the end of a journey

Sometimes the journey has a way of changing directions that are unexpected and one does not usually have the opportunity to plan for those changed directions.  Such has been the case for me.  As you know the time I spent in an RV with a dog and a camera came to a end a year ago this month.

These four images are all of the same flower using different techniques. I did them all inside where I could complete them without dying from heat exhaustion!

My life has become very different from what it had been and I really wasn’t prepared for all those changes.  I planned on staying in the North Carolina mountains for a few years and never dreamed of moving back to Tucson even though I’ve loved the desert.  Yet here I am in Tucson having done a full circle (Tucson to Costa Rica to Florida to North Carolina to Tucson).  My expectation was that driving around the country in an RV would afford me the opportunity to find my “place” in this great country of ours and move there permanently; that didn’t happen.  But I’ve been blessed with some great friends who were willing to step up and help me in all sorts of ways, some most unexpectedly, most beyond the call of duty.   

Picasso and I are doing well enough in our Tucson apartment.  While life is certainly different here compared to North Carolina, we have adjusted.  There have been times when the heat in Tucson has been unbearable (three days straight of 117 degrees!) and I find myself looking at the photos I took of winter in North Carolina to cool down.  It helps!  Picasso, who hated the heat in Florida, seems to be managing much better here.  Evidently it’s the humidity that does him in even more than the heat.  When we go for a walk I allow him to lead us for the most part so he can decide how much of a walk he can handle and where he wants to go.  He knows all the paths that keep him off the blacktop and how to find and stay in the shade.  

I’m not sure how this new life with this new normal would have been for me without Picasso.  Dogs are truly amazing creatures.  He does a great job of taking care of me, even making sure I get some exercise every day as he walks me!  He has been my very special buddy during this time never once complaining about those days when I clearly can not give him the attention he deserves.  

It is now time for me to end this blog.  As you probably have noticed I’ve not done much writing since the accident.  My photography has likewise become more limited although easier to accomplish than writing.  Between the heat and my limited driving I have found my motivation for photography to be lacking.  Hopefully that will change once it gets a little less inferno-like outside!  (As I write this on the 11th of September it is 105 degrees!).

Thank you for being with me on my journey and sharing in my dreams.  It was so nice for me to have you with me as I searched for and found my RV, moved into it and finally got on the road.  Your encouragement was wonderful!  It was a time of excitement as I set forth to follow my dream and succeeded.  It taught me that no dream, no matter how insane others might find it, is impossible.  Whenever I needed help, help seemed to appear.  

The feeling of freedom I felt while challenging myself was amazing to me.  Not just the freedom of doing a road trip but also the freedom I felt when I crashed through those crazy limitations my mind often put in my way.  I learned that if something happens to change the dreams, mourn the loss then move forward to the next dream as soon as possible.  Life is too short to mourn for any length of time.  

It is with great love and gratitude that I now say my farewell to you, my friends, old and new.  Thank you once again from the bottom of my heart!

As a final note, this whole blog will be taken down off the internet in five days as I’m not going to renew the domain name.  So you see, it really is the end!

© 2017 deborah kauffeld

an audience with the Queen!

It happens only once a year.  If you miss her arrival you have to wait a whole year.  This Queen of the Night clearly wants to maintain an air of mystery!  

For 364 days a year she masquerades as an ugly cactus, a mere stick that looks like something you’d swear was dead.  Then on one night of the year she musters up all her energy for a spectacular show.  She will not open her petals until dark has enveloped the desert and by morning’s light her petals will wilt.  Her beauty is revealed only in the darkness.  The interesting part is that all her sisters in the area bloom on the very same night!  The reason is one of practicality – they need to be pollinated and since they bloom for only one night during the year, they need to be coordinated. No one knows how they do that either.  A Queen must maintain her mystery!  Bats and sphinx moths are tasked with pollinating Her Majesty.  

 

Another part of this Queen’s mystery is that you never know for sure when she will arrive.  It is known that she will be here sometime over the summer but she keeps her exact arrival a mystery, usually until that morning.  As soon as she has made up her mind the people at Tohono Chul Park, where there are more Queens than anywhere in the world, send out emails to all on their mailing list that “tonight’s the night”!  Two thousand people managed to experience her in all her glory last night.  I wasn’t sure I’d be one of them.  I asked a friend if she wanted to go with me to meet the Queen but hadn’t heard back from her.  I would’ve tried getting there myself, a mere three miles from where I live, but yesterday was not a good day for me so I was thinking I might not make it.  But my friend came through and off we went.

 

 

We got there early which was a good thing since parking became nearly impossible later in the evening.  To be honest the Queen of the Night didn’t look like much when we first saw her but it was still daylight so she remained in hiding.  As darkness approached one by one she allowed her petals to open as people were pouring in to the park.  The ugly turned into the beautiful under the cloak of darkness.  Photos that had been relatively easy to take when we first got there were now much more difficult with the crowds seeking their own audience with the Queen.  

One of my issues yesterday was that I kept losing my balance.  When given space around me it isn’t too terrible since I just move my leg this way or that to accommodate the listing of my body!  But when there are people all around me that quickly becomes impossible to do.  I was leaning over to take a photo of our fair lady and, upon getting up, really lost my balance.  With no place to maneuver I did the next best thing – I grabbed on to the shoulder of the woman next to me, the one I would’ve fallen into otherwise!  Luckily she was quite understanding as I explained to her that, no, I had not been drinking but just had balance issues!  We both laughed!  They did have prickly pear margaritas at the park and I had one but, alas, without any alcohol in it.  So sad but someone who cannot walk straight doesn’t need alcohol!

We left just before the Queen of the Night fully opened.  I would’ve loved to have stayed but between the heat, humidity and my acrobatics I really thought it was better to leave before I had an accident!  After all, I had met the Queen and managed to spend some intimate, one on one time with her before the crowds interrupted our alone time.  She shared her beauty with me .  What more can you ask?  

[For those who like to know these things, our Queen’s official name is Peniocereus greggii, or cereus for short.  If you are interested in more information, please go to the Tohono Chul website. .  This particular page deals entirely with the Queen of the Night and has a video as well as information.  Well worth the click!]

©  2017 deborah kauffeld

an update…finally!

Believe it or not, I’ve already written five different blog posts, none of which I’ve come close to posting!  I write them at night and never get back to them again!  Guess that tells you a bit about how I’ve been doing.

I am quickly approaching the one year mark since the car accident that changed everything for me and what a helluva year it has been!  I’ve learned way too much about TBI’s (traumatic brain injuries), seizures and epilepsy.  After a four month wait I finally got to see a neurologist here in Tucson.  A month after that I spent five days in the hospital while undergoing an EEG that entire time.  I was not allowed out of bed without help and only to go to the bathroom!  The whole time I was also being videoed as well as audioed (yeah, I know, no such word but I’m betting you know what it means!).  Big brother was watching!  Sadly there were no seizures for them to observe which was the goal of the whole thing.  I’ve still not gotten the results, if there are any, since my appointment is not until next month.  It is possible that even without any out and out seizure activity there could still be abnormal brain activity.  

My view for the five days I spent in the hospital. Between the TV and the clock you can see the camera and audio recording device. There are actually two cameras – one for daytime and one for night when there is little or no light.

I’ve written little since I have little to say.  How many times can one write that they have had a nocturnal seizure or they are walking around like a total zombie?   My memory, certainly better than it was in the first couple months post accident, is still pretty horrible.  When I have good days I really take advantage of them by finally catching up on cleaning the house, doing laundry, going food shopping or grooming Picasso.  Mostly my energy has waned big time, not unusual after a TBI.  Time has undergone a dramatic change for me.  It often feels like it doesn’t exist anymore.  

While I certainly wish the accident never happened, there are things I have found fascinating about the whole situation.  Having taken courses about the brain during grad school it is quite interesting to see those issues in myself.  There is often a strong feeling of dissociation that I experience.  During those times I feel completely disconnected from my environment as well as from myself.  Speaking with me can be most entertaining since brain and mouth are barely talking with each other so the weirdest things can come out of my mouth.  Sometimes I can hear what I just said but most times the other person gets quite confused trying to make sense of something that doesn’t make any sense.  

This is the view from my apartment complex of the Catalina Mountains. I never tire of that view!

I have spent a lot of time reading about epilepsy, a diagnosis I now share with far too many other people.  I get to read first hand experiences from other people many of whom suffer from grand mal (tonic-clonic) seizures.  I cannot tell you the utter respect I have for these people and their harrowing journeys.  The courage and strength they exhibit on a daily basis is beyond my comprehension.  Their compassion and empathy for others is huge.  My story does not compare since I, gratefully, do not lose consciousness during my seizures, the vast majority of which occur at night while I’m sleeping.  However, after a nocturnal seizure I can be terrified to go to sleep the following night, something I found many others experience also.  One woman told me that “sleep is not my friend”.  I understand completely.  I’ve not had a daytime seizure in over six months at this point because of the anti-seizure medicine I now have to take.  I am allowed to drive but I self restrict my driving to days and times when I’m feeling well and limit my distances.  I used to drive thousands of miles on trips.  Now I’ve been averaging 40 miles per month!  

This is a grandfather saguaro, around for well over a century! Picasso and I can walk there from our apartment.

Believe it or not, I’ve not taken my camera out once since moving here almost six months ago.  I really have not felt up to it until just recently.  I’ve felt the loss of that, too, because that is my major area of creativity.  While I took lots of photos after the accident while living in North Carolina, here I find I have to drive to get somewhere to take photos which has pretty much completely limited my ability to shoot.  I’m hoping that might change soon since I found myself thinking about getting out with camera in hand.  If nothing else I can always Uber my way somewhere.  That’s a step in the right direction.

I am writing all this so as to give you an update.  I’ve come to terms with my new life, at least most days!  Please, no pity but I will take support and love!  It really has been rough year but I’m hoping for a vastly better one coming up.  Be patient with me…I’ll be back soon!  Maybe next time I’ll even have some photos of my new desert life! 

© 2017 deborah kauffeld

Photos taken for this post were from my iPhone.

home again!

It is certainly time for me to let you know that I’ve made it to Tucson safe and sound.  I’ve been here three weeks now and have spent most of that time unpacking, organizing and resting.  I might have been done with it all if I had the shelving I needed but it hasn’t arrived yet.  Well, technically the shelves are here but the upright parts aren’t yet so the shelves are useless in this moment!

Our very trusty and comfortable Penske rental truck with my less than trusty car behind it!

Our very trusty and comfortable Penske rental truck with my less than trusty car behind it!

I feel quite at home here, not just in Tucson but specifically in our apartment.  Given that I rented it sight unseen that’s a good thing!  One side of the apartment faces desert which makes me quite happy.  Every evening as the sun descends the coyotes can be heard singing their good night song.  I’ve seen a family of quail right outside my bedroom window!  Just tonight I saw an owl sitting on a chimney (yeah, we all have wood burning fireplaces in our apartments, something I doubt I’ll ever use but who knows?)

A rainbow as we left Sarasota.  I took this to be a good omen!

A rainbow as we left Sarasota. I took this to be a good omen!

The trip cross country couldn’t have been any better.  The weather was near perfect, the drive uneventful and I had only one questionable day.  That’s one day out of fifteen, two if you count the day we arrived here but that was just stress and overwhelm.

Storm clouds gathering as we left Sarasota, FL.  Our weather was near perfect with very little rain.

Storm clouds gathering as we left Sarasota, FL. Our weather was near perfect with very little rain.

There were several high points during the trip.  My favorite thing was finally getting to meet a Facebook friend (Linda Van Kampen) in Florida.  She was exactly the wonderful person I expected her to be.

A rainbow as we left Sarasota.  I took this to be a good omen!

A rainbow as we left Sarasota. I took this to be a good omen!

We spent extra days in San Antonio and Carlsbad, NM where we got to do the Riverwalk and explore the caverns, respectfully.  The caverns were a really amazing experience.

The Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX

The Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX

 

The Riverwalk.

The Riverwalk.

We ate wonderfully during the trip and neither of us gained any weight at all!  We ate at a Chinese buffet, had stromboli/calzone, indulged in filet mignon, enjoyed a night of Mexican food with a mango margarita and I had my first In-N-Out burger!  We had fun driving in the truck, talking about just about everything we could and singing Willy Nelson’s On the Road Again each morning!  Davette, my trusty driver and friend, now considers herself to be Picasso’s second mother.  They became close friends during the trip.  Davette took a video of Picasso jumping from bed to bed and has shown it to quite a few people like a proud mother showing off her kid’s newest antics.  And speaking of Picasso, he was nothing but a perfect gentleman on the trip.  I even felt comfortable leaving him by himself in hotel rooms, something I’ve not done before.  It was clear that he was going to be okay with it and, yes, he was perfect.

No photograph could ever capture the majesty of Carlsbad Caverns.  It is something that truly has to be experienced.

No photograph could ever capture the majesty of Carlsbad Caverns. It is something that truly has to be experienced.

 

The dim lighting in the caverns made for some interesting standing for me!  Let's put it this way - darned good thing there were handrails throughout!

The dim lighting in the caverns made for some interesting standing for me! Let’s put it this way – darned good thing there were handrails throughout!

Another one of the high points came when we were in our room in Carlsbad.  We hadn’t even gotten settled yet.  I was coming out of the bathroom while Davette was fiddling around when a man suddenly walked into the room!  Woohoo!  The first man I’ve had in my bedroom in quite a while!  Sadly he was there by mistake, the front desk having assigned him the same room they just gave to us minutes before.  Thankfully we were all dressed although Picasso certainly gave him a good barking, all while wagging his tail.  Great watchdog, ready to lick a intruder to death.  Good thing he’s so cute!

Sugar cane fields in Louisiana.  We just had to stop at a distillery where they make rum from the sugar cane.  Of course we had to test out their wares!

Sugar cane fields in Louisiana. We just had to stop at a distillery where they make rum from the sugar cane. Of course we had to test out their wares!

So here I am in Tucson…or is it Florida?  My brain has known I have “gone back” but sometimes thinks I went back to Florida, not Tucson, so at any moment I might be thinking of going to Publix rather than Albertson’s.  My driving has been limited to a very small area but I do manage to get out a bit more than I had been.  My trusty steed, my car, has been back in the shop for the last two weeks.  The loaner car looks exactly like mine except for the fact that it has been emasculated by having been given an automatic transmission rather than a stick shift.  Supposedly my car’s clutch is just fine, thank you (I’ve heard this before), but a part of the roof (an air dam) needed to be replaced and has taken a whole lot longer than I would’ve expected.

The clouds were truly awesome during our trip.  This is but one example.

The clouds were truly awesome during our trip. This is but one example.

While I’m quite tired and my body is complaining about all I’ve been forcing it to do (packing, sitting in a truck for hours on end for two weeks, unpacking) overall everything is good here.  I’ve gotten to spend time with old friends I’ve not seen in a while, rekindled lost friendships and appear to be heading toward making some new friends.

Arizona!!!

Arizona!!!

Picasso loves it here.  As much as he hates the heat he seems to be doing quite well in the desert.  He has developed some new routines and has resurrected some old ones (howling in the morning as I grab the leash for his first walk as well as howling when I’m getting his food ready).  There is a “racetrack” in the apartment, extending from the kitchen to the dining room to the living room to the hall and back to the kitchen again.  Picasso especially loves to run the racetrack whenever I grab a paper towel to clean his face after he has eaten.  Perhaps he thinks I need the exercise but all it does for me is make me more dizzy than I already am!  He has also found playing “monster” to be a whole lot more fun here.  Of course I am the monster and he is running away from me.  Seems that running away from me is a real theme here!  On any given evening Picasso can be found in his kennel in the bedroom after having abandoned me in the living room.  He seems quite content.

Again!  The only reason my car was back on the tow truck was for a dead battery which was completely covered by warranty!  Whew!

Again! The only reason my car was back on the tow truck was for a dead battery which was completely covered by warranty! Whew!

Well that’s the quick version of how things have been.  I’m going to try to get this up on my website right away since the previous ones I’ve written never got posted.  I’ll throw in a few photos taken with my iPhone and call it good.  My camera has been taking a rest while I unpack.  I’ll try to get back to you again soon, after I’m done with the whole unpacking and organizing thing.  I will say that I’ve no doubt I’m exactly where I need to be right now.  It is good to be home again.

A Tucson sunset as seen from my apartment.

A Tucson sunset as seen from my apartment.

© 2016 deborah kauffeld

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