Friday, September 23, 2016

Reunion with Casita friends

My Quartzite friend, Wendy, arrived finally to visit me. We went out to eat that evening & visited my dad. This full-time RVing is a very strange & not understood idea to my dad, so it seemed like a good idea for him to meet one of my closest camping buddies. The next evening then, another Casita gal (Debbie), who lives around the corner from my dad, decided to come camp with us (all of an 11 mile trip for her). And she even brought food & fixed us some great bacon-wrapped hamburgers. Had a fantastic visit talking Casita stuff outside in the refreshing cool weather that rolled thru just for that weekend. One day, I took Wendy over to visit one of my high-school friends, & then another day we made a trip to Walmart & ate at a Chinese restaurant. Overall a lazy week tho.


After a week, we hooked up & traveled to a COE campground near Shell Knob MO (west of Branson on Tablerock Lake) that is centrally located for some Ozark sightseeing. Unfortunately, the curb-side tire on Wendy’s Casita failed about an hour from the campground. We don’t know if she ran over something or if it blew out or what, but her tire was totally shredded by the time road assistance got it changed. We spent one day in Branson, having lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant, visiting the Visitor Center at Tablerock Dam, & later had frozen custard at Andy’s. And of course, a stop at Walmart again before returning to the campground.DSC04026

Another day, we visited Roaring River where a trout-loving cold stream gushes out of a small cave.












Then, we wandered over to & around the eclectic, mountainside town of Eureka Springs AR next. While eating lunch, it poured outside & never stopped sprinkling until we returned to MO. The café had this intricate mural on the side of the building. Wendy got a new top & a pair of earrings.



We also drove west to visit Thorncrown Chapel, a little church with glass walls, nestled in a dense stand of trees.



We spent some days just hanging around inside the A/C enjoying whatever we wanted. We left on Thursday before Labor Day weekend to return to the quiet, little campground near my hometown to wait out the holiday crazies. On the way, we stopped in Springfield for Wendy to get three new trailer tires so she’s good to travel many more miles. I got to have some Springfield cashew chicken again while in town. A cool front had come thru too & dropped both the temperature & humidity level so I actually slept with the windows open.

As with most RVers tho, Wendy’s plans changed slightly, so she decided to take another couple of weeks to just unwind here in MO without having to travel anywhere. Labor Day afternoon, we hooked up & traveled a half hour to camp at the COE campground on Stockton Lake (much cheaper than the campground near my hometown where we survived the holiday). We spent two glorious, lazy weeks looking out on a little bay. We haDSC04048d another wine night & visited my dad a couple of times. We drove around town & the DSC04034west side of Stockton Lake. AND, our Casita friend Debbie spent another night camped near us. Every time she shows up, the weather cools off. However, the day she picked me & Wendy up to go to Red Lobster in Springfield for Wendy’s birthday, it poured all the way down & back, quitting only about 15 minutes away from the campground.


After more than 4 weeks camping together, I (almost tearfully) waved goodbye as Wendy finally headed west. I was so envious tho since I hate this hot, humid weather. I’m returning to Branson to get things wrapped up for my expected Nov 1st escape to the West.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Half an Orphan

My 90 year old mother with vascular dementia for the last 6-7 years died early Wednesday morning, Aug 3 (one day short of four weeks in the local nursing home) quietly in her sleep. Her kidneys had failed & she was fairly unresponsive the day before so it was no surprise. My poor father was just beside himself watching her so frail but unable to do much of anything to help but hold her hand.

I saw her Monday for “lunch” (barely some thickened liquids), but I’m not sure she really knew I was there. She looked so bad, I could barely stand it. And she reminded me WAY too much how bad Jeff looked before he died. However, we didn’t know it was finally her time & I needed to return to Branson. So I hooked up & pulled out Tuesday morning so I could make a Walmart run & Wednesday leave Kira at the local vets to have two small bumps lasered off her right front leg. They appeared to be growing slowly but she licked on them some & I wanted them gone. My dad called me at 7:15 Wednesday morning to tell me mom had died quietly in her sleep during the night, so when I left Kira at the vet’s barely an hour later, I was really stressed (one raw nerve). I’ve never been comfortable when one of my critters is anesthetized for a procedure, always fearing they won’t wake up or something will go horribly wrong, so I wasn’t doing too well. At least I learned that human anesthesia can now be used on animals so they wake up faster & without many side effects. In deed, Kira was bouncing around when I picked her up that afternoon. After dropping her off tho, I drove to Springfield to spend the day with my girlfriend (since the 8th grade) – the one I called at 2 am after my brother died & where I spent the night after Jeff died. She’s my surrogate sister & Kira’s godmother if something happens to me. It was good spending that sad & stressful day with her.

I posted on Facebook about my mother’s death & was blown away by all the prayers & condolences. Everyone’s support was extremely helpful & comforting. What an amazing way to communicate. I remember using the old party-line phones that hung on the wall, so using cell phones from anywhere (with texting) & internet (emails & Facebook) is nearly too easy.

Thursday, I hooked up again & returned to the small campground outside my hometown. My mom’s funeral was Friday morning in the church they attended, across from the house they used to live. I borrowed some appropriate clothes from my girlfriend who drove up to sit by me during the funeral so I could squeeze her hand. I had always expected to have Jeff for comfort but she was a good substitute. A number of my classmates attended but overall, most of mom & dad’s oldest friends have already passed away so not that many people are left to attend. After the graveside services, we returned to a dinner given by the church for the family. As soon as possible, I had to change into my uniform (tshirt & shorts) but at least I hadn’t embarrassed my dad at the funeral (he has to live here). Since I woke up at 3:30am that morning, I was seriously wiped out when I returned to the trailer that afternoon.

My parents were 25 days away from being married 73 years, but my dad has been amazing during all this. He could barely leave her alone in the nursing home, as he said, he didn’t have anything else to do. Although he hated to loose her, we both knew she had been leaving us by inches for the past few years, especially in the past month, & she was ready to be with her parents, siblings, & son (hopefully Jeff too). He’s sad but relieved now & basically just doing what I did when Jeff died – suck it up, continue living, & find friends & activities for distractions – you can’t bring them back or change anything. At least he’s starting to think of things to do now, like going for coffee with the guys every morning & attending church again, since he doesn’t have to stay around to watch after mom. The church pastor lost his wife 6 years ago & calls on my dad often, plus the neighbor guy’s wife has been in the nursing home for several years. Yep, birds of a feather stick together & help each other get thru the sad times. That’s what my new & old friends have done for me since Jeff died. That’s when you really learn who your friends are.

Funny tho being around normal people, you know, those who live in the same house, city, & state all their lives & absolutely, positively have no idea why anyone would not want to live in a house, in a neighborhood & town, to see the same people & do the same things over & over again every day, for years or a lifetime. I had one not too close of old friend who doesn’t understand my journey of being a nomad say that with my mom’s death, maybe I could afford to get a house now, or at least a bigger RV. Ummmm, that’s not the issue & that person definitely doesn’t have no clue. I wouldn’t settle down or live in a house if someone GAVE me one. Too much work & I don’t want to watch the seasons change in the same spot . And I certainly don’t want to pull around (or have to backup) a bigger RV, especially not a slab side or stick-built. My little molded fiberglass travel trailer holds it’s original value, is tremendously road- & weather-worthy, lives big but is cozy (I’ve always liked cozy even in houses), & is real close to maintenance free. Besides, without having wheels under my bed, I couldn’t change my neighbors, the scenery, or chase the weather when needed/wanted. OMG, talk about stuck in the mud, to be stationery. And it has nothing to do with money. My only exit strategy is to hire a guy with a pickup to pull my trailer to my winter spot (probably Quartzsite) & then to my summer spot (somewhere in elevation in AZ, NM, or CO) while I follow in a Jeep or something small. I love meeting up with RV friends & stay in touch with many just as easy as living down the street from them. Conventional life is just too boring – & actually much more expensive. Plus, living small & simple keeps me disciplined, something to do with that rule about always having a bit more ‘stuff’ than you have room for”.

Oh, & there’s also the comments about me finding another husband or companion. I don’t want to care that much about anyone again. Or become a caregiver or watch them suffer & die. Or compromise & try to understand moods & behaviors. I learned I can’t control or change anyone else; I can barely control my dog or myself, & I’m tired of accommodating someone else’s wishes. I hope I don’t sound bitter, just realistic, appreciating what’s important to me & knowing where my boundaries are. I just want to continue enjoying previous & new friends on the road, without regrets or worries, & looking forward to new adventures. Just a rolling stone. . .

I’m going to stick around my dad’s all month tho to see what he needs help with & visit enough that he’ll get tired of me being around. My Casita buddy from this winter (Wendy) is planning on stopping by later this month on her way from Minneapolis to Denver (via a slight detour to me). I need some serious time with my tribe (those molded fiberglass types). And I’ve got more (old) friends around here to visit with than in Branson, so I’m fairly comfortable here – well, except for this horrible heat & humidity (air you can DRINK). In fact, I haven’t really felt comfortable at “our” campground in Branson this summer. There’s just too many ghosts (memories) behind nearly every tree, & there’s lots of trees around there. My dad’s health & mind are pretty good so I hope I don’t have to repeat this past month ever again, but at least not for a few more years. And I’m chomping at the bit to get back out west. Missouri may be home but not where I belong anymore.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hot Times in the Ol’ Town

Since my 90 year old mother has vascular dementia (little strokes that are destroying memory cells), she’s not able to live alone or even be left unsupervised anymore. Although my long-suffering 93 year old father is dedicated to caring for her, she finally reached a point several weeks ago where he could no longer help her up when she fell (from weakness & a UTI infection). He knew the time would come but sadly realized he was at his limit physically so had my mom admitted to the nursing home located across the parking lot from their assisted living apartment where they’ve lived for four years. After nearly 73 years of marriage, he’s just devastated without her around all the time. Ironically though (and I understand these feelings), it’s a huge relief to actually be able to sleep without keeping an ear open to listen for her falling in the night, or just be able to relax without continually answering the same nonsense questions from her. It just breaks my heart that there isn’t a damned thing I or anyone else can do to ease his heartache – except be around for support.

So, I packed up & hooked up the trailer in Branson to park at the nearest RV campground to my hometown. With the heat indexes predicted to be dangerously high, it’s just miserable outside. Even Kira no longer argues with me about coming inside to the AC. I visited my parents every day but still managed to do a lot of visiting with classmates who live in the area. One friend even drove up from the Springfield area the week before our Reunion to spend an afternoon with me visiting another classmate (who has diabetes & a heart condition on top of having both hips replaced already). We also stopped in to see my dad since his dad worked with my dad. Unfortunately, one of our classmates also has vascular dementia & brain damage from a fall & was in the nursing home then. Her husband is also a classmate so we three enjoyed catching up. Another classmate lives in the neighboring apartment complex from my parents, & her husband has the beginnings of Alzheimer's. I also visited one of my best friends in high school who worked her way up from nurse to nurse practitioner. In the past three years, she had a heart attach, breast cancer, & now is recovering from back surgery. Nevertheless, my class reunion was great. Good thing we all had on name tags tho. I could barely recognize some classmates, but the familiarity was always in their eyes regardless of the gray hair & wrinkles. Now if the heat index just hadn’t been 105 outside!

Holy cow, only me & a couple of other classmates are the only ones I know of right now without major diseases or disabilities or a plethora of meds. However, with my parents longevity & the health problems they now live with, I’m beginning to question this whole idea of living to be a serious senior citizen. Quality of life is different for everyone, but for me not being able to get out of a chair or go for a gentle walk without a walker, having to take a ton of medication, & worst of all, forgetting your friends & family just doesn’t seem like much of a life to me. My best hope for me & everyone else is that we gently just don’t wake up one morning instead of suffering thru those last years. It’s not being dead & gone that upsets people – it’s the pain & indignities that happen before death that everyone fears.

However, we got news two weeks after mom was in the nursing home that her kidneys had totally shut down. They gave her a few weeks to live, & Hospice was called in. Ironically tho, those old kidneys are still working at times, so she could last another month or so. She has problems swallowing now (from the dementia & doesn’t eat as much as a cat). My dad is holding up remarkably well, but this death watch is just excruciating. At least he has time to get used to being at home alone, being able to watch TV or listen to music without my mother complaining, but can still walk over to see her any time he needs or wants. How odd that his daughter is able to give him advise on surviving the death of a spouse. When she passes, at least the clock starts on the healing – just not until then.

I had a VA appointment scheduled for a month, so drove the trailer back to Branson for that checkup after my Reunion weekend. Even managed to finally get a shingles vaccination. It kind of itches & swelled up but no other problems with it. Geez, I don’t ever want to have shingles! My cholesterol is still higher than wanted but is dropping due to diet & quitting smoking. Progress. And it was cloudy & gloomy with scattered rain. Finally got a quick-disconnect put on the trailer for my fresh water hose tho. And it doesn’t leak like with just a hose attached.

I’ve been listening to music again while driving & it dawned on me those memories that hit me so suddenly are very much like the brief aroma on a breeze from honeysuckle, lilacs, or pine trees. So intense, just for a few seconds, that make me feel like I could almost swim in the scent – or the memory. If I closed my eyes, I could just reach out & touch them. Fortunately, my distraction & de-sensitization this past winter has actually helped. When I heard the news about my mom, I remember thinking it was just too soon after Jeff’s death. And now watching her fade away, so weak & fragile, is too reminiscent of watching Jeff last summer. There’s no easy way to let go of a loved one, whether it’s a split second event or one that takes years of decline. One of my few comforts after Jeff’s death was that he was no longer suffering. I hope I feel that too about my mom too.

Thankfully I don’t have a big agenda this summer cause those plans sure would have gone out the window (jello plans). I’ve come back to park near my hometown for however long it takes – for now, just waiting. . .& to support my dad. I’m surprised that I feel homesick for winter in AZ & NM tho. Funny how listening to the same music now here in MO reminds me of winter of Quartzsite & the Wolf Sanctuary almost more than of Jeff. Good grief, nothing seems to stay the same anymore. I just get adjusted & something else jolts loose. But I’ve realized that my & Jeff’s relationship went thru a number of different phases in 20 years since everything always changes, & I’m slowly adjusting to being a single now instead of half of a couple. I’m discovering my individuality again, happy to follow my own preferences instead of compromising & understanding.

I’m returning to Branson Tuesday so that Kira can have two little bumps lasered off her right front leg Wednesday. She isn’t messing with them too much (yet) but they seem to be getting bigger. Then I’ll return to my hometown for at least a month. I have more visits with school friends to distract me from this death watch, but I’m so thankful to be able to easily be where I need to be & have these last weeks with my mom. I rather be enjoying the cool weather in CO than here – this is a once a lifetime situation so I can’t miss it going off to chase the weather that fits my clothes.

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 naïve 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.


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.


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).


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!