When last we met, nearly a year ago, Mark and I had interrupted our expat journeys due to Covid. We had just hunkered down in Oregon, leaving behind at least two months of planned adventures. No picturesque English countryside. No hiking the Fells. No meeting new friends. It was a heart wrenching decision.

But, it did mean reconnecting with family and peace of mind. In the year since we’ve been sheltering in place and hiding from Covid in the US, little blessings have popped up everyday.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

The Essentials… Remember back to the beginning of our big adventure? We sold our house and car? Returning to the US meant we had no place to live and no car to get there in. When we began alerting our family that we were coming home, people began offering needed items. For example, Mark’s brother offered the use of his extra car, even meeting us at the airport with our “new” set of wheels. (Enterprise has nothing on him…!)

In the meantime, my sister said she would love to have us live on her property in her newly acquired travel trailer. We didn’t know how long we would stay, but took up her offer and drove straight to our new digs from the airport. For our two week quarantine, my sister did all of our grocery shopping. We could only just wave at each other during that time, but what a joy to be there. When quarantine was over, she and I began our daily walks or bike rides. Our 2 week stay ended up lasting 5 months!

Our 5 months in the trailer. Beautiful views and biking!

Our “rent” payments came in the form of helping with home improvement projects. We’ve helped with yard work and construction of a retaining wall and her fencing project. What a blessing this time was.

Sweet Reunions… My dad! Family! Friends! Taking Covid precautions seriously, we were still able to see people via masking, social distancing, meeting outside, and quarantine periods in specific cases.

Dad lived alone in Coos Bay, with precious few interactions with others aside from my sister. After our quarantine period, I was elated that we were able to add him to our Quaran-team! He’d visit us at my sister’s, we’d go for rides to the beach, and I even took him fishing, one of his life’s passions.

Didn’t catch anything but happiness and sunshine!

Exercising care, we were able to occasionally see our older son and his family in Roseburg and our younger son on a trip from SoCal to Roseburg. We also were able to see our daughter and her family. And finally, when Mark’s mom was fully vaccinated, we busted her out of her care center and were able to sit down with her. While we were able to visit her occasionally via Skype, it had been over a year since our last face-to-face with her.

When life gives you lemons, try to find ways to see your family!

A quick, but sweet, masked “hello” with our youngest son! Later, we were able to spend time with him and his lovely wife.

Grandma Teacher… In early September I received a rather earnest phone call from our daughter asking if I missed teaching. Like families around the country, hers was hunkered down at home for the schoolyear. Mom and dad were working from home and the 3 school-aged children were learning remotely via Zoom. Somewhat hesitantly, she asked, “How would you feel about a temporary stay in Utah, just long enough to get these homeschooled kids settled in their studies?” “Are you kidding!?”, I replied. I was beyond thrilled!

So, Mark and I packed up the little we still owned and made a short-term move to Utah. The idea was to quarantine once here and then start helping with the kids’ schooling. We planned to stay through February and then head back to England to restart our travels. Of course, you’re all laughing now, aren’t you? Yup. When life gives you lemons, stick around and teach a little longer.

We’re still currently in our short-term housing and I’m still Grandma Teacher weekday mornings, assisting with the already excellent lessons they are receiving from their Zoom teachers. The growth in their learning has been fabulous, and I’m so encouraged I can’t leave yet.

When life gives you lemons, teach!

Go Outside…! Covid doesn’t keep us inside. In fact, we’ve always believed outside is healthier! I backpacked a short section of the Pacific Crest Trail with my sister. We often went to the beach. We hiked the Sierra’s, with Mark finishing a section of the John Muir Trail and finally completing his quest to make it up Mt. Whitney. Utah provided us with numerous hikes including Maybird Gulch and Lake Blanche in the Wasatch Mountains, Canyonlands National Park, and Zion National Park. We also walk or bike nearly everyday around the lovely neighborhood where we’re currently staying.

When life gives you lemons, go outside!

Beauty in the Wasatch Range of the Rockies

Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Photos by Mark

Zion

Zion National Park. Photos by Mark

In Memoriam… For several years now my father’s health had been failing. We really started noticing it after our mom died in 2016. From weekly blood transfusions to stage 4 kidney failure, dad was always on the precipice. You can imagine my trepidation regarding long-distance travel. When we left in October, 2019, dad encouraged us to pursue our international adventures. “I’m not going anywhere,” he promised. I assured him we’d return at a moment’s notice if need be. In the meantime, my sister’s daily care and his doctors kept him patched up. Plus, dad was a fighter. He resisted any notion of decline or dying, and it worked for a long time. We called him our Energizer Bunny!

A few days before Christmas, my sister alerted me that dad was in the hospital again. This time, however, it was end-stage kidney failure. To stay alive dad would require dialysis nearly every day. It was then that dad finally felt at peace going in to hospice care, allowing his body the natural process of crossing over. My sister moved him to her house for the last 8 days of his life.

He spent his last Christmas with his daughters, son-in-law and granddaughters (my nieces) by his side. He even had great-grandchildren and their parents (my daughter and son-in-law) from Utah visit him. Extended family members and dear friends stopped by for a final visit. Dad could see the river from his bed and watch the birds at the birdfeeder. His last days were spent with Mark, my sister and I by his side.

Early New Year’s day, daddy passed with his girls and son-in-law with him. We are saddened to have him gone, but realize that he’s in a better place. My sister and her friend organized a wonderful Zoom memorial service for our daddy; celebrating his tender heart, giving spirit and mischievous adventures.

When life gives you lemons, love on your parents.

Daddy and his girls

Next Adventures Lord willing and the creek don’t rise (or Covid resurge), we’ll be flying to the UK this fall to resume our adventures. We’ll be staying in England’s Lake District and walking as many Fells as we can from September to early November. Any plans beyond November are on hold, pending the opening of other European countries.

For those that are able to travel, I’ll leave you with a couple pieces of advice we’ve learned:

  1. Book refundable, or changeable, flights and lodging. You’ll likely pay more, but it’s worth it.
  2. Always buy travel insurance with medical and travel expenses covered and no-cause cancelation. Our travel insurance paid for our last minute flight home last March.

And in the future, whether life gives you lemons or lemonade, Go With Me….

This Christmas, the Wise Men came with me

Published by GoWithMe

I'm a newly retired 4th grade teacher. Hubby and I caught the travel bug. So, we're starting out our retired lives visiting new places to see what we can see.

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