Category Archives: Emotional aspects

Fetching the Bus

21d89630b2308f383404a768f516e5b4As mentioned previously, we are currently hanging out in our lovely Gatlinburg log cabin. However, we had left our rig back at Jones Station RV park, near Greensboro. Our paid-up month was expiring, so we made the 4.5 hour trek back there on Monday to fetch the bus.

We had already packed up the bus and pulled the slides in before we left, so preparation for travel was fairly minimal. After sleeping overnight, we finished gearing up:  checked the tires, stowed the satellite dish, locked things down, hooked up the toad, and hit the road back to the Smokies.

Our journey back to Pigeon Forge was uneventful – always a good thing! It was odd not having Pumpkin kitty on my lap, as we had left him back at the cabin. He doesn’t particularly like all of the driving stuff, so he was much happier staying behind. We fueled up just before arriving at our new campsite at Pine Mountain RV Park. We shoehorned into the site — fitting, but just barely. We plugged into power, washed the bugs off the front of the bus, grabbed a few more things from the inside, and headed back to the cabin. Mission accomplished!

The pandemic shut-down is creating significant disruption for the full-time RV community. We’ve already cancelled our first three northeast tour campground reservations. The Jones Station RV park owner shared that his campground was full of folks that literally had nowhere to go. We were unable to extend our reservation there, but were luckily able to find another spot closer to our cabin. We’re booked here for three weeks, and then – theoretically – will head up toward the Boston area.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting mightily tired of Covid-19. I want to go the National Park and hike. I want to go out to dinner, and shop. I want to get my hair cut! We won’t do anything imprudent – we will continue to follow the guidelines and take proper precautions. We don’t want to catch this thing. But going from a full-on active life to full-stop has been challenging to say the least. If we can safely move along to another area to explore wilderness (continuing to observe social distancing) – we will.

Fingers crossed.

Expectation vs. Reality

expectOnce upon a time, I was an uber-busy working wife and mother. I had a more-than-fulltime job, a husband and two young boys to care for, and juggled volunteer work at the boys’ schools AND church. Free time was nonexistent and sleep was optional.

Yet, as frantic and stressful as that time was, it was an enormously productive and satisfying period of my life. My life was full in every sense — full of busy-ness and stress to be sure, but also full of the joys of raising children, and interacting within a rich social network. I enjoyed deep and satisfying relationships within my work, social, church, family, and running circles. However, as I juggled and multi-tasked, I couldn’t help but long for that time in the misty distant future when I would have fewer responsibilities and the option to sleep in.

Within a few short years, everything changed. Our older son went off to college. Our younger son died in a car accident shortly thereafter, leaving us instant empty nesters. That traumatic event left Jeff and I rudderless for a time, re-evaluating every priority. I opted to take an early retirement package, and left my longtime job. Conflict at church ultimately led to my drifting away, after 20 years of intense involvement. Even my running group mostly fell apart, due to injuries or shifting priorities. Adrift, I immersed myself in preparations for our long-planned full-time RV life. After all, that was the dream — a life of travel and adventure. We sold the house, gave almost everything away, moved into the bus, and took off. Total freedom – at last! No boring routine, few responsibilities, and new horizons around every corner! Nirvana!

So here we are, two years in. Did expectation meet reality?

For me — partly yes and partly no. Don’t get me wrong, I love travel and adventure! We’ve had some absolutely marvelous times exploring national parks, visiting cities, and learning new things everywhere we go. But, I’ve faced some adjustment struggles along the way. I underestimated how challenging it would be to cope with a constantly-shifting environment after living in the same neighborhood for 30 years. I struggled to establish a healthy routine, when our days HAD no regular pattern. And I missed my people — my daily, in-person interaction with friends and family who knew me down to the bone. No amount of social media can fill that need for face-to-face human contact.

So, we’ve changed things up. This past year, we prioritized visiting and spending time with friends and family. We slowed our travels, spending more time in places, which helped me to re-establish healthier habits and an exercise rhythm. We have elected to spend the entire winter season – five months – at an active adult retirement community. And here, I have really found myself again. I’ve thrown myself into the daily activity schedule, made friends, and even joined a local church choir. Once again my days are full, productive, and include ample opportunity for social interaction with like-minded folks. It’s a place where I can feel part of a community again and enjoy an established routine – for a while. I feel more like *me* than I have in years and I’m having a blast!

Now, we don’t want to STAY here forever, we still want to travel. But, I think I’ve found the way to have it all. If I can get my social fix during the winter season, I can happily pursue adventures the rest of the year. Plus, we can bake in visits to family and friends as we travel. For me, I think this will create the happy balance.

So, what have I learned in this process?

  • Any major life change requires a period of adjustment. I expected that, but it hit me harder and lasted longer than I anticipated.
  • I underestimated how essential certain aspects of my life are to my daily happiness; especially, an exercise routine and meaningful social interaction.
  • If you’re not happy – change something. And keep changing things up until it’s working. If you can identify whatever increases your soul-level happiness, you can seek creative ways to fill that fundamental need. (Hint: it’s never about getting more “stuff”). You can ALWAYS change something, even if it’s just your perspective on the current situation.

We’re deep in the holiday season, which often carries its own heavy set of expectations. If you’re stressed or unhappy about something – change things up!

Here’s hoping you find your happy balance, through the holidays and beyond.

I Am Grateful ….

happy-thanksgiving

In this season for giving thanks, I want to express gratitude for all of the many blessings God has showered on us. I am so grateful for:

  • Our robust good health,
  • The financial ability to enjoy this RV life of adventure,
  • Our guardian angels who have kept us safe along the way, despite our newbie mistakes and steep learning curve,
  • Our life in this beautiful country that provides so many amenities in the way of parks, highways and rest areas,
  • Our family and friends that support and cheer us along the way,
  • And for you, dear readers, that have joined us on our journey!

We wish all of you a most blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

Hangin’ In The Hometown

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I’ve returned to my roots — literally — to Anderson, Indiana. As they say in the Midwest, I was “born and raised” here. I took my first steps, had my first job, my first crush, and graduated through college in this town before moving away in my mid-twenties. Although I’ve visited at least once per year since, I haven’t spend this length of time here since I left.

A lot has changed over the years. Once a booming General Motors town, the automotive industry pull-out has left the town struggling financially. Although some new businesses have moved in, the impact can be seen in the overall population decline. Empty commercial buildings and homes are numerous and obvious. Where once there were three high schools in town, now there is only one.

And speaking of high schools, mine no longer exists! Well, the building exists, but it has been re-branded. During the consolidation effort, the old Anderson High School facility was demolished. The newer Madison Heights High School facility (my alma mater) was renamed Anderson High School. What’s up with that?! R.I.P. Madison Heights.

It’s not all gloom and doom, though. The south end of town, near the new Harrah’s Hoosier Park harness race track / casino appears to be thriving. Jeff was pleasantly surprised to find a small network of mountain bike trails near our campground. There is a thriving arts scene, a lovely small State Park (Mounds Park), and the people are just super nice. If there’s not much in the way of “fine dining” in town, Indianapolis isn’t far away with all sorts of dining, shopping and entertainment options.

The main reason we’re here is to visit family. Fitting back into everyone’s daily lives is like slipping on a pair of comfortable shoes – just so easy. It’s back to family dinners, helping with projects, going to church service, catching a movie, or just hanging out. My sister is Assistant Directing the musical “Into The Woods” at the local Mainstage Community Theater, so of course I volunteered to help. I was able to help paint scenery and attend the “preview” dress rehearsal. When the play opened, we went out to dinner and the show as a family group. Jeff purchased Indy 500 “time trial” track / pit tickets and spent days hanging out at the track with his brother. It’s been just wonderful.

Jeff is starting to get a bit antsy, ready to move on to new things and new places. Part of it has been the changeable weather – I grew up here, but forgot what it’s like! The early-summer temperature swings from hot to cold also lead to frequent rains and sweeping severe thunderstorm fronts. We were at a movie theater with my sister and brother-in-law on Memorial Day night when the movie was halted due to a tornado warning in the area. It is a bit nerve wracking during severe weather when everything you own is sitting in a big metal box – especially when you’re not there! After 40 minutes or so, the Warning was lifted, the movie resumed, and everything at the bus was fine when we returned.

I could easily stay longer. Being in the familiar surroundings, near beloved parents and siblings, just feels so wonderful. But, a part of me also feels the pull to new experiences. And that’s the fundamental struggle I’ve experienced during our RV journey. At heart, I’m an adventurer, who craves novel experiences and places. I want to climb the mountain, learn new things, meet new people. But there’s the other piece of me that wants to be in familiar surroundings near the people I love. It’s hard to reconcile.

Routine vs. new adventures. The familiar vs. new places. Maybe you can’t ever reconcile those needs — maybe you just have to feed each need in turn. The RV life is actually a great way to have it both ways by alternating adventures in new places with stays in familiar haunts near friends and family.

It’s a good life.

 

To Every Thing There Is A Season ….

Last weekend, I flew back to Orlando to share in two momentous events for our family.

First we celebrated the culmination of many years of hard work — Marissa’s graduation from medical school. Compared to the huge and almost impersonal undergraduate ceremonies, the ceremony for the 117 member medical school class felt intimate and very meaningful. I sat with Sean and Marissa’s family as we proudly watched her walk across the stage to accept both the doctoral hood and medical school diploma. The officiates spoke of what it was to be a good doctor, and I have no doubt that Marissa is well on her way to becoming a wonderful doctor. Truly a significant milestone, and one that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. Following the graduation ceremony, we regrouped at her Dad’s house to celebrate!

The rest of the weekend was occupied by helping Sean and Marissa pack up and prepare to move to Greensboro, their home for the next three years. A little back story here — their Orlando home is actually a house that we purchased and renovated for them to rent from us. When Jeff and I transitioned to full time RV living, we began using their address as our mailing address. In a small way, it felt to me as though Sean was still living at “home”.  Now, they are truly going to be on their own, in their own space.

095I helped to pack up, clean, and make Goodwill runs. We enjoyed a last celebratory dinner out with Marissa’s family. Sunday morning, Sean picked up the moving truck and the family assembled. With all of the willing hands, the truck was loaded in very short order. After a break to eat lunch, they climbed into their respective vehicles (Sean driving the truck, Marissa in her car), and drove off.

There was more to do, though. Marissa’s brother and his girl friend have been rooming at the house for a couple of years and will now take sole possession of the house. So, with all of the family help still available, we shifted their furniture around and helped them settle in. Early the next morning, I caught the first flight back to Indianapolis. A busy weekend, most certainly!

img025I was a little surprised at the depth of my emotional reaction to their departure. Although, technically, we haven’t lived with Sean for 8 years, it somehow felt as though he was leaving for the first time. I felt happy and excited for their new life adventure, but grieved to see him go. Does this Mom thing ever get easier? From the time we give birth, our primary job is to love, teach, and equip our children to be happy, moral, fully independent adults. We give them roots and wings to fly. But then we’re sad when we’re successful …. and they leave to live their own life.

It’s all worth it, though.

 

Throwback Thursday post: In the Land of Giants

Of all the incredible National Parks we visited last year, I think Sequoia National Park had the most profound impact on me. Standing amongst the giant organisms makes one feel incredibly humbled. I hope you enjoy this Throwback Thursday post, first published last April.


IMG_3864There are some things on earth that are so magnificent that they stop you in your tracks. All you can do is gaze upon it in awestruck wonder. That’s what we felt upon seeing our first giant sequoia tree.

These trees are just massive! Reaching a height of over 25 stories, with a diameter of 25 feet or more, these are the largest single trees in the world. In fact, we saw the “Largest Tree In The World”, the General Sherman tree in the Sequoia National Park. There are taller trees, there are wider trees, but this is the largest in sheer volume.

The story of these trees is quite interesting. They require just the right conditions for optimal growth – not too wet or dry, not too cold or hot, at an altitude around 5,000 – 7,000 feet, with sufficient space around it to grow. These conditions are found in the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When they do have that magic combination, they grow and grow, for years and years. Hundreds and thousands of years. The oldest known was estimated to be around 3500 years old!  Whoa. The sequoia trees we wandered under were standing tall when Jesus walked the earth.

IMG_3866Unfortunately, before they were protected by a national park, many of these special trees were cut down. From the 1880’s to the 1920’s, logging was conducted in many groves. However, the wood is fibrous and brittle, and generally unsuitable for construction purposes. Due to the brittleness, the giant logs often simply shattered upon hitting the ground. Ultimately, the logging companies went out of business, leaving a sad trail of huge stumps in their wake. But by that time, public outcry caused most of the remaining groves to be preserved as protected land.

When sequoia trees sprout, they shoot up quickly to their full height of up to 275 feet. After that, they no longer grow taller, they just get wider. I resemble that. For such a tall tree, the root system is quite shallow, only 5-6 feet deep. However, the roots spread over several acres, intertwining with other trees’ roots, to help the trees stay upright. Most sequoia trees die by simply falling over. If the roots get damaged, or the soil is too wet, the massive tree can begin to lean and ultimately topple over. I guess after 3000 years, I’d be tired and fall over too.

IMG_3386Fire plays a crucial role in the sequoia life cycle. Sequoia seeds are found in small green cones sprouting from the upper branches. These green cones can wait patiently for up to 30 years for a forest fire, which dries and opens the cones to release the seeds. Fire also clears underbrush and creates bare, ashy soil that is needed for seeds to sprout. For the first years of park management, fires were viewed as “bad” and prevented/stopped. But they found preventing fires also inhibited the seeding of new, baby trees. Now they allow for controlled natural or prescribed burning in the park so that the natural reproduction cycle can continue.

IMG_3881It’s a metaphor for our life, I think. We view the “fires” in our life (troubles and trials) as bad, something to be prevented or stopped. Yet, sometimes the fires force us to clear away the extraneous underbrush choking up our life. Only then will we have the space, and fertile soil, to plant something new.

I’ll share more about the Sequoia National Park later, but I felt these incredible giant trees deserved their own post.

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Home Sweet Cabin

008Our first stop on our 2019 Midwest tour is our own home – our log cabin in the mountains. It’s a wonderful change of pace to be in an actual house for a while! I’d nearly forgotten what it’s like to have so much space, and fabulous amenities like a dishwasher! I can wash clothes and bathe without having to consider holding tanks. It’s nice to have our own private hot tub and pool table again. We will definitely enjoy our time here at one of our favorite places.

I remember visiting the Smoky Mountains when I was a little girl – riding up the Gatlinburg chairlift with my dad. I was small enough that he kept a careful hand on me to prevent me from slipping down through the safety bar! When Jeff and I had our family, vacationing here just seemed like a natural choice. We loved it so much that we built this vacation rental log cabin and have spent many happy weeks here, in our other home.

And since the area is also within reach of many family and friends, it has been a gathering spot for shared vacations. In fact, our time in the cabin has usually been a revolving door for guests! This trip is no exception we expect to host friends from Tennessee and Kentucky this weekend, my sister and parents the next weekend, and our son and his girlfriend the following weekend! With three levels and three master bedrooms, there’s more than enough room for all.

Where is the bus, you ask? After searching, we found a rustic campground near Cosby, about a half hour away. The badly run-down campground was recently purchased by a new owner, who is hard at work improving it. He has his work cut out for him, and it’s not a place that I’d necessarily want to stay at. But they offered a large pull through full hook up gravel site for only $400/month. The bus is safely parked, plugged into electric, which will maintain our house batteries during our stay in the cabin.

We had a few days on our own before the guests start rolling in, so we did as we customarily do – work on the cabin to fix and replace items. Most maintenance items are handled by Jackson Mountain Homes (our property management company), but there are always little things that need fixin’. Like, broken hooks by the hot tub, loose pool cue rack, jiggly door handles, and areas that need touch up paint.

I took inventory to determine what needs to be replaced since our last visit over 2 years ago. I always expect that glasses and cups will need to be resupplied – you expect things like that to break over time. And games and puzzles in the downstairs game room usually have broken/lost parts and need to be replaced. That’s just normal wear and tear. Also equipment like cookie sheets generally get thrown out by the cleaning service once they get yucky (people don’t clean dishes well in a rental!) But, I don’t expect that 2/3 of our DVD library will be gone, or that half the silverware will be missing. What do people do – eat them? The cutting boards, can opener, and good corkscrew are missing in action. Almost all of my book library is gone. Our first (completed) cabin guest book is still here but the second one – the “in progress” one – is nowhere to be found. That’s disappointing because I’ve always loved reading the kind notes that guests leave. However, in this era of Yelp and TripAdvisor, maybe guest books are just passé.

It is mildly distressing to think that people abscond with the amenities here, such as the DVDs. It’s not like we spend a lot of money on them (we raid the $5 bin at WalMart). It’s just that I wouldn’t take anything that wasn’t mine, and it bothers me a bit that others do. I’m not naïve, I expect that anything we leave out here could potentially sprout legs and walk away, but I like to think that people who stay in our home are better than that.   Well, enough of the pity party. A trip to WalMart fixes all – just the cost of doing business.

We will be here a whole month! We’ll enjoy the beautiful mountains and time with family and friends.

Life is good.

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Throwback Thursday Post: Living in the Moment

This is a Throwback Thursday post! Originally posted more than a year ago, it’s all still relevant. Living in the present  moment isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I tend to expend energy focusing on future plans, rather than the here-and-now. I’m still working on it!


yesterday_is_history_tomorrow_is_a_mystery_today_is_a_gift_of_god_which_is_why_we_call_it_the_presentThe other night I dreamed that I was hired back at Motorola, my workplace of 24 years. I joyfully greeted all of my colleague friends and prepared to jump back into my old role. When I awoke, I wondered why I had dreamed that? I ‘ve been gone from there for over 4 years. We’re on the road, living our new dreams. Why revisit the past?

2241_50061503745_9293_nA day later, this photo popped up on Facebook as a “my memories” photo from 9 years ago of Jeff, our two sons, and good friend Jose.  It was taken during our 2008 summer trip to the Smokey mountains – our last as an entire family. After that vacation trip, our older son became busy with summer high school football training and then with college and didn’t accompany us on our Gatlinburg trips. Our younger son went with us one more time, the summer before his life was cut short in that fateful auto accident. I had to wonder – what was the message for me here?

Looking back, I realize that time period was a most productive time of my life. I was frantically busy juggling a demanding and responsible job, substantive church volunteer work, along with my responsibilities as wife and mother. I had many great relationships in all of those domains. That time was a GOOD period in my life; rich and satisfying in all aspects. However, truly free time was almost nonexistent and I fantasized about freedom and adventure – the life I have now. Did I fully appreciate that season of life when I was living it? Sometimes maybe, but certainly not always.

My life has changed dramatically in the last few years. Our older son grew up and moved on, and then our younger son died, turning us into instant empty nesters. My job became a stressful grind after multiple company sell-offs and layoffs, fracturing and scattering my work family. I took an offered early retirement package and got out, transitioning into a part time consulting job. My church organization went through difficult times, breaking up my church family. I ultimately drifted away, unable to get past painful memories there.  The last few years have seen me through a painful process of deconstructing and reconstructing practically my entire life.  Did I appreciate that time while I was experiencing it? Not really, it was mostly painful. But, in retrospect, I can see that it was necessary to tear down the life I once had, in order to rebuild and create the life that I have now.

If you’re a country music fan, you may know the Trace Adkins song “You’re Going to Miss This”. It follows the journey of a young woman who at different stages of her life (teenager, newlywed, young mother) is always looking ahead, rather than appreciating the season of life she is in. The chorus goes:

You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this

I can relate. In my life, I’ve frequently had the tendency to look ahead in time, instead of focusing on living in the NOW, the present moment. I think that’s what I’m being reminded of here – to realize that each day has value. Even in my time on the road, it’s easy to get lost in the planning and looking forward to the next stop on the journey, rather than focusing on this place, this time.

This is what I think the Universe was trying to say to me:  Seize the day. Smell the roses. Watch the sunset. Tell your loved ones how much you appreciate them. Fully, mindfully, experience the present moment for the gift that it is.

I’ll keep working on that.



 

You can’t go home again …..

quotefancy-2156902-3840x2160.jpgWe just completed a whirlwind two-week visit to South Florida, our prior home of 35 years. We had originally thought to stay the whole month of February, but were unable to secure campground reservations for more than two weeks – even after trying nearly a year in advance. It’s a function of scarcity of (decent) campgrounds in the area and peak season demand.

We crammed a lot into two weeks! Routine doctor, dentist and vet appointments were scheduled and completed. You’ll be happy to know that aside from finding one bad tooth (which was remedied) and being a bit overweight, Pumpkin is in fine shape for a senior cat and will be sharing his Haiku insights for some time to come! We entertained friends, walked along the beach, and went to a party. Jeff rode his motorcycle, mountain biked familiar trails, and attended the Miami Boat show.  I worked a fair bit during our stay –  inspecting jobsites, catching up with fellow employees in the office,  and visiting a long-time client.

A highlight of our stay was our group visit to the Florida Renaissance Faire. Before our launch, I hadn’t missed attending the Ren Faire for at least 20 years straight! My sister and her daughter flew down from Indiana, while Sean, Marissa, her sister and dad drove from Orlando for the fun.  We feasted, imbibed, shopped, and enjoyed the varied entertainment. Huzzah!

It was wonderful to see our friends, re-visit old haunts, and explore familiar territory. Yet … it was also sad. Being “home” stirred up old griefs and reminders of what I had given up for this life on the road. I was home …. but I no longer had a home there. I rejoiced to reconnect with good friends …. but we had to immediately separate again. Happy / sad.

Bittersweet.

In a way it felt like trying to fit into shoes that I have outgrown …. or fit into a life that I no longer live. It’s time to move on, rather than move back.

That feels right.

Finding Community

community_connectionsBack in the day, before we started this crazy nomadic life, I had a rich social life. I was a part of many communities: work, church, family, running group, volunteer work  —  just to name a few. I had good, long-time friends that I saw and interacted with on a daily or weekly basis. Going on the road has meant leaving that behind. Sure, we stay in touch through email, text and social media, but it’s not the same as having face-to-face meaningful contact. I’ve missed that.

Life on the road can seem isolating. Campers are a friendly bunch, but we are usually going in different directions, leaving little opportunity to make real connections. We did meet one couple on the road and have become great friends. That worked because our travels paralleled for a few weeks, giving us a chance to get to know each other. But that was the exception, rather than the norm.

Until we came back to Florida. Staying in one spot for this long (2.5 months), has given me the chance to settle in and make new friends. There are lots of organized activities here and people are so friendly and welcoming – I feel I’ve become part of a new community.  I see my friends at aerobics class in the morning, and meet the girls for games in the afternoon. I can take favorite dishes to the potlucks, bond over craft classes, and stop to chat as we pass each other during the day. I even have a family community nearby with our son, his girlfriend and her family. Every weekend we get together for food and fun. It’s been wonderful! It is a place that I can see myself returning to year after year.

Unfortunately, that is not to be. Sean and Marissa will be relocating this year for her residency program (somewhere in the US, TBD). I also learned during our stay that this KOA campground has been sold and will be closing April 1, 2020. Our new friends are all researching alternative winter homes, and many won’t be returning here next year. It seems a shame, but it’s understandable. This KOA location originally was well outside of town, but explosive growth has surrounded us and turned this property into very valuable land. It makes business sense to sell.

Friday we say goodbye to our new friends and move on. We are going to spend a couple of weeks visiting and re-connecting with our old friends in South Florida. That will be wonderful too!

Staying here has been a learning experience. I’ve learned that I NEED time to be part of a community, for at least some of the year. Remote interaction can only go so far. I can get that sense of community by staying near friends and family for some extended period of time (more than just a week or two). Or we can actively seek out campgrounds that have similar opportunities to interact and meet people. They are out there, we just have to find them and work that into our plan. If I can just feed that part of my soul sometimes, then the rest of the time we can fly free and adventure.

The possibilities are endless.