Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Missouri Humidity

I’d been back in Branson for a little over a week only. . .& I miss the desert. How sad, or maybe weird. It’s just so populated here, I feel crowded. And although I LOVE trees (I think they have souls), I’m feeling claustrophobic without being able to see the horizon more frequently. And the humidity is just sucking my breath away. It takes no effort outside to cause profuse sweating, running down my face & into my eyes, even dripping off the end of my nose. Apparently I’ve become VERY spoiled (or soft) traveling out west. And poor, super-furry Kira comes back inside the AC some days within 10 minutes of being out. I imagine some of those holiday campers wondered why I stay inside all the time. Well, I’m NOT on vacation or just camping – I live in my trailer. At least I’ve made two trips to visit my parents & three visits to my girlfriend in Springfield (usually to leave Kira while I take care of other things). I’ve always been nervous leaving her alone in the trailer with the AC running for more than local trips in case of a power outage that won’t restart the AC even when power returns. Plus, 9 hours shut up is pushing the limit for her bladder.

I spent a day getting my 2010 Toyota Tundra pickup serviced in Springfield at the Toyota dealer. I’ve driven 6,000 miles since it’s last servicing last October. Not too bad for a full-time traveler. Jeff & I drove many, many more miles just to & from work living 25 miles in the country outside of Kansas City. There was a lot more income then, but a lot more expenses too. At 92,000 miles on the truck now, it was past time to have the transmission & 4-wheel drive systems checked too. Ugh – much bigger bill than I’d expected, but I’m dead in the water if that truck has a problem. At least I got a $67 discount with Toyota’s veteran’s discount. I’ve had the same service rep (David) helping me twice now, & he’s SOOOO good at answering my na├»ve questions & concerns, explaining things to me, & trying to be proactive in keeping the truck reliable. And I’m really getting impressed with this truck. It clings to all these curves & corners around Branson, & I like sitting up higher than cars so if I’m ever in an accident, I feel as safe as possible. It handles like a car, so I feel very comfortable driving it finally. It’s fast becoming MY pickup.

The campground hasn’t been horribly crowded, even over 4th of July holiday, & I’ve enjoyed catching up with past campers & staff. It’s good to talk with people who knew Jeff when he felt better. I really like having people parked around too, sitting outside to talk to when we walk by. And Kira knows where she is too, having tons of fun sniffing all the new doggie smells. Oh, and the campground has changed it’s name from Compton Ridge to Branson Ridge RV Resort.

While the truck was getting serviced, my girlfriend & I ate Chinese food. Springfield is the first place I ever ate Chinese food, & I’ve always preferred Springfield cashew chicken. It’s peculiar to this area where the chicken chunks are breaded instead of just cooked bare & is usually listed specifically as Springfield cashew chicken. There was even a little place near where I worked in Kansas City that had it. Yum, yum. I’ve scratched most of my eating-out itches too.

I’ve got VA appointments set up for late July, had my glasses adjusted, & got my gold Baht necklace I’ve worn for 32 years repaired after a link wore out. I want to find someone to reconfigure the two 12v batteries storage hanging off the back of the trailer. Still have things to find & clean out of the storage unit – but it may have to wait until cooler Fall weather. I’m excited about my upcoming Class Reunion – our 50th!! OMG, how’d we all get so old (apparently, very carefully). I’m collecting some simple, no-microwave-or-oven-needed recipes that are quick, easy to make & keep, boondocking-friendly, & healthy that I think I’ll make a blog post about. Considering I’ve lost 20# since Jeff’s death, that’s not saying too much good about my cooking, huh? Maybe it’s more about my state of mind – no appetite sometimes. I’m certainly not a foodie but I don’t trust my memory, so things need to be written down somewhere accessible. It’s SOOOO great having a Walmart & gas station within a few miles. Some of the solo women friends I made this winter are having a grand time hanging out in CO which just has me salivating about spending the summer somewhere more comfortable. Gotta get my life (routine) more organized first tho.

All this driving has given me lots of time (still again) to reflect on Jeff’s death, my future, & our past relationship. I can tell my memories of our life together are getting farther away from me, but his lasting affect on me is very strong. There’s a Celine Dion song that describes how our relationship started & why I was so dependent on him emotionally. He certainly wasn’t perfect nor the best looking, but he loved me unconditionally & was devoted to taking care of me.

 For all those times you stood by me, for all the truth you made me see, for all the joy you brought to my life, for all the wrong that you made right. For every dream you made come true, for all the love I found in you, I’ll be forever thankful baby, you’re the one who held me up – never let me fall. You’re the one who saw me thru it all.

You were my strength when I was weak, my voice when I couldn’t speak. You were my eyes when I couldn’t see; you saw the best there was in me. You lifted me up when I couldn’t reach. You gave me faith cause you believed. I’m every thing I am because you loved me.

You gave me wings; you made me fly. You touched my hand – I could touch the sky. I lost my faith; you gave it back to me. You said no star was out of reach. You stood by me & I stood tall. I had your love – I had it all. I’m grateful for each day you gave me. Maybe I don’t know that much, but I know this much is true – I was blessed because I was loved by you.

You were always there for me, your tender wind carried me, a light in the dark, shining your love into my life. You’ve been my inspiration, thru the lies you were the truth; my world is a better place because of you.

I’m every thing I am because you loved me.

Ironically, this relationship actually prepared me to continue on without him. He taught me, showed me, made me stronger, & I hope I never stop feeling him still protecting & guiding me. I hope I never loose that connection nor forget the pain of lose too much. His spirit is still propping me up. I’ll be forever grateful he was such a great part of my life – & I’ll forever remember him in those quiet times alone. In the meantime, I’ll continue with the adventure we both wanted.

I’ve decided to spend a couple of weeks at an RV park near my parents, visiting with them & assorted childhood friends while waiting for my class reunion. Also planning a day trip to Kansas City for Jeff’s grandson’s 8th birthday party & visit with old friends. Then it’s back to Branson. There’s a solo Casita friend who’s planning on coming to Branson to hang out near me then. We may even decide to caravan to some cooler places & meet up with more solo Casita gals. That would put a special spin on my summer of heat!

So, I’ve taken nearly two weeks to get this posted as life has become more intense lately.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Finally Made A Decision

I hate indecision, but that seems to be a problem for me ever since Jeff died. No one to bounce ideas off of or someone else’s desires to consider. Too frequently, it just leaves me STUCK doing nothing.

Somehow tho, unbeknownst to me, my emotions have shifted. Suddenly I started feeling restless – maybe the infamous hitch itch. I started thinking about making a plan for when to leave the Wolf Sanctuary & where to go. I could wait as late as July 15th to leave & make it to my Class Reunion in MO. But – geewhiz, I’m needing to see somewhere different. In 3 months, I’ve made 4 trips to Walmart in Gallup. No where else! I may have mold or rot growing on me!!

OK, so I think I’ll move up the date & leave July 10th. That puts me here an even four months in one place at the Sanctuary. Several days later tho, I started thinking. . .always a dangerous experience, maybe I’ll leave after the 4th of July weekend on the 5th. That sounds good. I told the staff in the Sanctuary office that I’d decided on a departure date. We talked about some of the virtual assistant things I could do from anywhere & keep a few necessary tasks taken care of without me being here. Great – I sort of have a job (no pay) but don’t have to report to a specific place at a designated time for a certain amount of time. That’ll work.

Then a slight earthquake in my thinking happened. There were two wild fires down the middle of NM that weren’t a problem for us. But the wild fire in eastern AZ south of Show Low was blowing smoke at us. And possibly some of the heat. All of the southwest has been experiencing unusually high temperatures this year, not just for June but for anytime. I’ve been running my AC in the afternoons until dark since the early part of June. Nighttime temps tho are heavenly, just perfect with the window open. So why get in a hurry to leave? More indecision.

One morning while walking Kira tho, I looked across the valley at the pine-covered distant hill & realized I wasn’t feeling the peace & contentment of the landscape like I had for months. There was that itchy feeling again. Damn I hate waiting!! After 5 years of being a nomad, of being tied to a workkamping commitment too many times (I know, you can always leave if you want), it’s getting harder to WAIT to launch.

Finally, I realized I had just hit critical mass. I was feeling trapped in this serene, remote location that has been so comforting & healing. Mostly, I’m so frustrated from my flaky-to-non-existence 3G Verizon cell signal with ever-so-slow internet connection. I wanted to make a call whenever I wanted or needed without waiting for the signal to return or worrying about the call dropping (& not have my phone even ring if someone called). And there’s the hassle of tank dumping into the blue boy then haul it in the pickup to the porta potty to dump. Thankfully, I’ve only dumped 3 times in a little over 3 months by using the campground shower & porta potties. And getting water in the bladder on the pickup cab to replenish my on-board fresh water tank was needed every few weeks. I’m so grateful for having electricity tho (recharging batteries, watching endless TV & now running the AC) – but damn, after boondocking in Quartzsite all winter, I really, really want to park with full hookups again!! And then there was the 4-hr-round-trip to a Walmart in Gallup. Now I’ve saved hundreds of dollars in this 3 months by not traveling or shopping or eating out – BUT! BUT!!! I haven’t had Chinese food or my favorite shrimp enchiladas since before leaving Branson Nov 3rd. And this heat means it’s time for a chocolate malt (with nutmeg) from Andy’s Frozen Custard too. I’m salivating just thinking of it all. And although I needed the time alone, I’ve had very few campers around to visit with. Bottom line – I’m civilization starved!!

So, I made an executive decision to pack up & boogey on my next day off. I just couldn’t wait until after 4th of July? My launch date on my first day off work was just days away now. Yippee!! No time to twiddle my thumbs anymore. I’m just feeling so anxious to get going. Since I have plenty of time to take my time traveling east, I’d like to see some of the northern NM State Parks that were still closed for the winter whenever we were traveling thru the state. But with such a short season, all electric sites were reserved at Blue Water SP west of Grants when I wanted to visit. And with this heat, I’m not doing without AC. OK, so scratch that idea (Made another decision.) And after several nights having trouble going to sleep (pre-trip excitement), I decided (again) to just bite the bullet & make this trip as fast as I can manage to get from western NM to Branson, mostly on I-40. It’s not like there’s a lot to see between Albuquerque & Branson anyway (or that we hadn’t already visited). I considered driving at night for the cooler temps, but normally, I’m yawning by sundown so that probably wouldn’t be the wisest or safest choice. I’ll just have to leave at daybreak & get parked & plugged in by late afternoon when it’s the hottest. Kira rides in her crate behind my driver’s seat & the cats ride in the trailer. They like the heat much more than Kira & I, but just to be safe, I’ll carry my indoor-outdoor temperature base in the truck to read off the outdoor sensor inside the trailer what the temp is. Good – not only decisions made, but a plan of action too.

My last day (morning actually) at work took FOREVER. And then waiting for the cooler evening temps to get hooked & packed up was just as long & frustrating. After stowing away & cleaning up the cabin, I put on my head band (to keep the sweat from running into my eyes & across my glasses), & I went outside in the 90 degree full sun to bag up the two trash cans at my site, put them in the pickup & truck them over to the trash gage (to keep the protected ravens from picking thru the bags). Well, I’m on a roll (as in not melting down yet), so I drove around the front of the trailer, plugged in the rearview camera & lined up the trailer hitch with the truck. OK – time to take a break. But, gee, I bet it won’t take much effort now to hook the trailer up today instead of waiting until the cool of the morning. I HOPE I’ve actually slept more than a few hours by then but can still get on the road earlier by doing more this evening. OK, backup, get out & look, back up a smidge more, get out & look, one more tiny backup. The remote camera wasn’t too much good with a pine bough right in front of it. Since I was parked on a slope with the hitch REAL close to the ground & the backend up in the air, I attached the safety chains before raising the hitch. WOO WHO, I think that’ll work. I had to pull up a twitch to get the hitch to latch, but after more than 3 months of sitting still, AND in the heat, it went amazingly smooth. OK, continuing my roll, I secured everything on the outside & removed the BAL leveler that I like using to level up side to side. I’m not backing up by myself on blocks so even with the effort, the BAL leveler has worked great for me! Finally, just a few things left to secure after the sun goes down before packing up those last few things in the morning. Time to go inside to the AC, drink some water, & wait some more.

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Oh but, not that kind of wait (as in waiting for sundown or morning). In all these months, I’ve never actually got to touch or get too close to one of the ambassador wolves, those that are comfortable enough to get near humans. Here I am sitting down near my trailer site getting to touch & pet Flurry, an Artic wolf (amber eyes & all). Not one of my better pictures, but it was hot outside & I’d been working.

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Surprisingly, I slept pretty well that night (might have been all the activity outside in the heat). I woke up at 6am, jumped into gear, & rolled out at 7am, mountain time. The temperature was just perfect. And for the first time, I didn’t have the heeby jeebies when I first started pulling the trailer. OMG, it was SOOOO great to be moving again – an adventure. The drive on Highway 53 east to Grants & I-40 is just a gorgeous route.

Jumped on I-40 heading to Albuquerque but was hoping the traffic wouldn’t be too bad on a Sunday morning. And indeed, it was a piece of cake. It’s not a bad town to get thru anyway, & those 5 lanes of traffic weren’t too crowded. Hot dog, so far so good. I stopped once at a rest stop to potty & get a V8 to drink out of my frig. Cats are doing good with decent temperature from window & ceiling vent open. I decided not to let Kira out since she gets so excited with new places to smell that she’d be hot & thirsty. I stopped again for gas in Santa Rosa.

East of Tucumcari, I started noticing some green grass (or weeds) along side the road {gasp}. Wow, how long has it been since I’ve seen grass, much less green? And finally, the Texas state line – & more green grass. The wind finally started kicking a little before I got to Amarillo, but that’s only an hour from NM.

I stayed the night at Oasis RV Park, 12 miles or so west of Amarillo, the same place I stayed last November when heading west along with the couple from RVillage who let me tag along. Didn’t unhook the trailer, level cement pad, got plugged in & AC going, set up satellite, & took Kira for a walk on MORE green grass. Slept good, no wake ups, & had my alarm set for 6am. W e l l – excitement I guess, I woke up at 5am & pulled out at 6am. Hmmm, it was thinking about getting light outside but hadn’t quite made it yet. It’s much lighter at 6am in mid Mountain Time Zone than 6am at the western edge of Central Time Zone. I missed seeing the left turn back onto I-40 in time to turn so had to go another 2 miles on the frontage road to get on the interstate. OK, zooming thru Amarillo on a Monday morning at that hour was no problem either. Now to get thru Oklahoma City in one piece.

Two more hours of easy driving & I’m out of TX. All the semis & cars are passing me as I poke along at an even 62mph. Oh well, I’ll get there in one piece. I started seeing fully-leafed out deciduous trees – large groups of them – & little fresh-water ponds. OMG, I didn’t realize how much I’d missed this landscape. Had to stop for gas again & figured out I could start pumping gas, run inside to potty, & be back before the gas tank was full.

I decided to try the Kilpatrick Turnpike along the western & northern sides of Oklahoma City with two pay stations (cash only – coins, no bills) for $3.20 total (3 axles), but missing that traffic was well worth it. The road heads east on the north side of town & dumps effortlessly into I-44. I sort of started getting claustrophobic east of Ok City as there were lush forests right up next to the road on both sides. Agh, no views at all. Oh well, there’s more road in front of me & the scenery was constantly shifting (unlike many parts of the country). Traffic was tolerable & no wind today. The temp reading on the pickup only got to 91° all day long (just like yesterday) & the trailer was a degree cooler.

I stopped at a Quick Trip outside of Tulsa for gas again (at a lovely $1.83/gal), rumbled over the roughest road of the trip, & got closer to MO. More toll booths on I-44 but it was necessary & worth it. I could have stayed on I-40 east of Ok City & taken I-49 (Hwy 71) north at Ft Smith but would have had to jump off near Fayetteville to wiggle up & down & around Hwy 76 into Branson. Jeff LOVED roads like that to get his wiggle fix on all those curves, but I’m not ready to tackle that kind of driving yet.

FINALLY, I’ve reached the MO state line at Joplin. OMG, I can’t believe I did this, or survived this marathon drive. OK, a few more hours, but at least I’m in totally familiar territory now. Around Mt Vernon, I noticed the trailer temp was at 94° tho so I pulled over to check. All that bumping thru Tulsa had closed the ceiling vent & stopped the (hot) air flow – plus the sensor jumped off the hook to land in the trash container on the bathroom door so it really felt the heat. The cats were fine temperature wise although a little bug-eyed at the long bumpy day.

I finally jumped off I-44 west of Springfield, zoomed around town on the James River Trafficway & headed south on Hwy 13 for BRANSON. The 8 stop lights in Nixa are a royal pain but 13 has less hills than taking 4-lane 65 to the east. Besides Compton Ridge is west of Branson proper & much more accessible coming in from Branson West (past a Walmart). I scooted around the plethora of curves on Hwy 76, past the stop light going to Silver Dollar City, & turned right onto Highway 265. Holy cow, I’m only a mile away from friends, stopping, shade, & full hook ups!!!! It was 4:30pm. Not counting my fuel stops, I covered a little over 1,000 miles in 18 hours of driving at 62 mph. Not too shabby.

I had called Compton Ridge to warn them I was coming & when I drove up, several workers & one camper from summers past were at the office to welcome me. I had thought of my arrival several times during the drive & tears always flowed but I was just so grateful & happy to have arrived & to see “my family” that I just babbled with joy – no tears. And Miss Kira knew we were back home. She just wiggled all over – & sniffed. Yes, so many interesting smells & the possibility of new doggy friends in the area (doggy heaven). And there’s the golf carts to bark at too. She still remembers running along side one as I rode comfortably when we worked in Pagosa Springs CO 5 years ago.

I wasn’t sure where I wanted to park & I was too brain dead to tackle backing in even if I’d found a site I wanted. I just didn't want a site where Jeff & I had parked before. Finally I just pulled into Site #1, right in front of the office, & got plugged in. It didn’t take long, even with the heat, for Kira & I to be out walking the kinks out. Kira had been in her crate in the truck over 10 hours. However, we both QUICKLY became aware of the much higher humidity than we’d experienced for over 8 months. Good grief, we’ll both waste away from sweating (& panting) so much. I got the TV hooked up & settled in to just veg. I don’t have the words to describe how good it felt finally. Anxiety, worry, stress – all gone – replaced with comfort, contentment, thankfulness, excitement, & peace. However, I wanted Mexican food but couldn’t find anyone nearby to go out to eat. So, I just went by myself. I play solitaire a lot at restaurants anyway, so it didn’t matter no one was around to talk to. My shrimp enchiladas were just as good as I remembered!

I spent the 2nd travel day listening to music – our music. Andrea Bocelli over & over. Cried a few times but had a conversation with Jeff finally. It’s all the things he would have told me if he’d known he was dying. (I do think he suspected, knew or was told by his doctor, but he just couldn’t talk to me about it) It wasn’t my thoughts that I heard either – it was how he’d have said it. When I envisioned arriving at the campground & the tears rolled, he told me “It’s OK, baby. I’ll be with you.” So at that last road, the anxiety fired up again & I repeated what he said to myself several times & it worked. We both felt so at home in the Branson area & love it so much. It really had to me my imagination; I know that (mostly) but I could just feel how happy he was to be back too. His ashes have traveled under my bed since we left. Although he wanted me to sprinkle him around the beautiful places I would continue to visit – but I’m just not ready to let go of ANY of him yet. It’ll happen sometime.

I slept REAL good Monday night & got some appointments set up Tuesday. Found a new site I can get into Thursday when those campers leave. In the meantime, I’m sitting in full sun. Oh well, as long as my AC doesn’t stop, we’re golden. I made a Walmart run Tuesday, & listened to music again on the way home. Bad words & dirty names! That was INTENSE. This was Jeff’s town & he was so close to me right then. On our evening walk, Kira & I met up with some other workers from previous summers & it felt so good to talk about Jeff with people who knew & cared for him too.

Since I was changing sites Thursday, I traveled up to my hometown to see my parents Wednesday. I dropped Kira off at my girlfriend’s house in Springfield & got to visit with her a little. My folks are doing amazingly well for 90 & 93. Mom’s dementia is as bad as ever but didn’t seem too much worse. They are both looking healthy, not overweight or sickly skinny. A classmate/girlfriend who lives in their complex came over to visit with me, & we talked about our upcoming class reunion as well as her ailing husband, Jeff’s death, & my travels. I left later than planned but just HAD to stop at Andy’s Frozen Custard in Springfield for that chocolate malt. Oh yum. There’s no grass growing under my feet as far as eating out goes. When I returned to pickup Kira, I was invited to stay for supper so by the time I got home 11 hours after leaving, I was dog TIRED, full, cool, & feeling the lack of the last few days adrenalin. We took a short walk but Kira was ready as ready as me to be inside the cool & crash early for the night.

Thursday I moved to my new site about 10 am. It was already getting really steamy but I think I’ll like this site. It’s a much busier, crowded area than we’d parked before, but being by myself, I haven’t minded other campers within spitting distance of me. The bathroom/shower house is close, the satellite is happy, I’m on pavement, & have trees on both the east & west for shade most of the day. Oh, Kira doesn’t take long to scratch on the door to come inside. Guess it’s still too hot for her even in the shaded outside. I have more appointments to make & projects to start.

Then I talked to my cousin who lives in Branson with her husband. We all went to school together although they’re both a grade or two ahead of me. Although my cousin is a great cook, she tries to go out & eat as often as possible. So. . .we met for CATFISH. Oh yum, I felt like purring. Afterwards I went by our storage unit & deposited my generator, solar panels, & blue boy. Ain’t gona need any of that for several months. Picked up some large plastic storage drawers that I wanted to try in the trailer to consolidate some of the clutter. Yeah, I took out more cushions, small storage containers, & plastic tables than I brought in. It’s not quite right yet, but even inside the AC, I was dripping with sweat. Think I’ll sleep on it.

Talked to my girlfriend in Kansas City for two hours about my visit next month. Woke up a couple of times overnight so slept until almost 8am. It’s Friday afternoon now & it’s been raining all day. Woo hoo. A day of rain is fantastic; a 2nd day is too much tho. I got all caught up reading on the blogs since last weekend & fixed me a big breakfast (for lunch). Kira’s been outside under the trailer all morning (in the rain) but it’s cool enough to turn off the AC. Just don’t want the humidity inside tho. We probably should go for a walk before it rains again. Not much planned for the weekend other than to finalize my inside rearranging. That’s all my news for now. Gotta few more friends to see & places to go this week – but it sure is nice to be back home (even if it is hot & humid).

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Beginning Again

I spent most of 2009 going thru treatments for breast cancer. It was a bit stressful but, thankfully, I never got sick or felt bad for long during an initial round of chemo, surgery, another preventative round of chemo, & finally radiation. I hated the radiation most but going nine months without hair was the most difficult. Since then, I’m not always concerned with how my hair looks simply because I have hair again. However, I found strength & inspiration during that year from inspirational quotes I’ve collected for years, and then putting them into my own words, with a bit of embellishment at times even.
During that time, I started a new blog, mainly to keep track of & refer back to the eloquent words, documenting the things I’d learned that I wanted to remember. Now that I’ve been a widow for nine months, it seemed like a good time to return to documenting those inspirational quotes I’ve continued to collect.
The blog has separate posts for tackling various issues, & this newest post is about STRENGTH. I’ve had lots of people comment on how courageous or strong I’ve been since Jeff’s death – but really, it’s all just been putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, to keep moving, & knowing that I would be where I needed to be when I was ready.
The blog has nothing to do with traveling or RVs. It’s about sorting out the emotions & feelings that may have been ignored – stuffed deep down inside where they can fester into an infection that makes your mind & body ill. Those negative feelings & beliefs are like germs – they only go away when they’re exposed to air & light. Acknowledging them is the first, but hardest step.
As with everyone, the only quotes (& ideas) that resonate with me are the specific ones that I need at the time, so lots of issues are not covered. Still, I hope others will find something they need that will inspire a change of perspective about a problem. Most of these words of wisdom belong to others, but one of the very few good things about aging is learning to be more patient & gaining a more realistic perspective of reality, people, & events. This blog has helped me mature. The blog is called Insights to Wisdom. Comments are moderated, but it would be nice to hear what you think.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Art of Healing

I know you’re probably getting tired of hearing about the process and/or my progress in healing from and surviving (hopefully thriving) the death of my husband, soul mate, & best friend of more than 20 years, back in mid-October 2015. BUT. . .this is my blog – my journal of all the aspects (the good, the bad, & the ugly) of living and traveling full-time in a compact molded fiberglass travel trailer – with a dog & two cats &, now – by myself. Somehow, putting my thoughts into comprehensible sentences helps sort out the jumble of feelings that occur rapidly, erratically, & frequently. I want to continue this lifestyle because I am definitely devoted to finding & following the weather that fits my clothes. I like living simply, without a lot of expense, stress, or effort to maintain my small home & mobile lifestyle. I don’t care about or need a big house, fancy automobile, various toys, or even a big RV. I like having different front yards, meeting new friends & running into past friends, & still being able to change locations easily (learning about other areas of the US). It’s also very convenient to visit friends & family at their homes anywhere, on my schedule & still have my own bed & comforts to go to at night without intruding too much or for too long into their life.

I’ve been asked numerous times over the past 5 years on the road when & where we were going to settle down (most everyone assumes we’d want to get off the road sometime). I knew I was looking for a place to call home, but hadn’t found it quite yet. Although I’ve spent most of my life living along the western side of Missouri (we pronounce the name like it’s spelled with two “A’s”) from Kansas City to Branson, there’s too many things about the state that make me uncomfortable anymore. Much of the land looks a lot like the flat plains of Kansas (beautiful in it’s own way) except around rivers and specifically in the southern part of the state, the hills of the Ozark Mountains which I prefer. But I HATE the humidity, heat, bugs, brush, congestion, ice, tornadoes, & thunderstorms. Missouri is perfect tho in October, so that is when I want to visit friends & family. I definitely don’t want to go east of the Mississippi ever again, & eventually don’t even want east of the Rockies. I have discovered the West & – a surprising feeling of being home. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the weather & desert environments in the West, as in serious lack of humidity or days & days of rain, often. It’s also the various mountains and/or rock cliffs everywhere (always something different in the distance even on table-top flat areas), the temperature & plant changes according to elevation (pick the weather you want within a short distance), the independent, self-reliant, & laidback tolerance of lifestyle, race, & beliefs with a respect for privacy, less building & more open spaces (I LIKE seeing the horizon in the distance), & a very small chance of getting blown away by a tornado. My little trailer doesn’t notice traveling down near-earthquake roads, tolerates hail and freezing temps, & will follow me quickly away from floods & fires. But it’s gona loose bigtime tangling with a tornado. I’m only tied to Missouri on a regular basis as long as my parents are alive.

This first year after Jeff’s death has been full of sink holes. You know, those deep shafts that occur suddenly & suck you into the darkness? I never paid a lot of attention to holidays before this year, other than as a free day to do what I wanted or didn’t want to do without feeling guilty or pressured. We never went anywhere, traveled, nor camped over holidays due to the crazies on the highways & campgrounds. Holidays are different this year by myself, even not going anywhere. I’ve already talked about how badly sudden memories tear me up, so I’ve learned to just stay away from listening to music & other triggers. But holidays really kick me around. No way to avoid them & way too much of “I remember last year at this time.” At least I’ve realized that I don’t seem to mutter to myself “Jeff, I miss you” nearly as often as at first. I’ve found ways to manage my chores (getting water, dumping, etc) which Jeff used to handle, & have found people to ask for help & advice or explaining mechanical stuff to me. I no longer imagine that Jeff is just sitting outside – near me. Now I call, email, or text friends when I want conversation, distraction, or comfort. The tears don’t fall as often. And somehow, I’m more aware that it’s been months since being with Jeff, watching him, talking & eating with him, & going places together. Sometimes the memories are pretty intense tho – like I can smell, feel, & hear him, almost reach out & touch him again. Still, the distance is growing. Habits are such hard things to change. I’ve been working on letting go of Jeff, but it occurred to me that HE has to let go of me too.

I’ve wondered tho if Jeff had known 10 years ago that his drinking was going to kill his liver if he’d have found the strength & motivation to stop drinking. What if our birth certificates came with a date of death. . .but changed throughout our lives as we changed bad or dangerous lifestyles? Would anyone really change in time to alter their date of death? Does anyone really need to know when their life will end? Would it make everyone kinder, gentler, more understanding, more motivated, wiser, or more loving if they knew their expiration date? Or maybe it would make some people take many more risks. I wonder if Jeff somehow knew his life was going to end early & that he purposefully lived it hard, trying to squeeze in everything he wanted to do while he had the chance.

TIME IS: Fast when you’re late. Short when you’re happy. Deadly when you’re sad. Endless when you’re in pain. Long when you’re bored. Most beautiful when you’re in-love. All time is determined by feelings & psychological conditions & never by clocks.

On one hand, I feel guilty for forgetting that Jeff’s gone, for not keeping his memory in my mind, for wanting to move on (whatever that means), & for actually enjoying being alone without the worry & frustration that happens anytime two people live under the same roof. Also, I don’t want to learn to share my little domain again with someone, to know about or share intimate details (emotionally, physically, financially, or historically) with anyone else, or make plans according to someone else’s wishes. Or – to watch them become frail, suffer & die! Yeah, sounds like I’m building walls around me, doesn’t it? Or am I just growing a thicker skin, or simply adjusting? Is that normal? Will it pass? Is it healthy at least for now? Are these feelings just stages – or necessary lessons to learn before moving to the next stage? Who knows? Someone please tell me. I’m just a little sea sick & confused not wanting to forget Jeff but still not remember him too intensely. I’m looking forward to the time the memories just make me smile & feel loved, when I can finally consider my Jeff chapter complete & closed. I think about the previous decades of my life (the people, places, & situations) & know I’m becoming a different person yet again.

Had an interesting experience last week with a friend request on Facebook from a guy I’ve never met or heard of. I accepted (I was bored), & he texted me right away. We chatted back & forth several times, & although I mentioned being a recent widow & not interested in a new romance, he was really insistent that “love” was the only purpose in life (or something like that). Gave me the creeps that he didn’t seem to have a clue about the grieving process, as in healing takes times. He suddenly didn’t reply, so I UNfriended him. Stranger is that evening, I got a notice that someone in CA tried to log into my Facebook account. It hadn’t been me since that morning, so I quickly changed my password. A definite TROLL & I won’t be accepting anymore friend requests from people I don’t know. 

I do get bored easily tho without something to look forward to. I like adventure. I remember years past, together happily with Jeff parked in a fantastic landscape. . .still feeling bored & just waiting for something new. I’ve thought about looking for a hobby but nothing’s grabbed my interest (too much investment, weight, accumulation of finished projects, & often makes my hands hurt). For now, reading ebooks seems to be my favorite activity. And I’ve thought about ALL the traveling Jeff & I have done, but surprisingly just don’t have the same sense of wonder about all those places Jeff wanted to go to. Yeah, I need to come up with something exciting, to look forward to, to do by myself. Any suggestions?

I’m not necessarily worrying about my vague future, but returning to MO this summer has me concerned about how I’ll react to revisiting familiar faces & places without Jeff (those are triggers). I need to be there for various reasons though & will just have to suck it up. I like to think that I don’t actually worry. Instead, I consider the worst case scenario, make a solid, logical, wise plan, & file it away in my memory bank to use later if necessary, content I won’t have to make any decisions when emotionally stressed. I don’t like surprises – even good ones! I like to think about things & be emotionally prepared.

So for now, life is slow, comfortable, secure, & predictable. I won’t leave here until sometime between July 5th & the 10th. I don’t want to have to hurry back to MO (unless I want to) & am hoping to meet up with a solo Casita gal before heading east. I enjoy my time alone listening to TV while I read email, blogs, Facebook, & ebooks, taking walks with Kira, trying to be motivated keeping up with chores, eating, & exercising (it’s really nice putting off things if I want), & helping with office tasks for the wolf sanctuary (my work routine has been needed). The weather has gotten way too warm suddenly for my comfort (& most of everyone in the western states), so after returning from my early Sunday run to Walmart in Gallup (only the 4th time in 4 months away from the Sanctuary & the reason for very few photos anymore), I actually fired up the AC. My outside sensor on the bumper in the shade read a high of 91°. And I made the round trip finally without any tears falling (not listening to any music helped). And there have been a number of campers in the campground to yit-yat with while walking Kira. I may be an introvert but still need some socializing. Oh, I renewed my license for the truck & trailer last month & received two new license plates from SD. I’d never replaced a license plate before, but it was amazingly simple so I’m legal again for the next year. One more Jeffery chore learned.

OMG, Kira is learning how to howl with the wolves. How weird! FYI – wolves don’t bark unless they’re part domestic dog. Full wolves ONLY have amber-yellow eyes; if they’re any other color, they’re part or all dog. We have a lot of wolf-dog mixes here that were initially ID’d as wolf & were going to be killed. ALL the rescues here come from the exotic animal trade & were not captured in the wild. Wolves are not domesticated and never pets!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Memories & Bad Words

I’ve never been real comfortable with memories. Seems the good ones hurt just as much as the bad ones, maybe worse because those people, places, or experiences aren’t around anymore & I miss them. The bad ones were just lessons, & I’ve forgiven the people involved & been thankful to have survived the bad experiences. But the sadness from good memories lingers & stings.

DSC04005          DSC04015      These are some of the unique trees around the campground, possibly pinon pine (or not).

But I realized the other day that not ALL of my memories cause sadness – & wondered why? Some memories, whether 40 years, 40 days, or 40 hours old, just seem like scenes from someone else’s life, not actually past chapters of my own life. Turns out only the memories that cause me sadness are the good one’s which have strong emotional feelings STILL attached. The others are just neutral, past events & people with no strong feelings one way or the other – just history. I can remember places I’ve lived, people I’ve known, & a plethora of experiences that don’t give an emotional jolt, even ex-husbands. And I seem to have many years of my life that have no memories at all. Maybe I slept thru those years. Many previous pets & missing relatives tho cast a very deep shadow over my heart. There are places I don’t like to return to or see because of bad memories tho – so I just try to stay away from those places. Unfortunately, Jeff & I saw SOOOO many awesome scenes in our four good years of traveling that even if I wanted to revisit a place, I doubt I can now without Jeff – at least not for awhile or possibly not alone. It would just be too sad to enjoy any fantastic scene. The odd thing (still) to me is how remembering places we visited that weren’t particularly pleasant or sight-seeing worthy can still make me sad to remember them. Hmmm, guess it’s just that Jeff & I shared the experience together – & I remember being with him in all those places, regardless of the location. So – I just won’t be there again without him, whether I enjoyed the location or not. However – going to Quartzsite AZ for my 4th winter was extremely comforting, but I did try to go to different places than where he & I had gone. When I went to familiar places, I hurried away as fast as possible before the sadness overtook me. I still remember (pleasantly) seeing Quartzsite again, snuggled into the valley below, after a long journey – my first by myself, as I topped the hill on I-10. What a rush!! Yeah, it felt like home.

Mother’s Day has come & gone, & I talked to my 90 year old mom. She’s doing amazingly well with her vascular dementia, but actually doesn’t DO much of anything anymore except sleep & eat. My 93 year old dad (nearly 73 years of marriage) however has learned to cook, clean, shop, & do laundry for the two of them, plus cope with the loss of his life-long companion when she has an episode when she doesn’t know who he is or even where she is. It breaks my heart that I can’t help or change anything, & I just sort of hold my breath until I hear she’s back to normal. The most I can do is provide some adult conversation to my dad & give him a safe way of venting his frustration & worry. Surprisingly, Mother’s Day was sadder than I expected when it occurred to me it could be the last year with my mom – or dad, or both. Plus Jeff always made a big deal out of wishing me a happy Mother’s Day even tho my only kids have four feet. I know he appreciated how his daughter & I got along, & she’s still my daughter. I like pets as kids tho because they never grow up or ever stop needing me. And they show me appreciation all the time for caring for & loving them. Between no kids & not liking to cook, I guess I’m just not very domesticated.

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Between the memories & the holidays, I understand how the first year after a death is the hardest & sometimes (not as often tho) I feel like I’m just barely hanging on by my fingernails. I just wish I could find that damned switch to control my moods. Sometimes I feel like the cartoon character walking around with a little black cloud following me around. I’m just getting SO TIRED of this emotional roller coaster. I can go days & weeks even feeling happy, peaceful, & optimistic. Then – poof – it all goes away & the tears fall over nothing at all. Sometime, I’m so ready to let go of my memories, but other times, I don’t really WANT to let go. Maybe I just haven’t gotten to the stage yet when those memories make me smile. It’s happened a few times, but not often.

Well, anyway, the weather is still very changeable, sleeting one minute & bright sunshine the next; calm & comfortable then strong enough wind to blow your freckles off the next minute. At least I can sleep with the window open some nights & had to break out a pair of shorts several afternoons. I still spend a lot of time reading ebooks (murder mysteries so I can try to figure out whodunit before the end of the book). And I’ve been using my new skillet more, although one-pan meals are the most I want to make. Not much new at work but I’m getting more comfortable with the get up, get ready, & go to work routine. At least it gives me some kind of routine which I admit to missing when not working. My friend Aubrey looked at the brand new Rhinoflex sewer hose Jeff got last summer but never used that I couldn’t get to tighten on the sewer drain pipe. It was missing a gasket (ring) inside that made it attach tightly. Woo hoo. However, then I needed a different attachment at the other end so the macerator pump can attach. Once I finally figured out how the RhinoFlex system works (with a locking ring to change to various ends or even hook sections together), I now have the correct end to use the macerator pump again. The last dump without the macerator pump, I had to keep lifting the hose up above the blue boy in the back of the truck to empty it – about 20 times. And numerous lifts again to empty it into the porta potty. Thank heaven for ibuprofen!!!! I seem to have an invasion of tiny carpenter ants (cause they smell slightly citrusy when smashed). But I squirt them with vinegar/water & there’s no wood in the Casita. Can’t figure out how or why they’re getting in yet but I haven’t seen any more lately.

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I made another trip to Walmart in Gallup (63 miles one way) &, instead of traveling in silence this time, decided to listen the music on the thumb drive Jeff & I enjoyed together. I’m picky about the music I listen to because songs elicit too many memories & can quickly shift my mood out of control. It’s been a way of desensitizing me over all the memories that music brings on. Either I really am getting better or the strategy is working cause it wasn’t as upsetting as previous trips. I prefer music without songs usually but Jeff & I loved listening to Andrea Bocelli (a blind, Italian tenor). It works for me cause most of the songs are in Italian that I can’t understand anyway so my emotions don’t go crazy. I decided it was time to make new memories tho & ordered a new CD by him. Unfortunately, I don’t like some of the songs on the CD, so I started listening to all the older songs we enjoyed. What a tailspin that created. So much for getter better. Even without friends around & a slow cell signal, sometimes I have to call one of my friends when I get really sad, but I hesitate to call then cause I know they feel helpless & causes them to worry more. Maybe the music on top of Memorial Day approaching is just another bump in this healing journey. We launched our full-timing adventure five years ago on Memorial Day Sunday. I was never that crazy about traveling for too long before Jeff came into my life. Couldn’t wait to get back home to my comfort & critters & routine. Well, traveling around pulling my house along with us drastically changed all that. And technology now lets us all stay connected without being near each other. My priority has been being in the weather & scenery that make me happy.

Geez, don’t I have a very exciting life anymore?? I’ve never been a patient person, but as I’ve aged & slowed down, I’ve actually gotten more patient. (One of only a few good things about getting older.) Plus I just don’t care as much about many things that used to stress me. And I’ve also noticed that I don’t vent (or cuss) as much as when Jeff was alive. I wonder if it’s cause when there’s no one around to help or consult, I just don’t waste the energy saying anything while I concentrate on fixing whatever is wrong. Weird, huh? Can’t believe I’ve been here nearly two months already – but I sure like it. This little remote community is really starting to feel like home, & I’m thinking I may have found my summer place for years to come. I’m also not spending much money (with Walmart & most restaurants over an hour away) although ordering things by mail has been a lot of fun. Wish more friends would come by to visit tho. I can only stand so much of my own company!

Monday, May 2, 2016

May Day

So, Spring has sprung – & blown & thundered & RAINED a lot in most states east of the Rockies. And here in northwestern NM at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. . .it’s sort of still winter. During April, we had 3, maybe 4, mornings with light cover of snow that melted (or evaporated) within hours, & early morning temps still hovering around freezing. I even had to go outside in the dark Saturday night to dust the snow off my satellite dish several times. And Sunday, May 1st snowed, sleeted, & rained all day long. The high temp was only  44°. Unfortunately, I HAD to get water, so while emptying the water from the bladder on the pickup cab, the water didn’t want to drain into my fresh water tank & big, wet, COLD snow flakes were stinging my face. I had to go inside to warm up to try again. Finally got fresh water tank filled, but that short sunny break I started out during wasn’t long enough to get my one chore of the day accomplished. We’ve actually had a couple of thunder storms with some lightening even. I don’t understand how Kira thinks sitting on my head at 2am is going to make her safer from the thunder, but that’s what she does. I’m still bundled up in my winter coat (didn’t need it all winter) walking over to the office to work. However, I prefer putting on extra clothes to wanting to remove clothes to be comfortable (weather wise).

Not too much exciting to report on. I’ve enjoyed having a mailing address to order things on line: cat food cause PetSmart in Albuquerque is a LONG drive; Kira’s brewer’s yeast (cause GNC is in Albuquerque also) to keep her skin from itching during shedding; a new battery for my nearly 2 year old Samsung Galaxy S5 smart phone (still runs down too fast [cause I’m on it all  the time maybe]), & a new skillet. Yes, this non-cook needed a new non-stick skillet to replace the one that has finally worn out. I got the Gotham Steel skillet advertised on TV. Seems to work well, doesn’t stick, & cleans pretty easily – just what I wanted. OK, so I don’t fix anything very intricate; it usually isn’t worth my effort. Obviously, I’m not a ‘foodie’, but having the right tool for certain jobs makes it much better.

The only break in my work/read/watch TV/walk Kira/do chores routine has been my friends Aubrey & Sally returning for a couple of short visits. Aubrey has been helping out rehabbing one of the volunteer cabins. He’s been in hog heaven. I made another trip to Wal-Mart in Gallup, mainly for food. BUT. . .my pickup didn’t want to start that morning AGAIN. That was the fourth time in four months, so common sense insisted I get a new battery finally. Turns out the old one was the original 6 year old battery. Definitely time.

Work has been varied. I spent a week scanning photographs of previous rescue wolves & another week tweaking & identifying the photos that had writing on the back. Fun project. I’ve rolled coins, written thank you cards for contributions, & updated email & mailing addresses. This past week, I compiled email or mailing addresses in a spreadsheet for people who sponsored a rescue wolf last year so we can email or mail gentle reminders that it’s time to do it again. I was very happy to find I still knew how to create a mail merge in Microsoft Word to grab the data from the spreadsheet to generate the emails & letters. And no one else in the office knew that could even be done. Whoo hoo for senior citizens!

My hair is still too red, even after another dye job. Guess it’ll just have to grow out which isn’t a real problem since it’s only an inch long (or tall). I’m getting stronger in the kneeling down & getting back up without holding onto something area. And I’m not gaining any weight (fat) back – mainly cause there’s only one place around to eat out & I’m existing on my own cooking [or lack thereof]. My cheap air mattress blew a gasket so got replaced. My little manual espresso maker is such a joy tho. Quickly makes such a good cup of coffee. My only complaint is a lack of socializing. There’s just not been many campers around to chat with. Oh and my cell signal is so slow (or non-existant at times) that phone calls are limited to one spot at the back of the trailer. I miss taking Kira for a walk & having various campers around to stop & talk to.

Finally tho after 6½ months since Jeff’s death, I’m sensing a subtle change. I go weeks now without any tears & hours without missing Jeff. A death negates all hope for the expected future, so acceptance & change takes awhile to develop. I don’t feel quite as traumatized nor wanting to hide from the world. I know there’s no real how-to guide for recovering from grief nor a specific timeframe, but knowing what’s normal would be appreciated. My main tool has been distractions to keep the memories from bombarding me. Still – a lot of alone time has been productive.

Actually, I noticed this shift in my feelings last week when I read this on Facebook & it felt like Jeff was talking to me (just like he let me know it was past time to get a new battery).

“When I come to the end of the road, And the sun has set for me, I want no rites in a gloom-filled room. Why cry for a soul set free? Miss me a little – but not too long. And not with you head bowed low. Remember the love that we once shared. Miss me – but let me go. For this is a journey that we all must take, And each must go alone. It’s all a part of the Master’s plan, A step on the road to home. When you are lonely & sick of heart, Go to the friends we know & bury your sorrows in doing good deeds. Miss me – but let me ago.” ~~Author unknown

One of my best friend’s lost her younger sister last week. It wasn’t a surprise but her battle with cancer was fairly short. Still, the family knew her wishes & they got to talk about her feelings & what they’re do afterward. I missed that with Jeff since he just couldn’t tell me he was dying. Even as clueless as I was, I knew he was sliding down hill quickly, & at least it didn’t happen in an instant, like a car crash or heart attack. We had a few preparatory discussions months earlier.

The loss of a spouse, good friend, or pet companion (maybe even a beloved car) just leaves such a HUGE hole in a life that it’s a wonder anyone ever gets back to a normal life. And the older the survivor is, even with a more realistic perception of “life”, the bigger the “hole” is. I dread the loss of my parents & my critters – just more “holes” to adjust to. But, isn’t going on with your life the whole idea, somehow honoring the memories? And I guess that happens by finally letting go of what was. That’s the struggle. Not coming to terms with the memories or lost plans & hopes, but managing to make new plans & hopes & memories. Maybe I’m starting to let go of my life with Jeff & looking forward instead of backwards. Not forgetting – just not stuck or paralyzed anymore. Geez, I hate the idea of letting Jeff go tho (kind of like being the only person naked in a crowd), but I’d want him to go on if I left first. And in all honesty, those distractions I search for are all about not sliding down the rabbit hole into a huge pity party. Avoidance!! Procrastination!! Denial!!! I actually think I’m not wanting to let go of the lifestyle as well as how I felt being with Jeff, the traveling around & seeing new scenes, or just the feel of tires going down the road [with HIM doing the driving & me photographing]. Jeff was not always pleasant to live with (even considering how helpful & sensitive he was), & I totally enjoy my freedom to do whatever or go wherever I want when I want now. Although I get bored, depressed, frustrated, & restless sitting in the same spot for months (regardless of how much I enjoy the location, weather, & scenery), I’m just not feeling adventurous without someone with me to share the experience. Maybe that’ll change too – or I’ll find a travel companion or two.

My heart will go on!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring in the NM Mountains

During the nearly 4 weeks I’ve been volunteering at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, the weather has been fairly consistent – upper 20s over night, full sunshine during the day with a few horribly windy days but comfortably warm. However, last week had a glitch – I woke up to snow, & a few flurries of huge snowflakes occurred during the morning. By 1pm tho, it had all evaporated (or melted away).

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My job here is basically as a Girl Friday, helping out several other volunteers doing the grunt work they don’t have time to get to. I’ve updated email & mailing addresses, written numerous Thank You cards for our visitors, & most recently, started scanning & digitizing a humungous amount of photos of past rescue wolves. That project is going to take weeks (or months).

I’ve made one 62 mile one-way trip to Walmart at Gallup once. Thankfully, I got everything on my list so I’m set for 3-4 weeks. The Trading Post across the road from the Sanctuary has a deli, laundromat, & small selection of supplies & groceries. I’ve eaten there several times but have actually had to prepare food for myself. Sometimes I think I should be a dog since I can eat the same thing day after day. So I’ve been on an oriental slaw kick for months since it keeps well, is easy to make, & has all good things in it. I’ve also started making refrigerator oak muffins for breakfast munching (no baking required). I got an Oster smoothie maker at Walmart months ago & really enjoy the blueberry, yogurt, protein powder, & V8 smoothie juice for fast, easy nourishment. I generally try to make things that are easy while boondocking so a microwave baked potato or frozen dinner is a treat. And there’s the mixed nuts to munch on at night watching TV. Since I only work 4 hours a day (5 days a weeks), I have the afternoons to take care of housekeeping, food preparation, & essential chores, plus reading & walking Kira. Initially she didn’t seem to notice all the wolves howling numerous times a day, but she’s started barking now when they howl. Plus, one wolf, Zoerro, was raised as a puppy by Rory then given to the Sanctuary, so the Sanctuary provides a Wolf Walk for strolling around the area accompanied by a wolf on a harness. Totally awesome to watch. Kira gets very excited when they walk by.

Shortly after getting here, I got an Amazon order (it’s SO nice having a mailing address finally). I got a little stainless steel manual espresso maker that makes fantastic coffee. And I got a connection to hook up & read the hard drive out of Jeff’s old laptop that refuses to turn on anymore. Oh, got a replacement top for my propane tank cover that blew off on the way to Yuma when I didn’t have it latched down. Lastly, I got a portable USB CD player/recorder to connect to my little laptop/tablet. I’m digitizing (ripping) all the CDs I found hiding in the pickup console so I can put my favorite music on a thumb drive to listen to in the truck when driving. I’ve been sleeping better here, probably because I can leave the TV on all night if needed. One night tho I kept waking up every time the timer turned off the TV so I know it helps somehow having it on. Although I’m not crazy about having a work schedule, I have a lot of free time for reading & other projects (or just being lazy).

Four years ago during Christmas & New Year’s, Jeff & I became friends with Aubrey & Sally parked next to us in Zion National Park. We all had a great Christmas Eve diner at the Zion Lodge, a Christmas Day pot luck picnic, & New Year’s Day viewing of the Hobbit at the I-Max theater outside the Park gate in Springdale UT. Aubrey’s comment after letting them know Jeff had died was that it was a “magical Christmas” that year. I agree in so many ways. I believe Jeff was feeling his best & happiest ever while there with them. Well, they came to the Sanctuary to visit me & the wolves last week. They were here for my birthday too – the first in 21 years without Jeff, so having good friends close by was so comforting. Although it was gloomy & spit sleet several times during the day, we had a great wolf tour on my birthday too.

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It’s been decades since I’ve been excited about having a birthday, but remembering my brother & Jeff especially, I remind myself to be ever so grateful just for having another birthday (as painful as they are). However, birthdays mess with my mind (or ego or heart or attitude), so I decided I was finally going to color my gray hair. I’d talked about it for several years, but Jeff didn’t want me to mess with it. This birthday seemed like my chance. Unfortunately, my desire for something different – going sort of dark red – didn’t work out like I wanted. I’m not a redhead, so I’ll be going a medium brown without red the first chance I get. And no, no pictures just yet. I want to update my Google & Facebook picture since it’s more than 4 years old & I have changed some (as in aged, seems like about 5 years in the past 6 months).

I not only enjoyed the visit from Aubrey & Sally so much, but they’re totally in love with the Sanctuary, weather, & landscape too, & are working on becoming part-time volunteers here now, mainly Aubrey helping with maintenance. He loves every opportunity he can get to “pound a nail”. It’ll be great having friends camped nearby, & I look forward to their return soon.

IMG_20160311_153440My campsite only has electricity (furnished by a big wire run across the ground from the power pole between the other two longtime RVs parked in the campground) but no water or sewer. I’ve had to fill my fresh water tank from the 45 gal water bladder residing on the pickup cab several times without any problems. Amazingly, by using bathrooms & shower at the office & campground, I went IMG_20160311_1535293½ weeks before getting close to needing to dump my tanks. I used my blue boy tank (like in Quartzsite) & then dumped that into the porta potty. I realized the cap on the blue boy even had a connection to attach a garden hose so I could safely run it into the porta potty. Unfortunately, it empties 4-5 times slower than using a regular sewer hose so that too IMG_20160311_153619FOREVER. At least I didn’t make any messes. While in Quartzsite this winter, I learned to put toilet paper in the trash instead of in the toilet & to not flush with every use (If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down) so it REALLY extends the black tank capacity. This regime seems to work extremely well for one person.

I’ve had a few bad days of missing Jeff while here, but overall am feeling that I’m healing fairly well. After almost six months, I’m really getting tired & worn down with this grieving process. Mostly I miss having Jeff to talk to, sharing feelings & experiences. He really was my best friend & I could tell him anything without fear of criticism or complaints. In fact, I still talk to him. Sometimes I feel him with me (with the sunshine on my face, the wind in my hair, & the memories in my heart), but no “hearing him talk”. It may be my imagination (or not) but it’s comforting anyway. I know the stabbing pain will ease as time passes & I become more comfortable & confident being alone. I have family & good friends to call, email, & text who have kept me sane. Oh & all the Facebook birthday wishes were fantastic. I really have so much to be grateful for. I just want to continue this adventure Jeff started us on. However, I haven’t been too excited about the kind of sightseeing we used to do. I need a traveling partner for those excursions to unfamiliar places & awesome sights. That will happen when it’s time.

So, that’s it – not much excitement & almost no traveling. But, this remote, peaceful setting is precisely what I felt I needed. I’m still uneasy thinking about returning to Branson. but I’m hoping I’ll have had enough distraction & desensitizing by July to keep it together when I go there. Ironically, Jeff & I have never enjoyed returning to the Kansas City area either after leaving – just too many bad, intense memories. As much as we loved the Branson area & the feeling of home being there, I’m afraid it’ll never feel comfortable there again.

I appreciate everyone who follows my blog & I’m sorry there’s not much exciting travel or sights to blog about. I also don’t know that anyone else really wants to hear about how I’m adjusting to Jeff’s death but. . .this blog has always been my way of documenting our adventures, & now my (emotional & physical) solo journey. So THANK YOU for following along.