Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dash Through New England (and more) - The Final Chapter

At this time one year ago, Ranch Boss and I were on our way home from a quick visit to New England and New York.  We hit 8 states on the 5 day adventure, and I was SO excited to share our trip on my blog.  In fact, I ended the second of three planned posts like this:

"Stay tuned...we've still got 2 more days to go!"

And you haven't heard about it since.  Being that I just returned home this week from another east coast trip that's totally worth telling about, the left side of my brain is determined this post still has to happen before I can ramble about the next one.

It's a good thing that "better late than never" is one of my life themes, so here I am a year later, almost like it's on purpose. Sure am glad I saved all those wrinkled up maps and tour books; with their help, I'll tell this little story.  So here goes.  If you need a refresher on the places we've already visited on Days 1-3, here ya go: 
Part 1 and Part 2  

We woke up in the village of Hyannis on Cape Cod on our 4th morning.
Check out this seashore - literally picture perfect. I might add that something monumental
happened on this day: I drank my first cup of coffee EVER. Ranch Boss, who has long
dreamed of the day he would share a morning cup of coffee with his wife, was ecstatic.
And I feel like a grown-up now. :)

Up close, the sandy beach was even better. 
So many perfect seashells in one place.

And it's true...the houses on Cape Cod {one of my favorite American architectural styles} 
look like this in real life.

Being on the east coast makes you feel as if you've stepped into a history book. After leaving Cape Cod, we made the short drive to Newport, Rhode Island and found ourselves looking right at this beautiful old building - the 1739 Old Colony House. The Declaration of Independence was first read from the balcony of this building, 
also the nation's second oldest capitol.

Even the windows are cool.
{Some old window in some old building in Newport, Rhode Island}

What we were about to witness next was the part of the trip that kept Ranch Boss hanging on the previous 3 days when he would have preferred to ship me back home and travel in peace at a MUCH slower pace...


Newport began attracting the nation's wealthiest citizens during the 1800s when they recognized its promise as an ideal vacation spot. Magnificent mansions were built, and today many can be toured. 

These mansions inspired our trip in the first place, and they were better in person than we could have imagined. Add this tour to your bucket is that impressive.

Entry doors of the first house we toured - Rosecliff.
In the early 1900s, the woman who owned this house was known for throwing the best parties in the neighborhood. Her party budget for the 8 weeks of summer vacation spent here was equal to about $3 million today. Can you even imagine being on her guest list??

Just your average ocean view...

The Marble House (seen here from the back yard) - a simple summer cottage - was given to Alva Vanderbilt by her husband William for her 39th birthday.

Marble House from the front.

This is one TINY end of The Breakers, the grandest of all the Newport mansions.
It is 70 rooms of pure awesomeness.

Given more time, we could've spent a few days in Newport, but we managed to cram 5 mansion tours into the afternoon, and hit the road for NYC, traveling across the coastal areas of Massachusetts and Connecticut along the way.

We rolled into the Big Apple late at night, settled into our "slightly-larger-than-a-shoebox" hotel room, and tried to narrow down the list of must-sees for the next day before nodding off. We were amazed to think this view from our window is just a typical view for millions of people. What we see when we look out our windows at home is so incredibly different.

I kicked off the morning of our 5th day with a run in Central Park. 
Sunshine, crunchy fall leaves underfoot...bigger and more beautiful that I could have imagined.
Someone pinch me. :)

After breakfast and coffee ( again!), we started wandering the streets and realized in oh, 5 minutes or so, that we weren't going to be able to cover as much ground as we'd hoped. NYC really is that big...people weren't exaggerating. So we followed what I believe is the best advice we were given about the city, and hopped on a double decker bus for a city tour. Those double decker buses are the best thing ever - you ride as long as you like, then get off and walk around whenever you want - and catch the next bus to pick up the tour right where you left off. We saw all the sights we hoped to, and caught the subway back to our starting point, just so we could say we did that, too. :)

This is my fav pic from NYC. 
How on earth people function properly in this sort of chaos is beyond me. 
I stepped out onto the street to snap this, and should probably be thankful that I wasn't run over by one of the many forms of transportation. 
Picture, for a moment, the sounds that match this view. Craziness, right here.

These guys were gracious enough to take our picture at Times Square - 
hopefully they're better cops than they are photographers though. 
I only asked them to re-take the picture twice before deciding that a picture WITH them might be a much better idea.

I also learned who NOT to take a picture with. New York City isn't Disneyland, my friends, and if you stop to take a picture with them (yes...they are on every street corner), expect to pay, or else run away while they chase you down screaming for a tip. Who knew?!?

Safely back on the bus and out of the reach of crazed people in costumes, we saw some cool stuff - like the Rink at Rockefeller Center.

Our final stop -the 911 Memorial.
By far the most sobering part of the trip. 
The emotion that comes with visiting this place in person isn't something you can even prepare for.  And as you stand there, you wish that every American could experience this place. Just an incredibly beautiful tribute to the thousands of precious lives lost on one unspeakably sad day in history.

Just beyond the memorial stands the new World Trade Center - the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere - a symbol of what can rise after destruction. It represents strength and hope to many. What a perfect way to end our NYC tour. 

And just like that...we were back in our car, driving out of the city and on our way to the airport. The dash through New England (and more) was as full a time as it could have been. Was all that a dream, or did it actually happen?

There's one tree at our place that was late in changing color last year, and I noticed it the morning after our return. It was a little tiny reminder of the beauty we had seen on the east coast. And also a reminder that no matter how much we love to visit other places, there is nothing quite as wonderful as coming back home.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Blue Shorts

There's a place called Mount Laundry that stands like a giant beast within my house.  It is constant, much the same as Mount Rainier out my eastern facing windows.  Like Rainier, Laundry is sometimes hard to see through the fog that hangs over my head on early mornings as I squint at it in disbelief. Most of the time it's in sharp focus though, daring me to conquer its height and depth of cotton, dirt, denim, grime, and polyester.  The appearance of Laundry, as with Rainier, changes with the seasons. It's muddy in the winter and spring, crusty and dusty in the summer and fall, and stands with an awe-inspiring and formidable presence at all times.  Mount Laundry deserves a story all its own, but that will have to wait until another day.

Tonight, right at the peak of Mount Laundry lay the blue shorts...

At 1:10pm this afternoon, just 5 minutes before soccer pictures were scheduled, I got this text from Keith:

So Carson didn't wear his game shorts.

And just like that, with the release of one simple sentence, my day was in a tailspin. 

I had left the house about 90 minutes earlier, planning to have Keith take Carson to his pictures where I would soon meet up with them. Now, I've learned from prior experience gone wrong that all details must be clearly laid out if I expect things like teeth to be brushed and shoes to be on for such events. And so a list (with time schedule and specific location included) was left to ensure success...

1. Have Carson take a shower
2. Feed Carson lunch
3. Make sure hair is combed and face isn't dirty
(one may think that #3 would be covered by #1, but #2 -and also lack of supervision during #1- cancel that out)
4. Bring picture envelope, soccer ball, and water

And right here is where it all went wrong. I verbally asked the youngster if he could get his uniform together. We're not talking rocket science here.  Just a white shirt, black shorts, shin guards, socks, and cleats.  The same garments he puts on unattended and wears every week.  What I did not do...was put this information on the list.
As a side note, I later checked his drawer to confirm, and there were 7 pairs of black shorts rummaged through (some tossed to the floor) in order to pick out the fantastically bright-blue-with-neon-green-stripes shorts that young Mr. Hickle wore to his pictures and game today. And the probability of Carson choosing blue shorts over black based on the data provided (thank you recent homeschool math lesson) is 1 in 8. But our family is clearly skilled at defying odds. 

The same mental fog that prevents a clear view of Mount Laundry on certain days must have consumed me for a bit today, because there's a blurry period of time beginning at exactly 1:10pm. Thankfully (not really), it was punctuated by the sight of my Jeep - driven by father and son who could not get the shorts situation right - parked directly in front of a NO PARKING - FIRE LANE sign as I cruised into the parking lot. The fog lifted.

Oh good. Now everyone I know who does Soccer Saturdays in Enumclaw is aware that neither can I get my son dressed appropriately, nor can I park properly. Can my day get any better?

I found my guys...easily spotted courtesy of the blue shorts...retrieved keys (snarled a bit at the driver of my vehicle), and stomped - scowling - back to the lot so I could move into a parking space. There is a discreet action known about and used by moms everywhere who've experienced something like today. It's the ability to be mean, mad, and ferocious to your loved ones in public while ensuring no one in sight realizes anything within your family unit is wrong. A skill, yes, but not one to be proud of.

The timing of all this is funny.  Last night, as I spoke to some women at a church event, I admitted my occasional (okay, constant) struggle with wanting to control situations. How from the time I was a young kid, I wanted to be in charge so no one else would mess things up.  Group projects in school had my name written all over them; I'd volunteer to do the whole thing so I could both make sure we got a good grade AND I wouldn't have to deal with other people. A total win for an introvert like myself. I went on to tell them that once I realized God is in control of my life and I am not, I was able to give up that need to control everything. Hmm...I may have spoken too soon.

And so here it is - after all my internal panic over my kid wearing the wrong shorts, all ended just fine.  There isn't a dramatic turn of events that causes this already thrilling story to get even more exciting.  I made a pretty big deal out of nothing.  Gosh, I might be a little too focused on getting things right.  And maybe a bit too concerned about what people think of me. I was recently patting myself on the back for mastering the art of arriving to practice on time.  Well, mastered meaning I've done it once or twice (but hey...). So today, I figured every bit of credibility I'd earned from the coach for learning to be on time was lost on those blue shorts.

Sometimes we put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves and others for no good reason, don't we?  I must admit - it's okay that not everything went as I'd planned today. In the big picture, none of it really matters.
It's even okay if I don't live up to everyone else's expectations. 
Or the unrealistic expectations of perfection I tend to set for myself.
There is only One who matters - that's God - and hard as it is to believe, He actually likes me the way I am. 
My job isn't to be perfect, it's to remember that.

Thank goodness there is life after blue shorts on a black shorts game day.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Something for the Moms...

STOP and read this disclaimer: This is written from what some would consider an old fashioned perspective. One where moms have a vital role in raising kids. And while I was brought up that way, I'm not here to argue it's the only way. Whether in your house that person is mom, or dad, or grandma, or anyone else, I think we can agree that the job of raising children and nurturing a family is our most valuable role ever. And so it already worrying that I'm about to rock the boat.

It's been pretty quiet on the blog front lately, but behind the scenes, this post has been in the making for awhile now.  Been crafting just the right words in my head (only to forget as I begin to scribble them down on some scrap of paper) - praying about what God would want me to say - losing those scraps that actually contained a few notes - hoping over and over (and over) that this would encourage and not offend - and continuing to watch and listen to the world around me.  And now I guess it's time.  Here goes my little bit of noise...

In the several months since last writing, and even the few before that, I've done something that's been lacking for years.  Something called sleeping.  Something that was lost on me in the course of life between Cole being born almost 13 years ago and my inadvertent decision to fill 24 hour days with 20+ hours of activity.  I don't have to wonder if any moms are reading this and nodding their heads in agreement right now - because I know it's happening.  I've been watching you.  And I can tell you this, not through my previous veil of rationalizing the contrary, that sleep is good.  It's good for everyone.  Even and especially me.

This story begins for the most part almost two years ago.  It was a sunshiny, warm, fall morning - dry leaves crunching under my feet on the sidewalk in a little neighborhood in Ohio.  I admired the beautiful Victorian homes, decorated with pumpkins and cornstalks, and wondered as I had many times before, what it would be like not to live in the country. My mind wandered between sitting on one of those porches in my rocking chair - having finished weeding my city-sized flower beds in a fraction of the time it takes me back home, and details of the workshop I'd be leading at the convention center later that day.  My phone rang and it was Keith, calling at the crack of dawn Pacific time.  He was tired, but had to start his day early.  There were 3 kids to get up and going, farm chores to be done, and a company to run.  Oh, and soccer.  And packing to go hunting the following day. And a house to clean up. Dishes to wash. Laundry to fold. Meals to make. Permission slips to sign and library books to return.  He half-heartedly attempted to share my excitement over the Midwest neighborhood, and before we hung up, in as polite a way as he could, told me his load was too heavy.  He had said it before.  In fact, that statement became common about the time I falsely determined that I didn't need to sleep. But this time, the words sunk a little deeper into my heart.  I walked back to the hotel - the sunshine, blue sky, and October leaves not as vibrant anymore.

Wouldn't you know it, that very night at a general session, in an auditorium together with thousands of children's ministry leaders, I listened to a husband and wife speaking on stage.  The husband's focus on church ministry and not his own family had nearly destroyed their marriage.  I could still sense the upset tone in his wife's voice as she spoke, even years later.  There was a more broad message intended through their stage time, and as they wrapped up, people felt encouraged to dive in, to persevere, to keep serving, to make Jesus famous in all they did, and I walked away quietly with 2 quotes I had typed into my phone.  Both are still there today:

"Sometimes we have to say no to opportunities that are good to make room for things that are even better."

"A great ministry begins in your own home."

Four days later I arrived home, just hours before Keith and the boys returned from their hunting trip.  Over the remaining time I had spent at the conference, it seemed that countless things led me to see more clearly that not only was Keith's load indeed too heavy, but that my focus away from our family and on other things was a primary cause.

And now here we are, 21 months later down a slightly different path.  I'm thankful for the realization that began to happen on the morning of that phone call; thankful God gave me a new set of listening ears that day.  And not only the ability to hear and listen this time, but the understanding of heart to know that yes, a change had to be made. And please know that this is my personal experience; not intended to say that what's right for me is right for anyone or everyone else.

Anyway, plenty of my time has been spent in thought over this whole ordeal; by that I mean what caused me to start saying yes to too many things over the years... to stop heap a pile of undue pressure on Keith.  Here's where I've identified my thinking began to go a little wacky: in my mind, the Hickles are in good shape. Our basic needs are met, and beyond that, we're considered rich by world standards.  There isn't abuse in our home. We all love Jesus. We're surrounded by family and friends. Even in our most difficult time as Keith was sick in 2011, we were (and are) just plain blessed.  Then there's the rest of the world. People suffering on countless levels.  No love, no joy, no hope in their lives. And so as a result, along the way, I figured the world needed me more desperately than Keith and the boys.  Gah...that's a big, gnarly-sounding thing to admit.  And don't get me wrong...I couldn't love my family even the slightest bit more...but is anyone following me here??

Let me break it down into a few practical examples...

First, about a year ago, I was talking with a friend. We were comparing notes (so just in case no one else understands what I'm saying here, I know she will...) about our struggle to always put family first, given our "blessed" circumstances.  She said that recently, a sign-up sheet was going around to provide meals for a local family in need.  She rushed to get her name on the list, but something stopped her just as her pen touched the paper.  She had been busy with work, busy with kids in sports, and considered during her pause that she hadn't made a meal for her own family in 3 weeks.  She put the pen down and allowed other ladies in the room to fulfill the need.

And another: Last fall, I went hiking with a missionary who served in the African Congo. We had just met the night before, but I was anxious to hear some of her colorful life stories.  As moms do, we were talking about our kids within minutes, and I learned that she and her husband raised their 3 daughters there.  We shared thoughts about ministry...the great things and the difficult things...but one statement broadsided me.  She said, "I could look out my door and see 150 people who didn't know Jesus, and had to ask myself, 'What's more important...putting this village full of people first, or putting my own girls first?' The answer was my girls."  She trusted God's timing enough to work in the lives of those village people, as she faithfully served them while putting the needs of her husband and kids first.

So as for this new path...    Yeah, it's been a little slow, a little steep, and a little overgrown at times.  I expected by making different decisions that I'd feel less busy along the way, but that hasn't been the case.  I've felt just as busy, sometimes more, but have heard from Keith many times that he's thankful for the difference. And that keeps me doing what I know is the right thing.  Reality is I still have far to go.  My tendency is to say yes to every opportunity that comes my way. To help everyone I can. To be involved where needed. It's tough to pass those things up.  And if the inner drive to help others isn't convicting enough, society is pushing us to do more.  Our friends on Facebook are on mission trips in faraway lands; they're organizing elaborate fundraisers; they're feeding the homeless.  And when we learn about those post-worthy acts of kindness as we're folding our 33rd pair of socks for the day,'s hard to feel like we're doing much good at all.

But God is good. And He has blessed my decision over and over.  Blessings are often in disguise; we don't see them as they unfold, but when we look back, wow, they are easy to spot!

I think it's necessary, and often overlooked, to give a shout out to those wives and mamas who consistently put their families first.  The ladies we don't hear from who are in the trenches, noses down, doing their jobs.  Not long ago a popular blog site from a mom well known in Christian circles offered free copies of her latest book to 6 lucky winners - they had to be fellow bloggers, telling about their "mom" stories. One of the requirements was that they must post blog entries at least twice per week, and have a history of doing so for at least six months.  And that ruined it for me.  Did she not realize that it isn't about how much we do? It's not about the quantity of what happens outside of our parenting?  And that she was probably missing out on some of the most deserving candidates of all, the ones who weren't skipping out on sleep, or putting their kids in front of the TV for hours on end? Because the reality is, something will suffer when we try to do it all.   Contrary to what the world might say, putting your family first is making this world a better place.  That missionary to the Congo...her daughters are now grown and serving in the mission field as well.

So, what's the point of all this?  Well...I think sharing our struggles is good. "Hi, I'm Brook.  I tend to neglect my own family, but how can I help you?"  Maybe you can relate, and simply feel better by knowing you're not the only one out there. Maybe this is the nudge you need to say no to a few things.  Or start removing from your current list.  Or maybe, just maybe, you'll be inspired to get some sleep tonight.

The truth is, you can't do enough good in your community or in this world to fill the void in a household that is calling out to you.  Don't leave your family behind. Put them before all those other things, and suddenly, it will all fall into place.

"Spread love everywhere you go; first of all in your own home." -Mother Teresa

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Four Great Years...

Four years ago on this day, Keith was diagnosed with Wegener's Granulomatosis, a rare and life-threatening autoimmune disease.  Sitting in the quiet house this morning, I decided to open my file of e-mails and pictures saved from the months surrounding his diagnosis.  Wow...there is so much to be said for the impact of the year 2011 on our family, but also for all that has happened in the time since.

As I type these words, Keith is on his way home from Montana with our 2 oldest boys, hauling a load of bulls. It's almost hard to believe - and so easy to forget - that he's a guy with a suppressed immune system and a lengthy list of permanent side effects - a guy with on ongoing supply of blood test kits being shipped across the country each year in his name. The same guy that I refer to as "Ranch Boss." He doctors livestock, builds fences, and stacks a load of hay faster than the hired young men.

Looking back, I never would have imagined that my healthy 36 year old husband - dad of 3 boys, business owner, basketball coach, rancher, church board member, friend to many - would be signing releases for aggressive medical treatments and writing me instructions on how to handle family, business, and ranch decisions in the event he died.

More important than the shocking reality of his disease, though, is what the past four years have taught us. We can't work hard enough to make this disease go away, we can't write a check to heal Keith, we can't be better people in order to cure him...we have to rely on God, and we can give thanks to God, because this situation is out of our control.  And when you realize that something on the scale of life and death is out of your hands, you come to understand that this is the case in all parts of your life.

None of us can work hard enough, be nice enough, do anything enough to save ourselves from the trials of this world.  And the peace that comes along with that is life-changing.

Four years. 48 months, 208 weeks, and 1,461 days of a changed perspective on life...of something we are unexpectedly thankful for.  It's been that many daily decisions to choose trust, joy, and hope, because really, that's the only good choice.  Not simply four years, but four great years.  

"Gratitude protects our hearts in the midst of suffering." Kara Tippetts

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ernie the Rooster

This weekend we said goodbye to possibly the most unforgettable critter to ever call our ranch home.
His name was Ernie the Rooster.

Ernie came to our place as a sweet baby chick several years ago.  I said if we ever had a rooster that got mean, he'd be chicken soup in no time.  Well, Ernie became more than mean.  I'd liken him to a feathered terrorist.  But his wicked ways fell somewhere between making us panic and laugh, so his time with us well outlasted his welcome.

If there ever was a rooster that you'd expect to have a great temperament, it would have been Ernie.  Cole tried to make a pet out of him from the start.  He'd perch Ernie on his shoulder and together they'd spend hours wandering around the farm.  I'd say most of the days of Ernie's first spring and summer were spent lovingly smothered by our chicken-loving kid.

Maybe our biggest mistake was naming Ernie after our favorite animal character in the book Harris and Me.  [If you've never heard of the story, and you love to laugh, read it today.  You'll quickly understand why naming Ernie was likely a bad idea, and why we set ourselves up for disaster from the get-go.]  

Ernie grew from a harmless little ball of feathers into a sneaky predator, always on the prowl, about the time he found his crowing voice. One morning, before we'd really discovered his change from innocence, Keith was out working cows when he heard Cole screaming, "AHHHH!!! He's killing me!!"  Clay ran to check out the scene and returned, telling Keith, "He's beating him up pretty bad, Dad." 
"He's just a chicken.  How bad can it be?" Keith replied.  It wasn't until the next week when Ranch Boss was in his shorts and flip flops that Ernie bolted for him, and he soon learned how Cole felt.

Ernie didn't pick favorites.  If you were within his sight, you were a perfectly acceptable target.  A good friend, Bob, was over one day when Ernie came at him from about 50 yards away.  That bird just wouldn't stop trying to attack him, and after a half dozen times, Bob managed to grab Ernie by the legs, tuck his head into his wing, and swing him around upside down, eventually putting him to sleep.  Unfortunately for most of our visitors, they weren't raised on a Wyoming farm where they'd learned such a trick, and their best possible defense was running to safety or getting ahold of something to beat the bird off with. 

You learn to get creative (and fast) when a rooster like Ernie has instilled such fear in you.  Clay resorted to wearing his motorcycle gear when Ernie was running loose.  Helmet, chest protector, boots...the whole works.  Carson's sources of aid included golf clubs, rakes, shovels, and baseball bats.  Cole stopped traveling on foot through the areas surrounding the chicken coop, and rode his dirtbike instead.  That didn't stop Ernie; he waited for Cole one day as he rode by, and dive-bombed from the fence, landing right on the handlebars of the bike.
The story is a blur from there.

Still, it seemed that Cole was always trying to give Ernie another chance to redeem himself.  He'd come up with theories of how to approach him, where to approach him, and every other possible magic formula that might help the rest of us understand that Ernie wasn't entirely mean.  One afternoon, Cole came in the house, blood running down his face and tears in his eyes; his latest suggestion that Ernie could be handled while inside the coop had failed when Ernie pecked the skin right off his nose.  Poor kid...he tried to convince himself, probably more than us, that there was some slight bit of goodness in that orange-eyed demon of a bird.
I think that day he realized there was no hope.

Today I walked by the chicken coop and the door was open.  My heart skipped a beat, and I immediately looked behind me to make sure I wasn't about to be attacked...since that's what I've learned to do over these past few years.  In a quick moment, I remembered I don't have to do that anymore.  
I don't have to sneak and tiptoe around our barn silently, fearing that I'm being hunted by a 9 pound killer.  
He's no longer lurking in the dark corners, waiting for his chance to chase me down.  

Some things in our lives are better as memories, and today, I'm glad that Ernie the Rooster is now one of them. :)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Retiring Roosky

As the sun set over the Olympics one beautiful winter night last week, we entered a wrecking yard and emptied out my old Chevy Suburban one last time.

I'm not much for attachment to material things, but this vehicle had carted our family down the highways, side streets and backroads of our lives for the past 10 years.  It was a bittersweet day.  

Just two weeks before, Carson and I were in an accident at a busy downtown Seattle intersection.  The life of our car ended protecting our lives on that day.  And yes, a car is just a car, but I will forever be thankful that she was our safety shield.  Ironically, the morning of the accident, I had looked at my calendar and saw we bought her on that exact date... December 30th... 10 years ago.

What a full life this car was part of...  

She hauled Clay to preschool...and then soon, Clay to elementary school and Cole to preschool.  And then Carson was born and she hauled our new family of 5 home from the hospital.  A few short years later, she was making stops at the middle school, elementary school, and preschool all in one day.  

Loaded to the roof with Hickles and a dog, she brought us back and forth to Big Sky country, our second home, countless times.  

She spent most of 2011 traveling between our driveway, doctors' offices, and Seattle hospitals - sometimes carrying patients, and often times carrying just a wife and mom who talked to that car like a best friend.  

Back and forth we went to ski at Crystal Mountain from the time Carson was 4.  She made me feel as if I actually knew how to drive in the snow like a pro - eating a bowl of oatmeal in my lap as kids filling the seats behind me talked and laughed the whole way.

She was broken into twice, and even stolen right out of our driveway.  No kidding.

How many pastures and fields did she drive through to drop off and pick up the boys from field work?  So many.

If only that car could talk.  The meaningful conversations that were had inside...the ridiculous arguments...the prayers spoken...the endless laughs of our kids.  

It isn't the car so much as it is the portion of our lives spent in it the past 10 years.  We should count everything as a gift, and that is how I feel.  Those years have been a gift, of which this car was a part.

Roosky, as she was named, is actually the license plate my parents gave me when I turned 16.  Brookeroosky was my nickname, so Roosky has been the ongoing name of my vehicles since I began driving.  This Suburban was actually Roosky the 7th.  And she was my favorite.

"Mom, let's sit in the seats one last time before we go," said Cole, as we finished emptying out the last of our things.  He didn't know it, but that's just what I needed.  And so we did, talking for just a few moments as I smiled and tried hard to fight back tears over saying goodbye to a part of our life that held so many precious memories.

With the sun setting as we drove away, I thought of how this was a chapter of our lives that had come to an end.  Soon enough...the empty spot in the garage where that Suburban parked for years will be filled by another car.  And that one, too, will carry us across many wonderful miles as our journey in this life continues.