buen viaje!

The soul’s true happiness lies in experiencing the inner joy, and it will never be fully satisfied with outer, seeming pleasures. Its connection is with God, and nothing short of perfection will ever satisfy it.

Bowl of Saki, July 19, by Hazrat Inayat Khan

The above quote represents my journey so well.  While it would appear to have been a geographical one, the reality is that my journey is much more on the inner level.  The truth is this quote may have little to do with the following post but I really liked it and wanted to share it with you!

It has been one helluva journey but like all good journeys there comes a time when the end approaches and it’s time to go home.  And so it is with this journey.

A white wing dove partaking of some saguaro fruit. The saguaro is that real tall cactus that typifies what people think of when they think of the desert.

A white wing dove partaking of some saguaro fruit. The saguaro is that real tall cactus that typifies what people think of when they think of the desert.

I started out in Tucson, hearing the call of the road.  I left and found myself in Costa Rica for two years.  So much to love about that country, particularly the people and even more so my friends Juan and Renan whom I miss dearly.  Mom came down which made things a bit rocky for a while until we were able to find her a place of her own and then, like magic, it all worked until we needed to leave Costa Rica for the States again.  Mom was no longer able to walk and getting her around was impossible.  She couldn’t be treated adequately in Costa Rica and we somehow found our way to Florida.  Once we got to Florida it turned out she was also suffering from congestive heart failure so the move was quite fortuitous.  And who could forget the craziness of my pilfered shipping container when it finally arrived from Costa Rica?  Certainly not I!  That was one hellish time, to say the least!

 

The beautiful Pacific Ocean from Jaco, Costa Rica.

The beautiful Pacific Ocean from Jaco, Costa Rica.

 

I will never forget the long night I spent in Costa Rica waiting to get this shot. It was worth it!

I will never forget the long night I spent in Costa Rica waiting to get this shot. It was worth it!

 

A beautiful Costa Rican orchid. Juan and I often went out to explore the various parks together.

A beautiful Costa Rican orchid. Juan and I often went out to explore the various parks together.

 

It still makes a little sad to see the disaster the container from Costa Rica was when it reached my apartment in Florida.

It still makes me a little sad to see the disaster the container from Costa Rica was when it reached my apartment in Florida.

The Bradenton/Sarasota area is vastly less crowded than many of the eastern Florida cities and I really liked the calm of the Gulf.  I met some wonderful people there, many of whom I still maintain contact with.  However, because of mom’s illness, which got progressively worse, it was a very stressful time with my having little energy for other people and new friends.  Still, I look back at my time there fondly and I will always love Publix (the local supermarket)!  Who every would’ve thought I’d get a motorcycle license but that’s just one of the interesting things I did while I was there!

My first view of the Gulf of Mexico in Siesta Key, FL. I was still living in Costa Rica but making arrangements to rent my apartment in Bradenton.

My first view of the Gulf of Mexico in Siesta Key, FL. I was still living in Costa Rica but making arrangements to rent my apartment in Bradenton.

 

A view from Bradenton Beach.

A view from Bradenton Beach.

I made the decision to get an RV and travel after three years in Bradenton.  I didn’t go very far at first – just up the road a piece to Ruskin so I could still visit with mom frequently and easily.  It was a journey of sorts but not a very distant one.  I learned a lot about how to live in an RV, albeit a relatively small one, during that time.  But if I’m really truthful about it, summer in an RV in Florida just wasn’t the easiest thing to do!  Between the mosquitos and no-see-ems I felt like I was too often sequestered within my RV!

My first RV during our walk-through before I took possession of it.

My first RV during our walk-through before I took possession of it.

 

The Little Manatee River as seen from Hide-A-Way RV Park in Ruskin, FL.

The Little Manatee River as seen from Hide-A-Way RV Park in Ruskin, FL.

 

The Spanish Moss hanging off of a tree at my campsite in Ruskin.

The Spanish Moss hanging off of a tree at my campsite in Ruskin.

 

I took this shot when I was living in Ruskin after starting the infamous RV journey. It always makes me smile.

I took this shot when I was living in Ruskin after starting the infamous RV journey. It always makes me smile.  Can you see the little child?  He was playing within the sign and they are talking with him.

And then came the day for my first long journey in the RV – leaving Florida to go to Indiana to visit my son and his family.  Stops were to include Jacksonville in Florida, South Carolina, the western mountains of North Carolina, Kentucky and finally Indiana.  The plan was to go back by an entirely different route but that was not to happen.

My first RV at our first stop in Jacksonville, FL for our first journey. Lots of firsts there!

My first RV at our first stop in Jacksonville, FL for our first journey. Lots of firsts there!

My car “conveniently” broke down while in Ferguson, NC and it took over three weeks to be repaired.  During that time I fell in love with the area and decided to remain here for a while.  I’ve always considered myself more of mountain girl than anything else.  I did manage to see the grandkids twice, once with a rental car in October and again in November for Thanksgiving with my car after it was repaired.  I also made three trips back down to Florida to visit mom including the last, final trip to take care of things after her passing.  There was a whole lot of driving during that time, less than four months and over 9,000 miles!

My first real fall in nearly 20 years. This was taken from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

My first real fall in nearly 20 years. This was taken from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I loved spending my first more or less real winter in nearly two decades here in NC after watching the leaves turn all sorts of beautiful colors the previous fall.  There was something about last winter that made my heart soar.  Out of all the photos I’ve taken while here, the ice storm photos remain my favorite as a series.  But that was also the time mom took her leave.  She was sure I was supposed to be there for her passing, as was I, but it was not to happen and she passed a mere five days after the last time I saw her.  I wished I could have been there but given the difficulty she experienced prior to her passing I think it was for the best that I wasn’t.  However, it still haunts me knowing she was screaming for me, begging me to come help her since I was always there for her.  The reality was there wasn’t anything I could’ve done anyway but I do wish I had been there.  Luckily she had two very wonderful surrogates who were able to hold her hand, literally and figuratively, as she passed through this difficult time.  I maintained contact with her throughout the day of her death talking with her (or to her) three different times, even when she was no longer really cognitively with it.  I also kept in touch with those who were watching over her.  It ended up being a peaceful death in the end but getting there was so difficult for her and all those around her.  I was told that was quite typical for those with COPD issues since not being able to breathe is quite terrifying.  I will never forget the story the man who came to pick up her body to bring to the crematory told me.  As he was taking her from the room, Emma, mom’s roommate, simply said to her, “Good-bye my friend!”  That really broke me up, and still does, since mom had so very few friends in her life but when she really needed one God provided!

The second RV hanging out in Ferguson in the snow.

The second RV hanging out in Ferguson in the snow.

 

My favorite winter shot from here in Ferguson.

My favorite winter shot from here in Ferguson.

 

The day mom died we had the biggest snow storm of the season here in North Carolina.  It was also the day the first cardinal arrived to partake of the bird feeder I had out there for about two months without any visitors at all.  I believe that somehow she managed to influence that first bird to come visit me that day.  Just two days after her passing, after the snow melted enough for me to drive, I made my way back to Florida to take care of all the arrangements.  When I got back home I took some down time for myself, time to just be on my own and mourn as well as rejoice in the peace mom finally found for the first time in her life, a peace I was also feeling living in the solitude of winter.  After only a week or two I started to write again in the mornings, something I couldn’t do for years because of taking care of mom, and I wrote furiously.  In the next ten weeks I wrote over 500 handwritten pages, most of it extremely good material.  Every morning I woke up thrilled to be alive and managing to get this incredible material down on paper.  I shared it with a few friends, all of whom seemed genuinely excited about it and how it could apply to their lives or to others they knew.  This, I was sure, was the reason I moved here, so I could get this epic written.  Deep solitude was the only way it would have happened.

Mom's cardinal.

Mom’s cardinal.

 

Here's my girl getting some sustenance. To me she looks like she is nursing off the plant.

Here’s my girl getting some sustenance. To me she looks like she is nursing off the plant.

 

One day I decided it was time to go to the DMV in town and finally switch over my plates and license from Florida to North Carolina.  I had been putting it off forever!  It was a mere three days before my birthday, the day my registration and license both expired, and a mere three days after I got insurance for the first time since I left Tucson six years previously.  I had put it off long enough!

It was a beautiful day so I was driving with the top down, really enjoying life.  Things were finally going well – the writing was better than I’d ever have expected, I was enjoying my life more than I had in a very long time and I was just plain old happy.  I knew I was on the right path and it felt great to be on that path.

And then a young driver in a red pickup truck changed it all.  He hit the back of my car twice and I hit the truck in front of me once.  Those three bonks have changed my life, probably forever.  I have since had what appears to be seizures.  I can no longer drive (doctor’s orders), at least for now.  The end of next month I will be going for a sleep deprived EEG (no sleep at all the previous night with testing early that morning; the idea is to stress the brain to see if it will produce seizures.  I absolutely, positively dread this test since the plain EEG was so difficult for me.).  If I have seizures, I will be diagnosed as having epilepsy.  (Which reminds me – I didn’t take my anti-seizure medicine yet…okay, done!).  If I have epilepsy, I will not be able to drive a minimum of six months.

One of the beautiful Ferguson sunsets.

One of the beautiful Ferguson sunsets.

So now I’m looking at the next part of my journey.  Not being able to drive pretty much makes living here an impossibility.  Plus the intense solitude, something I longed for, is now starting to feel oppressive in some ways since there are few things I’m still able to do right now.  Both reading and writing the way I had been are impossible.  I’ve looked at potential places to move the RV where I’d be closer to town but none of those would work for various reasons.  I’ve known I needed to consider where my journey would take me next and ended up with two possibilities – Indiana to be around my son and family or back to Tucson to be with friends.

The next stop of this journey with all sorts of crazy stopping off points will be back to Tucson, thus coming full circle.  My son, while assuring me he would love to have me near them, believes like I do that friends would probably be even more important in the moment.  He also knows I never really did want to leave Tucson, certainly not permanently, but did so for a variety of reasons that no longer exist.  It is time for me to go home again.  My six year “vacation” is over.

I fell in love with Tucson much like I fell in love with the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina – I barely entered into the area in both cases and it was truly love at first sight.  I would’ve been happy staying here in the mountains albeit without so much solitude but a young man in a red pickup truck kinda changed all that for me.  I didn’t think I’d ever be ready to leave here and, at this point, I’m still not really ready but I will be in another couple of months when the time comes to actually do this next phase of the journey.  Right now I’m shooting for starting the journey out of here around mid-September.

And so my decision has come to end this blog.  It is up for renewal by the end of this month anyway so the timing is right.  I really debated this since I’ve loved communicating with you in this format.  However, writing has gotten so much more difficult and I really don’t have that much to say right now.  If I change my mind, I will save the whole website so I can bring it back to life once again.

One of my more artistic endeavors of a flower in Ferguson.

One of my more artistic endeavors of a flower in Ferguson.

Thank you so much for your love and support.  I have loved sharing my journey with you.  Hopefully we will remain in touch one way or another after this but if not, I’m so very grateful we have met.

¡Buen viaje!  May God bless you on your journeys!

[Okay, so I realize I can’t really just say goodbye to you at this point since my journey will be continuing.  I just got off the phone with BlueHost, my web hosting peeps, and negotiated a much better price so we will be here for a while longer at this point.  I’m pretty sure it was the right thing to do!  So, journey on!]

A stunning monsoon Tucson sunset. And people wonder why monsoon is my favorite season in Tucson?

A stunning monsoon Tucson sunset. And people wonder why monsoon is my favorite season in Tucson?

© 2016 deborah kauffeld

summertime & the living is….

Yep, it is summer and the living isn’t exactly what I would’ve expected.  But I sit here with some lemonade that I made from all those darned lemons I seem to be accumulating and I’m ready and raring to go!  However, I’m still not quite ready to get there by driving since my wings are still temporarily clipped!

I was standing in my RV kitchen looking out the back window toward the stream.  I noticed a wildflower sticking up above the other plants and grass out there.  I really liked it and have taken its photograph several times including this one.  The flowers are small, less than 3/4 of an inch.

I was standing in my RV kitchen looking out the back window toward the stream. I noticed a wildflower sticking up above the other plants and grass out there. I really liked it and have taken its photograph several times including this one. The flowers are small, less than 3/4 of an inch.

Thanks to the wonderful things many of you mentioned to me about my photography and the very real reality that there is little I’m able to do until we find the right anti-seizure medication (currently on my 4th one), I’ve decided to plunge into photography because it remains one of the few things I can do.  Every day I try to get out and take some photos or, minimally, edit them on my computer.  You’d be surprised by how much there is to photograph here!  I downloaded some updated software programs, took some online classes to better learn how to use them and even decided to add a new lens to my kit so I could take telephoto images.  Given how my credit card got more than a little bloated with this extravagance, it had better be worth it, right?  I’m happy to report that I think it was both in terms of the joy it has given me so far and as well as the images I’ve gotten!  You will be the judge of that when I show you some of my new work.

I'm not sure if this is getting ready to bloom or has already bloomed.  I just liked its "head down" shape and felt compelled to take its photograph.

I’m not sure if this is getting ready to bloom or has already bloomed. I just liked its “head down” shape and felt compelled to take its photograph.

I will say that watching those videos on the new programs I had downloaded and then trying to implement them was more than just a little interesting.  Thankfully I was able to restrain myself from throwing anything at the computer or throwing the computer out the window!  I did a little at a time to keep the frustration manageable and finally did manage to learn what I needed to learn.  Well, mostly.  There’s still something in Photoshop I used to know how to do in the old program but no longer can make work in the updated version.  I still have to figure that one out.

This little girl box turtle was down by the stream.  I assumed she was burying eggs since it is that time of year.  As soon as I got back into the house I saw another one, also a female!

This little girl box turtle was down by the stream. I assumed she was burying eggs since it is that time of year. As soon as I got back into the house I saw another one, also a female!

My new life theme is a version of “Grow where you are planted” which, for me, has become “Shoot where you be!”  The longer I stay here without being able to get out, the more I see how very much there is here to learn about, get to know and photograph.  I’ve found an intimacy with the flora and fauna that has been a surprise with both yielding their secrets to me.  I hope that you can feel that intimacy through the images I’ve captured.  Hopefully through this intimacy you will be able to see their souls.

Enjoy!

One of the flowers I was particularly excited about finally seeing was the rhododendron that are on the other side of the stream.  This photo was take around 30 feet away thanks to my new lens!

One of the flowers I was particularly excited about finally seeing was the rhododendron that are on the other side of the stream. This photo was taken around 30 feet away thanks to my new lens!

 

A rhododendron bud from across the stream.

A rhododendron bud from across the stream.

 

My eye caught the rhododendron flower petals on this rock.   There was just something about it that spoke to me and so I started to shoot it.  Kind of a still life.

My eye caught the rhododendron flower petals on this rock.  There was just something about it that spoke to me and so I started to shoot it. Kind of a still life.

 

I found this guy and his friends eating my tomato plants a few days ago.  After taking his photo I decided to spray him with an all natural substance I was told would work to kill him.  It worked.  However, it also worked at nearly killing my tomato plants.

I found this guy and his friends eating my tomato plants a few days ago. After taking his photo I decided to spray him with an all natural substance I was told would work to kill him. It worked. However, it also worked at nearly killing my tomato plants.

 

I had trimmed my plants after attempting to kill them.  Don't ask.  Not intentional.  Anyway, this little guy was nestled in one of the leaves.  So pretty!

I had trimmed my plants after attempting to kill them. Don’t ask. Not intentional. Anyway, this little guy was nestled in one of the leaves. So pretty!

 

This may be the cardinal that showed up the day my mom was dying.  I waited over two months for birds to come to my feeder and this cardinal was the one to finally break the drought.

This may be the cardinal that showed up the day my mom was dying. I waited over two months for birds to come to my feeder and this cardinal was the one to finally break the drought.

 

Sunflowers - such happy flowers!  I particularly liked this one with its floppy "ear", perhaps because it wasn't perfect and had character.

Sunflowers – such happy flowers! I particularly liked this one with its floppy “ear”, perhaps because it wasn’t perfect and had character.

© 2016 deborah kauffeld

me & my brain

I am finally letting this baby make its way out into the world.  I’ve been working on it for nearly a full month now and I just cannot keep attempting to edit it into perfection.  Even now, after reading it yet   again, I find myself sitting here staring off into space.  Yes, it is that taxing and that much work.  Forgive my imperfections!  As with my last post I’m going to include some photographs just to keep you from getting too bored.  They have all been taken since the accident as it is one of the few things I can manage to do more easily.  They are totally unrelated to the content, or at least I think they are!

 

There have been some who have inquired as to the symptoms I’m dealing with after the concussion.  I’ve struggled with just how much to share.  For now, I’ve chosen to be wild and crazy and share some of my experiences during the last seven weeks.  It is actually helpful to me since it solidifies my experiences by getting them down in writing in one more or less condensed version.

I am writing this not so as to get sympathy from anyone but more for educational reasons.  The reality is that concussions and seizure activity can be very different for different people yet for just about everyone it remains invisible unless the seizures produce convulsions.  This is my version of the experience.

Some kind of veggie.  I've no idea what it is but I thought it was cool!

Some kind of veggie. I’ve no idea what it is but I thought it was cool!

I have not been diagnosed at this time with either epilepsy or having had seizures.  Both will require further tests before that determination can be made.  I’ve already had – and failed! – a regular EEG.  At some point I will need to have a sleep deprived EEG, something I’m not at all looking forward to since it requires staying up the entire night!  The idea, of course, is to stress the brain to see if seizures are manifested during the EEG.  The first EEG I had was difficult enough for me.  Adding sleep deprivation doesn’t sound like fun at all.

I’ve kept notes concerning how I’ve been feeling.  At first I was writing almost daily but how many times can you keep saying the same thing?  So now I write if anything seems different.  Those first days I wrote a lot about the blankness I was feeling, staring off into space more than being alert.  I’ve come to understand that the blankness serves as a shut down mechanism for my brain so it doesn’t overload the circuits while allowing my brain to rest and keeping it from more serious issues like a seizure.  My brain has had too much stimuli at that point and needs to withdraw to protect itself.  Certainly the brain is still processing during those times of blankness but in a very down-regulated manner which means my overall awareness is not as good as it would normally be.

If I sit long enough in front of my tomato plants it is amazing who comes to visit!

If I sit long enough in front of my tomato plants it is amazing who comes to visit!

Speaking of focus, even when I’m at my most alert I still lack focus and constantly have to fight to maintain even that diminished focus, something very evident when I’m driving.  Staring off into space isn’t exactly a good thing while driving.  Perhaps, then, you might understand the issue with driving – it isn’t that I cannot drive and drive “good enough” but rather that it is a tremendous amount of work to keep my brain focused.  My brain quickly tires to the point where it wants and requires a break – staring, blankness, even sleep.  Often when I get to my destination I sit in the car for five minutes before I get out so as to recompose myself by resting.  Because it takes so much energy, my driving is limited to rather short distances and the next day or two are spent recovering.  As an aside, because of the work it takes a brain to manage during the day, I’m often taking two naps a day, each about an hour long!  This from someone who never normally naps.

All stimuli are difficult at this time.  Bright lights (merely being outside in the sun or even under the awning looking out toward brighter light, for instance) are very stressing to my brain.  I cannot ride with the top down on my car.  I have to wear my sunglasses while in the car to keep my eyes protected, something I maintain when going into stores since fluorescent lighting is difficult.  Sound is even more obnoxious since it makes my head feel like it will certainly spin right off at any moment while exploding at the same time.  Kids’ voices, particularly if they are screaming or crying, are horrible for me.  Laughter, kids’ or adults’, can also be difficult.  Not surprisingly, male voices tend to be easier to deal with since they don’t hit those higher notes that bother my ears so much.  As a result of this sound sensitivity I find myself unable to listen to anything other than gentle, soft music and even that has to be kept at a lower volume.  Stevie Wonder’s harmonica playing is not welcome at this time!  I find going into stores with their background music to be sheer torture right now.  If you have never experienced it, it is hard to explain just how torturous sounds can be at this time.  It is more than just the horror of the sound; the brain almost immediately goes into overload and, as a direct result, I find myself unable to control the explosions in my brain which end up manifesting in feelings of frustration as I melt down.  I went to a food store a few days ago where they have relatively loud music playing throughout the store.  I hardly got into the store when I could feel my head reacting to the sounds.  I almost panicked not knowing what to do – should I sit down to rest (but I’d still be in the noxious environment), should I run like hell out the door to my car (what a wasted trip that would’ve been) or hurry as quickly as possible to get what I needed and then get out while running the risk of greatly exacerbating the craziness in my head?  I chose the last one but not without great difficulty to my being.  I got woozy and quite blank as I progressed through the store, my brain clearly looking to shut down to protect itself.  Did I make the right choice?  No clue but I made it home safely with the food I wanted to buy.  It took two days to recover from the exaggerated symptoms.

Evidently I'm going to have a whole series of white petunia shots.  I like the minimalist quality of this one.

Evidently I’m going to have a whole series of white petunia shots. I like the minimalist quality of this one.

Mornings are the most difficult time of the day.  In general I am more sensitive to everything and all my symptoms are increased.  One morning I decided to watch a TV show because there was nothing else I could do.  The background music they used had more treble in it and I actually had to stop watching the show until later in the day when I could better handle the sound.  It made my brain nuts, like fireworks exploding uncontrollably in every direction imaginable!  The only thing that I’ve come up with to explain this hypersensitivity in the morning is that it is taking longer for my brain to wake up and properly process what would be very normal for the average brain.  Perhaps there is a better reason but that’s the only one I’ve got for now!  Another example – this morning when I took my shower the water hitting the shower floor was way too loud for me and I wanted to run out of the shower!  I had to make sure the water hit me rather than the floor which cut down on the intensity of the sound.

I’ve been experiencing a lot of what I call wooziness.  The doctor told me this is vertigo.  Mornings often find me walking as if I’ve been drinking.  I’d never pass a sobriety field test – walk a straight line!  Ha! I’ve learned to be more careful during these times so as not to risk falling.  Today I stopped at the supermarket to get a few things.  When I was waiting for the cashier as he rang up my order I found myself starting to get really woozy and needed to hold on to the counter so I wouldn’t fall over.  It is an odd feeling, almost fun but for the inconvenience and potential danger.  For years I suffered with low blood pressure and the dizziness that goes along with it.  This is nothing like that which is why I do not use the word “dizzy” to describe it.  I never feel like I will pass out as I did when my BP dropped.  Instead, to me it is like some kind of weird warping thing my brain does, as if the stimuli coming in and my experience of it are no longer in synch.  You know when you are watching something on television and the visual of the person speaking and their voice don’t match up?  It’s a bit like that.  It feels to me almost like my brain cannot process things fast enough so there is a gap between my visual experience and my brain’s processing of the stimuli. It is quite bizarre.

You have no idea how many bad shots it takes to get this one but it's all worth it!

You have no idea how many bad shots it takes to get this one but it’s all worth it!

There was another experience I had that was closely related to the above.  It happened when I moved my head to either the left or the right.  Imagine if you will what an old time movie looks like.  It is visually a little choppy since the frames per second were not high enough to produce smooth actions.  Rather than zzzzzzzzz, it was more like z..z..z..z..z..  To a healthy brain it is probably not a big deal since it naturally fills in the blanks and experiences it as smooth enough.  But to a compromised brain those choppy moments are exaggerated.  So when I would turn my head either left or right it was choppy, like an old time movie, rather than smooth.  It was clearly a processing issue.  I experienced it only in the mornings and only for the first three or four weeks.  The feeling was quite disconcerting and very disturbing to me so I would do my best not to turn my head in either direction thus cutting done on the experience.  Then one day I realized I needed to actually force myself to pay attention to the experience if I was to attempt to describe it in any real way.  Once I paid attention and really allowed myself to feel the experience fully, I realized why I did everything I could not to experience it – I hated the feeling.  I’m learning that when I really hate a feeling, like the strobing lights of the EEG or turning my head as I just described or high pitchy sounds, it probably has something to do with my brain being overwhelmed.  Best to give my brain a rest and not push it.

Not surprisingly, I’m getting headaches.  At this point they have not been too bad.  They are certainly aggravating and concerning but since they seem to come and go, they just aren’t all that bad for me.  I’m grateful for this little piece of good news and hope it remains this way while improving to the point of no headaches at all.

WARNING - BUG PORN!!!  Hehe!  Two Japanese beetles doing their thing.

WARNING – BUG PORN!!! Hehe! Two Japanese beetles doing their thing.

One of the things that concerned me the most is the lack of affect I experience.  My emotions feel flat to me.  I’ve always been a passionate person and it is one of the traits I’ve liked the most about myself.  Evidently passion has gone on a walk-about and forgot to take me along!  The only emotion I feel at all seems to be fear.  That I would feel fear makes perfectly good sense since I’m in a very vulnerable position with a brain that isn’t functioning normally.  I guess more correctly stated, my brain is very vulnerable right now.  Thankfully I can fairly easily keep fear at bay by merely changing my focus.  Within moments I completely forget whatever was making me fearful!  Being forgetful has its perks.  Evidently emotions take a great toll on the brain and so not having any is another one of those things that helps keep the brain from getting overwhelmed while compromised.

My memory sucks.  Ugh.  The worst of it is when my memory fades out completely and I’m left with nothing in my head.  Scary in those brief moments.  My word finding ability has been quite spotty.  Way too often I find myself searching for a particular word and not finding it.  Frustrating to say the least.  Part of the memory issue is because I cannot pay a whole lot of attention to things.  I try but fail more than I succeed.  The interesting thing about memory is that it is best laid down in the brain when accompanied with emotions of one kind or another.  Think about that for yourself – what is it that you remember more vividly – the everyday, boring things in your life or the high/low points that are accompanied with emotions?  Thinking about it in this context it becomes obvious why someone with a head injury and flat affect would have difficult with memory also.  Another way of putting it is that the brain is just too tired and in need of healing to do the work involved in memory.

Peaceful late spring afternoon at the stream.

Peaceful late spring afternoon at the stream.

My fingers now twitch.  Not horribly and mostly not visibly but it can be obvious if you are watching my hands.  When I hold my iPhone sometimes I need to hold it with both hands to keep it from flying out of my hand when the twitch comes.  Flying iPhones are not a good thing; they have a tendency to crash land!  This is also an issue when I try to handwrite anything, as I do in the mornings when I’ve attempted to resume my writing.  I’ve found I not only have difficulty with staying focused but also the work of trying to keep my hand still enough to write is very taxing on my brain.  I usually find I can only write a paragraph or two before I can no longer continue.  Just prior to the accident I was easily writing 12 or more pages every morning.

When I walk outside I have found I no longer feel part of the environment.  Removed if you will.  It is as if I’m no longer able to actually feel what’s around me.  It’s a very odd feeling yet, at least on one level, a bit comforting in its feeling of safety.  Things don’t effect me since I’m no longer in touch with them but life sure does become a whole lot more boring when it just passes you by like that.

Bee and flower

Bee and flower

Some might say that obviously I’m still quite capable of writing but I’m very aware of the differences I both experience internally and see in my writing.  As I sit and edit this post I see errors all over.  Some I correct and others I leave.  Cohesiveness is extremely difficult to manage.  Achieving it is something I just don’t seem to worry about right now since it feels like far too much work to get there at this point.  I have to be very careful not to say the same thing more than once or refer to something I thought I already wrote but didn’t!  It is just too easy to forget!

The writing I long to do and seem incapable of for now occurs when I go to what I call my “deep place”, a place of quiet solitude within myself that is very different from when I write something more simple like I’m doing (or trying to do!) now.  It is from this deeper place that I find I have written the things that mean the most to me, all dealing with the spiritual life.  After mom died in January I found myself not long afterwards beginning to get back to this type of writing.  I’ve done it in the past but with mom’s ever increasing needs prior to her passing I found it very difficult for me to maintain the kind of focus it required since I was always getting a phone call from the facility or from mom herself.  For over two and a half months I wrote pretty much daily after her death, every morning until the accident.  Within that time I hand wrote well over five hundred pages!  The words were flowing, a gusher of wonderful thoughts, each one better than the one that proceeded it!  I was able to fully and completely devote myself to this writing.  I was peaceful and happy, even joyful, as a result.  I now find I can no longer write in that manner.  I feel lost and without direction.  You would think that losing a fully functioning brain would be the worst part of this but, no, for me it is the loss of this amazingly special place I found within myself every morning, connecting with the Divine.  I knew the material I was writing about was capable of changing people’s lives since it was changing my own.  I hope and pray that I can get back to this work and get back to it soon.  I believe this is my legacy and the culmination of a lifetime of work in the fields of spirituality and psychology.  I’m hoping that even if I cannot get back to the writing part soon at least I’ll be able to start transcribing it from my handwritten journals into the computer so as to keep myself enveloped in this beautiful work and energy.  For now, reading my own handwriting has proven more than my brain can handle without going into overload.

This started out as a clover flower but something changed as we met on the computer.

This started out as a clover flower but something changed as we met on the computer.

This is ending up becoming a much longer treatise that I had expected.  It has taken me a few days to get this written and will probably take at least another day or two to edit it (in reality it has been nearly three weeks of editing!).  If you’re really observant you will see the issues I’m having with writing even after my corrections.  There were times when I left a space for the word I couldn’t find and was later either able to fill the space or find another word entirely.

Now that I’ve written this and started the editing process I’ve become extremely aware of the differences in my writing.  Oh boy.  Not at all good to see but now that I’ve written this I’ll have a baseline from which I can later compare as I improve.  And that’s what I say when I’m feeling optimistic.   When not so optimistic I fear deeply that my life as I knew it up until the accident is forever over.  Seeing the neurologist’s face, as he told me my EEG results, in my mind’s eye helps to support that fear.  I worry I’ll be losing my independence and will no longer be able to travel on my own.  I try not to go there too often since it is of no help to me whatsoever.  Still, I do end up there on occasion.

Blue wildflower

Blue wildflower

I am in the process of trying out my third anti-seizure medication.  In fact it is time to go take another dose right now.  There are even hurdles to face with this medicine since it is not in my insurance plan’s formulary and may not be covered as a result.  Apparently the neurologist’s office will attempt to work with the insurance company explaining to them why I need this particular medicine.  That is, if it works.

Flowers from my basil plant.  Yeah, I know I shouldn't let it go to flower but I was so curious to see what kind of flower it would have!

Flowers from my cilantro plant. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t let it go to flower but I was so curious to see what kind of flower it would have!  They are really quite small and very dainty.

So that’s about it for now.  Time to wrap this thing up but I’ve got no pithy ending and I don’t feel like looking for one in the moment!  My brain is tired and needs a break.  Thanks for reading.

[Just a note on the editing process – it is taking me so much longer than usual since I am finding myself unable to read through this all the way through!  Then I forget where I was when I stopped and start from the beginning again only to not make it through yet again!  So please forgive any errors that might be remaining since my editing skills aren’t so great in the moment!]

Cilantro flowers.  Really small, really pretty.

This image was taken before the car accident as the dogwood was blooming.  However, I processed it just yesterday.  So it kinda qualifies!

© 2016 deborah kauffeld

changes

I am writing this post to serve two purposes – first to update you on how I am doing and second to share spring with you!  All of these photos have been taken here in the campground.  The beauty that surrounds me is astonishing and very healing.

It has been nearly 7 weeks since the car accident.  I’d like to tell you that everything is better but I’d be lying.  For the most part the various pains in my body are gone although my neck/shoulder/upper back area can still be problematical for me especially when I’m trying to work on the computer.  It just depends on the day.  My brain, however, has seen little improvement so far.

 

The clearing in the campground is home to a number of wildflowers that attract a variety of butterflies.

The clearing in the campground is home to a number of wildflowers that attract a variety of butterflies.

 

Isn't he beautiful?

Isn’t he beautiful?

Just over a week ago I had an EEG done to determine what was going on in there!  The test is considered non-invasive and normally not much of an issue for the average person.  For those who’ve not had one done, they hooked up 23 electrodes on my scalp to do readings of the various brain waves.  The test began with my sitting there, eyes open and quiet, no doubt a baseline reading.  A while later I was asked to close my eyes for, I assume, another baseline reading.  Eventually, while keeping my eyes closed, a strobe light begins intermittent strobing, on for about maybe 5-10 seconds, then off, then on again, etc.  Each time the light comes on it strobes faster than previously until it gets to the point where it strobes so quickly that it is as if it is on the whole time.  I believe this is to stress the brain to determine how it will respond.  I could hardly handle it.  It was completely maddening and I wanted to scream out for her to stop torturing me.  I asked her later if that was a typical reaction and she told me some people actually enjoy it!  It was at that moment that I knew this wasn’t going to go well.

 

The pyracantha flowers attracted a huge number of bees!

The pyracantha flowers attracted a huge number of bees!

 

This is one of the flowers I planted in my four half barrels.

This is one of the flowers I planted in my four half barrels.

When the doctor came in later to give me the results it was obvious that he was bringing bad news since it was supposed to be the Physician’s Assistant who was to be giving me the information.  Given the look on the neurologist’s face it was abundantly clear that this was not going to be good news.

Wild blackberry flowers.

Wild blackberry flowers.

 

A blackberry flower with a friend!

A blackberry flower with a friend!

 

Yeah, I know - more blackberry flowers!

Yeah, I know – more blackberry flowers!  But check out the friend on this plant!

To make a much longer story a bit shorter, while I’m clearly still suffering from Post Concussion Syndrome and all the lovely symptoms I get from that, evidently my brain was rather severely traumatized from the accident and was throwing a bunch of waves that aren’t supposed to be there.  I was given medicine to hopefully keep this from becoming any worse.  Unfortunately I’m having an allergic reaction to the medicine so I don’t know what comes next.  I’m waiting to get a call back from the neurologist.

Buttercups!

Buttercups!

 

Clover flowers.

Clover flowers.

In the meantime, I am nearly unable to drive at this point.  There are a few days when the fog clears enough for me to go to the food store but I am driving less than twice a week for the most part.  I am also unable to read for any length of time, cannot sit and work at the computer (in fact, I can hardly do anything at all that would stress my brain, including just standing outside in the sun), cannot talk for any length of time, have great difficulty with noise and so on.  If I do any of those things for too long I start to get all sorts of symptoms – headaches, increased fog, confusion, vertigo and others I’m not thinking of in the moment.  My memory is quite faulty and words escape me.  It is rather impossible to remember much of anything when you aren’t really aware enough to experience it cognitively.

I love these pretty little wildflowers that are all over the campground.

I love these pretty little wildflowers that are all over the campground.

So why am I telling you all this in such detail?  Well, to tell you that I’m seriously considering selling the RV and moving closer to my son and daughter-in-law into an apartment.  As a result there is hardly any reason to maintain this blog since I won’t be traveling.  Besides that, I’m thinking I cannot exactly afford the money to renew it for another year.  I will update you on this but it is very likely that come August or so I will probably close the whole thing down.

Another view of the same flowers.

When I first looked at these flowers I thought they had some kind of black marks on them…and then I realized that’s how they were supposed to be!  Duh.

In the meantime I have managed to get a few shots of spring.  To me, spring is all about new beginnings and so, while not seemingly connected to this post, I decided to include them anyway.  As I’ve been editing this post it occurs to me that somehow the juxtapositioning of these two disparate subjects might seem a bit off to some but it is a wonderful example of how my brain now seems to be working.  Things that are in no way connected seem to somehow come together in my brain now.  You should hear some of the mistakes I make when I talk!  Often I end up with a sentence, if you can call it that, composed of two totally different parts and completely unrelated.  I have spent a HUGE amount of time attempting to edit this post.  If there are errors I know you will forgive me for them.  I’m just hoping for it to make enough sense!  I think I’ve got that covered at least!

Some kind of veggie with yet another friend on board.

Some kind of veggie with yet another friend on board.

It is my intention to keep you up to date up until the time when I have to renew my website.  At something like $120 per year I really cannot afford it right now.  I’ve really enjoyed communicating with you like this and will miss all of you.  I am open to things changing as I hopefully improve so know that nothing is cast in stone!

A marigold from my planter.

A marigold from my planter.

Blessings to each and every one of you!

Blackberry flowers.

Blackberry flowers.

© 2016 deborah kauffeld

…and just like that – KABOOM!!!

It was the fourth of April, a beautiful spring day, and I decided to take a ride to town to finally go to the Division of Motor Vehicles to get my driver’s license and then register my car.  I had three days to spare before my registration from Florida expired so time was of the essence.

Top down, visor on, enjoying the day when all of a sudden…

The white Ford 150 in front of me stopped for a left hand turn into a parking lot.  I stopped behind him with plenty of room to spare.  The guy behind me in a red Toyota pick-up failed to slow down and slammed into me – TWICE – at 30 MPH, pushing me into the truck in front of me.  I immediately knew that it wasn’t a good thing for my car but was less sure about myself since there were no obvious issues.  Yeah, I was sore but nothing broken.

No damage at all to the truck in front of me, thankfully.

No damage at all to the truck in front of me, thankfully.  It is hard to see the ball hitch since it is hidden in the shadow.  

 

It doesn't look all that bad from behind, does it?

It doesn’t look all that bad from behind, does it?  The bumper, bumper cover, back-up sensors and trunk lid had to be replaced along with a bunch of hidden parts.  

 

So sad!  That ball hitch sure caused a whole lot of damage.

So sad! That ball hitch sure caused a whole lot of damage.

 

And  you should've seen the other guy!  Totally most likely.

You should’ve seen the other guy! Totaled most likely.

An officer was there immediately to ask me if I was okay and then asked me to drive into the parking lot, the same one the man in front of me was heading for when this whole thing started.  It turned out that the officer actually witnessed the whole accident and even videoed it, something I figured would clearly be in my favor. Unfortunately the truck in front had one of those ball hitches on the back of his truck which impaled my poor little car, effectively killing the front bumper, grill, radiator and a bunch of associated parts.  Thankfully, the air bags didn’t deploy.  The officer told me my car was not drivable.  A little while later my car was yet again on the back of a flat bed tow truck, the third time since moving to North Carolina.

Maybe my car is just lazy and likes to be driven around!

Maybe my car is just lazy and likes to be driven around!  She’s a DIVA CAR!!!  Note that the top is still down!

Three days after the accident I realized I wasn’t really okay and went to the ER where I was diagnosed as having blunt force trauma to the abdomen as well as post concussion syndrome (PCS), the diagnosis given after one has had a concussion and the symptoms haven’t abated within 72 hours.

It is now five weeks since the accident.  I have been to my primary care physician twice as well as a neurologist.  The neurologist confirmed my PCS diagnosis, added vertigo to the mix and has set me up for an EEG this week.  Hopefully there’s something left in there for them to measure!

I have all sorts of cognitive symptoms at this point.  I’m not going to elaborate since I don’t want anything taken out of context.  I’m not happy that I still have symptoms and I hope they go away.  The neurologist is hopeful but acknowledged that there is also a chance that there will be no improvement.  Bottom line is there is no way of knowing now.

At this point I’d say I’m about 60-75% optimistic that I’ll be good enough in a while, potentially a while longer than I’d like.  But then there’s that other 25-40% of the time when I’m overtired or have just overdone it in some manner or just plain frustrated.  It’s those moments when I feel like my life has been taken out of my hands and I’ll never get back to where I was the morning of April 4th, prior to the accident.  I fear I may not get better and the issues I’m now having will interfere with the writing I had been doing every morning before the concussion.  I keep expecting the symptoms to ease up.  So far they haven’t.

I waited to write this post, hoping I’d have some kind of better news to share but it has already been too long without my sharing so here I am.  For the most part I’ve done okay enough with my mood.  At first I was sure I was more or less okay until the symptoms started to ramp up in intensity.  The day I went to the ER my whole front right side was so sore I could barely move.  The seatbelt, while doing its job, must have dug into my right side and caused some real muscular contusions.  The adrenaline that kept me going right after the accident has now been replaced with something else.  I’m terribly disappointed that I hardly got myself back on track after mom’s passing when I find myself derailed again.  As I said before, I’m also scared.

Like you've never seen this view before (from my RV window) but you've not seen it in spring yet!  You can see one of the four barrels I planted with flowers, herbs and tomato plants.

Like you’ve never seen this view before (from my RV window) but you’ve not seen it in spring yet! You can see one of the four barrels I planted with flowers, herbs and tomato plants.  Things sure did get green!

I have managed to get some photos of spring.  It really has been beautiful but more of that in my next post.  I will say that each of the seasons I’ve experienced so far (fall, winter and spring) have been extraordinarily different.  Surprisingly, my favorite season at this point has been winter.  Why is that a surprise?  Winter was always my least favorite season.  Spring was my second favorite season but it has been booted to third place with autumn now coming in second.  I suspect that summer will remain in last place since I’m not really a fan of the heat.  Things really can change.

Home again!  All fixed good as new.  Well, almost!

Home again! All fixed good as new. Well, almost!

I’ve gotten my car back after over three weeks spent at the body shop and nearly $7000 worth of repairs.  I suppose one good thing to come out of it is finding that the guys there were surprised to see how well my car held up in the accident, calling it “over engineered” (referring to what they told me was more of a truck bumper as opposed to a normal car bumper) and a “brick sh*t house”!  Thankfully the other insurance company already accepted liability.  I neglected to mention that the guy who hit me was cited for failing to slow down.  My “repairs” (doctor bills) are not initially covered by the other insurance company so everything is out of pocket for now after my insurance pays their share.  I’ve already received bills that I have no way of paying right now.  I receive no money for them until a final settlement is reached and who knows when that will be.

Okay, funny stuff – my car has been on the back of a tow truck three times, my car has spent seven weeks away from home being repaired in one way or another (spending time at one dealer and two body shops), I have now had a total of six different vehicles in my driveway (my car, four rentals and my original RV) and my car’s rear bumper and backup sensors were replaced less than a month prior to having to get them replaced all over again…all since I moved here!  I’m starting to think my car believes that getting repaired is vacation time!

Well, I guess that’s about it for now.  Hopefully I’ll be back soon but if not, at least now you know why I’ve been missing!

[A week has passed since I originally wrote this post and I am very slightly better.  Still not close to normal but at this point movement in a positive direction is better than none at all!]

© 2016 deborah kauffeld

one year

On February 26, 2015 Picasso and I did something totally crazy – we moved into an RV to live in full-time.  It’s been a whole year since!  Happy anniversary to us both!

 

Moving out of our apartment.

Moving out of our apartment.

 

Empty!

Empty!

So much has happened in the one year since I’ve been living on wheels.  Notice I didn’t say “on the road” since that wouldn’t be exactly correct!  Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to review some of the things I’ve learned this last year.

 

It is hard to appreciate the difference in size between the two RV's in this photo but there is no comparison!

It is hard to appreciate the difference in size between the two RV’s in this photo but there is no comparison!

 

There is a huge difference between a Class C RV (what I started out with) and a fifth wheel (my current abode).  Now that I’m in the fifth wheel I can hardly believe I was thinking I could live in the much smaller Class C and be happy.  Let’s put it this way – I could NEVER go back!  Of course that brings up another issue – I’m no longer mobile, at least not without someone’s help.  That’s kind of a mixed blessing I suppose.

 

My first view of the Blue Ridge Mountains as I sighed, "I'm home!"  Little did I know how right I was when I said that!

My first view of the Blue Ridge Mountains as I sighed, “I’m home!” Little did I know how right I was when I said that!

 

The first photo I took of our home in NC.

The first photo I took of our home in NC.

 

RV number 1 in NC!

RV number 1 in NC!

 

While I cannot pull a fifth wheel with my little, itty, bitty Fiat I realize that this is actually okay.  Turns out I never realized just how little stress I can handle these days and driving a behemoth is more than just a little stressful as is moving every few weeks.  Now for some of you that wouldn’t be an issue but I have learned that I’m much better not having that extra stress on me.  Am I disappointed?  Well, yes and no I suppose.  The plan certainly was to move every month or so and find a new place to explore.  I also expected to be able to travel easily across the country, seeing places I’ve never seen as well as visiting friends from places I’ve spent a whole lot of time in.  While I wish sometimes that was still the case, for the most part I’m really good with it not happening since it really did take a huge toll on me.  It wasn’t until I started to push myself that I started to more easily see my limits.  That’s a good thing since it allows me to take better care of me!

 

The first time towing my Fiat.

The first time towing my Fiat.

 

The second time towing my car.

The second time towing my car.

 

On the other hand, how the hell did I end up in North Carolina?  I have to admit to marveling at that!  I was just on my way up to visit my family for a month when my car broke down and left me with way too much time to fall in love with these Appalachian mountains and the people who inhabit those mountains.  I knew I wanted to consider living here over the summer but I honestly expected to be heading back to Florida for the winters.  Living here full-time was not something I was even considering, especially in an RV.  They aren’t exactly known for their insulation!

 

Sitting in the fog!  It didn't occur to me how often we'd end up with fog here but with the stream in back I guess I shouldn't have been surprised.

Sitting in the fog! It didn’t occur to me how often we’d end up with fog here but with the stream in back I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

 

Winter is officially 2/3’s over and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to have wintered here.  Has it gotten cold?  Yep, but it has also been really beautiful, too.  It’s also been far more expensive to winter here than I ever would’ve expected.  Between the things I needed to winterize the RV, me and Picasso I spent a small fortune.  Remember, I had NOTHING in the way of things of warmth and had to buy just about everything!  My first month’s bill for propane alone was nearly $500!  That included the tank rental, installation and propane as well as some other charges.  Not in my budget, that’s for sure!

But living here for the winter gave me something far more unexpected.  Mom had an exacerbation of her COPD just after this past Christmas and died not even a month after that.  Living here has given me a place to cocoon as I heal and mend and just get my energy back.  On nice days we go out and walk around the RV park.  On real wintery days we just hang out inside the RV, safe and warm.  I’ve felt extremely cared for in my humble abode.  I’ve been alone in the park for the most part although there is someone here now but I’ve not even met him yet so I can remain as unsocial as I would like at this point.  Jim the owner of the park either comes down to check on me every so often or emails me.  My journey hasn’t been easy and this has given me a place to unwind it all in safety.  I’m content and perhaps that’s one of my biggest surprises – being content while doing so little!

 

This is a photo from my friend Juan in Costa Rica.  I feel as content and peaceful as this photo!

This is a photo taken by my friend Juan in Costa Rica. I feel as content and peaceful as this photo!

 

I’ve also learned that I’m not a friend of stink bugs.  Those little buggers continue to make their way into my RV on a very routine basis but I’m happy to say that so far I’ve not had a run in with their stinky side!

In the short time I’ve already been here in NC I’ve come to realize just how very much I’ve come to miss having four distinct seasons.  Tucson, Costa Rica and Florida are not known for their seasons.  It’s been nearly 20 years since the last time I experienced them.  Winter, my least favorite season while living in NJ, has come to be a good friend down here, particularly since this was not a terribly cold winter I suppose.  When I lived in Tucson I remember going to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in Scottsdale.  Of all the things I saw and learned there the one that has stuck with me the most was how he believed when you entered a home it should be more compressed (lower ceiling, smaller room).  Then, as you enter the living area of the home it should suddenly open up (higher ceiling and more expansive overall).  By doing so, one’s energy is compressed then allowed to sort of explode into the main living area, sort of like going through a tunnel into an exceptionally beautiful. open area.  It is all about the contrast.  This is what winter is like to me.  It is a compressing season which then opens up into spring and the new life one experiences in that season.  I remember how much I’ve loved spring and cannot wait to experience it again!  I’m pretty sure I’ve picked a truly beautiful place to experience that explosion into life!

 

I've shared this photo of my son Kris and mom before but I wanted to do so again here.  It was taken a week prior to her death.

I’ve shared this photo of my son Kris and mom before but I wanted to do so again here. It was taken a week prior to her death.

 

The timing of this is not lost on me either!  Mom passed right in the middle of winter.  I naturally have pulled inward as both the situation and season would dictate and I feel certain that when spring approaches I’ll be ready to expand into the beauty of the season and back into life.

I’ve been thrilled that you have been with me this year.  It hasn’t been a easy one in so many ways and I don’t know how I would’ve made it through without all the support I’ve gotten.  Thank you so much and now on to year two!

© 2016 deborah kauffeld

a winter wonderland

It started as snow.  Not much, just enough to whiten everything up a bit.  The day prior to the storm the robins showed up, just as they did prior to the last storm, gathering provisions.  But unlike the last storm, this one turned into sleet and freezing rain overnight.  The electricity went off and on four times overnight, each time waking me up when the printer screamed “beep beep”.  When I woke up this morning I was rather bleary eyed from a lack of quality sleep…and then I opened the blind to see the most magnificent sight, a true winter wonderland.  All signs of tiredness immediately disappeared as I threw on clothes, grabbed camera equipment and ran outside.  Okay, the realty is that your intrepid blogger didn’t exactly run anywhere or I would’ve landed on my butt!  Yeah, the steps were really icy!

 

Ice Storm-348

 

But out I went, nonetheless!

The last time it snowed here in North Carolina was the day mom died.  That morning I excitedly told her about the snow.  She was having difficulty breathing at the time and was afraid and anxious, probably due to the lack of oxygen her brain was receiving.  She told me she was going to imagine the photos I had already sent her of the area before the snow and put snow on top of what she remembered so she could share the snow with me.  Hopefully, she told me, that would help to relax her.  I would’ve loved to have been able to tell mom about these shots because I know she would’ve loved them, especially the ones that sparkled.  As I worked with these photos I continually thought of mom and her last day which, naturally brought some tears to my eyes.

Mom, these photos are for you.  I hope you enjoy them!

And I hope you enjoy them, too!

 

Ice Storm-39

 

Ice Storm-89

 

Ice Storm-102

 

Ice Storm-123

 

Ice Storm-135

 

Ice Storm-142

 

Ice Storm-145

 

Ice Storm-157

 

Ice Storm-164

 

Ice Storm-174

 

Ice Storm-210

 

Ice Storm-222

 

Ice Storm-259

 

Ice Storm-290

 

Ice Storm-295

 

Ice Storm-336

 

Ice Storm-13

 

Ice Storm-351

 

© 2016 deborah kauffeld

welcome to our home!

Yesterday was housecleaning day.  Somewhere along the line I realized this was actually the first time I’ve really cleaned.  Yes, I’ve swiped or vacuumed but this was the first front to back, top to bottom cleaning and I’ve been in this RV over two months already!  Yikes!  No wonder I could easily write in the dust!  But then I realized something else – yesterday was the first time I had everything completely in its place and organized since I moved in which is why I never got around to doing the whole photo thing.

There was a trip to Indiana immediately after moving into the RV as well as three trips back and forth to Florida and the time afterwards to recover.  I’m not as young as I used to be!  And then there were all the phone calls starting just after Christmas as mom began her final descent.  Yeah, all that to say that things have been just a little busy around here!  Oh, and I had to find homes for all the things I brought home from mom!  So, no surprise that I’m just getting to this now!

Okay, so having said all that, I owe you, my lovely readers, some photos of the new abode!  So here we go with narratives to go with each photo!  Welcome to our home!  Oh, and you might quickly notice that for me, it’s all about the view!

 

The view of the sofa with air mattress as you enter the RV..

The view of the sofa with air mattress as you enter the RV.  Picasso’s treat ball is easily in reach on the couch!  Hanging off of the cabinet handles above the couch and desk are chimes my mom gave to me.  The clapper is actually a piece of crystal and there are five different sized rods inside that make different tones when struck by the clapper.  

 

The front and only door into the RV.  There is a coat closet to the left in the photo with Picasso's rain jacket hanging off of the door knob!

The front and only door into the RV. There is a coat closet to the left in the photo with Picasso’s rain jacket hanging off of the door knob!  The first step down is inside the RV with the others outside the door.  When it is really cold I keep that opening covered to try to keep the draft down a bit.  And then there was the day I opened to door with the covering still on and, for some reason, decided I could step on it!  I could’ve really hurt myself but, thankfully, didn’t!  I doubt that I’d ever do that again!

 

Overview of kitchen.  Lots of counter space for an RV!

Overview of kitchen. Lots of counter space for an RV!

 

Love that I can keep my mixer out on the counter!  Probably the only way I would have brought it on the RV.

Love that I can keep my mixer out on the counter! Probably the only way I would have brought it on the RV.  The jars behind the sink are to grow herbs indoors during the winter months.  I still have hope for two of the three of them but I started them at the wrong time since I ended up spending weeks away from them while in Florida.

 

Knife rack behind the stove.  I have another rack that a hold more knives but I left them in storage and just took what was most important to me.

Knife rack behind the stove. I have another rack that would hold more knives but I left the rest in storage and just took what was most important to me.  The glowy thing on the toaster over is my essential oil diffuser.

 

Christmas in February!  Someone needs to change towels!

Christmas in February! Someone needs to change towels!

 

Picasso's favorite towel.  When he gets excited, usually because I've finally decided to feed him, he yanks the towel off the bar and flings it in gleeful excitement.  Now you know why he has his own towel!

Picasso’s favorite towel. When he gets excited, usually because I’ve finally decided to feed him, he yanks the towel off the bar and flings it in gleeful excitement. Now you know why he has his own towel!

 

My work space at night.

My work space at night.  The chimes are a bit more clear in this photo.

 

My printer on top of my wooden crate bookcase.  The printer is currently doing double duty as a card holder for now!

The printer on top of my wooden crate bookcase. The printer is currently doing double duty as a card holder for now!

 

The ubiquitous stink bug on the blind behind my lamp.  During the warmer days in winter they seem to wake up just to come into my RV.  Hopefully in spring they disappear again.  I'm not a fan.

The ubiquitous stink bug on the blind behind my lamp. During the warmer days of winter they seem to wake up just to come into my RV. Hopefully in spring they disappear again. I’m not a fan.

 

View of the lounge chairs when I'm meditating, praying and writing in the mornings.

View of the lounge chairs when I’m meditating, praying and writing in the mornings.

 

Ready to write in the morning as is my daily custom.

Ready to write in the morning as is my daily custom.  Yes, that’s a fountain pen.  Right now I have five of them each with a different color ink.  I use them exclusively for writing in my journal and love the varying colors.  I’ve more pens but they are still in storage.

 

The morning view as I come down the stairs to start my day.

The morning view as I come down the stairs to start my day.  My grill sits on the picnic table outside.

 

The daytime view from the corner kitchen windows.

The daytime view from the corner kitchen windows.

 

Love washing my dishes with the view I have of the woods and the stream.  What may not be quite visible are all the wild rhodadendrum bushes on the opposite bank of the stream.  I cannot wait for spring when they will all be in bloom!

Love washing my dishes with the view I have of the woods and the stream. What may not be quite visible are all the wild rhododendron bushes on the opposite bank of the stream. I cannot wait for spring when they will all be in bloom!

 

The view out the window when I'm watching TV!

The view out the window when I’m watching TV or reading!

 

IMG_3722

The view on either side of my computer. The desk was originally placed against the short wall on the left, at a ninety degree angle from its current position. I decided to move it so that the desk chair was sitting mostly on the floor of the main floor of the RV as opposed to the slide out floor. Just felt better somehow, more secure.

 

View downstairs as I get ready for bed.

View downstairs as I get ready for bed.

 

My bed!

My bed!

 

Opposite the foot of my bed on the right side are the bureau and bathroom sink.  Note the gold practitioner crystal singing bowl with mom's panda bear hugging it!

Opposite the foot of my bed on the right side are the bureau and bathroom sink. Note the gold practitioner crystal singing bowl with mom’s panda bear hugging it!

 

On the left side you can see the TV as well as some of the things I keep on the bureau including a ruby/kyanite crystal singing bowl.

On the left side you can see the TV as well as some of the things I keep on the bureau including a ruby/kyanite crystal singing bowl.

 

Picasso's bed!

Picasso’s bed with his “sweater” (really made of fleece) for when it gets cold and treats!  Always nice to get a bedtime treat!

 

To the left of the head of the bed is my corner shower.  I believe they call this a "garden tub".  I would call it a foot bath at best!  As a shower, it works quite well especially for an RV!

To the left of the head of the bed is my corner shower. I believe they call this a “garden tub”. I would call it a foot bath at best! As a shower, it works quite well especially for an RV!  That’s my robe hanging off of the wardrobe.  The wardrobe is used for storage, not clothes, otherwise the robe might’ve found a home inside rather than hanging like it does but it works for me!

 

My small little toilet room!  On the back of the door you can see the shoe rack thingy I now use for a variety of other things, overflow that doest' easily fit anywhere else!

My small little toilet room! On the back of the door you can see the shoe rack thingy I now use for a variety of other things, overflow that doesn’t easily fit anywhere else!

Well, that’s the grand tour!  I’m so glad you finally got to visit!  Now I have to admit, I’m looking at that photo of the toilet and thinking that’s a rather strange place to end this post, visually speaking!  Oh, well!

 

© 2016 deborah kauffeld

ten days

As I write this it has been ten days since my mother’s death.  Time behaves oddly after something like this.  At two days I couldn’t believe it was only two days and now at ten days it seems like it has been much less than that.  I cannot say it was unexpected since she was suffering from both COPD and congestive heart failure but in the end, it went very fast.  Just before New Year’s Day she was admitted to the hospital with an exacerbation of the COPD.  She was unable to breathe and the facility was not able to bring her back to any kind of comfort level so off she went.  While she was a DNR (do not resuscitate or re-sue-citate as she called it that day), that didn’t mean they wouldn’t embark on whatever other treatments they might deem necessary to help her.  They put her on a Bi-PAP machine, similar to the CPAP used for sleep apnea.  The difference is the CPAP is pressurized in just one direction (breathing in) while the Bi-PAP is pressurized in both directions (breathing in; breathing out).  I’m told that the treatment is quite intense and difficult for anybody but particularly so for an elderly person.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be there since I was in North Carolina at the time.  What I was aware of two main things in mom while she was in the hospital – an incredible amount of confusion as well as a lot of chest discomfort and pain.  The nurse assured me that the chest discomfort wasn’t a heart issue but rather from the treatment she received in the ER.  I guess that makes sense if you understand that she was unable to take a breath either in or out and this machine forced that to happen.  That would have to hurt.

It was at that time that I decided it would be more merciful to not have her undergo that treatment again and began to explore the option of hospice.  From what I understood, hospice would be able to keep her far more comfortable, using morphine to help ease her breathing and Xanax to manage the anxiety that is so ubiquitous to COPD.  Hospice was implemented prior to her return to the nursing home.  By consenting to hospice I knew she would not go back to the emergency room but, instead, would have the opportunity to hopefully die with dignity and grace whenever that time would come.  Admittedly, this was not an easy decision to have made especially without support.  I just knew she didn’t want to go through what she had in the emergency room and ICU again.  Nor did I.  There had to be a better way and hospice gave us that option.

After returning to the nursing home, mom questioned me several times about why they didn’t let her die in the hospital.  She was clear that she no longer wished to live this life as it was now presented to her.  My brothers made arrangements to visit with her.  I arrived in Florida the day they were leaving, our paths paralleling each other rather than crossing so we did not see each other.  The day before I arrived she evidently had new issue.  This time her blood pressure dropped to something like 70/30, a level that caused no small amount of concern to the nursing staff with one nurse calling me to confirm my decision not to send mom to the ER if it got worse. Again, that’s a very hard thing to affirm although I did.  The finality of that statement hung over me, making me question my original decision to go forth into hospice.  I stuck with hospice knowing that was what she wanted as well as the right thing to do overall.  There were some who told me that with my brothers’ presence she totally overdid it and felt this drop in blood pressure was the result.  I’m sure mom’s tiredness was not quite as visible as it would be to me since she was so excited to see the two of them.  Her excitement would overcome her tiredness, at least while they were there.  After they left for the day she was exhausted and fell into a deep sleep.  It had been years (two and three years) since she had seen either of them.  I was concerned since I was the one to see the tiredness between their visits on the three days they were there.  I kept trying to tell her to bring it down a few levels since she was so tired but she wouldn’t listen since she was happy to finally see the two of them.

When I saw her that Tuesday evening after my arrival I have to admit to being shook to my core.  She looked awful and sounded a whole lot worse.  Her speech was slurred and she was more confused than I had ever seen or heard before.  Mom had no idea if it was day or night even though it was obviously sunny outside.  If it was really 3:30 in the afternoon, she told me, why was she still in bed?  She kept telling me, “I’m so confoosed” which was how she pronounced it.  I actually videoed our conversation since I was sure no one would believe how she sounded and was acting.  I feared the mom I knew not that long ago was gone forever.

Picasso didn't care how mom sounded, he loved her nonetheless and unconditionally.  She always said it was Picasso who taught her how to laugh again!

Picasso didn’t care how mom sounded, he loved her nonetheless and unconditionally. She always said it was Picasso who taught her how to laugh again!

That night I spoke with a friend, telling him I knew she was still terrified of death, something I had been trying to help her overcome.  Now with death pounding at the door something had to be done to help her, but what?  I knew words wouldn’t work since her mind, even if confused, would find a way to block my words and defend against them as has always been the case.  I told him how I wished I had some of my crystal singing bowls to play for her knowing how well they worked with her in the past, going right past her cognitive objections and defenses and directly to her heart and soul.  We went back and forth with various ideas when I remembered I knew someone, William, who played the crystal bowls as a Divine offering to others, even working with hospice patients in the past.  I called him that night and he returned the call the following morning.  William was available that very evening.  The timing was perfect.  Of course!

Mom was excited about having the bowl concert but forgot all about it almost immediately after I told her.  We were allowed to use the conference room since it would not be occupied at that hour.  Using the conference room and particularly the large conference table allowed William the room he needed to spread out all his sound therapy instruments.  It also gave us privacy.  Mom had again been in bed all day until 4 PM when they got her into her wheelchair as I had requested earlier that day.  Even though I told her about the concert just moments before, when we arrived in the conference room mom was convinced we were there for a conference for her, one that already happened the day before, immediately after I arrived in Florida.  I reminded her why we were there.  When she and William first saw each other it was love at first sight!  The two of them fell into a state of love that would have to be experienced to be understood.  Their two souls met and recognized each other instantly.  Oh, the love!  It transcended everything.  There are no words adequate to describe their experience nor mine as I watched.  It was love personified.

Just after William and mom first met.

Just after William and mom first met.

William and mom prior to the concert.

William and mom prior to the concert.

A conference table full of singing bowls and other sound therapy tools.

A conference table full of singing bowls and other sound therapy tools.

William walked over to her, hugged her and held her hands for what seemed like a very long time.  Finally he began to play the bowls and mom was immediately transported into another world.  Her face, previously contorted with pain and confusion, now showed what could best be described as ecstasy.  The sounds of the bowls brought her into what she said was heaven.  For the first time in her life she told me she was no longer afraid of dying.  Mom told William how very long I had been working to help her get to this place and now she was finally here.  Her gratitude for both William and me was deep and obvious.  It was a very touching moment for me knowing all the work I had been doing finally reached its culmination.  On top of that, mom was suddenly coherent again.

Mom during the concert.

Mom during the concert while I prayed for her.

William and mom hugging it out after the bowl concert.  Mom was so deeply grateful!

William and mom hugging it out after the bowl concert. Mom was so deeply grateful!

Upon reaching her room afterwards it was amazing to see how quickly she went back to complaining about how she was feeling.  No longer in the spiritual realm, she went back into the physical which wasn’t feeling all that well. It almost seemed that she had been stockpiling those complaints which went unexpressed during the concert and now could not hold them back a moment longer.  I feared the work done by William might have evaporated just like that!  It was such a contrast from just a few moments ago.  My heart nearly broke.

I needn’t have worried.  The next day she was in much better spirits.  She was happy, joyful and in full control of her thoughts.  Later that afternoon, my son Kris arrived for a visit with her.  He later told me he couldn’t believe she could possibly be that sick even though he knew on another level that she was.  The intervention with the bowls clearly brought her to a very different place than she had been.  I’d not seen her this well for quite some time.  Of course seeing Kris also helped but the reality was that she wasn’t tiring out from our visits which was quite different.

Kris and his grandmother.  Only a week after this photo was taken she'd be gone.

Kris and his grandmother. Only a week after this photo was taken she’d be gone and you would never know it to look at her!

That Friday evening after Kris and I spent the day helping mom decide who would get what from her crystal collection, Kris and I went out to dinner.  For three hours I told him about mom (at his behest) and what her life was like growing up and her experiences as an adult.  Once learning just how difficult her life had been he experienced a new found respect for her.  Up until this point they never really had a strong relationship but now it changed for him.  The following morning, prior to his departure for home, he told her multiple times that he loved her, something he never remembered doing in the past.

Sunday morning came and it was time for me to start the journey back home to North Carolina after my visit with mom.  The week had been well beyond anything I could’ve imagined.  There was a closeness between mom and me that went beyond words.  We also both knew this would be our last time seeing each other in this life.

I planned on being there for only about an hour or so but it ended up being over four hours before I could leave.  When I arrived it was clear that mom’s body was not able to maintain that higher level of energy from the bowl concert and showed signs of deterioration, as I fully expected.  She was also frightened again.  I was leaving her and she expressed her disappointment that she hadn’t died while I was there, something we both hoped might have happened.  With all the journeys we shared together, if felt right to both of us that we would share this, her last journey.  It was obvious that she was afraid to die without me being present.  She wanted my support.  During those four hours I looked to calm her and support her again.  Once I saw improvement, I left.  Since we both knew that we would never see each other again my departure felt so much more difficult but everything that needed to be said and everything that needed to be done was taken care of.  I left feeling peace in my heart.  I felt sadness, too, but the peace really was the prevailing emotion.  No matter what, I knew everything would be okay for both of us.

Before I even drove out of the parking lot of the nursing home she called me on the phone.  The first leg of my journey was about 4.5 hours and we talked for probably 3.5 of those hours on the phone stopping only so she could eat dinner.  She needed that contact from me and perhaps I needed it from her, too.  We shared stories from our journeys together, again expressing disappointment that this final journey we would not do together.  At one point I shared a story about her on our trip to Mt. Shasta, California.  I made her laugh so hard that she started coughing and couldn’t breathe!  I felt bad that I made her cough that badly but, on the other hand, hearing her laugh that hard and probably for the last time in her life, felt good.  It was the last time I’d ever hear her laugh.

The following day, Sunday, she really started her downward descent.  It was clear that things were different.  We spent practically no time on the phone that day since she couldn’t maintain enough energy to do so.  For the next few days she required morphine more often (used to help with her breathing) and more Xanax (to control the anxiety from not being able to breathe normally).  When I was there she was having great difficulty swallowing her food or drink and would constantly spit it back up, a well known issue with those with COPD.  Very little food or liquid actually made it into her stomach.  Now, even though she was going downhill in most other areas, eating and drinking actually became a little easier.

By Thursday she found herself pretty much unable to stay awake the whole day.  In spite of that, she still insisted on going to Bingo twice, her favorite activity, once in the morning and again in the evening.  She slept through the two different sessions she attended but it didn’t matter to her – she still wanted to be there.  Mom loved her bingo!  Her roommate Emma, the first and only roommate mom ever got along with, tried to keep watch over mom but mom was still insistent on doing whatever she wanted to do.  She was like that in life and so now, too, in the dying process.  That night, mom and I were on the phone as was usually the case.  I was in the habit of talking with her no less than three times a day most days so I could assess how she was doing.  Depending on the outcome of those conversations I would then reach out to staff for help since I wasn’t there to do things myself.  In those final days I’d also reached out to Emma, my eyes and ears, for her assessment.  After determinating her physical state what became clear was how she wanted to talk and needed to have contact with me.  As much as I thought we should hang up so she could rest she would not consider it, asking me to please talk longer.  I remember thinking to myself that one never knows when the “last time” might be.  Since something felt quite different about her request, I stayed on considerably longer.  I’m so glad I listened to that quiet voice within since it turned out to be our last real conversation.  She obviously knew on some level what was about to happen.

The following morning, Friday, I called her to find her not doing well at all.  We talked for a little while but it was obvious to me that something was quite different.  She barely responded to what I had to say, remaining caught up in what she was telling me.  It was not what I would call a conversation although she could acknowledge my presence.  I spoke with Emma to see how she thought mom was doing.  Emma told me that it wasn’t good.  I could always trust Emma to tell me the truth about what was happening and not sugar coat it to make it easier on me.  I’m so grateful for her honesty and courage to always speak the truth to me.  William and I were in contact earlier that morning and he told me he planned on visiting with her after lunch.  I told him that mom had declined since the last time he saw her.  By the time he got there, she had declined even further, becoming pretty much non-responsive.

Around 1 PM I made my second phone call to mom.  She was able to pick up the phone but could no longer respond to me.  Emma continued to keep me up to date as did the nursing staff and hospice team but Emma was much more helpful in general with painting a picture for me of what was happening.  She told me that mom had been yelling for me to let her go, something I was praying for her to know just the day before.  After Emma and I spoke I launched into another round of intense prayer for mom to know that I wasn’t holding on to her and that each of her children would be fine.  It was sometime after all that when William arrived at mom’s bedside.

William later told me that he brought his bowls but mom no longer seemed to respond to them at all.  So he sat with her while she mostly yelled the whole time as he looked to comfort her.  She had a litany of yelling that she would do.  The first yelling was for me – Deborah, help me – yelled over and over again.  Eventually she then launched into the same pattern but this time for Eddie, her brother I assume (unless she knew another Eddie I didn’t know about).  This was followed by calling for Mother and finally she called for Mother of Pearl.  I’ve no specific idea what Mother of Pearl was about and have assumed perhaps it was the morphine making her mind a bit more wonky than it already was. Energetically, Mother of Pearl is a very comforting gemstone, exhibiting a mothering type of energy.  Perhaps mom was actually calling for that energy but there is no way of knowing what her seriously addled brain was thinking.  This went on for hours with just a few short breaks.

The nursing staff was concerned for William who was there for over four hours as mom continued in this manner.  Whenever she would fall asleep for just a moment or two she would then wake up screaming how she didn’t want to die yet!  I spoke to Emma several times during this period to make sure Emma was doing okay.  I was worried about her.  After all, she is a patient in rehab, not a staff member.  Her training, however, while not medical was spiritual – her husband is a pastor at a local church.  Between the church and the people I asked to pray though Facebook mom must have had well over two hundred people lifting her up in prayer during this time.  I’m so grateful for their faithfulness.

William left only after a hospice vigil volunteer arrived to relieve him.  He told me he would’ve stayed if no one else showed up to remain at mom’s side or if he wasn’t comfortable with the replacement.  After four hours he was naturally exhausted.  Emma, God bless her, remained in her room the whole time to watch over the process and offer support when needed.  She was mom’s guardian angel, along with William, in human form.

With all the yelling and screaming mom was doing I felt certain that the end would be imminent.  No way her body was going to recuperate from the energy expended by yelling like that.  The last time I spoke with her was sometime after dinner, not that mom was capable of eating.  At that time she was repeating what I think was “Aid, PLEASE!” over and over again.  The “please” part was quite clear and emphatic; I was less sure about the first word.  I joked with her that I didn’t think she could hear me with all that racket she was making.  Briefly she stopped and then resumed again.  This happened three different times.  In talking with Emma, she felt sure mom was responding to my talking with her since she didn’t stop like that other times.  I ended my talk to mom telling her how Picasso and I loved her and we were with her even if not physically.  I said it several times hoping that she would be able to hear it over her noise.  I never spoke to her again.

I got the call that evening around 10:15 PM.  The nurse was hesitant and unsure of how to tell me that my mother had “expired” at 10 PM.  My response was, “Oh, I’m so glad!”  Probably a little unexpected but I quickly added how I was happy mom was no longer suffering.  After we hung up I sat there for moment marking this momentous occasion in my mind before starting to call everyone, saving my west coast friends for later since they’d still be awake.

At 11 PM my phone rang again.  This time it was Emma.  She told me how she wanted to call me sooner but the aides wouldn’t allow her fearing her blood pressure could become problematic.  As soon as the second shift ended she picked up her phone to call me.  Oh, how I love this woman!  In the end, even after all the noise mom was making, her passing was peaceful.  Mom had been asleep for about 15 minutes when Emma heard mom take her last breath.  Emma immediately knew this was it and called the nurses.  In the end, it was just the two of them – Emma and my mom.  I am so grateful it worked out that way.  Emma kept reassuring mom, telling mom not to worry since God loved her.  At some point during the day Mom told Emma she was ready to die but was still afraid of the process itself.  Emma eased her into the transition.

At around 2 AM the man from the crematory came to get mom’s body.  After doing what was needed, he pushed her past Emma’s bed and heard Emma tell mom, “Good bye, my friend”.  I still cannot recount that without tears in my eyes.  Mom never had a real friend in her life…until she absolutely needed one and God provided her with the perfect friend!

Goodbye my friend!

Goodbye my friend!

And so after 91 years of life, mom, probably for the first time in her life, finally surrendered.  She was always the perennial fighter, even to the end.  There is so much more I’d like to share with you about mom’s journey in life so you would be able to understand how amazing the end of her life truly was.  For now, this is all I have in me.  Picasso and I went back to Florida again only a week after getting home from the last trip to get everything of her’s in order and take care of her final arrangements.  We are now home again to begin our mourning process.

Helen Gutowski Jones Weitz

                                                          May 29th, 1924 – January 22, 2016

When I think of mom, this is the song that comes to mind.  The rose in the background image is one of 80 I gave to her for her 80th birthday.  To hear the song performed by Coldplay, please click the photo.

When I think of mom, this is the song that comes to mind. The rose in the background image is one of 80 I gave to her for her 80th birthday. To hear the song performed by Coldplay, please click the photo.

Mom, Picasso and I love you and miss you very much. You are finally free to soar with the birds!  Fly on!

©  2016 deborah kauffeld

 

uh…merry christmas…I think

I want to say “Merry Christmas”.  Really.  I do.  But it is so hard to do so when your heart hurts so badly.  Yes, I’ve become one of those for whom Christmas has become the darkest of days.  There.  I’ve said it.  And it is certainly something I hate to admit because it reminds me too much of my mother and how she was around Christmas.

When I was married and lived in NJ our home was always the center of Christmas activity.  While Thanksgiving was the biggie for us, Christmas was low key but always fun and enjoyable.  There was good food and gifts for everyone.  When my son was young there was always the visit from Santa that was so exciting.  Nothing was better than seeing Christmas reflected in a child’s eyes.

Our family and friends came over in the afternoon of Christmas Day for dinner and opening of gifts.  There was no drunken Aunt So & So or abusive comments coming from Uncle Whosie.  I actually don’t remember a “bad” Christmas.  Often, after opening presents from Santa and before the family would descend, I would run over to the chapel to sit in peace and quiet, remembering the “reason for the season”.  They were very special days for me and I loved Christmas and all it represented.

And now….how different things have become!  I sit here alone this Christmas morning.  I am very grateful for Picasso’s happiness which he so gladly shares with me but all I do is meet his happiness with tears today.  I have joyous Christmas music on in the background but think I will soon be turning that off.  It hurts far too much to hear to it.

The first Christmas after the year I was divorced I decided to spend in the mountains of Arizona.  I found a little place that seemed like it would be perfect.  The rooms were quant and comfortable, surrounding a huge, open room with comfy chairs and sofas and a beautiful, huge fireplace in the middle of the room, fire burning brightly within it.  It was exactly as I imagined it to be and perfect for Christmas.  I had decided that being alone for Christmas at home didn’t feel like a good idea so this was my consolation prize and I couldn’t have picked a better place.  Christmas dinner came and I was the only person there who was by herself.  What kind of person has to spend Christmas by herself?  I found myself beginning to sink emotionally and it was starting to quickly get out of control.  I looked around at others and saw a variety of people but one table stuck out for me.  There was a couple sitting there who obviously were not happy with each other.  It was in that moment that everything changed.  I suddenly recognized that being alone for Christmas was vastly higher on the hierarchy than being with someone you really didn’t want to be with.  After dinner I took myself out for a drive and ended up in New Mexico for the first time ever.  It was a beautiful day and I was actually enjoying it tremendously now even though I was still alone.  Just a change in perspective was needed.

For days prior to Christmas I feel it creeping up, surrounding me with its menacing darkness.  I try to stave it off though a variety of different means but I feel it nonetheless.  If I drank I’m pretty sure I’d be drunk during the days surrounding Christmas.  I try to find that change in perspective but it seems to evade me.  This year I actually have places to go.  I’ve been invited to share appetizers this afternoon with a family I hardly know and to another home for Christmas dinner afterwards.  But somehow this doesn’t feel quite enough for me.  I baked different things to bring with me to their homes and while that was fun it did nothing to move those damned dark clouds from overhead.  As if it wasn’t enough metaphorically, it has been raining here for nearly a week and is forecast to continue for another week yet.  In the moment the concept of “sun” is something one has to take on faith.

Year after year the only difficult thing about Christmas past revolved around my mother’s response to it.  It never mattered what we got for her, it wasn’t enough to fill the hole she had within.  It was always a disappointment for her.  Why?  I actually don’t know but now that I’m so alone for Christmas and feel its dark side I find myself understanding more how she might have felt.  Thinking about it, even my mother-in-law had some of that same darkness around her at Christmas even though she loved Christmas.  Her house was always decorated for the holiday and well before Christmas she would sit with Kris, my son, and go through the Sears catalogue to find potential presents for him.  Yet that darkness was there for her, too.

It would appear that I’m continuing in a well worn tradition of dark Christmases.  Given that Christmas is about a Light in the darkness I find myself wondering how at least three of us seem to have missed that Light.  I suspect the three of us are far from the only ones feeling the pain of the holiday today.

Is it perhaps because we have actually strayed so much from the true meaning of the holiday?  Consumerism runs rampant at this time of year with people too often going into debt to finance some elusive dream of a perfect Christmas that never seems to happen.

Here’s what I find I miss – I miss family and friends getting together and I particularly miss being able to find gifts for them and sharing the joy of being in their presence as they open their presents.  And, if I’m perfectly honest, I also miss being “special” to someone, getting and giving something to/from that person that makes a heart sing!  That very special gift that only one who knows another intimately can give since no one else would know their desires like one in love with them.

I miss the intimacy of Christmas and need to find a way to reestablish that for myself.  While it might be nice to have a person in my life with whom I could share that intimacy, I have to believe that the whole meaning of Christmas has to do with finding that intimacy on a spiritual level that is then shared with other people.  That is the true gift of Christmas!  I had that years ago when I went to the chapel to be with Jesus before the festivities would begin.

Perhaps I have found what I miss the most about Christmas – intimacy with God.  My heart has been so broken that over recent years I’ve managed to shut God out of my life.  I have to say that it really hurts to have done so.  No wonder Christmas feels so dark!  How could it be otherwise if I’m busy shutting out the Light that shines in the darkness?  Okay, I get it!  The clouds are clearing, even if just slightly!

My Christmas wish for you and your loved ones is that the Light of the season shines brightly in your heart and your love becomes the gift you share with all you meet!  May the peace of the season wrap itself around your being and, most of all, may you know the deep, unfailing Love of God!  Blessings to you and your family.

Merry Christmas!

© 2015 deborah kauffeld