My Herb Farm on Fox Island

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-sunset-over-mount-rainier-image20197835Tom and I had been married for two years already. We had spent those first two years in the wild mountains of Montana, exploring ghost towns and abandoned gold mines, pressing wildflowers and learning to fly fish.  It was heaven on the weekends, but Tom’s new job was not going as well. He had been hired to come in and turn a small company around. None of his ideas went over well with the sales team and one morning he called, his voice hushed, his breathing quickened.

“Guess what I found on my desk this morning?” he asked. “A bumper sticker that says, “We don’t care how they do it in California.” That explained a lot about the opposition to his ideas.

After a year of struggling to win hearts and minds, and watching that little company go on “credit hold” more times than anyone should be comfortable with, he made the hard decision to swallow his pride and go back to the company he had left in California…only this time, he would be helping out the Seattle office.

I was excited about the move, especially after I took one look at our new town, Gig Harbor, Washington, a picturesque New England whaling town look-alike with a view of the sound, a harbor, and a view of Mount Rainier that was to die for.

Within a year we were ensconced in a reproduction Victorian farmhouse on five wooded acres on Fox Island, about 50 miles from Seattle. It had a “barn” like building that had been designed to hold a small plane, a chicken coop, and a goat the owner attempted to persuade us to keep as a lawnmower. We had never been farmers, and did not keep the goat, but I fell in love with the property. I immediately put in a formal herb garden and set up shop in the barn. I painted it, hung herbs from the rafters to dry, and set it up as a school for women who wanted to learn how to make wreaths and topiaries from dried flowers and herbs. I called it “Little Fox Farm ~ Herbs and Flowers.” I took classes in market gardening and watercolor painting. I jumped on the ferry and went up to Seattle to wholesalers, buying things for my business. Life was good and I was living on my own little piece of heaven.

Unfortunately for Tom, his drive of two hours up and back in the rain from Seattle to Fox Island (traffic and weather), was not his little piece of heaven at all. That was back in Montana and he was not a happy camper. One year later, when the company arbitrarily decided they wanted us to move to Bend, Oregon, we moved back to Montana to start our own business instead. Never again would Tom be under someone’s thumb. But life back in Montana would take a series of turns that would both horrify us and fill us with joy.  Stay tuned!

That Big Expanse of Sky Called Montana

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image15372074

Adventure had never been a part of my life. While some of my childhood friends had come home from trips to the World’s Fair or from far away mystery places like “back east” to see their grandparents, my only claim to fame was that we had stayed at the Motel Fresno (located in farming country in Fresno, California) six years in a row.  It was a halfway point between Los Angeles, where we lived, and Oakland, where my grandmother resided, so my parents and my grandmother met there each summer. And it had a great bar.  My parents could get pleasantly drunk while hanging out at the pool, watching us kids get blistery sunburns the first day out.

So, when Tom asked me to marry him and move to Montana, you can bet I was ready for an adventure. Tom described Montana to me the weeks before he left to start a new job there.

“It’s a land full of mountains, rivers, streams, and waterfalls.  And there’s animals, almost everywhere you look.  Bears and deer, antelope and elk, moose and mountain goats, everywhere! And the sky, well you can breathe in that huge expanse of sky all day long.” So I packed up my meager belongings and flew out to Montana that June.  And he was right about Montana. I’ve seen all those animals and more, sometimes all in one day. I’ve fly-fished those rivers and streams, watched eagles dive for fish on a sunny summer day, while wearing waders in the middle of a premier trout stream, and I’ve viewed some spectacular waterfalls.

Tom had bought a house for us on a street that sounded intriguing to me…Upper Miller Creek Road. He told me to always call it “Upper Miller Crick” if anyone wanted to know where I lived. Me, being me, refused, and I’ve said “creek” when I mean “creek,” for the last nineteen years, but I digress.

Tom and I were both a little skittish about getting married. We had only dated for eight months, and I knew less about Tom than he knew about me.  I only knew that I was going to commit the rest of my life to him unless one of four things happened, and he knew what those four things were. On his part, most of what he knew about me was the stuff I told him early on when I was trying to scare him away.

Tom and I were staying in a campground for a few days until the house closed and the inhabitants moved out, which was supposed to be on Wednesday of that week.  Since Tom had to travel about four hours north for his new job, it was up to me to take some of our things over to the new house and meet Tom there in a couple of days.  I got up early, grabbed a cup of coffee to tide me over, and headed over to my new home. When I arrived, I saw that boxes and furniture filled the two-car garage from floor to rafters, and people were running in and out of the house carrying lamps, boxes, and more pieces of furniture to a rental truck.

Disappointed, I drove past.  It was legally our house as of that day and it didn’t look like they were in any hurry to vacate.  I also noticed that the gorgeous ¾ acre bright green lawn was now yellow and parched. Apparently once it was sold they decided they wouldn’t bother spending any more money on water. My stomach dropped, thinking about Tom and what he would say about this. I had never seen him angry, but I figured there had to be a temper hidden down in there somewhere. All men get angry easily, right?

I didn’t have a cell phone back then, and I knew Tom would be calling me on the phone we had already hooked up in the new house. I was in a new town, two states away from my home, family, and friends. I did not know one soul there, and I felt frightened, alone, and intimidated. I could not go to that house until those people were gone.

So, several times during that long day I drove back up Upper Miller Creek Road to peek at my new home. Each time, people were still there, carrying boxes and furniture to the rental truck. I explored the town, and finally, I decided to kill some time by taking myself to the movies.

Once the movie let out, I climbed back up Upper Miller Creek Road one more time, unsure of what I would do if they were still there.  It was six o’clock at night now, getting dark, and I was sure Tom had been trying to call me all day.

As I rounded the last curve and saw the empty driveway, I let out let out a sigh of relief. I drove up my new driveway and ran up to the house, used my new key to turn the lock, and opened the door. I did a quick glance around but then headed straight to our new phone.  I saw the light was blinking on the phone telling me there were six messages. As I listened to each one, I heard Tom’s voice sounding more and more worried. The sixth message sounded frantic. “If I don’t hear from you in fifteen minutes or so I’m going to drive back to Missoula,” he said.

I dialed the phone with shaking fingers. I knew how angry he would be. Who wouldn’t be angry? I probably did something stupid. I deserved his wrath. I should have marched into “my” house and told those people to hurry up and leave! I should have demanded to use my phone and let Tom know what was going on. Of course he’ll be mad…and he should be. Leave it up to me to cause a problem.

“Hello Tom? What happened was…” I reiterated the story, hoping he wasn’t regretting trusting me with something that should have been so easy.

“Oh, I’m so sorry that happened,” he said. “You must have felt so worried that you couldn’t call me and tell me what was going on. How about if I come pick you up and you can stay up here with me. We’ll drive down to the new house together in a couple of days.”

It’s been almost nineteen years since that first day in my new home in Montana. Over and over again, Tom has proven himself to be that kind, gentle man who was willing to drive four hours to come get me just so I’d be more comfortable. He has taught me more about God’s unconditional love than anyone I have ever known. And he’s never ever done one of the four things. Ah, I can finally breathe, and that big expanse of sky is a great place to catch your breath.

The Guy in the Parking Lot

????????????????????????????????????????Emerald green eyes with lashes to die for.  That’s all I noticed when I first laid my own baby blues on the guy in the parking lot of my apartment complex.  His eyes sparkled with an inner joy I had not seen since the last time I saw a picture of Santa Claus.

I finished loading my mountain bike into the back of my truck and politely said hello.

After that he began appearing whenever I was outside.  I told my daughter about this new “guy in the parking lot.”  I wondered if he was interested in me, but I was not interested in anyone, gorgeous eyes not withstanding.  I had sworn off men in general, and especially those that lived in my apartment complex.  “The Weatherman” had made me realize that dating men that knew when I was coming and going was a bad idea.

But the guy in the parking lot didn’t give up.  Even after I explained why I would not date him, he continued to seek me out.  He brought us homemade cookies at Christmas.  While he and his daughter were vacationing in Hawaii, he went into a store and bought me a bumper sticker about windsurfing for the bumper of my truck.  I was so surprised.  That evening I said to my daughter, “The guy in the parking lot thought about me when he was in Hawaii! Do you believe that?”  Still, I wasn’t interested.

As the months went by, the guy in the parking lot began to tell me little bits and pieces about his life.  His birth mother was a movie star and a model. She had given birth to him at seventeen and gave him up for adoption.  Soon after his birth, her face graced the cover of a dozen magazines.  He had traveled the world and was an artist with a camera.  He loved books.  We loved a lot of the same type of music.  Both of us were raised in Los Angeles.  We wondered if we had ever crossed paths and not known it.  Interesting…but still, I was not interested. He didn’t make me anxious.  I wasn’t sitting around on a Saturday with nothing to do, waiting for him to call me.  I didn’t feel the urge to stop my life for him.  Yawn.

We eventually began dating, and on one of the Saturday afternoons I wasn’t home waiting for him to call, I found myself perusing the self-help shelf at the local library.  I noticed the title of a book by Robin Norwood, “Women Who Love Too Much.”  I pulled it off the shelf and turned it over to read the back. Huh!  Maybe this is why I get so heartbroken over guys who don’t deserve so much as a backward glance.  I took it up to the check-out counter.

I devoured that book.  It was like reading a biography about myself.  I mentioned in my last post that I felt as if Norwood had set a private detective after me, documenting my escapades for her book on women like me…giving their hearts away hither and yon, or more like helter skelter. I read the last page, got up and looked in the mirror, studying myself, trying to remain upright while my brain turned upside down. I blushed.  Profusely.  Yep…I was that woman. Now what?

I guessed I was going to have to do some serious soul-searching about the man in the parking lot. Was I really willing to throw away a relationship that was built on trust, security, shared interests, and peace?  Did I really want one that was more familiar to what I was used to? You know, emotional chaos. What were my chances of ever meeting a guy like the man in the parking lot who wasn’t already taken by someone who was much smarter than me?  Could I actually commit my life to him? It was a lot to think over.  It took about a half hour. I dialed the phone.

“Tom? This is Linda.  Are you still interested in wanting to marry me? Because if you are, I am. Until death do us part.”

It’s been almost twenty years.  Once in awhile, Tom looks at me across the room, his gorgeous green eyes sparkling with laughter.  “I’m the guy in the parking lot!” he jokes.

“I know!” I answer.  And I look across the room back at him, and I feel so very, very blessed.

Another Think Coming

Walking on Water Hajdudorog

Walking on Water Hajdudorog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my last post I wrote about how I expected that asking God to take over my life would lead to instant emotional healing.  I would love to be writing about how much better life got after I made a commitment to Christ.  In some ways, life got worse, at least at first.

The church was small, and about fifty to seventy-five members attended on any given Sunday.  The atmosphere was warm and intimate. It was like an incubator of sorts, and I truly do not think I would have survived in a large, mainline denominational church.  Even the pastor who recommended I start attending did not invite me to his own church!  I’m sure he pictured how difficult it would be for the proper ladies of his congregation to reach out to this poor, wretched, emotionally scarred scarecrow of a young woman.  They may have been tempted to simply ignore me, or tell me how badly I needed to clean up my act.   And it wouldn’t have taken much to push me over the edge, to make that break between me and life on planet Earth.

The people in this little congregation cared deeply about me.  Not one word was uttered about the state I found myself in.  I was legally married to my first husband, never having bothered to file divorce papers, even though he had abandoned us many years earlier.  I was living with my boyfriend, who was smoking dope from the moment he got up in the morning.  Looking back on this, I think it’s very unusual that no one proffered his or her opinion about all this.  It was almost like someone called a meeting and they agreed to allow God Himself to do what he does best when it comes to changing people’s lives.  Like I said, very unusual.

But this was a time of great confusion for me as well.  A well-meaning parishioner would throw a Scripture my way that was supposed to take all the fear out of my brain like a vacuum cleaner sucking up sand.  All those particles making noise and then silence.  Ahhh! But when quoting these Scriptures didn’t seem to work for me, I became sure that God saw me as an imposter, attempting to squeeze by unnoticed.  To me, that meant I was rejected.  My feelings of abandonment rested on a hair trigger.  It didn’t take much.  And if God abandoned me, that meant I was going to hell…no matter what.  And if I were going to hell no matter what, I might as well go ahead and make the trip rather then knowing about it for years ahead of time.  Who can deal with that knowledge?  Like a doctor telling you you have one to three years to live.  Yikes!

So I would be on the verge…making the plan.  I wrestled with it, worrying about my children, but thinking they’d be better off without me.  I worried about the church members, feeling all guilty and everything.  And then, like clockwork, it seemed like the Lord Himself stepped in to keep me planted on this side of the veil.  Once in awhile he just stepped right in to the scene in a dream I was having during stage 4 REM.  Other times, I would be pretty close to ending things when the phone would ring and one of the church ladies asked how I was doing, or there would be a knock at the door.  I became more and more sure that God was the one doing the knocking.  “Hello!  I’ve got a plan, and it doesn’t include repeating “fear not” while pointing your finger in the air or pretending to stomp on ‘ol’ slewfoot’s’ head!”

Winter’s comin’ on and it’s twenty below. And the river’s froze over so where can he go. We’ll chase him up the gulley then we’ll run him in the well. We’ll shoot him in the bottom just to listen to him yell.

“Old Slewfoot,” by Johnny Horton – The Legend – 1975 Columbia House 2P-6418

And it was enough…enough to keep me coming back to the little white church with the mural of Jesus walking on the water…enough to hang in there and keep breathing long enough to live another day.  I was still grieving the death of my brother, still waking up and crying first thing.  I still couldn’t drive a car, go grocery shopping, and I was still lying on the floor all day long just trying to get my breath at least once a week.  And I was still seeing Dr. Teemis.  And Dr. Teemis was still royally screwing with my head.  But things were definitely looking up a little.

One day I was talking to the pastor about my fear-filled thoughts about the future.  “Linda,” he started, if we got a list of all the things that would happen to us at the beginning of each year, we would go crazy with fear.  But all those things take place one at a time, and God gives us the grace to handle each one as they come.”  That helped a little, alleviated some of the dread I felt inside when I had certain thoughts.  But there was one thought that produced so much adrenaline flowing through my veins that the thought of God’s grace coming in after the fact wasn’t comforting at all.  Turns out all that dread was justified.  If I thought I was done with trauma just because I had become a believer, I had another think coming.