Sunday, December 28, 2008

Border Fence


Yesterday I saw, up close and personal, the tall, metal border fence erected between the small eastern San Diego County town of Jacumba and the little Mexican town of Jacume across the imaginary border line. For some reasons, both understandable and unfathomable at the same time, seeing this symbol of division brought tears to my eyes.


After a short drive through desert and brush, we parked next to the fence and just stared. What was once an uneven barbed wire fence where people from both sides of the border regularly crossed had, in a short time, grown to over eight feet tall and now extends for miles, even climbing a mountain. The day before I'd sat captive in the car while driving my 83-year-old mother home from a trip to the mountains. I listened to her complain about all the Mexicans here, about how they all had too many noisy kids, about how she had never been biased before but now hates it that everyone she sees now is Mexican. I held my tongue, probably literally at times, not trusting what would come out of my own mouth.

I grew up here in eastern San Diego County in the 1950s and 1960s, listening to people talk about the "wetback" problem. I watched as the border crossing between San Ysidro and Tijuana gradually took longer and longer to cross, ostensibly because of drug enforcement. Back then, perhaps naively, I even accepted that.

But yesterday I experienced only a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes, and a wish that we humans beings could stop being so cruel to each other in the name of border security. Call it not facing facts, being naive, being a Pollyanna, a bleeding heart liberal, not being aware of or choosing to ignore all the facts. I accept all that. However, the lump in my throat is still there, and will be for a long time.

"Border Towns Are Close Enough to Touch, but Worlds Apart" by Charlie LeDuff, NY Times

"Goal is to seal entire county, Hunter says"


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Scrabble


Several weeks ago fellow blogger and friend, Yarntangler wrote about playing Scrabble. My mother and I play a lot when I visit her, and tonight was no exception. We gathered up my new Deluxe version, a Christmas gift to myself, rounded up the cat, and set to it. Our games during the past week have ended very closely, usually within 5-15 points of each other. However, tonight she was either very astute or extremely lucky. Here's the word she made, using all her letters for a bonus 50 points, and taking up two Triple Word squares. Her total for the word was 122 points. If she'd had the letter "B" instead of the blank, she would have gotten 18 additional points. Needless to say, she beat me so badly I'm still licking my wounds.


The cat and I are going to challenge her to another game tomorrow.

Desert View Tower

Sometimes I'm amazed at how beautifully things turn out without any real effort on my part. Verse 48 in Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Tao Te Ching reads this way:

In pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added. In the practice of the Tao, every day something is dropped. Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action. When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way. It can't be gained by interfering.

Today I realized how much I've been trying to force things lately according to how I believe they should be. When I quit interfering, I was amazed at what happened.


Today my friend Lou and I drove out Interstate 8 to the Desert View Tower near Jacumba, California, one of our favorite spots. As we've done on visits in the past, we spent a lot of time talking with the owner, a fascinating person. We talked about how he wanted to hire more teenagers to work there part-time and he mentioned he'd hired workampers in the past.

It was getting pretty cold up there and we needed to get back, so we left and drove back toward San Diego. When we stopped at the Golden Acorn Casino for snacks, I all of a sudden realized a possibility: I needed a place to live in my RV during the month of January but didn't want to drive all the way out to Blythe or Yuma or pay $600 or more for a site. Why couldn't I workamp there at the tower for that month? I mentioned the idea to Lou and he was all in favor of it. So, I told him I'd call the owner when we got back.

We left the Casino and instead of taking the freeway toward San Diego, Lou headed the car in the opposite direction. "Where are we going"" I asked. "I figured we'd go back to the tower." Oh, he knows me entirely too well, realizing I'd most likely forget to call once we got back. So, I talked to the owner and we arranged for me to park my RV there with electricity and water hookups and work five hours a week. He also has a piano in the gift shop and told me I was welcome to play it anytime I wanted.

So, from letting things pretty much take their own course, I've now got a free site for January that's fairly close to my mother and friends, a piano to play, and a part-time job welcoming and visiting with tourists to the tower.

Another lesson learned.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mud Cave Time

What a long way from frozen Coffeyville, Kansas, in more ways than just weather. It's also quite a completely different way of life.

Yesterday a good friend and I drove out to the Anza Borrego Desert to explore mud caves. In all my years or growing up here, I never knew about these. Here's a wonderful website we used to find information about them:

Hidden San Diego

We hiked through almost all of Chasm Cave as well as checked out Plunge Pool Cave, Big Mud Cave, and Carey's Big Mud Cave. Since it rained heavily a few days ago, those caves were exactly what they're called--muddy. I'm sure we looked like a couple of mud monsters when we got back. My shoes were caked with at least an inch of sticky mud a couple of times, and the legs of my jeans--well, we just don't want to go there!

We took all four little dogs, but decided to leave two of them in the car since keeping track of them all in the dark would have been quite tricky. However, they all got to run around out in the desert and make us chase them--so much fun, at least for them!



Here are some pictures. I was surprised at how well my camera worked inside the cave.












Inside Chasm Cave


Skylight in Chasm Cave




















Sunday, December 21, 2008

Can you really go home again?


It's been a good trip from Coffeyville, Kansas last week to San Diego today. A good friend from San Diego flew into Tulsa for my birthday last Friday, and we were able to spend two days together. I showed him my new house in Bartlesville, OK; we saw a wonderful art exhibit at the Price Tower--"Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things," in which artists transformed common objects such as audio tapes, floppy disks, water bottles, newspapers, old clothes, and more into work of art. One of my favorites were the rugs made from old clothes. Fascinating! The ultimate in recycling. We also wandered through the Gilcrease Museum of the Americas in Tulsa, the world's largest, most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West. There was too much to see in one day, but the Ansel Adams photography exhibit was outstanding.

After he left, I met an old friend from Kanab, Utah last year in Mineral Wells, Texas. She and I talked forever, catching up with a year's worth of stuff, including their new house in Nebraska, my new house in Oklahoma, their workamping plans for this coming season, their new German Shepherd, a real sweet dog, and much, much more.

From there I headed west to Hobbs, New Mexico and stayed overnight with a friend's dad and his wife. She has a magnificent collection of Barbie dolls, more than I've ever seen in one place. I had no idea there were so many different Barbies. I enjoyed visiting them quite a bit even though they were probably ready to toss me out after I finished the crossword puzzle before they did. Thank you, M. for setting up that visit.

From Hobbs, I headed south into Texas again, then west and north to Las Cruces, New Mexico, opting to stay at an RV park in order to do some needed laundry. The park is behind a motel owned by the same owners; the shower facilities are former motel rooms with everything removed but the sink, toilet, tub, and shower. I've never seen a bathtub in an RV park.

From Las Cruces to Tucson, Arizona and a stay with M.'s son and wife - a very charming couple. Both are in the Air Force and travel quite a bit. They made homemade pizza (delicious!) for dinner and we talked a lot. I'd love to visit them again on my way back to Oklahoma to see the Airplane Graveyard and eat at Magpie's Pizza.

After Tucson, an overnight stop in the desert near Yuma to boondock with another friend. We took a long walk and caught up with what's been happening since October, cooked hot dogs over a campfire, and drank wine. He's only been fulltiming for about a year and was very interested in my reasons for deciding to move back into a house.

Finally, into San Diego, CA this afternoon to my mother's place, a mobile home park that does not allow anyone to park overnight on the streets in the park. Since my RV would definitely not fit under her carport, I needed to take out everything I needed for my stay and find a place to park it. Luckily I've got a friend with large enough property up in the hills, so my little home is safe and secure. We visited with them for a while this afternoon as I hadn't seen them in almost two years.

The traveling was excellent. I enjoyed driving the RV without towing the pickup, which made a definite positive difference in the handling as well as the gas mileage. It was so wonderful to be able to fill the tank for $45 instead of $145 as I had to do in October.

However, I called this entry "Can you really go home again," for a good reason because I'm really wondering if that's possible, expecially when a person is 62 and their mother is 83. I agree that the past two years of fulltime RVing and working on the road aren't easy to explain to someone who thrives on consistency, on living in the same place and working at the same job for a long time. I feel so understood and comfortable with all my workamping friends, and have loved the places I've been able to work. Changing jobs every few months is a fact of life for us workampers and is what makes our lifestyle so interesting. I've done things and seen places that I've wanted to do and see since high school. And I've made some lifelong friends as well.

Unfortunately, my mother sees it as changing my mind all the time, not being able to stick to anything, not being able to hold a full-time job, and so forth. I'm so old that her criticism no longer bothers me much. However, I'd love to find a way to help her understand that my life for these past few years has probably been one of the happiest times of my life. The question is: Do I really need to? Probably not. But her criticism of my decision to rent and possibly buy the house in Oklahoma, made during a visit to two old friends, was quite uncomfortable. I'd like to chalk it up to age and to her need for security. I really don't need her approval. But, sometimes it would be nice to feel a little more attempt at understanding.

My reasons for the decision are these: a need to have a garden again, to grow fantastic vegetables and flowers; a need to get another piano and resume my lifelong love of playing; a need to have room for sewing, quilting, and other hobbies; and a need for a permanent home in a place small enough for actual community. And I believe I've found it. I'd like for her to be happy for me. Maybe that will come in time, with a visit or two. Maybe she and I will be able to talk enough on my visit here that she is able to understand my lifestyle enough to no longer consider me such a flake. At least that would be nice.

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate (or cigar) in one hand, champagne (or beer) in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming......“WOO HOO what a ride!”







Friday, December 19, 2008

Santa Claus is a woman





I've been on the road for a week and haven't had much of a chance to write. However, I received this from a good friend this morning and decided it might be perfect--perhaps a little sexist, but funny all the same. Enjoy.

I think Santa Claus is a woman....I hate to be the one to defy a sacred myth, but I believe he's a she. Think about it. Christmas is a big, organized, warm, fuzzy, nurturing social deal, and I have a tough time believing a guy could possibly pull it all off!
For starters, the vast majority of men don't even think about selecting gifts until Christmas Eve. Once at the mall, they always seem surprised to find only Ronco products, socket wrench sets, and mood rings left on the shelves.
On this count alone, I'm convinced Santa is a woman.
Surely, if he were a man, everyone in the universe would wake up Christmas morning to find a rotating musical Chia Pet under the tree, still in the bag.
Another problem for a he-Santa would be getting there. First of all, there would be no reindeer because they would all be dead, gutted and strapped to the rear bumper of the sleigh amid wide-eyed, desperate claims that buck season had been extended. Blitzen's rack would already be on the way to the taxidermist.
Even if the male Santa DID have reindeer, he'd still have transportation problems because he would inevitably get lost up there in the snow and clouds and then refuse to stop and ask for directions.
Other reasons why Santa can't possibly be a man:
• Men can't pack a bag.
• Men would rather be dead than caught wearing red velvet.
• Men would feel their masculinity is threatened...having to be seen with all those elves.
• Men don't answer their mail.
• Men would refuse to allow their physique to be describe even in jest as anything remotely resembling a "bowlful of jelly."
• Men aren't interested in stockings unless somebody's wearing them.
• Having to do the Ho Ho Ho thing would seriously inhibit their ability to pick up women.
• Finally, being responsible for Christmas would require a commitment.
I can buy the fact that other mythical holiday characters are men.........
• Father Time shows up once a year unshaven and looking ominous - definite guy.
• Cupid flies around carrying weapons.
• Uncle Sam is a politician who likes to point fingers.
Any one of these individuals could pass the testosterone screening test. But not St. Nick. Not a chance.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Friends


In January 1, 2006, I began my adventure as a fulltime RVer and workamper, living in my little 23-foot motor home and working for extended periods at various lodges and campgrounds around the country. It has been a wonderful time, made possible by all the outstanding friends I've met along the way. To be honest, before I began this journey I pictured RV owners as mostly rich, snobbish people with more money than brains. In a college economics class, one of my instructors bad-mouthed RVs, especially the boxy Winnebagos that were popular in the 1970s. And I think his comments about them stuck--until now.

I have found RV owners to be the friendliest, most thoughtful, most helpful, and most caring people I've probably ever met. And it doesn't matter what size or type of vehicle they have. As a single woman, I am constantly amazed and thankful for all the little things I've received for the past two years and for the chance to contribute my talents as well. As I prepare to leave Coffeyville, Kansas tomorrow for the warmer climate of San Diego for a few weeks, and then back to my new little house in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, I'd like to express my thanks and gratitude to all of you, but several people in particular. I won't mention names, but you know who you are. Although I might be moving back into a house, thus ending two years of travel and adventures, I'm keeping the RV. After all, there's much more of this country to see and more friends to make.



When I arrived here in October, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. I drove into the main campground, found no sites available, and was finally guided to an area by the playground. However, I couldn't find any water hookups. I stopped at one large RV and talked to a woman about where I might find some water and she showed me. After a while, we became quite good friends. She didn't tow a separate car, or "toad," as they're called, and the ever-important laundromat, supermarket, post office, and Wal-Mart were several miles down the road. So, she bought my gas in exchange for rides. Since we had several weeks before beginning work, we were able to do a lot of sightseeing, extending our travels further into Kansas as well as into Oklahoma and Missouri. It was so much fun to see places I'd never envisioned. We played Scrabble, walked her dog, ate meals together, spent money at Wal-Mart, got free flu shots at a Cherokee Nation festival, and even bitched a little about Amazon. She's been a workamper and fulltimer longer than I have and shared her adventures and knowledge with me. Even though I decided I couldn't handle the Amazon job, she's stuck it out the entire time, working eleven-hour shifts five nights a week. I value her friendship very much.


A month or so ago, another woman wanted someone to make her and her husband a flag for their motor home and I volunteered. I'd never made one before, but how hard could it be, especially since I have my sewing machine. At dinner one night, she showed me a drawing she'd made on a paper napkin of how they'd like the flag to look, but basically left the design up to me. They love the finished product. And thus began another wonderful friendship. She and I are both "crafty" type people: she knits, crochets, makes dollhouse miniatures, Christmas decorations, and just about any other type of craft thing imaginable. She also haunts thrift stores and flea markets for the most amazing things. I mostly stick to sewing and quilting. Most important, she and her husband have also had a wide variety of workamping experiences and loved to share them with me. She is the first to volunteer for any type of helpful project such as a canned foods drive or a collection for the homeless shelter. She even moderates a workampers forum for Amazon workampers here in Coffeyville. She served as a role-model for my starting this blog and continuing with it. She found a great dining room chair for my new house and helped dicker the store owner down to $15 for it. Perhaps most important, when she found out I was going to be leaving tomorrow, she quickly rounded up places for me to stay along the way and on the way back. So, I'll be honored to stay with her father as well as her son and daughter-in-law. Her husband volunteered to look at my water connection problem to see if he could do anything with it, even when the temperature outside was in the 20s and after working all night. So, to both of you I express my humble and heart-felt gratitude.


Finally, at least for this post, I need to recognize a friend and her husband whom I worked with in Kanab, Utah last year. We became excellent friends and co-workers, supporting one another during a very difficult period at work. We have stayed in touch ever since then even though jobs and travels have taken us to far-flung places in the country. She and I will finally get-together this coming week in Texas for a day or so to catch up, and I can't wait to see her again. It might even turn out that we might be related in some way since there is the same last name in her family's history as my maiden name. So, we're checking that out.

And those are just a few of many, many helpful and friendly people; those of you who provided a carpool to Amazon, organized dinners, introduced me to geocaching, and just took the time to share your experiences with me. To all of you, whoever you are, I am extremely grateful.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Being lazy, at least a little

I've had a lot going on in the past few days, including renting a house in Bartlesville, Oklahoma yesterday, preparing to drive to San Diego for Christmas, and fighting a fairly mild but still uncomfortable form of what I think is the flu. I've had a flu shot, so this isn't too bad. However, it came at the wrong time when there are so many things to do to get ready to leave here Friday morning. I was going to put the RV in storage and just drive the pickup to California. However, after figuring out how long a drive it would be and how many motel rooms and meals I'd need to pay for, I decided to park the pickup at the house and just drive the RV, parking overnight at Wal-Marts, county parks, a friend's house, and so forth. That way I can eat in the RV and not spend a lot on meals. I'm glad this rig is small enough to drive comfortably, especially since it has cruise control where the pickup doesn't. It also has automatic transmission where the pickup has manual. So, it should be a fairly pleasant drive if the weather cooperates. Sure can't beat gas prices here of around $1.34/gallon for unleaded.

As for the house, I've been ogling it ever since getting here in October. More about it later. For now, how about a few pictures?












Saturday, December 6, 2008

And Away Goes Trouble, Down the Drain (I wish)

Today is one of those frustrating days that I'm sure most of us living or traveling in RVs have at one time or the other. Sometimes it's the little, tiny things that turn into monsters, that make me wish I was renting a house or apartment so that I wouldn't have to deal with them.

I love my new site because my little rig is tucked in nicely between two larger motor homes. That location cuts the wind a lot. This new site also has full hookups: water, electricity, and sewer. However, it's those hookups that are causing the problems.

First of all, whoever designed this part of the park has probably never driven or lived in an RV because the hookups for two adjoining sites are right next to each other instead of an RV width apart, as is usual. Since water, electricity, and sewer connections on an RV are usually on one side of the rig, it helps to have nearby access to the hookups. That means that, ideally, the hookups should be situated in a way to make it easy to hookup. Not here. Nope. The way this area is laid out makes it necessary for me to attach two 10-foot sewer hoses together just to reach the drain. It was either that or turn the rig around, run the hose under the rig, and make do with a sewer drain in front of my door. That wouldn't work at all.

So, last night I bought a $1.79 plastic connector at Wal-Mart, then had to drag both hoses into the RV in order to warm the ends up with a hair dryer so I could insert the connector and fasten all the connections together with metal ring clamps. That worked pretty well, and I finally got it all set up outside. But, the sewer drain outside sticks up from the ground at least a foot. Since a sewer hose usually lies on or near the the ground between the rig and the drain, gravity helps to empty the tanks IF the drain is fairly close to the ground. However, when the drain is so high, gravity just keeps all the yucky stuff in the middle of the hose, making it necessary to physically tip the hose to get all that yucky stuff going down the drain. Not a lot of fun, especially when it's cold outside.

The second frustration today is the water connection. Since it's been below freezing overnight for at least two weeks, it's necessary to unhook the hose from the city water connection so it doesn't freeze and burst pipes. That's easy. However, it means that I need to keep the on-board water tank at least partially full in order to have water to flush the toilet, brush my teeth, and so forth. Easy. I hooked up the hose to the fresh water inlet and turned on the water. Wondered why it was taking so long to fill. Actually, it wasn't filling at all because the check valve inside the inlet had come apart and is almost impossible to put back together again. That happened once to my city water inlet and made it necessary to have a new valve installed. I can't fill the on-board tank, so will most likely need to replace this valve as well. Since there aren't any RV repair places within 60 miles or so from here, that will have to wait. In the meantime, I'll fill a few plastic containers with water.

Neither of these problems is very big or expensive. I could always spend $20 on a 20-foot sewer hose and another $30 or so on something to keep it off the ground and make it easier to dump. I could find an RV place and get a new valve installed for about $75-$100. But, it's just those little frustrations that sometimes make it hard to enjoy this lifestyle. I'd probably feel better about the whole thing if it wasn't so darned cold. But, I made the choice to come to Kansas in the wintertime and will therefore deal with it. But, I'll deal with it my way.

I just got back from the supermarket with a half-gallon of Blue Bunny Homemade Turtle Sundae Ice Cream, a small sirloin tip steak, some leaf lettuce, and some fresh Brussels sprouts. That will be dinner - it will be my treat for dealing with all those little problems today. I'll load a Christmas movie into the DVD player, turn on the heat, and just enjoy. It's those little things that help get rid of the frustrations. The problems are still there, but it's no use worrying about them all the time.

Book Meme


I got this from an old blog and thought it sounded like fun. It will probably be a little more challenging for those of us who are full-time Rvers and most likely don't have a lot of books around. But, let's see what we can come up with. I'm still thinking about my answers.

BTW, I had no idea what a meme was. Wikipedia describes it like this: A meme comprises any idea or behavior that can pass from one person to another by learning or imitation.


One book that changed your life?

One book you have read more than once?

One book you would want on a desert island?

One book that made you laugh?

One book that made you cry?

One book you wish had been written?

One book you wish had never been written?

One book you are currently reading?

One book you have been meaning to read?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Chili Feed & Christmas Parade in Caney, Kansas

I love parades, especially Christmas parades in small towns. For me, they're a nostalgic look back to the way life used to be before holidays got so frantic, expensive, commercial, and impersonal.

Tonight, Yarntangler and I bundled up in our warmest coats, hats, gloves, and long johns because the temperature has been hovering down in the 20s lately, and drove fifteen miles south to Caney, Kansas, very close to the Kansas-Oklahoma border. One of the churches was offering a chili feed before the parade, so we stopped in, paid our $5.00, and were served delicious homemade chili, with cheese on top if we wanted, iced tea or water, and our choice of many, many different kinds of desserts. All of them looked so delicious it was hard to decide which one to choose. I thought about taking a couple of different ones, such as a piece of pie and and a slice of chocolate cake, but then saw the size of the bowls of chili and quickly selected some apple pie with a lattice crust.


One of the men served us bowls of chili, along with some plastic-wrapped soda crackers. And that's when the fun started. I opened a package of crackers and the wrapper clung to my finger. No matter what I did, no matter which way I moved my hand, wriggled my fingers, shook my arm up, down, and sideways, that little piece of plastic held on for dear life. I finally had to bury it under a napkin to keep it from shooting directly back to my finger. Apparently the dry, cold air and the carpet in the building combined to create enough static electricity to turn opening crackers into a scientific experiment. So, milking that for all it was worth, I proceeded to move my hand over the plastic so people could watch it jump up to my fingers. I slid it around the table without touching it. I made it rise into the air. Ah, little things can be so exciting sometimes!

After dinner, people began leaving for the parade, which was supposed to start at 7:00. We ambled down Fourth Street, looking at the Christmas lights and decorations, enjoying the window displays, and people-watching. We listened to some old Christmas favorites such as "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree,"and Yarntangler told me she'd once won a talent contest with that song. An antique/second-hand store was open, so we explored that a little. She found a nice knitted scarf and hat set for $1.00 - what a good buy!

Finally, the parade started with a long line of city vehicles, including police cars and fire trucks. Some of the drivers waved to us, some just stared straight ahead as though driving in heavy traffic. Some threw candy to the kids, who came prepared with large plastic bags for their haul.

The Caney High School band marched and played Christmas songs; the Girl Scouts had a float; a group of motorcyclists vroomed their way down the street; some farm tractors displayed their Christmas lights, and Santa Claus visited from the North Pole to end the parade.

After it was over, we wandered over to a table for a cookie and some very welcome hot chocolate. It was so much fun talking with Yarntangler and hearing stories about her life that in many ways almost paralled mine. We decided that next year, many of us Amazon workampers should either enter a float in some of the city parades or decorate our RVs and drive them down the street as part of the parade. It would be a wonderful way to thank our host cities of Coffeyville and Independence for their wonderful and gracious welcomes these past few months.


Driving back, we looked forward to doing it again tomorrow night, this time here in Coffeyville for their annual holiday parade.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day of the Turtle



Sometimes, like today, I feel like a turtle, carrying my house on my back. Last night I heard a "rustle, rustle, rustle" in the middle of the night. It sounded like it was coming from underneath my cook top, but there's no way to access that area without taking the whole thing apart. I kept on hearing it and couldn't go back to sleep. Figuring it was either a mouse or one of the seemingly thousands of squirrels around this campground, I got out the plastic container of kitchen cleaner and sprayed inside the vents of the stove, hoping to scare the thing away or asphyxiate it. I didn't hear the noise again until early this morning. Hmm-back again, perhaps with squirrely colleagues.

Friends on a couple of RV women's forums suggested many ways to get rid of the critter or critters, such as attaching fabric softener sheets underneath the rig, stuffing steel wool into every possible opening, using sticky traps or regular mouse traps, and so forth. They told me to do something quickly because mice and squirrels love to chew through things like water lines. But, first I'd have to get underneath and try to determine how the things were getting inside. It was about 32 degrees outside, way too cold to go crawling around under an RV, especially with 30 MPH winds blowing. So, I did the next best thing---I took time out from the hunt to check email.




That turned out to be probably the best thing I could have done because my friend Yarntangler wrote that there were three vacant sites in their part of the campground, sites with full hookups and a lot less wildlife. And so I did my turtle imitation: I packed up as quickly as possible and drove over there. I pulled in between two much larger rigs, which should help block the wind a little, hooked everything back up, and am now comfortably at home--with no more strange rustling noises. Hopefully the creature, whatever it was, moved or fell out during the five-minute drive.

As much as I complain about the cold here, the expense of two vehicles, and the constant upkeep required, I've got to admit one thing: in all my years of living in "stick" houses and apartments, I was never able to just pick up and move in 15 minutes. I won't live this way forever because I'm already dreaming of having another garden, of collecting more books, of buying a piano, and of putting them all into a small house of my own somewhere. But for now, this is home and I love it.


Monday, December 1, 2008

A Few Thoughts about Christmas Time



I emailed a friend in Canada the other day to get his postal code because I wanted to send him a Christmas card. He gave it to me, but with the understanding that he no longer sends out cards. Another good friend doesn't celebrate Christmas at all because of some really bad experiences in the past. A friend in Oregon flies to Hawaii every Christmas in order to doze in the sun and pretend it's a different time of year. For others it's just another day to catch up on work. According to others, the magic of Christmas disappeared when they found out there was no Santa Claus. More voices: "Christmas is just another over-commercialized holiday;" "Bah, humbug. Who wants to buy all those presents nobody needs or wants;" "Why are you making such a big deal about it. It's only another excuse to spend a lot of money." And on and on it goes.

It's hard to explain why I like Christmas so much. No, it's not the presents, although they're fun to get. It's no longer the children because all mine are grown up and living elsewhere. It's not Santa Claus because I personally know three of them. In Southern California it certainly isn't snow, although this year in Kansas I might see some before leaving. It's not shopping and spending a lot of money. In my little RV, it can't be decorating a large Christmas tree.

Those are many reasons for not enjoying Christmas, yet I do. I love getting together with friends, eating at restaurants, and seeing Christmas light displays. I love phone calls from old friends, from family members, and from people who used to be family members but aren't any more, at least in a legal sense. I enjoy writing an annual Christmas letter and sending cards. Buying small presents is fun, as is trying to find exactly the right gift for my son; this year I think I succeeded. And, if he's reading this, he still has absolutely no idea what that gift might be. It's a secret.

Today I made pumpkin cookies with raisins, pecans, and dates as well as pumpkin pudding. And there's still some pumpkin left for tomorrow. While mixing and baking, I listened to a Gregorian chant CD, one of my very favorite things to do during the Christmas season. My ex-husband called, as did my son, as did a very good friend whom I worked with in Kanab, Utah last year. I paid bills, worked on a ministry project for next year, meditated a little, took a long walk on the levee ("and the levee was dry"), and finished the Barbara Kingsolver book about a year of local food. I even wrapped some presents for daughters, granddaughter, and son. All in all, a very good day.

However, a few negative thoughts did intrude, as they do each year at this time. Sometimes I wonder why I continue to send presents to my daughters, mail them Christmas cards, and write email when they have refused to have anything to do with me for so many years. That hurts. But, I still hope that someday things will improve between us. My youngest once sent me a book entitled The Impossible Will Take Awhile, and I realize that's true. When that impossible happens, I want the door and my arms to be wide open and accepting, with no questions asked or explanations needed about the past. I want the love to always be there.

So, yes, I do celebrate Christmas and intend to do it as long as I can. I don't have to follow all the little rules and expectations of what Christmas should be as it's different for everyone. I appreciate the warmth and caring this time of year brings, and I rush to meet each Christmas morning with a huge grin on my face and all the expectations of a small child. No "bah, humbug" here.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Confessions of a Southern California Wuss


Okay, I'm a wuss. It's just too cold here today. As often as I try to convince myself I lived the majority of my life in Oregon and so should be used to cold weather, I'm still a Southern California wuss. I like that word for some reason, and I like the dictionary.com definition, especially the possible origin of the word--a combination of wimp and puss.



–noun Slang. a weakling; wimp. Origin: 1980–85; perh. b.
wimp and puss 1
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Maybe temperatures in the low 30's wouldn't feel so darned cold if it wasn't for the wind, which blew about 30-40 mph most of the day. The little snow flurries convinced me that winter is definitely here in SE Kansas.

I spent a lot of time in some pretty cold weather in Oregon, including a January snowstorm that was followed by freezing rain that made a thick, hard, slippery coating of ice on top of the snow. In order to get the mail, I had to bundle up in warm clothes and boots, then take a walking stick to stab down into the snow in order to make it out to the mailbox without sliding all the way. My son and I had great fun on a couple of plastic sleds, starting at the back door and sliding around all over the yard, including over the top of the 24-inch high raised garden beds. The power went out for several days, so we cooked dinners in the Weber kettle out on the covered patio. But, those freezing times didn't last very long, and mostly winters in Portland were just very wet.

This is quite a new experience--living in a small, rather poorly insulated motor home in SE Kansas the end of November. But, I've discovered a few tricks to keep it fairly warm in here and save money on propane at the same time. Since we have FHU sites (full hookups), electricity is included. So, why spend a lot of money on propane when I can use that electricity to heat the place? A little electric heater works just fine. I bought a couple of those foil-backed windshield covers people normally use to keep their cars cooler in the summer. Cut to size, they make great covers for my windows, keeping the cold air out a little better during the night. My two roof vents are closed and covered with foam pillows made especially for that use. And, I put foam weatherstripping around the door. In a pinch I can always turn on the propane furnace for a few minutes to take off the chill. However, this isn't anything like living in a house and being able to just turn on the furnace. Of course, it doesn't cost as much, either. Pros and cons of anything, I guess.

A couple more weeks and I'm off for warmer weather, most likely Blythe, California in the Mojave Desert. This time of year it's beautiful there, right on the Colorado River across from Quartzsite, Arizona. Maybe I should take advantage of this cold weather now so I'll appreciate the desert more. Then again, I've camped in a tent in the desert in January and woke to heavy snow on the roof. So, you never can tell. I guess the best thing is to just take whatever comes, appreciate it for what it is, but find somewhere warmer as soon as possible.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Earth Mother in an RV





I decided this afternoon that since Halloween and Thanksgiving are now officially over, it was probably time to do something with the two little pumpkins that have graced my outside table with their orangey autumn presence since I got here in October. They've been outside the whole time, and since the weather has been mostly temperate during the days and frigid at night, they still look pretty good. The earth mother in me refused to just throw them in the trash; somehow that didn't seem right. There aren't any cows nearby to eat them. Hmm...guess I could cook them. I used to cook pumpkins all the time. But, that was before microwave ovens. The whole process was messy. Cut them up in cubes, boil on the stove, let cool, then scrape the insides out. Oh, and be sure to save and roast the seeds. I never thought of just baking the things, so it's probably a good thing pumpkin-cooking time only came once a year.

Because of a dealer-error, my little RV has only a microwave oven. When I want to bake something, I use my Kenmore toaster/convection oven on the counter. Well, it's not really on the counter since there really isn't a counter. Actually, I removed the lid from the three-burner propane cooktop and balanced the toaster oven over the back two burners. I'd never use them anyway. That leaves the large front burner accessible. Perfect. But, no way was I going to bake pumpkins in the toaster oven. Nope, it would be the microwave or the trash.

I cut open the little creatures and scraped out their guts and seeds, then cut them into fairly large pieces. Stuck them, by turns, on a microwaveable-plate, covered them with plastic wrap, and proceeded to nuke them until their insides turned soft. Cooled them off on a tray, then scraped out the insides. So easy! No watery mess to contend with; just nice, soft pumpkin guts, perfect for pies, soup, bread, cookies. . . .mouth watering yet?

A few days ago I wrote about needing to garden. When my son asked me what I wanted for my birthday and Christmas this year, I went to the Amazon.com website and made a wish list which included three container gardening books. Wonder if you can grow a garden on top of an RV? Pumpkins might be a bit much, though.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Good Reason to Stay Home from the Store


Shooting in Toy's-R-Us in Palm Desert, California

This headline caught my eye mainly because my brother lives in Palm Desert. Unfortunately, that might say something about how commonplace shootings and killings in large cities have become; I noticed it only because it hit home personally. Although the shooting might have had nothing to do with a fight over merchandise, the fact that two people were killed in a large children's toy store would be reason enough for some justifiable outrage. I have a very hard time understanding how a person's life could be considered less important than a personal turf war, a popular must-have plastic toy or a piece of electronic junk. Do we have absolutely no sense left? Are we that brainwashed? I think we've become so inured with reports of the "collateral damage" in Iraq that murders just get swept aside with a shrug and a "that's too bad."

Despite my best intentions, I did go to Wal-Mart this morning, really the only store in town, but only because I very ambitiously wrote my Christmas letter and wanted to find some Christmas-looking paper to print it on. No luck, however. I bought a few toys for the 10-year-old boy on the Salvation Army gift tag I got from the tree, then rapidly fled the store. Instead of fancy printing paper, I printed the letters on plain white paper and decorated them with inexpensive Christmas stickers I bought at one of the dollar stores. And they turned out just fine.

I spent a quiet afternoon addressing envelopes for the first Christmas cards I've sent in two years, then took them to the Post Office. I've been realizing that this nomadic life style sometimes plays havoc with keeping in touch with old friends, especially the ones who don't use email. Perhaps a New Year's Resolution should be to write more letters and send more cards. It's worth thinking about.

P.S. A friend just sent me this one.

Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down

What is WRONG here?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Walk


 
Verdigris River



Around three o'clock this afternoon, after a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at the Armory with at least 150 other Amazon workampers and former workampers, I felt a little sleepy. When my son the produce specialist phoned, he assured me the sleepiness wasn't only the result of the tryptophan in turkey, but was also caused by the much larger amount of food we usually eat on Thanksgiving. It makes sense, but my head was still drooping, so I decided to take my second walk of the day--and I don't even have a dog!

The area around Walter Johnson Park in Coffeyville is a perfect place to walk. It has very little traffic, it's quiet, and there's a lot to see. Although I usually stroll around the perimeter of the park, including on the levee next to the river, today I decided to explore the baseball field first. Taking a seat at the top of the bleachers, in the tenth row, I imagined baseball players running out of the stands of oak and pecan trees, kind of like the players appearing from the cornfield in "Field of Dreams," one of my favorite movies. Maybe Walter Johnson himself would pitch. Although the end of November in Kansas is no longer baseball season, the grassy outfield is a brilliant, lush green. It wasn't hard to hear the cheering fans, smell the hotdogs cooking, and see how the game was going on the large scoreboard above the outfield fence. But, the game was over - time to continue my walk.


I crossed the street to walk next to a field filled with huge rolls of hay. In Oregon, they're usually wrapped in white plastic and look exactly like gigantic marshmallows. I've always wanted to find a couple of large graham cracker-colored squares of something along with some dark chocolate-brown oozy stuff. Wouldn't it be fun to drive down a country highway and see a big, delicious-looking s'more out there in a field?


A flock of geese cruised by overhead, honking to let me know they were there. Pecan and oak leaves fluttered across my feet with the slight breeze. The sky was gray, not a brilliant blue as yesterday. It's supposed to rain a little tonight.

Continuing my walk, I headed to the levee next to the Verdigris River, a usually fairly placid body of water. But, last summer that river overflowed its banks after a month of steady rain, flooding most of the eastern part of Coffeyville. As if that wasn't enough, "a malfunction allowed the oil to spill from the Coffeyville Resources refinery on Sunday, while the plant was shutting down in advance of the flood heading toward it on the Verdigris River." There was so much destruction and horrible watery goo that the refinery bought most of the destroyed homes and tore them down. What's left is block after block of empty fields, most of them still with concrete foundations from those houses.

The levee extends along the river for several miles and provides a wonderful view of the river, the park, and some of the nearby businesses in Coffeyville. It's pretty unbelievable how the river got as high as it did.

While walking, I thought some Thanksgiving Day thoughts. I'm thankful for the privilege of being here with so many friendly people in a beautiful place, somewhere I've never been before. I'm grateful that I'm healthy and able to travel from place to place like this. I'm thankful for my family around the country: in Oregon, Ohio, California, and Washington. I'm so very glad my mother and aunt are still living, active, and in good health. I'm grateful for my almost-three-year-old-granddaughter in Washington whom I've never seen, at least not yet. I still have hope for a thaw between my daughters and me. I'm thankful that my ex-husband has found a new wife and extended family with whom he's very happy. And I'm thankful for my wonderful friend Lou, without whom I'd never have discovered my love of the desert nor realized how much it's possible to care for someone.

I hope all of you have had a great Thanksgiving Day with lots of delicious food, friendship, and fun. I hope your favorite football team won. And I hope the rest of the holidays are just as fine for you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some of the Pieces , April 2000

Three of us from the Umpqua Unitarian Universalist Church in Roseburg, Oregon made this “Puzzling Pieces” quilt for the wall behind the pulpit. We used 99 different fabrics and introduced the quilt April 30, 2000 in a service entitled “Building Community Piece by Piece: Our Celebration Quilt.” We used various community and jigsaw puzzle quotes as well as “stories from Aunt Jane,” from the book, A Quilter’s Wisdom—Conversations with Aunt Jane by Eliza Calvert Hall.
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Once upon a time, there was a woman who loved to make beautiful fabric wall hangings. And she was paid well for making them. So, she wasn’t really surprised when a friend asked her to make one for her home and wanted to see some patterns. So, the woman gathered up most of her patterns and loaned them to her friend.

About two weeks later, a very excited friend showed a picture to the woman. “Look at this pattern!” she exclaimed. “Can’t you see it as representing our congregation? I’d love to make it for our church!” Of course, the quilter agreed because she was also fascinated with the idea and the pattern. They both pictured a beautiful quilt hanging at the front of their church - a work of love for everyone.

So, that’s how this project began. I was the quilter and Judy my friend. Knowing Peggy was an excellent quilter, we asked her to join us. And, of course, the church is all of us.

You probably remember the small sample we hung on the wall in the coffee area a few months ago. We also asked you to contribute small amounts of fabric that you liked or that you felt represented you in some way. And many of you did. After getting your contributions, Peggy and I raided our own huge stashes for pieces to complete the quilt. One thing about us quilters - we visit fabric stores and take checkbooks wherever we go so we only had to buy about 8 fabrics for this project, mostly the shiny ones. Judy did her part by making more than 100 photocopies of each pattern piece.

We then laid out 99 different fabrics in rows upstairs in our loft, the largest undisturbed floor area we could find. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds because wanted to make sure we used fabrics that might represent various people here and that the pieces also looked good together. After spending about two hours rearranging them, we finally decided it looked just right. I’m sure some of you remember seeing all of those hunks of fabric on our floor and wondering what in the world we were doing with them.

About 2 weeks later, I spent several days scrunching around down on the floor, marking each pattern piece with which fabric to use. Then I soaked in the hot tub every night to get the kinks out of my back.

Peggy, Judy, and I then began the exacting work of cutting out pieces of fabric for each block. The best part of this was we spent a lot of time talking and got to know each other much better. I spent a few weeks sewing the blocks together and completing the top. We hung it up at the church one Saturday afternoon several weeks ago and just marveled at how wonderful it looked, even partially finished. The look on Judy’s face when she saw it hanging for the first time was priceless and I hope we’ll see that same look on some of your faces this morning as well. Peggy finished the quilt by sewing on the black border and the back, and Judy arranged the method to hang it.

All along, we agreed that we wanted to do a service, both to unveil the quilt and also to talk about the community it represents. Like the Grateful Dead song we played at the beginning of this service, the quilt idea was a “ripple in still water” that spread out to embrace the community of all of us.

Notice the jigsaw puzzle pattern of the quilt. Do you see how each block fits into those around it? I found a quote that describes perfectly why we selected this pattern. In the words of Rabbi Shapiro:

Consider a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece has its place and no other piece can fit that place. Yet no one piece makes sense on its own. Each piece needs the whole for its integrity and coherence. And the whole needs each piece to fulfill its purpose and bring meaning and order to the puzzle.

“What is true for a puzzle is true for Reality, with one exception: There is no hand putting us in our place. We must do that for ourselves. We must discover our place and take it. And when we do this, we discover the integrity and meaning of the whole.
The binding thread of this quilt is the love that intertwines itself through the making of the quilt, through people's relations with each other. Sometimes that thread gets broken or cut. Sometimes it is very strong, like quilting thread, sometimes very thin, like silk thread. But, it is still there to some degree. And, it holds everything together.
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After the closing circle, members of the congregation gathered up front to touch the quilt and pick out blocks they felt represented themselves in some way. As one person commented, “I think part of me is in every block.”
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why Coffeyville, Kansas in the Winter?

If you've ever bought anything online from Amazon.com, one of their largest fulfillment centers in the world is located here in Coffeyville, Kansas. I answered an ad in Workamper News for people to come here to work their holiday rush. We'd get a free RV site and hookups as well as be paid an excellent salary. I figured, "why not?" I'd never driven further east than New Mexico and was looking for a little different adventure after three months at the end of a 22-mile stretch of dirt and rock road in the middle of the mountains.

Coffee Creek Road

When I left San Diego the first part of October, regular unleaded gasoline was about $3.65 a gallon, sometimes more. I was supposed to begin work on October 16, so I allowed plenty of time to get there. Halfway to Kansas, I received an email letting me know that because of the horrible economic situation in the country, my start date would be pushed back to Nov. 2. However, I'd still get my site and hookups until then.


I'll write more about the trip and Coffeyville at a later time. For now, though, I'd like to take you on a short tour and tell you a little about the life of a "picker." I wrote this a week ago, BEFORE I'd had enough because my feet and knees hurt too badly to continue.
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Good morning, at least I think it’s morning – things have a tendency to run together lately. Today is the end of my second week working here and I wasn't sure I'd get through last night. It was the first time several of us were assigned the entire place, not just our training area. Yes, that's because we'd been doing well, our "numbers" were on target. However . . . . This picture shows just a tiny, tiny part of one of the fulfillment centers, not necessarily Coffeyville but probably similar. Last night I think I covered just a small part of it—but my little pedometer read 7.8 miles this morning. The picking procedure is, simplified: 1) find the area, a challenge in itself 2) find the bin 3) scan the bin number 4) if needed, open the box (or boxes) 5) scan the barcode on the item/items 6) drop it/them in the tote 7) when the tote is full (or too heavy), put it on a conveyor belt. 8) repeat over and over and over . . .for ten hours, upstairs, downstairs, in my lady’s chamber. By the middle of last night, every part of my body hurt so badly I almost cried but had to keep going for more and more and more hours, until 3:30 a.m. Drag myself out of bed around noon to prepare to do it again tonight. The only thing I think about is the money and that it’s only until Christmas. Then I never have to do it again, ever! First paycheck this morning. Talking with other workampers here, most of them have been counting the days for a long time. We work and sleep, that’s about it. Watching people at breaks or lunch, the first thing most of us do is pull out the Ibuprofen or Aleve or Advil bottles. On Dec. 24, I'm getting the heck out of Dodge and heading someplace warmer to SIT and watch the sky, the river, and so forth.

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I could afford to quit for a couple of reasons. First, I had applied for early Social Security and began to receive it in the form of widow's benefits. Second, gas prices have been steadily dropping like boulders. Yesterday, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, I paid $1.48 per gallon. I'm sticking around the campground until December 12 because the $8.00 per day fee for a full-hookup site can't be beat. Most important, I've made some wonderful friends and become part of a small, temporary community here.

In some ways I envy the people who have been able to stick it out because the money is great. However, I still don't have any health insurance and don't want to risk any serious problems with my knees or feet.

So,. all of you who have been working so hard on those concrete floors, you're doing great. Only a few more weeks left.

Eat Your Veggies

I've been reading a new book by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, entitled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. She and her family moved from their Arizona home to a rural farmhouse in southern Appalachia and vowed that," for one year, they'd only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it," in order to see if they could stop relying on what she calls "industrial food." The idea struck chords deep down inside me.

One of the things that would convince me to quit this nomadic life would be the lack of a vegetable garden. Sure, I tried while working in Kanab, Utah last summer. I bought all kinds of pots, filled them with good soil, and planted a variety of veggies: Sweet 100 tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, jalapeno peppers, and even a few flowers, anticipating some homemade salsa and Japanese cucumber salad by season's end. The results were less than gratifying. For one thing, it was way too hot in Kanab during the summer. It was almost impossible to keep the plants well-watered and fed, especially in plastic pots.



I miss my gardens. We once lived on an acre of land in southern Oregon, down the road from a highly aromatic turkey ranch. I bought a rototiller, dug up half the yard, and planted EVERYTHING. We also raised some chickens and rabbits, with the chickens being allowed to range, as chickens like to do. We not only ate and gave away eggs with yokes that stood straight up at attention, but everything GREW like crazy! Lots of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, beans...you name it, we ate it. I canned, froze, and dried what we didn't devour fresh, and we ate like royalty the rest of the year. Once my daughters decided the "cute little bunnies" also tasted okay, they gave up naming all of them, except the pets, and we had meat from the chickens and rabbits as well. It was a good life.

We also planted gardens in Portland on a much smaller plot of land. I built some raised beds and we trucked in some expensive soil. And, those gardens produced like crazy! Before my husband and I got divorced and sold the house, we'd planted raspberries as well as a variety of dwarf fruit trees: cherries, plums, apples, pears, and apricots. And that, for the most part, was also a good life.

And then the divorce and my move back to southern California, to the land of wonderful weather and apartments packed row upon row with no place to grow anything except a pot or two of flowers outside the door. And I decided to take to the road.

This summer I worked at a shareholder-owned lodge in the Trinity Alps of Northern California. The chef loved heirloom tomatoes, so we served--and ate---lots of them. They had a flavor like no other tomato I'd ever tasted, even the ones I'd grown, the "engineered" ones. But, I don't want to spend a fortune for them, especially if they have to be trucked hundreds or thousands of miles. I want to grow my own.Last night I spent a few hours online requesting seed catalogs from various heirloom seed companies. I've been eating way too much processed food from unknown sources lately. Although I'm not sure yet how I'll grow a garden, by the time planting season comes around, I intend to have one of some kind. Just need to figure out the best way to do it.



Here are a few sources of heirloom seeds in case you're interested.

Nichols Garden Nursery
Seed Savers Exchange
Merchants and Purveyors of Heirloom Seeds
Seeds of Change

Monday, November 24, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

Far away in the tropical waters of the Caribbean, two prawns were swimming around in the sea. One was called Justin and the other was called Christian. Life was good, except that the prawns were constantly being chased and threatened by sharks. Finally one day, Justin said to Christian, "I'm tired of being a prawn. I wish I was a shark, then I wouldn't have to worry about being eaten." Just then a mysterious cod appeared and said, "Your wish is granted," and lo and behold, Justin turned into a shark. Horrified, Christian swam off, afraid of being eaten up by his old friend. Time went by and Justin found himself bored and lonely as a shark. All his old pals were afraid of him and swam away whenever he came near. Then one day he was out swimming and saw the mysterious cod. "I want to be a prawn again," said Justin. "Please change me back!" And lo and behold, the cod changed him back to a prawn. With tears of joy in his little eyes, Justin swam to Christian's house and knocked on the door, "It's me, Justin, your old friend! Come out and see me!" he shouted. "No," said Christian. "I'll not be tricked. You're a shark and you will eat me'" Justin cried back, ' "No, I'm not. That was the old me. I've changed. I've found Cod. I'm a prawn again, Christian!"

I don't remember who sent this to me, but I love it and could probably come up with all kinds of wonderful meanings and thoughts about it. However, it's still early and the brain cogs haven't meshed fully into gear yet. For now, I'll just say that its been very cold here in Coffeyville, Kansas lately and I keep wishing to be magically transported back to this beach in Oceanside, California where I lived in January.


Yesterday I attended the winter vocal concert at the Coffeyville Community College and listened to a variety of songs done by some very talented students. Although there were few of them, their enthusiasm and sense of fun warmed up a cold day. On my quick drive back to the park, I remembered all the traffic in Southern California and decided to be content here for another couple of weeks. There's still time enough to savor this place with all its differences from California.
Enjoy your day, whatever it might bring.
Chris

Sunday, November 23, 2008

All the Pieces Come Together Sometimes

Have you ever felt that your life was composed of many, many different little parts, some of those pieces meshing and coordinating with others, but most of them seemingly unconnected with anything else? I always wondered why I had so many interests and talents but couldn't seem to hang onto a job for more than a couple of years. No, I've never been fired or let go; I quit because I got too bored after learning the ropes and becoming good at the work. I've always wondered how some people could hang in there for twenty or thirty years, then retire with a good pension while I had absolutely no interest or desire to do that.

I skipped from place to place to place, picking up so many little experiences that my "official" resume could be four pages long. I interspersed those jobs with returns to various colleges to get three degrees: a Bachelors in Business Administration, an Associates in Computers, and a Masters in Ministry. As an early baby boomer woman, raised on the cusp between the 1950s and the 1970s, I had that option; up to several years ago, I never had to support myself as two husbands, one after the other, did that for me. While never rich or well-off, we got along pretty well.

But, things change, as they usually have a tendency to do, and for various reasons, most of them caused by me, I found myself without husband, without job, without health insurance, without any kind of pension or retirement benefit, and still too young and healthy to collect anything from the government. So, it looked like the hopping around needed to stop for a while.

But, still I resisted, and have survived for the past few years on a divorce settlement just large enough to pay the bills but nothing else. At age 60, I began noticing it was getting harder and harder to get jobs. I won't go so far as to call it ageism. No, I think prospective employers looked at my dense resume and wondered why I hadn't stuck with anything very long. I wondered that myself--until recently, when the parts started meshing together.

As an RV nomad, living "on the road," I've been able to combine my skills in sewing and quilting with my training as a chaplain and minister; my years of experience cooking and running a household with my interest and training in computers. Put it all together and it spells a well-rounded (in more ways than one, I'm afraid) individual who can work as a waitress, a housekeeper, a public relations coordinator, a front-desk clerk, a facilities manager, a mystery shopper, a pianist, an informal chaplain and minister, and a quilter and seamstress. I no longer have to sit behind a desk eight hours a day doing the same boring work. It requires a little bit of hustle, a willingness to talk to everyone, a sense of adventure, and an ability to see possibilities in every situation and conversation. Best of all, I'm now able to travel from place to place, staying for a season or several months, getting my RV site and hookups provided as well as a salary, seeing parts of this country I've never seen before, meeting so many wonderful people it's almost impossible to keep track of everyone sometimes.

It's called workamping and it has finally helped me get my life in some kind of order. Yes, I still skip around from job to job, place to place. But, now it's expected and welcomed.


And so the pieces have come together, finally, just like all the little individual pieces of this king-sized quilt I recently made for the San Diego Astronomy Association's annual fund-raising auction in February.

Some of My Favorite Places

One of the wonderful things about being a nomad is the chance to not only see beautiful places like these, but to be able to spend lots of time in them.


Wildflowers in Anza Borrego Desert, California,
after a winter of record rainfall.




Mud Caves in Canyon Sin Nombre, Anza Borrego
Desert (picture from Lou Jackson)




Sunrise with contrails at Mountain Palm Springs,
Anza Borrego Desert






Sunset with ocotillo, Mountain Palm Springs,
Anza Borrego Desert



Calf Creek Falls, Southern Utah





Little Matterhorn from Josephine Creek Lodge,
Trinity Alps, Northern California



Josephine Lake in the Trinity Alps, Northern California



Saturday, November 22, 2008

By Way of Introduction. . .

Wow! My first blog. Sometimes I'm just a little slow to try new things.'

How about some kind of an introduction? One of my favorite quotes, given to me by a very good friend, is "Leap and the net will appear." I leaped and the net did, in fact, appear, but in a way I could never have foreseen.

Two years ago I got very tired of paying what I thought was an exorbitant amount to rent an apartment in San Diego, California. Rents weren't going to come down soon, so I took that leap, bought a small 23-foot motor home and Blue Ox towbar, traded in my Nissan Sentra on a Ford Ranger Pickup with shell, sold and/or gave away almost everything I had, and became a nomad. Sometimes I look back and wonder what in the world possessed me! Was I crazy? Was I getting a little senile in my 60's? I, who have changed a tire once in my life, whose idea of mechanics is cutting out a sewing pattern, was now the owner of not one, but two vehicles. Those vehicles, between them, have a total of twelve wheels and tires, if you count the spares. Those vehicles both need to be fed, changed, watered, registered, licensed, washed, mended, and driven. Even better, together they need to carry everything I own. Yep, looking back I was probably, definitely, most likely crazy, loco, senile--name your favorite word.

Yet, why do I feel so free? Here I am, an almost 62-year-old divorced woman, mother of three, grandmother of one, living a life on the road with no job, no significant other, no mechanical expertise, lots of bills...you name it. I can hear the voices in my head: "In my day, women just didn't do things like that." Or, "You just need another man to take care of you." Or, "Don't you get scared traveling all by yourself?"

Okay, I struggled for quite a while in learning this new life but now, almost two years later, wonder why I didn't do it long ago. For many years I wanted to simplify my life. And now I have--and it's given me a freedom I could never have imagined.

I loved being married, raising three kids, gardening, taking care of houses, cooking, sewing, and "settling down" for fairly long periods of time. But now the marriage is over, the kids are grown, and indeed, I have finally grown. I now work when and where I like for as long as I like. I now have an additional source of steady income, besides a limited divorce settlement: Uncle Sam has finally stepped in with widow's benefits from my first husband that I never knew were available. And I feel rich--able to pay off bills, give gifts, buy health insurance, and not have to worry so much about money (or lack of).

Stay tuned for a little look back over the past two years, at some of the highlights of this journey. And, I'll also include some recent stuff and maybe just some thoughts once in a while. This blogging is new to me, so please be patient--and come back.