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.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Getting Comfortable in New Mexico

Well, the night before leaving McHood Park south of Winslow AZ, of course I didn’t sleep well. Never do before a travel day. Woke up seriously early, had coffee & read email/blogs etc. Had to make myself NOT go outside for the final packup before it actually got daylight. Nevertheless, I was on the road shortly after 7am. Stopped at the Flying J for gas & dump my tanks. That took at least 8 tries backing up, pulling forward, & trying again to get close enough to the dump for my sewer hose to reach. OK – got that accomplished finally & I was on the road again.

I pulled out on I-40 heading east to Gallup right behind a semi truck. He was driving between 60 & 65 mph – perfect for me, so I just followed him all the way to near Gallup where he had to present himself to the Weight Station. That stretch of I-40 is a dream. So smooth, only one construction area, not a lot of traffic, no big hills (up or down), & very little breeze (from the west at that). I just plodded along, listening to the music recorded on my thumb drive thru the truck’s radio. I had started feeling pretty lonely at McHood Park, probably because Jeff & I had never been in the area. Returning to the Wolf Sanctuary where we visited last year was just another reason to want to hurry up & get there.

I topped off my gas tank in Gallup & headed south on Hwy 602 for the hour’s drive to the Sanctuary. A little hilly, but smooth & wide, eventually following a valley south. It ended at Hwy 53, & I turned east. Still a pretty good road without too many curves or hills, & very little traffic. Five miles or so east of Ramah (the closest big town to the Sanctuary), I turned south onto Indian Service Road 125, still blacktopped, drove the 15 mph (strictly enforced) speed limit thru Mountain View & finally arrived at the 4-mile badly wash boarded gravel road of Indian Service Road 120 that goes by the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. Whew – I was ready for a final destination!

I arrived right at noon & was lead to the campsite I’ll have for the next 3-4 months. It took some time to figure out how I wanted to situate the trailer amongst the trees, but it’s a huge area that can accommodate more than one RV. After meeting with Sanctuary staff & having an orientation, I finally got set up.

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Looking northeast

IMG_20160311_153529  Looking south

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I love hearing the breeze blow thru the pine trees (Ponderosa & possibly Pinon). And then there’s the wolf howls numerous times a day, especially dawn & dusk. Kira has finally started noticing & barking when they howl. Although most of the country is having an early Spring – it’s not necessarily here at 7,500’ elevation. We’ve already had a storm blow thru that brought rain, sleet, snow flurries, below freezing temps, & lots of wind. I had to dig out my actual winter coat finally, after all these winter months around Quartzsite.

I worked a couple of hours the first few days to get familiar with some of my new duties, first correcting or deleting newsletter addresses no one’s had time to do for months. Everyone is super friendly & helpful -- although most are in their 20s & make me feel slightly grandmotherly. The whole group really does function as a pack or tribe. Besides me, there are two other RVs in the campground area, both long-term volunteers. The Sanctuary has grown a lot in the past few years & is working diligently to get better organized & more efficient. Nearly everyone here is a volunteer, but they need more since there are always more projects to work on & not enough time or energy. For the volunteer RVers, they only ask for a 12-week commitment in exchange for an electric only RV site, relaxing amongst the trees. There’s a comfortable shower house & water spigot. There’s not an official dump station, but I’m going to truck my filled-up blue boy over to the porta-potty to empty it every few weeks. There is a company who comes by weekly to empty the other RV tanks & porta-potties, but I’m trying not to spend much money (since I’m not making any). My only issue is the slow, sometimes non-existent Verizon cell fon signal. It takes forever to read email & blogs on 1X or 3G, & since the signal is so weak, my phone usually doesn’t even ring. If you call me – leave a message & I’ll call back asap. And I actually have a mailing address to use. The top flew off my new propane tank cover months ago (didn’t secure it, duh) & a few other things I want to order. There’s a lot more activities around here than I’ve discovered yet, so stand by for more info. If anyone would like a slow, comfortable, useful way to spend part of their summer in an RV in the NM mountains, let me know or contact nicole@wildspiritwolfsantuary.org.

It’s been five months now since Jeff died, & for the most part, I’m doing OK, emotionally, physically, & financially. I still have some teary moments (usually when I least expect it) but I’ve accepted (& am even excited) that I’ve moved to another chapter of my life. (Gee, what do I want in life now?) I’m still uneasy tho about returning to Branson where we spent so much time. Not sure how those ghosts are going to feel. Since I believe that I’ve already had the love of my life, I’m not wanting another male partner again. Jeff was my playmate. It was easy being with him. We laughed, loved, played, & worked hard together. I don’t have that kind of stamina nor energy anymore. Nor tolerance! I like being alone in my little trailer & making my own decisions about food, travel, sightseeing, entertainment, & shopping. The memories that make me saddest tho are at least 2-3 years ago before Jeff started having more serious physical problems. I wouldn’t have ever left or abandoned him (I’m so loyal, I should be a dog), but I’m so relieved to not be a witness nor caregiver anymore. I’m learning to ask questions & determine for myself if what I hear is useful or makes sense for me. Mainly, I just don’t ever, EVER, EVER want to watch someone I love so much & depend on for everything to fail, suffer, & die again. I’ve got to get comfortable depending on myself.

The irony is I keep meeting – befriending – men who seem to have amorous ideas. What part of ‘I’m not interested’ am I not getting across? I like to talk to people – men & women – & just cause I’m single doesn’t mean I’m needy. Teach me how to take care of the technical stuff with my rig, but GEEZ, don’t be putting any moves on me! First off, I’m not ready now, but lastly, I probably won’t ever want to walk that road again. And I’ve talked to several men already in a relationship who talk about how they don’t want to be alone. Seems like most of the women I’ve met are totally content being solo (or wish they were). I guess there’s a lot more to this aging thing than I ever realized. I always wondered how widows could continue on with their lives happily for 20 years or more after their husbands died. I understand now.

OK, so rant is over. Tomorrow I start my normal Tues-Sat, 4 hour, 5 days a week volunteer job (on Mountain timezone daylight savings time) of helping out several overworked & overwhelmed volunteers. I like the idea of diversity too since I get bored quickly. And I’m looking forward to visiting & photographing the wolves again.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Amazing Friends

I have loved living small full time since the beginning, nearly 5 years ago. Jeff & I have traveled & parked in unpleasant settings & weather, but overall, sharing the adventures with Jeff was the best time of my whole life. And we made lots of friends, learned lots of things, made plenty of mistakes, & have been blown away by the helpfulness of strangers & new friends. Overall, it’s almost been one of those “had to be there” kinds of journey. The RVing saying is “We’re all friends – who haven’t met yet.” Until after his death.

I’m not sure I have enough words to describe just how many TOTALLY AMAZING people I’ve met since becoming a widow – or maybe I’ve just noticed & appreciated all those special people more. Helpful, funny, protective, gentle & patient. Almost as surprising, sometimes I’m actually the one helping & teaching someone else. All creating fulfilling emtoions of gratitude & humility.

In all frankness though, grieving hurts like hell. The random memories assault my brain when I least expect (trying to go to sleep, playing solitaire, driving, even listening to someone else talk), reducing me to a sniffling, paralized baby. The ironies & contradictions make me crazy with ?guilt? or ?fear? or ?I’m a horrible person? I’ve learned it’s normal & actually OK to breathlessly, intensely miss someone -- but not actually want them back again in your life. Geez, that just hurts to type the words. I’ve practiced A LOT of distraction in the months since Jeff died – usually (& totally not like me) cleaning & straightening but also reading a lot of ebooks. I seem to have boundless energy (where has THAT been hiding for the past 20 years? Saved for a rainy day [like now?]) to the point of not going to sleep easily & waking up full of spit & vinegar in the wee hours of the morning, plus no need or desire for an afternoon nap. I’ve quite smoking without ripping anyone’s head off (OK, so now I’m addicted [maybe] to my coffee & cream e-cigarette juice) & still managed to actually loose excess fat. The weight loss is probably due more to lack of eating (or interest). Geez, I’d just rather go hungry than have to even open a cup of yogurt. But I have contributed to Quartzsite’s resturants quite nicely this winter. Why does food almost always taste better when someone else prepares it?

I’ve learned so much about mechanical & electrical stuff this winter – & I’m remembering it all (I think). I enjoy my alone time in the trailer, sitting outside, or driving somewhere. I LIKE making my own decisions & not waiting for a concensous or compromise. I’m not scared or fearful because I’m never hesitant to ask someone, anyone, for help. I’ve come close to crying in frustation a few times (like when the pickup won’t start cause the battery cables have collected too much dust, or when the sewer hose didn’t attach tighter & created a mess) – but those times when no one else is around to help, you just do your best, even when it’s wrong again. Mistakes can be a really great thing – as long as you LEARN from them & never repeat them (make new ones).

While in Quartzsite, & specificially after the record-breaking-attendance Fiberglass Rally, I have met (yes, I sought them out) & become good friends with at least 10 solo female Casita gals, of which several are widows & most are full time. I’m not totally out of my mind or some kind of a freak to be continuing this full timing lifestyle ALONE. Different circumstances have lead these women to embark on thieir piece of freedom, but the I CAN DO THIS BY MYSELF gumption is in all of us. We’re all within 10 years or so of the same age, & grew up during the feminist movement of the 60s. One of my few hot buttons is telling me I can’t or shouldn’t do something simply based on being female. (A male commenter said on a forum, I can do this BECAUSE I’m a female. LOVE that.) I know my liminitations based on physical size & strength, but for intelligence & determination, I have no doubts I can manage this lifestyle! And the relief is HUGE finding out I’m just a drop in the barrel of women with the same desires & confidence. AND, I’m way closer to conventionality than I’ve ever been.

IMG_20160211_121516This is Wendy removing the old silicone from her trailer, prepping for the installation of the new awning brackets to remount her awning.

I imagine this widowhood is somehow similar to being an adult orphan (when your elderly parents are gone), & grief is grief, whether for a spouse, sibling, parent, pet, or a long-time friend. Several of my new awesome friends have lost a parent in the recent past & express almost more sadness from that than lose of a spouse. Maybe that’s because you’ve known your parents all your life, (usually) only have one set, & spouses come & go & can be replaced to some degree. And then there’s the age – wait, maturity. Observing the world over decades gives a much better perspective of reality & life.

I still miss Jeff’s smile & laughter most, but this group of fantastic, gutsy women is helping me SOOOOO much to learn how to keep putting one foot in front of the other to redesign my life. And I’m OK with venturing out on the road with the trailer all by myself finally. I’ve learned that I can trust other people’s advise as much as I ever did Jeff’s & that I can share feelings, concerns, & experiences with other multiple people instead of bascially just with Jeff. I’m not replacing him exactly, but at least filling needs with various people instead one person being everything. And I’ve realized too that I want to DO something more than just hang out being retired (I think), so I’m going to be a volunteer at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in northwest New Mexico, starting in early March. I’ll be there – working in the office (no cleaning toilets, changing beds, waiting tables, or standing for hour on painful hour) – until returning to my class reunion in Missouri in late July. I’m happy to miss the worst of tornado season, violent Spring storms, & as much of the heat, humidity, & bugs as possible in Missouri. I feel sad & guilty for not returning to my elderly parents sooner, but those daily phone calls let me know how they’re doing (OK so far) & assure them I’m thinking of them & that I’m safe. Between my breast cancer, my brother’s death 4 years ago, & Jeff’s decline, suffering, & death, I just can’t not follow my heart & dreams for anyone else’s sake. And I like to think it was Jeff who popped the idea of working at the wolf sanctuary into my mind suddeny (as I was playing solitairre not really thinking about much). We visited the Sanctuary last Spring on our way back to Missouri, so at least I know what it looks like. And I’m expecting to make a whole bunch of new friends there.

My new friend Wendy over the past month went with me to a campground near Yuma so we could both visit a Mexican dentist in Los Algodones. She got fillings & I got a crown. Unfortunatey, she headed east for Florida & returned to Quartzsite to pick up mail before heading north & up. The early warm weather is bringing out the snakes, so that’s my que to head out. The first night after Wendy left, it felt pretty lonelly. I realized I’d only spent 7 nights since Jeff’s death without having a known friend nearby -- but I’m not feeling scared or alone. After three months of dry camping, plugging in for endless television & air conditioning in Yuma was fabulous tho. Guess I’m just getting antsy to follow the weather.

Working my way to northwestern NM to the Wolf Sanctuary took me north of Phoenix to a small, quiet campground near Page Springs AZ (between Sedona & Cottonwood). My campsite backed up to a gorgeous little river (or big creek) but I had very little cell fon service. A trip to Walmart in Cottonwood provided 4G service at least. I met 3 other solo ladies at the campground too. And I survived my first wedding anniversary without Jeff without too much discomfort.

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After a week of intense book reading & endless television, I headed up (& I mean seriously UP) I-15 to Flagstaff, then east on I-40 to Winslow AZ. That’s the last Walmart in AZ until Gallup NM so I need to shop carefully before finally getting to the Wolf Sanctuary (an hour south of Gallup). I managed to find the statue of the girl on the corner in Winslow AZ too.

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I stayed at McHood City Park, south of Winslow, free boondocking. Super fast cell service too. I met several neighboring RVers, walked Kira, watched the coots on the lake, & marveled at the eroded sandstrone formations around.

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Sandstone Formations

Not sure if I’ll stop another night before arriving at the Wolf Sanctuary or not – depends on the where the approaching cold front is worse. Even out here in the alone space, I feel SO connected to family & friends (new & old) via phone calls, Facebook, email, & blogs. It’s an amazing world out here.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Crowded Quartzsite

Build it, and they will come. Guess maybe that’s how the big Quartzsite AZ RV Show might have started. And indeed, the RVs did arrive. My little patch of dirt at the La Posa West long-term area acquired RVs on all four sides quickly. Also the days are staying pretty full of sunshine (finally) although the nights are still pretty nippy.

I finally undertand WHY the current propane tank for my furnace ALWAYS runs out over night – cause the furnace doesn’t run during the days? But still, four times now in 2 months!!! Once I woke up cold & achy, & it was 41° outside & only 49° inside. That’s just not right. At least I’m keeping track of when propane runs out, gets refilled, tanks emptied, & more water needed so I can be a little more pro-active with this stuff instead of waiting to be surprised. I don’t like surprises – even good ones.

I’ve refilled both the trailer & generator propane tanks several times & have finally gotten efficient at getting water into the water bladder on the truck to totally fill my on-board fresh water tank. Also dug around & found a little plastic gizmo with threads on both ends so I can also run the water out of the bladder into my tank thru the water filter. My major malfunction now is when the gray tank in full & the sink backs up. (I REALLY wish I had a way to determine how full my gray tank is BEFORE it backs up.) I managed to confuse the macerator pump last time somehow & blew a fuse, so had to empty part of the tanks carefully into a cat litter bucket to dump into the grayboy. At least there was enough room to wash & do dishes. Once I trucked over to the dump area & had trouble standing the gray boy up to drain since it was so full. The hose wasn’t seated good in the dump hole & made a mess in the area until I could corral the end of the hose in the appropriate hole. The pickup battery has failed twice, requiring a jump start, & both times, the cables needed cleaning. Desert dust maybe? Yessiree – I’m finally learning how to do all this stuff easier, faster, & correctly.

With all the sunshine, I’m only running the generator during evenings after a cloudy day or every other night for a few hours (gotta watch some TV at night). And I’m also turning off the inverter frequently (that runs the TV, DVR, & sat controller) overnight & seem to be having more battery power (TV) whenever & for however long I want. But this going to sleep without a TV going just isn’t working out so well. Actually, my life-long ‘go to sleep quickly & stay comotose for 8 hours’ habit has totally left the building since Jeff’s death. It’s not that I’m worried or scared or sad – just not tired. In fact, I’m shocked (& possibly slightly worried) at how much energy I’ve had since his death. (Can’t be the not smoking thing since it started when he went into the hospital??) Don’t remember the last time I wanted or had an afternoon nap. I was awake until 4:30am one morning, finishing up reading a book, just cause I couldn’t go to sleep.  Good thing Kira & the cats don’t care when I’m awake or asleep.

I’ve met a few more neighbors recently, & a four single Casita ladies. Rose lives in Parker & lost her husband suddenly a month before Jeff died. We had quite a discussion. I drove out to Dome Rock to meet up with Wendy, another solo woman full timing in her Casita. We’d chatted on the Facebook Casita group previously. Have a lot of things in common & look forward to sharing some adventures together. She’s been parked next to me a few nights. And Mickey returned to Quartzsite from her Tucson holiday only to spend a week battling a bad cold. I also made it to the 2016 BloggerFest this year. Saw 5 bloggers I’d already met, & met 8 authors of blogs I already follow. And I have an invitation to come to LaQuinta CA to visit a photography group friend next month after the fiberglass rally.

Otherwise, not much to photograph & I’m just enjoying being lazy. Reading a lot of ebooks. I guess winter has finally arrived in the Plains states & I’m happier than ever to be in western AZ than most anywhere east of here. Went thru the big tent RV show once, & only bought a gizmo to put my phone in while driving. Jeff’s birthday was this month, & although I was sad, it didn’t immobilize me. Made a run to Walmart at both Parker & Yuma so I’ve actually been cooking a little & eating out less. I even got a little personal blender for making smoothies so I don’t really have to cook much. I checked out the one Mexican restaurant in town, but chips & salsa weren’t free while waiting for your meal (I didn’t buy any) & they didn’t have the shrimp enchiladas I was hoping for. Not going there again. The Hawaiian pizza at Silly Al’s tho is almost addicting. Gas is down below $2/gallon finally during the tent show, & propane is still at $1.99/#.  My cousin & his wife rolled into town during the show to camp near his wife’s niece. I’m looking forward to the Fiberglass Rally in a couple of weeks held out at Dome Rock. It’ll be my 4th time, but being single will be totally different this year. I sure am a lot more social being alone tho.

I had an epiphany last week (love that word). Of all the bad or traumatic events in my life (some of my own making), something really, really good has always came out of those experiences – something I would have never planned. A bad divorce sent me to the Navy – & the GI Bill to get my BS degree later & medical VA benefits that later treated my breast cancer without any expenses & is currently my only health coverage (can’t afford Medicare). Unemployment for both of us gave me time for the cancer treatments & almost max number of weeks of benefits. Plus Jeff was available to be with me during that whole experience. Jeff’s death forced me to learn new things & trust my own decisions.  Sometimes I feel like I’m a totally different person than 10 or 20 (possible just 1 or 5) years ago, & I’m thankful to have acquired better horse sense in that time. Overall, I guess I just needed to put painful memories into the perspective of ultimate outcomes. Life is never all good or all bad – it’s an always-moving pendulum.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Desert Holiday Season

OK, so it’s still cold(ish) in Quartzite. The nights are low 30s, frost warnings most mornings. At least nothing frozen & white has fallen from the sky nor accumulated. My furnace keeps us toasty all night tho. I’ve been starting the generator in the morning (as suggested by several guys) to top off the batteries so the solar panels can keep them charged during the day. In all honesty tho, I don’t quite understand straining the generator to fully charge the batteries early when I’m not using much power during the day. And if the solar panels get the batteries pretty well charged up, then finishing up (or super charging) the batteries in late afternoon/early evening should need less generator time & have the batteries ready for hours of TV time. Dunno, I just can’t wrap my mind around some things.

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Christmas Eve day was BAD. There were no invitations to go out to eat or visit, so it was just me & the critters. My family always did the present-opening thing on Christmas Eve so it’s always been an emotional time for me. When my family moved from Wichita KS back to my home town, my dad & grandpa spent all summer building two bedrooms on to the old 4-room farm house, & my brother & I slept in our NEW rooms for the first time on Christmas Eve. Until I was 29 years old, stationed in Guam, I never missed sleeping in MY room on Christmas Eve. That left Christmas Day to go visit inlaws. It worked great.

I’ve heard the first holiday season after loosing someone is the hardest. This one definitely hit that mark. But it wasn’t just about being without Jeff, it was A LOT of memories from past Christmases. Dinners at my parents with grandparents, aunts & uncles, & cousins. Spending that first Christmas Eve in Guam working, then having a few too many rum & cokes (Not my choice, but that’s all that was left after everyone in the barracks had been partying for hours before I got off work), & shuffling between my bunk & the bathroom most of Christmas Day. I hiked into the protected water shed forest behind my base on Oahu one Christmas Day. I cried a lot Christmas Eve, on & off all day, from all the memories – good & bad. Just had a big pity party. Christmas Day was a relief actually. . .except for that raging headache left over from all the crying. Sheesh!! I really hope I’m over the hump of this grieving thing. I’ve tried to stay occupied with day to day survival, included some fun activities, meeting new people, & basically just sucked it up. Jeff’s gone – & can’t ever come back. I’m thankful he was in my life, but now he’s not. And life goes on to different things. I don’t ever want to forget my decades with Jeff – but I can’t spend my present wallowing in the past. It won’t change a thing. And for the most part, I’m enjoying being single. I love the freedom to make choices without consulting anyone else (except maybe Kira). And when I have questions or problems, there always seems to be someone around in person or available by fon to ask for help. I have plenty of friends & acquaintenances to talk to (by fon or in person) & places to go when I get restless. Jeff showed me how life should be an adventure, so I feel like I’m honoring him by continuing that journey.

The day after Christmas was also BAD. . .in another way tho. THE WIND!! OMG, it was bad enough to blow freckles off your nose. Although it was predicted, it was still a hard day. Somehow staying inside due to uncomfortable weather outside is much different than just choosing to hang out inside. The blowing sand was so bad I couldn’t see any of the mountains ringing Quartzsite by afternoon. And since the trailer nose is pointed west, that north gale pounded on the door side of the trailer. Kira didn’t get her walk that day.

The Monday after Christmas was a good time to make a Wally World run . . . AND . . . AND . . . AND . . . (finally) to treat myself to the new Star Wars movie. It was the happiest most enjoyable day I’ve since. . .can’t remember when. Since I’d already been up to Parker & that Walmart is a little on the small side, I decided to check out Yuma. It has been two years since being there, so off I went at 8am with 34° temp. Had to fill up with gasoline first & I was half way to Yuma before my hands finally thawed out. (Now where did I put my gloves?) The navigator lady on Google maps on my phone lead me right to the movie theater. Lots of parking room close by the entrance to the theater that early, so that was easy. Walked in, bought my senior ticket for $8, & had plenty of seats to choose from. Only 5 other people attended that 10:00 am showing with me. This was the first 3D movie I’ve ever seen, & those glasses gave me a touch of vertigo the first few minutes.

OMG! OMG! OMG! I nearly cried a couple of times when the original actors (much older versions now) appeared cause it was like seeing good friends after a very long time. I love sci-fi, & the whole “force” thing has always resonated with me. I do believe everyone & everything vibrates at an energy frequency, & that whole positive thinking thing is about not only expecting good things to happen but vibrating at the same frequency to attrack those positive things. I know it sounds strange, but I believe it works – at least for me (most of the time). Anyway, I had an absolutely perfect day taking myself to the movies. Couldn’t have been more perfect since everything happened just as I’d planned & wanted.

I got an email from a fellow fiberglass owner (Don, who owns a Scamp & fulltimes) who heard about my blog from another Scamper we met three years ago at the Fiberglass Rally here in Quartzsite – Kamper Bob (of Recreation Engineer). We talked on the phone & agreed to meet in Quartzsite for lunch on Tuesday. Super nice guy with a sweetheart dog (who doesn’t take well to other dogs tho). After lunch, he followed me back to my trailer & talked a lot with my neighbor Jon about his Escape trailer. Don is camped out near Bouse on BLM but didn’t realize the $180 for a long-term permit was for up to 7 months, not monthly. Since it includes free water, dump, & trash bins, it works out to barely over $1/day, depending on how many weeks/months you stay here. I really love not having to move every 14 days.

In fact, I haven’t moved the trailer since arriving 12/2/15. Why is it a propane tank ALWAYS runs out after dark? At least I remembered the other tongue propane tank was full, so switching the lever was easy, even in the dark. After refilling 2 propane tanks, I dumped my black & gray water tanks again into the grayboy using the macerator pump. However, I had a serious brain fart & couldn’t get the pickup hood to open. Dah – I was pushing the release lever the wrong direction. I hooked the pump to the trailer battery but it wasn’t as strong as from the pickup battery. Anyway, got the grayboy dumped & washed out, & put water in the bladder riding on the pickup cab. I still can’t judge how much water I’m putting in the bladder, so I got a little less than ¾ of a tank of fresh water this time. Apparently it was one of those days tho when my brain short circuits because seemed like every connection I needed to make (attaching this, screwing that in or off) was a struggle. So I KNOW you turn right to tighten & left to loosen (except propane which is opposite) – but those directions only work when you’re looking at the connection from the correct side. See what I mean? I know, I know – it’s all a learning curve. It’ll get easier.

My cousin (Larry) & his wife (Sherry) from Phoenix drove over Wednesday to check it out. They’re bringing their motorhome to Quartzsite in a few weeks to visit with Sherry’s family & just wanted to get a feel for the area. Larry is not what you’d call a happy camper trying to herd that big thing around. I’m looking forward to visiting with them when they come back.

My neighbor Jon & I have another neighbor – Rudy in a big 5th wheel parked near. He’s Canadian, but grew up in Brazille with Dutch parents. He has quite the accent. He invited Jon & I over for a little New Year’s Eve get-together. We had a few drinks & talked for several hours, but I was soundly asleep long before midnight got close. Boy, I love knowing that event has an auto-pilot.

WIN_20160102_13_07_56_ProSo 2016 is here . . . with some major changes from last year for me. But spending the winter in AZ in my Casita with Kira & the cats is what & where I want. I have to remind myself that when times are BAD, it means they can ONLY get better. And I feel they are.

Oh, I mosied around the vendor area last week, not looking for anything in particular, just looking. I ended up getting this sign. Didn’t NEED it, just seemed like a fun idea.