Friday, September 26, 2008

Road Trip to Arizona

I am finally unpacked. The last of the clothes are washed. Eric is at a football game with the girls tonight and I am finally getting a chance to blog about my awesome trip to Phoenix for my 20-year high school reunion. It was one of the best times we've ever had visiting Arizona. Hmmm...where do I begin?

Free ride, almost:
We took the veggie car to Arizona. We have an old Mercedes turbo diesel that runs on 100% vegetable oil. Eric has a filtering system in the garage and we get our veggie oil from a few restaurants in town. He filled the car with veg. and then filled several gas cans with extra oil so we would have enough fuel for the return home. The cans took up half of the trunk of the car, so you can imagine how cramped we were. Every inch of the car was packed with something, including the floors in the back seat. It's a good thing the girls have short legs! We would have had enough oil to make it back to Ojai, but we did so much driving around once we got to the Phoenix area. The name of the game in the Valley of the Sun is that you have to drive great distances to get anywhere. We drove 400 miles just in the valley during the week we were there. So, we did have to buy some gas, but the entire trip cost us a mere $55.

Arizona sunrises and sunsets:
We left at 2:30 a.m. September 17, and headed for Arizona. We had it all planned out: we would get the girls out of bed and put them in their car seats and they would sleep until dawn and by then we'd be more than half-way to Phoenix. Well, our evil plan did not work. The girls stayed awake for the entire trip. Of course, I had not packed anything for them to play with because I thought they'd be asleep. They were such troopers. They never complained. Our girls have always been very good travelers. We crossed the border into Arizona just about the same time the sun peeked it's head over the mountains. Arizona has the most brilliant sunrises and sunsets. I enjoyed taking pictures out my window. The girls really enjoyed seeing all of the cactus.
High School Reunion:
The purpose of the road trip was to attend my high school reunion. It was a two-night event. Friday night was a casual mixer and Saturday night was a dinner with dancing and entertainment from our alumnus Travis Thurman. He does stand-up comedy. My favorite part was when he impersonated some of the popular 80s singers. I love 80s music! It was fun dancing to the 80s and also just sitting and listening to the tunes while others danced. Eric got right out there on the dance floor and started cracking me up with his moves. I said to my friend, "He's so brave. He's not even embarrassed." she said, "Of course not, he doesn't know anyone here." That made sense. I had a wonderful time at the reunion, reconnecting with friends I hadn't seen since the last reunion 10 years ago. It was wonderful to see my best friend from high school, Carolyn, and get all caught up on each other's lives. She said to me, "Chris, I really want to thank you for what you said to me in high school. It changed the course of my whole life. You planted the seeds way back in high school. I am so grateful." She was talking about the times I shared with her my relationship with Jesus and invited her to church. She became a Christian years after high school. She said the same thing to me at the last reunion, but I am still touched by her kind words. It was great to see Taj and Lysa and Jennifer, too. Lysa practically planned the whole reunion, although she'd tell you otherwise. She has got to be the sweetest class of '88 alumnus. She did her best to make everyone feel so welcome; giving out great big hugs to everyone who walked through the door. There were about 80 people who attended the reunion, out of 575 graduates. Yes, I attended a large high school. Eric was impressed with the school spirit he saw at the reunion. The class of '88 had a lot of "Bruin pride."

Family and friends:
We took advantage of the week and saw as many people as we could. We visited with my sister-in-law, Johanna, and her daughter Angie; my brother Tim and wife Alisa; our friend Roger, who was in our wedding; our friend Michele and family--she was my college roommate and bridesmaid; and our friend Rebekah. Of course, we spent a lot of time with my parents. Because their house in Sun City is so small (but oh so cute), we stayed at our friend Nancy's house about 20 minutes away. Almost every morning we went swimming in her pool. Then we headed on over to my parents home to spend the day just relaxing. It was too darn hot to go outside, so we spent the days indoors reading and doing crafts. The girls loved their daily craft time with Nana! I loved the opportunity to do--well--nothing. That's what vacation is all about! Each evening was spent at a different friend's house or at the reunion.

My old stompin' grounds:
While we were in Phoenix, we visited the first house I lived in and also the house I lived in when I attended high school. We also drove by my junior high and high school and took pictures. Since my parents moved out of the west side many years ago, I haven't been back there to have a look. While some things have changed, it still looks like the place where I grew up. It was a nice trip down memory lane. Eric was surprised to see bars (iron fences) around the schools where I grew up. Living in Santa Barbara, he had never experienced closed campuses. I guess I never gave it a second thought. We also stopped by the newspaper I was a reporter for: The Daily News-Sun. I chatted with my former editor. It was fun to see my old desk, and even more fun to think that I no longer have to work 60 hours a week!

Home again, home again:
We left at 5 a.m. September 23 and crossed the border into California before 8 a.m. Once again, the girls never slept! For lunch, we stopped in Cabazon, home of the world's largest dinosaur "statue." Amber loved the dinosaurs! At 1:45 p.m., we pulled into our driveway in Ojai, just as the gas light came on! We traveled 1,330 miles total, and it was worth every mile!

Cars have feelings, too!

Every once in a while, Eric will repair a car in our garage. Today he left an SUV in the garage to finish later, and went to another job. As Autumn was eating her afternoon snack just now, she looked out the back door and said, "The car is sad."

"Why is the car sad?" I asked.

Autumn replied, "It misses daddy."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Necklace

Hi everyone! We're back from our road trip to Arizona. It was wonderful! I'll have to blog about it tomorrow (or the next day or whenever I get out from under unpacking). Meanwhile, I wanted to share a story that I wrote in my journal while we were in Phoenix. I wrote it right after it happened. It is totally true, not one of those email urban legends. (And please don't make it become one.) Oh, Lisa H. and Debbie, you've been forewarned: you might want to get out a box of tissue.

***

The Necklace
By Christine A. Hodge

"I like your necklace, Aunt Johanna," my 5-year-old daughter, Amber, said as she touched the gold balls attached to the chain.

Johanna, my brother's wife, smiled and fingered the necklace herself.
"This necklace is very special," she said. "I received it for my birthday this year from your Uncle Steve."

My eyebrows scrunched together and I shot Johanna a quizzical look. You see, my brother Steve suddenly passed away in February, six months before his wife's birthday.

"You haven't heard the story?" Johanna asked when she saw my puzzled expression. She then went on to tell me what became one of the greatest love stories I have ever heard.

Almost two decades before Steve and Johanna even met, my brother lived with our sister, Deborah, in Colorado. One day he brought home a gold necklace he had purchased and gave it to Deborah.

"Here, keep this for me until I find my soul mate and then give it back to me and I'll give it to her," Steve said.

It took my brother a long time to find, fall in love with and marry his soul mate, Johanna. By then, my sister had tucked the necklace away, out of sight and memory.

Last month, right before Johanna's birthday, my sister happened upon the necklace and remembered what Steve had told her so many years ago. She put the gold necklace in a box with an attached note of explanation and mailed it to Johanna in time for her birthday.

My brother loved his wife dearly. Although he had passed away months earlier, he still managed to give her one last birthday present; a memory she will cherish forever.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Memory Lane

Next week my family and I are driving to Phoenix for my 20th High School Reunion. I am so excited! To prepare for my reunion, I wanted to look through my old yearbooks. They were in storage and so I had Eric and his dad lift the three very heavy plastic bins from the very high shelf in the garage. As you can imagine, I rarely look through these bins and so I was eager to go through them. Eric was taking the girls on an overnight boat trip, so I seized the opportunity to look through my memories without little ones wanting to get their little hands into my stuff. My family left in the morning, and so at noon I decided to look for my yearbooks. It wasn't hard to find them. What was hard was resisting the urge to look at and read everything in those three boxes. At 5:00 p.m., I realized I hadn't eaten lunch and that I'd better put the lids on the boxes and put a frozen pizza in the oven.

If it weren't for my hunger pains, I probably would have been sitting on the living room floor, surrounded by memorabilia for the next 24 hours. In the boxes were my Star Wars action figures, my Strawberry Shortcake dolls (which I plan on giving my girls next year), poems and stories I had written when I was in grade school, every newspaper article I have ever written, old books, my Grandma Gow's poems, the negatives from our wedding, my first piggy bank, records (you know, the big round kind that play music), tax receipts, Eric's coin collection (the only thing in the boxes belonging to him!), the ring bearer pillow from our wedding, our first wine bottle, and a few stuffed animals. I know all of this because I wrote down what was in each box for future reference.

I threw away a few things, gave away a few things and kept out a few of my small toys that I plan on putting in the girls' stocking this Christmas (money-saver). I also gave Amber my Dancerella doll that still works (she loves it!) and I gave Autumn my Drowsy doll (that doesn't work). Amber really appreciated the fact that these were my toys as a child and she been telling everyone about it!

Perhaps the neatest thing I found in those boxes was a small essay I wrote when I was 13 years old. Here's what it says:

I see myself at age 30 single, a journalist working for the Arizona Republic" on the Leisure section. I will be living in an apartment with my friend Rhonda. I will be dating, babysitting little kids and trying to get the whole family (5 brothers, 1 sister, Mom and Dad) together for a dinner at Mom's house. I will also be writing a book to publish about my family and our funny situations, sort of like an auto-biography. That's how I see myself.

Well, at age 30 I was already married for almost 4 years. I was not living with Rhonda Babel (although she was in our wedding). I had already worked for a daily newspaper in Arizona and I did leisure articles now and then. I think the whole family was together at my parent's house for Christmas the year I was 30, and we definitely ate my mom's famous Mexican feast. I have not even begun to write an autobiography, and I don't think I ever will. (I'm leaning toward children's literature, if ever I get the chance to write again.)

I am so glad I am not single, and I have no regrets for the fact that I am currently not employed at a newspaper. I am living out a dream that you could say I never dreamed, a reality that is far better than any dreams or goals I had. Nonetheless, it was fun taking a long walk down that proverbial "Memory Lane." Thanks for walking with me.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

This Day Just Keeps Getting Better & Better!

Before we went to church this morning, my 5-year-old daughter, Amber, gave her heart to Jesus. I was in the bathroom getting ready for church and she was talking to Eric in the living room. She said, "Daddy, how old were you when you got your first loose tooth?" He said, "About 5 or 6." The she asked, "How old were you when you told Jesus that you were sorry for all of the bad things you did?" He said he was about her age. She said, "Can I do that right now. I want to do that right now." She asked Jesus to forgive her and come into her life and she said she would follow Him.

This morning God answered my biggest prayer for Amber. My #1 prayer for my girls is that they would fall in love with Jesus at a young age. I was overjoyed and overwhelmed with gratefulness to the Lord!

Today is the first Sunday of the month and that is the Sunday our church partakes in communion. Amber said to me, "Mommy, you said when I give my life to Jesus, I can eat the bread and wine (grape juice)." It was so neat that Amber got to be a part of communion on the same day she made her decision to follow Jesus!

The second neat thing that happened today was that a college student whom I used to mentor came back to church today. I hadn't seen her all summer and so last night I called her to tell her that I missed her and invited her back to church. She came and brought her boyfriend this morning. That was awesome! God is awesome!

The third really cool thing happened after church. One of the college students and a fellow Young Life leader asked to talk to me. She said she really looks up to me and wants to spend more time with me. I was blown away! I love young people and I really like this young person!

The final thing that made my great day even greater was that Eric took the girls to the store, brought home three bags of groceries and started cooking up a storm in the kitchen! He used some white sea bass he speared and made a killer red chowder! It was award-winning! Eating that yummy chowder was the perfect way to end a wonderful day!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Another tooth on the loose!

Now Amber has two loose teeth, both on the bottom, right in front!

Loose Tooth!

Earlier I was on the phone when Amber, my 5-year-old, came to me in a fright.

"Mommy, there's something wrong with my tooth!" she said.
I immediately knew what was going on and I explained to her that she had a loose tooth. I told her that it was a normal occurrence with all little kids and then I told her about the Tooth Fairy.

Mommy: When your tooth falls out, I will give you a special box to put it in and you put the tooth under your pillow. In the middle of the night the Tooth Fairy will take the tooth and replace it with money...

Amber: Is the Tooth Fairy a girl or a boy?

Mommy: Little girls have girl Tooth Fairies and little boys have boy Tooth Fairies.

Amber: How can the Tooth Fairy lift my pillow when she is so small?

Mommy: The Tooth Fairy is very strong!

Amber: But how can she lift my pillow if my head is on it?

Mommy: The Tooth Fairy is very stealthy (had to explain that to her). She can get your tooth without you even knowing it! Besides, you're a heavy sleeper; you'll never know she was even there.

We had this conversation on the fly, as we were getting ready to leave the house. I didn't really have time to think about my answers, so I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with such quick responses. Hours went by and Amber brought up the subject again. She's a smart one!

Amber: Mommy, how will the Tooth Fairy know when my tooth is under my pillow?

Mommy: I have to go to the bathroom (which I did). I'll answer that question when I get back. (That gave me time to come up with a clever answer)...
Well, the Tooth Fairy has very good hearing. She can hear when little girls teeth fall out all over the world. When a tooth falls out, it makes a tiny "plink" noise. You can't hear it, but the Tooth Fairy can hear it, and then she knows to come to your house that night and look under your pillow. (I was feeling pretty smug about my answer!)

Amber: But how does she know where we live?

Mommy: The Tooth Fairy is very smart. She can follow that sound to your house.

Amber: Oh, she's very sneaky!

The conversation has ended for now, and I'm exhausted!

***

P.S. I am just tickled about this whole loose tooth thing. My little girl is getting bigger. Sniff. Sniff.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

VCR Bites the Dust!

The other day I put a library video in our VCR and all we saw was snow. It wasn't a winter movie! Today I put a video we have in the VCR and got he same thing. Then I put in another and--yes--our VCR id officially broken. We've only had it for less than five years. It's built in to our TV monitor, so if we replaced the VCR, we'd have to replace the whole thing.

Okay all you techy people out there, and even those of you who aren't so technically savvy, I have a few questions and I want your opinion.

1.) I did an inventory on my VHS video library. I have about two dozen videos. The girls have about the same amount. So, is it worth it to buy a new TV/VCR or try to fix our VCR, or would it be better to just replace our favorite VHS videos with used DVDs (Blockbuster and Amazon have pretty good prices on previously viewed DVDs)?

2.) Is there a way to transfer VHS videos to DVDs? (And do any of you have the equipment to do that?)

3.) Do you think that eventually no one will own VCRs anyway? I hate the thought of not being able to watch our wedding video or my skydiving videos that are on VHS. What will people do to watch old VHS videos?

Okee dokee! That's all my questions. Thanks!

Have a great Wednesday night!