Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Best and Worst of 2017

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...," wrote Charles Dickens in the opening line of his novel, A Tale of Two Cities.  As I thought about our experiences over the past year, that sentiment seem to fit our 2017 year, too, in several categories.

Habitat Builds

When Tim and I set goals for our full-time lifestyle back in October 2015, we planned to participate in eight Habitat for Humanity builds a year.  We've discovered that's a little ambitious for us, given that we spend three months out of the year on the family farm helping with harvest.  This year we were only able to fit in six Habitat builds, three in Florida (Del Ray, Fellsmere, Eustis), Salisbury, CT, Sisters, OR and Mandeville, LA.

Delray Beach, FL

Fellsmere, FL

Eustis, FL

Salisbury, CT

Mandeville, LA

That low number was due in large part to my recuperation period from the surgery I had to implant a second cochlear device in my right ear last March.

Sisters, OR

But in reviewing those six builds, I would have to rank the build in Sisters, OR as the lowest contender, basically because of the air quality conditions we endured due to the proximity of the Milli wildfire that raged nearby.  Wearing respirators while we worked was not much fun; plus, spending two weeks painting the exterior of one house and the Thrift Store was not Tim's favorite assignment.

On the other hand, selecting the best Habitat build is not so easy.

Sue, Judy, Cindy & Marty in Fellsmere

Returning to Fellsmere, FL last January for a reunion with the people we worked with during our very first Habitat experience in 2016 was a joy.  It was wonderful to renew friendships and see the progress in the neighborhood the local Habitat affiliate is establishing there.

Mike, Marguerite & Tim in Salisbury

We also enjoyed the build in Salisbury, CT, where the small affiliate is just beginning to host Care-A-Vanners.

Mandeville, LA

And finally, the build in Mandeville, LA was the most rewarding work-wise because we started with a blank slate, just the concrete slab, and ended by raising the trusses and seeing the home take shape.

Milli Wildfire

Natural Phenomena

I mentioned the worst natural disaster we encountered above, the Milli wildfire that burned 24,079 acres before it was finally contained.  But the town it threatened, Sisters, OR, was also the scene of the most fascinating natural phenomena we saw.  Sisters was situated squarely in the middle of the 2017 solar eclipse's path of totality.  Darlene, our construction site manager, hosted a brunch at her mountaintop home where we were above the smoke that enveloped the town.

There we marveled as the moon progressively blocked the sun, causing birds to sing their nighttime calls and nocturnal species like bats to venture out as day turned into night for a brief 34 seconds.


The scariest navigation blunder we made in 2017 took us across the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey into Manhattan, NY.  Yikes!  Our miscalculation saw us inadvertently enter a parkway where we barely squeaked through the bridge underpasses.

Chimney Rock

In contrast, following the Oregon Trail through sparsely populated states last summer was a breeze.


James County Campground near Charleston, SC

We stayed at so many of beautiful campgrounds this past year that picking only one is impossible.  Those that made our list were John Prince County Park, Fort DeSoto County Park, James County Park, Myrtle Beach and St. Lucie Lock.  We also liked the Mike Roess Gold Head State Park, even though it was the scene of our worst misadventure of the year.

Mike Roess Gold Head State Park


We logged over 15,000 miles as we traveled from Kansas to Florida to Connecticut to Kansas to Seattle to Kansas to Florida once again.  Along the way we visited many cities and found our favorites on both coasts.  The southern charm of Charleston, SC beguiled us while scintillating Seattle, WA wooed us in the West.  We also visited Victoria, British Columbia, another city we loved.

National Parks

Three more national parks were ticked off our list, Cuyahoga, Olympia and Mount Rainier as well as 14 other National Park Service historic sites.

Olympia with its three distinctive ecosystems was our favorite.  It's breathtaking vistas were stunning.  Unfortunately, our plans to visit Crater Lake were scuttled by the wildfires in Oregon last summer.

Personal Loss

Finally, the worst event of 2017 was the death of my dear mother on Dec. 6, 2017.  Although her dementia robbed us of her sparkling personality years before her passing, her face still lit up whenever she saw me.  I'm so thankful I was able to spend three months of this year caring for her.

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that "to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.  That chapter goes on to list the best and worst of times in different seasons of life.  In many ways, that seems to sum up 2017 for me.


  1. Amazing life you are living- so inspiring!

  2. Hi, Judy! Tim and I are making plans to travel to the Upper Peninsula in Summer 2018. I've never been to your neck of the woods. We'd love to see you, if it works out. I'll stay in touch.

  3. It was good to read your year in review and see glimpses of your journeys. May 2018 bring your more highlights than pain.

    1. Thank you, Kim! Looking back is a good way to move forward. We hope to sign up for more Habitat builds this year since that is what has been most rewarding.