Breakdown Uno for the bus


Perspective in Metal

After coming out of a marvelous camping, photo hunting, van selling, working week, I had a little surprise on the dash of Just ENuff. A little always-on glowing engine icon. I wanted to ignore it in hopes it was a false reading. But since it’s new to me and diesels are a bit fussier in their inner workings, I decided not to chance it. I cut my first day’s run short and stopped at a Flying J for an overnight stay. I figured with several truck stops in the area a mechanic wouldn’t be too difficult to locate. A quick diagnostic at the Autozone proved my logic to be sound. A bad glow plug. After picking up two, in case it runs in pairs, I started the hunt for a mechanic that could take me quickly. That was more of a challenge! I did locate one who not only worked me in for first thing tomorrow, but also let me camp on their property. I feel quite lucky in that regard.

It’s the Harvest Moon, and the first night of Sukkoth. I’m at a temporary location, so I guess I’m set 😊

I had the opportunity to do some amazing sight seeing though, even among all of the hard work of disgorging the van, selling it, disposing of things I can’t use (but not enough of that!!), and working my regular job. The International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City was a real treat, and not just for the gardens themselves. The abundant life, resembling something of normalcy, was the real joy. Volleyball games, soccer games, weddings, kids on skateboards and bikes, you know, the way the world used to be before COVID. Here are some shots from my two visits there.

The path
Three Stages of Beauty
Nature Nurtured Heart

I also got to visit Bridal Veil Falls and the surrounding area. Just beautiful, even if the fall colors are very muted this year.

Bridal Veil Falls, Utah
I’m starting to see creatures in wood

This grand view…

Above Bridal Veil Falls

…juxtaposed with this tiny fern beneath my feet.

Stop and Look

I also did some industrial photos at some abandoned buildings, but I’ll save those for later and let creation’s beauty stand for today.

~SE, in a parking lot near you 🙃

The Winding Road


The many shades of dun

After leaving Hope behind, the path southward down Idaho became one long, undulating journey through the many shades of dun. I drove mostly in solitude, seeing more cows than cars, past miles and miles and miles of hay stubble. With the combination of the wildfire haze and the pallid, wan disc of the sun, it felt more like looking over sand dunes in a dust storm. There wasn’t much break in the visual monotony, which was tiring to my eyes. The only real excitement were the gigantic farm equipment appearances on the two lane roads. Massive in size, taking up most of the two lanes, the likes of which I’d never seen. Some, with their twisted augers of steel, looked like giant interstellar communication devices on wheels or weapons of war from a Mad Max movie.

From there I crossed into reservation lands, historical markers popping up left and right along the way. I stopped for a museum, but it was closed. Grain bins and railroads were a common sight as well. The drive had tired me, particularly the squinting into the distance due to low visibility, and I stayed in a rest area in tiny hamlet at the edge of the reservation an hour short of my target city. This turned out to be a very good decision.

The next morning I took off, refreshed a bit from a good night’s sleep, and immediately confronted long, high grades descending into the area known as Hell’s Canyon. Miles and miles of twisting, steep roads, with the beautiful Snake River apparently determining the shape of the road, lol. It is stunningly gorgeous, and I wished that someone else had been driving so that I could swivel my head like the tourist I was. Although it was a difficult drive, the scenery outdid anything I have seen in my adventures so far. Giant conifers, deeply etched mountainsides and a river that is one minute calm and serene, soon punctuated with raging rapids and tiny islands in its midst. There are many places for gawkers and fishermen to pull off and indulge themselves. However, you can’t really see most of them in advance and trying to stop a bus going downhill in a space meant for a car or two wasn’t really an option for me. It is about this time I became aware of how annoyed many drivers behind me were, and the ‘slow driver pullover’ signs popped up. I used every single one that I could, watching ten or more vehicles rush past me in relief. We are all seemingly in a big hurry to get somewhere.

River peek

I finally arrived in Riggins, which is as cute as can be. I hope to return someday for a leisurely stroll around and about. Again, though, not much advance notice to stop and pull in somewhere. Fishing seems to definitely be the name of the game in that little town teetering at the edge of the river.

Riverfront rest area on 95S

Soon after though, I did find a rest area where I took a nice break by the Little Salmon River and ate lunch, taking enough time to stretch my legs, do a little meditation, and frolic with a child. She seemed surprised to find a grown-up sitting on a rock by the water, and soon considered me a captive audience for practicing her rock throwing skills. The pure delight on a child’s face after a particularly strong rock toss was radiant.

AJ’s delight – with permission

I scrabbled around on the riverbank looking for things of interest. Of course, this big heart rock in the river caught my eye…

Heart Awash

Fall was beginning to do it’s thing here as well.

Indicators of Fall

Like the driftwood piled up on the waters edge at Hope, these rocks seemed out of place so far up the banks.

Dry Boulders

I find an archway of greenery by which to approach.

Sheltered Entrance

Rested, stretched and fed, I return to the bus to carry on and immediately encounter rock blasting road crews. It was interesting to watch, if a little concerning. I was glad to be on the side NOT passing under the falling rocks!

A stress relieving job?

The adventure continues later, but it’s time for me to go for now. I’m off into Utah today to hopefully sell the van this week, gather my stuff and revisit some places I really enjoyed previously, before returning to my temporary home here in the RV park to await registration and licensing.

~SE somewhat in motion

Maiden Journey – First Run


Sunset at Driftwood Yard

‘Tis done. I’m now traveling in my new-to-me rig. After tires, brakes, differential fluid and new batteries for solar, I was a lot lighter than when I arrived to pick up the little E-Nuff bus, wallet wise, lol.

First stop was, aptly, Hope, ID. What a beautiful place for the first real road camping I did. It was nice having company for a change as well, as I connected with one of my ‘road kids’. We took a walk to the lakeside to watch the sunset and start naming the stars as they revealed themselves slowly in the night sky. Then back to the bus for a little Ramen Plus, as I like to call it. Ramen plus veggies, or eggs, or canned meat – or sometimes all of the above! Afterwards we sat under the night sky and I watched meteors, including one enormous fireball in the southwestern sky. I have missed companionship, the sharing of things seen or thought in real time.

I was up early the next morning to start breakfast in the trucker’s lunchbox to cook while we toured the shoreline in the early morning light and haze. Ducks, geese and an eagle shared the shoreline, calling out their morning chitchat in the quiet. A magpie is keeping me company on a fence rail as I write this. I so enjoy bird life!

I ate wild snowberries for the first time – not too impressive, rather like a poorly grown blueberry without the jazzy taste. Perhaps they were not quite ripe?

I meditated on a beautiful rock at the shoreline and gave thanks for the beauty that surrounded me, the sounds and sights of life carrying on in the animal world, seemingly oblivious to wildfires and pandemics. Too busy just surviving and thriving for another day I suppose.

My seat in the theatre of life

As always, my heart rocks were present here and there…

Other items caught my eye: a whimsical driftwood bird, the slender arch of grass framing a view, the delightful autumnal leaf and miniature pine cone cluster. Soul soothing things bracketing the months that came before and the hard drive south to come. For a few hours I had the respite I so often find out in the natural world.

The bus came with on board solar, charging via either the sun or the alternator, and I now have 200 amp hours of fresh lithium batteries. I no longer have to worry about charging things to charge the laptop or what to use to power the coffee stick which delivers the eye opening java in the morning and the slumber inducing tea at night. What gifts, these things!

I also have a real bed, after sleeping in the fetal position for a year. It is a true luxury.

It even folds out into a full bed!

I have a sink with running water, hot and cold, and an honest to goodness shower!

Sink, shower, then fridge box on right

It was a long term decision to upgrade into an actual tiny home on wheels. It must serve me for my time on the road, and then beyond, functioning as my parked home somewhere yet unknown in the future.

After spending ten plus days in here, I’m wondering what’s in the stored van that I need?? Food and clothes, yes. Since I’m actually around the same people for multiple days in a row now, the same three outfits I’ve been rotating won’t do, lol. But I will have to do some careful culling. I’m terrible at letting go of stuff. But having the ability to just pull over and sleep without disgorging half a vehicle, having walking space and a place that feels like a home rather than a rolling storage unit is so, so nice!

Stay tuned as I travel the nearly 1,000 miles into my new home state, Nevada, where I’ll establish residency, sell the van, and learn to be a minimalist in the next thirty days. Hah! Well, at least I’ll give it a go 🙂 Then the beautiful trek southward, revisiting favorite places and seeing some new ones, as I follow the sun for the winter.

So come along, I’ve even got comfy seating and a two minute tea or coffee prep station ready for you as I tell you about rock slides, roadside mountain demolition, how to piss off people on single lane winding roads, and how many people just walk up to the bus and start talking, lol!

~SE, she’s out there 🙃

Free flying


Oh my, my, how I had forgotten the joy to be found in driving – particularly driving a responsive, well-functioning vehicle where gauges and issues did not have to be monitored. It’s glorious. You feel one with the car. The radio playing classic sounds – The Cranberries, Aerosmith, The Beatles, Panic at the Disco, Plain White T’s, Fleetwood Mac, Eurythmics, and so on. Songs you can sing your heart out on.

The open big sky of Montana, one of my favorite states, where you can be the only person visible on the road before and behind you as mountains loom in the distance and rivers and forests grace the near visibility. Where my foot may have accidentally pushed past ninety, but only maybe…

I got a serious case of the giggles when reading names like Beaverhead River, Climax Gulch, Big Hole Pluton, and the town of Feely closing in right behind them (some days I have the humor of a 12-year old boy, lol). It had been a long time since I laughed so freely.

The weight off of my shoulders cannot be measured. Each mile towards my destination frees more of me, lightens me, enlivens me. Yes, you may have guessed – I’m heading to retrieve my new rig. Here’s a sneak peek:

Short Bus

I’m currently traversing four states to go pick up my new home. I want to be ecstatic, but I know better. Like many things in my life lately, the representation may differ from the reality, so I’m cautiously optimistic. This would change everything for me in so many ways. Comfort. Mobility. Dependability. In a word, the closest to true freedom I’ve had since I left home. The nearest to my actual nature that I have been.

Today, the real me came home to roost again. I almost did a burn out in a rest area parking lot (who knows what the penalties would be for tire tread loss on a rental car?) She’s the one who pitted her Charger against Corvettes and won. The one who stuffed asinine males into lockers for disrespect. The one who dances alone and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. The one who will always survive. I’m glad she’s back. And I can’t wait to see where she goes next…

Check back in a few days for the unveiling. Any day that reveals two heart rocks in one day can’t be all bad… 🙂

Two fer

Or a bumblebee visitor…

~SE on the road to restoration

Superpowers


IMG_20200827_165649452 Do you have superpowers? We all do, sometimes they are just hidden from us until needed.  Lately, I feel like my cape is at the dry cleaners. I’ve been accused of being a Pollyanna, a rose colored glasses kind of gal often in my life. The eternal optimist.

Today was supposed to be a celebration of life to offset the anniversary of a death. A new focus, if you will.  But, like so many things in my life right now, that got derailed by unforeseen circumstances.

Yesterday I sat under a huge cottonwood tree and worked the second part of my work day.  An electric blue damsel fly landed on my arm for a visit. Wasps and midges filled the air. It’s hot here, I won’t lie. But the breeze from the lake kept it bearable.  The frustrations and confusion and scramble of the day faded away a bit.  I found a campsite in the state park and settled in somewhat for a one night stay. I watched the mountains turn pink in the lowering sun’s rays and followed the flight of scores of birds as they worked the skies for their evening meal. I wanted this to be the panacea that nature usually is, but so many thoughts kept pushing in. I finally settled my mind with breathing, and just did nothing. Despite finding a book left behind from another camper, the frustration, physical tiredness of fast unexpected packing in the heat, and the uncertainty of what to do next took over and my eyes just wanted to shut. So I readied the van for a one night rest of sorts and crawled into bed.  As a result, I was up early in the dark, fumbling around trying to find my glasses, get oriented in the weird one night sleep arrangement, get dressed and find coffee.  I watched the mist burn off the mountains and enjoyed the echoes of bird voices as they, too, rose to face another day. The mountains turned from grey hulking shapes into lavender sentinels hovering over a verdant tree line on a background of gradient pinks and golds. The coffee tasted good in the chilled air, belying the hot day to come. It was a few moments of beauty in advance of more searching and figuring out what to do for the next few days.

 

The oil pressure gauge is unreliable and the leak continues unabated.  The initial discovery came on the descent from the 8000 foot peak on the way into town, scaring the pudding out of me.  I was probably being fussed at repeatedly by the line of cars stuck behind me as I nursed Ruby gingerly down to the closest gas station,  about twenty five miles of mental examination of what the heck could be wrong now!  Once settled in a safe place, I checked the dipstick and found no oil registering.  I’d just had the oil changed not too long ago so it should have been fine. I got under and checked the oil pan, thinking maybe my flat tire adventure had led to unknown damage. From appearances, the plug might have been missing. So after replacing what I thought was an empty oil system, I hobbled over to Jiffy Lube. That was festive, but I did get to go under a car on a lift for the first time ever. It was misdiagnosed until I just plainly asked ‘Where did the oil GO?’ At second inspection (where the mechanic was insistent it was a transmission fluid leak but… Not!), the leak at the oil pressure sensor was found. I just cannot justify putting more money into this van. Hence the flat out search day in and day out for a new rig. I travel now with oil on hand, checking the van every fifty miles I drive.  It’s nerve wracking to travel in such an unreliable vehicle. I’m not an anxious person, but I’ve become one, and I don’t like the impact on my personality.

I’ve done an assessment and out here is where I want to be. But at some point I’ll hit the fish or cut bait wall and have to rent a truck to get back home if I can’t find an affordable, reliable vehicle.  I’ve lost out on three suitable options in the last ten days.  It’s a struggle to look, to work, to maintain my daily life.  I have to reach deep down to find joy and positivity, which is new for me again after climbing out of the situation with my grandson.  I’ve traded in my optimism superpowers for persistence. The cape is tighter and it often slips off at inopportune times, leaving me vulnerable, tired and uncertain. Add to that other uncertainty hovering around me, and I have had some really hot mess days.

But for today, I will do my best to smile, to be kind to others, to remember too, their struggles.  I’m healthy. I’m employed. I have a place to sleep and food to eat.

But be warned – this is not the things you usually see on #vanlife hashtags or videos extolling the liberation of this life. Those too, are true. So too, are the challenges and realities out here.  Be prepared. Making decisions alone, far from home and support while under pressure is not the best scenario. It can be gotten through, I believe.  Stay tuned to see if that inherent optimism inside of me turns the page…

~SE, hobbling on the road, trying to keep her chin up even when it wobbles.

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Fools Rush In…


.. Where angels fear to tread, as the saying goes. I’m fairly certain I’ve discussed my sometimes resemblance to this persona on the blog a time or two before 🙂

Idaho was gorgeous. I really enjoyed my time there, as well as the friendships that were formed.  It’s nice to get missives and pictures about friend’s adventures.  While I enjoyed Idaho  I did not enjoy the route I chose to use for my descent back into Utah, via Wyoming. Nope. Wyoming was fine, and provided an excellent stop over night for free sleeping in a hotel parking lot, as well as the most luxurious bathing facilities I’ve ever encountered at a truck stop!  Yes, folks, that is a soaking tub. I took full advantage of both shower and tub before hitting the road that morning.

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Taking 191 south into Utah runs you through Flaming Gorge. It’s lovely as far as scenery. It’s not lovely when your antique van encounters 8% grades and one switchback per half mile. About the only thing I saw my first pass through there was the engine temp measurement and the gear shift indicator! Holey moley, I don’t want to do that again. And I’m pretty certain that the poor folks stuck behind me between passing lanes would rather I not attempt it again in this vehicle either, lol. It only added insult to injury as in the oncoming lane, nimble little rally cars whizzed by in alarming numbers obviously having a blast.

Thankfully there were many place to pull over and let Roamin’ Ruby take a breather. I still may have to change that seatcover though…

The heat wave that followed the next week forced a campground investment, though. Aside from the cost, that proved a nice break, with showers and a laundromat at hand, as well as shore power to run air conditioning when it got unbearable in the van. I later was able to revisit Flaming Gorge from an appropriate vehicle and enjoy the sweeping scenery, great vistas, and explore some lovely fishing holes off of the beaten track.IMG_20200718_204022417_HDRIMG_20200718_194207894

From Vernal, I move into the Uinta National Forest area and Strawberry Reservoir. This is a great place to use as long as you don’t mind horses and cows in your camp! I had some funny moments from inside the van as the horse herd investigated my gear.  It’s still unnerving in the night when they use your van to scratch themselves even when you know what it is 😳

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IMG_20200810_184726932But the most hair raising adventure that I had,and the impetus behind the title, was my trip to find another camp and an encounter with Heber Mountain and its forest roads.  As my two weeks neared an end, I started scouting for another spot. One referral was nice, but did not have signal for me to work.  Then I spotted a review for the Heber Mountain area, which even had a video about the area. Cool! I located the basic area on my map and took off to investigate. The drive up was quite a climb but there were few vehicles on the road, so I could take my time and baby Ruby. I passed many deer and saw tent encampments on the climb up, but few vans or RVs.  That changed as I got within eight miles of top and I started seeing a good number of fellow campers. But no signal in any places I saw to camp. So I kept going until I found the last forest road leg of the review area. Woohoo! This road was pretty good at the start. It was twisty though and you couldn’t see how it was very far ahead of you. Then the rocks started growing in size and frequency. My van is low to the ground like me, lol. And full, very full. But I could see the ridge at the top! And, for what’s it’s worth, I had just passed the last turn around point…

The rocks continued to get larger, and pointier. But you couldn’t see that from the turns! With less than a half mile ahead to the ridge, I heard a giant “POW” and a big whoosh. I stopped, nicely positioned on a good incline. And discovered I had blown a tire. Whee. Boy was it blown. I had managed not to damage the rim though.  No camps lay ahead of me visually. So I got water, a snack, my cell phone (which, tada! had signal and 4G), some cash and humped it back up the way to the last camp I had seen. At 10k feet, this was a bit more challenging than I expected. I hadn’t acclimated to the elevation difference, coming up from about 7k at my other camp and the hike was mostly uphill. But I made it back to that camp and got lucky – the inhabitant was a Fish and Wildlife guy with a nice four wheel drive vehicle and a soft spot for ignorant,  stranded folks. In fact, he said if he’d have seen me pass, he’d have stopped me as nothing drove that road but ATVs usually. Nice to know, if too late at that point.

With signal I was able to pull up tow services. One never returned my call, I’m assuming due to the “I’m at the intersection of forest road blah and forest road other blah” and thereby allowing them to determine, no asphalt, no go. Another service answered, but it was after hours and so the price was more than if I waited until next day and regular hours. I arranged to have them come out the following day after sharing a pin with them.

Then I had to make a plan because the following day was a work day and I had to be online to work by five thirty local time. I’d already had to take a half day earlier in the week when my data ran out unexpectedly – something I’d never encountered before either! Wildlife guy offered to drive down in the morning when he left for work and bring me up to his trailer so I could work out of the cold as I waited for the tow truck.  So tip your hat to next Fish and Wildlife personnel you see, they are pretty darn helpful and I’m grateful.

The sunset up there was beautiful as were the views, and the dark sky made for incredible star gazing, but it was difficult to relax for sleep while on an incline in a disabled van that might go rolling down the hill in the middle of the night with all of my belongings,  lol.

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It’s good I was atop the hill for the tow truck guy. Once they had rechecked my location again before heading out the price changed, but it was still reasonable for the situation. And quite frankly, for the service, care and consideration the van received, I’d have paid more and still felt it acceptable (but shhhh, don’t tell Adam, lol). It was quite impressive to see someone get a flat bed tow vehicle turned around to back up to my van in that narrow space, although we did have to do a lot of rock moving to allow for that maneuver.  We got the van on there with no further damage to the rim as well.  It’s interesting to go down a mountain on a narrow road in a massive tow truck with your house on the back!

At the end of the day I was safe, the van repaired and no worse for the wear other than a lighter wallet and the lack of a spare.  But I’ve learned now to stop and do a walking examination of a route, or go up and ask someone already there if it’s suitable to continue in my vehicle.

One point I’d like to make is that the care and concern of strangers were what made this unfortunate event less stressful.  ATV folks stopped and offered rides, food and water, as well.  There are many more good people in this world than bad. Always remember that, because they don’t often make the news in their day to day kindnesses.

~SE, on the road and on the lookout for a new rig (and currently mid new breakdown adventure, hey more on that after a good night’s sleep in a real big bed!)

 

 

 

 

 

Van-demic in a pandemic…


… And other musings.

Ruby had been sputtering along in a stoic way on seven cylinders  but she finally complained loudly enough, and refused to signal when turning, so I bit the bullet (wallet?) and took her in to a mechanic referred by another nomad friend. Whatever gremlins have been rambling around in my other electronics seemed to have gathered under her hood for quite the party before departing.  It was another costly experience.

Being without my home was a tad unnerving. Okay, a ton unnerving. It’s only when stripped of my shell-like dwelling that I realize how closely integrated the van and I are.  How spoiled I’ve become to having everything I need with me all of the time.  This past weekend is a good example. I’ve grown used to having a bathroom with me at all times, rudimentary as it may be.  But during a storage room clean up assist, I was suddenly without that, as I had ridden into the unit location with someone else.  Oops. Cue bladder off stage…

Now that Ruby has new bits and bobs and my wallet is lighter, I’ve started considering a newer vehicle if I stay on the road as I intend. It’s going to continue to cost more and to sidle into that category of major repairs if I keep her at her twenty year mark. And truth be told, I’m ready for an internal space redesign.  This van is great for a weekend or even a week long outing.  But living full time in it, the space set up is very restrictive; and even with gutting it, the built-in portions would still be in the way of good floor space usage.  It has served me well for this time period, but I believe a revamping is necessary for both safety and sanity. I keep reorganizing, paring down, rethinking, and it’s still tough at points.  I can’t just pull over for the night, because I have to disgorge contents in order to have a place to sleep!  The other night I did it with the minimum of items removed to sleep, but I still had a pile outside of the van and awakened to solar panels in my face, lol.  The new flooring improved getting things in and out and made for easier cleaning as well, so I’m really thankful for that gift.  I also added a hitch carrier, which cleared up more space inside. It’s still not enough to easily travel. It’s fine for extended stays like on BLM land.  Then I can make camp.  But for staying in shorter spates, it sucks. Now if I can avoid overthinking, get my fiscal ducks in a row, and locate a good deal, my adventures can continue in a more flexible and less worrisome mode!

Utah and Idaho are gorgeous.  It’s really wildflower time right now, so there is plenty to ooh and ahh over in the plant realm. We’ve managed to camp by water quite often in the last couple of months, and edge our way out of the desert landscape into real trees and grass, woohoo 😊  Here’s a shot of my view during my working lunch today.

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My “office view” is always pretty spectacular when I’m on the road.

And the path to the bathrooms is beautiful, particularly when the warmth of the sun releases the scents of sweet woodruff and sweet grass into the air!

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It is a beautiful place to await solar repairs.  The sound of the Portneuf River lulls me to sleep every night (and the trains pull me out, lol). Hummingbirds come into the van, magpies chatter at sunrise,  local dogs trot up the hill for a visit, and the snakes are already out and on the move catching field mice.  The world is an amazingly beautiful place.

It’s difficult to fathom all that is going on outside of my small places in nature. The deaths, the illness, the pain and the injustice.  It often feels surreal. Maybe more people need to be out here, in the wild, closer to the earth and breathing fresh air. Maybe we could begin to heal as a species. Maybe we could love more fully because our own heart wells were full with the realization that we and all upon this earth are interconnected and interdependent, and that peace, respect, kindness and justice benefit us all.

Be kind. Be a listener. Give hugs. And have an attitude of humility.  We are each very small, but it is our actions one to the other that can change the world.

~SE on the road

A Breath of Fresh Air


Yesterday we took a ride up to the Dixie National Forest in Utah. It’s the first time since my trip to Anza Borrego that I’ve seen trees with real leaves, like, oaks and pines.  And my first time by living water since the creek at the canyon in Arizona at the beginning of fall.

I take oodles of photos, but post very few, using usually just one, or maybe two, to highlight a post.  This post will just be a collection of things I found beautiful along the way in the last few drives out and about in the wild.

I also photograph heart rocks, and collect them, so I may put one or two of those here as well, but I think they deserve their own full blown post in the future.

Enjoy, as I surely did!

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Indian paintbrush flower ?

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Full view of flowers

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Not a redbud…?

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Unknown yellow flowers

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Unknown, maybe manzanita?

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Live water!

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Big but scarred heart

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Heart in heart

If you recognize these flowers or trees, please let me know. I’ve scoured plant pages until I think my eyes will bleed, lol!

If you are able, get outside, surround yourself with nature, and just be still for ten minutes. Your mind and heart will thank you 🤗

~SE, from the road.

 

 

Van Life Meets Pandemic Life


IMG_20200326_184911561This life is about freedom, exploring, community and nature. Much about van life though is naturally self isolating, or at least involves very reduced social contact within small groups. Yes, we stopped game nights and yarn-spinning around the campfire, even though no one in our camp had been sick.  We stay a few feet apart and no longer hug in greeting or departure. 

But those of us in smaller rigs still must go into town and stores regularly to resupply. When we travel, we have to stop for gas. We have to pick up mail and packages. Each time out is a potential exposure.  Lately we’ve been going in pairs so that if we have to completely separate from camp due to illness, at least we’re not totally alone. We joke about who will throw food to whom and who will prepare the coffee, my life blood 😊. We’ve even talked about how we’ll attempt to deal with hospital treatment by parking our rig in a hospital parking lot for treatment so we don’t have to take up a bed, should it come to that.

I’m not a very fearful person on the whole, so this isn’t making me panicky. Watching the numbers, the percentage of recoveries is reassuring. I’m not in any high risk groups per se, other than I’m over fifty five.  I do have friends and family in many of the high risk groups, some laboring under multiple sets of risk factors. It is them I worry about, not really myself. I wash my hands, I practice staying six feet away in stores and lines, and I take additional supplements to boost general health and immunity. I also try to faithfully ingest a little alcohol every day for it’s virus killing properties, hah! And I keep hydrated, have hot drinks regularly, and refrain from touching my face.  Thankfully my work is remote and has been for years, so I don’t have an office to enter. Our company has been 100% remote now for about two weeks. It’s one of the benefits of being in IT currently.

The heat had been rearing it’s head and encouraging the scorpions and rattlers to come out and bask, so it was time to move north. But this is proving to be more difficult than thought. Cities and parks, BLM lands and national parks, closing in dribs and drabs, making the original objective unreachable for now.

But really, who can complain about this view?!?

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We’ve run into friends, but because of supply runs, gas ups, and other social exposure, it simply wasn’t the same – no hugs, no sit downs for a long chat.  A week from now I’ll feel safer hugging and talking closely in groups when we know where everyone has been and that there are no signs of illness in anyone.

I found this quote online, and love the sentiment. We should appreciate these things always. We should be the best we can at all times. But I’ll take any positive from this exercise!

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Be well. Love strongly. Reach out virtually. And remember, we got this!

~SE landed, on the road

River Run


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The title may be a tad misleading… There is a river, but no one’s running 🤣I do ride my bike beside the Colorado, though.

As our camping group breaks apart bit by bit, the pace slows considerably. As folks move on, more arrive. Sometimes we have visitors for a few hours and then they mosey on. This has been a great camping group, many of whom I met at the PAR TR a few weeks ago. We had a great 70s night, with disco ball and all, and many nights at the fire on one side of the camp or the other.  S’mores were a big hit each time the fixings made an appearance. And, as always,  the digeridoo playing was soothing and enjoyable .

I’ve spent several days as camp cook, with everyone pitching in something. One Saturday was eggs  and sausage, then cookies; Another Sunday was eggs and pancakes, then pizza. Yes, somehow I managed to make edible frozen pizzas on a cast iron griddle and a Coleman stove! Or maybe everyone just lied, lol. But both pizzas were gone so… Maybe not.

The ebb and flow of group camping means the dynamics are always changing, and sometimes rapidly.  Personality mixes can go from bad to good and back again in the span of hours or days. As someone used to living a fairly solitary life for the last decade, this can frazzle my ‘mother hen’ side and give me the same worries as I had when I was raising children – is everyone comfortable? Content? The problem is, I don’t control those things. And any attempt to do so is a disaster; these are all grown adults! I am having to learn to just let it go and let things sort themselves out.  I am learning to be more observational and less drawn in, while holding on to my empathy. It’s okay to let people be wrong, or go off in a wrong-headed direction. That’s their stuff to learn. I am not the world’s safety inspector!

Nomad life is ever-changing, like the flow of water over and around obstacles. Plans made, plans cast aside, plans dependent on others; one has to have patience or take the reins in hand and drive the plans. I have so many people I’m in touch with, and look forward to seeing again in the future. It truly is a wide-roaming tribe that provides the glow of anticipation as a backdrop to future travels.

The planning has begun for my coastal run in the spring. It changes, re-routes, includes others at times and also allows for some solitude at this point. Of course, all  of this, too, could change. Change doesn’t bother me much if I understand the reason.

Work has been hard lately, with overtime now and again. I’ve had some pressing deadlines and been drained mentally at the end of several days. At times I long for the lack of constraints that others have; to be the driver of my own days. I don’t know that those who live this way currently remember always what it is like to not have those options; to be driven by something external to ones self. But it is softened by a delivered cup of coffee, or a meal prepared by others – thoughtfulness. I press on, knowing one day my time will be my own.

Back at the sticks and bricks the weather has been tumultuous and I’m in touch with my neighbors to make sure they are safe.  I need to return at some point to take stock, eliminate some obligations and pack into the van seasonal things for rotation. And, divest. I suspect this summer will clarify a lot of things for me in regards to permanent traveling as my continued lifestyle.  I cannot, at this point, hardly even entertain a return to my former life. It is a drop in activity only. But I have family, people who wish for my presence at certain points. Management of other’s expectations of me and the conflict with my own desires is a work in progress at this stage. This is a very tough area for me and always has been. There is a dichotomy in my mind – serve and love others, or serve and love myself. Where is that line that one teeters into selfishness? This is the line I’m seeking to define comfortably.

I’m content. But that doesn’t mean there is no mental work to be done at the same time. For today, though, I am happy to just be here and present.

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Being lazy on a rainy day on the road…

~SE

Essential Oil “Flu Shot in a Bottle”


This is a reblog as a hand up in regards to the newly arriving Corona virus.

Haphazard Homemaker

This post was updated September 2019.

The CDC says you should get a flu shot by the end of October, as it takes about two weeks after the vaccination for you to be protected through the coming flu season. However, it only protects against the 3 or 4 strains in the current vaccine. You may still be exposed to other flu strains or viruses that could result in you suffering from respiratory issues. For those of us with asthma, COPD, etc, who have weakened immune systems, additional effort has to be made to protect ourselves, as the flu can result in hospitalization or worse.

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Essential Oil Flu Shot in a Bottle - haphazardhomemaker.com

Please remember that I am not a healthcareprofessional and that I am only sharing how I use essential oils for my personal use.

This essential oil blend is a 25% dilution rate. It is intended for SHORT TERM USE ONLY for…

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Sleeping Under the Stars


I finally fulfilled one of my dreams out here, to sleep in the open, under the stars. It’s something I’d only do in a safe place. Last night I visited my original camp for a potluck, but I was packed to the gills for a camp move. Seemed like the perfect place to try it out. So I got out my hiking pad and Thermorest sleeping bag, threw down my desert carpet, and stared at the stars while listening to music and coyotes (and generators, lol). It was a perfect night for it, cloudless and no moon, with very little wind. Night temps were only supposed to be in the mid-forties, and my bag is rated for 20. I slept over nine hours! My body was a little cranky though, upon awakening, as I’ve not done any ground sleeping in a while, particularly on a ton of scree. My fellow camp mates think I’m crazy. I thought it was fantastic! I hope I can do it again in the future, but maybe on better ground 😊

I ran out of people juice yesterday, and so instead of joining up with another group, I dropped camp close to my old place. Lots of people I know will be coming to the area to camp in the near future, and I wanted a place close enough to visit, but far enough away to give me my needed introvert space. The last eight days I met more people than I have in the last ten years combined – and although the environment was good, at the end I was tired. I also want to examine and parse all the information I took in during my lovely visit. It was a lot to receive about a lot of different people, many of whom I’ll be seeing again over the course of the next two months. My tired brain needs some downtime, along with some restoration of my emotional energy. I gave freely of my time and attention, particularly to those at tough places in their lives that sought me out to talk. I did the best I could to offer insight, support and encouragement based on my own life experiences.

When you make your entrance into a place as an Empress, that leaves a lot to live up to, lol. I got the name because my first night out was cold, and I was wearing my full length, fur lined leather duster. I stood away from the crowd at a higher ground point, observing, as I will often do when entering a new environment. A couple of people saw me, apparently felt I was aloof, and made the statement “Who does she think she is, the Empress?” I found it hysterically funny. Empress of Misfits (or Band Aids, depending on the day) became my defacto title(along with a few other nicknames, Dancing Queen, Energy Bunny, and Band Momma’s Momma) As I made my way into the fray, I encountered the fire eating, dance instructor and balloon animal maker and he introduced himself. After hearing the little story, he made me a crown and was my first dance partner. After dancing for hours wearing a balloon crown, any idea of aloofness anyone had about me was fully dispelled, lol. My beautifully wrought crown.
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As the DJ Ausia (Pandamonuim @ You Tube) wound down for the night, the digeridoo band took over. Wow, what a talented group of people! They played their hearts out for the full dance floor crowd, for several hours. The energy was just electric and palpable. But it came at a cost to one of the members. His hands were swollen and in pain. It’s been over a decade since I did any therapeutic massage on anyone. But I felt I could help both he and the band momma, who was suffering in many different ways as well. We all made our way to a side tent, where I was able to help restore feeling and reduce swelling for Dave the drummer’s hands via hand and spinal massage, and also to relieve Jules’ migraine via cranio-fascial massage. It felt good to do bodywork on others again; to be helpful and aid in healing. While I’m not professionally trained, it has been healing to several other people throughout my life. And I like helping others. It is something I can do to give back.

But now it is me time. I’ve not given of myself to that extent in a long time. I received a lot back- new friendships, tons of hugs, and warm acceptance. Now it is time to restore my balance and enjoy the quiet, nature, music and relax. Withdrawing is my way to regenerate. When I get overextended, I’m quite cranky and snappish. Work requires a lot of me at this time, as well as some familial and property issues. But I would not trade the last week’s experience for anything. To watch others give, to give of oneself, and to enjoy a circle of empathy was really renewing to me; restorative of my belief in the goodness of humanity. It is a great deal of what makes up the nomadic way of life – the helping, the giving, the love for one another. I realize all of this sounds a bit hokey if you’ve not experienced it. You’ll just have to take my word for it, unless you’re ready to hit the road and see for yourself!

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Give of yourself. Listen to others. Hug someone. And breathe.

~SE renewing in the desert

Impressions of Life


I came out to the PAR TR for a weekend of fun, to shuck off a couple of difficult weeks and to just relax. What I’ve experienced turned out to be much more.

In a world that grows more expansive each day via the Internet, people seem to be growing more isolated and lost feeling; or only gathering with others like themselves, leading to narrower and narrower views of the world. I’ve watched people near and dear to me succumb to fear of almost everyone and everything. I’ve watched others turn aside from people and tuck into safe pockets, locking themselves into defined spaces. I, too, got on some of those rides. Each one proved unsatisfactory to me, but not before narrowing my own vision and limiting my own interactions. Change is hard, and fear can be a huge road block. Since the physical roadblocks are gone from my life now, I can spread my internal wings.

Part of my journey out here is to know myself better. Part of it is to experience people again, in all of their variableness. I’ve received knowledge of those things in spades and I’m not unhappy with the revelations. It will be a continuing journey in both areas though,I expect.

I’m learning to take risks simply by being myself and expressing who I am without fear or worry. By some there will be acceptance; by others, not so much. That’s okay. I’m learning to better find balance, and to listen to what it is that I want. At times, it is still solitude and quiet reverie. At other times, the energy of other people is what I want. On the road, you can just move camp and respond to your internal needs. Sometimes, like now, you have to balance what you want with real life delimiters. The van threw an engine code and so I need to sit still and plan among a highly peopled camp, until I can provide the resources I need to safely move forward. Thankfully, the environment here is not draining at all. I’m far enough away from the main camp to withdraw into somewhat quiet just by closing the van door, yet there are newly made connections that are nearby as well.

And the people I’ve met…
Potters, fire-eaters, mimes, digeridoo makers, musicians, programmers, tattoo artists, photographers and writers, ‘Nam vets and Iraq vets, nurses,TBI victims, cancer survivors and people living with cancer. I’ve met people who’ve never traveled outside of North America and people who have traveled to over ninety countries. Each person has a story, which they share easily. It shows me how they define themselves and what they value. I’ve heard fears and shortcomings, desires and dreams, goals accomplished and failures experienced, pour forth from perfect strangers. Perhaps it is because I have taken in so many stories that I forget to worry about my own unfolding story and the minutia that makes up my current internal struggles. My mind is not overthinking, because it is outwardly focused. This type of absorption used to drain me; right now it enlivens me and reinforces the wonder in me that among so much diversity is found so much commonality – the desire to be seen and heard for who we are and accepted. It is, I believe, the driving desire of humans to have community – a tribe.

So while I may be Empress of the Misfits for a night(another story for another time), I am part of humanity at large. A humanity that continues to move and learn, to express themselves in the way they find authentic, and to engage with others in meaningful ways if we but allow them to do so. In this, there is great beauty.

Dance. Listen. Touch. Express. And be prepared to be enchanted by your fellow globe riders. It will change you.

~SE, grounded, but making the best of it.

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Pack and Play


After almost two weeks of talking mainly to myself, plants, and inanimate objects, I need some socialization. Yes, an introvert just wrote that sentence. I too, am surprised. I’ve figured out that introversion is how I process the information I take in over time, but it doesn’t really define my personality type, now that my rusty person to person skills are a little more flexed.

I am an open and curious person, and I am finding people genuinely interesting to be around in small doses. While I don’t do mundane chatter or superficial people very well, I really enjoy one on one or small groups. Intelligent people are extremely stimulating and I crave deep connections with other active and creative minds. In a transient-by-nature setting, those will be few and far between I suspect. Since most of my interaction with the world for the last ten years has been remote (email, phone, text), the enjoyment of actually interacting in person is proving far more fulfilling. Tone of voice, inflection, body language and eye contact provide so much more real time feedback, and lessen miscommunications. You can hear humor, irritation, sincerity in voices to guide your perception of words and give them the correct context. Because of the infinite variations in people, their own internal frames of reference and personal perspectives, I’m astonished we communicate well at all outside of face to face encounters. Perhaps that is one of the things that ails our world today – lack of connection, not connectivity. Without the minute facial changes, body shift, voice emphasis and eye responses, it is easy to misjudge intent or context. I think we should interact more in person.

Everyone has a story, and I love hearing them. I ask a lot of questions. Many people care not one whit about hearing anything about you – the ones that do ask, pay attention to. They have curiosity and possibly empathy and compassion and are worthy to investigate. These exchanges help to draw a picture of people in my mind. First impressions are generally wrong, in my experience. Someone quiet and seemingly aloof may simply be a thinker and observer. The fluttery social butterfly may actually really be nervous in a group. People misjudge me quite often, which used to upset me. Nowadays, if they are around long enough and matter, I’ll try to correct the misperception. Otherwise, it’s no longer my problem and I just don’t care. People don’t usually disappoint; it is our expectations formed about people, that disappoint. They are just being their own, unique selves. Let go of expectations and let the person unfold gently in front of you.

My camp has been wonderful and I am loathe to leave it. It’s sparsely populated, yet close to anything one might need, quiet and gloriously sunny. It comes with a regular hummingbird visitor who now flies right into the shade of the open van doors and gives me the eye, letting me know he’s disappointed with the lack of food sources he anticipated finding amid the bright colors of my gypsy silks! I’ve been able to shower more regularly since there are no grey water restrictions outside of using environmentally safe products. I’ve had a thoughtful, if unhygienic, occasional neighbor who works the flea markets and brings end of day leavings from time to time on the days he camps here, of fruit and veggies. Until your diet consists of 1,001 ways to make ramen interesting and mostly canned meats, you can’t really appreciate a good orange, a juicy ruby red grapefruit or a fresh avocado. I made fresh lemonade as well! Life’s simple pleasures, things in our country in overabundance that we often take for granted, come to the fore at such times.

After work today, I’ll pack up and head in to the PAR-TR for some music, meeting new people, putting faces to names of people I know only through online forums,rig ogling and hopefully, dancing! It has been a tough couple of weeks for me and has left me off kilter, raw around the edges, and hurting. Shout out to those who have reached out – thank you. During my psychology studies and through therapy, multiple tests stated I was an empath-someone who feels other’s pain. But I think there is another, lesser known part to that. Sort of a negative backfeed loop if you will, where if I am in pain, I can overlay that onto others when it may not be true. I’ve found this a time or two with my closest friends. Lately, I’ve misunderstood friends due to my own imbalance. It happens, but I’m still sorry. I hope to destress, move my body, and release things into the big, black sky, and recalibrate myself.

Where after that? I do not know yet. I’ll either move into other, less congested BLM land within range, discover some place new, or return here to the quiet solitude and my hummingbird friend.

Some sights from my last two weeks.

Check your expectations. Be yourself. Forgive easily. Appreciate the little things. Let it go. Be open hearted.

~SE on the move on the road

Life is hard


The wonderful thing about Google photos is that it sends you reminders of where you were x years ago and what you were doing. Well, sometimes it’s wonderful; other times, painful.

Today it reminded me of where I was five years ago. I was camping, alone, down in Florida, under another full moon. I hiked a wilderness trail after my night under the stars, and night frisbee players 😊. Back then I was training for hiking the Appalachian trail regularly. Well, as much as you can, in flat Florida, lol. There are photos of all of my gear, the interesting things I saw in the swampy woods, my camp, the steak on the grill, and water. Woods and water, my two recurring themes. I remember my boss calling me while I was hiking, and a snake crossing my path while talking, and he being surprised that I related it so calmly and with no screaming. I reminded him that I grew up in Florida, wild Florida, where snakes were everywhere, including in our houses, our cars, even our showers, at times. I can still recall the time I discovered I was sharing the shower with a pygmy rattler, and streaking across the living room in the altogether in a house full of choir members. Snakes overcome propriety when you’re a scared little girl.

Again, this week, under another full moon, I am out camping alone. But those five years seem to be a lifetime ago. The AT hike dreams put aside. The little house in the woods dream put aside. The taking in of a little, troubled boy changed all of that. I took him camping and hiking. Taught him how to ride a bike and a scooter. Watched him struggle with a splitting maul trying to split wood as I did. Taught him plants, animals, birdsong and healing herbs. Went digging through old junk piles in the woods behind our house to find old, hidden treasures. Built a snowman and traced animal tracks on fresh fallen snow. Lay in a hammock and watched meteors. Toured Savannah, and took him on his first plane ride. And yet, I couldn’t keep him. The other things that happened overwrote all of these joys and discoveries. I simply didn’t have the skills needed, nor services available, to heal him. And it was breaking me.

This week he was removed from his mother’s home. He will most likely remain in special care until adulthood, when our system will turn him out into the streets. My heart broke when I took him in. My guilt nearly overwhelmed me when I took him back. And this week, my heart broke again. He is the child I delivered and cut the cord for, two days after I found out my husband was dead; I held him warm and sticky at birth. And now, at ten, his life is already so screwed up, you forget you’re dealing with a child.

I had never known depression until widowhood. I didn’t even recognize what it was. I slowly, with the help of friends, worked my way out of that, moment by moment, thought choice by thought choice. And while my disposition has always been a bouyant one, maybe ebullient (I’ve been called Pollyanna and floating, lol) these last ten years that has been a choice made nearly daily, to see beauty and find joy, no matter the circumstance of the day. The night after I first received news of what was going on, I saw a fox lightly stepping across the sands in the moonlight. Last night, I stood and watched the full Wolf Moon rise in luminous beauty. Today, I watched a hummingbird flit about as I work on documentation for court. I don’t know what he was looking for, as nothing is blooming here. But it made me smile.

Life is rather like hiking in elevation. You will go up and see amazing things, but there is always a descent. And then you begin up again. Sometimes it’s flat for a while before you get to ascend once more. Keep your footing at all times. If you’re hiking alone, always give someone your coordinates as your touchstone in case you falter or get lost, so someone knows how to find you.

We control but one thing; our choice of reaction to things. That is the only true power we have. The power of our thoughts. Today, I choose beauty over ugliness, and release the things I cannot control. I must, lest I drown.

Choose your thoughts and actions. Let go of what is not under your control. Seek beauty and remember to laugh, even though it is hard. Reach out and hold up others when you can, as giving lets you forget yourself for a while.

~SE, standing in for a real sage today on the road

“It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.” – Chuck Palahniuk

Morning Pleasures


I’m nearing the end of twelve work free days, a luxury I’ve not had in over five years. But today I had to start easing back into my normal sleep/wake patterns for work on my East coast timeline. So I was up at 0300 Pacific time.

Music kept me company for a while, checking email and such as well. But I knew where I wanted to be. The Quadrantid meteor shower ran Jan 3-4. It’s a lesser shower, so you don’t hear about it as much since at peak it only produces about 25 meteors per hour. I needed to escape the light noise here in peopleville and get to the dark for best viewing. I laced up my boots and headed down to the White Rock trail near the edge of the park. I was the only one out and about at that hour, but lights were on in several rigs that I passed. I entered the trail walk out and stepped into the desert.

The air was cool and still. A dog barked somewhere in the distance. A mourning dove floated its voice into the darkness. As I lifted my eyes to the starlit sky, I found myself directly beneath the Big Dipper. Then the meteors began to show themselves. Some were bright and fast, whizzing so quickly you could miss them easily. Others were slower and less showy, arcing out across the starry backdrop. There were several minutes between each one, so I listened to the night. Small creatures moved about in the underbrush. Their movements invited the hunting owl pair into my vicinity. Owl communication is a favorite of mine. They hunt, calling back and forth to their partners. Their calls were the background to my sky search, and a smile was bright on my face. My hour there garnered about sixteen sightings. No wishing this morning; only counting and enjoying. It was a very pleasurable time.

As I return to my campsite and swing open the van doors to make a second cup of coffee, the coyote chorus began, small and thin, then swelling loudly. Starting over again, the varying pack voices crescendoing at different intervals, topping off a truly splendid morning.

The gift of this time of relaxation, self pampering, maybe even edging into hedonism, has been of immeasurable value. I’ve soaked, hiked, biked, steamed, danced, sunned and swam. I’ve donned femininity again for a time, something that really gets put aside for the most part when boondocking in the desert – for both practical and safety reasons. But maybe I’ll be impractical every now and again when I go back, just to remember all of the important parts of me.

Tomorrow I return to the desert and all that entails. But for today, I will soak up all there is to offer here, including one last coca crema.

I wish for all a time such as this, wherever you may be. Relax. Open your eyes. Find the beauty, wherever it may be found. It is always present, we need but look.

~SE in liquidity mode

For the joy of dance


In my everyday life I can be scattered, clumsy and downright hazardous to myself. Not so with dance. It is like someone else lives in my body, perhaps that wild, free part of me that wants to take over now and again to just be. I’ve seen more of her out here on the road, free of all the obligations and responsibilities, children, grandchildren, single handedly starting not one, but two, households – things I’ve labored under for so many years. I want more time with her, the real me. It is time.

I dance at home daily in my sticks and bricks place. I’ve missed that out on the road. I didn’t think to look for a rig with a dance space 🤣

The memory is still present of being scolded in ninth grade for daring to dance in public without a partner at a school dance. I’ve loved dancing since I can remember. But back in those days a single female dancer, or a group of us, was still taboo. Nice girls didn’t do that. And I was a nice girl.

As I rang in 2020 in a group setting, something I’ve not done in over a decade, that same feeling ran over me -the joy of dance. Young, old, male, female, it is all about the movement and freedom. In a group of primarily partnered people, and in a place where the ratio of men to women was terribly out of whack, the dance groups were mostly female. That no longer bothers me like it did when my behavior was labeled as’bad’. There is nothing inherently bad about dancing.

I had fun with a group of much younger women, showing them that age doesn’t impact abilities, and then left them to their performance. There are some forms of dancing best left to smaller, more intimate audiences of say, two.

The ladies group was all varying ages, ethnicities and skill sets, but we all danced because we love it. There were long time couples that moved about the floor in such beautiful partnership, knowing each other’s bodies and rhythm so well that it was an art form and a true pleasure to watch.

About two thirds through the night I had a male partner dancer. He was a strong lead, so easy to follow. He also sang the songs with gusto as we danced. A music lover, as is usually the case with dancers. After a few dances, I graciously relinquished him to the waiting hordes, lol. One shouldn’t be greedy! Spread the love of dance around.

As the night ended with raucous party favor noise and the band played their last two fast songs, the dance floor filled, the music played and everything else fell away. Dancing isn’t about people or propriety (always), it is about those moments when all things come together in fluidity.

There are few sensual things that can be done in public without repercussion. Dancing is one of those things. And so, I danced.

To all the lovers of dance out there, may there always be music for your soul.

-SE from the road

Starry starry night


After a day full of music, mucking about in the van, and a huge meal with good company and good food, I was feeling the need for moving around a bit lest I resemble a stuffed turkey! I took an easy bike ride around the area, dropped off the trash and then headed back as the sun was setting behind the hills. I watched the indigo creep and blanket the sky as the pearl glaze lingered on the horizon before disappearing altogether. Another few minutes and darkness was in charge.

I still felt restless, so I took a walk under a sky that looked remarkably like those sky maps that used to come with the National Geographic when I was little. I do my best thinking while I am moving and I’ve had a lot on my mind. But with each step the weight lightened until I was smiling. By then the full glory of the night sky hung above my head like a black velvet diamond display, with the stars winking and glinting in fiery perfection, as if I could pluck them from the sky with my fingers.

Tomorrow bad weather is to move in, delaying a trip. But that’s okay. Flexibility rules the day. I always have a difficult time with expectations, real or imagined, mine or others. I’m trying to teach myself that sometimes things just unroll before you when you least expect them to, kind of like a creosote bush in the dark(admonition to sometimes look down while walking, thinking and star gazing!) You won’t always understand them. And that’s okay. Embrace the uncertainty with eyes wide open and a soft heart. Life is always teaching us something. IMG_20191225_181830530~2I just have to learn to sit still and listen. Time cannot be folded, as something will suffer and tear. I didn’t let myself get upset that the trip is delayed. I didn’t get upset that I don’t have the answers to many of the questions in my mind right now. I just released it all step by step into that beautiful night sky. For today, I have enough.
Beauty. Friends. Health. Laughter.
And Band-Aids.

Hopefully my next post will be from Anzo Borrega, where night sky viewing is supposed to be superb. Maybe I’ll get to see a falling star to hitch myself to and gracefully arrive atop a mountain peak with all that wisdom aging is supposed to bring, instead of just this silver hair and other accoutrements of aging that suggest wisdom, but that instead hides all of the glorious imperfections that make up yours truly.

For now, happy and still, out on the road.

~SE
PS. If this star thing happens, free sage dispensations to all of my friends first!! 😅

Parker, Prickles and Putzing Around


As the sun falls behind the hills, woodsmoke drifts my way bearing the scent of juniper or pinon, which I’m not sure. The sky is a soft baby blue layered with pale pink and translucent yellow, with violet indigo coming in fast. By the sun’s falling place, brilliant orange with a red tint flares up as it drops below visibility. I have taken down the gypsy silks and lit a candle inside where music plays -one with a soft feminine note within the candle which contrasts with the masculine drift of woodsmoke; yin and yang. I’ve missed candles, dancing, the dark green of evergreens and grass to walk barefoot in. I’m a barefoot kind of gal at home, and I miss the grounding of the Earth beneath my feet that seems to cause the stresses of the day to flow downward and off of me. I’m hoping for a bit of green when I wander into California next week on my days off. It is starkly beautiful here, with night sky viewing of amazing proportions, but in my heart I miss the woods. I don’t miss the humidity, bugs or the sounds of the city nearby.

I’ve been in the desert for a few weeks now and thought I’d share some tidbits. I’ve been mainly ensconced in camp because it is a pain to disconnect everything just to go get, say, snacks. Mainly I’ve hitched a ride with others going into town whose rigs don’t have an umbilical cord that makes life livable inside of Roamin’ Ruby. But Sunday I decided to brave leaving fifty percent of what I camp with alone in the wild to go to town. As usual, my jaunt turned into an adventure!

First up, hot shower. Boy, do I appreciate them out here. While basin bathing keeps me tidy, the rushing flow of the shower can’t be beat! After a shower I get gas and then try to locate the restaurant recommended to me. I ask a local if they are familiar and he nods and gives me directions, and admonishes me to, ‘be careful out there’. This makes me thoughtful. Why do I need to be careful at a restaurant? I drive in the direction he gave me, but the words niggle at my brain. I finally pull over and enter the data into maps and find I’m nowhere near the restaurant!! What I was near was a very populated bar. Hmm. I guess that’s what I get for asking directions from a gentleman with two beer suitcases under his arms and someone else driving. My GPS appeared to be sober and able to understand my query. Crisis averted. I did readily find the restaurant and had a delicious omelette. Then off to Walmart for a bit of grocery shopping. While selecting a bottle of wine, I noticed an elderly man looking very puzzled at the place where the vodka should be. Seemingly there had been mad rush on vodka and there was little to be found with the exception of the top shelf premium brands. He asked me where I thought the party size bottles would be. I squatted down and located the one remaining Stoli’s handle for him in the very back of the bottom shelf. His gratitude included following me around advising they were having a party and I gave him some recipes that might be helpful for a party. He continued to follow me, offering advice on where to buy booze and glasses across the border and other helpful tidbits. He finally ambled away, but hollered “thank you” again when I passed him again in the store later. Sometimes one little thing can really make someone’s day. I hope they had a wonderful party!

I came home with groceries and a cheap mountain bike gifted from my parents. Success!

Two things about the desert out here: a) the land looks flat until you’re on a bicycle carrying a thirty pound or so backpack on your back, and b) it is flipping dark after sundown. I don’t mean a little dark. I mean, can’t see a damn thing dark. If you’ve never been, let me help you imagine this setting.

The road and the surrounding not-road are the same color. They are also both covered in rocks large and small. Sometimes, if you’re lucky people make little edging with big rocks. Not so where I was. If you see or stumble over a little scrubby bush, you are on the not-road and probably in someone’s camp. Oops. For some reason no one was in any of the rigs I was passing and they were also black as pitch. One had a dog who furiously notified me that I was once again on the not-road and to get the hell out. Thankfully he was leashed and fell short of his obvious goal to separate my legs from my torso. The dog was also black. Do you see a theme here? Thankfully, my stand-in Jewish mother began to worry that I had not sent my “I’m back” text and called me. She graciously came and gave me a lift back to my camp, along with a tiny lecture about leaving home near dark. But the finale of the night was my perfect dismount from the tailgate of her truck. You’ve seen those Olympians who leave the horse or the balance beam triumphantly, arms raised, and then suddenly fall over. Yes, that was me! I had a wee bit too much momentum going and ended up flat on my back laughing so hard I could barely breathe. Great news though, none of the big rocks were under my head landing space, nor any cacti. Whew, lucky me.

Speaking of cacti, most every plant out here has some sort of innate desire to bury itself in your flesh. I’ve yet to see one actually move, but perhaps it is simply indiscernible to the human eye. There are tiny little rock looking things that are actually stickers. Then there are the delicate looking burgundy plants that are also pin cushions in disguise. That leaves the giant cacti and the spiny bushes. I secretly believe that water is so scarce here the plants are now vampirical and seek to obtain moisture from human blood. Miraculously I have avoided embedding any of these into my person.

So that was ONE day in the life of a van dweller in the desert. Come on out, it’s a blast (PS Arrive before dark or have food and water at hand, lol)

Keep laughing, particularly at yourself. Look at plants. Watch the stars. Inhale the scent of woodsmoke. Enjoy this one life you’re given.

-SE loving life on the roadIMG_20191217_140602911~2

The Tapestry of Meaning


Words to make note of in this day of rush and do. Can you just…be? Good catch and knit, my friend…

Life As A Hebrew:

Fear of aging, fear of economy and country, fear of the unknown, fear of those who don’t look like or think like us… the drivers of fear keep our consumerism fed, our resources hungrily gobbled and maintain wedges between us that are easily manipulated and used for purposes that do not represent us – not us as a whole.

Humanity is not represented by those fear drivers.  We’re not the sum of the strife that gets drummed up by power hungry, or newsworthy or even news hungry people – no, we’re something entirely different.

We’re more.  We’re better.

We may suck at times – but we should give ourselves permission to suck.  That’s freedom.  Not being constrained by what we’re told is normal, who or what we’re told to be.

I had a bout of what I think feeds this yesterday, as I continued to be a vegetable through the…

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The Geminids and Mindfulness


Last night I did something I rarely ever do – I stayed up past 8pm. Why? The Geminids. It wasn’t a work night, and here I am in Big Sky country. So I bundled up and went outside to stare at the sky after serious caffeine loading.

I have a lot of people in my life right now, which is rare for me. I’ve been pretty much a recluse for several years. But I made a choice to change that and here I am. Fear something? Immerse yourself in it. At least, that’s how I have done things (Okay, maybe not applicable to spiders, roaches or snakes)

As I stood under the expansive sky and watched meteorites streak, I began naming people and making a wish for them. Do I believe in that? Not really. But each falling star gave me a moment to think on someone else, to ignore self and focus on others. I thought of long-time friends and those recently met. I thought of people who have been kind to me. I thought of people I really don’t know well, but are in my sphere currently.

As I stood there, neck craning every which way, I heard night birds of the desert that I was unaware of. Coyotes howled in the distance.I watched clouds expand and turn to ribbons to decorate the sky. I thought of how small we are and how great the lack of knowledge we have is. I thought of how full and content my heart was at that moment, and gave thanks.

I don’t know the answer to why life can be so hard for some, and appear so easy for others. Maybe because we don’t really know them? Appearances can be very deceiving. But from the outside, that is how it looks sometimes.

What I thought and spoke about those on my mind last night – those bearing burdens immense; those suffering from illness; those struggling with anxiety, bitterness and fear; those with financial problems; those simply wiped out and overwhelmed from being responsible – will have no impact on them. But it had great impact on me as more than an hour went by and I was still naming people to falling stars. My life is rich. I have so much to appreciate.

Yes, at times it is overwhelming, the amount of ‘me’ that is being given. I get tired. I need to withdraw and recharge. But as a friend recently said, “Better to have too many people to talk to than no one”.

So I suggest to you, sometime name all of those in your life to yourself, and think on them for a moment. Look outward. Change your perspective and see how much falls away from you.

Lest you think I’m above self absorption, just ask anyone very close to me. I can be totally annoying with it. Thankfully, those closest to me also care enough to tell me when I’m being a self-absorbed ass. That is what true friends do, you know. This was an activity to improve my own behavior, to do and be better.

The next time pieces of space debris come our way, try it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel.

Be content. Be kind. Be forgiving, foremost of your own failures. And finally, never overestimate your own importance. It’s a painful place to fall from. 53068

Star gazing in the desert…

~SE

“I’m all alone, with no one beside me..”(Donkey in Shrek)


And so it goes! After traversing Arizona moving south and westward, I finally arrived at the RVing Nirvana known as Quartzsite, or “Q”, as one mountainside proclaims visually.

I had seen a video or three on this place. Seemed cool enough. However, after having the freedom of truly boondocking, this is just a leetle different than that experience, for a van dweller. The LTVAs are more strict about rules, I suspect due to the size of the crowds. Vans or other vehicles must be camped within range of a pit toilet. You can imagine how crowded, noisy and close in those areas become as the crowds grow. Adding to the crowding issue is the fact that some self contained rigs huddle there too, leaving little room for those of us that cannot disperse. People get creative after a while, partnering with contained units to use their black tanks and try to follow the rules. I personally had done this and spoke to the ranger directly about it and had no issue. But something went awry this week, new sheriff in town I suppose, and they were going to begin demanding proof that we had black tanks in our vans. So now I’m far from friends and fireside chats, movies and potlucks, along with helping hands. But I am close to a toilet that is not on a noisy main road, crammed to the gills, and closed in. This way I can work without closing the van doors, being basically stuck with no view nor experience of the outdoors, the entire reason I’m out here to begin with!

It’s difficult enough to be working when the majority of your travel pals are retired, free to do and go when they see fit. They can pick up and move to another place on a whim; I cannot. I have to plan, coordinate with weekends or time off, and I’m not traveling light. Packing and moving 600 watts of solar, a generator, the outdoor kitchen and so forth requires time to pack up, drive to a new spot,arrive before dark, unload, and so forth. Sites must be chosen for relative quiet during the day, and always support a good quality cell signal.

True boondocking allows one to eliminate nickel and dime cost creep as well. There is no use of my shower tent allowed, so now I must go into town and pay to shower. Pay to do laundry instead of washing a days items and hanging them to dry outside. Food costs here are high comparatively – you trade convenience for the alternative two or more hours round trip to a non-tourist priced locale. Many businesses, including the LTVA fee stations, deal only in cash. Only one store provides cash back. The rest require you to use their on site ATMS, for which there are fees from the machine and from my bank. It adds up when you are travelling on a budget.

But it is fun and beautiful here, with nearly daily sunrises and sunsets to take your breath away and fill up your SD card quickly. Night skies the likes I’ve never experienced. Interesting people to meet and chat with. The camp I was with previously was terrific. Big campfire most nights, many with potlucks, lasting two to three hours. The perfect length for someone like me just breaking back into socializing after over a decade of mostly solitude. That still left time to retreat to my van on the edge of camp and have downtime with music and internal musings before an early bedtime. That 0345 alarm is pressing, as I still work East coast hours!

For a desert, it has rained often and at times, hard. We experienced 60mph gusts with constant 25-30 mph winds one night! It is overcast more often than I expected, reducing solar gain quite a bit. I’ve had a non starting van, problems with propane, and other small challenges. Do I regret it? Heck no!! But it does require thinking ahead, being more mobile than anticipated, and keeping a good perspective.

There are petty politics I wasn’t expecting, a given I guess within any group of size. There have been fun ATV rides to petroglyph caves. Delicious food whipped up in tiny kitchens by amazing cooks, including smoked Alaskan salmon chowder, spinach salad with goat cheese and roasted pine nuts and native American three sisters soup. We had movie night outside on a big traveling screen! And most importantly, I have watched people help others time and time again, restoring

my faith bit by bit in the generosity of the human spirit and the benefits of community.

It is a privilege to be here, to experience different places and people, while still working. I take that seriously. Does it cramp my desires to be off with the gang at times? Yes. But I am so thankful and grateful to be living this life at this moment. Thankful for the support of friends and family who, while they don’t really understand it, or desire it, share these joys vicariously with me. Thanksgiving has passed, but let us not forget that while our lives may sometimes be unspeakably hard, and for some, even tragic, we are alive today. We can gather up new friends, new vistas, new experiences, to enrich our memories and make new ones. We can find beauty and joy if we only look with a grateful heart.

Be open. Be forgiving. Reach for joy and delight as a child does. Laugh. Always be thankful.

From the road…

SE

Wish upon a star


It’s funny sometimes, how things happen. I stood in the chilly darkness before work this morning straining to see a falling star. It was breezy, quiet and dark. Only the sound of the wind in the junipers, the rustle of grasses, and the trill of unseen insects kept me company. But no such luck.

Tonight, fleeing the upcoming rains, I checked into a noisy, populated RV park to ensure I’d have power to work. And in this crowded, heavily peopled place, hidden beside my van in a sea of big rigs – there was my falling star. I made a wish.

I have come to the conclusion that I really don’t fit around people. I long for peaceful, quiet, empty spaces. I love the sky at pre dawn, the hush of the blue period before sunset. I like people, mostly. I just don’t want to be around them most of the time. I really kind of live in my head. I spent several days of my vacation just sitting in a chair, listening. The birds as they chattered and flocked. The insects, wasps and yellow jackets, butterflies and moths, crickets and locusts, all with their unique flight sound patterns, can only be heard in stillness. I heard day hikers and fellow campers chatting and walking from a quarter mile away. Listened to cyclists as they tackled hills and then whooped with glee on the down hill return. I kneeled by a burbling, fast running creek as I filled my water jugs, and heard leaves fall into the upper portion, then watched them come my way on the living water. That is my idea of joy – those things. You cannot hear them with people around. We are clumsy, noisy and brutish. We no longer know how to sit without speaking, content in just being present.

I miss the quiet already here in this place. I want to go to Quartzsite, but worry if I can find peace in such a crowd when I am ready to take my leave of fellow campers. I will try it, but may run away at times just to be.

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Awaiting the rain on the road…_
– SE

Falling in love


Can you love a place? It certainly feels like it – the exhilaration, the new feeling every day, the small smile that sits on your face like you’ve got a little secret inside, the joy at being alive that sings inside of you. Very much like loving a person. If so, I’ve fallen in love with a place so very far from all of my loved ones. Ones soon to be married, grandchildren whose voices I’ve not heard now for more than a week as their mom picks them up from school, and from my aging parents. How does one reconcile the two??

I’ve lived far from family for years now, relatively speaking. But never more than one hard days driving to get to them. This is much farther. But the beauty here, it’s breathtaking. The quiet. The changing faces of the mountains as the sun passes overhead through the day. The colors, more muted than back East, for sure. But they are so calming to me. Even the critters are different. But owls still hunt here too, at dusk and dawn. The moon appears as a brilliant disk snapped into the huge, open sky. Birds flutter through in clusters, sounding just like the birds in the Pixar short film “The Birds”. The air is scented like an incense pack.

No mosquitos! But I did meet a mating pair of tarantulas, and watched as she scurried back into her little hole in the ground after the deed was complete.

Will I, too, scurry back home now? Right now the answer is no. There is too much out here I long to see and experience. I’m so close to one of my life long visiting dreams, the Baja Peninsula. I want to experience Quartzsite, and the assembly of the winter tribe. I want to backtrack into the mountains of New Mexico. And a whole lot of other things that would take too long to enumerate.

But all of this also has to balance with working; the grease that keeps the wheels of the van rolling from time to time.

So rather than making your head hurt like mine is, enjoy some photos of my camp and the area here. I’ll be pulling out of here shortly to join up with another solo camper for a bit. At least, that’s today’s plan 😲. Since I’m on vacation, who knows what might transpire before back to the grind on Monday!

Singing and smiling from the road..

-SE

My Epic Cross Country Excursion


This is my first post via cell phone because my laptop simply will not cooperate! I have no idea how this will turn out, lol.

I made it 2,200 and change across our beautiful country in Ruby, and it has been delightful, despite yet another breakdown en route. I wish everyone could see the America I see instead of the one on the news every day. Friendly, helpful people, the kindness of strangers, the smiles, accents, flavors and scents of different places.

I’m currently in Arizona, trying to decide if I’ll backtrack to New Mexico or mosey forward into the Western side and drop in on Quartzite. Or maybe just drop anchor and float around every fourteen days! Possibilities, so many to choose from.

My original intent was to drive from here back to Florida to spend time with family during Thanksgiving, but trouble in Paradise has me rethinking that plan. Maybe it’s time for me to take a little time and do what I want to do for a short while and let things down there settle down some. Since I’m now estranged from the daughter I intended to park with, and other friends have pressing family issues, maybe elapsed time would take care of all of those things.

The sunsets here are all they are cracked up to be. The vistas are a relief to East coast eyes; it reminds me of how small we are as humans and allows for a recalibration of my human compass. Plus, my hair likes the lack of humidity! That’s reason enough, right?!?

Discovering the little towns of Bisbee and Patagonia was a delight for my art and architecture eyes. And the plant life! So different from back East in scent and color spectrum. I find it very calming. The Dust Storm warning signs, the ever present Border Patrol and the signs to watch out for rattlers and scorpions notwithstanding, this part of the country is full of enchantment. I can’t say I wasn’t forewarned that it might find a place in my soul that I didn’t know was lacking.

If I can figure out how to upload photos via this method, I’ll share some of my visual delights this evening.

For now, embrace the different. Look at people differently. Open your heart and mind to new possibilities. And give thanks for what you have every day!

Smiling from the road,
SE

My insides when I am outside -maiden voyage


As I told someone earlier, today is my last night here and already I am bereft feeling. I do not want to go home!  I have fallen in love with this form of being.  Every day I rise in the dark without an alarm, make a pot of coffee and just sit outside and breathe in the day.  I hear the pre-dawn birds, and the little unseen animal rustlings, and of course, the owls. When I swing open the doors of the van, once light hits, I can see the slow flow of the river’s wind-touched surface.

My brain has been trying to sort through the why this feels so good, so light.  I’d say it is the touch of fall in the air, but on Thursday it was 125 degrees in my van. Yes, you read that right. I know for certain I could have fried eggs on the solar panels – maybe cooked a roast even!  There have been challenges, like no sun yesterday, so without a friend lending a socket, I’d have been without power by mid-day yesterday.  There has been the creepy camper dude who moved his tent just about into my space. There has been the feral cat thievery of a steak from my grill (who knew cats would brave fire for meat??). But there have also been extended periods of music-draped navel gazing, brisk walks in the woods, and conversations with new and interesting people. I have befriended a cockatoo named Oliver and made acquaintance with he-who-shall-not-be-named the prairie dog. And, I learned that leopard gecko tails are a mimicry of their heads as a defense mechanism against predators (I often get my head and my @ss confused, so maybe that’s why I am still alive too!)

What it all boils down to, I think, is the limitation of choice.  I have five outfits, so I’m wearing one of those. I have limited food options and an even smaller selection of utensils and cooking tools. “Housekeeping” consists of a whisk broom once over, the washing of a fork or a spoon, and a swish of a bowl.  Voila, done! Then one’s mind is free, eyes are affixed on something outside, something natural, unformed by human hands. From monster sized iridescent beetles down to tiny spiders and no-see-ums (which despite their name, can be seen in the night up against a computer screen, lol), the sights and sounds of the natural world take precedent over our made world. This is like salve on a wound I didn’t know I have, akin to those weird bruises that show up, or little scrapes that you can’t recall actually doing anything to get.  When balm is applied to them, the skin sighs and thanks you. The same response apparently, that my spirit  reacts with after a week of outdoor exposure.

At this moment, wrens are fussing outside the doors, and a woodpecker is scoping out a meal tree. Crickets are chirping and a breeze is wrapping around the trees and giving the leaves a good shake. Something startled some unseen ground birds and they gave a sudden rise from the underbrush in a noisy clutch.

I am off to breakfast with some new friends, and then I hope to get a stroll down main street in, as well as some reading and listening to music.

May I suggest, if your insides are knotted, tired or nervous, a trip around the yard or a park and just look and listen. You may find your cares, worries and weights carried away on that gentle breeze and a smile upon your face. It is a good day to be alive.

From on the road, wishing you well,

~SE

Five Days In


My eyes open in the dark, savoring the sounds of crickets and the edge of morning. It is quiet but not-quiet; life wells up in the dark and seeps into the windows of the van. I stretch and lay here thinking of all of the mornings like this I have missed while being surrounded by walls and the sounds of fans, fighting with the alarm snooze – once, twice, thrice. 

The quiet makes me want to be quiet, and attend to morning tasks with gentleness and appreciation.  Warm water for my face. The smell of coffee as it swirls in the cup. I look through the fan cover and can see the stars, although the blush of dawn is creeping across the sky softly, turning things pink and pure, like the cheeks of a baby.

I swing the doors of the van open and inhale the moistness of morning, that moment when everything is a blank slate, full of possibility. Soon the sounds of the city join the crickets and the early bird song, but the city wakes slowly. 

Punch in time for work comes far too quickly, as always.  Throughout the day I watch and hear the hawk pair calling to each other overhead. My little wrens hop across the cedar door mat and try to investigate the interior of the van, startled away by my movement. Butterflies flit by, and in the shafts of sunlight tiny little lacewings go traveling by the bug screen. A leafhopper goes helicoptering through the grass and into the shrubs. Everywhere there is so much life! It can be distracting a bit though, as who wants to listen to a meeting when so much activity is just a few feet away, a gentle breeze brushing your feet as voices echo in a headset. 

The workday passes quickly, marked by jumping up and moving solar panels as the sun traverses the sky. I have become familiar with when the sun will clear the treetops of the sycamore, my tallest trees, and when the light will appear behind the van before creeping to the front and hitting the panels, causing the battery LED to surge with activity.  I eat a sandwich and chips at lunch with my bare feet in the grass and listen to music and wonder why I never did these things before.  Moving a van into my driveway did not change my landscape or the life within it. It did however, rekindle something within me.  

After work the little Coleman stove is ready and waiting to do its part for dinner and hot water. I make some broccoli slaw and throw a steak on the grill while the coffee pot burbles to a boil.  Sitting in a lawn chair to eat with an upturned box for a table, I fight a yellow jacket for my steak, discovering that Datil Pepper sauce renders it uninteresting to them, but makes my taste buds come alive! Win-win. The shadows deepen and the night veil starts easing across the sky, bringing with it the bats, the last calls of the blue jays and cardinals and a softness that lulls one to want to rest. 

As I button things down for the night, I wonder what the world would be like if we moved more fully in tune with nature and the creation.  If we just saw it more, not as a blur through our car windows or as a task to battle and beat into submission, but as the cradle in which we live.  

And these are my thoughts, five days in, just living in a van in my driveway, practicing before I take my first trip.

Living in the Moment – Jason Mraz

~SE

Defining preciousness and value


 

So, I bought a campervan.  Nothing big, nothing fancy, nothing new. Just new to me. I want to approach this kind of like a fiddler crab, edging sideways towards a new hole in the sand; or maybe a hermit crab, checking a new shell for a better fit, always remembering that it is me there still underneath.  The shell or hole doesn’t change me. That’s work I have to do if I’m not satisfied with me, no matter the place. Roamin’ Ruby will just be a means to an end.

RoaminRuby3

As I approach this realization of an old dream, I was finding myself thinking of how to recreate the life I have now, just in miniature. That is a wrong perspective.  Why am I not creating the life that I actually want to live?  And, what DOES that look like?

Because we have so much space, most of us, we often also have so much waste. I’ll give you an example from my own life.  I really like tea and coffee. I drink a lot of both. But because I have feet and feet of cabinet space, I buy things that provide immediate sensory appeal, try some, and then it gets lost in the cabinet along with the others I have bought. This process never allows me to find the precious things, the things I really value. Things I would want  in a small space because they are good and bring value into my life. I cannot take 20 types of tea with me in this new space. This makes me look at what I have now with more clarity, appreciation, and truth be told, a bit of disgust at myself. How could I be so wasteful and greedy? How could I trade the hours and hours and hours that I labor, for things I never even use? Do I value myself and my life energy so little? Should not every dollar be thought about with that impetus behind it? I realize that you don’t need to try on a mobile lifestyle for this to hit you on the head, but apparently it has taken that for me. For someone often called ‘smart’ by others, I surely feel dumb a lot of the time.

We are marketed to death, via so many pathways that we are now the commodity. Hence why our data is so valuable a resource now.  Remember that TV show “Little House on the Prairie”?  How they went to town once every few months and how darn little they bought?  I recently had a moment of panic when I realized I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO USE AMAZON!! – at least not in the way I do now.  You know, that ubiquitous service that we have come to rely upon to satisfy our every whim conjured up in our pajamas, late at night, with a click of a button; which we are assured will arrive by Tomorrow if we order in the next 3 hours and 12 minutes.  Packages from Sears and Roebuck took foooorrrever to come, and you couldn’t even track their every move through an app! The horror. How did we do it?  Conversations often revolve around ‘those kids just have no delayed gratification understanding’; how about us as adults, hmm? With such services including food delivery, laundry pick up, grocery drive-thru, we rarely really have to give thought or plan.  If we forget something we can just order it, right?  I still remember the excitement of when drive thru Beverage Centers opened. Wow, you could just drive up and pick up that gallon of milk you forgot.  How cool!  How quaint that seems now.

I’m rethinking every thing. Especially me and my habits, faults, patterns of living. Never a bad thing to rethink yourself and check to make sure you are still happy with that skin. I hit that stage several years ago and then lost it again. It feels good to be reacquainting  myself with that person. I like her a lot better than the person I feel like I’ve slid into. Maybe I need to include some Velcro or Command Strips to my skin suit, so I don’t forget 🙂

This is a way to try to meet several needs while encasing my own desires.  All of my family lives elsewhere. I travel to and fro a couple of times a year already and couch surf with relatives and friends.  I enjoy (most of the time) visiting my family.  I sometimes feel intrusive being in their homes and I realize it also puts a pinch on them as well.  Same with my friends, particularly my married friends. It’s also pricey to stay in a hotel along the way, especially if you have a dog. That takes care of the practical reasons.

My personal reasons?

I want to do more with less, for one. This is definitely NOT the path I’ve been on to date. I have too much of everything except money (see stuff above) and time, lol.  But I’m not selling it all and hitting the road right away – maybe ever.  Home bases can be good, too, if they don’t have a lot of overhead. I may find I hate it and it’s claustrophobic. No matter what or where, I need to de-stuff. Define what brings me contentment and is precious to me.

I want to jump start my creativity again. I was at my most creative in small spaces with lots of nature. I walked around with my camera looking at life differently. I wrote about wind, rain, smells, sights. I felt things more deeply.  I looked at things differently because I wanted to see. Yes, this can be done at home, and I am starting to do that again. But being outside of your comfort zone heightens awareness and spotlights the ordinary making it extraordinary.

I want to meet the desires of my family without compromising what brings me joy. My kids often complain, along with my mom, that they don’t see me often enough. If I can mosey on down to see them, imbibing in nature along the way, I can handle more ‘people’ time. If I have a place to retreat to in order to recharge or just give everyone space, I think it will make for better and longer visits, even if I am sitting in my van AT their houses.

I want to travel. I’ve always had wanderlust (one might say my entire life is wanderlust, moving over 25 times in the last nigh on 40 years) Camping is about as cheap as it gets to travel, if you don’t have to pay for campground fees every time you turn around (and people stop burning up oil fields causing gas prices to rise!) While less luxurious than hotel stays, it also puts you out and about in the places you’re visiting. But what is luxury? Is it mountain vistas shrouded in fog? The ability to view millions of stars away from the night sky clutter of cities? Burying ones toes in the edge of surf and sand?  Standing by a waterfall and lichen-clad logs checking out trilliums?  I’m afraid we’ll always have lots of cities, but I’m not so sure how much longer we’ll have wildness.

I want to meet (a few) new people. Most of my truly deep friendships have been formed over distances, usually via writing and shared interests. I could not ask for better people to have in my life and I love them dearly. They have held me up during times I thought I would shatter into oblivion. They’ve also been doing this for years, and I think they need a wee break, to spread the love of Sheket around a bit, ya know?  🙂 I’ve been in a very needy space for the last four years or so, and I’m not sure I’ve given back as much as I’ve taken. But the up-in-your-bidness life of living in an RV park was not for me. I’m hoping to form some new connections on the road that are here for a while, then separate – but the threads of connection remain until we bump into each other again. A roaming tribe so to speak. Recently I have been so hungry for adult conversations that I have started (usually this happens TO me) conversations with perfect strangers!  I find it very interesting that I did this, as it is not my norm, which means something in me has changed. Yes, I chat with my neighbors from time to time, but I really have no other interpersonal interaction other than work, which is also remote. Work and personal really just are not a good mix, so I need other outlets.

This was long! To make up for it, here’s a video of some interesting mushrooms I found while re-stacking my wood for the winter. Sorry, no cute kitten pictures :/

And how could I end a post without music, hmmm?  Elle Beale’s Camper Van

Look inside and don’t be scared to rummage around – you might find something you like!

~SE

What do *I* want to do?


A friend of mine recently said ” It doesn’t matter what anyone else wants, what do YOU want to do?”  I thought back to what my goals were before Plannus Interruptus (common ailment for plans, no doctor needed).  Remember nearly five years ago when I bought an RV and planned on paying off debt and then hitting  the AT, followed by building a tiny house in the woods? (maybe, if you’re a long time reader, lol).  So I sat on how that felt back then for a while in my head.

Zoom in to today (pretend this is a video,’k?) I’m rushing towards 60 right now (What, how the hell did that happen???) I still have debt because DUH I bought a house when I moved LegoMan and me a few states away. The AT hike is not near future any more, although it still simmers on the back burner like a sweet, savory sensory experience – but tucked away for exploration at another time.  Back in 2016 I was inches away from zero debt on any respectable timeline application.  Pffft.  Plot twist!

I truly am more of a gypsy than a homesteader when I am solo. Yeah, I know you can homestead all by your lonesome and lots of singletons are doing so. Just doesn’t have the same appeal to me any more since I’m ten years into widowhood and alone. Lots of things are different when you are alone –  not all of them bad mind you. But homesteading for me was always about a pair of hearts beating together, dreaming and working together; hands securing a future, hands able to high-five a success, or hug through a loss. I had wild dreams that I could do it on my own, played the video in my head a few hundred nights laying in my bed. Planned it. Costed it out in spreadsheets. Googled thousands of tiny houses in all shapes and sizes. And in reserve, never really admitted out loud or in writing that I thought the lone homesteader would appear and make all of my planning and work a pièce de résistance.  It is something I did not write much about; it was only felt deep inside. And it was as amorphous as heck, like maybe winning the lottery? I did not even dare voice it to my closest and most intimate friends.  It is hard to articulate a desire that seems beyond ones reach, even to those who would cheer you on.  I mean, we’re supposed to be all empowered wimmins and have no need of that, amirite?  I even considered community endeavors as a possibility in different states.

The reality is that I AM capable of taking care of myself.  That does not negate the desire to find a partner; a co-conspirator of the humorous and intellectual kind. But it does not seem a potential without running through an agility course in contortion that I am currently unwilling to participate in.   I am mercurial; it is not a small thing that my nickname from decades ago related to a fluid chemical compound.  I think I am hard to be with. And that’s okay.  Hell, sometimes I am even hard to be friends with 🙂

But I digress, quite common when I examine my future goals and dreams.  All kinds of things get tossed into the mix as emotions battle logic.  Sigh. ‘Tis a bane, but I dig being on both the logical and emotional continuum despite the true internal wrestling it invokes. Just don’t throw math at me, because then I will choke.  Although, when left alone to read and assimilate, I can tackle that as well. INFJ, we ain’t the easiest nut to crack, trust me. We might tell you more than you want to know if caught at that right moment or if we really, truly trust you. I’m good at listing my faults; not so good elucidating my strengths.

Picking up the pieces of desires from eight or nine years ago is not easy.  It is not even easy to drag them out of the recesses of your mind.  Sitting quiet, alone, listening to music was the key for me, other than someone asking that brutal question in the first line of this post.

Over the time since widowhood, I’ve thought of a gazillion things that I might want to do; tried many of them. I’m not usually afraid to try. Some are evidenced on my other blogs and within the pages of this one; some, like my art, are tucked away in my kids houses, hanging on my walls, or stuffed into the folder of “Oh hell no, no one can see this!!” (drawing faces is hard!)  I’ve planted gardens, established tiny orchards, discovered that you can hang a LOT of little boy socks on a cot frame, slept in a tent under snow in 13 degree weather, released spiders, wasps, bees and skinks, gone camping alone on 400 acres, gone hiking with a city-born 8 year old and read countless books.

What do I want to do? Move about, see new things, test myself. See more of our country, meet new people (okay, a few new people), and be back in nature.  I have some ideas on how to fulfill this, going full circle back to 2012 where a dream hummed in my brain that got lost in fits and starts, familial dramas, financial dilemmas and mostly got lost because I lost hold of me – the person that wroteSkin Tight“.  I miss her, and I’m on a quest to rediscover her once again. To family and friends who think I am running away...

No.  I am running towards me. (Jack Savoretti sings it best)

~SE

 

 

Preparing for Dorian (aka waiting, waiting)


 

Some music to watch for storms by: Riders on the Storm

Or if you like something a bit more upbeat: Skywatcher

The good news is that no one in my family will be impacted by much more than some rain and a bit more heft to the breeze.  I have one friend on the east coast that I’m keeping tabs on, but so far nothing much to worry about there.

Then it comes tootling up here, after visiting GA and SC along the way.  Maybe Dorian is on a beach vacation. Last year we had Florence, which caused a lot of flooding and made the river appear at my back fence (I’m 600 yds away). But only a brief power outage or two and some windy, rainy days.  I’m hopeful that will be the same this year (maybe without the river rise, that would be nifty). At least I’m getting to play with solar lighting and running a fan via battery, and trying to figure out how to keep coffee and work going should we lose power for any length of time. If my well pump was running, I’d be worried about no water, but I already live without running water, so this will be an opportunity to get more FREE water.  I’ve captured and filtered over 20 gallons of stock, and there is still plenty in the reservoir (aka fishing boat cooler playing catchment  reservoir).  I’ve put gas in the car, checked my stock of chocolate  wine non perishable food and battened down the potential projectiles in the yard.  

Except for one, by which I am stymied. Someone gave us a trampoline when LegoMan lived here, and now on the news I keep hearing about stabilizing your trampoline. Say huh? About the only thing I can think to do is move a bunch of my woodpile on top of it and make it too heavy to blow around the neighborhood.  That will be hot, sweaty and dirty work and might put a dent in my 20 gallon stock for a good cleansing shower when done.  But I can’t think of anything else other than bungee cording it to the shed or the light pole.  Do any of you have any suggestions??

I’ve done this ritual a few times – through three tornadoes (GA, FL and TN), one straight line storm (TN), and two ice storms (TN,VA).  I only missed work once, when the tornado in TN tore the electrical mast off of my home and I ran out of temporary power for the laptop.  This house roof may not be as secure as everywhere else I’ve been, and I have no basement here.  So that worries me a tiny bit, but not much.  This house has been through 100 years of bad weather and is still standing, so maybe it is no worry at all.

As I contemplate where my future will take me, I’m just treating this as another way to learn to take care of myself.  And as always when facing something bigger than humanity, I marvel at nature – the beauty it serves up in tiny insects, bright birds, curious critters,glorious flowers and the devastation it delivers to man and beast when its power comes to fore.  We are pretty small, despite the big ‘ole mess we’re making of our planet.  Somehow, I think the planet will recover; I’m not sure if we will.

Brings to memory this song from my wild and wooly years: Dust In The Wind

My heart goes out to those already impacted, and good thoughts to those of us waiting to see what awaits us.

Be well, hug somebody, and give thanks for today.

~SE

“Pooh hasn’t much Brain but he never comes to any harm…”


The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living

A decade. One hundred and twenty months. Three thousand six hundred and fifty days. And so on.  The pain of missing has diminished, except on the days when it has not. Those days have at least become less and less frequent.

Philosopher and Poet David Whyte says of loss. “…human life is full of so much loss and disappearance; half of our experience is mediated through loss and disappearance…One of the great spiritual achievements is simply to be here, in a way in which you’re not trying to turn away from the part of life which is saying goodbye.”  Half of our experience is loss and disappearance; think about that for a moment. Pets, great grandparents, grandparents, spouses, friends, siblings, and yes, sometimes, unthinkably, even our children.  Yet many of us grieve so poorly, or not at all at the time of loss.  It snakes up behind us and strikes when we do not expect it, and we let a little bit of it out at a time. I wrote a few years back about my own struggle to grieve over at my other blog, the Impetuarian.

Should one talk about where *they* are on the memorial of a death? Is that the pinnacle of selfishness? Or is it part and parcel of rebuilding one’s shattered life, still in progress, after all these years? Is it a vital part of living, this examining one’s life, as Socrates implied?

We survivors always wonder if we could have done something differently when someone dies, I think.  At least, I see it continually in my group of widows and widowers. It hurts.  And just like any scenario, like when you say the wrong thing, or do something stupid, you revisit it repeatedly in your mind. At least some of us do.  One of my daughters has inherited that from me. I used to think it was just overthinking when I did it.  Maybe I am wrong about that.

I recently realized that the run up to my husband’s death evoked the same feelings I had when my children would get beaten by their dad, and they would call me to come get them and I would jump in the car and make my way there, and along the way there would be more phone calls, changes of mind, no we really don’t need the police, no it really isn’t that bad , no you really don’t need to come get me – and I would sit in a parking lot waiting, and waiting, my gut sick, chain-smoking – sometimes alone, sometimes with my oldest daughter who I had gained custody of and who lived with me. You know there is something bad going on, but you have no control over it.

I knew there was something wrong with my husband, too – but you can’t force an adult to the doctor.  The one time I had him Baker Acted due to his announced intention of suicide and knife-wielding, they brought him back within 24 hours, fed him Burger King, and treated me the same way the cops involved with my children did. Dismissively.

Then I would see my girls on visitation, with their bruises and their slings for dislocated whatevers, feel the distance between me and them. I felt powerless and angry and sad and overwhelmed and nothing ever changed because I could not win in court – no money, and no schmoozing with lawyers and cops as he had done back then. Guilt, always the guilt.

I told my husband to go back to Atlanta about two months before he died, and get the help he needed physically and mentally, and I would wait for him as a faithful wife. I couldn’t live in the trauma-inducing environment we were back in, yet again. I paid all the bills so he could save money for a car of his own and an apartment. He could come see me whenever he wanted, if he wasn’t drinking, or I would go to him.  He did not hurt me or yell at me or do any of those things. In fact, he was the most vulnerable I have ever seen him during those last few months – confessing, apologizing, loving.  He was just killing himself with alcohol and I could not watch.  We had been through this in 2001, when I divorced him as I could no longer put my children through it, or, myself. No violence at that time, either; that was way behind us in 1997 and had never occurred again. The divorce was ugly, maybe uglier than my first divorce. The State’s Attorney had to get involved, and it spread to my family members, and hurt them.  Another helping of guilt and shame.  And again those same feelings-powerlessness and anger and sadness and overwhelm and nothing ever changed.

Why go back then, three years later? It’s a very good question, and one I have asked time and time again of myself. Because he loved me, and I loved him and life without him was like a gaping hole I tried to fill with all the wrong things.   It was not the same as with my first marriage, when I literally could have cared less if I ever saw him again. And he had stopped drinking – the magical fix-of-all-that-was-broken. Except that it didn’t last very long after we got married.  When we were remarried and I quit my job, sold my house and left my children behind I had too much on the line and marriage meant something different to me this time – a commitment before YHVH. A vow. One I had never really made deep in my heart with anyone else. And no, sickness and health and all that jazz are not in the Torah. It is simply a vow to remain faithful to someone – period. You don’t have to live with them, you simply must remain faithful to them.

But he did not think I was coming back from our grandson’s birth. He did not understand that vow.  I always had a personal red line and he wasn’t sure when it would snap into play even though I talked to him (or at him?) and told him the lines, where they were, and how not to cross them.  He was an alcoholic, the lines got blurred and/or did not matter.  I like alcohol, but I am not an alcoholic. It does not consume my thoughts, I don’t secret it into work, I don’t eye the clock as to when I can have the next drink.  I don’t hide it or sneak it or lie about it.  I grew up in an alcoholic home and I have family members who are both active and dry alcoholics. I lived with this highly functional alcoholic who held good jobs with lots of responsibility. It isn’t always easy to see, even when it is in your bones and part of the fabric of nearly your entire life. 

What am I to learn about myself, when my partners have been both hard edged that broke me into a million pieces, and softness that also broke me into a million pieces?  A therapist told me long ago that if a child grows up in chaos, that is the only way that they ever feel comfortable. I disagreed vehemently; but my life proves the point.  I’ve also read a lot about ACES, and how trauma changes your physiological and neurological responses to life. I look at my girls and see what my life imprint has been on them and wonder if it can be undone. How can I teach them not to take on my mistakes?

If we are to examine our lives, but have this nagging loopy thing that causes us to revisit words, tones, actions, choices and so on into near absurdity, how do we master that without making everyone around us crazy, too?  There is a passage in a book that made me laugh:

“The thing about living alone is that it gives you a lot of time to think. You don’t necessarily reach any conclusions, because wisdom is largely a function of intelligence and self-awareness, not time on your hands. But you do become very good at thinking yourself into endless loops of desperation in half the time it would take a normal person.” -Jonathan Tropper

This could be me.  It could be why I have trouble sitting and thinking before leaping into something. Or it could be that I just don’t like sitting still unless I am reading; then I could become a lump someone might need to check on to see if still living.

Revisiting past choices is part of understanding who you are today, possibly discovering pitfalls via that 20/20 hindsight thing. So this is a memorial, to someone who made me feel special in a way no one else has, before or since. I’m still here, and I’m still putting one foot in front of the other.  And for that love, that belief in me, which today still fuels me to continue moving forward, I say thank you.  This shot from recently is in memory of you, the first photography subject we shared enthusiasm over way back in 2004.

IMG_20190818_122457825

 

~SE

PS. What are the pitfalls you run into when practicing introspection or self-examination and how have you dealt with them?

The message you don’t want to get


Today started pretty normally, woke up at 0300 and then fell back asleep and slept past my alarm.  I wasn’t late to work though, since work is ten steps from my bed.  But I got coffee and some crossword puzzle time in before the old bell rang to get out of the gate and make the company some money.

An hour into my day, I get the text :”Mom, I’m f*** freaking out.  The kids got out in the car loop and school personnel grabbed them like footballs and ran screaming into the building. There are hundreds of cops racing to the school next door and a helicopter is in the air.  They are on lock down and me and the baby are stuck in the parking lot.”   The high school across the way was on ‘active shooter’ status.  My brain scrambled at this and the only thing I could immediately think was “Tomorrow is the death anniversary of my husband, is August going to be the hell month of the year for the rest of my life?”  I kept her on the phone, telling her to be calm, stay low and stay alert. I scoured the news for anything, any mention.  There was nothing.  I called my mom who is in that state and asked her to turn on the news. Also nothing.  My daughter was shaking as she watched a group of bullet proof vested police surround the room her two sons were just whisked into.  I continued to tell her to breathe, that shaking was from the adrenaline and she needed to clear those fight or flight chemicals from her body and stay alert but don’t move a lot. That the police were probably just being cautious and covering all of the ground and that the boys were fine.  Finally news hit the internet, and I was able to discern that they believed it to be a hoax call reporting a gunman on campus. I called her up and read the headlines, but police were still streaming into the area in emergency status, helicopter was still circling both schools and the news cameras had arrived.  Finally they were allowed to leave the school parking lot.  I hung up and wanted to throw up, although I never belied my own fear in my voice or my words.  I just wanted her to keep calm and focused, and safe.

How in the world do little children start their day like that and grow up to be normal? We worried about having cool clothes, or braces or glasses, and who liked whom – not if we were going to be gunned down at a freaking SCHOOL. What is wrong with our country? Who would call in a hoax like that, putting thousands of students, teachers, parents and law enforcement personnel into that kind of position?

But we were lucky, because it was not true.  So many others in the last few years were not so lucky. Parkland, Pulse, Gilroy, Vegas, Dayton, El Paso.  When I was trying to find current news, I had to reduce the search to the last hour because there were so many shooting deaths  in the last few days/weeks/months – in one state alone.  What are we going to do?

It breaks my heart and I have no answers.

~SE

Prismatic


If you only knew me like I know me
But that’s not true
I am mother,daughter,woman,artist,worker,gypsy,friend
The facet you see depends on where the light is brightest
At that moment

If I only knew me like I wish you to know me
But what is true
How can I be all of this and any of this in fact
When the facet seen depends on where the light is brightest
At that moment

If only I could be me like I feel me
All of this is true
I am all that I am and nothing that you think
You turn the facet that fascinates you to where the light is brightest
At that moment

Without light there is no prism to see in me
Like a rainbow, minute droplets refract the light
I am droplets and cannot be held
I will appear where the light is brightest
At that moment

Then gone.

I haven’t written any poetry in a very long time. This came to me in the middle of the night, after falling asleep to thoughts about about those around me, their ideas of who I should be to meet their expectations and rummaging around in my brain for far too long, touching on conversations remembered, words read, disappointments felt, joys held briefly.  All of us are perceived by others through their particular lens and it is usually a lens not in our own imagery arsenal. For example, if four people think about the word “mother”, four totally different manifestations will appear in their heads (even if they are siblings, they will all perceive their mother differently).  All of us balance all that we are into one being, like a deck of cards, pulling out the ace or the jack or the queen whenever that particular persona is needed.  Should we need to uphold more than one persona in the same time and space, it is rarely going to be a winning pair, much less the consistent and constant order of light as reflected in a prism. You never just see, for instance, the pink strata of a rainbow without all of the other colors. Yet all of that beauty is ever present unseen; it simply lacks the proper set of environmental conditions to shine it all of its totality. 

In summary, I guess we are most like the dance mat in those games, where you put your feet on the colors that light up in order to learn the steps.  We’re all just learning to dance through life, and hopefully to shine in all of our fullness from time to time when the particular circumstances are ripe.

So today, dance the steps of your life, and remember, your full range of colors always lives inside of you and happiness does not wait.

 

~SE

Saving Wasps & Relishing Quiet


I saved another wasp today. No, no, not the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant type. The flying, stinging type. “Why?” will be most people’s response, understandably. But, I feel that wasps get a bad rap. They live all around my house – on the ceiling of the mud room, on the door frame of my front door, on the underside of box tops left out for recycling too long, in one of the squares of a cement block and in the folds of the hammock bag. They often fly around in my house after entering during ‘open door’ time in the early mornings when I gather fresh air. This guy had been zooming around for a day or so, climbing on my ceiling, checking out the fake flowers, being annoyed when I vacuumed and buzzing my head a bit to let me know. Yet, in over two years, not one has ever harmed me or Legoman. I realize that’s not a terribly long time, but,with the number around and so many little home invasions, you’d think at least ONE would have expressed its discontent at being out of place. Nope.

I’ve feared them most of my life, but someone told me long ago that if you don’t freak out, they won’t hurt you. Something about them invoking attack pheromones to their guard wasps if they perceive a threat I think. Also, if you step on them, or they get trapped in your clothing or hair, they tend to be a bit testy. I disrobed once in public because one was climbing up my back to my neck, lol. But I think I lost my fear the most by watching a Bald Hornet crawl all over my husband for about five minutes without harming him. Up his back, into his hair, down onto his face, around his glasses, which is when my husband finally had enough and threw his glasses – a sting on the old eyeball would have been pretty bad. All the while I was trying to figure out how to gently brush the thing off without angering it, but never found the opportunity to do so. Just a memory that fell out while typing this up.

I spent the time off gussying up my living space, or ‘nesting’ as a friend called it. I’m practicing tiny house living, with 1200 sqft of storage space, lol. Then back to work, which consumes my mind and activities. I’ve been car-less for a couple of weeks now due to a flat tire. But my order of compressor, tire repair kit and Slime arrived, so now I can tackle DIY tire repair. Woohoo! Once tire repair is done, then perhaps I can pursue a sink repair that will allow me to also have running water again. Yeah, back to rainwater harvesting for a while now. Much, much easier for just me. Far fewer dishes and clothes to wash, much less the bathing thing. It’s been really hot here, and walking to the store to get groceries entails an extra bath for me. It’s amazing how little water you can actually bathe in, lol! Cooling down before bed with no a/c is a big deal for me, because when I’m hot I cannot sleep well. My sleep is hit or miss lately. Partially due to no dog, no companion of any kind, so any little noise rouses me. And part of it is the doggone heat.

With this recaptured freedom, I’m trying to figure out what the heck to do to craft the life I crave AND balance reality. The truth is, hacking my way through a piece of property and self-building some kind of cabin is a thing of the past. I haven’t spent the time cultivating the skills I’d need to do so, particularly while working full time. A carpenter I am not. Heck, sometimes I struggle with ESL instructions for assembling things like bookcases and storage bins! Yes, I can live without amenities many of us take for granted. I can rig a sock drying machine out of a cot bed frame. I can haul water and harvest it from an a/c unit to flush toilets. But build my own house? Probably not, especially while working. And finding affordable land near my family down south? Truly not likely in any area I’d feel comfortable living alone. The push from family is really, really strong now that I am ‘alone’. All kinds of worries and fretting going on, attempts to send me back home with a pitt bull after a visit, do you have personal safety under control?, that kind of stuff. When did we all become so fearful? What is driving that?

It feels a lot like grieving right now. Thinking about the dream I’ve nurtured for over a decade disappearing into the mists of time and pragmatism. Trying to figure out what it is I truly wish to do with this beautiful life we’re given that will give me the satisfaction that I crave. And also, trying to keep a hold of “me” when so many others are pulling out their “This is who I want you to be” scenarios. What if I can’t live up to their ideals? What if I can’t even shut up my loud mind long enough to determine what it is that my own ideals are? At any rate, I don’t have to do anything tomorrow, or next month, or even next year if the J.O.B. holds – oh, and if the roof and the foundation of KarseCoteHowm remain intact 🙂

As I ruminate on these pressing matters, here is a song for you to wander away with…

Ludovico Einaudi – Nuvole Bianche

As always, to thine own self, be true.

~SE

Dis·​ori·​ent·​ed


It has been a long time since I put the words of my head onto a white space. Mostly I think because they have not been perky prose, or uplifting, pithy bootstrap thoughts. They haven’t even been particularly interesting – I mean, I’d get them out of my head and pick up a new narrative if I could. I’m supposed to be good at that; re-framing things to dig into the positive.  And most of the time, I am.

A lot has changed in the nearly two years since I wrote. Legoman has gone back home to his family, which is a good thing.  Good for him, I hope, and definitely good for me. I simply was not prepared to live with a child with serious mental health issues.  When you start dreaming that the person residing in your home is going to kill you, it might be time to admit you did not know what the hell you were doing. That you actually do not have the tools in your toolkit to navigate that world. And that, despite all of the good intentions in the world, it was probably neither the best for he and his family, nor you. It put my mental health in jeopardy, even though we had good counselors, medication, he made friends and did well in school. Every single day was a battle, and some days an actual war.  Right now, he won’t speak to me. Fair enough. He did the same to his family when he came to live with me. Children seem to think that love is limited, that you can’t love a family and a grandmother, a mother and a father after a divorce; that doing so is somehow taking away from the love they want to nurture and get back in return. I had so many of those conversations with my own children after my divorce. I tried to tell them that the heart is very big, as big as you will allow it to be. And that loving someone else doesn’t take away from anything.  They eventually learned that, but they are adults now. Maybe this child will someday learn the same.  It has taken its toll however, and I find myself again conflicted -relieved and immensely sad. It is quite similar to some of the emotions I felt after my husband’s death.

Right before we made the trip to reintegrate him back into his family, my faithful fur companion of fifteen years began to seriously decline in health, and I had to have him put down. The grumpy old man Jack Russell no longer wags his nub or sleeps on my feet. No ticky-ticky of his nails on the kitchen floor to indicate he’s making another round in the house to find out where I am. That was hard. But it always is, and any mature pet owner knows that day may come. I willed him to pass in his sleep, but my will wasn’t that strong. I still hear him in my brain sometimes now that I am back at home.

For the first time in decades, I am truly alone. Even after my husband died, I had the dog posse, the Pyrenees and the Jack. One by one, via re-homing and natural life span, they, too, are gone.  Which has taught me that really, we are always alone- even in partnerships. Yes, we share, perhaps thoughts, space, events, choices. Underneath it all, it is just us. In the end it is simply survival of the organism – or SOTO as I call it.

When work is in play, life really doesn’t require much thinking, as work consumes me. I have survived three rounds of layoffs, the most recent just three weeks ago.  We are at a skeleton crew and I do not know how we will continue to provide award-winning services with so few staff. Along the way, people I have known for over a decade have been cast aside. Some of them have gone on to bigger and better things. Others have found a new work life but made significant lifestyle adjustments as a result. A few still struggle to find a place and identity by honing existing skills and acquiring new ones, continuing their search.

But last week and this week I took some time off between losing a major account and taking on a couple of new ones. As a result, my brain is shrieking loudly about this and that, here and there, past and present and…what does the future hold?  Maybe music, memories and activity will bear some fruit in that direction. Or distract me.  We shall see 🙂

For now, in quiet,

~SE

What is YOUR luxury item?


Up until two weeks ago, my answer to that question would have been a myriad of things. A new SUV. Really nice smokey perfume. A case of fabu Pinot Noir. An all-inclusive trip to Alaska or Scotland. And so forth. My, my, how one’s perspective can change in a jiffy!

Top of the list now? Running water.  Yep, you read that correctly. Something I’ve given no thought to ever before (except when camping). Before two weeks ago, showers were a no-thought thing. Now, a true luxury. This is not a moralizing post, but more like a “Wow, I never thought about these things” post.  In America, approximately 1.7 million Americans live without running water, many of them Native Americans (cited here) – 780 million worldwide (cited here)  That’s a lot of people! For about ten days, I was among them.  Water has become a fascinating thing to me now – the use of it, the waste of it, the take-it-for-granted attitude I formerly had about it.  For me, it was a moderate expense to repair, and one I thankfully had funds for.  No one discovered during the home inspection, or revealed in the foreclosure purchase, that this house had a well and wasn’t on city water. When I called to order electrical service, I found out. So we arrived hot, sweaty, dirty and tired to a place with no water – including flushing toilets.  It was 97 degrees the day I was unloading the truck. It was dirty work. *I* was dirty work, lol.  A wonderful neighbor tried to prime the well with no success. This same neighbor and his wife offered us their showers at the end of the unloading.  My daughter got on the interwebs and located a same-day response multi-specialty vendor on Home Advisor.  He did get the pump primed, only to discover that the pressure was terribly high, meaning the guts of the well would most likely have to be replaced.  Thankfully, he was wrong.  But it took a while to get the name of a reputable well service.  Again, another neighbor to the rescue, this one a structural engineer.  In the interim, we used bottled water.  Do you know how much water you use each day? My coffee alone uses a lot, lol! Add drinking water, toilet water, bathing water, cooking water, well, you get the picture. That liquid gold that flows from our pipes is highly undervalued by  most of us, and me in particular.  After a day or two without, I was able to devise a working plan for water while I waited.  The actual well people discovered I did not need an entirely new set-up, but only a gauge, a bladder tank and a pipe repair.  It looked like I had an artesian well once they got it running – so they dug it up and fixed it.  Let me tell you, that water flowing into the kitchen sink was glorious! It still is.  I find myself treating water very differently.  I still don’t have running hot water, but that’s coming eventually.  For now, I heat stock pots of water for bathing and dishwashing. Living with a little boy makes this easy, as baths are an easily foregone thing, lol!  It is difficult for us to remember that running water inside of a house was a new thing for even our parents (or at least mine, growing up in the rural South). The next time you turn the tap, give thanks.  Really, it is an amazing thing that we have at our fingertips.  Trust me 😉

The move itself was a hysterical activity, as most all things are that I attempt. First off, I got a head injury. Yep. Split my scalp trying not to trip over the deaf and blind dog who secretly appears to want to kill me.  When you lose your balance, the normal response is to throw your hands out – um, but my hands were full of boxes that if dropped, would hurt the killer dog mentioned above.  So I hung onto my load, and used my head (it’s hard, don’t worry) to stop my faceplant. Except, I had my reading glasses atop my head. I now know the intimate sound of your scalp being punctured.  Did you know that even superficial head wounds make your home look like a alt-stage for a zombie movie? They do! I did not even really realize I was hurt; it was rather like stubbing your pinky toe. The intial “Youch!” followed by a dull throbbing.  Except that as I turned on the tile, I started spraying the floor, and the chair, and my legs, and…well, you get the picture.  And I was there with a 7-year-old and a truck loader with limited, um, mental faculties.  So I’m hollering to LegoMan to find the gauze pads as I rush to the bathroom sink, spraying as I go – the mirror, the sink cabinet, the floor.  He was remarkably calm and located the gauze quite quickly, bless his little heart.  He even held it on my head while I called my daughter.  Good kid in an emergency.  She entered very shortly after to the carnage. She, too, is good in an emergency. She and I both are certified in first aid, so neither of us panicked. But all of my first aid stuff was packed already in who knows what box.  She whipped out her phone and discovered tumeric is a good substitute for a staunching blood, and the spices were still out!  Yay!  Except…I also keep my pink Himalyan salt in an old tumeric jar. Yep.  She diligently poured it onto my gushing wound.  I calmly stated that I did not think tumeric would burn so much, at which time she discovered her error 🙂  Hey, it wasn’t that bad. And it DID stop the bleeding.  She found the tumeric and proceeded to apply it on top of the salt.  We topped it off with a bag of frozen kale for extra clotting help.  Really, there should have been a photo in there.  You know, for old time’s sake.  Thankfully my daughter loves me and did not Instagram my head wound alt-med activity.  But it slowed my packing and lifting, as every time I bent to lift a box, a new gush would accompany my efforts.  That little jaunt cost us a day in moving time.  I dithered about going in to the emergency room, but we made do with the alternate remedies since there was no pupil abnormality (see hard head above) and not much blood after a few hours of sitting on my tuchus, frustrated about not getting things loaded.  I left the tumeric, the dried blood (but not the kale, it’s edible!) in place for the two day drive to the new house.  We didn’t want to disturb the scabs.   A friend commented I could say that I was attacked by an Indian chef, lol!

On the way up, with my dried blood-stained, tumeric enhanced hair, we got some strange looks.  My debit card, where ALL of my money for the move was tucked away, got compromised.  Luckily I had a dumb thief who tried to go for gusto and run an impossibly large charge – and my credit union security team caught it.  Except that they were calling me while I was driving. And when I listened to the message in horror, they had some LONG number I had to reference when I called the emergency number.  Off we pulled into a truck stop so I could make the call.  Ten days to get a replacement card. Yikes!  I could have told them the sob story above, head wound and all I suppose, but I did simply ask that they expedite the replacement card, which they did.  So hot, tired, head wound, cashless, I arrived at KarseCoteHowm – sans water.

One thing I will say, is that the people of North Carolina are a generous, thoughtful, wonderful group of people.  I’ve been given produce, fresh caught fish, the opportunity to shower, free lawn mowing – a host of things.  I’ve met nine neighbors in less than two weeks (unluckily for me, most during the time I was a dirty hot mess, lol!)

Life, it is a fun, flowing, adjusting thing. We must be flexible and agile. Things are not always as they appear, or, as your expectations have fooled you into believing.  It’s okay. We are adaptable creatures with infinite abilities to survey, calculate and adjust.  Use that talent. Life is a journey, and the switchbacks are often unmapped.

“Develop flexibility and you will be firm; cultivate yielding and you will be strong.” – LieziThe Book of Master Lie

Besides, there is always a swing and a good wine, to ease the end of every day for those of us truly with a lot.

‘Till next time, value your water, practice yielding, and smile a lot!

~SE

Flexibility

And another adventure begins…KarseCoteHowm


Well, they don’t call me the wandering Jew for lack of a reason, but I’m putting down tentative roots once more.  I bought a house.  I’ll try not to burden my mind with calling it my ‘forever’ home, as I did once before when I found a little slice of heaven – making it like a tearing asunder when I had to leave it once I’d just barely gotten to know it in all four seasons, and the wildlife, herbage and sounds that shared the space with me.

LegoMan and I will be heading out this Friday to yet another new state – this time landing in North Carolina.  This took a bending, nay, I dare say a partial abandoning, of my long habored inner dreams of carving out a place in the woods, building from cobbled together salvage pieces, sweat, pained fingers and broken nails, that I could truly call ‘mine’. Now that I have a li’l punkin to consider, I had to balance what would be best for him versus what I truly wanted. That was…hard. I don’t necessarily feel it is bad for kids to grow up in the wild; in fact, in some ways it is healthier and leads to greater self-reliance. However, with him starting off with special needs and me being the only family member that has embraced that lifestyle, it might go well or it might go very, very badly. Since socialization is one of the skills  areas  where he needs a LOT of work, talking to goats and field mice may not advance that a whole lot.  Since the whole ‘my parents gave me away’ thing is rearing its ugly head, proximity to mental health services are also a plus.

So I blended my life-long love of all structures old, with a half-measure of acreage on the water, but close in enough to present social and other enrichment activities other than counting wild turkeys and does vs bucks in season for the Lego sprout.  Meet KarseCoteHowm (Scottish for lowlying river land, humble home, in a floodplain)

KarseCoteHowm 2017

She’s built in 1925, so nearly 100 years old and shows some of her aches and pains, but she’s had some surgical procedures to freshen her up a bit in the showy bits.  The underbelly will take some interventions in the near future; think of it as bad knees but hopefully not a full hip replacement!  I do wake up sometimes fretting that I am going to be a featured actress in “The Money Pit 2” and then try to roll over and go back to sleep.

Meanwhile, back here at the apartment, I’m perfecting my combo skills of Tetris, Jenga and “How to keep ones pinky toes attached” due to the boxes, storage bins, and disassembled items stacked in wobbling towers throughout the place.  Maybe it is more like “Rats in a Maze: A study in close quarters”?  One of us, LegoMan, OldGrumpyDog or me, bangs into boxes at least once or three times a day. Somehow that simplicity thing that I have been striving for has not taken root yet.  At least now I have an actual storage area both inside and outside of the domicile.  I feel most for my little Jack, OldGrumpyDog. who has gone mostly blind, totally deaf and is having anxiety because he sees boxes again. In the night, he bumbles around trying to trace his steps to the water dish, and sometimes gives up trying to find his way back and collapses on the pillow under the dining room table instead of returning to his bed beside my bed. But it will be over soon, except for that packing-the-truck thing.

LegoMan has sprouted and turned  into a boy in his year and a half here – growing three inches, six pounds and several shoe sizes over the course of time.  His face has elongated, sprouted freckles and his hair has turned a shiny auburn that curls like mad when I let it get too long.  I sense a lady killer in development, folks. He’s completely off all medications now, and although there is still a lot of anger and disrespect that pops out, the daily thrashing and screaming fits have subsided for the most part. He is practicing for Debate Team though methinks.  That boy would argue with a fence post. Summer camp was…interesting. Busted nose, eye punches, nose bleeds, falling off the bleachers into broken metal railings, and enough bandaids and ointment to make me consider taking a course in “Boy First Aid”.  Very different than raising girls, my former area of experience. But he did learn to swim, and is mastering the art of scooters – which of course means more bandaids and ointment purchases.

Quite the change, eh?  Those legs took on a life of their own! Maybe the scabby salve has growth hormones in it or something 🙂

This move is mostly for his sake. The pain of seeing his siblings remain as a family unit gnaws at him, throws him into a tailspin of doubt, self-loathing and anger, even though he desires to see them. I’ve considered that maybe it hurts me more than it does him. While I want him to remain close to his half-siblings, I also want him to form an identity of his own that isn’t based on being given away, but positive things.  Things that will be a strong, loving overlay to the insecurities that plague him.  It’s hard on him, having a grandmother stand in as a ‘mom’ figure.  He often says he wishes I were 25 or 26 (heh, makes two of us buddy!).  I try to stay young thinking and energetic for his sake, but hey, I’m on the near side to sixty now – perish the thought!  I look forward to introducing him to hiking, to serious gardening, to lawn mowing (oops, that slipped in there) – to the beauty of the natural world that produces healing and an awareness that we are part of something so much bigger than our real problems.  He’s already able to identify birdsong without seeing the bird, has knowledge of herbs and flowers, and has the beginning of understanding of plant medicine. He’s naturally curious and terribly bright (where is my tumeric and black pepper again?). It keeps me on my toes.  Some things scare me. Other things amaze me. I’ve never grown a man, and I hope that I do right by him.

Someone called me “the bravest person they know” today.  I don’t feel brave. Mostly I feel kept by that old adage “God watches over babies and fools.”  Life is hard. But I also get to blow bubbles again.  I get to watch a little boy double over in spasms of laughter when I say “Ewwwwwwwwwwww” with a weird face when he makes up another totally ludicrous, horrid thing that he thinks I should eat.  I get to watch him master a 1,000 plus piece of Lego assembly on his own, and the care he takes of that work.  I get to teach him James Taylor and John Denver songs (which, surprise, he likes!) And yeah, there are bad parts too.  Very bad parts.  Hopefully I have the strength not to snap, and the tenacity to keep believing that I’m making a difference. And love, lots of love.

Two sets of people are allowed to call out to YHVH when they are being oppressed or afflicted- the widow and the fatherless.  Kind of ironic that we share a household, isn’t it?

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Be well, until next time.  And if you see a pokey Penske truck with a bug-eyed lady, a grumpy little dog and a little boy playing with Legos in your way this weekend, please don’t flip us off, ‘mmkay?  😀

~SE

Looking back over my shoulder with one eye ahead 2016 – 2017


“They” say this is the time of the year to reflect on your yearly posts.  Ach. Hit and/or miss. So many left in drafts because they were written late at night after work ended and there didn’t seem to be much ‘me’ in them; or maybe, too much of me in them. I look at the scrapped titles: “Adversity”; “Humanities at (roughly)450 mph”; “Need Cheese with my Whine”.  Hmm. Insert eye-roll here.  LOL.

So yeah. Here’s the down and dirty to save you a TL,DR experience if you’re inclined. This year was fookin’ tough. Take adoption-process special needs 7-year-old, add hellacious work experience, layer in moving, financial floundering, adult child drama, add a dose of exhausted, seasoned with a bit of grumpiness and self-doubt, range set to ‘occasionally ignite unexpectedly’ and baste in a nice sauce of “‘WTF do I do now?” Voila! 2016 in a nutshell 🙂

Have some amazing electronica with that: (kick ass song to start off 2017, imo)

For those of you still with me, here’s the more granular experience and the thoughts that accompany it (and maybe some music thrown in!)

What I thought was going to be a temporary living/child-keeping experience has turned – permanent. Honestly, at inception I thought “I can do this!”  Most days now I wake up and think “WHAT was I thinking?!? Move your arse and get out of bed.” Raising children in your twenties and thirties is tenuous at best, wearing you down; but you recover fairly quickly, youthful resilience and all of that. In your fifties? Bwahahaha. Yes, I have more(?) wisdom at my age. I can sometimes sort out what is worth fighting over and asserting my responsibility role as parent-by-proxy, other times I let things go. Ain’t gonna die on this hill. And, honestly, sometimes I default to “BECAUSE I SAID SO” (sotto voce: dammit.) The reasonings behind that are beyond a seven-year-olds comprehension (even some older, if I may be so blunt). But the cost? Oh, the pound of flesh is about up to 2 lbs I’d wager. Emotionally, nearly every day I feel like a wrung-out dishrag. Spectrum children additionally diagnosed with ODD and ADHD have boundless tenacity for sticking to a repeated meme. The internet’s got nuttin’ on them. They could raise the viewer level to viral in no time flat. And with only 16 hours of a break  in toto the last three months, I’m pretty cooked.

And at other times, the capacity for awe, wonder and information processing simply amaze me. The mental agility to grasp complicated concepts, the absorption of mathematical principles, the continuous “What?” “Why?” “How?” hunger, makes me smile. I am a words person by nature – he’s a math person by nature. Black and white is his norm.  I live over in the slidey greyscale world most of the time. So the resiliency, the anger, the curiosity, the innate abilities, blow me away. After you hug-hold a thrashing 55 lb body so filled with anger, spewing hateful things and your brain tries to balance the known versus the unknown while letting him work it out until he’s calm, well, you’re used up.  Then you have to go to work that day and act like it’s all A-Okay. That’s my life.

While this song is meant to reflect a romantic relationship, this is how I feel about the boy:

Room for interpersonal relationships? Hah! There’s nothing left inside of me. The child is enough, then I add on three adult daughters with varying circumstances, my parents as they fight aging, and what little room I have in my heart goes to friends. A partner? Fat chance indeed. Maybe a prince with a magic wand would make the cut. Otherwise? No. Dice. Got nada, zero, zilch to give.  Honestly, I tried.  Met a nice, thoughtful retired man, in person. Treated me with consideration. In the end, I simply could not take on the 50’s woman model and be the wage-earner, the caretaker and the doer-of-all-things. We are still friends, but it took its toll on me and my concept of partnership. There was nothing wrong with his expectations except that I could not, and felt guilty for being unable to, meet them.  I needed caretaking at the end of the day, and he wanted caretaking. It simply did not mesh. I am not WonderWoman (in either looks or abilities!) I am not afraid of being alone.  I am afraid of not doing my best by those who count on me.

My AT plans have been put on indefnite hold, as I cannot take the boy out of school for two months to meet my realistic can-do plans in regards to time to complete.  We may do it in sections, I don’t know yet. This responsibility has made me re-think everything.  To risk all that I have to either make or break my dreams was acceptable for _just me_. No matter how, or where, or in what state the pursuit of living on the land and moving towards more self-sufficiency ended, I know that I could rebound in some fashion. I could do without; I could start over after giving my best.  But the boy? Can I take that kind of gamble with HIS future? Alternatively, can I shove my dreams, my heart and personality into a box that constricts, confines and deadens me? I do it every single day that I do not move towards where I want to be. I claw my way through to ignore the whispers of “What is this costing you?” What kind of person does that make me? Weak and afraid? Self-deprecating and martyr? Sacrificial? Selfish?  At the bottom, I am pragmatic even if my dreams soar above the stratosphere.  I know I have to master certain skills, abilities, safety nets. By the time I do that with the additional financial burdens of raising a child, I may be too old to pursue them, in reality.  Too mentally frail to maintain the tenacity of mind needed, much less meet the physical demands of the dream.Or, maybe not, so I press on.

Last night, while waiting for the midnight madness, I started looking through boxes for some papers.  That led to three hours of time travel backwards into photos, notes from my kids, the ashes of my late husband, and so forth, all to 70’s R&B soundtrack in the background (when not overpowered by the amazing, near professional quality, fireworks of my neighborhood!)  It reminded me of the joys of my life as much as the sadness.

I lean into 2017 with the following as my guide – some thoughts, some music, and a quote or two.

I have been at crossroads, at starting over, so many times in my life. I have lived through divorce, through the death of my spouse, through the loss of my ‘forever home’, through the loss of so damn much. Yet I’ve welcomed six grandchildren into the world, and absorbed two more through marriage. I’ve been on the ins and the outs with my immediate family. I’ve been judged, found wanting, proven myself, and fallen to the bottom again. Each time I have stood up, yet again.  One of my daughters offhandedly referred to me as Daenerys Stormborn (I’m late to the table with GOT, so I’m hoping that is a good thing – but I’m surely not her look-alike, hahahaha). My takeaway from D’s prodigious abilities is that I can go through the fire and remain standing.  My family crest is also red and white, but alas, no dragons, only a bull in some renditions; in others a knight. Related to the Viking Kings of the Isle of Man supposedly, and of the clan McLeod – “Hold Fast” is our motto.  In 2017, I will hold fast.

I’ve found a few quotes that really resonate with me, mainly from Stoicism, which I’ll use to ground my thinking going forward.

“What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.” – Epictetus

“It is not the man who has too little that is poor, but the one who hankers after more.” – Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

And lest you think I will embrace 2017 in a far too serious mood, I will close with this one…

“The funny thing about writing is that whether you’re doing well or doing it poorly, it looks the exact same. That’s actually one of the main ways that writing is different from ballet dancing.” – John Green

We live in a time where we can watch awesome stuff like this for FREE!!

Drop a quote in comments that reflects your charter for 2017.

Cheers all 🙂

~SE

Looking Back Over My Shoulder -Humanities at (roughly) 450 mph


(Oooh, a fragmented lost in draft post, just found, from earlier this year)

Now that was a catchier title than “Getting to know  my fellow air travelers”, was it not?

Feet firmly back on the ground from vacation, I’ve been in hibernation from over-socialization. It isn’t that anyone was rude or intentionally draining either. I simply respond to excess people exposure like well-used rechargeable batteries – I wear out quickly.

Because my trip was an outgrowth from a surgical survival promise to myself, I tried to challenge my normal safety zones during this vacation. My normal flight behavior is book + headphones = polite ‘please ignore me’ signaling.  I’m one of those people that everyone feels compelled to chat with for some odd reason; sometimes to extremes. But I don’t like to be rude, so the book comes in handy as a passive indicator of the fact that I’m done talking now. I do actually read the books I carry.  I am glad that I changed things up, because several of the encounters gave me hope about people again.

The first passengers I met were Bubba and his mother (no lie, that was what she called him). It was Bubba’s first time flying and he was nervous, so his mom flew along with him and planned to turn around on the next immediate flight and return home. What makes a mother do that I wonder, because that would never occur to me to do and I’m not sure what that says about me.  Bubba appeared to be somewhere between seventeen and twenty – hard to tell actually. His demeanor did not match his size so I assume he might have some behavioral or intellectual challenges.  He was open about his fear of flying and had many questions. Curiosity and awe played across his face when looking out the window as we flew over the water on departure, but his interest did not last long.  He brought a portable DVD player along and so watched ‘House’ the entire time we were allowed electronics.  Not a vacuous show really, so maybe my assumption was off base. He was heading to Missouri, and during the week that followed I wondered where he ended up in relation to the flooding and storms. It seemed more dangerous to be on the ground than up in the air. Bubba, I hope you made it back home safely.

The airport experience was such an interesting part of the next flight. So many cultures represented! Various colors of people and dress, from hijabs to up-to-date Euro styling and everything in between. Languages, inflections, tonality – all were varied and existed as a murmuring backdrop to the physical activities going on. This airport was all hustle and bustle, quite different from where I boarded originally – where it was nearly deserted and took only seven minutes from printing my boarding pass, through security and arrival in the gate area. On the second leg I shared seating with a young man entering the Coast Guard and an experienced elk hunter en route with his wife to see their grandchildren.  This flight was longer and the men had lots to talk about with each other, so I turned to my book and withdrew. The Rockies were spectacular under the full moon, and I made up imaginary stories about the solo lights I’d spy far, far apart and the people who lived out there in such a vast space so distant from anything else.  The awe-inspiring thing was seeing the full moon and the Big Dipper looking as if I could open the plane window and touch them.

The funniest thing though was in this photo:

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Why is there an international NO symbol for people plastered on an aircraft engine housing? Wouldn’t that make some people (like me) walk up to it to see what they aren’t supposed to do? And who really wants to fly on a plane that requires use of the “Starter Override Access Hole”? What does the tool that goes in there look like and what is it called? If one did need to access the starter override access hole, I do believe you’d be in violation of the no people sticker.  Is this what is known as a Catch-22?

(and this is where it ended…so, that’s how it will be posted, lol!)

~SE (rummaging through the year)

Looking back over my shoulder (aka 2016 in Review)


My goal is to make a post a day to wrap up 2016 and teeter into the unformed abyss of 2017 🙂

Carapasces of Dreams

The dry wind chattered
Winding through the carapaces of dreams
Discarded in corners
Shrugged off during a mental molt

 

Raw skin couldn’t decide
Whether to embrace the nakedness
For a moment, a week, an eon
Paused as it was in reset mode

 

Images skittered behind lids
Places, ideas, desires, realities
Tumbleweeds of disconnects
Tried to fashion themselves

 

A sigh as heavy as lead
Seeped from lips asking hard questions
Dissembling, assembling, remembering
Made for a hard pillow
As sleep tiptoed around it all.

 

 

~SE

HeartWalk Reminder


Yes, I’ve been quiet.  Nine months of adjusting to re-mothering, plus a job that requires long hours, not much time to do much of anything other than work :/

I hope to drop a post in the next few weeks, time permitting.

In the interim, if you haven’t yet, please click the link to the right in ‘Recent Posts’about the HeartWalk and consider a small donation. We walk tomorrow morning! —>

What a juxtaposition swirls in my mind after the events of the last few days.

Tomorrow: A diverse group of people walking towards healing. Imagine if the entire country did just that, every day.

Be well,

~SE

change

 

 

 

I.C.U.


I need to see her face.

She is pale and breathing fast. Darkness colors the hollows under her eyes; not purple, not brown, but some muddy, delicate mix of the two, not unlike some smudged color you would see touted in a new fall palette on sale at Ulta.

On the forty minute drive north to the hospital, my mind runs over work tasks I’ve left undone, prompting phone calls.  My co-workers are irritated. “Stop calling me and go take care of things,” one snaps at me. I try to explain that by focusing on work while I drive, the worry monsters don’t overwhelm me.  They don’t understand. I have to focus on tasks.

I called extended family, including her father, my ex-husband. ICU bridges even the widest gaps, although I know she’ll be angry. Even assholes deserve to know their child is sick.

My phone is normally off at night, but last night I left it on. The text came at 4:20 a.m. I’d talked to her at length earlier in the evening, while my grandson was bathing. The headache was so bad, she wanted to cut off her head. Her temperature kept spiking. Now her diaphragm and abdomen were sore to the touch and she was having trouble breathing. Go to the doctor I text, it might be a post-delivery infection, and I’ll talk to you in the morning.  Except instead of ‘doctor’ I text ‘divot’, because it is 4:20 a.m. and I don’t have on my glasses. At 7:20 a.m. I text to ask how she is. By 8:30 a.m. when she responds,they are at the ER.  At 12:00 p.m. she texts They’re admitting me to ICU. I thought that was for crazy sick people or really hurt?” I start wrapping up work for transferring to a co-worker and calling my other daughters.

This is day four. A day earlier I’d said she needed to see a doctor and find out if it was viral or bacterial. I asked about mosquito bites. Her two sisters had just each had a run with the flu – symptoms sounded similar, but not identical. They both came through it all right, even though one is pregnant. One had also had the headache.

When I arrive, she is there in the bed, alone in the room.  Her partner and the baby are off to the house to pick up items we’ll need for the other two boys. Monitors beep and I watch her heart rate and b/p, while the swoosh of the bed rest booties inhale and exhale in the background. 60 percent kidney function loss. Fever of 104. She is shivering so hard the bed shakes, and she’s under a heated blanket. I tuck blankets. I feel her forehead – dry and very hot.  She is on her third bag of IV fluids. I ask questions, trying to get a feel for what they know.  I had passed the status board on the way in, but didn’t see it because I was looking for her room. There is no chart present in the room, because it’s all electronic now.

Once the baby is back, I have things to do. Texting the other girls, holding the baby, getting milk bags from the freezer, something, anything, to fight the feeling of helplessness. Something I can mark off in my brain as ‘done’.  The gastroenterologist came in. Gall bladder, clear. Appendix. Nothing. A urinary tract infection, but not bad enough to cause these symptoms.  I ask about post-delivery infection, have they checked that? Maybe a tiny bit of afterbirth left behind, hanging out in some obscure corner of her uterus? That is waved aside as too long ago.

Sepsis. Acidosis. Words spoken quietly in the hallway, just not to us. I want to yell “WHAT IS CAUSING IT AND WHY CAN’T YOU FIND IT?” But I don’t want to be an asinine, pushy parent of an adult child. I also want my daughter to own her care and stand up for herself. So I keep quiet.

I make the drive home with my 10-week old grandson, 12 bags of donated breast milk from an on staff doctor (thank you, whoever you are), a car seat that resembles a small space capsule and a Tula.  I have to have instructions on that item, particularly to learn how to don it by myself while holding the baby. I feel old. Unprepared. Frightened.

Pick up a bassinet from my expectant daughter as my oldest daughter drops off the middle sibling with her and I pick up my six-year-old grandson.  The daycare where my middle daughter works has graciously offered to let her bring in her nephew at no charge while my daughter is hospitalized, so he can be near his brother who also attends.  I trade off juice packs and snacks and the second diaper bag for the two-year-old while the bassinet is being loaded, and off we go back to my place.  I think about going to a drive-through, but opt for dropping off the bassinet first. The baby gets fussy, so I defrost some milk and feed him while my older grandson complains about how he is ‘starving’. It’s all perspective, right?  Back into the car for a pizza run, including space capsule wrangling, aka, getting the infant car seat strapped in.  We get through food, bath and story time before the baby wakes up again.

I finally get him to sleep on a towel in the bassinet and I text a photo to my daughter in the hospital, hoping to give her some comfort.  Instead, I’m told babies don’t sleep on their tummies anymore and that towel could suffocate him.  I remind her that I raised three of them and they all lived. “But mom, we are always learning new things, and you just don’t do that stuff anymore.”  That ‘old’ feeling washes over me again.

When he wakes up the next time, I find a pillow case and swap it out for the towel, and after feeding and burping him, I lay him on his back. He sleeps no matter what position, so I’m happy about that. She’s happy, too.

I should be sleeping, but I cannot. This may be the only time of quiet that I get for the rest of the day. The only time I can organize my thoughts and feelings – by writing them down. I think about the parents of the adults that died this weekend in an act I cannot truly understand. I feel lucky. I feel scared. I feel alienated from the world my ten week old grandson has entered. Yet strangers to us donated milk and free day care in this exact same world. How is that possible?

Thankfully, he sleeps the sleep of the innocent for today. It is only we older, less innocents, that wrangle with these untenable dichotomies of life.

~SE

 

Fleetings


This morning while walking the dog accompanied by a chatty six-year old, he sited a lone yellow flower in the brush  with an exclamation of joy. We walked over and examined it – a cheery yellow face with rings of of minute blood-red pinpricks radiating from the center.  I promised to come back and capture it with my camera.  A little while ago when I tried, it was closed up, not available for re-viewing. It will reside in the mind’s eye only for now. It reminded me of the fleeting opportunities in all of life.

On the same saunter, I walked into a massive spider web and he cried out, “BIG spider Bubbe, watch out. I’ll protect you!”, although he ran the other way, shuddering.  While I felt the web and backed up, I only caught site of the spider peripherally, unable to gauge its size. But the clear voice of the young rang in my mind. Chivalry, even if only verbal, is alive and well in little boys it seems.

Time rushes past, my careful schedule ripped to bits by the actuality of daily life. Work runs late into the evening, baths are drawn later than planned, and alas, I’ve even bought fast food when I’m simply too tired to contemplate cooking. What we do not skip is reading before bed, even on days of bad behavior, along with the lavender and coconut oil foot rub that brings sweet sleep and easy dreams to him. We’ve survived notes home from the teacher, confessions of lying, minor thefts of toys, and the destruction of others’ property.  Apologies were written in legible printing; piggy bank emptied for restitution;tearful discussions of the difference between bad behavior and the self being ‘bad’ engaged in; and the pronouncement that my food is better than Cracker Barrel’s at full child volume endured.

There’s also been a house struck by lightning and catching fire (daughter), diagnosis of scarlet fever (younger grandson), trips to the hospital for lack of baby movement (daughter), the arrival of a gifted Remote Control Monster truck, and the birth of my grandson’s sibling, continuing the long run of boy births.  It is a busy life.

What I miss most are the quiet times to read and write. The opportunity to just be still. The time to write and catch up with friends across the country. Moments to discover new musical artists or indulge in old favorites.  I snatch time here and there with a text or two, and a weekly in-depth catch up phone call time with those that know me best.

Time – it is fleeting. And we,  so are we. The only monuments most of us will leave behind are those in the minds of the lives we have touched, for good or for bad. Take the time. It costs, but so does letting it pass by.  And when I think I have an original thought, I find that someone else has visited it a long time before I.

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. – Pericles (495-429 BC)

Be a weaver and an engraver, and leave remnants of good wherever you go.

’till next time,

~SE

HeartWalkin’ With the Little Guy


So me and the little guy are going to do the HeartWalk this year.   I’d appreciate it if you’d take a peek at the link and donate if you’re inclined.  Small amounts are welcomed just as much as big ones 🙂

Donation Link

I’ve never been good at this kind of thing, unless there was chocolate involved, or Girl Scout cookies.  So with every donation, you get an imaginary World’s Finest Chocolate Bar or Girl Scout Cookie – it’s the new  zero calorie donation action!  (no screen licking!  Unless it is in private, then I don’t care what you do)

GS CookiesImage courtesy of: www.girlscoutcookies.org

OR

wfc-mm-3dollarbarsImage courtesy of: https://fundraising.worldsfinestchocolate.com/

So thanks for reading my healthy exercise example for kids and no-calorie donation action request 🙂

Next time up – the transformation from solitude to gratitude via a six-year-old!

Till then,

~SE

Last Grasping of Solitude


For almost seven years of widowhood, I have lived in solitude, with the exception of a one year stint with a co-worker roommate. She opened her home to me for a pittance while I was struggling to get back on my feet upon returning to work and I will always be grateful.

I am comfortable alone. I talk to myself. I sing. I swear. And back to more talking to myself. I listen to music and don’t care if I look silly. In the apartment, then the RV, I danced when the mood struck me.  More complicated in the RV, I must admit 🙂  If my hair and beauty tools took up the entire sink area, no one cared.  If I left a dish overnight because I stayed up reading the last two chapters of a novel, it was no big deal. If I wanted to sit and stare out the window, lost in a daydream, I did not perceive it as being lazy – I perceived it as recharging my inner batteries and just ‘being’.

Things change. Little people have to be taught good hygiene, how to clean up a kitchen, how to be tidy. Heaven forbid they be allowed to sit and do nothing but daydream. Must.Be.Busy.At.All.Times.  I wrestle with the concept that all waking hours must be spent in accomplishment mode.  What about processing the day’s events? The feelings that came whirring along? The words one said and their tone? How about letting the brain disengage and just wander?

The rest of the week will be spent traveling between the RV and the apartment to shuttle things out of one place and into another. Then cleaning the fridge and freezer and all the RV systems in preparation for putting it into storage. Then picking up some things I’ve not had to have while living in a furnished apartment and RV. And doing all of this with a six-year-old chatterbox trailing along 🙂  Hah!

So today is my last day of “freedom”. I slept in until 7:30.  I looked at the internet briefly. I perused two of Lloyd Kahn’s amazing books Homework – Handbuilt Shelter and Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter and fed my future dreams to keep them alive and well.  I listened to the Amazon Prime Acoustic channel and sang along to Jack Johnson and Simon and Garfunkel tunes. And then I shut down everything and just inhaled the silence.

I wonder what will come into my one open hand as I fervently grasp solitude with the other for one last span of time?

Helen Jane Long – Expressions

‘Till next time,

~SE

 

 

 

 

The Blossom of Benevolence


In my last post I explained the new direction that my life is taking, and the on-boarding of a little one.

What has come to light is the beautiful outpouring of sisterly support for the situation. No, not my sisters, as I don’t have any.  But the Aunts of my grandson, my other daughters. One has negotiated a reduced rate for summer care and offered to pay for field trip expenses. The other has offered respite baby-sitting and ad hoc financial support when needed.  While I am not poor by any means, my expenses are fairly maxed out with this move and the additional costs, as I had been living frugally.  The ability to do for others was still there in smalls.  For now, that will have to sit by the wayside as I examine the new budget and how it works out.

Sometimes, the pride that stops us from asking for help prevents us from offering others the opportunity to give help. While it is not an ideal situation, my heart is happy to see a rare facet of my adult children’s lives – the blossom of benevolence. May it long grow there, and return to them a hundred-fold.

~SE

 

Sacrifice?


What does that word really mean?  The technical meaning is to slaughter an animal, or to offer a person or possession to the Almighty.  Yet I have heard that word related to what I am about to embark upon; the taking on of a six-year-old boy to raise for a while, to help untangle a family dynamic that is out of kilter. To allow my daughter some room to steady herself, to give him some direction, and to hopefully return him back to a place that is fertile soil for good development. To dig into his little brain and see if we can determine what is off base there.  I do not think that word is apt in this circumstance.

But he, the little one, is part of my inheritance; my legacy, as people often like to say.  It is true that I am giving over myself – my plans, dreams, my time, my privacy, some forward motion towards my larger goals, in order to offer help. Others do it every day, becoming the unsung and sometimes unseen safety nets for millions of little bodies and minds.  Two of my best friends have been places of respite for their family in the past. It happened in my paternal family, in the family of my late husband, and in the family of my first husband. It is more common than people know and I now look  upon those who have gone before me, those currently shouldering this responsibility, and to those that may be called to do so in the future, as returning in part, to the extended family role that was more prevalent in times past.

What will I miss? The country. I live and walk at dawn and dark in a place where barred owls call out; where the  coyote pack voices come drifting in the twilight over from the state park; where deer are shy, fleet visitors. Where we are going will afford no view of the night stars, no educational opportunity to discuss fireflies, no teaching of night sounds, no sandhill crane calls to laugh about.  It will be cars, trucks, angry voices, televisions and car radios, and it perhaps will lack the safety and freedom that I have felt here to walk, listen and breathe.  True, in the active snowbird season some of these things intrude here also.  But along with those intrusions have come friendships, cocktail parties, dances and dinners and opportunities to make a difference in someone’s day.  I’ve learned of lives lived in other parts of the country, in times far different than now; of people gone but heard the echoes of their personhood imprinted on the hearts that they left behind; of honor, dedication and marriages that survived over a half-century.  I have, in many ways, reconnected again, instead of being completely immersed in work and the natural solitude an introvert prefers.  I have found a way again to contribute to others lives outside of my own family because they were close, because they were in my sight, and mostly because they reached out to me in kindness, in neighborliness, and probably sometimes, out of loneliness.

In other words, I have at this late time in life, learned to be a neighbor. Because I live among people mostly older than I am, I have  also learned what life used to be like before McMansions and multi-floored apartment complexes. Before we all worked and commuted up to ten, twelve, sixteen hours a day and scurried into our shelters without even seeing another person. And so as much as I will miss the solitude of my walks, I find that I will greatly miss the wonderful people that have come into my life in this past year. People that may or may not be here again next season, due to illness, inability to drive, or the health of their loved ones preventing them from coming down to soak up our sun and warmth.

When I discussed with a few people my leave-taking, the first response from most was “Bring him here!  There will be many of us to watch over him.”  Ah, that he could have these influences, these kindnesses, the opportunity to learn to care for others and be cared about by others not family!  Of course, it is not all good.  There is gossip and in-fighting, misunderstandings and breaches of etiquette. There too, are lessons; in how to forgive, to overlook people’s faults,  and  greater insight into the labyrinth of human behavior.  But he is only six, so I am not certain how much would sink in.  Most likely what he’d figure out is how to get cookies from two or three people in a day 🙂

Parenting of little ones was in my past I thought. After taking care of nothing but an easy little dog for almost seven years, once again I must structure my life for school drop offs, homework oversight, teeth and body cleaning, hurt feelings, temper tantrums, and consequences of bad behavior, all while continuing to work full-time.  No exhausted nights standing at the fridge and grabbing celery and dip for dinner. No putting off the laundry. No nights when I can pull the shades and bask in the quiet, taking my leave in the pages of a good book.  Some moments, just the thought of it  all overwhelms me. Some moments, I wonder if what I give will mean anything at all, if it will help. Always though, I come back to the fact that we will never know if we do not try.

So, sacrifice, adventure, or insanity?  Ask me again in a year, and I will let my heart tell you.

~SE

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Face Off, Black Tie Frenzy and Plain Life


Wise words of the day:

tumblr_n8ti3oUXae1s270i9o1_1280

Image lifted from: http://girlyme.tumblr.com/post/92870248438/filson-wise-words via Pinterest.

In case the deafening silence did not clue you in, the months leading up to surgery were quite a struggle for me, and I wrestled with depression, the reality of being alone and often invisible, the roles I fill in the family circle and a bunch of other soul-searching type of activities.  And, although to most I didn’t express it, I was scared shitless.  I mean, we get in the car every day and could die from a car accident or something, but that fear is minimized. Anesthesia, opening up one’s head – serious stuffs.   My emotional energy levels plummeted, and I flailed about trying to maintain friendships and be present to give back a little bit for friends and family.

Phone calls lately have ranged through the following: “Mom, we’re getting a divorce.”  “Mom, I don’t think I can continue to care for him and I’m considering adoption.” “Mom, I have to have another treatment and if this doesn’t work it will mean surgery and I’ll probably lose my job.” “I need to talk to you, call me on my cell, the Doctor had bad news for me and I don’t want to discuss it in the house yet.” “I think we’ll move out of state, which means you’ll have primary care of Mom if anything happens.”  Add to that my best friend’s near burn out with her job, another close friend being put on statins and I am just like daayum, could I have some GOOD news in a call once in a while? How does one support all of those people and still have anything left for oneself?  It would be slightly humorous if I were the only one going through stuff like this, but it is darn near everyone I know – immense pressures via job, finances or health or sometimes the trifecta of all.

So what did I do Saturday ?  Loaded up the music carousel and danced myself silly after making some curried dandelion greens with onions and fresh chicken. I was a crazed sight I am sure, as there were about ten ingredients, most of which had to be chopped, shredded, grated or such.

But hey, I did it!  I survived tumor removal from my head without coming out on the other side drooling (well, not drooling a lot).  The deformity spoken of prior to surgery is there, but it is well hidden by the new style of my hair, which I grew in anticipation of trying to hide incisions and oddities. I suspect over time that it will fade into obscurity.  They detached my ear from my head, which is, well, kind of bizarre. It still doesn’t look right, but again, under the hair so really only I know about it. The nerve severance is beginning to heal, which means, pain = healing!  Most of my face on the surgical side though, remains completely numb.  Kind of like coming home from the dentist, but every single moment of every day.

The surgery went five hours, but man, did that surgeon have good hands! He left me with no purple to pale green to yellow bruising to go through, which is in fact, amazing.  Actually, from the front you couldn’t tell I’d had major surgery even a day afterwards. My physical energy was low and I slept – a lot. Thanks to Vitamin C mega-doses and liposomal glutathione, the cut-work seemed to be healing very very well.  Must however, chat with the anesthesia team as that went horribly wrong afterwards and gave me a terrible scare.

Then, I get notified that they’ve found something in my lung they want to take a closer look at when they were reviewing my routine pre-surgical chest x-ray.  The irony of that is that I quit smoking earlier this year, after 36 years of it.  Being a pragmatist, I thought, “Well, that many years, what can I expect?” I had good hopes though that it was simply another pulmonary granuloma – a calcified healing spot of a previous infection. So soon after surgery, I didn’t wish to burden the body with the radiation of a CT, so I put it out for a month to allow me to heal and build up a bit afterwards.  In I go for the CT and have a bit of waiting for those results too. My primary  did not think it is terribly worrisome and wishes to revisit that in a year to make sure.  However, while viewing my insides, they discover I have a liver problem. By this time, I am ready for them to stop peering inside of me for goodness sake!  I feel fine, dammit!

Ten or twenty years ago, having problems with my liver would have been expected.  I was a rowdy thing as a young’un and that continued on and off through my thirties up to about forty.  Drinking and dancing, drinking and playing darts, drinking and watching hubby play pool – that was part and parcel of our lifestyle back then. I shuffled through my labs from back then and sure enough, the liver and a lot of my body was hollering – then. Now? I have the triglycerides of a  healthy twenty-year old!  No elevated liver enzymes. HDL/LDL ratios good and numbers well below suggested levels.  So I am stymied at the liver thing because nothing is showing up to indicate “Hey, this is your liver, and we need to chat.”  This week I saw my GP for a 2nd opinion  after explaining the film review and so went through more fasting and more blood-letting and of course, now more waiting.  Although it is hard to argue with a picture, at least we can check to see if something went wonky between my last physical and now.

One incredibly positive thing is that I can participate in the outcome of this diagnosis!  It also requires no toxic medicines to treat. And it doesn’t put a dent in my plan to hike the AT or to run away and live in the woods (well, okay, maybe adds some time to the timeline, dang it!)

Added to this simmering pot of anxiety stew is a leetle black tie event coming up in January at the new company.  Posh stuff, with open bar and hotel rooms and the lot. It has been decades since I’ve attended such. I must admit though, that the shopping and trying on of gauzy, glittery, beaded and shiny girly stuff was fun, including silver shoe shopping!  Too bad it’s a company function, as I could do with a night of letting my hair down; however, I don’t think the new corporate arena would be a stellar choice  to do that, hah!

I’ve written in my journals, mostly introspective stuff- very little creative juice running around right now. I’ve shot a few photos, one 0r tw0 worth uploading later this week.  All in all?  I’m burned out. I’m hoping a little R&R in the PNW at a friend’s farm will help me regroup and start the new year off with a change in perspective -or at least some snow!

Yes, I am back and have some written observations to share that were jotted (does saving a text note count as ‘jotting’?) while in the hospital, including the hilarities of anesthetized chat with hospital personnel  🙂  Until then – Just Dance! (fun video of dancers from around the world)

~SE

 

 

 

Fifteen minutes ago


Fifteen minutes ago It was that day. The day I flew. The day I decided not to counteroffer on a house I really liked. The day I last heard “I love you so much.” The day I last shared a newspaper with anyone. I wonder when this day’s awareness will fade from my brain. When it will not feel both numbing and prickly at the same time. I wonder when I will stop replaying the next three days over and over again in my mind. Stop rehashing the feelings – anger, frustration, disappointment – all up until the moment I learned he was dead. Then I just stopped feeling and became nothing but a feeling all at the same time.

This week I found out that I don’t have cancer, which was very, very good news. I still must have surgery on my head, but it is not cancerous. I’ve never had to wait for any kind of pronouncement like that before. It is like a low-level hum that hovers around your peripheral vision. There’s nothing you can do in the interim, while waiting, which would or could make a difference. In a massive introverted fit, I’ve drawn in nearly every tentacle I have in anticipation of …what I don’t know. And then…

Right behind “There’s no cancer cells present” came the statement: “There will be some post-surgical deformity.” I just smiled and nodded.

I’m not sure what ‘deformity’ will mean. I already knew I’d have a lengthy and possibly prominent scar. I can tell you what ran immediately through my mind. “Will anyone ever love me again?” Why that is what ran through my mind I am not sure. There’s nothing wrong with me at the moment and no one loves me. I don’t normally think about that. I consciously quit thinking about that. Why then, did that rush unbidden into my thoughts? I swat it away like a particularly whiny mosquito. What’s love got to do with it, anyway?

My oldest daughter was in a four car pile-up recently too, and I rushed to the ER several counties away to be with her. People call her tough, followed by “…just like her mom.” But when I showed up, she finally cried and allowed herself to be the scared and shocked girl that she was. I looked at her, drawing near to thirty years of age, and thought of how young and fragile she looked in that bed. I absorbed how the bruising under her skin made the rest of her look impossibly pale and delicate. I felt anger like bile rise up in me towards the person who never even hit their brakes prior to plowing into her and two other cars. I swallowed that anger and used it for fuel to become the strong, the capable, the calming and soothing, the dependable. I brought comfort food snacks, ginger ale for upset tummy, and her favorite fruit yogurt. I donned motherhood in order to provide anchorage in a scary and worrisome place. Thanks to those friends who took my terse calls en route. But when I returned home late in the dark and quiet, there was no one for me to collapse into. So I collapsed further into myself. If I become a nesting doll set and suddenly find myself crawling inside of the tiniest one, what will that mean?

All of these fragmented things make me suddenly aware of my aging, of my mortality, of my impermanence – the fragile thread that keeps us connected to life. I am aware that I withdraw; wind up tightly like a coil and then sometimes go off into a spiral of sorts. Not that lethargic and leaden depression like I experienced after the death, but the swirling like a Tilt-A-Whirl come off its track. Suddenly sprung from where day in and day out it normally and safely whirled to the left, to the right and sometimes an entire circle or two. Nope, I get to flying and bouncing mentally; questioning everything and everyone. I feel at times like I am standing outside of myself and acting as questioner. I often argue with myself. Maybe I am becoming that loony lady that mutters and totters about in weird unmatched clothing. Wait, I was doing that before, so I can’t blame it on this!

The company that I work for was acquired as well, becoming a subsidiary of another, non-competitive local business. We’re told the status quo will continue until at least the beginning of 2016. What then? Who knows?

Over and again I think “…the best laid plans of mice and men.” (Thank you, Mr. Burns!) We know nothing about tomorrow, next week, a year from now. Yet we plan, we set goals, we placate ourselves that this will happen or that, never really knowing. If you think about it too long, you might just throw caution to the wind and say to hell with it all, I’m having donuts for dinner! Part of me thinks this is self-absorbed, one-dimensional angsty drama. The other part feels like even if it is such, I need to talk about it (errr, write about it?)

I am without home internet still, closing in on two months now – so I’m not out and about on WordPress or much of anywhere actually. I have Pinterest and YouTube withdrawals. I am still writing, but most of what I have written I have deleted. It rained nearly non-stop for the last month here, making escaping to the outdoors a no-go thing too.

Instead I have gone to visit my children and grand-children, helping them grocery shop, meal plan, and organize. How I am able to do that last bit is a complete mystery, but it has happened in their houses. I’ve read books, blown bubbles and issued discipline. I’ve doled out healthy fruit snacks and scolded my children for their food choices for their kids, all the while knowing that I didn’t set a very good example when I was a working Mom myself, coming as I did to a healthier way of living once they were mostly out of the house. I’ve laughed until I cried with the girls. I’ve listened to them cry and also to them talk nonstop. I’ve held little sweaty babies and toted them around on my hip until I was worn out, all while practicing my out-of-date “Mom” face to see if it still works. It isn’t quite as successful on the second generation I’ve learned :/

Now we have the potential hurricane bearing down upon us. I’ve made sure the kids are stocked, cars gassed up, a little money tucked in, water and non-perishables set aside. As for me, if things look dicey, I will load up the mutt and drive over to my parent’s place which is high and dry. At least it is never boring! Would I like boring? Mayyyybe

I will leave you with a song, a poem (by someone else) and a short..something (mine). Until next time, if you see a human Tilt-A-Whirl, just smile and say “Hi!”

First Aid Kit’s “Walk Unafraid” – check them out. This is the song I cannot stop listening to right now – it is often under my breath, along with “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Croft.

####

There is a Solitude of Space

There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be
Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself —
Finite infinity.

~Emily Dickinson

####

Headspace

I think of you.

Bending and crafting your frame from the mold of my memory inventory. I give you an essence that brings life to something flat and not-mine.

Create other-worldly vignettes where we interact in ways that are probably absurd. I dip into my doppleganger world emotionally with you – nuances, and a personal scent that make my mouth water like a citrus spurt on my tongue.

I don’t know you; might not even really like you should I have to share time or space with you. But my body thinks that I could lick you from the back of my hand and be satiated for a very long time.

Sometimes I make up conversations from your mouth- wait, no; that is not true. I make up conversations of others that you are privy to and imagine what emotions you feel when you hear their words. Most often, there are few words when it comes to you.

You are a man made of the substance of the thoughts I think; like an emotional marionette that is nearly devoid of anything of your own. I don’t know enough for there to be anything there.

Your eyes. Your facial hair. Your efficient and brisk movements. You are the string of my imagination that I pick at, until you begin to fray into something fuzzy and ordinary.

Ordinariness; a word that belies the heat of my body when you are passing by and muffles the shouts of my heartbeat in my mouth. It categorizes you as a common thing.

You think nothing of me.

~SE

Things that make me scream, take notice or engage me


Politics.  That’s a screamer for me. I’m happy you have an opinion – please, keep it to yourself. Just for the record I support neither party, registered Independent, and try to vote on issues when I vote.  What’s in the political news lately?  The damned Fast Track Trade agreement.  I’m currently neither for nor against, but more just rather curious.  I went and read the Bills online (there are multiples, btw).

Some things that piss me off. Why, oh elected reps, did you take a bill about reducing tax penalties for LEO’s, firefighters and whatnot after 50 years of age, and slap an amendment to it with the text for the TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance bill)?? WTF?  (H.R. 2146 if you’re curious)

And then O.M.G. the notion that we’re giving this Prez some kind of gawd-like powers to enter into secret trade agreements. The sky is falling – run chicken little, run. It is subversion of ‘Merika. Seriously?

Check out these formerly in place but now expired trade agreements, which, BTW, give the exact same power to the sitting Prez at that time too. (If you’re lazy it was Bush Jr. 2002, Nixon 1974).   (H.R. 3009 Trade Act of 2002)  (H.R. 10710  Trade Act of 1974)

If you’re really lazy, I’ll tell you that Congress and John Q. Public got the same 90 day and 30 day information timeline as is being hollered about now.  In fact, the language from 1974 until today is very similar; so similar that I discovered this by reading the ‘amendments’ section and finding out that they had copied verbatim the previous bill language and needed to modify it to reflect back to the current document name.

In other words, Section 3 of S.995, Section 2103 of H.R. 3009 and Section 101 of H.R. 10710 say the same. damn. thing. Hint: they all fall under ‘trade agreement authority’.  So why the kerfuffle? Why doesn’t anyone, anywhere, point out that it is the same language?  You do have to jump around in the bills to find the ‘matching’ discussions.  But the nonsense about it not requiring Congressional law?

S.995:

Section 6:

(E) after entering into the agreement, the President submits to Congress, on a day on which both Houses of Congress are in session, a copy of the final legal text of the agreement, together with—

(i) a draft of an implementing bill described in section 3(b)(3);

(ii) a statement of any administrative action proposed to implement the trade agreement; and

(iii) the supporting information described in paragraph (2)(A);(F) the implementing bill is enacted into law; and(G) the President, not later than 30 days before the date on which the agreement enters into force with respect to a party to the agreement, submits written notice to Congress that the President has determined that the party has taken measures necessary to comply with those provisions of the agreement that are to take effect on the date on which the agreement enters into force.

This language is the same from the Trade Acts of 1974 (Section 102) and 2002 (Section 2105).

I get that the issue of Digital Rights and Biotech are new arrivals to the table and are icky and scary and that there are other issues with international trade agreements. But…report the facts that this language mirrors other historical trade agreeements! Quit making it out to be some nefarious thing that has never happened before!!

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I am not a fan of GMO’s due to the unknown, the proprietary seed practices that I feel hinder farming and the fact that blending two species is against Torah. I really don’t care for those experiments that bond human genes with plants.  It doesn’t set right with me, primarly because of our hubris in tinkering with creation.

So for your reading pleasure, here are some links regarding things humans are toying with:(coming to an open field near you!)

Permits for GMO plantings

This particular link is just for permits for Pharmaceuticals, Industrials and Value Added Proteins.  Some of these are open field grown containing human protein splicing into plant material. This bothers me. A lot. I’m tired of people mucking with our food. I’m tired of food scientists picking our brains and taste buds to make non-nutritious food items addictive and destructive to health.

And I wish broccoli tasted like donuts 🙂

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Since I’m still on my quest to hike the Appalachian Trail and build a tiny home in the woods, I’ve been rooting around on the interwebs for ingenious ideas again.  Things that maybe I can do with hands-on labor. I’ve been trying to determine a location that keeps me from having to have air conditioning that also allows for good gardening and food provision potential. But some of the coolest things I have found lately are listed below in no particular order.  I just find it amazing what people can come up with to do when they have the time.

Stackwall (aka cordwood) construction just makes me smile!

Netonia Yalte’s work

Rob and Jacki Roy’s work, including living roofs

Amazing selection from Inspiration Green from all over the world – from simple to elaborate!

A home for under 3,000.00? Yep.

Can I do something like that?  Maybe. Time.  Most of it takes time – both the construction and also the collection and storage of found/recycled/free items to keep the cost low. Working full-time I don’t have that luxury yet.  Is it a fool’s errand to consider taking a year off to hike the A.T. AND build a house? Possibly. But I’ll never know unless I try. So I keep eking my way towards those goals, and dreaming a lot along the way.

Some days I get tired of dreaming and putting my life on hold, living only a little bit in the here and now while all of my dreams live in my head for when I’m living some place of my own again. I sometimes wonder how much of actual life is passing me by while I ‘get where I am going’.  Well, at least I’m not sitting in front of the T.V.

I leave you with this song that plays often here…(well, except I’m not looking for a girl or to raise any more kids…haha!)

~SE…Dreamin’ and smilin’ as usual 🙂

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