Wheels with Wings

March 19th, 2017

I am gazing out our bug splattered windshield at the long stretch of highway 60 before me. I am thinking that the neutural grey-green shrubs blend well on the open space of the high desert we are driving through. They are the bones of this landscape with occational patches of red dirt for a splash of color.

The hum of our 250 Ford engine mingled with the familiar rattles of our old truck, lulls me into a state of introspective consciousness.

Something is changing but it’s hard to put my finger on, or describe but I am going to try.

Since we have been full time RV’ers, home in the traditional sense of the word, is where we ‘park it’. I know a lot of you don’t consider living out of an RV on the open road, as having a home. Traditionally a home is someplace you can put your roots down, find a doctor, a dentist and get to know your neighbors right?.  That is what we thought too when we started this journey Feb 1st of 2016.

So what is changing? you ask. The more we’re on the road, the more I realize that we are developing wings and deeper roots. Stay with me now, I know this sounds a bit crazy but let me explain. These wings I am talking about are free of self imposed limitations. These wings, when spred to fly, trust in something much bigger then ourselves. These wings give me a different perspective, one of being a very small part of life on this planet. These wings help me to see glimpses of the grand design. They also remind me that I am only passing through. If I am only passing through, I must be going through to somewhere. This ‘somewhere’ is part of the grand design which is part of a grand plan. Plans have an architect. I need only to look at the universe to know it is so. How it all works far surpasses my understanding but knowing the architect gives me hope, and it gives me peace.

RV life is humbling. This is part of our journey. At times it can be lonely, scary, frustrating and stressful. But it can also be fulfilling, adventurous, freeing, enlightening, relaxing and beautiful!

We camped at Homolovi State Park. We had the privilege of looking at constellations through telescopes the Ranger’s had set up for us. I felt so small against the black inky sky full of pin hole lights suspended in space.  The more I gazed to the heavens, the smaller I became in the universe, yet I gained a stronger sense of self and belonging at the same time. I know I am part of the grand design. I feel the world beneath my feet but there is also a wonderful connection knowing that we are part of something truly profound.

Our roots are deep. The ones that strangle are being trimed off. The ones that give life are growing with nourishment in the river of life.

If you have been following our journey as we left corporate america, sold our home, downsized, hiked 500 miles across Spain and then went on the road as full time RV’ers, then you already know our home is not of this world. We are just passing through.

Boundless Love

February 20, 2017

When your retired, and a full time RV’er and a medical situation arrises 2700 miles from everything familiar, it is challenging.  Like many others in this country, our medical insurance is expensive and our deductible is crazy high topping out at $6,750 per person. However, we are both very grateful to have insurance….even if it is basically just major medical coverage.

It was a chain of circumstances and complications that led to  the medical emergency that resulted in surgery for my husband of 42 years this past week.

What I have learned to do when there is a problem bigger then me, is to remind myself how vast, boundless, limitless, measureless, and immense my God is and so I usually give it to Him to handle. He does a much better job with it then I could ever do by myself, so that is what I did. Then together we focused on making the best decision for the immediate situation in front of us. We then repeated this process again and again, until there was a solution for every situation that came up. Some solutions we had control of and others we did not.

Even though Dan has asthma, he has been blessed with a strong immune system and has always been very healthy.

With that said, he has experienced an occational bout of acid reflux which turned out to be gallstones and the cause of flare ups that mimic a heart attack. Nobody knew this, not even multiple ER doctors he has seen over the years.

After one such bout that accumulated other symptoms, compounding the pain until it was it was no longer bearable,   we texted a friend for a hospital recommendation.  We were on our way home from Cape Canaveral, when we decided to drive straight to the hospital and not go home. Since we live in our RV, home is where we park it. Currently we are parked in Mt Dora, Florida so that was the direction we were heading.

We reached the ER by 10:30 am and they wheeled him into surgery at 1:00 pm. It was so fast, and Dan was in so much pain that he didn’t have time to over think it.

The surgeon appeared and said to the pre-operating male nurse “We need to go now and get his gallbladder out, his infection is raging, and I am concerned about sepsis.”

I quickly bent down and whispered into Dan’s ear what was meant only for us and only for that moment. Then I kissed him and they took him away to the operating room while a male nurse led me to the waiting room.

Alone, I felt the heat rising in my face and the tears stung my eyes. I wasn’t scared, I was hurting.  I have known Dan since I was 14 and we have  grown up together. In that time, he has never broken a bone or been operated on. I knew he was desperate for a solution and I was desperate for him not to be in pain.

Dan and I are so different in many ways, that we laugh about it sometimes. We argue about it too as our communication wave link is not always in sync. Yet we have learned how to keep our love alive while keeping our vows. It is a life long process that requires continuous commitment and during this process we found that we complete each other.

I was elated to see him sitting up in bed after the operation. His eyes were a bit glassy and so were mine. “I’m missing body parts” he said.

“You still have all the important ones” I said with a laugh as I hugged him.

Lost in ‘The Villages’

February 13, 1017

I started to feel anxity rise up from within, as if I was lost in a maze looking for an exit.

The cookie cutter homes had neatly manicured lawns surrounded by golf courses and lakes. ‘The Villages’ is a beautiful retirement community of over 113,000 people and golf carts. However the homes reminded me of a eerie Stepford town and I kept expecting to see a stepford wife step out her front door, but I saw no one.

I read that there are over 100 miles of roads and cart paths connecting resident homes to banks, post offices, resturants, name brand shops, health-care centers, pools and clubhouses.

The amenities they offer their residents are endless, making it more of a Disney World for seniors. Everything a 55+ community would want is inside this 20,000 acre semi-gated community, and it is still growing! ‘The Villages’ is a safe, self contained city located in central Florida, north of Orlando.

According to an article I read on slate.com by Craig Pittman, he wrote “The Villages likes to bill itself as ‘America’s Friendliest Hometown’ and has a huge increase in sexual transmitted  diseases!”  People, these are retired folks acting like uninformed teenagers! The police said they are doing more on the golf courses, then golfing..eeewww get a room for peets sake.

Dan and I spoke with a very nice and informative real estate agent. She highlighted how fun it was there and mentioned her kids gave her a bumper sticker that said, “The Villages, a community of drinkers with a golfing problem.”

We wandered by the retail shops, past the square where they were setting up for a outdoor concert. Across the street it was happy hour and there were obviously “happy” people enjoying themselves and the music.

Our first impression was that this maybe a nice place for some people but not for us. We feel way to young for a place like this and we don’t want to be entertained as if we were on a 24/7 cruise ship.

We enjoy travel and being active. We enjoy being still and quiet. We enjoy connecting with family, old friends and new ones and we have a heart for helping others. Our RV gives us the flexibility, affordability and freedom to do these things.

After visiting ‘The Villages’ I want to go back home, home to my RV. It’s been a year since we moved into our rig and we still have no regrets. Dan said that I would never make a good Stepford wife anyway and I agree.

The Neighbor

February 1, 2017

Before moving into our RV…

I was clipping yellow roses for my vase when the taxi pulled up to the curb next door. The door swung open and a man stumbled out. He plunged one hand into his pocket as the other rested on the roof of the cab in a effort to keep himself upright. He tossed a few bills through the passenger window and turned towards his front door. He was so unsteady on his feet, that this simple movement almost brought him to his knees. He stumbled up the path to the front door and fumbled with the key in the lock. I felt sorry for him and for a brief moment, I almost offered my assistance. Then I remembered that he had not spoken to me since he moved in 10 years earlier, and it wasn’t from lack of me trying either.

Everytime I saw him I yelled “hello neighbor”, and waved while trying to make eye contact. He completely ignored me and went out of his way to avoid me. It  was obvious that he did not want to get to know me or anyone else for that matter. His girlfriend lived with him and she was just as private and anti-social as he was.

It became my own personal challenge to win them over.

One day he came over when I was not home. My daughter-in-law was there babysitting two of her nieces and my son’s dog. My neighbor was irritated and accused the dog of barking all day when he was trying to sleep.  He worked nights and slept days. It turned out to be the dog of the neighbor behind us. He didn’t apologize, he just left.

The next day while leaving for work, I waved and said “hello” when I saw them. They still did not respond.

Both he and his girlfriend drank too much and argued one evening. Police were there with guns drawn when we came home. They yelled at us to get inside.

The next day I again waved and smiled when I saw them. They still did not respond.

Another time, I found his girlfriend sitting in the drivers seat of her locked car. Her eyes were puffy from crying. Apparently they both had been drinking and things had gone from bad to worse. I asked if she would like to come in our house and let things cool off a bit. She refused, so I just stood and talked with her a while. They was no scolding, and no judgment, no prying questions, just a calming, compassionate conversation.

My granddaughters and I made them some cookies and they hand delivered them. I finally built up enough nerve to go over, knock on the door and invite her to a women’s tea at our church, no pressure just a simple invite. She polightly declined but her eyes were warm as they met mine, and she had a slight smile.

I continued to make eye contact, wave and call out “hello” when I saw them.

After 10 years, I could feel the ice beginning to melt.

An occational bag of hand picked, fresh garden vegetables begun to show up on our front porch or a warm delicious zucchini loaf.

When my granddaughters came over, I took them over to play with our neighbors Golden Retriever, Max. He loved children and our neighbors appreciated that I brought my granddaughters over to throw the ball for Max.

When we were packing up our house to sell it, our neighbor came over to talk to me. His eyes were wet and his voice cracked as he said “We will miss you” “Who else will put up with me all these years like you did?”

Our friendship and our relationship grew not because we liked each other. It wasn’t because we had the same political views or because we had things in common. It wasn’t even because they liked me or I liked them. It developed slowly over time through deliberate acts of kindness, and respect, all the while building trust.

Some people are not easy to love but love is not always based on a warm fuzzy emotion. It can be a state of our will.  We can learn to love others if the motive is pure. I know this because while behaving like I loved my neighbor, in time I learned to love them. The bonus is, in return they learned to love me too.

Tumultuous Times

January 26, 2017

I am a boomer. My transition from being a child to early adolescents was a tumultuous time.

Our generation became a revolution that rocked the world. It was intoxicating and yet frightening. It was the perfect storm.

From 1962 to 1969 I passed through many of life’s stages before settling into something recognizable for me to cope with.

For the most part, my life experiences was limited to what I was exposed to at home and on the school ground. My parents didn’t burden me with world events that I was not mature enough to understand. I felt safe and I had a good childhood.

I was only six when I overheard my parents talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis and bomb shelters. Although I didn’t understand a thing, I picked up on the seriousness and fearful tone in their voices. I wondered why others would want to hurt us, and asked my dad if we were going to build a bomb shelter also?

I entered elementary school where ‘Duck and Cover’ air rade drills were conducted on a regular basis in case of an atomic-bomb attack. They were like fire drills only we got under our desks and covered our heads, as if that would do anything!

My world was first rocked in July of 1963 after a devastating boat accident involving my family. I fought to live, followed by a long road to recovery. It was 11 months before I took my first steps again. It was a lonely time as I spent most days in a wheelchair inside my house.

Unbeknownst to me, mounting medical bills threatened my parents with financial ruin as they fought to keep a roof over our head and food on the table. Again they did not burden me with the trials of adult responsibilities. However the financial burden proved too heavy and lawsuites were filed. I was repeatedly questioned by men in suites that had no experience speaking to a seven year old. The whole process was overwhelming and beyond my understanding, so my parents decided to settle out of court and be done with it. They just wanted things back the way they were before the accident, but that would never happen.  We had entered the roller coaster years, change was inevitable, and nothing would ever be the same.

1963 was also the year President Kennedy was assassinated, and TV brought the live drama of the catastrophic event into our living room.

As the 60’s progressed, the intersection of Civil Rights, and opposition to the Vietnam war, fueled social tension. We watched the massive public unrest unfold on national TV. I was confused by what I saw and heard, but one thing I did understand, is that there were a lot of angry people who wanted change.

In 1968 I turned 12, and Martin Luther King was assassinated. I now knew what that word meant because of my experience with the assassination of President Kennedy. However, I had no idea of the impact on the Civil Rights Movement in the Bay Area and across the Nation. I grew up in Oakland California, a very liberal diverse area. My parents were not racist and I was too young and too white to have experienced bigotry and discrimination.

My elementary principal appeared in the doorway of my 6th grade class. He spoke breifly to my teacher, then turned and dismissed our class. He told us to go directly home. Martin Luther King had been shot, and a state of emergency had been called.

There was no time for questions, and certainly no answers as to why. It was the unknown impact on  civil unrest that fueled the chaos.

I had no idea how to get home. My teachers didn’t know my mother was unreachable. They didn’t know of her battle with depression or of the traumatic brain injury she suffered in the boat accident. They didn’t know, and they certainly wouldn’t understand, because neither could I.  All I knew is that my independent, strong, beautiful mom was lost and unreachable. It was a very scary time for a 12 year old entering adolescents.

People became more vocal as freedom of speech became a cause on University campuses. My grandmother experienced the UC Berkeley protests first hand from her second story window on the corner of University and Shattuck in Berkeley.

A counterculture was forming….sort of a modern bohemianism that challenged traditional codes of behavior.

Peter, Paul and Mary opened my heart to folk music but it was the British Invasion that sealed the deal for me. Like many other pre-teens, I was hooked. Pop and rock ushered me into my place in the boomer generation. As adolescents emerged so did a sense of a new identity and independence.

Once again my personal world was rocked in 1968 with the first suicide attempt of my mother. It was my brother’s sixteenth birthday.

Music was our generations voice to the world. It was the medium used to express opposing ideas, and address current issues. In a world of political turmoil, music brought our generation together and united our causes.

This counterculture and new wave of music was exciting and tantalizing and it had a dark side. It was full of rebellion, defiance and disrespect. The counterculture rejected our parents traditional values, and embraced drug exploration and the sexual revolution.

I was a young boomer coming to age on the fringes of this countercultural hippi revolution. I was  too young and nieve to be fully immersed in sex, drugs and rock and roll. I was too young for Woodstock and the Summer-of-Love. I was to young too find my voice concerning feminism, civil rights, Vietnam, abortion, and birth control. I wasn’t a participant in the hotbed of anti-establishment activity in SF, Berkeley or Oakland, but I was influenced by all of it and I bear the scars of the choices I made!

The 60’s helped chisel me into who I am today. In 7 short years I grew up, but it would be years before I settled on something recognizable that I could cope with, and in the aftermath I found my voice.

It is now 2017, and once again troubling times are brewing. I make a conscious effort to make sure my words are truthful, respectful, encouraging and that they speak life into others, no matter if their views are the same as mine or not. My words will be reflected in my actions, and tapered with love. This is the voice I want.

Alone on the Natches Trace

BLOG POST #14

It was dark and we were alone on the road that stretched from Natchez Mississippi to Nashville Tennessee.

We were tense as we drove the isolated road. Ghostly prehistoric animals, indians, settlers and slaves loomed in the shadows of the dense forest lining both sides of the road. The only light was cast from the full moon filtering light through cracks in thick hardwood trees.

My job was to be the  spotter as we drove ‘The Natchez Trace’, nicknamed ‘The Trace’.

If you are a waterskier, then you already know you really need a minimum of three to go skiing. One to drive the boat, one to ski and a another to spot. The spotter plays a very important roll, as they watch the skier, and let the driver know when the skier is down so they can immediately turn around and go pick them up. The spotter also holds a red flag in the air until the skier is safely on board again or out of the water. The red flag is a universal sign to other boaters to let them know there is a person in the water and to stay clear of the area.

When I was a gymnast….a very loooong time ago (seems like a life time). We had spotters. To spot someone meant to physically assist them to complete a skill, preventing or reducing injury.

I took my job as spotter very seriously, as I called out the stealth critters when they appeared, preventing a casualty, theirs and ours!

“Deer on the left.” “Two deer on the right” I called out. Before we were home we would dodge more than 25 deer! c1053589

Maybe we should get a cow catcher for the front of our truck. After all, we are on the road alot since we became full time RV’ers and our truck tows our home with our belongings. This in itself, means it plays a much more important role then it did when we used it occasionally for work when parked in our driveway.

I would highly recommend a scenic road trip along  ‘The Natchez Trace’ . This 440 mile historic parkway is one of the most beautiful and peaceful drives in America. However, if you decide to drive it, please drive it during the day time. If not, you may want to install a cow catcher on the front of your vehicle.

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Mississippi and Potatoes

BLOG POST # 13

Politness in Mississippi is everything we expected from the South and more. True to their reputation as the hospitality state, people are extremly polite. Coming from the North West, the ‘effusive welcome’ here can be overwhelming. They make eye contact and they welcome us with a smile but it’s more than that, actually making me uncomfortable at times, like the time I was in the grocery store…

I was in produce rummaging through a mound of potatoes in search of the perfect size, when a man appeared next to me. “Having potatoes tonight?” he asked. Caught off guard by his comment, I said “maybe”, smiled and went back to searching for the elusive perfect potatoes. He then preceeded to converse with me as I picked out four medium, round potatoes. He talked to me for about 5 minutes, asking me about my holidays and describing how to cook his favorite potatoes. He found the recipe while watching a chef on ‘Youtube’. I am convinced he would have talked to me alot longer,  if I hadn’t made a polite exit to finish my shopping. I ran into him two more times in the store, once in the baked goods isle, and once in dairy. Each time he made eye contact and greated me with a smile or a nod. Just when I was beginning to wonder if I was being stocked, I was greeted by another person and then another.

It seems like Walmart greeters are not just at Walmart, and they don’t wear vests in Mississippi. They show up anywhere and everywhere, the store, the gas station, the movies, your neighborhood….

A week ago, I was at my son and daughter-in-law’s house when the garbage truck pulled into their culdasac. My daughter-in-law calls out to our son, “Nick did you remember to put out the garbage, they are here?” He was distracted in the side yard racking leaves for the third day in a row, as there were alot of leaves. Not waiting for an answer, I opened the garage and started to drag out two big construction bags crammed with leaves. The man on the back of the truck saw me and immediately jumps off the back of the truck. “Let me get that for you ma’am” he said taking the bags from my hands and carting them the rest of the way, before tossing them into the back of the truck.

The grandkids come running around from the side of the house followed by their father who stopped to grab another garbage bag in the garage. “I missed you last week” the sanitation worker said to the kids with a big toothy grin. “I was off, did you have a good Christmas?” “Are there any more?” He called out to my son politely as Nick brought another bag from the garage.

I can’t think of a time I ever spoke with our trash collector except to say ‘hi’ and he certainly never helped me take the garbage to the curb.

The previous week it was cold and with true Southern hospitality, my daughter-in-law made the sanitation workers all hot chocolate, and the kids happily delivered the hot, brown, liquid goodness. It was received with graciousness and a smile.

I found a good salon near Timberlake Campground which we have been calling home for the last 5 weeks. I immediately felt a connection with Alesia at Lemuel Salon. She had been there 30 years and made me feel like I was a visiting a friend in her home. She was the warmth that made me feel welcomed and I thought to myself ‘so this is Mississippi hospitality’.

Then there was the old cowboy we met in the fishing isle at Bass Pro. I’d guess he was around 78, give or take a few years. We were trying to pick out bait so Dan could take our grandson fishing. He soon caught on that we didn’t know what kind of bait to get.  This gave him an opening for a conversation. “What kind of bait ya lookin for? He asked us. He was very helpful and he answered all our questions, all the while addressing us with yes ma’am and yes sir. He quickly advanced the conversation and before we knew it, we were talking about California, Mississippi, gun control and yes even the death penalty! Dan and I walked out of Bass Pro with our heads spinning and a grin on our faces. “Only in Bass Pro in Mississippi would we meet someone like that and have a conversation like that” Dan said on our way out. My take on the encounter was that the old cowboy would share anything with us. In fact, I think he would have given us the shirt off his back had we asked for it, but don’t cross him or mess with his family, and certainly don’t try and take away his guns!

I’m pretty sure he was strong advocate of God’s laws and the laws of our land…..just as long as they agreed with Southerner’s laws, which trumps both in Mississippi.

I have been told that Mississippians (is this even a word?) have been raised to be polite no matter who they are, or who you are. Manners maybe a culturally ingrained pattern of speech, but it is also a sign of respect and it is used by everyone of all ages. I read that children are intentionally trained to produce good manners and in the South it includes the exact words to use in order to demonstrate respect. Yes ma’ma and no sir are followed by please and thank-you’s and it is not unusual to have a man open the door for someone when entering a building.

I always admired these manners in my husband Dan and he has always admired my strength as a woman. He still opens the door for me when we are out, which doesn’t make me feel inferior or weak. When a stranger opens the door for me, it is just an act of kindness, nothing more. In our relationship, it is an act of respect. He is putting me first before himself, which makes me feel loved as his wife.

I believe acts of old fashion courtesy are disappearing in part because we as modern day women no longer accept these jesters of kindness. No matter the reason, kindness, manners, politeness and showing respect for each other are not things that we outgrow or that become outdated, even if it makes us a bit uncomfortable sometimes.