Tuesday, January 3, 2017

1/3/17-Broken Tranny, 3 Panic Attacks & Happy New Year

Two days before Christmas I panicked. Again.

Every now and then fear strangles me. How tight the hold is a matter of degrees. Sometimes it just creeps up my spine, threatening to attack. At other times it rises in my throat threatening to drown me. I am getting better at recognizing those types of fear, and can usually use pull spiritual tools out of my bag to help get me centered again: Stop, breathe, connect, pray, meditate. Repeat.

But every now and then, fear sneaks up on me and shows up as panic before I recognize it for what it is. And, as I mentioned in my first sentence, it recently happened, again.

It’s not easy living on disability when you were rich once, divorced, and then rebuilt a good life for yourself with a good income and money to spare. Well, hell, I’m sure it’s not easy living on disability for anyone! But every now and then I get it in my head that I **NEED** more money. Need, need, need. And none of it is true.

But I get ahead of myself.

My dogs are senior furbabies, 11 and 14. I fear that I will not be able to take care of them if they need something. We live on about $700/month and there is nothing left over for emergencies. All my retirement, all my savings, all my investments, are long since gone to medical bills and lapse of employment between health crises. I repeat – there is nothing left over for emergencies. I have no “stash”, no emergency fund, no spare money – usually not even a dime – no matter how hard I try.

I live in van. I have no vices. I eat sparingly. I use water and heat sparingly. I don’t have an “entertainment” fund. There are no more corners to cut. So, every now and then I panic. I start thinking that “i” am the source for all my needs (and my furbabies), instead of remembering that the great “I am” is the source. And when that happens, I tend to do stupid things.

Like try to get a job.

I can’t even help a friend out with his social media needs from the comforts of my van. Yep, that was one job I recently tried. Nope, couldn’t do it. I used to be a high-functioning, high-level, Legislative Liaison for the State of Texas. Now I can’t even work 20 hours a week online with the simplest of tasks. That reality is/was devastating. Jobs don’t get much cushier than that, but I thought maybe I can do something! Wash dishes, clean RVs, stock shelves – something, ANYTHING!!

Which leads me to PANIC #1

So, two days before Christmas I packed me and the furbabies up and headed back to Quartzsite – the winter job mecca for nomads. It worked out great because I got to see my friends Glenn and Colvin while there, and enjoyed a nice Christmas, but the job hunting was a disaster. I was offered 2 jobs and had 2 other people tell me they will call me when they have an opening. From that perspective I suppose the trip was a success, but the thing is – I couldn’t do the jobs. When it came down to it, there wasn’t any sense in wasting there time or mine. I had to decline. Here’s why...

Two of the jobs required a health certificate. I would have had to drive 45 miles, one-way, just to get that little piece of paper. I’m doing much better since my last seizure at Thanksgiving, but I don’t have it in me to make that drive. Plus there were hoops to go through to get the certificate, then there were more instructions beyond that … once you get the certificate, do this, then that, etc., etc., etc. I got lost even in what I was supposed to do just to get a certificate so I could then actually work, and my heart sunk a little. The jobs offered were at food carts. I remained hopeful in spite of the whole health certificate thing, and hung around each of them for awhile to get a feel for what my tasks would be. It wasn’t long before I realized I would not be able to take orders or run the cash register reliably during slow times, let alone during the rush of mealtimes. People ordering chicken would end up with buffalo, or something like that, and the cooks would have run me out of town with a cleaver because there were shortcuts to writing the orders and there is no way I would have been able to remember all the codes. I was grief struck to realize I can no longer even work at a food cart, temporary or otherwise. It was devastating actually.

One of the other jobs was going to be at an RV Parts & Tools tent. They took my name and number and would call in a couple of weeks when things got busier. They weren’t just saying that, I was genuinely next in line for the next available position. I thought surely I could work at their cash register. People walk up with their purchases, you ring them up and bag their goods. No biggie, right? Well, the 2nd time they had me come back in to talk about the job, I stood there watching. That place was a zoo! The cashiers would be ringing someone up, someone else would ask a question, one of the managers or owners would hand them something or tell them something, and the whole time they had to keep ringing customers up! AND they were adding purchase amounts in their head! No calculator, no automated cash register! Are you kidding me?!? I used to teach middle school science, but now I can’t even do basic math. My heart sunk a little farther.

I went to about 50 vendors. Of the 4 jobs I was offered, there was one I could do. I think. It was at a tent that sold women’s clothing. It was a very quiet tent, no loud music, and not a lot of traffic. Maybe not a very good combination for the owner, but a great combination for me! I was thrilled when she took my name and number! Then she said she would hire me on the spot if she had an opening, but had just hired her last girl for the season that morning. She wanted to know if I was available next year. I walked back to my van, shut the door, and cried.

In all of this I also had to accept that if I had tried to push myself, it not only would have not been helpful to my prospective employers, it would have most probably, inevitably even, resulted in another health crisis for me. Every time I have a seizure it takes me longer to recover and I don’t seem to quite get back to the same functioning level I was at prior to that. Acceptance is not always easy, at least for me.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to work again, but I just can’t seem to be able to give up that hope. To live on such a meager income is not only scary, some months it’s impossible, and it’s just not the quality of life I want. Plus I really, really, really want to be self-sustaining and independent. But for now, it is clear to me, there’s not much I can do … at least reliably and consistently … for now.

However, I can still write (on good days), and I can make videos of my experiences out here on the road. Who knows, maybe my YouTube channel will grow enough to give me and the furbabies some emergency and medical funds to fall back on. We’ll see. I hope so.

And that leads me to PANIC #2

That same morning that I decided I just had to go to Quartzsite to get a job, my van got locked in drive gear. Well, I guess it didn’t exactly get locked, but if you watch the short video below, you’ll hear what it sounded like if I tried to take it out of gear. Yikes! What a horrible noise! It sounded like the engine was going to fall apart! In the meantime, Robert had decided to go with me to Quartzsite so we hooked up Robert’s trailer, drove to Q, dropped off the trailer at River Ranch (drydocking), and went straight to a mechanic. Robert went with me to help make the video. Thank you Robert!

When the engine noise first happened, fear blew up and ran all through me. I had visions of it being my transmission which meant that even with a job, I would have to stay in Quartzsite for months to save up and pay for it. By then it would be hot in Q and my furbabies would suffer, and…. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I caught myself and pulled myself out of that shame spiral and panic tailspin. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know at that point that gainful employment was beyond my reach!

Stop, breathe, connect, pray, meditate. Repeat.

It turns out that it wasn’t the transmission at all. It was TWO SCREWS in the steering column that had come loose. Two screws! That’s all! The cost? $37.50. That’s all! I am SO blessed. And I am very, very grateful.


New Year’s Eve, right after midnight …. Oops, I guess that makes it officially the New Year. Happy New Year everyone!

Anyway, my Nonnikins got violently sick. She was sick ALL night and all day Sunday, January 1. I got very worried and got absolutely no sleep. I made sure that I kept eyes on her at all times. There was no way I could sleep. I was present for her. Plus I had to let her in and out ALL night. Plus it was pouring rain. What a mess. Somewhere around 3AM, I panicked. If my Nonnikins needed vet care, I lamented that I have no money and wasn’t able to get a job to better provide for her and Bentley.

Stop, breathe, connect, pray, meditate. Repeat.

By Monday morning, she had stopped throwing up or I would have taken her straight to a vet no matter what. Through it all she was lethargic, but wasn’t in pain. On occasion she would drink a little water I rationed to her, but for the first time in her life, my Nonnikins wouldn’t eat. She didn’t even raise her head off her bed when I fed Bentley. But she was getting better.

Several of my friends in camp stopped by to check on her and give her well wishes (thanks everyone!), and we all agreed she was getting better. I decided to wait one more day before taking her to the vet. She continued improving and yesterday she even ate a little (again, rationed), and kept it down. She’s not 100%, but continues to improve. We are blessed, and I am so grateful.

I know my time with them is limited. After all, Nonni is 11 and Bentley is 14, but we dodged a bullet on this one and I still have hopes of better providing for them.

So there you go, a broken tranny and 3 panic attacks. And it’s only day 3 of 2017.

Oy vay.

And it is a year I am very much looking forward to.

I’ve learned a lot out here after completing my first year of being a fulltime vandweller. I’ve learned how to:
  • be a fulltimer
  • boondock
  • survive a broken heart
  • mend a broken heart
  • keep friends
  • let go of toxic ones
  • stay in touch with old friends
  • make new friends
  • be a better friend
  • pull out of panic attacks
  • walk in faith

I forget from time to time that I’ve learned these things, but I bet by the time 2017 comes to a close I’ll be even better at them. That’s my goal. And for now, evidently, that’s my job. Thanks for being here my wonderful readers.

Happy New Year!

Please be sure and check out my YouTube Channel here:

Thank you! See you down the road!

Monday, January 2, 2017

1/2/17-2016 In Review

BLM land, Ehrenberg, AZ
RTR, BLM land, Quartzsite, AZ
BLM land, Lake Havasu City, AZ
Retail with Permission, Graham, TX
Drydock, Denton, TX
Cedar Hill State Park, Cedar Hill, TX
Berry Springs County Park & Preserve, Georgetown, TX
Hord’s Creek Lake Reservoir, Coleman TX
Avalon Reservoir, Carlsbad, NM

Aguirre Spring Recreation Area, Las Cruces, NM
City of Rocks State Park, Deming, NM
Gila National Forest, Silver City, NM
Organ Pipe National Monument, Ajo, AZ
BLM Land, Ehrenberg, AZ
Residence, Santa Barbara, CA
BLM land, Jawbone Canyon, Mojave, CA
Retail with Permission, Bishop, CA

Sherwin Creek Campground, Mammoth Lakes, CA
BLM land, Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA
BLM land, Volcanic Tablelands, Bishop, CA
Casino Parking Lot, Hoover Dam, NV
Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, AZ
Kaibab National Forest, Williams, AZ
Bismarck Lake Trail, Humphreys Peak, Snowbowl, AZ
Kaibab National Forest, Bellemont, AZ

Mesa Verde National Park, Mancos, CO
BLM land, Leadville, CO
Retail with Permission, Grants, NM
BLM land, Pahrump, NV
Kaibab National Forest, Bellemont, AZ
Lake DeSmet County Park, Buffalo, WY
Residence, Gillette, WY
Kaibab National Forest, Bellemont, AZ
BLM land, Sedona, AZ

Elgin, OR
Sisters, OR
BLM land, Pahrump NV
Mayer, AZ
Deadhorse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, AZ
BLM land, Ehrenberg, AZ
Drydock, Quartzsite, AZ
BLM land, Ehrenberg, AZ

WOW, that is a LOT of miles, 11,186, according to the maps! The only way I could have done that was by traveling with friends, and it was because I was traveling with friends that I did so many miles! No wonder my health declined toward the end of the year. I need to slow it WAY down in 2017, AND, I would not have wanted to miss any of it. It is a bit of a conundrum for sure. My friends and I will get together over the next couple of months to lay out 2017 travel and camping plans. Stay tuned!


One of my viewers on YouTube recently posted this comment/question. It’s a good one, and my answer helps me explain how travel will change for me in 2017.

His Question:

Aren't you travelling with Robert Witham? Someone is always holding your camera and you have him in your credits as your editor. I don't call that alone as your making it sound. Am I missing something? I have CHF and diabetic, anxiety and a pacemaker with a defibrillator. I had planned to do this lifestyle but with all the med refills and my pacemaker defibrillator going off for a simple walk is very scary. You are very lucky to have a companion doing it with you."

My Answer:

First off, best wishes to you for a blessed and Happy New Year. I get that even simple walks can be scary, and I am proud of you for keeping on keeping on. KOKO!

And I get that my situation might be confusing. Let’s see if this helps. First, I want to be real clear that I have done NONE of this on my own. I would not be out here if it were not for the wonderful people in my life, Robert included. Yes, we have traveled together for awhile now while he gets his vehicle situation squared away, but we are really good FRIENDS, not companions. I live in my van. He lives in his trailer. He hopes to close on a van he found this week and we will end up traveling together a lot less, but this has definitely been a win-win situation for both of us. We have been planning a video where we interview each other about the experience. It should be a fun video that also answers some difficult and personal questions. I may throw this question of yours in the mix as well.

Before Robert, I traveled with a friend named Colvin. I have also traveled with Bob Wells, Kyndal and James Dimon, plus a couple of other friends. And I’ve camped with a myriad of people. This summer I hope to travel and camp with my friend Suanne. Right now I am camped with 5 friends, and of course my plans may change by the time RTR is over as I meet even more friends. So, while I may not always camp alone, I am doing it all in my van with my two dogs. I never mean to be disingenuous or misleading about anything.

Which leads me to the production and videography Robert does…. THANK YOU, ROBERT! The recent video where I ran out of propane is the first one I’ve done completely on my own. I shot that with my iPhone and was so proud of me! I am blessed by many friends in my life, and a good friend just gave me a tripod and a camera so I hope to be able to do many more on my own! THANK YOU ANON FRIEND! Robert has said he will teach me how to use the equipment, and will show me how to do the editing before we head different ways for the summer. I have no idea if I can learn it or not, and I certainly have no delusions about being able to maintain the caliber of editing and creativity Robert has done, but this YouTube channel is important to me and I sure am going to give it my best shot (pun intended).

Lastly, I just published a blog post that shows my routes and mileage for 2016. My total mileage for the year was approximately 11,186 miles. Of that, Robert and I rode together in my van (while pulling his trailer) for approximately 6,727 of those miles – primarily the miles were work related for him. For the remainder, I drove and camped completely by myself for a little over 3,000 miles, and for the remaining 1,462 miles I drove and camped with other friends, sans Robert.

Robert and I won’t be riding together once he finds a set of wheels he wants. I have my fingers crossed for him on the one he hopes to get this week – not because I don’t want to travel with him anymore, but because it is no fun being a nomad and being without wheels. This arrangement was never meant to be permanent, and we will always be friends. Hopefully we will camp and travel together often, and I can only hope that I will be blessed enough that we keep working together as much as possible too. We’ll just have to wait and see. After all, we’re nomads. There’s a saying out here, They come and they go. AND, it’s all good.

It seems to me that women often have to defend our existence as independent nomads. I rely a LOT on my friends, so I’m probably marginal, but I’ve seen it happen to strong, completely independent women too. Not once has anyone ever said to the guy in their camp, “Oh dude, you’re not doing the deal out here on your own. You’re traveling with her.” Now that’s funny right there.

KOKO my wonderful readers!

Please be sure and check out my YouTube Channel here:

Thank you! See you down the road!