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  • Writer's pictureChris Lanier

SLOw to Connect...on so many things

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

Cal, Jenni, Michael, & Yours Truly in Etretat, France (2016)

In June of 2018 I stood in the baking heat on my lawn in Palmdale, California. I gave the moving company driver a firm handshake (with a small tip palmed for safe keeping of all our worldly possessions) and was assaulted in short order by the sharp bark of air brakes releasing as the large semi pulled away. Carrying the accumulated goods of our years on the road, it marked the end of another stop on our family's caravan. Since 2001 we've lived in Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, New Jersey, Illinois, Virginia, Belgium, and finally....California. Each of those stops was packed with memories, and as was my ritual, I tended to replay the the highlights as I cleaned an empty and quiet house.

The time between the moving van leaving your old home and arriving at your new one is a little like "The Upside Down" in Stranger Things (complete with the cool opening soundtrack). All the characters are still there, just rearranged in unfamiliar surroundings. Usually some portion of the family plays survivor in a hotel room while the other cleans your old home, figures out how to turn in marginally functioning cable boxes, and packs the remaining possessions into your vehicles resembling something like an overstuffed rail car.

There's no limit to how much you can put in your car once the moving truck has pulled away.

Over the years and the many moves I came to savor the time I spent alone in a vacant house. The tasks were tedious: touching up paint, cleaning toilets, roasting grime out of the oven (how many pizzas did we have?) and patching up curtain rod holes carefully measured and placed in the not so distant past. I usually listened to podcasts or music and drifted gently away on a river of memories. As I cleaned each room I'd jump back months and years to posters placed on walls, clothes messily strewn about the floor....laughs, arguments, pets running around on hyper pills...all the parts of daily life that many folks collect in one or two homes, but our family distributed across thousands of miles. I like to think that the moving made me more conscious of how quickly time passes,...chunking it into digestible bits like courses in a fine meal. Maybe that's just what I've chosen to think; that the moving helped lay in milestones for memories otherwise lost in a Milky Way of moments.

The U.S. Air Force was good to our family. We saw many parts of the United States and more than a little bit of the world. We made great friends and played our part defending the nation. I haven't polled them, but if I asked Jenni and the boys who would like to do it all over again I think I'd get at least three out of four hands. OK, maybe someone put two hands up. But now that's over. We still have all of our friends and memories, but we're done (mostly) with the moving trucks and uniforms. Having lived in many parts of the country, we could have chosen anywhere to plant roots. Jenni went to college in the mountains but loves beach. I grew up on the Gulf Coast, but went to school near and love the mountains. If we could find a place within a days drive of both we figured we'd be all set. We looked at Chattanooga, TN; Asheville, NC; and Seaside, FL seriously as "forever" landing spots. Then we happened to visit Malibu shortly after moving to California on our last Air Force assignment.

We were smitten. Much of the California coast has everything we love...beaches, mountains, beautiful little towns, and very friendly people. But where to live? We hated the traffic in LA, so that was out. San Diego maybe? Closer to San Francisco? One day we were eating lunch with some friends from church that grew up in Southern California and asked them where they'd live. Without hesitation, they both blurted out,"San Luis Obispo." I'd been doing a little research but San Luis Obispo (or SLO as locals refer to it) never made my radar. SLO is located on the Central Coast of California, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A little online research revealed that it was just the type of place we were looking for: 15 mins from the beach, a beautiful downtown, and right in the middle of peaks and ridges in a line of ancient volcanoes. We visited a couple of times in the fall and decided that this was where we'd plant our flag.

My blog is called SLOw to Connect. As you've probably put together now, I've made a bit of a play on SLO (San Luis Obispo) and slow (me). But what about the "connect" part? I'll talk about it more in posts to come, but it encompasses many things. Once of of my biggest struggles with the transition from the Air Force was connecting with my new "why." For over 22 years I'd always felt a connection to a career and work that mattered in the largest sense of the word. My family was contributing to the defense of our nation. An undercurrent of deep worth flowed through my life and my family just floated on it. We stuck an oar in the water for some solid strokes occasionally, but were generally carried along as effortlessly as a sailboat on trade winds much of the time. Without the Air Force, what should my "mission" be? How should I continue to contribute to my community and nation? It is something that will probably consume me for the foreseeable future.

Closely connected to that notion of service is my faith. How should I connect my faith in a meaningful way to my daily life and actions? I have a new job in corporate aviation that I love (Fly ACI Jet!), but it affords me large stretches of time at home. How do I best make use of that time? How can God use me in my community?

I also think that I've been "SLOw to Connect" that I need a creative outlet. I have lots of ideas that often aren't followed to completion. I started shooting a few years ago with "Jenni's" camera and have found that it helps get me out hiking and enjoying the landscape on a regular basis. I wanted a place to share my completed projects. I'll do that here. I also think that it offers a certain amount of accountability to tell folks about projects you are working on so they can ask friendly questions to gently prod your progress along.

Presto...explanation complete! I'm just another weird, perfectly made creation of God sharing my experiences and art as I try to affect those around me in a positive way. If the photo projects and prose seem random,...well,...organization has never been my forte. I might try to impose order on them, but some of my best shots and ideas have appeared when I had no particular schedule to keep nor prescribed path to take. So take a break every few weeks and check in on me here...there's no telling what you might find.

Islay Hill, personal Devil's Tower obsession (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) - photo by Bruce Johnson

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