Being handed a ‘pay it forward’

2919077792_ee0bc3f61fI received a card that said “When I had a house fire I received a check in the mail. It made a huge difference for me. Now I pass that check onto you.” The card had a cashier’s check inside.

My family and I recently had the misfortune of experiencing a major house fire.  It was devastating enough that we have been displaced from our home for about six months while repairs happen.  As my son and I watched the house burn while we waited for the fire department, a numbness took over my body and mind, which is only now, three weeks later, beginning to wear off.  As I begin to feel again and piece things together, I keep thinking about how many people have told me that they’ve experienced fire in their life.  I wonder why I thought that it was so rare, or why I thought that I never knew anyone who’s house had burned down.  People don’t seem to talk about it.  And like so many other things, I am beginning to understand the disservice we do for each other by not sharing those things.

We think we’re alone. That our experience is stared upon, not shared. But then someone steps up and says, “I’m there with you.” And it changes everything. It reduces my numbness, and reminds me that humanity exists still, even in the face of heartache.

I cannot re-pay this person for restoring my hope.


The other side of our adventure

The last post I started to talk about the how the differences between my husband and I build the basis for adventure in my family. Really our differences build the basis for all things adventurous and ordinary. Amazingly, what we eat in the morning and how we cream our coffee, all that, and that’s the easy stuff. So my world . . .

I grew up in a middle working class, suburb. Building forts in neighbors’ backyards and our basement. Father, vietnam vet who ran a grocery store with his father. Mother, teacher. Divorced, and I became part of the ‘first wave’ of children of the 70’s with divorced parents. Really, it just was what it was. All of it really. Not knowing about the war, or that divorce was “new” or any of that. We rode our bikes up and down the street, walked to elementary school and watched a lot of Scooby Doo on Saturday mornings. We loved Star Wars and Grease, and played flashlight tag after dark all summer. That was about it.Princeton Place gang

I never really considered other countries, seriously as real things. I learned about them in history class, but I guess it was kind of a “the world is flat” way of thinking about what was beyond my life. It wasn’t until I went to college that I learned about the Vietnam War. My Lit class read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and my professor began to open my eyes to my life. For the first time we talked about what it meant to be a Vietnam Vet and how that war affected families. My family. My dad had actually been at war in another country where he was injured, and treated. For the longest time I wondered how he ever made it through. Since those early college courses, I have continued to seek out ways that experiences extend way beyond the entrance to a subdivision and the high school football field.

Now married to a man who sees the world as a journey of endless possibilities, everything from Aston Martins to remodeling homes to caravaning across Europe. I appreciate my ability to re-look. I appreciate the chance to open myself to possibilities and experience. I also appreciate my ability to help my husband see the intricate and the subtle, and savor in the small and beautiful.

It is a good and challenging match in that way.


From the St. Louis Arch on our Midwest tour

Tivoli Theater, St. Louis, MO

Tivoli Theater, St. Louis, MO

Very clever restaurant

Very clever restaurant

Windmills across Kansas

Windmills across Kansas

Adventures in differences

I grew up a midwestern girl.  Working class parents, church going, playing on the swings with the neighbor kids on weekends and after school.  I didn’t consider the possibility of traveling outside the country. I didn’t know people who traveled outside the country.  We knew people who went to the Lake or Disney for vacations, but other countires were simply places on a map. We never spoke of my dad’s time in another country. That was during the war and we knew nothing of that.  My siblings and I walked to elementary school, but we weren’t allowed to walk (or ride our banana seat bikes) to the convenient store a the entrance to our subdivision.  It was too far from home and too dangerous.

As an adult I meet a man from Britain. He and his family caravaned Europe for family holidays. They also considered themselves “working class” but their access to cultural and historical life was certainly greater than the local convenient store or Disney.  He too walked to primary school.  Sometimes he rode a motorcycle, until he crashed it.  He lived in the country village, and stopped on his way home from school at a sweet shop to buy candy.  Before he was sixteen he’d seen all of Europe as part of family holidays, and moved to the states when his father was transferred as part of re-organization in the garment industry.

Over the years since we’ve been together, our differences have glared at us like a bright sunny morning, sometimes so bright we couldn’t see. His sense of adventure and view of the world as big and bold, and mine as something more hesitantly to be explored as led us to interesting and difficult conversations.  We continue to learn that our sense of how big the world is, how dangerous the world is and how deep the world are vastly different. We try to help our son embrace both in some odd way, hopefully more understanding and observant of both ends of the continuum.

Our collective family vision continues to built through adventures: the small adventures in building chicken coops at home and the large ones traveling overseas togethers.  This balance has built such beauty for both of us, one where adventure and curiosity comes in all places and sizes.

Recently we’ve dedicated time to exploring family histories by traveling to “historic” places in our lives.  This re-visiting is helping us understand our collective pasts and build a new collective adventure story for our family.  Below is a catalog of photographs from our travels to northern England where my husband grew up. (I’ll post photos from my history travel in a few days).

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Lake District



Leeds, UK


York, UK

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Hemsley Castle

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Yorkshire Dales


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Cockermouth, UK


Castlerigg, UK


Hardknott Fort, Roman Empire built between AD120 and AD138


Whitby Abbey


Whitby 139 Stairs

Whitby, UK

Whitby, UK

My husband’s a car guy

FIMG_0504Or a petrol head as he refers to himself. We have a funny ongoing conversation about cars. He inhales car magazines, car blogs and Top Gear. We regularly quiz him about obscure car trivia. I, on the other hand, appreciate classic cars, real cars that embody beauty and class. We sometimes agree on what means, but most often is creates a lively conversation. Fast cars do not necessarily embody beauty and class; often they have too much ego. Fancied up cars usually have no class, as I see them like a woman with a bit too much bling. But my husband, he can appreciate a spoiler or rims, or a re-built interior. Ask me anyday, and I’ll take the old original leather on a 1957 Lincoln.

So our ongoing conversation is part of our marriage. What car are we into today? What car do you think I’d want today? He’s always searching, and I sometimes take a snapshot of one I see passing. Makes for some fun for the both of us.

Right now, I’m on the 1973 Dodge Charger. Black.

Here’s a few we’ve captured:







The Sunset Project

photo(1)Strangeinside was my first step toward writing again for my own pleasure, documenting my own world again.  After fifteen years documenting the world through the eyes of my employer, as a grant writer, development and marketing content generator, I felt I had forgotten my own voice.  Indeed I had.  Mostly, I still think it’s floating somewhere out there in space.  Writing this blog during 2012 has been a clunky adventure at best.  It has been a commitment that I reflect on and feel grateful that I stuck with for the last twelve months.  It has been a good exercise in becoming more curious again, seeking and observing and wondering about the strange ways we live and sleep and exist in the world.  It has been a worthy adventure in connecting with the world again. Outside the walls of an office–for heaven’s sake!  I appreciate the time I’ve spent, the people who’ve read my writing and the blogs I’ve connected with throughout my process.

During 2012, I also started another blog, Dirtroad Journal, which documents rural life.  I invite you to browse a new project on that blog, the Sunset Project, which captures rural sunsets and how the daily passing sun shapes who we are in the rural countryside.


image At the end of the year I am thinking about laughing. And how I need to do more of it. Laughing is such a beautiful human experience and it seems that as I reflect on 2012, I need to remember more times where laughing was a central theme. So as far as New Year’s resolutions go, laughing more is one I can completely get behind.