I bounced around a lot before landing here at TBIVanGirl - ironic and symbolic. Here are the links to my previous blogs.
1st Blog - Living in Grace, 10/22/11-11/28/13. This link will take you to the very first blog post. The first two posts of this blog is where it ALL began. I was given a dream way back then and am living it today. I recommend those first two posts for perspective. I have no idea why anyone would want to read the rest, but you are certainly welcome to.
2nd Blog - Grace, Gratitude & Ripples of Oneness, 10/15/13-7/18/15. I don't know why I created this blog and abandoned the first one. I got confused. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) will do that to you.
3rd Blog - 10/18/15-11/23/15. A friend helped me set up this 3rd blog because I could no longer maintain the 2nd one. Thank you Angelique! But once I got on the road and was able to have some peace and quiet, tranquility and serenity, I found that I was able to return to the format of blogger (my current blog). This 3rd blog was on a website that is no longer active so the 11 posts will be copied below. To read these posts, please scroll down to read each one, in chronological order. It is taking me awhile to copy these over so please keep checking back until all 11 are listed. There are 4 here now. Thank you!
(1) 10/18/15 - Blessed and Grateful
On September 28, 2015, I bought a Ford E350 one-ton white cargo van, 2005 model. I found it on Craigslist in Hutto, Texas, and have been living in it fulltime since October 8. Eventually I will include a tab with pics and details about the van that has become my beloved home.
This picture, also used as my banner pic, was taken on our walk yesterday evening, October 17. Not many people get to have a backyard like this. Can you see the van? I am blessed and grateful beyond words.
A huge thank you to my family and friends that have seen me through the best of times and worst of times. My readers will come to know all of my earth angels by name, but for now I mention just a few...
Leslie, you are my rock, my heart - You stepped up to be my caretaker and trustee when no one else could or would. I have no words to thank you for who you are or for all you do. A special thank you to my friend Glenn for helping me in my darkest hour to never give up on my dream of being a vandweller, and for guiding me through to the purchase of my new home. And thank you Bob Wells for taking me under your wing and showing me how to - well, live in a van. You are a forever friend and a lifesaver - probably, quite literally. Sheree, Tracy, Cathy, Connie, Carolyn, Charlene, Gloria Jean, Ella Faye, Bob & Jane, Steve & Beverly, Darlene and David and DavidH - I love you all very much. Likewise, Nonni and Bentley join me in sending love to John, Keli and Regina as well. Thank you all - for everything.
And last, but not least, you wouldn't be reading this if it weren't for the technical help and guidance I get from Angelique Giron, at Write for Healing. She is my life and writing coach, and the earth angel that published my book and this website. Thank you, Angelique, you are talented and a gift my friend! Awe-mazing!
I will backdate several posts with more detail, but here is a brief summary of my travels to date:
October 8 - We (Nonni, Bentley & I) drove from the DFW area to Amarillo. We spent the night at a rest area parked with 18-wheelers and I slept like a baby. Here is a pic of Nonni & Bentley at a rest area somewhere en route. We stopped when we wanted to, because, you know - we could.
October 9 - We spent the night in a Wally World parking lot in Grants, NM. FYI, I bought a few supplies and checked in with the manager before doing so even though there were a LOT of campers and truckers already in the parking lot. Here is a pic of our view. Nope, not kidding. Isn't it gorgeous?!?
October 10 - It turns out there is a group of people that caravan together. I would never had known that if Glenn had not hooked me up with Bob who hooked me up with Linda and Lavonne. Such lovely ladies! We camped with them outside Winslow, AZ, at the McHood County Campground. Thank you Linda and Lavonne for welcoming us with open arms. They even invited me over for my first ever vandwelling cookout. What a treat that was! I was so excited I forgot to get pics of the evening, but here is a pic of Nonni and Bentley on our evening walk, and of the lake where we parked.
My friend Steve reminded me to get a pic "standing on a corner in Winslow" (the Eagles). I didn't get out to do that, but I did get the following pic of sleeping on the corner.
October 11 - The campground outside Winslow was too hot for me, and had too many mosquitoes, so I forged on to Kaibab National Forest just outside Flagstaff, where I met the extraordinary, wonderful Bob Wells. I have a LOT to share with you about our meet and greet, and my first few real days as a fulltimer, but for now I'll let a few pics speak for themselves about the campground itself, Mountain Road 1A. The scenery made me weep. My pics don't do it justice.
|A Texas steer thrown in for good measure.|
October 16 - A storm was coming so we quickly broke camp to drive to a new location just past Sedona. The ranchers were even doing their fall roundup in preparation.
This time, the scenery between Flagstaff and Sedona took my breath away, and stirred me to tears even more. Still does. More to come, but there are now 10 of us camped here. As you can see from the first photo in this post (my banner photo), there is plenty of room.
I am still in awe that this is my amazing life. I had to quit working fulltime last October, and I was told that my abilities might dwindle to non-functioning. In other words, I might be a vegetable. I have limitations that I am still adjusting to, but I'm still here, For example, the group got together today for football and chili. I didn't go because I can't do TV, multiple conversations at once, or loud noise. It puts me at risk for memory loss and/or a seizure (shutting down, just like a computer). I was the only one that wasn't there. It made me sad, and I had to remind myself that at least as a vandweller I get to remain independent and live on my own for as long as possible. I suppose missing a gathering is a small price to pay. Plus I get to wake up to awe-mazing views from our campsite (more pics shared below). Some were taken on the way to the campsite. In addition to all of that, I am surrounded by caring, giving people that have taken me in as one of their own.
None of us know what tomorrow will bring, but today I know that I am truly blessed, and I pray I shall always be grateful.
(2) 10/19/15 - From Dawn to Dusk
I didn’t really get up at dawn, and I’m staying up way past dusk, but this is a review of my day - quite varied, phenomenal really - to me.
This morning, I woke up feeling strong, clear headed. I decided to take advantage of that and the fact that the clouds were holding out. So, after morning chores I grabbed my walking stick, and the furbabies and I headed down the back side of the mountain where the ATVs keep disappearing to.
It was a glorious, cool morning and we had a blast. I kept Bentley on leash but let Nonni run free. We only had to get off the road for 3 ATVs and Nonni is such a good girl – she’d come running fast every time I called her. My babies are learning quickly from all our walks, and will automatically sit and start looking for the vehicle once I hold Nonni’s collar. Too cute!
Here’s a pic of one ATV that had passed us.
Just a little further down the trail we ran across Spring Creek1. I don’t know if that means there are more or not, but I look forward to finding out on future walks!
From the ridge, I could see all three campsites that are home to the caravan. I stood and took a 360 video. There are 8 vehicles, 10 people total in this group. But since I’m not sure you can see the campsites in the video I also took photos of all 3 campsites. The one where Bob and I are is the first pic. The 2nd one is the campsite where we had another Yen Yoga class today (everyone attended), and the 3rd one is where the yoga instructor is staying as well as the youngest couple in our group, James and Kyndal, Enigmatic Nomadics.
Just before lunch a tour jeep pulled into our campsite. Bob and I are camped together just off an ATV trail, but when they pass by they are usually friendly enough to wave but are also concentrating on the road because the trail drops down the side of the mountain just beyond us (the one we walked this morning in the video and pics above). So, for the most part, they don’t pay much attention to us.
This time, this one not only stopped, he pulled in to our campsite! It was my fault actually. When they stopped, I thought, “What a great opportunity to get a pic for the blog.”
So I asked if I could take one. Everyone seemed to actually celebrate that they were getting their picture taken. I assumed that when I was done they would drive on, but the driver asked if they could stop and stretch their legs for a bit. An alarm went off in my head, but I dismissed it within a nanosecond and said, “Sure!”
He pulled right up next to my van and the passengers started pouring out, including a dog.
Bob’s dog came over and got in the mix, and before I knew it they were all scattering everywhere taking pictures. I thought, “Oh no! Poor Bob! What have I done?” and I rounded the corner of my van just in time to catch two of the ladies that were already past my van. They were about to walk directly through his campsite and right by his trailer.
I called out to them and said they couldn’t go over there. I explained that it was someone else’s campsite and he hadn’t said it was okay. They apologized and immediately came back. I was relieved, but then the other passengers started asking me all kinds of questions. I felt like a stop on their tour! It was very uncomfortable, but then the tour guide asked me what campsite number this was.
I was actually proud that I knew that. Bob and I had just discussed it the day before and I wrote it down. The driver pulled out a map of the entire Coconino National Forest and together we started trying to pinpoint our location. When we were done, he gave me the map. I really appreciated that, and I enjoyed finding our spot on the map, but something just didn’t feel right.
My van doors were open and people were taking photos like crazy. I realized I had no idea where everyone went while I looked at the map with the driver.
Finally they loaded up and drove off. I felt like I had been hit by a bus. I simply sat down. My head was spinning.
Then Bob came over and reminded me it was almost time for the Yen Yoga Class. I had lost a lot of time to the “space invaders” and had not even had a chance to eat yet. I quickly changed clothes, threw together a sandwich, and ate it while we walked to the class (2nd pic above).
We talked about the “space invaders.” Bob said he had never experienced anything like that before. I thought, “It’s because you’re with me. Stuff like that happens to me all the time.”
So I asked him what he would have done, and I did my best to stow away responses and ideas that I could use should the situation ever come up again. I realized that I had a perfectly good opportunity to tell those in the tour jeep from the beginning, “No, I’m sorry. I’m camped here and I’m just not comfortable with people walking around my campsite.” But I didn’t do that.
We walked to the Yen Yoga class and I was an uptight mess. I even had a muscle spasm during the class. The instructor quietly said to me, after helping me with my spasm, “Whatever you are holding on to, let it go.”
After the class we all visited for a little while about this and that, here and there. A lovely time all around, but between the socializing and the “space invaders,” I was really longing for the refuge of my van.
We had only been back a couple of hours when the same driver with different passengers pulled up again. This time he didn’t ask. He jokingly commented, “I bet you didn’t expect to see me again so soon did you?”
Alarm bells went off again. I let them ring a full second this time before I dismissed them. Everything Bob and I had discussed flew out the window.
I returned the jovial response, “Well, hello! My goodness, how many tours do you do a day?”
His response, “This is my fourth today.”
“This is Debra everybody.” They all waived.
I went in to shock. I don’t remember if I waived back or not, but I started walking closer to the jeep and said, “Listen, it’s alright with me, but this morning really bothered my friend so you guys stay on this side. Okay?”
The driver had a funny look on his face and the passengers looked stunned. I was trying to think of what else to say, but my head was spinning and my mouth was dry. I turned to see Bob walk up.
Bob and the driver ended up having a not too pleasant exchange. The driver became very unreasonable – pointing out that we were on public land. Bob explained that we knew that, but didn’t expect people to walk around in our backyards, citing this morning as an example, and asking for courtesy around our privacy.
The driver literally asked, “Did anyone go inside your van?”
Like I said – unpleasant. After the driver irrationally said something about us homesteading, Bob tried one more time to explain and then gave up and headed back to his trailer. During all of this I had cowardly sat in my van between the rear doors – in eye contact with Bob, but out of site from the jeep.
They sat there a little longer and the driver asked the passengers what they wanted to do. I heard one of the passengers say, “We’ll leave that to you - whatever you want to do.” I held my breath. He hesitated, but then started the engine and moved on. I exhaled.
My point is this....
We are in the middle of the desert, in the middle of nowhere, and I am still being given opportunities to find my voice, to speak up for myself and let my needs be known. Through NVC/MYL, I know that it is possible to communicate that from empathy and with compassion. Yet I don’t do it. Had I listened to that still, small voice and spoke the truth about what I needed when the first opportunity arose this morning, none of this would have happened.
Obviously, it is a lesson I will learn, one way or the other. Clearly, there is no escaping it – even in the middle of a desert, in the middle of nowhere, living in a van. I welcome the proficiency. I just want to learn sooner than later – for myself and for the beautiful people in my life – and for strangers on an ATV trail.
We would all benefit from being able to listen and hear when Spirit speaks. And to act from love with courage and authenticity. For me, I can only hope that I’m able to do so in the next opportunity. In the meantime, I will keep up my practice of yoga, meditation, listening and praying. And writing. Practice, practice, practice, and patience, evidently.
On our evening walk, we came upon a beetle. I watched it for a while in admiration. It was literally walking with its nose to the ground and its behind in the air. It did this for quite a ways and never stopped. We eventually moved on and let the fascinating creature be.
It wasn’t until I downloaded the pic from my phone that I realized its hind legs are broken off.
A Beetle Lesson....
Some people think I am living in a van for the adventure and fun, for the travels, for the sight-seeing. All of those are reasons I originally wanted to live in a van, but it turns out it became a necessity before I actually went through with doing it. There was no place else for me to go.
I had other options if I was willing to wait for them to materialize, but there was no definite timeline available for alternative housing. It was a waiting game and I was tent camping in the meantime. That was brutal. I also had other options if I was willing to give up my dogs, but that was, and never will be, an option.
Vandwelling became something I had to do – for a place to live, to fulfill a still unknown calling, and to cross it off my bucket list.
Also, vandwelling keeps life simple. Having my world within reach and where I can see it every morning when I wake up, helps me stay grounded and oriented. I feel secure in my van, more than anywhere else, and the peace and quiet allows me to function to the best of my ability – which is different from day to day. I never know what to expect with my health. This life works for me.
I have no idea what they were talking about. It could have been a cloud formation, but I suspect it was in reference to two people in vans camped out in the middle of nowhere.
I identify with that beetle trekking his journey his way.
May we all learn to be kind to one another, recognizing and allowing our differences without judgment while traveling our respective journeys. May we allow one another the space and respect each requires to move on down the road - however that may look and in whatever way works best for the Highest Good of each person.
(3) 10/24/15 - Rest Is Good
|FB download; source unknown|
Six of us went to Cottonwood yesterday to run errands. All I did was 2 loads of laundry, buy a few groceries at WalMart, and we stopped by the Post Office.
It wiped me out, literally. I never know what to expect with my TBI. Today I am bedridden and writing this on my phone. It is still comforting to be in my van, even on days like this or maybe, especially on days like this.
Hopefully later I can at least sit up and enjoy the amazing views here. There will be no walks today, no Yen Yoga class and I doubt I make the 4P pizza party that the caravan has planned for today. If I do, past experience tells me I will be using my cane.
Is it way too selfish of me to almost hope it gets rained out so I can enjoy it with them another day?
And I suppose it is a good thing Nonni & Bentley are old (10 & 13). They welcome the opportunity to sleep in. Most dogs would be up & begging me to let them out by now. I love them so.
My TBI teaches me to live one moment at a time and accept what is. I also love what is – however it appears, and am grateful for this day – however I spend it.
Sorry there are no pics today. More soon.
Love and blessings, db&n
AN EVENING UPDATE:
I felt better as the day went on and made it for pizza, but I still don’t have vision in my left eye. It’s as though I’m looking through a kaleidoscope. (Actually, that’s how I came up with the name of my book. I had the same thing going on the day I had to name my book and it gave me the inspiration for what I think is a perfect title, Kaleidoscope 9.) The crystallized vision usually clears up as the vertigo goes away, but not this time. At times like this, I need the reminders in the pic above.
A dearly departed friend of mine and Steve Meeks’, RT Miles, used to say, “Remember, wherever you go, there you are.”
Have you ever replayed an event in your mind and wished you hadn’t said this, or had said that, or hadn’t been so loud, etc., etc.? It’s tough being the new kid on the block sometimes. I am blessed to be with easy-going fun, welcoming people, but wherever I go, there I am.
I miss the old me. Or maybe I’m just using that as a crutch. I don’t know. I can tell changes in me though. I blurt things out even when I don’t want to, and my emotions run high and low. We all experience that, but I see it happening more and more often and have no control over it. Sometimes it feels like a runaway train with no brakes. And no, it’s not menopause. I was misdiagnosed (and dismissed) with that at the early onset of all my symptoms.
I am determined to find a balance of respite and healing while maintaining connection and relationships. A friend lovingly reminded me tonight that the volatility may be part of the early dementia I have been diagnosed with. It sucks sometimes. But I refuse to let it steal my joy. Tomorrow is another day and I am grateful for all my experiences. They matter so little in the grand scheme of things – which is to connect with and know Oneness.
That is my prayer and reminder for me, and for you, and how I close the day. Goodnight all.
(4) 10/24/15 - Rest Is Good
After resting all day yesterday, and going to bed at 7P, I was able to take a short walk tonight with the furbabies. Isn’t Nonni gorgeous?
I was also blessed to feel well enough to attend the yoga class today. I almost didn’t go, but I’m glad I did. It was just what my body needed. And Will, the instructor, spoke about connection and Oneness during the session. How awesome is that? He also read a beautiful writing about the body from a cellular level. I have a biology degree and science background so that touched me deeply.
I felt so grateful to be in the class, and it reminded me what a gift every day is. I puddled as the class was ending. Will always opens and closes the session with a signal from his singing bowl. When we are finished, he bows to each of us while saying, “Namaste.” Am I at home, or what?!?
As I wiped a few tears of gratitude from my cheek, a slight breeze came through and I looked out over the mountains.
One of the things people have worried about with me living in a van is that I am going to be isolated or alone. No worries loved ones. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I have my wonderful van in which to rest, and enjoy peace and quiet, and I have met some wonderful people I am already proud to call my friends.
Here are just a few:
|Cindy and Roger|
|Kyndal and James|
|Roger and Lou|
The yoga we have been doing is Yen Yoga, not Zen Yoga as I had previously stated. Yen Yoga is a meditative style yoga of ancient arts. It is awe-mazing, life-changing.
After class, Cindy, Kyndal and I had agreed to stay and do pedicures. What fun! And they were kind enough to check with me first to see if it would be too much activity on top of the yoga. Since it was just the three of us, and we set everything up outside, I was in heaven.
Kyndal is a cosmetologist so she had a ton of wonderful pedi tips. I know I’ve given myself pedicures before, but I honestly couldn’t remember when or how. She was patient enough to walk me through the process step-by-step, and she was kind enough to not get mad at me when I kept using her oil instead of remover to try & remove old polish. Gotta love TBI. It was great to get to know her and Cindy better. Girl time!
Oh, and Bentley had to get in the act. He decided to dig himself a soft bed. Thanks little buddy.
|My right foot covered in dirt by baby boy Bentley.|
I feel safe here. And happy. I’ve been honest about my limitations, and the group seems to accept me as I am. I stay to myself a lot, and they honor that too. I suppose that’s the way of fulltimers. It is at least the way with the beautiful people in this caravan.