My name is Andrea. I'm a wife of 19 years to that amazing man up there, (Art) mama to to the 3 gorgeous kiddos (left to right: Trinity, Piper and Gavin) and daughter of the Most High. I'm a homeschooler, a pug mama and a passionate homecook. I'm a lover of the kitchen, writer of a cookbook and a very, very reluctant blogger. I had a blog once, years before branding, the social media explosion and "food photography" and this new world of blogging is very intimidating to me. My blog (www.thehopefulhousewife.com, now deleted), was starting to get quite a bit of buzz when I panicked and bailed on it. It's kind of a thing I've done all my life; run from success. I swore off blogging, said I'd never do it again...but here I am, because I've got stories to tell. Mine, Yours, Ours.
I'm not in this picture because I took it. I'm posting it in this introduction post (which should probably feature all of us) because that day was a catalyst for this entire project. I didn't know it yet, but I was capturing a moment in time that would shape our future.
We had taken a drive to Southern California and sort of decided to just keep on going. I wanted the kids to get as close to Mexico as possible and we all wanted pictures of this beach pre-wall. We walked for an hour to get to that point and there were many tears along the way.
My husband shed tears for his grandfather who was brave enough to bring his family here for a better life. He wondered if he had used the same area to drive into California. Then, my husband challenged himself to find a better place for his own family.
My youngest cried at the thought of not being able to walk into the country she feels connected to, and was frightened by the armed patrol, helicopters and signs warning of danger and flash sewage floods along the path we took.
My tears came when we arrived at the beach. On our side, it's military presence, border patrol agents, cameras following your moves and barbed wire on everything. On Mexico's side, it was music, murals on the walls, dogs barking as they chased their owners down the beach and children playing in the water.
The very same water we had been warned to stay out of to avoid illness.
I wasn't crying because Tijuana was sad. It wasn't. I wasn't crying because "oh, poor Mexico", because they wouldn't appreciate that. I was crying because they were making the absolute most of their lives...
and we weren't.
Folks living in Tijuana don't have it the best a lot of the time. It's no secret that there is crime, a drug crisis, cartel presence and poverty. There is also beauty, pride in their country and an undeniably vibrant culture that is completely centered on the joy of family. It was palpable that day.
All those struggles, and they were still enjoying a beach day, dancing to music and eating paletas on the beach.
"There's gotta be more to life", I told my husband. "And we have to find it."
At the time, we were living in his deceased father's house. A place I said I would never set foot in once he was gone. I had witnessed too much of his suffering in that house (we all had, and no one more than my poor husband) and I wanted nothing more than to walk away from it forever after he passed. Instead, we found ourselves renovating it, moving into it and subsequently surrounding ourselves with the reality that he was gone. Living in someone's home after they've gone home to the Lord is a surreal experience. There is no ability to play the denial game because you cannot deny their absence. You're living in their house because they *can't*.
We spent much of the first year of his passing in that house. We grieved surrounded by the walls that contained his suffering. I said I'd never do it, but we did.
It was the hardest year of my life thus far. I can't speak for all of us, but I'd venture to say I'm not alone in that feeling.
6 months after Papa passed (and just over 3 months into us living there), my step-mom passed away as well. She was much too young and watching my father grieve that way was completely unbearable. Just months before she died, my dad purchased a new truck and shiny new 5th wheel for them to travel in. She loved that rig and unfortunately, it wasn't used long before she was gone. For years she told me my family and I should "just live in a bus and travel the country" because she said we were the type of family that could do it. It had been a dream of mine for about 10 years and although we had discussed it occasionally, I sincerely didn't think Art would ever do it. We had plans to buy an RV when the kids were grown, but he always avoided the conversation when I talked about doing it with the FIVE of us. ;)
Papa's passing (and the realization that he worked himself sick for a house he'd never pay off) was jarring to us. Had we not lived in that house, and voided that "never", maybe we wouldn't have known just how pointless it all seemed. He worked his entire life for a home that he was never able to truly enjoy, and although his intentions were good, we realized we were going to have the exact same experience. We would likely never pay it off either and my husband would be working day in and day out to *maybe* enjoy the pool 3 months out of the year. It hardly felt like living. My step-mom's passing (and the realization that waiting for the kids to be grown could be too late), inspired us to think outside the box. Her advice to us was sound. "Just live in a bus and travel the country" came rushing back to me. Now is the time. Not "someday". Now.
Without those struggles, we wouldn't have found the courage to live bigger.
We did the "we could never" and bought the RV. We did the "I'll never part with" and sold 90% of our stuff. We reject the "we'll never be able to do it" fears and make plans for where to park.
Out with "never". It didn't serve us anyway.
Now we focus on "maybe", "perhaps" ,"what if we" and "let's do it."
We live by "What's God gonna do this time" instead of "What on Earth is God thinking?"
We repeat "Si Dios Quiere" (God willing) instead of "That could never happen."
Life is short. All we have are the experiences, the time spent and the divine appointments along the way. We are off to soak them up, share our testimony and trade you some supper for yours.
See you on the road. <3
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