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What About Virginia?


Although we’d spent years saying, “One day we’ll move to Tennessee,” we never had a specific place in mind, so when we decided it was time to move from Alabama, we got out the maps to decide what areas of Tennessee would be options. Before we ever began making notes, Randal said, “What about Virginia?”

Looking back, I know think what an odd question that was. We call it Providence, but it was so out of character for Randal to wonder off the trodden path of routine thinking. My mind instantly went wild. I loved Virginia! I had been through Virginia many times when I lived in the South as a single girl, going back to Pennsylvania for visits. It was a beautiful drive through the mountain area and being a “city girl” when I was single, the I-95 route was exciting to me.

I was raised by my grandparents and knew them as “Mom” and “Daddy.” He had been born in Virginia and I remembered him singing a line or two about “my old Viriginia” and “black-eyed susans” and those old-time gospel song clips now held my mind in fascination of what Virginia might hold for us. We had traveled through Virginia on travel trips and home-school history trips, so Randal knew he liked the area. We would always stop by the Capitol grounds in Richmond where the squirrels and pigeons will sit on your legs to eat. I always thought that was a little scene of how Heaven will be with the addition of lions and lambs, giraffes and elephants, etc.

Randal had been talking to somebody from the Charlottesville area only a couple weeks before, so we took our long list of what we desired to find in the area of where we wanted to be and went online to see what part of Virginia we might like to call our own. How quickly we transitioned from Tennessee to Virginia. It was definitely destiny.

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We wanted an area that knew what vegetarian meant. We have been vegetarians since 1978 and in Alabama if we mentioned that, we were generally asked how we could just eat vegetables. Finding a place to eat out was a challenge, but fortunately we rarely eat out. However, it would be nice to have a multitude of choices if we did, and the Charlottesville area offered that.

We wanted lots of forests and areas of running water and organic choices and a community that didn’t have the “big box” stores dominating the shopping choices. We dreamed of environmental and conservation organizations so we could volunteer and participate in activities, but most of all a climate that would allow me to be outdoors more with less heat, but no long snowy winters.

What resources the internet held for us to find out about air, water and land pollution qualities! There are forums for every topic under the sun for the day-to-day living experiences of people in an area. The online community can be so helpful when you have specific questions about something and it proved to be so for us, because we had many details we wanted to be certain of before making a trip to look at homes.

We had decided we wanted to find land and build so we could have a bigger and better “refuge” and more habitat for the wild things of the world, so our plan was to buy a home, move, find land, build and then begin to live our dream life.

Providence had other plans …..

Lightning Strikes Our Refuge

About a year and a half after beginning this internet business at our home we called “The Refuge,” lightning struck the house and started a fire in the attic, which took us 20 minutes to discover. It took out the phone lines so we could not call 911. We had the “required fire extinguisher” from the shop which saved our home. Randal took it to the attic and with much prayer, it shot foam much farther than it was designed to do. He got it down to the attic floor and then ran to neighboring homes for a telephone to call the fire department. Running back in the pouring rain after going to three homes before finding somebody home, he hurried back to the attic to battle the fire again.

With the asthmatic history, it only took five seconds for me to be choking and have to leave with the smaller fire extinguisher that I had taken up. I was totally helpless in this endeavor, which took its toll on my otherwise strong and determined nature. Feeling helpless was not my style and I was so rattled and horrified, I couldn’t even think of one Scripture to stand on. I initially began running to get things out of the house until I realized that it was a futile effort to determine what was most important to me. Deciding between what I wanted to save and what I wanted to “allow” to burn.

I grabbed a Bible from the living room bookshelf where I stood frozen with fear and went to Psalm 91. I sat on the floor and read those words with as much Faith as I had in my entire being and then some that Jesus dumped in to fill the missing portion. I said those words knowing they were the Truth … that the thoughts in my mind were lies. The fireman came and entered as I continued to read Psalm 91. They couldn’t go into the attic without going back out for gas masks. This attic that Randal had spent so much time in spraying foam and praying for it to reach the back corner of the house from the small floored area where he stood.

We were to discover upon review later, that the miracle that he wasn’t coughing and choking up there wasn’t the only one we would have. The fireman told us the house should’ve been “too far gone” in twenty minutes with that type of centrally-located hit of lightning. Stranger than that was the boxes we had stored in the attic. They were black from smoke and grey from extinguisher powder floating everywhere up there, but there was no evidence of the smell of smoke in the articles inside.

Most of what we had was clothes and toys from Benjamin’s childhood and books and magazines. He was an avid reader and his room never held all of his books, so we stored them in the attic. We had a hanging garment bag that held a wool coat and sweater. Only the sweater smelled of smoke, which State Farm paid to have dry cleaned.

The bolt hit our bedroom wall where I had a shadow box full of little items of memory and it was tossed across the 14′ room with only one item broken. There was no water leaking although the roof had burned, and no water damage because we asked the firemen if there was any way to put it out without water. Since Randal had done such a great job (he was asked to be part of the fire department), they were able to get it out without turning on the water for their hoses.

We had minor repairs and all telephones had to be replaced, but our computers were okay. State Farm was incredible and speedy through it all so we have been a great fan of theirs.

As we saw the painting being done, the roof being repaired and things looking like they were being “renewed” we got the idea that it might be a good time to put the house on the market and move to Tennessee. I think we both had been jolted into this idea and that we should seriously consider the good side of these fiery circumstances and what it could tell us.

The Limitations of Alabama

Since we were in Alabama, I was very limited in outdoor activities due to the vitiligo, so The Refuge was certainly a key to my sanity as we home-schooled and ran our business based on our lifestyle needs. There was something that darted around in my mind now and then that there was more than this life at The Refuge; there was something out there in the future that would take us to another place. When we visited Tennessee, I saw before me what seemed to be missing. The mountains, the streams and waterfalls, the immense amount of forests and a cooler climate. We tucked away in our hearts and minds that “one day we will move to Tennessee.”

We continued to blend our business and home life in a method that worked for us, going from home business to office space when Randal joined full-time in 1988. Being gifted in counseling, he really took to helping people and spent most of his time teaching and doing individual consultations during our three-day work week. By the time Benjamin, our only child, turned 15, we were ready to go with a retail shop where he could study and work to earn more towards the upcoming purchase of a car.

Time flies when children are growing …. so they say. I never noticed it while it was happening. Benjamin was more strong-willed than I and we clashed through many years of family life, so when it was all over, and he left at 19 for a job in Oklahoma City, where he would live with his grandparents, we were left with our heads realing with all the memories of those years.

I keep thinking of God’s command to Lot for them not to look back at the city. Looking back on parenting can be a heart-wrenching time of regrets and joys, but the devil will scream at you about all that you did “wrong.” Again, we do not know that bad circumstances produce bad results, and Faith carries more weight than Reality.

A couple of months before Benjamin was scheduled to leave, during one of my mornings with the Lord, I felt we were to begin an internet business. You have to understand this didn’t fit in any way with our lifestyle. We never had the internet in our home and never wavered on this decision. Technology held no fascination for me and the distractions that electronics puts on childhood is not what I consider of optimal quality. We had banned Atari, Game Boys, and such from the confines of our home and even television was regulated weekly, tracked by cardboard “tokens” with each of our initials on them so we each had three hours of this form of entertainment and that was it. Reading, playing games, maintaining our wildlife habitat, and learning made up our family time.

When I initially told Randal that I thought we were to have an internet business and that this may be the method that God uses for us to be able to move to Tennessee, his first question was, “What did you do with my wife?”

We purchased a computer and went online in December 1998. Benjamin left January 1, 1999, for Oklahoma City, and little did we know what a comfort technology would be to our hearts as we grieved over the loss of our son’s presence in our home. Knowing we would not be in that home much longer, we quickly converted his room to an office, simply to avoid having it remind us that he was gone.

We had four (4) bedrooms so it wasn’t a necessity, but it did provide each of us a room to work in and that proved to be of great value since we both dove into the internet project as we continued to work and serve our customers and clients at the retail location. It was good to be so busy.

Although Randal had sold computers, he had no programming background and certainly no idea how or where to begin to build a website, so we did what we normally do when we wanted to learn something. We purchased a book. “Making Money in Cyberspace,” by Paul and Sarah Edwards. It became our Bible for business. Our daily direction of “this is the way, walk ye in it” as we went step-by-step developing an online business.

Since our business of 17 years included a network marketing group, we were bold enough after six months of development to say we would not renew our lease that expired in September 1999. We went full-time with the online venture, now and then thinking about Tennessee, but much too busy to make any plans for a move.

It was to be many years before we figured out that you never catch up in an internet business. You don’t get to the end of your list because there are always a zillion new options for improvement and new projects. I often wonder when we would’ve taken the time to move to make plans for a move to Tennessee. We were just driven to “get it all right” and growing online, barely taking the time to have a personal life.

The Beginning of “Our” Journey

I’ve been talking about Bluebird Cove in the newsletters that I create and have had such a large amount of feedback from subscribers that I have been convinced to do a blog so my virtual visitors can spend more time here at Bluebird Cove.

Many of you landing on this blog will know nothing about me or Bluebird Cove, and even those virtual friends I call subscribers, only know the story from whichever point you entered in. Therefore, I thought it best to begin at the beginning, especially since I feel strongly led to call this blog Bluebird Cove Chronicles.

To understand more about Bluebird Cove, you might want to know a bit of background on our lives and previous homes, so I’ll briefly fill you in on how we evolved to this place.

When we lived in suburbia we never named our homes. We always had a lot of people coming and going for meetings, food coops, herbal classes, etc. but our place was only known as The Watkins House.

In the mid-80’s I felt this intense longing for a place in the woods. Having vitiligo since 1976, I was “banned” from the sunshine of Alabama where we lived, so trees were fast becoming very close friends, and there wasn’t a tree on our lot at the time. After years of prayer, we found a 1-1/2 acre lot in Prattville, Alabama, and built a home. I named it “The Refuge” and so it was for all of us.

It didn’t take long to fall in love with birds, wildflowers, wildlife, butterflies and eventually insects, of which I had been terrified all my life. We found out about the National Wildlife Federation’s Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program and got certified. A simple process of providing the four (4) necessary things wildlife needs: food, water, cover and a place to nest and reproduce.

Life seemed to have it all. In the midst of many personal, family, health and business issues that occurred the eleven (11) years we lived there, it was truly “the refuge” God had provided for me to know He was there beside us no matter what the circumstances of the days and years seemed to say.

We lived in Montgomery, Alabama, because of a job transfer from Albany, Georgia. I was raised in Pennsylvania and Randal was raised in Oklahoma. We met in Atlanta while we both worked for IBM. Me, the girl who would never marry, and Randal the guy who had been praying for whoever his wife might be since his teen years. Our first date was in November 1976 and we were married in Pennsylvania on April 9, 1977. After our honeymoon in Quebec City, we lived in Oklahoma City for four (4) years until we made a requested medical transfer to Albany, Georgia, hoping that the asthma and environmental illness (now called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) would improve since that’s where I lived before we were married.

I didn’t know back then that stress and emotions have more to do with health than most of us realize, but we had found some relief from herbs and supplements in the health issues we had and decided to stick with “natural” after the doctors had given up on me. Little did I know that choice would not only allow me to be an at-home mom, but would provide the ability for both of us to make our living at something we had a passion about, and allow us to design our work around our current lifestyle needs.

Helping others to learn more about natural health choices in the 80’s was not at all common as it is today. In a world that provided little information on herbs and how to use them, we felt like pioneers.

Living in the woods and working to improve my health while improving our habitat was a delight and held the reward of knowing more about God by seeing Him in His Creation day to day. The incredible wonders of each and every bird, plant, insect and animal, told us that God is very much into details and that things that seem to look bad on the surface, may not be so in reality.