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

welcome to our home!

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Christmas in February!  Someone needs to change towels!

Christmas in February! Someone needs to change towels!

 

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

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

 

My work space at night.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

The daytime view from the corner kitchen windows.

The daytime view from the corner kitchen windows.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

IMG_3722

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

 

View downstairs as I get ready for bed.

View downstairs as I get ready for bed.

 

My bed!

My bed!

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Picasso's bed!

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

© 2016 deborah kauffeld

ten days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just after William and mom first met.

Just after William and mom first met.

William and mom prior to the concert.

William and mom prior to the concert.

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

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

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

Mom during the concert.

Mom during the concert while I prayed for her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye my friend!

Goodbye my friend!

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

Helen Gutowski Jones Weitz

                                                          May 29th, 1924 – January 22, 2016

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

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

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

©  2016 deborah kauffeld

 

just another day…

Life in an RV, while potentially fun, is anything but normal when compared to living in a sticks and bricks house.  Little things in a normal house can be more challenging in a rolling home, even if it’s not rolling in the moment.

Case in point – getting internet set up in a stationary RV.  Now you probably wouldn’t think it all that difficult, right?  I first made arrangements for them to come out here over a month ago.  I was told it would be 7-10 days before it would be installed.  At the ten day point I called them and was told that I would be hearing from them shortly.  A few days later Jim the park owner told me they were supposed to be coming that day but, instead, they wouldn’t be coming for another four days due to the weather.  Finally, on the Monday prior to Thanksgiving, they arrived to start digging the trench and laying the fiber optics.  I left for Indiana and Thanksgiving with my family the next day with an appointment set up for the following Tuesday for the install.

As it seems to be doing all too often, the rains came and kept them from finishing their work on time, thus pushing the install for another two days.

Marcus working on the exterior installation of the internet.  The coiled blue hose is my heated water hose, necessary for winter to keep water coming into the RV from freezing.  To the left of the hose is the water spigot which is also outfitted for freezing temps.

Marcus working on the exterior installation of the internet. The coiled blue hose is my heated water hose, necessary for winter to keep water coming into the RV from freezing. To the left of the hose is the water spigot which is also outfitted for freezing temps.

On Thursday they arrived exactly at 8:30 AM, as scheduled.  Now I should’ve known things were going to be different when a cable company actually arrived on time!  Two men in two trucks started to work outside the RV when Jim arrived.  I was quite grateful for his arrival since I had just found out that the technicians were not allowed to drill any holes in RV’s for liability reasons and I was about to wield a drill myself!  Jim had already gone through the various install options with me and so was ready to help right away.

The entertainment center where the wireless router is  now housed.

There were several holes to be drilled but the fun began when trying to determine just how they were going to do the interior install.  The wiring was going to come in from the far side, opposite where the hookups were located.  To accommodate them, Jim had to install a conduit under the RV so they could bring the wires to the other side while protecting them from weather.  After going beneath the RV, they emerged into a little cubby designed for the various hookups, all insulated.  From there a hole had to be drilled to allow the cable to then cross back to the other side again, but this time inside the RV.  They needed to reach the electric outlet in the “basement” storage area of the RV for the transformer.  Another cable was then fished up into the entertainment center, requiring hole number two to be drilled.  Now if this sounds confusing to you, well, that’s the point!  Those wires went back and forth either in or out of the RV three different times – first outside in the conduit, then inside to the electric and finally back across again to reach the entertainment center.

The utility section of the RV with its various connections.

The utility section of the RV with its various connections. Beneath the RV you can see the white conduit housing the internet cables.  This shot was taken prior to the hole being drilled so the cables are all bunched up still.  

Now while this might sound simple enough, it was anything but.  Working within an RV, particularly when dealing with electrical systems, is always going to be a bit of a challenge, minimally.  Even the best built RV’s seem to use cheap labor to build them and electrical systems tend to be more than just a strange as a result.  I remember when I had work done on my other RV how the TV antenna system was more than just a little wonky and needed to be fixed prior to my being able to get TV coverage.

Jim working at finding a way to get the internet wiring into the entertainment center.

Jim working at finding a way to get the internet wiring into the entertainment center.

 

While the last shot looked like Jim was about to come up through the hole in my floor, this one appears as if the tech is going to go the other direction!

While the last shot looked like Jim was about to come up through the hole in my floor, this one appears as if the tech is going to go the other direction!

In the process of fishing wires through here and there, I got to see some of the guts of the RV.  Plumbing runs, electrical runs and sewage lines were all quite visible.  The so-called insulation – a sheet of maybe 1/2 inch foam – surrounded all the vulnerable parts.  In many RV’s there is actually even less or no insulation around these items which is why most RV’s are not appropriate for winter camping.

This is a shot I took with my head poking through that floor opening so it is looking down.  What a mess of wiring and piping down there!

This is a shot I took with my head poking through that floor opening so it is looking down. What a mess of wiring and piping down there!

While expecting the job to take around 45 minutes, it ended up taking just over two hours.  Then the hard part came – they asked me to pick a name for the router.  Oh, I hate doing those kinds of things but somehow managed to come up with the name “Picasso’s Place” rather quickly.  Then it got worse – I had to pick a password for it!  Ugh.  Just as I was ready to give up, Marcus, one of the technicians, came up with a dog related one that works perfectly!  Soon enough they left and the fun was over….

….until the next morning when there was no internet at all and no more landline either.  Worse yet, Jim closed down the internet down here so while I was able to get online for a few minutes in the morning using his internet, it wasn’t strong enough for me to place a simple Skype call.  I ended up having to go down the mountain to get cell coverage.  I had to call Brian the RV guy and confirm that he was coming at lunch time.  He arrived not too much later to fix the water heater again.

After Brian left I ended up going back down the mountain again so I could call the communications company to tell them of my problem with the internet.  They asked me to try something so that necessitated a trip back up the mountain and then down again so I could call them to tell them it didn’t work.  Now here comes the surprise – they told me a tech would have to come up.  I asked them, “Today?” to which she told me yes so I scooted back up the mountain once again.  The tech was actually here in under an hour!  Wow for their customer service! It was Marcus again from the day before, the tech who gave me my password!

After going through it all he determined that the transformer indeed needed replacing.  Within moments we were up and running again.  I’m happy to report we are still running a little over 24 hours after the last visit!

Another story about how things are different in an RV – my hot water heater still isn’t working when on electric.  For those who don’t know, most RV’s have hot water heaters that work on either electric or propane.  If one is at an RV park and hooked up to electricity, one plugs in and uses electric to heat their water.  On the other hand, if one is out “boondocking” (not using any utilities), they can have hot water by using propane to heat it.  Propane is also a whole lot quicker to heat the water and can be used when hot water is needed quickly.  Hot water tanks on RV’s are typically significantly smaller than a household tank and usually hold either 6 or 12 gallons.  My first RV had a 6 gallon tank.  I quickly learned to take short showers, turning the water off between rinses.  Works well in the summer but a little less well when it is really cold out.  The new RV has a 12 gallon tank so in theory I can take a bit longer in the shower.

I mentioned that Brian was here yesterday to fix the water heater yet again.  On his first attempt he replaced the heating rod and figured it would be good.  Thankfully I now knew not to just hop in and hope for the best!  After determining the water was too cool to shower, I switched it to run on propane, waited a little while, took my shower and then called Brian to let him know of his failed fix.  Yesterday he replaced the two relays and, finding one to have a bit of corrosion, figured it was once again fixed.  Nope, not so!  We are back on propane once again while he comes up with the next fix.  At this rate we will be soon enough replacing all the parts in the tank!

The two most recently replaced parts for the water heater.  You can see some corrosion but that still wasn't the issue.

The two most recently replaced parts for the water heater. You can see some corrosion but that still wasn’t the issue.

The reality is that I enjoy when Brian comes over since I get to pick his brain about this or that.  He is extremely knowledgable about all things RV as well as automotive.  Brian is not only a good businessman, he is also a very fair and honest man besides just being an overall good person.  Let me give you an example – I was telling Brian how I had to go to Winston-Salem to pick up my desk but given the size of my car I really wasn’t sure I would fit it and figured I’d have to rent a car.  After picking up the desk I also had to go to another town to get the office chair.  I’d be driving probably something like four hours or so.  What does Brian tell me?  Well first he tells me that I really shouldn’t take my car since there was probably no way it would fit even with the roof open.  Instead I should take his truck.  Huh?  You want me to take your truck?  He goes on to explain to me that he buys one regularly from a dealer he is friends with and gets a fleet car with high milage but low in years.  For this he pays only $5,000 and he is very happy to loan it out when needed by someone.

Now I’m not at all used to this kind of kindness and generosity.  Yes, I do believe this is how we people should all be but, sadly, it rarely materializes like that.

I don’t think I’ve ever run into so many genuinely good-hearted people as I have here in North Carolina.  Just writing about this brings tears to my eyes, tears of gratitude.  After everything I’ve been through in the past one of my biggest fears had been that I would die while still not healing the wounds from the things I’d been through.  People have really hurt me, taken advantage of me, broken my trust and proven that humans just aren’t all that nice in many cases.  I’m a trusting person but it has been so very long since my trust has been appropriately placed.  But now it appears healing is coming and I have no words to adequately express my gratitude.

Slowly my RV is becoming my home in a way the first one never could.  It is more than a function of size although that figures into it greatly.  I think it has to do with the usability of this RV as well as finding some really good people to help support me when I need it.  As a result, the RV life feels a bit more safe to me.  RV’s are not like homes and can always find new ways to show you their differences.  Part of that is the issue of taking them out on the road and bouncing them all over the place.  Imagine if you put your house on wheels and then drove at 60 miles an hour, the equivalent of a tropical storm, for hours on end.  It is no wonder they develop issues.  The other reality is that they are built terribly, even the more expensive ones, and that causes issues over time.  Staying stationary will help to ease some of those issues but there will be others.  That is the nature of an RV.

Once I’m fully settled and am ready to put the move-in process behind me, I hope to take some time to give you a tour of my home as well as the surroundings so you can see why I’m so enamored with this place.  The peace of nature here truly nurtures my soul.  I cannot wait to share that with you!

© 2015 deborah kauffeld

moving – the good stuff (part 2)

[This is part two of my moving process.  You can read the first part here.]

Well, the last post covered the drama.  Now, to the other side of things.  While going back and forth between the two RV’s I couldn’t help but notice the size difference.  But rather than thinking how large the new RV is in comparison to the old one, which I would think would be the more normal response, I found myself blown away by just how small a space I was moving from!  How did I ever live in that little space for 8 months and find it to be okay?  I still can’t believe the difference!  I feel like I’m coming out of a cramped hotel room and into an actual home!  There is no comparison.  Two very different experiences.  But the first RV really did serve its purpose and I’m very grateful for it!  It got me to the beautiful mountains in North Carolina!

The next thing I couldn’t help but notice was how much stuff I crammed into that little RV!!!  It just kept coming and I thought for a while that I’d never get done – ever!  Yikes!  The thing is that while I was able to pack all this stuff into that RV, I didn’t use a whole lot of it because I couldn’t get to it easily enough.  Now things are much more spread out and more accessible.  It will be interesting to see how this affects me and how I use things differently.

As I write this I am almost completely done with the move.  I have only the desktop computer and my TV to be moved.  I need some help with the computer for sure since it is probably a two person operation to get it off the table with its monitor arm.  On my own I’d risk dropping it since I just don’t have enough hands!  The TV I could probably do on my own but my back really has had enough and if I can get a little help, why not!  Better still, pretty much everything is put away in the new RV.  Now that doesn’t mean the move-in process is actually done. Because I have to leave Tuesday (tonight is Sunday) I don’t really have the luxury of doing a great job of things.  Tomorrow I have to spend doing a bunch of errands, things that have to get done before I leave.  I’ve got all winter to reorganize things!

Now to my conclusion – I am so happy that I swapped RV’s!  I wanted a fifth wheel to begin with and now that I’m in this one I can really see why.  I feel like I’m in a real home now, something I never felt with the other one.  Don’t get me wrong – I loved that little RV but I quickly outgrew it!  The views from this RV are nothing short of stupendous!  Every window with a view!

The view out from my  current kitchen table which will soon be transformed into my desk.

The view out from my current kitchen table which will soon be transformed into my desk.  I didn’t get to take a shot of my favorite view yet so we will have to save that for another time!

I’ve only been here for three nights but already it feels quite a bit like home to me.  I’m pretty sure it will continue to grow on me since I’ve not done a whole lot other than unpack so far!  I cannot wait to begin to use the kitchen with its expansive counters!  When I get back I still have to get a fair amount of winterizing done.  The drafts through the windows are horrible so I’ll need to work on that.  I still need to get a skirt for the bottom of the RV to keep the wind from blowing underneath it.  But I love it here even if I’m a bit chilly and wondering if I will need a mortgage to pay for the propane to heat it!  Once I get to working on it, though, it should be fine.  Oh, and Picasso loves it!  He likes to romp and stomp throughout it and seems really happy here!

We even have a fireplace (electric, of course).  As you can see, Picasso is already loving it!

We even have a fireplace (electric, of course). As you can see, Picasso is already loving it!

I found it utterly weird to move but still be in the exact same location.  That’s a first for me!  I doubt there are too many who’ve done that!  I kept thinking I’d walk out the door and be somewhere else but, nope, I was still here but my experience of “here” was quite different now since the outside was now part of my inside experience because of the windows.

But perhaps the piece I cannot help but notice is the healing that being here has brought to me.  I’ve had such a hard time trusting people as well as my own intuition ever since I lost my business.  By nature I’m a rather trusting person so this has been tough on me.  Throughout this whole process I kept doubting either myself or that Brian could possibly be who he presented himself to be.  I thought I’d be snookered or that this RV was going to be a piece of garbage.  Having some of those odds and ends going wrong didn’t help but I stuck with it.

Tonight (Monday now) Brian came over and this RV is officially mine and the old one is gone.  The swap has been completed.  Brian was here with Scott, his employee.  The hot water heater turned out to need a new element, just as Brian predicted.  [Update on the hot water heater – although it appeared to work after the element was replaced, by morning the water was again only lukewarm.  Not willing to make the same mistake twice, I didn’t take a shower that morning!  Brian will be back again to fix it after Thanksgiving.) The door got fixed needing just a little adjustment.  The circuit breakers were checked and all was good.  The thermostat turned out to be working properly although the LED was a bit wonky so numbers appeared different than they should.  I now know how to work it while Brian looks for a fully working replacement.  Furthermore, Brian is here for the long haul and will be available to help with whatever work might be needed and at prices that will be much more realistic and reasonable.

I cannot tell you just how grateful I am for the help I’ve received since moving here.  Brian singlehandedly has helped my broken truster to start healing.  I followed my intuition, also broken, and have been well rewarded. I have to admit that my life has been just a little strange since I decided to go for this adventure and has been absolutely nothing like I would have expected it to have been.  My favorite activity so far in my new RV is to just sit in one of the lounge chairs with a cup of tea and just take in the wonderful pine tree outside my window as peace envelopes me in her loving arms.

My new kitchen!  Just look at all that counter space!  And speaking of counter space, it's all Corian!

My new kitchen! Just look at all that counter space! And speaking of counter space, it’s all Corian!

Tomorrow (Tuesday) I leave for Indianapolis to be with my family.  I am so grateful that we will be seeing each other again after such a relatively short period of time.

I cannot express fully how grateful I am to see this healing come over me.  It has been quite a long time and, to be honest, there were many times I had lost hope that my life would ever come together again.  I just had to keep holding on while moving forward, neither of which was easy at times.

I have to admit to wondering what will be next on my agenda.  I’ve been asked what I would be doing here all on my own for a whole winter.  The reality is I don’t have a clue!  I’m hoping to be writing but I don’t know yet.  Seems whenever I have an idea it turns out to be something different anyway which makes me wonder if I should make plans at all!

I’m also very grateful to each and every one of you who takes the time to read about my crazy, adventurous, healing life.  It’s a real pleasure to have you with me!  Life can be good again even after falling apart.  When I first decided to get the original RV it was because “my body” told me that the experience would bring healing.  I thought it would be about the travel but apparently that isn’t the case.   I just needed a new, healing location.  I feel like tremendous healing is and will continue to take place in my life while I’m here.  I’ve met some wonderful people and I’m grateful to each and everyone of them.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Our lovely turkey on the rotisserie while being smoked!  Yum!

Happy Thanksgiving! Our lovely turkey on the rotisserie while being smoked! Yum!  My son Kris did a great job on this bird while Elizabeth my daughter-in-law did all the rest!

May this Thanksgiving season find you with people you love enjoying each other’s company.  May there be a great many things for you to hold in your heart with gratitude and, if not, know that things can really change.  They have for me; they can for you.  Blessings and love to you all!

© 2015 deborah kauffeld

moving – the drama (part 1)

[It has taken me much longer to get this posted than I expected since my internet service was quite intermittent “on the mountain”.  That is about to change as I will be getting my very own internet service in a few days!]

As I start to write this it is the beginning of the week leading to one of my favorite holidays – Thanksgiving.  And tonight (Sunday evening) finds me nearing completion of the move into my new (to me) RV.  On Thursday Brian, the seller, brought the new RV to the same site I’ve been on for the last three months.  First the old one was moved out to make room and then it was moved back, behind the new one.  This made moving all my stuff a bit easier since both doors were on the same side.

The two RV's end to end, doors on the same side, with my car in the foreground.

The two RV’s end to end, doors on the same side, with my car in the foreground.

Brian got here earlier than expected on Thursday, well before noon.  That gave me a bit more time to get started with the move which was good since I had no choice but to sleep in the new RV that night.  The old one had no utilities so no heat, water or electricity.  It was no longer level either which could probably make sleeping a bit funky!  I didn’t think rolling off the bed in the middle of the night would be fun but it would’ve made getting to the bathroom quicker!  Prior to Brian’s arrival I admit to having been a little nervous that morning wondering if I was totally crazy or what!  But once the RV arrived that all evaporated.

Brian was here quite a while which I found surprising.  Part of the deal Brian and I had was to have new decals installed on the RV before I would get it since many of the original ones were peeling off.  The decal issue was a well known problem for this company for those model years.  While the inside of the RV was in good shape, the outside left much to be desired.   When Brian drove up with the RV I was blown away by just how great it looked with its new decals!  He commented, not complaining, about what a difficult job it was to get them done, never wanting to do it again even though it probably added at least $2,500 to the value.

The full side of the RV.

The side of the RV.

All the peeling decals had to be removed first.  Afterwards, the adhesive was removed using some kind of really nasty product designed to remove the adhesive as well as layers of skin!  Finally, the decals were applied, a process  that required perfect weather  so the decals could properly dry in place.  The decals themselves were actually composed of many different little ones and had to be put together much like a jigsaw puzzle.  I believe it was something like 50 decals in all!  Summer would’ve been the best time to get this work done with the extended daylight hours and warm temperatures.  Well that wasn’t happening and the rains kept coming, totally delaying the application of the decals.  While I can normally be fairly patient under these circumstances, my timeline was getting pretty crunchy given the fact that I had to drive (in my car) to Indianapolis for Thanksgiving and there was much work to be done prior to my departure.

This is a close-up of the decals. Each one of those mountains is a separate decal so you can imagine how challenging it was to get them up correctly!

This is a close-up of the decals. Each one of those mountains is a separate decal so you can imagine how challenging it was to get them up correctly!

When Brian finally got here we all admired the great job that was done on the decals.  It made a huge difference.  I never took a single photo of the rig with the peeling decals but it was not pretty.  The RV then was moved into its new location, leveled and the utilities hooked up.  One of the more important issues was getting the heated water hose installed so that while I was gone the water wouldn’t freeze in the hose if the temperature went below freezing.

Not long after its arrival, Jim and Kathy (owners of the RV park) excitedly came over and asked if they could go inside and check it all out.  Afterwards Jim took me aside to tell me that I did a good job with this RV.  I think he was a bit surprised.  Yesterday he told me he admired me and that he was proud of me!  You never know the impression you make on people unless they decide to share their thoughts.  To be honest, I never would’ve guessed he felt that way!  Jim also told me that he really liked Brian and later was busy picking his brain about his own rig.  What I haven’t told Jim about yet was the fact that I also got a screaming deal on this RV.  Brian bought it for a really good price since Camping World, having taken it in on a trade-in, wanted nothing to do with peeling decals.  I was the recipient of this good deal since Brian passed on the savings!  Brian and I did an even swap of the two RV’s even though the wholesale price of the new one was $5,000 or $6,000 more than the one I was trading!  It’s funny, I didn’t think about it until now but it reminded me of a house that needed a bit of rehab work done to it.  While others couldn’t see the potential, I could and, in this case, it really has paid off!

Eventually everyone left and I was alone with my new home.  Wow!  I really did it!  I was floored by the wonderful views!  Well, enough enjoying things!  Time to get to work!  The first thing I did was get my mattress into the RV (thank you, Jim) and I then had to open the box.  I got a latex mattress and I’m always amazed at how small a box they can get those suckers into!  But now that the box was upstairs in the bedroom I had to open it and get it situated on the bed.  Believe me, this was no easy task!  The mattress, by Jim’s estimation, weighed somewhere around 100 pounds!  Believe me, my back wasn’t at all happy either!  Try as I might I couldn’t get the box open!  I finally pried off the staples from both ends but there was still no getting it out at that point!  I finally took my scissors and began to carefully cut down the side of the box where it was seamed.  It took forever since I had to do a little bit at a time so I wouldn’t accidentally cut the mattress.  When I eventually got it out of the box I then had to get the box out from under the mattress!  Now the next task emerged – getting the mattress out of the plastic wrap that kept it from exploding into a queen size mattress while being shipped!  (What a visual!)  That plastic was quite thick and in several layers.  Again, care was important!  After I got nearly half way done it appeared to have its own life as it began to expand and rip the plastic that was left intact.  I briefly wondered how I was going to manage if the mattress was upside-down.  Realizing that was exactly what was going to happen, I quickly reversed it before it finished coming to life!  Fully open I never would’ve been able to flip it by myself.  Now I had to remove the plastic from beneath the mattress, a slightly easier task then the cardboard since the plastic was much more slippery than the cardboard had been.  After arranging the mattress on the frame it was time to make the bed.

Now you have to understand that this was the first real mattress I’ve had in over six years having slept on either a futon or a sleeper sofa.  There’s a whole lot more to making a real bed!  First the heated mattress pad went on followed by the waterproof pad (my insurance that Picasso won’t mess things up.  He’s been good but, who knows?)  After that, the bottom sheet then the top and then getting the duvet into the duvet cover as well as the pillows into their shams!  Let me tell you, prior to even moving anything my back was already getting quite grumpy about the situation. But, hey!  My bed looked great!  Better yet, it feels great!  I did a good job of choosing and I’m quite happy with it.  Yay!  Thankfully mattress pads don’t have to be done all the time.  Oh, and that heated mattress pad?  Just a little bit of heaven!

My trusty moving helper! couldn't have done the move without it!

My trusty moving helper! couldn’t have done the move without it!

About a week prior to the move I picked up a foldable wagon that I had originally seen in Florida at Bed Bath & Beyond when I was there last month.  It’s one of those with chunky, fat tires that enable it to go through sand and good for up to 150 pounds.  I figured it would work well for what I needed.  I cannot carry much without risking back pain so this would be my transport between the two RV’s.  The best $80 I’ve spent in a long time since it literally saved my back and allowed me to get the move done!  I wish you could see how I have to move things!  I used big plastic containers to put stuff into and then slid it to the door.  I slid it down the steps while using my knee to keep it from getting away from me and then slid it into the wagon.  I then pulled my little blue wagon over to the other RV and did the whole process the opposite direction, careful the whole time not to stress my back any more than the bed had already done.  I am happy to report that my back survived thanks to my crazy ingenuity!

But life hasn’t been without some drama, naturally!  What would my life be like without drama!  First issue – I blew a circuit breaker and it wasn’t even more than a few hours after I was in the RV!  I made some tea for myself and had the heater on the same circuit.  I didn’t realize they were on the same breaker and – boom!  Circuit breaker flipped!  Thankfully I knew where the breakers were so it was an easy fix.  But later I plugged into a different circuit only to have that breaker also flip.  Hmm…I called Brian who told me he figured the circuit had too little amperage to support the heater.  I was a little worried since the breakers were relatively warm.  He told me he would check the breakers when he came back on Monday to pick up the old RV, the day the swap is totally official.

Okay, issues over, right?  Well, I couldn’t get the main door to close easily.  It took some really nasty slamming before it would latch and I was actually getting concerned that I’d destroy something in the process.  Another call to Brian who told me it probably needed a good dose of WD-40. When I found it and sprayed it on it was like magic.  Suddenly the door closed normally although we determined it also needed some weather stripping, something they didn’t have at the time.

The first night was more or less uneventful.  Well, almost.  I went to set the thermostat because heat was an absolute necessity.  Well, another issue!  It seems I could set the temperature at any setting I wanted as long as it was in the 70’s – 90’s or in the 40’s.  The digital thermostat evidently didn’t like the 50’s or 60’s which was a bit of an issue since I wanted to set the temp for 55 that night.  I didn’t think 71 was a good sleeping temperature so 49 it was!  I forgot to put on Picasso’s sweater so the poor little guy must have been a bit chilly but no complaints from him!  When I realized I turned on our little space heater so we were all toasty once again!  Not surprisingly, there was another call to Brian that morning!  He will replace the thermostat when he is here on Monday!

I did a little work around the RV and decided it was time for a shower.  This shower is a bit larger than my last one and has a glass enclosure.  I was looking forward to my inaugural shower.  I got in and ran the water.  I was a bit surprised that the hot water was more lukewarm but given it’s distance from the hot water heater I wasn’t particularly concerned.  About halfway through my shower while I was all soaped up and had conditioner still in my hair, the lukewarm water turned icy cold!  AHHHHH!!!!  I practically cried with the idea of having to rinse off in water that was frigid but I managed, just a little worse for wear!  Brr!!!  Another call to Brian.  He explained how when they are showing the RV sometimes they run the hot water heater either with no or little water and the heating element then dies.  But that doesn’t makes total sense to me since I had hot water prior to that.  I have this weird idea that it really isn’t the rod in the heater but rather something with the circuit breaker from the day before or something else.  It’s just one of those feelings and I could clearly be wrong but I’m too often right to not pay attention to my thought.  I will make sure Brian checks out those circuit breakers well.  Better safe than sorry!

Stay tuned for part 2!

© 2015 deborah kauffeld

a change in direction…

So here’s the thing about journeys – you never know when they might change directions on you.  And so it seems to be with this journey.

I’ve always had more than one agenda with this whole RV thing.  The first and most obvious agenda was to travel and get to see the country.  Then there was the thought that this would be a healing journey. Another agenda, which in the long run just might be the most important one for me, was to find a place that would become “home” to me.  I figured I’d travel for a few years, more or less, and find my place during that time.  Well, that’s where things may have changed.

A few posts ago I mentioned that as I was coming up to the top of the hill on the highway approaching the campground where I am now I saw the Appalachian mountains for the first time. I couldn’t help but feel I was home.  I felt that to the core of my being and it hasn’t changed.

Sure there has been a major hiccup in the process given my car’s lack of drivability, first with the clutch pedal falling to the floor and not working  and then with a secondary injury inflicted by the second tow truck driver.  But even in the midst of all the craziness I’ve been through, I still found myself feeling home and couldn’t imagine leaving here.

The "major hiccup" as it is being pulled on to the flat bed for the second time in less than a week.

The “major hiccup” as it is being pulled on to the flat bed for the second time in less than a week.  This is just prior to the “incident”.  Thankfully I took a lot of photos!

Let me fill in a few of the gaps for those who might not know the whole story.  My car blew a clutch nearly two weeks ago.  I was on my way to get it fixed when it did it again in Boone, only 30 minutes into a 2 hour trip.  However, when it finally got to the Tennessee dealer via flatbed tow truck (two hours away over the mountains), it decided not to replicate the issue so they returned the car to me unfixed five days later. I drove 40 minutes and it failed yet again.  This time I left the clutch pedal down on the floor as proof of the failure.  Unfortunately when the tow truck driver picked up the car this second time he broke off part of the face plate that the safety chains attach on to.  I cannot safely tow the car until that part is totally replaced, a $1,000 fix.  The owner of the tow company is not being cooperative so I got the state troopers involved since they called the tow company.  Now that the dealership has seen the clutch down they were finally able to get approval from Fiat to pull apart the transmission to get to the clutch master cylinder.  They had to order parts and it should be fixed by the beginning of this week – finally!  It will be nearly two weeks without my car at that point.  However, the part the tow driver broke is another story!  That could take up to two weeks before it can be replaced since they first have to verify the exact part (leave it to my car model to have two possibilities!) and then order and replace it.   There is so much more to the story but that is enough to catch one up on the overall details.

If you look really carefully you will notice there is a whole in the grill with  nothing sticking out of it which is where the part broke off.  The broken part cannot be replaced without replacing the entire piece.  Think of the part as a bumper with tow parts sticking out of it.

If you look carefully you will notice there is a hole in the grill with nothing sticking out of it which is where the part broke off. The broken part cannot be replaced without replacing the entire face plate. Think of the face plate as a bumper with tow parts sticking out of it.

 

This is the part that he broke off by using it for towing the car up the flatbed, something he was not supposed to do.  By towing it upward and onto the ramp, he put too much upward pressure on it and snapped it right off.

This is the part that he broke off.  He used it to pull the car up the flatbed, something that part is not designed to do. By towing it upward and onto the ramp (a combination of horizontal and vertical), he put too much upward pressure on it and snapped it right off.

This delay (close to 4 weeks in total) puts a real dent in my original plans.  So what’s a girl to do?  Time to check out the area!

I moseyed up to Boone, NC (as in Daniel Boone), a mountain town I hoped could meet some of my needs for both Picasso and me.

The Pet Place.  Photo taken from their Facebook page since it was pouring when I was there.

The Pet Place. Photo taken from their Facebook page since it was pouring when I was there.

First up – a pet store that is a distributor of the raw food Picasso has been eating.  I went to The Pet Place and quickly met with and spoke to one of the owners.  Yes, they can get Picasso’s food without issue although they do not carry it but they do order it for other customers.  They have all sorts of healthy items there, most all of which are made in the USA.  They regularly have professional visitors and today was no exception.  I got to meet with a veterinarian and his wife Debbie.  Together they operate the only 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital in the area.  Besides getting information about their services (regular vet by day who magically turns into an emergency vet by night!), Debbie was able to provide me with a whole bunch of other information including an amazing acupuncturist, a man I really would like to see soon!  He sounds beyond fantastic from what she was telling me.  Debbie also gave me the name of a nurse practitioner she swears by in the area.  What a great start!  Then, before I left, I got the name of a holistic mobile vet but I do not know yet if she would come down to us or if I’d have to go to her. She has won “best veterinarian” in the area recently so that sounds quite promising.

The owner of the pet shop told me there was no way she would ever, ever, ever move off the mountain!  That’s how much she loves it.  Both of these women were wonderful in the information they shared with me.  I am so grateful that I got to meet them both today.  Gotta love perfect timing like that!

Bare Essentials Natural Market, photo from internet.  Again, too much rain to take a shot today!

Bare Essentials Natural Market, photo from internet. Again, too much rain to take a shot today!

Then it was off to the human natural food store after having made sure Picasso’s needs could be met.  This is a locally owned shop called Bare Essentials Natural Market.  It is a wonderful, clean store with very responsive staff.  I was told that basically if they don’t have it, they can order it!  When I asked about getting raw milk or cream I was told how to legally go about finding it.  I then asked about finding pastured, healthy beef and was told that it was best to buy it directly from the farm since they had to purchase it at retail and then add their profit on to the cost.  Evidently it is available at the local farmer’s markets and she said it is really good beef!  Got that all covered!

Local beef that I'm told is really excellent.

Local beef that I’m told is really excellent.

After taking care of things in Boone it was off to Mass for me.  I knew I needed to do some church exploration.  I’m in the south and naturally Catholic churches are few and far between.  The church I wanted to go to was over an hour from where I was in the moment but I had the time so off I went.  The church is well attended by a large Hispanic population.  Half of the masses are in Spanish and the pastor clearly speaks Spanish natively with English as a second language.  This would probably not be my “home” church but one I would visit on occasion.  Nevertheless, it exceeded my expectations.  At some point I expect I would also consider attending a local Baptist church only because all the Catholic churches are so far away.  I want the opportunity to meet people locally, not an hour away!

St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in Lenoir, NC

St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in Lenoir, NC

So this is all to tell you that I’m seriously considering moving here – soon!  This is still in a really early stage but it has some very real possibility.  I have already checked into what it would take to make my RV winter worthy (information for another post).  I might also consider trading this one in for a travel trailer which, for the same money, would not only be newer but roomier.  Again, this is really early in the planning stage but if I was to do this, it would have to be a relatively quick thing since winter isn’t all that far away and I’m not open to freezing to death!

The balance of my trip, by necessity, has to change.  I still hope to get to Indianapolis to visit my son and family but it will probably have to be without the RV since I won’t be able to tow my car for a while and the campground there closes by the end of October.  It would also only be for a week rather than the planned month.

Assuming I end up doing this truly crazy thing, I will also have to find out if and how I can move mom up here.  I know she would love it here even if she couldn’t see too much of it.  The air alone would be so helpful for her and the COPD she suffers from.  Everything, however, has to be one step at a time.  First, me!

Trooper JD Boone, the man who came to my rescue the second time around!

Trooper JD Boone, the man who came to my rescue the second time around!

As always there is so much more to tell but it will have to wait until another time!  I will leave you with this – since I’ve been on this journey (not even a month yet), I’ve driven four different vehicle types (RV, SUV, van and my non-performing performance car) with tags from three different states (Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee), rentals from two different rental car companies (Hertz and Enterprise) and towing by two very different towing companies.  I have met two state troopers and one local cop, dealt with two other state troopers on the phone and two different insurance companies  I have had to deal with two separate warranty issues (the clutch is under warranty while the face plate on the car is not a warranty issue since it was misused).  I had to pay for the first car rental since at time they could not determine the issue was under warranty.  Hopefully I will get that money back although the night I had to stay at the hotel will not be refunded to me.  I am now good “friends” with both the Fiat dealer in Tennessee as well as Fiat USA.  I have learned that there is something called a Wrecker Sergeant, a position that deals exclusively with tow truck companies ensuring that they have insurance and are complying with the various in and outs of the laws.  It has been one helluva learning experience.  But out of it all I may end up with a new home.  That would work for me!

© 2015 deborah kauffeld

…to the best!

When last we met, our protagonist was barely making it to the campground in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina.  As we see our heroine it is obvious that she has had the crap beaten out of her.   Oh, my!  What will happen to her next?

So let’s go to a point just prior to the getting lost part.  I’m driving the RV down the last part of the last piece of highway.  The road was hilly – up and down, up and down.  Suddenly we reached the crest of one of those hills and the Appalachian mountains were visible in the distance all covered in their smoky haze.  I looked at them, smiled and softly pronounced  – I am home!  It was an interesting statement considering this was my first time ever in North Carolina other than driving through what was probably Route 1 as we were going to Florida when I was 11.  But, yes, I knew this was home and my heart was full!

This is the crest of the hill when I first saw the mountains in the distance. Can you see them? They are hardly visible in the photo. Sorry for the quality but I was, after all, driving an RV at the time!

The crest of the hill when I first saw the mountains in the distance. Can you see them? They are hardly visible in the photo because they blend into the clouds. Sorry for the quality but I was, after all, driving an RV at the time and the windshield was quite dirty!

Not long afterwards I missed that fateful turn (see my previous post) and my trip was suddenly extended by another hour and a half.  I didn’t feel “at home” after we got to the campsite nor while we were getting settled in.  I was beyond tired at that point and actually felt pretty much nothing at all, very much a state of “left foot; right foot”, just getting the job done.  But later that night, when I took Picasso out for the last time, I heard the nighttime symphony of the owl and various insects and then I looked up at the sky.  Oh, that is heavenly!   Stars filling every space in the universe!  Yes, I felt like I was home, certainly more like “home” than I have felt in many years.  Oh, this is heavenly!

I have always thought of myself as a “mountain” girl.  I have lived in the more suburban/urban setting of New Jersey with New York City as my backyard, then moved to the desert (an environment I still love although the summers are too harsh for me), then lived in a rain forest (Costa Rica) and finally a swamp called Florida.  Okay, to be honest that “swamp” does have some great looking beaches but, no, I’m not a beach person.  I love the feeling of power as I look out at the ocean but have no need to be there as some do.  No, I’m a mountain girl and always feel most alive when I’m in the mountains surrounded by trees and breathing in the air that is somehow so energized by all those trees.  It’s my place and yet I’ve never lived there.  For years I’ve promised myself since I’ve lived in just about every other environment that I would some how, some way live in the mountains before I died.

This is the size of my side yard. Impressive, isn't it?

 This is the size of my side yard. Impressive, isn’t it?  I’ve lived in houses with smaller side yards!

Perhaps, then, it should come as no surprise that I feel so at home here.  To say I’m in love would be an understatement.  There is an energy that I’ve not experienced in 20 years since the last time I visited Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  Shenandoah forms the northern part of these Appalachian mountains and so there is some similarity.

In all that time I’ve not once experienced the turning of the leaves, the smell of the leaves as they decompose on the forest floor, nor the anticipation of spring after a long winter.  Spring is my favorite season and whether we are speaking of the desert, the rain forest or the swamp each offers a rather insipid version of spring.  My whole being craves these cyclic events.

My grill on the picnic table looks great along with my chair and the fire pit. I do need to make a fire at least once while I'm here.

My grill on the picnic table looks great along with my chair and the fire pit. I do need to make a fire at least once while I’m here. The stream is just behind those trees and quite audible.

At this point, I am expecting to come back here next summer for the season.  I will make up my mind as the two weeks progress.  I should mention that one four-footed little guy better known as Picasso seems to really love it here.  When we are outside he pulls me all over the area to see what new sniffs he can find.  I’ve never seen him so excited to go for a walk.

I have to admit to thinking that I might want to actually consider the very real possibility of moving here on an annual basis, even living here through the winter.  I love and miss snow.  I don’t want to be snowed in for weeks on end or break my back shoveling but I want to have fun in the snow and watch Picasso romp through it.  He’s not seen too much snow but he did seem to like it once he figured out where to do his business!  If I do decide to seriously consider this as a full-time place to live, I’d probably want to get a different type of RV, one that would afford better protection from the cold, and just park it here without moving it.

All this is a bit like putting the cart before the horse but I really do think I could live here.  The peace, calm and joy that are inherent with being in the mountains are all here.  Yes, too soon to tell at this point but while I’m here this remains always in the back of my mind – can I live here?  Jim, the owner, was telling me yesterday that if I thought I was relaxed, give it a little time and I’ll find out what true relaxation is!  He went on to tell me how there is no real crime up here and how very safe it is.  Yes, I can feel that, too.

My backyard.

                                                  My backyard.

For now I just need to slow myself down and allow nature to soothe and heal my tired being.  The stress from the journey here is still affecting me, even more than yesterday.  But in spite of the tiredness I feel alive.  There’s no TV or telephone so I’m cut off from the world and even that feels good.  Assuming I do make it back here next summer there is supposed to be a new cell tower that will provide cell coverage and I’d get a satellite dish for TV so that would all be taken care of.

Earlier today all I wanted to do was get a blanket and spread it out on the ground and lie down on it.  I’ve not laid down on the ground since leaving NJ 20 years ago.  Too many snakes, stinging bugs or other hazards.  I long to embrace Mother Earth.

That’s my story for today.  I wanted to leave you with something more upbeat than yesterday’s story of how I got here.  That was the worst but today, well, you got to read about the best!

© 2015 deborah kauffeld

and so the first chapter is OVER!!!

[Tuesday]

Living on an RV is very different from living in a sticks and bricks home.  I guess the biggest difference is the degree of awareness of how one’s life impacts their environment.  For instance, one cannot help but become more aware of their water consumption, partly because it is certainly severely limited if not attached to city water but also because it eventually has to be dumped.

Temperature is certainly another issue.  In a sticks and bricks home the weather is mitigated by those sticks, bricks and insulation.  Not so in an RV.  If it is hot out, it is probably hotter in the RV (think car in the summer heat), at least without air conditioning.  If it is cold out, well, think camping out in a tent in the cold.  Yeah, you feel the cold.

Picasso is his puppy prison.  This has nothing to do with anything I've written but I thought it would be nice to see Picasso in our outside digs!

Picasso is his puppy prison. This has nothing to do with anything I’ve written but I thought it would be nice to see Picasso in our outside digs!

So one of the remaining issues with my RV is the shower curtain.  when I first moved into the RV I taped the shower curtain as a temporary cure since I could not come up with a better solution.  There’s a rail on the ceiling that requires a tape (it fits into the track) that supposed to be sewed into a shower curtain.  Only issue is that the tape no longer seems to exist so I could not buy one.  The rail is therefore useless as a result.  There have been other potential solutions (new rod, new rail, glass enclosure) but they tend to be rather expensive.  Now that I have the new shower head I would like to shower comfortably without being concerned about whether the curtain is going to come down in the middle of the shower as well as finding out I’ve created a major lake outside the shower.

I know this is really hard to see but the concept of using a sewed in tape is hard to imagine, I thought I'd include a picture of it from the curtain that hangs over the over cab bunk.  You can see how it is attached to the curtain and then attaches to the rail.

I know this is really hard to see but the concept of using a sewed in tape is difficult to imagine, I thought I’d include a picture of it from the curtain that hangs over the over cab bunk. You can see how it is attached to the curtain and then attaches to the rail.  Personally I think that must be a strange solution for a shower curtain.

This morning was a rather cool morning.  Suddenly I found myself feeling like I was on a mountain waking up in a cabin.  I pulled the blanket up around me rather than getting out of bed.  Soon enough it will be warm and even hot in the mornings so I wanted to enjoy this for as long as possible!  And then it came to me!  A potential solution to the whole shower curtain issue emerged!  (And you thought I digressed!  Ha!)

What if I drilled holes into the rail and then inserted shower hooks, real skinny hooks, upon which the shower curtain was hung?  Sure it would be immobile but that really didn’t matter to me.  I grabbed my phone while continuing to nestle into the blankets, keeping warm, and immediately explored Amazon for ideas.  I finally found what I was looking for and ordered a set of shower curtain hooks.  It’ll be two days before I get it and I hope it works!

Then there is the reality that everything that goes in must come out.  That not only holds true for the human body but also for the infamous black tank!  Remember how I mentioned that not having the RV leveled was proving to be a problem for the black tank?  Draining the black tank produced only clear liquids, not a good sign.  Then a couple days ago there was yet another smell in the RV, clearly coming from the black tank.  I’m pretty sure it was the smell from the product I was using in the tanks, recommended by the RV tech.  The other issue that emerged was the fact that the sensors were no longer working properly.  Rather than going to “E” when I emptied the tanks, the readout showed 1/3 no matter what I did.  Who thinks about these things when in a sticks and bricks home?  You flush the toilet and everything is gone, right?  Well, not in an RV!

After the black tank was emptied it continued to show that it was 1/3 full.

After the black tank was emptied it continued to show that it was 1/3 full.

So Saturday afternoon I spent time investigating how to take care of this problem.  I read this, that and a whole bunch more until I found a video from RVgeeks called “HOW TO: Dump & Clean an RV Black Tank”.  Basically what it says is that water is the best cleanser.  Simple.  Empty the tank, fill it, empty it, fill it – well, you get the idea.

I decided to follow their instructions but once I was done, I filled the tank one more time, this time adding the cleansing enzymes.  I allowed it to sit overnight.  Well, it ended up over two nights!  I emptied one more time using the empty, fill, empty, fill technique until the water coming out was crystal clear.  Then the best thing happened – I went into the RV to check the readout and it registered “E”!  That’s the first time since getting the RV that this happened!  Now I know what I need to do to keep my black tank healthy and happy!

The black tank is empty and that's exactly what the indicator shows!  Yay!

The black tank is empty and that’s exactly what the indicator shows! Yay!

What a great day today has been!  Wonderful weather, a solution for the shower curtain issue and finally getting the black tank to work properly!  So far the shower doesn’t seem to be leaking into the kitchen anymore either so I may have also solved that issue by getting the new shower head!  Slowly but surely I’m finding my way in this new world of RVing.

[Thursday, two days later]

It worked!  It worked!  Brilliant, easy solution!  I drilled holes into the track, inserted the hooks and they fit!  I put the shower curtain onto the hooks and it is done!  Well, almost.  After attempting to tape up the shower curtain as many times as I have it is overly sticky and in need of replacement.  I will just get another cheap curtain so that’s no issue.  The hooks cost something around $10 and a new curtain will cost about the same so for $20 I have a fix!  The dealer from whom I bought the RV had a solution that would have cost me nearly $300!  Now to take a shower!  I’m hot and sweaty but I finally have a permanent shower curtain fix!

Holes drilled into the rail with shower curtain hooks inserted and holding the shower curtain.

Holes drilled into the rail with shower curtain hooks inserted holding the shower curtain.

[Post shower]

Ah!  Totally amazing!  I just finished my first shower in the RV while using water for the entire shower!  No more on/off, on/off, etc. unless I choose to!  I’m in heaven.  After five weeks of showering with intermittent water and always leaking water from around the shower curtain I was finally able to take a real shower.  The curtain works perfectly now.  It is well nestled into either end of the shower and long enough to amply keep water from escaping from the bottom.  I’m a very happy camper!  My idea worked and the shower was great!

And just like that all the initial fixes are DONE and I’m fully moved in and functional!!!  Now on to some of the fun adventures!  Oh, yeah – first I have to do my income taxes.  Oh well.

[Just a quick addendum to this post – A few people have commented to me about the fact that their tanks have smelled at one time or another.  With my extensive experience (lol) I can tell you this doesn’t have to be the case.  Cleaning the tanks properly will go a long way to keeping things nice and sweet.  Add to that the wonderful enzymatic cleaner I’ve been using – Happy Campers – and you will get some really good results.  It can be used for both black and gray tanks.  There is no smell at all with Happy Campers which, for me, is a huge plus since I hate chemical smells! If you decide to order Happy Campers, please use my link so I can get credit for it!  No cost to you!  Thanks!]

 

 

© 2015 deborah kauffeld