CEDAR FALLS — When Lyn Vandebrake’s husband, Vern retired, he began channeling his need to “manage” into all aspects of their daily life and home, including reorganizing her kitchen. She could feel her stress level rising along with her blood pressure, but the breaking point was when Vern handed her a 17-item to-do list.
She had to make her escape — without actually leaving home. Her solution? A one-room, Amish-built log cabin Vandebrake purchased and moved onto their 27-acre farm near Randall. She made sure it was comfortably furnished with conveniences like electricity and internet, hung out a “CLOSED” sign and made it her hideaway.
On Thursday, Vandebrake will share her new book and sign copies of “The Escape Place: A Woman’s Guide to Running Away From Home — Without Leaving,” at TJ’s Christian Bookstore, 1806 Waterloo Road, Cedar Falls. She will be in the store all day, beginning at 10 a.m.
The award-winning writer and photographer will bring her mobile escape, a glamper camper that “follows me like a pup on a leash to all my book signings.” The vintage 1982 13-foot Scamp is “10 feet of total cute” and will be open for tours.
This book shares Vandebrake’s story, as well as the stories of other women who carved out personal retreats in all kinds of spaces from a broom closet, grain bin, chicken coop and tree house to a pantry, laundry room and front porch.
After sharing stories about her she-shed on Facebook, Vandebrake put out a call for followers to share their own experiences. Women, often members of the “sandwich generation” with husbands, kids, aging parents and careers to juggle, know instinctively that they’ve reached a breaking point. They may feel like running away. That doesn’t mean packing their bags, leaving their families and moving into an ashram on a tall mountain peak. The phrase is a metaphor for finding that private place for savoring “me time” — even for just 30 minutes.
Vandebrake spent some savings on her she-shed but considers it an investment in both her marriage and peace of mind.
“Vern didn’t understand when I said I need to get away. ‘From what?,” he’d ask. He doesn’t remember the list of 17 things to do. I kept that list in the kitchen drawer and pulled it out to show him. Some projects on the list would take a half day. I was working full-time, taking care of my horses and other fur family, getting breakfast and dinner on the table and taking care of the house. So I told him what I was going to do. ‘You don’t understand. I’m not asking permission,’” she recalls.
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She points out debilitating the health issues that too much stress can cause or exacerbate, such as heart disease, stroke and exhaustion. “Making a place where you can rewind, refresh and revitalize your inner person is not a luxury. It’s a must-have, or you won’t have anything left to give.”
The book also focuses attention on the camper she bought on Craigslist with money she’d squirreled away from published articles, as well as mobile she-sheds belonging to other women.
Interspersed throughout the book are inspirational biblical verses.
The escape space itself is not as important as what happens there, Vandebrake writes. “Within the heart of every woman lies the desire to love and be loved. To give of ourselves on that level repeatedly, our emotional bank account must be replenished. Healthy deposits of ‘Me Time’ compensate for the many withdrawals.”
The author adds, “It’s bigger than ‘I need a place for me.’ It will make you better for everyone else in your life, too. You are not just saving yourself when you create an escape plan. You’re often saving your marriage and relationships with your children, your extended family, and your friends.”
Copies of the book, published by WordCrafts Press, will be sold at TJ’s Christian Book store and are available at online booksellers.