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.

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


facing fear, courage and the hero’s journey

“What made you decide to live on an RV”?  It’s a question I hear quite often.  There are many variations to that question such as “Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?” or “I don’t think I could do that; too scary” or “You’re doing that all by yourself?”  There have been an equal number of answers that I’ve shared including the most obvious one that I’ve shared here before – I read in a blog to ask your body what it needed to heal.  When I did, I got that I should get an RV and travel the country.  But I have to admit, that hasn’t always seemed like enough of an answer.  Okay, so doing this going to be healing, but how?  In what way?

I’ve had occasion to think about this a bit yesterday.  It was a crazy day.  I had a ton of errands I needed to do including going with my mom to her doctor’s appointment.  Throughout the day there was a whole lot of traffic.  It gave me the opportunity to think – why am I doing this crazy, insane thing?

So this is what I’ve come up with and admittedly, it might change over time.  My life had become quite uninspiring or simply put – I did not like my life anymore.  I found myself retreating into a rather dark place.  It needed something, something that would bring back that spark again.  It needed a challenge and since things were so bad, it was going to have to be a rather big challenge!  My heart leaped at the possibility of traveling in the RV and seeing the country.  But while my heart was leaping, my stomach was twisting and turning.  Not all of my parts were completely on board with this idea.  The fear monster raised its ugly head and made its presence known in my life almost immediately, at least after the initial excitement started to die down.  Every step of the way was met with fear which is not to say that I’ve lived in fear all the time but there was a lot of fear.  I suspect that’s a common response to huge losses in one’s life – an increase in fear.  It gets scarier to do things since we fear that something bad will happen again.  Something dramatic had to be done since I couldn’t continue on this path.  But along with the fear that would creep in, I kept getting rather interesting reassurances that this was the absolutely right path for me!  I have to admit to feeling divinely driven to do this journey.

And so here I am living in an RV for almost a whole week and I’m wondering what will be next.  Where will I go after spending my 4 or 6 or 8 weeks here?  But isn’t that what life is all about anyway?  We never know what will come next (though we like to pretend we do!) and it is all about learning trust and faith while we live in that question!  And therein lies the real reason I’m doing this crazy thing – I’m learning how to have trust and faith in the reality that all things will turn out okay in the end.  In other words, I’m learning that I’m loved and safe no matter what.  For those times when it doesn’t feel that way, there’s faith to bridge the gap.  The reality is that I had lost my faith and with that I lost my way and allowed fear to take over.

Every step of this journey so far has been to show me that I can trust that I am safe.  With all the loses I’ve experienced it would be quite easy to never trust anyone ever again.  Just last week I was careening to the finish line – I had to be out of the apartment and into the RV in just a few more days.    I had a hard deadline and I was not going to make it by myself.  It was a physical impossibility.  Just before I started to panic, in walked my two angels to assist me, my supernatural help in human form.  Can you see why I was so blown away that help arrived just in the nick of time?  To me it was yet another affirmation that this was, in fact, the right path.

While I continued to believe in God, it was very difficult to have faith in a Love that allowed so much pain into my life.  So this is a journey of healing through the development of faith and trust, a mature faith and trust that can only come after being thoroughly tested in the flames.  As a corollary, it is also a journey that seeks to leave fear behind while reaching for a place of love instead.

So now you know my real answer – this is my journey, a hero’s journey if you will, in which I stomp out fear with the tools of faith and trust as I move forward into a place of love.  Is that courage?  Maybe it is but for me it is healing.  It is about not letting those who’ve harmed me win.  It is about learning to open my heart even with so very many reasons to protect myself by closing my heart.  Yes, it is my hero’s journey of healing through facing down those fear monsters.

Joseph Campbell describes the hero’s journey, a common framework for many novels and movies:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day [the known world] into a region of supernatural wonder [the unknown world]: fabulous forces are there encountered [supernatural] and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons [gifts, knowledge] on his fellow man.”  (Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1949. p.23.)

And now you also know my reason for writing these blogs for you – I want, no, I need to share that which I’ve learned from this crazy, wonderful journey I’m on so we can all reap the benefits!

©  2015 deborah kauffeld

moving on!

So this is my third attempt to write a blog post.  Actually I finished the first two but just didn’t think they were post worthy.  Hopefully this will see the light of day!

I’ve been busy, real busy.  So much has happened since the last time I posted.  However, most of the stuff is fairly boring so there really hasn’t been much to write of interest.  Only so many ways to say “I packed today and I’m tired!’, right?

The furniture has been consigned for weeks now.  Evidently all the big stuff has sold already.  I’m so glad I got it out of here as early as I did, too.  Besides being able to put the money to good use, it has been really nice to have the room here.  Even with the boxes I’ve packed it doesn’t look cramped at all.

I would say I’ve easily gotten rid of at least half and probably more of my “stuff”.  “Stuff”, in this case, doesn’t include furniture.  It has become very clear to me that donating stuff isn’t all that difficult.  However, selling it becomes almost brutal.  I’ve used Craigslist exclusively.  Many have warned me to be careful but to be honest up until now I’ve met some really great people.  The man who was here today offered to help me sell my lighting equipment.  He also offered to help me move anything that might be too heavy for me.  Pretty cool, huh?  But the problem is the huge time hog selling things becomes.  Things have to be photographed, copy written and all of it put into Craigslist.  Then come the contacts and finally people showing up here.  The vast majority seem to think we need to share all sorts of stories.  Now I don’t mind talking but it ends up taking a whole lot of time.

Craigslist item.  I didn't get much money for these but getting them out of the way made me really happy!  More room!

Craigslist item. I didn’t get much money for these but getting them out of the way made me really happy! More room!

Somewhere along the line I came to the conclusion that I would keep more things than I had planned at one point or another.  I had planned on getting rid of nearly everything, then to keep nearly everything, than after finding out how much that would cost (storage and moving costs) I decided to get rid of it all (again) and finally I decided to just go through it and keep what made sense or would make me cry if I had to get rid of it.  Yes, I have many more boxes as a result but it seems to be working.  Besides, if I was going to be selling more stuff I would’ve needed a whole lot more time!  I really wanted to have just a handful or two of boxes so I could move them myself wherever I would land when I come off the road.  Well, I ended up with a few more than that!  As of today, I’m up to box number 56.  Not all that many more left at this point so it’ll be under 70, a huge decrease from what I had when I moved here!  Maybe after I settle down in the RV I’ll compare so I’ll know how well I’ve done.  I still have the inventory from when I moved here.

And there's my packing stool in the middle of packed boxes.  Since I cannot carry boxes because of my back, I slide a packed box onto the stool and roll it over to its location.  That stool is a real back saver!

And there’s my packing stool in the middle of packed boxes. Since I cannot carry boxes because of my back, I slide a packed box onto the stool and roll it over to its location. That stool is a real back saver!

Picasso has been a bit thrown with all the changes.  There was a day when we had five different people coming here for Craigslist stuff.  Picasso got to the point where he was on people overload.  I felt so badly for him.  But today he appears to be more himself which makes me happy.  I think he’ll feel a whole lot better once we settle down again.

Picasso sleeping on the only seat in the living room, a chaise lounge from the lanai while resting his head on a stool that I use for packing.

Picasso sleeping on the only seat in the living room, a chaise lounge from the lanai, while resting his head on a stool that, when not being used for packing, can be a headrest for a little dog!.

I have about a month before I will be out of here.  Here’s the plan for now – while I don’t need to vacate the premises until the end of February, I will be moving into the RV the beginning of that week, probably February 23rd or 24th.  That will give me enough time to get this place cleaned up before I hand in my keys.  It’s going to be a huge change!

Got nothing more profound, which is probably good since I don’t have time for profound!  Oh, I almost forgot!  Tomorrow I’ll be going over to the east coast of Florida to finally pick up my RV and move it back here.  On Monday they will fit my car with the plate necessary for it to be towed.  I get to drive the RV around all day Monday (or until I’ve had enough!) while they work on my car.  Tuesday I’ll get lessons on how to hitch and unhitch the car and then it is off to the RV park on the west coast, about 30 minutes from my apartment, where I will store it until I move into it.  This is the same park that we will be in for our first month.  Wish me luck!  I’ve never driven an RV to begin with and here I’ll be driving the RV while towing my little car behind.  Am I nervous?  HELL YEAH!  Real nervous!  How do I cope with it?  Easy!  I’m trying not to pay any attention to it which is why I almost forgot to tell you about it!  Two nights away from packing, downsizing and selling stuff!  Ahhh!

@ 2015 deborah kauffeld

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downsizing or let the healing begin!

This downsizing thing is quite interesting.  When I first started to think about it my emotions got in the way.  It was crazy.  I’ve experienced so much loss, most of it forced, and this is my fourth intense downsize in 10 years.  As I approached the reality of downsizing I found myself feeling the loss from the old wounds.  Bottom line was that I was afraid to make the move because I couldn’t imagine walking intentionally into another loss. But I’ve been stuck in my life since I moved to Florida 3 years ago (or is it longer?) and I have continued on a downward spiral.  Every time I attempted to do something, it didn’t seem to work the way I planned and things felt worse.  I began to fear making any kind of change, afraid that I wouldn’t survive another loss.  Yet I somehow kept pushing forward.

Two days ago I made arrangements to get rid of my furniture.  The consignment shop will be here next week to pick it all up.  Yeah, all of it except my desk which got messed up on the trip to Costa Rica and now isn’t worth much as well as an older coffee table I’ll put the TV on for now.  I’ll sell them both later on Craigslist.  I will sleep on the air mattress I used when I first moved here while waiting for my container and I’ll sit on a camp chair I’ve yet to purchase.  Am I out of my mind?

Well, maybe.  Maybe not.  Here’s the thing – this is the first time in ages that I don’t feel fear as I confront making a huge change.  None.  Furthermore, I find myself feeling more trust in this process than I have for a long time.  For the first time I’m not at all concerned about how I’ll get “there” because I KNOW I will get there!  No problem!  Somehow I’m being taken care of.

I remember when I used to rollerblade.  I loved rollerblading but I was always somewhat afraid knowing that if I fell, with my back issues it could be really bad.  On the other hand, whenever I got on my blades and started to skate, I never, ever felt so alive!  Every single time I skated I came back feeling like I could conquer the world because I conquered my fear!  And that’s exactly how I’m feeling now.

I suspect it is the very act of moving forward, in spite of my fear, that allows me to feel such excitement.  There is a tremendous amount of energy locked up in fear.  When we face it and make the decision to move past it in spite of the feelings all that energy is released.  That’s the energy I’m now riding.

And then there is the peace, a feeling of deep peace.  All my furniture will be gone next week.  I’ve already gotten rid of more than half of my books and packed the other half.  The garage has less than half of what used to be there and I’m not done downsizing in there yet!  I am going through everything knowing that nothing is exempt from potentially being cut from my life.  As a side benefit of this whole process, I’ve made new friends with two of the people at Goodwill who have been loving my books.  One of them told me tonight that he is sure I must live in a library.  Not anymore!

Two of six boxes of books I've packed so far.  I've gotten rid of more than twice that amount!

Two of six boxes of books I’ve packed so far. I’ve gotten rid of more than twice that amount!

So I’ve realized something quite interesting, perhaps not unknown but interesting nonetheless.  The goal of the journey is to just keep moving forward in spite of any of the feelings that attempt to keep that from happening.  I know, it sounds pretty simple but when one’s whole life has felt like it has blown up, it is really hard to move forward, hard to take that chance.  But the more I allowed fear to win, the more I felt like parts of me were dying.  For the first time in several years I feel hope and excitement again as I finally embark on the journey of a lifetime.  Isn’t it fascinating how that journey actually started the moment I said “YES”?

And so the healing begins…

© 2014 deborah kauffeld

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and I’m scared!

Tomorrow is the big day – I will once again become a home owner!  Granted this home is on wheels and can be moved whenever I feel the need but it will be my home.

I am about as ready as I can be tonight.  Cameras have been packed and their batteries charged, proof of insurance is in tow, Picasso’s stroller has been placed in the trunk and the amount needed for that infamous cashier’s check written down and placed in my purse.

This is the first time I’ve even attempted to get the stroller into my itsy bitsy trunk.  Oh, yeah – that was fun!  I knew it might not fit but I thought it would be too tall (top to bottom) but it was too wide instead (from wheel to wheel).  Anyway, not enough room.  I put the driver’s side back seat down and was able to get it in that way!  Yep, it’s a small car but, hey, I’ll be able to tow it so it’s actually a really big win!  I even put air in all my tires this afternoon using my new, handy dandy air compressor. My tires are all ready to roll!  Now if I can sleep tonight!

So, how do I feel?  Scared, terrified, anxious, a little excited and scared.  Did I say scared?  Yeah, I’m mostly scared.  I wish I wasn’t but that’s just where I am these days.  This kind of investment makes me much more nervous than it would have a few years ago when I would have had some money left over after making the investment.  So what makes me do such a crazy thing?

My stomach was in knots when I was driving to visit mom earlier this afternoon.  I was driving with the top down, music on and singing my heart out.  I hoped it might help.  Maybe it helped a little but not much.  I was waiting for the light to change so I could make a left.  I was looking over that direction when I noticed an RV approaching the light.  It slowed for the turn and then proceeded since he had the green light.  It was about the same size as the RV I’ll be getting tomorrow.  I couldn’t help myself – I broke into the biggest smile!  And then it occurred to me – I’m doing this ultimately for one reason and one alone.  I want to experience freedom again.  Yes, it is freedom, a freedom which will bring with it healing since it will also allow my emotions to be free once again.

I never seem to feel as free as when I’m traveling.  Pretty much everything is new to me and my senses dance with excitement.  My whole spirit craves that kind of freedom and excitement.  Over the years I’ve managed to “dumb down’ my excitement mostly so I could survive but now I need something to wake up that part of me again.  It seems very crazy to some on the outside.  That’s okay; I understand.  Personally, there are times I think this is the craziest thing I’ve ever decided to do and other times I KNOW it is the craziest thing!  I am going to get rid of almost everything I own to follow this dream.  Wow!  If nothing else, that’s commitment!

And I’m scared.  All this good stuff doesn’t change anything.  I’m making a huge change in my life, in some ways it is one of the biggest I’ve ever made and it is, after all, a huge gamble.  I’m not naive; I know there is a possibility I will hate what I’ve done or it won’t go as planned.  I’m hoping that those possibilities are remote.  But I also know how important it is for me to just take the chance.  Perhaps the healing is in the very act of taking the chance no matter what the outcome!  I believe I will find substantial healing on the road which will allow me to open my heart once again.  I look forward to that healing!  I long to get past the fear that holds me in its grip.  I have committed myself to listening to that small voice within that tells me just what I need to do and how I need to proceed so that I may feel alive once again.

I promise the next post will include a whole lot of photos of my RV and maybe even a video!  Oh, and I’m smiling again thinking of having my very own home on wheels!

And I’m scared!

(Left foot; right foot)


©  2014 deborah kauffeld


the journey’s biggest obstacle

I’ve been writing about getting to the full-time RV life and the steps I’m taking in that direction but there are obstacles on the journey, just like for nearly any undertaking.  Today I am going to stop for a moment and take a look at the biggest obstacle on my journey: fear.


There have been some who have told me that what I’m doing is courageous.  Maybe, maybe not.  I’m continually looking to chip away at the fear that otherwise has been holding me back from living my life fully.  I am not without fear as I approach this humongous change.  Far from it.  Some days are riddled with fear but I choose to keep going in spite of it, sometimes almost denying the fear completely.  There are other days when I realize I cannot deny the fear for its voice is far too loud to ignore.  Instead, I pay attention to its message since something needs to be “looked at” and once taken care of, I feel much better.  But most of my fear comes from the desire not to leave my realm of supposed safety.  “Ships are safe inside the harbor, but is that what ships are for?”, a quote from one of my favorite Richie Havens songs (“Wake Up and Dream”), says it quite well.

Ships are safe inside the harbor...

Ships are safe inside the harbor…

Change is difficult for most of us.  Change brought involuntarily, changes we didn’t want or expect, can be even more difficult.  Years ago my life had been going smoothly enough but then my whole world changed and it did so without my “permission”.  I lost my business, went through a horrific law suit, sold my beloved home, moved from the desert southwest to a foreign country, endured more stress in that foreign country, had my belongings stolen coming back to the US and then had to deal with the rapidly declining health of my mom.  I had enough stress and retreated deep within to a place of relative safety.  It was a necessary place of refuge where, for a while, I was able to begin the healing process.  All ships need to return to harbor for repairs at some point.   At the same time, while I was looking to heal from the mess I’d been through, I found that my fear of living life again was growing.  It felt unsafe, very unsafe, to embrace life and risking to dream again was even more difficult to imagine.  In an effort to be protected from further pain, I removed myself from all potential sources of pain and with that my life began to get smaller and smaller until I could hardly find it anymore, nor did I recognize myself.  Something had to be done and it was going to have to be something rather extreme because I was getting desperate.


Fear can be a protector – I see a car speeding at me, fear that I’ll be hit and jump out of the way.  That’s what fear should be about, saving our lives.  But there can come a time when fear gets larger than any reality.  When fear begins to rule one’s life, it is time to rethink one’s strategy.  That’s exactly where I found myself.  Some think I feel no fear during this whole process of changing my life but nothing could be further from the truth.  I try, however, to use that fear as the fuel for the changes I wish to make.  I know that the only way to experience life fully again is to charge through those fears.  Okay, some days I’m not exactly charging but barely crawling but I try to keep that forward momentum.  Of course there are days when even that forward momentum isn’t possible so I go into a holding pattern like I did just last week.  And then there are those times when the fear is so huge, so encompassing,  that I have to quit completely, at least for the time being.


The fear prior to taking my motorcycle training class was huge.  Really huge.  I couldn’t find boots and that became my focus but I was really frightened underneath it all.  Contrary to what one might expect, it wasn’t getting on a bike that frightened me so much but rather the fact that this was a huge step forward in this process, one that required a real commitment.   I pushed myself forward anyway.  I didn’t sleep the night before for more than 4 hours, a factor that most likely greatly contributed to my fall that morning before I even got to the class.  Fear is like that – it’ll bring things about that you really don’t want to happen because you allow fear to rule.  That morning that’s exactly what happened.  My fear of the class turned into my fear of an alligator in the dark while walking Picasso.  When loud rustling occurred in the bushes near me, my fear decided it was an alligator and I’d better run like hell.  Running like hell is not something I’m very good at anymore and I splatted instead, tripping over my own shoe.  That’s what fear does and how it operates and it is that very fear that has come to rule my life.  I need to move past it.


I thank fear for serving its purpose.  It was there for me and removed me from harm’s way and did that very well but now I want to move forward again into a spectacular life and that same fear is now in my way.  Thank you fear, but I’m needing to move past you.  You are no longer helping but rather hurting me so I’m firing you from your previous position in my life.


And so, even though it is quite scary to me, I will continue to move forward.  Just last night, after taking and successfully finishing my motorcycle training, I suddenly felt far too scared to ever actually ride on the street.  The protected environment of the training range was one thing, but on the road?  Something entirely different.  Deep breath!  Nope, not going to give in to that fear!  The feeling of being on that bike and conquering my fears during the class was just too great of a high to leave behind so instead I bought my scooter and will have it next week.


I’ve come to learn that one of the strongest antidotes to fear is a dream, allowing that dream to take root and grow.  Then, when the fear comes (which it most certainly will), it is the dream that will take you by the hand and move you past the fears.  That passion, in reality, the love of the dream, is what casts out the fear.


Dreams are very strong medicine!  Remember how I asked my body what it needed to heal and immediately got the answer of full-timing on an RV?  Well, I’m now beginning to more clearly understand how healing will come about as a result of that decision – through the conquering of the fears that stand as an obstacle to that dream.


Ships may be safe within the harbor but that’s not what ships are for!  I am leaving the harbor.  It is time to wake up and dream.

Wake up and dream!

Wake up and dream!

© deborah kauffeld