear it’s a nicer place than that image might suggest), my hope is renewed.  With one final heave-ho, the Beast surges free, like a yacht leaving harbor, leaving two craters in its wake.  I spend a few minutes digging up our orange blocks from the mud, but all is well now.  Like we said all along, “No problem.” 

Postlude:  “I guess all this flooding keeps the ants away.  That’s a plus,” I remark as we enter the trailer.  Seconds later: “Uh oh, I’m finding ants crawling on my legs and arms (and even while writing this, on my shoulder) as they search for high and dry ground!"


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hiking, Biking and the Great Outdoors... Continued.

     The last blog was title Hiking, Biking and the Great Outdoors.  Yet there was no mention of biking in the story at all.  What gives?

    Well, prior to our "alligator hunt" we took our first family bike ride.  That's right - two bikes, two kid's seats and a trailer and we were all set for our journey to the local plantation museum a mile from the campground.  But just before peddling off, AJ stated his case that he should ride his own bike.  He'd been practicing for the past two days in the yard and was ready for the big time - the open road.  We set out, LJ on back of Jon's bike; Baby A, car seat and all, strapped securely in the bike trailer; and AJ rocking the training wheels.  It was a full mile to the Civil War era plantation, and we each made it without a scratch.  Our first family bike ride, including Baby A's first ever ride, was a huge success!

 LJ rocking the Hawaiian shirt
        A zoom shot of Baby A and AJ as they zoom along.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hiking, Biking and the Great Outdoors

great blue heron in flight        We chose our South Carolina campground for its proximity to Charleston and Savannah, two cities with an abundance of Southern charm we were eager to see.  And that we did, but enjoying the campground itself was never really the plan.  It would simply be our home base from which we venture out for fun.  But some of the most fun, as is often the case, comes from the unexpected.  Just a few hundred yards from our site was a sizable pond with a wide mowed grass trail around its shores.  When "trailer fever" set in (it can happen quickly), while Brynn was off doing some Trades of Hope work, the kids and I set out toward the pond and an adventure.  Not only do I appreciate the opportunity for exercise, but experiencing nature in a new place with my three kids (and reluctantly the dog too) was hard to pass up.  

     Along our hike we were instantly treated to several bobbing turtles, noses poking through the brown water for air.  Further down the path we discovered frogs, or more like they discovered us.  Bullfrog sized splashes were constantly 10 feet ahead of our view, belly flopping in for safety whenever we drew too close.  Unfortunately the boys were never able to see one, but there were plenty of chances.  Spiders, squirrels, dragonflies (but no mosquitoes!) were frequent sights and kept the boys interest throughout.  A small gathering of cardinals danced across the lower tree limbs, excitedly spotted by AJ.  And with a loud shriek, a massive Great Blue Heron spread its wings and took flight to a safer, more distant tree.  As evening approached large fish breached the sun sparkled water with ever larger splashes.  Bass perhaps?  Though LJ's little legs could only carry him so fast, with the help of regular water breaks he made progress.  He continually reminded me, "I'm walkin', I'm walkin," (in the way only a squeaky two-year-old voice does) any time I mentioned his need to keep moving.  Nearly an hour in we were finally circling back to the start, and we still hadn't crossed paths with the purpose of this "alligator hunt."  But right as we neared the finish, there it was on a patch of fresh grass in the shallows of the bank.  "It's a baby alligator!" remarked AJ.  Though only 4 ft long, this was not exactly a baby, and Khaki may want to keep her distance.

     With an alligator sighting in the bag, our journey was complete.  About an hour from start to finish, Baby A slung in one arm throughout, Khaki and her used dog bag in the other, and we were finally back to camp.  It only took a few steps from "home" to make such memories with the kids, and I'll be sure to treasure it.