I saw a news article recently where former President Obama published his summer reading list, which he’s been doing for years. This got me thinking about my own reading list. Of course, I don’t just limit it to summer as I read about 2 or 3 books a week year round.
And just now, I’ve got two “books in real life” partially read through on my bedside table and am halfway through another one on my Kindle app. I read the Obama article and although his taste runs more to the international stories of real people, there were a few I want to check out. One of which is a science fiction, Andy Weir’s “Project Hail Mary.” I haven’t read his other books but I own the movie, The Martian, which was adapted from one of his books and it’s one of my favorites.
Last week the New Mexico State Library rural bookmobile stopped at our mobile home park. I had seen the truck a time or two before but hadn’t ever stopped in. This time I happened to be in the Ranchhouse visiting without my dog so I popped over to the bookmobile. I chatted with the two employees, got a library card (I haven’t had one for many years), and got signed up for online resources. There are a lot of books you can read online or listen to for free if you have a library card.
This got me thinking and I went online to check out the local “sticks and bricks” library in my nearest town, about 20 miles away. They also have a lot of free online books and all I have to do is go in and get a library card. I plan to do that very thing this week. I’ve been paying for Amazon Kindle Unlimited for about 4 years but if I can start reading quality and entertaining books for free online, take me there!
So what’s on my summer reading list?
“Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal” — a memoir by Jeanette Winterson. I’m almost finished with this book and really enjoyed it. She’s an insightful writer with a lot of classic literature knowledge.
Hope Callaghan’s Cruise Ship Cozy Mysteries — I’m in the middle of the last one, 21 books in total. These are free if you have a Kindle Unlimited account. Engaging but not taxing on the brain. Good for reading before falling asleep.
“F Is For Fugitive” — one of the alphabet series detective mysteries by Sue Grafton, who published 25 in the series before passing away. I have the paperbacks and decided to dig them out and re-read the series again after a number of years.
Books that are waiting for me for the rest of the summer:
“H Is For Hawk” — a memoir by Helen McDonald
“The Year of Magical Thinking” — by Joan Didion
“The Art of Memoir” — Mary Karr
Plus anything exciting I come across as I explore more that the public libraries have to offer. I think the reading journey has just begun.
Food preparation has become my zen, not by choice. It’s labor intensive, definitely on the opposite spectrum of fast food. How many people can resist the urge to go the easy way out with their meals?
I’ve waffled over the years from a staunch healthy diet to relishing the gustatory pleasures of local restaurants. I’ve never had to actually change the way I eat by doctor’s orders, it was always because I either wanted to lose weight, get more healthy, or was feeling fine and really let go with the baking and the fried, fatty foods.
Now, my pain has become so severe and I want to heal naturally, not be stuck on evil prescriptions that come with more side effects than benefits. I was recently diagnosed with several things, all related to digestion, that explain the pain. I have a hiatal hernia, moderate to severe antral gastritis, distal esophagitis, and mild colitis. So, I had to make an immediate and strict lifestyle change and choice.
I’m a little over one week into the process and I thought I would document a typical day and what it involves. Thank goodness I’m retired but if you have to follow this same routine, it’s not too hard to prepare things in advance on the weekends and have your meals ready to go during the week.
I purchased the book titled The Acid Watchers Diet, not specifically for those with a hiatal hernia but often quoted by someone with HH as being most beneficial. I typed up the list of ingredients in chapter 9, The Healing Phase, and took it with me to the grocery store. I don’t specifically use the recipes in the book but I read through them to get ideas. There is one grocery store about 25 miles from me that carries a lot of fresh and organic ingredients, thank goodness. I hadn’t been grocery shopping in over a year because I was doing curbside pickup from Walmart due to the convenience. That practice has ended.
Today is Saturday, July 3
With this diet, you are supposed to eat 5 small meals a day. Hence all the constant preparing and clean up all day long.
I made a smoothie in my Vita-mix with the following ingredients (note: I never measure anything when I cook so these are all guesstimates).
2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup frozen fruit (strawberries, peaches, mango), partially defrosted
1/2 cup non-fat milk, reconstituted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 T maple syrup (the good kind)
I made a “dip” and sliced some organic carrots, celery, and cucumber
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise diluted with coconut oil (I shake it up in the mayo bottle before measuring out)
1/4 tsp Mrs. Dash seasoning
Mash together with a fork and stir well.
I took some leftovers that were made with:
diced baking potato
baby Bella mushroom
Cooked in water and coconut oil a few days ago.
I added the following to the Vita mix:
leftover potato mixture (about 1 to 1 1/3 cup)
1/8 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup chicken bullion (I use Better Than Bullion)
1/2 cup non-fat milk, reconstituted
I took this soup and microwaved for one minute.
3:00 Afternoon mini-meal
1 no added sugar fruit cup (cherry, peaches, pineapple, pear) with Simply Granola on top
The day before, I had prepared two tilapia fillets and saved one for today.
Set oven to 350 and grease a glass baking dish with coconut oil. Dip defrosted tilapia fillets one at a time into first a mixture of beaten egg and water and then a plate with cornstarch and nutritional yeast. Place fillets in the baking dish. Turn over once after 10-15 minutes. When fish is flaky and not pink, remove from oven (about 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness).
For dinner tonight, I combined the following:
1 cup chopped kale
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
1/4 cup grated carrot
4 small baby Bella mushrooms chopped
1 tilapia fillet, pre-cooked, and shredded
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 T Bragg’s aminos (tastes like soy sauce)
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
(Note: celery is nice too but I ran out). Cook in a nonstick pan with a small amount of water. Add more water as necessary until everything is cooked through and hot. This usually makes two meals for me.
I wasn’t going to write this week because it’s not a good week. I am dealing with some medical issues and some personal family issues. But somewhere along the way, with the meditating and contemplation I’ve been trying to do to sever myself from guilt and anxiety causing stress, I realized that unburdening myself of material things might be just the ticket.
I did have a sense of freedom when I sold my house and went on the road with my motor home and pets in 2018. But recently, I acquired more material “things” and I think I started to feel the pressure of upkeep and expense. In addition to my little motor home and tow-behind car, I leased an rv lot to live on year-round, purchased a new travel trailer, and then purchased a new crossover SUV.
Do I really need 2 RVs and 2 vehicles? It gets expensive and two of them sit in the storage lot much of the year. A lot of the people that live here take off for three or four months or more during the summer. And I could certainly do that. But why spend more money for an rv site somewhere else when I’m already paying for one here? And what would happen to my nice new car that’s just sitting parked and not being used?
I made the hard decision to sell the motor home and tow-behind car. They’ve served me well and I have good memories but once I made the decision to cut ties, I physically felt a burden lifting off me. I’ve got an acquaintance coming out Friday to look. Their offer is less than I was hoping for but it’s a cash offer and they will take both as is. With my anxiety, not having to deal with countless strangers, ads, emails, phone calls, this will definitely be worth it to me to just be done.
Have you had to make a tough decision and let go? It’s certainly not easy but is can be very freeing.
Most of my people interactions are very superficial. The southwest state I moved to recently is new to me. My son and his family are 3,700 miles away. I don’t have any close friends since I retired and left my home state. So when I meet people, we chat about things we might have in common — our dogs or our RV lifestyle or retirement or the weather — but then we move on and I rarely come across the same people again.
But that’s not to discount the meaningful lives of the people I meet or their importance in the grand scheme of things. Our encounters might be just in the moment but I like to think that they are going on to brighten other people’s lives day after day. With that in mind, I’d like to reflect back on some of the chats with new acquaintances I had this past week. I will not identify any of these people by name or distinguishing details to protect their privacy but I will remember kindnesses and connections in the five days I was on the road.
My dog, cat, and I set out on a short jaunt around the state in the motor home on Monday Morning, June 7. There were a few places I had been wanting to spend time visiting and taking photos, rather than just driving past, and this was the perfect opportunity. First stop was Pistachio Land, a tourist stop in Alamogordo with an extra large pistachio monument featured in the selfies of anyone who has visited. I knew right away that I wouldn’t be able to take a photo of myself and get the whole pistachio in the picture. There was a group of three ladies taking pictures right when I walked up and one of them offered to take my picture. She got it perfect the first time but took two to be sure. I thanked her and then they were gone. It sure was a good picture.
Check in at Alamagordo KOA was a pleasure and I actually went back to their little store and souvenir shop twice. Although the conversation in these circumstances is usually very casual, it’s nice to be able to have a conversation with someone if you’re like me and live alone most of the time. I do remember kindnesses for sure.
Staff, paid employees, and volunteers at National Parks meet tons of new people on a daily basis and get asked the same annoying questions day after day but the ones I interacted with in three different places this week were all nothing but polite and conversational and made me feel like I was the first one they’d ever helped or answered questions for.
First was White Sands National Park, although not new in location, newly designated as a National Park as of December 20, 2019. Pleasant interactions started with the ranger counting heads as we went into the store to the cashier who helped me with purchases to the ranger who checked my America The Beautiful Pass as I entered the car tour on Dune Drive, answering questions that I had and smiling the whole time.
Then, I ran into the same couple on two different mini-hikes. We smiled and said hello and they laughed both times because I was carrying my little dog in his carry-on sling and they thought that was pretty cute. I came across a younger couple wanting to take a photo among the dunes and as I walked by, I asked if I could take the photo for them. I used several different compositions on their phone app and I hope they found one or two they like.
I drove in to the state park I’d booked for two nights and parked the motor home by the campground host, knocked on the door and waited. The first thing the gentleman that came out asked was, “Are you Tina?” Well, yes I am. I guess I was the only guest checking in that day. He was congenial, answered my questions, and left me to go get set up. As I was driving to my spot, I passed a small camper van, a few empty spaces, two older class A motorhomes, a few more empty spaces then my spot.
I had barely gotten my electricity hooked up and the AC on when the person in the van came running over, anxious to talk to me. This person was new to living full time in state parks and had a lot of questions. Of course, I was only too eager to tell my story and answer the questions I was able to answer. As we talked we discovered that there are advantages and disadvantages to both the van life and the class C life but this camper was eager to find out if upgrading to something like mine was the way to go.
Back on the road two days later and I took the opportunity to drive through a National Wildlife Refuge that I had only driven by in the past. Driving a 24′ motor home for 12 miles through a non-paved refuge may not have been the smartest thing I’ve ever done but visiting the little gift shop at the end of the tour was certainly worthwhile. The young volunteer tried to answer my questions and got really animated when we started talking about some of the larger animals he’s spotted at the refuge, including cougars, coyotes, and elk. I bought a small birding book that I didn’t even need but I like to support these kind of nonprofits.
I was returning to a small RV Park for the night that I’d stayed at two years previously. They are well-known to birders and photographers being so close to the refuge. The elderly caretaker was chatty and full of information, and had grown up just down the road. We sat out in the evening watching the hummingbirds and I got to hear some interesting tales. One of the guests who I also met this same evening is a bird photographer (his card says he has a PhD but I didn’t ask in what) and we talked for a few minutes about cameras and birds and fun places to explore.
Finally, on our way home the next day, I stopped at Valley of Fires National Recreation Area and found a suitable place to park the motor home. At 11:00 in the morning, it was already getting quite hot but I wasn’t sure when or if I’d ever be back and was determined to take at least a few photos. And again, I met a volunteer at a park facility gift shop with another new story. This gentleman graciously answered all my questions and we talked for a few minutes as I browsed the books and merchandise. He and his wife had two homes, one in the Santa Cruz area of California and one in New Mexico. He said they’d recently sold the California home and now live full time in New Mexico and love it. I said, me too!
I probably won’t recognize any of these people if I run into them again in the future in a different setting. I didn’t get names from most of them and they didn’t get mine. But as I was driving the last 100 miles before returning home, I reflected that I’d not only met my goal of taking photos at more than five places I’d been wanting to visit but I’d been able to smile and chat with a handful of strangers along the way every single day on my trip.
My experience working on personal stories and some resources for your endeavors
Have you ever tried to write a personal memoir story or chapter? A lot of my essays are of the personal memory style with a little opinion thrown in. But when I get down to writing something of any length, I seem to get really bogged down in the details and the enormous amount of material.
I had a few false starts over the years toying with styles ranging from chronological to subject ordered to writing prompt stream of consciousness to compilations of random essays. I’ve read numerous books on how to write a memoir or just read recommended memoirs. I’ve joined writing groups and taken classes online.
In my personal opinion, some of what I’ve written is good. But then I get stuck. One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t tell everything in one book. In fact, one of the highly recommended authors I’ve learned about has written numerous memoirs and each one tackles just one point or person in her life. Who is this author? I don’t remember and can’t find my notes. However, read up on any good memoirist and you will find the same formula. Here’s an article from Book Riot, 100 Must Read Memoirs.
If you’re ready to tackle the tricky task of writing stories based on personal memories, here are a few resources I’ve collected over the years. If you do a search on free online memoir writing, several low priced or free choices will come up at any given time.
The MemoirNetwork — Lots of free resources, including several mailing lists with lessons. Just takes an email to register. I just recently joined this network.
Coursera has a course from Wesleyan University called Memoir and Personal Essay: Write About Yourself. The videos and exercises are free but you have to pay if you want peer feedback. Also, this is part of a larger unit that is not free. I completed the exercises in 2020.
The following are books I’ve purchased over the last several years to kickstart the essays and work on writing prompts. These are not necessarily the best books on the subject and I haven’t actually read any of them all the way through but there are some good ideas and some writing prompt exercises to get you started.
Old Friend From Far Away — The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg
The Situation and the Story — The Art of Personal Narrative by Vivian Gornick
Writing Life Stories — How to Make Memories into Memoirs by Bill Roorbach
Forums and Groups
I have looked into joining a few times over the years but for the most part, it seems like it’s more work and time than I want to put in to this when I’d rather be working on my own writing. For several of the groups, you can get peer feedback but you have to earn points in order to do so, which requires leaving your own feedback numerous times before you can submit your own work.
The only one I paid for was actually quite professional and I enjoyed the interaction with the group members but at the time, I didn’t really have a focus and wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend my time on the fiction or the non-fiction so I bowed out until I could be more proactive in the group.
Do you remember the 1969 comedy with Goldie Hawn, Walter Matthau, and Ingrid Bergman called Cactus Flower? A potted cactus plant with a flower plays a role near the end as a metaphor for the changes in the main characters. At 63, I have found my own cactus flowers in a more literal sense in the place I chose to make my retirement location.
I am not a California native but might as well have been. California was my home for most of my last 45 years, minus a brief jaunt into the Pacific Northwest for 3 years. However, ask anybody who knew me then and they would say they often heard me complain and say how much I really disliked it. It was a lifelong dream realized when I was able to retire at 60, sell my home, and take off with my 3 pets in my motor home to find my place.
I just knew there was a place out there somewhere that would really feel like home. I never did get to see as many states as I had planned due to COVID screwing those plans up in March 2020. But I did get to travel through 16 states before we were all put on hold. As 2020 rolled along with not much getting better in the way of restrictions and hold ups, I put myself on 4 waiting lists for places to permanently park myself. I picked places that I thought would be safe and affordable.
Two of those places were in parts of the south that get rather humid and after spending most of 2020 in Texas, I started having second thoughts about that humidity and my own comfort. One of the places on my waiting list averages over 100-120 degrees most of the summer (near Tucson). There were a few other factors that had me questioning the smartness of this decision, including that I would have to pay for RV storage as they didn’t have any place for my motor home.
As luck would have it, the top place on my list was the first place to call with a spot for me. Within 7 days after they called, I had driven down, paid, purchased a large travel trailer to live in and had it delivered. This is a place I had lived in as a child for a few years and a place I had taken some camping trips in while passing through in 2018 and 2019. It’s an enchanted place that I have really fallen in love with. That place is New Mexico.
I haven’t been in my mobile home park for a whole year yet but I’m learning about the different seasons. I experienced my first snow in 40 years this past winter. It doesn’t really last here in the Chihuahuan Desert but it was pretty. Now it’s spring rolling into summer and I’m amazed at all the greenery. Some of the flowers and plants are part of the landscaping where I live but many of them are native. Here’s a selection of the “cactus flowers” I’ve seen while walking my dog in our new home.
I am looking forward to my retirement blossoming just like the beautiful cactuses around me.
Okay, so everyone’s situation is different but in my humble opinion my Class C was definitely the best way to go based on what I’ve seen around me in my travels. Here’s why.
First, my experience with camping and RVing:
Went with parents in popups and trailers
Started taking my son tent camping in the late 80s
Took my dogs tent camping in the 2000s
Bought a truck, added a shell, put mattress inside, in 2014
Bought a motor home in 2016
Went full time in 2018
Bought a travel trailer, which is stationary, in 2020
I’d never camped anywhere but state parks, state and county beaches, or national parks until I got my motor home in 2016. At that time, I became exposed to private RV parks like Thousand Trials and KOA. Between 2018 and 2021, I have reviewed over 75 RV parks in 16 states. So, needless to say, I’ve seen quite a bit along the way.
Here’s one thing I’ve noticed. Let me set the scene up for you. I park my motor home, if I’m staying longer than a few days I might check to see how level the fridge is. Otherwise, I don’t bother with blocks. I go outside and plug the 30 amp in, then come back in and turn on the AC, if weather requires. Now, basically, I can leave it if I want to wait to dump my tanks and if I want to use my own fresh water supply. Usually, though, I’ll go ahead and hook up the sewer hose so I can leave the gray tank open and I hook up the water hose so my water pump doesn’t have to work. I don’t have any slides to contend with (more on this later). Total time — about 6 minutes.
Then, someone in a travel trailer or 5th wheel will come in and park near me sometime later that afternoon. They start setting up. 30, 40, or 60 minutes later, they are still outside doing stuff. WTF. How long does it take? I guess it takes awhile. You have to park, unhook your truck, lower the stabilizers, set blocks everywhere, level, chock, open slides, etc., etc. Whew! People are going to argue with me but I have seen this time and time again every time I’m traveling. Maybe you are the exception and that’s great.
Then there’s the slides. My motor home doesn’t have slides. I can use the bathroom while stopping to fill my gas tank. How convenient is that? In my travel trailer, I can’t even go through the front door once the slides are closed. One time, when leaving for an extended trip, I was all closed up and forgot to put the Swiffer away. Nowhere to put it once all the slides were in. I ended up taking it with me in the motor home for 2 months.
This morning, I witnessed an elderly gentleman in a popup camper getting ready to leave for the day. It literally took him 45 minutes to unhook, pack up, close everything up, hook up his truck, and start to pull out. Then, he left to go use the RV park bathroom before hitting the road because his rig was already all closed up. And he pulled in last night way after me. That’s at least 90 minutes of setting up and taking down for about 7 or 8 hours of sleep. Is it worth it?
Many Class B motor homes, unless they are B+, have wet baths. That means that you squeeze in to a tiny space to use the toilet and when you want to take a shower, the toilet takes one with you. I even saw a few older models (Rialto) where the shower/toilet combo slides out to use and then slides back in. Not for me. I like having my full size dry bath and I like being able to use it whether I’ve got power for a slide or not.
I’ve given up a bit of inside space by not having a slide but did you know that the same size motor homes that have bedroom slides actually have a lot less outside storage? That’s because my bed is a platform bed and the outside storage is underneath. If you check the numbers, you will see that there’s a lot more cubic square feet of storage in my slide-less model at 24’. Something to think about, for sure.
Besides the fact that I didn’t want to pull a trailer because I have a severe fear of the trailer starting to sway and pulling the truck off the road, I had my pets to consider. In a trailer or 5th wheel, you have to crate everybody and put them in the truck every time you drive. When I first went full time, I not only had a cat and two dogs, but I also had a parrot. With the Class C, I can just jump in the driver’s seat and drive off after attaching the dogs to their seat belts. No discombobulating the cat or the bird. Which reminds me, if you have slides, you also have to be very aware of where your cat is at all times.
And here’s the difference between a motor home with a small car vs a truck pulling a trailer. First, I prefer to drive a small car around town or to take day long sightseeing jaunts. It’s just easier for me than a big truck. When a motor home pulls a car, the motor home is the bigger object and the car just follows. It doesn’t try to fight with the RV or sway back and forth. When a truck pulls a trailer, the trailer is bigger. If it gets out of control due to high winds or a bad road, it will take the truck with it. Once again, people will argue with my reasoning but for a single elderly woman traveling alone, I had to make the safest choices for me. My MH Ford F-450 with cruise control is a real dream to drive long distances and I don’t even know the car is behind me unless I check the mirror.
I didn’t consider a Class A the year I bought because, from what I read, they weren’t as safe in front end collisions as a Class C. Later, I was glad for my choice because chassis service is also easier to find usually. Mine is just a regular Ford truck with a house plopped on the back. It’s the same truck that is used for commercial delivery vans.
I didn’t consider a Class B because most of them were almost the same size as what I bought (22’ to 24’) and the cost for a new one was literally two times more. The reason is the way they are built. I didn’t want to spend way over $100,000 for something that was smaller, where we’d be squished together as we traveled the USA. At the time, I had a 60 pound dog, in addition to all my other animals.
My situation in 2018:
Full time with no house or storage unit so I needed plenty of storage area
Traveling alone so needed to feel safe and able to do everything myself
Pets that needed consideration
Comfortable with a kitchen and full bath, as well as a queen size bed (for sharing with the animals, of course)
Able to use everything without opening slides or unhooking vehicles
Had to fit in my driveway for two years before I sold my house (I didn’t want to pay for storage)
And my final choice, a brand new 2016 24’ Class C. One year later, I got a 2014 Nissan Versa set up as a tow car.
When making the momentous decision to purchase or finance your RV, make sure you consider all the situations and circumstances you will be facing so you can make the best decision for you.
I have had to say good-bye in two places the last two months that were a big part of my life. One good-bye was at my son’s residence he’s been at the last 4 years and a cause for celebration as he and his wife move for new jobs and one was for my father’s memorial send-off and the end of a huge light in my life.
If you’re like me, you hate to say good-bye, even if it’s for a short time. From high school on, I lived in Northern California for all but five years. So when I decided to leave California upon retirement, even though I got many well wishes, family and friends were sad and insisted I visit often.
During this time my son and his wife were stationed in Oklahoma so upon retirement, I set out with my motor home for more extended visits to this midwest state. In my travels from 2018 to 2021, I was able to spend quite a bit of time with them even though I hated being in such a large, crowded place as Oklahoma City.
My daughter-in-law got a new post in early 2021 and my son was left alone for several months to pack up and sell the home, take care of their dog (my grand-son), and follow her to their new assignments in Alaska. Well, I knew that it would be a lot harder to visit them in Alaska as I travel with two pets so I spent the last month with him and helped with movers and doggy babysitting. I was so glad to be able to spend this time with him before their move 3,700 miles away from my home base in New Mexico.
I won’t be back to Oklahoma now. There’s no reason for me to be there. I have many fond memories and tons of photos and I have closed that chapter in my life. My son and I said our good-byes and he set off in the car with their dog for Anchorage and I set off in my motor home for Northern California.
I had traveled back to Sacramento in the motorhome and had flown back once to this part of the country but I knew in my heart that this April trip would be my last trip to California. It had been my home base for 45 years and now I was making my final trip. In January 2021, my 90 year old father passed away from cancer. No one knew he was sick and it was very quick. I had planned to fly out a few times in 2020 and kept postponing thinking that the virus situation would get better soon. Of course, it never did.
There were three people that I spent my time with in the three weeks I was there. I spent a lot of time with my stepmom, who was married to my dad for over 30 years. We had to go through stuff and there was a lot of stuff. My dad and I had a lot of mannerisms in common, including over-planning when taking a trip, but keeping things for years and years was not one I shared with him. There were boxes of things I couldn’t say no to because I missed him so much. He had kept papers and photos going back almost his entire 90 years and even further with historical documents tracing ancestry. I’m not sure what I will do with this stuff, packed into the corners of my motor home, when I return to New Mexico but I wasn’t ready to let go yet.
I spent a few partial days with a friend I’ve known for over 15 years when we lived next to each other and worked for the same school district. Now my life has changed a lot and I think we both knew that I wouldn’t be back to that part of the country. I invited her to come and visit but she has a farm with many animals to care for so it’s not really a possibility.
I spent a little time with my sister and visited her art gallery in a neighboring foothill town. My sister and I are close but we keep in touch over Facebook and text messages mostly. I also invited her to come visit and she said she definitely would consider it. As an artist, I know she would enjoy exploring interesting places in New Mexico. She has obligations currently though and might not even be able to travel for many years.
My father had a military internment at the Veteran’s National Cemetery on April 27 and I was so glad I went. I was glad I was able to support my stepmom and her three grown children, who thought of my dad as a surrogate father. I saw and briefly spoke to my brother whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in over 20 years. Might be the last time. I hated that I couldn’t say good-bye to my dad in person but I felt a little closure at the military service.
A week later, I was packing up the motor home. I was very homesick and anxious to leave and yet I knew in my heart that I would be seeing these people for the last time and that was hard. My stepmom was so sad to see me go and she knew that she probably wouldn’t see me in person again. I also invited her to come see me and stay with me for awhile but she’s not able to travel and her three children are in her area and can take care of her.
People say you are starting a new chapter in your life but right now, it doesn’t feel like that. It just feels like a lot of things have been taken away that I won’t get back. I remember the exhilaration and a little trepidation when I crossed the California border into Arizona for the first time after selling my house. In another two days, I will be crossing that border again, probably for the last time. The finality does leave me a little sad.
I don’t know how many of you use WordPress. Sometimes I love the convenience of it and sometimes it can be very frustrating for me. I like to customize things my way and am used to desktop publishing, going all the way back to the 90s. The WordPress templates, while enormously convenient, don’t always allow for making changes in a user-friendly way.
After publishing my second travel book on Amazon Kindle, I decided to change up the blogs a little bit. The end result is not exactly how I started out envisioning things but I’ve reached workable sites that contain the information I wanted. I had an RV Review site and a Sightseeing site and after publishing my Sightseeing book, decided to take down the site, Sightseeing Aboard. That involved changing menus, links, and descriptions. Instead of all the same content on a blog, I now just have a link to the Kindle book.
I hadn’t taken a look at stats for awhile either. Even though I don’t advertise and most of my writing is for my own benefit (kind of like keeping a journal), it is nice to see people migrating toward the stuff I publish.
Animals Aboard — currently at 148 followers. Most viewed post “Long Term Stays in Your RV” at 515 views
Sightseeing Aboard — no longer active. 17 followers
A Healthier Journey 2020 — no longer active. 34 followers
Although my writing takes various forms, I try to keep things categorized in such a way that they will fit into one or more of the above. It can get really confusing for the reader if your stuff is all over the place, making it hard to find or read about a subject.
My generic categories are:
RV Park Reviews
Traveling with Dogs Articles
Nonfiction Essays, mostly about writing or travel
Information on fiction writing — upcoming or in progress books and stories
Of course, some idea is going to hit me one day that I have to write about and it won’t fit into any of the above. The great thing about WordPress is that you can add as many blogs as you want at no additional charge.
The site, Animals Aboard, is very resource heavy and I recommend using the little search magnifying glass at the top unless you just prefer browsing. That site, which was my first, now has 117 published posts.
Things are always a work in progress and I will consider any suggestions that readers may have to make things easier, less confusing, or to fix mistakes.
At the ripe age of 63, I feel that I’ve earned the right to lecture a little bit and pass on some of my “worldly wisdom.” I’ve had good and bad service over the years, as I know many of you have experienced yourselves. I’ll admit I’ve also been difficult myself more than once and kudos to those retail and service people who take it in stride and carry on. It takes grace to de-escalate someone’s bad mood rather than to create more chaos. I had a most frustrating experience at the Moore, OK CVS Pharmacy this morning and there was no reason for the incident other than the clerk’s bad mood.
It takes a certain skillset, a thick skin, and a pleasant character to be that clerk that customers remember when they leave the store with a smile on their face, even if they had a disappointing shopping experience or couldn’t get a service issue resolved. I wish everyone could be like this because I certainly appreciate it when a stranger says, “Yes, I understand you have a problem. What can I do to help?” rather than blaming others or hitting me in the face with their bad mood.
I was looking for one item and didn’t want to go to Walmart. I tried Dollar General first. They had a few things I grabbed but not that one item I came for. Next up the road was a CVS Pharmacy and right next door a Walgreen’s. I’ve been to this Walgreen’s to pick up prescriptions and you can’t walk through there without being greeted by at least two or three employees, asking how you’re doing and if they can help. Always a pleasant experience.
Then there’s CVS. Maybe they have bad management or horrible working conditions, I don’t know. But something was definitely off and it wasn’t me. I grabbed the item I needed and went to the front to check out. It appeared abandoned but I wasn’t in a hurry so I looked around a bit, searched for a bell on the counter, looked around some more. Finally, a supply stocker who was leaving saw me and shouted to someone in the back. As the clerk rounded the corner, she mentioned that she couldn’t see me. I joked that there are small people in the world and maybe they should get a bell. From that moment on, it was the transaction from hell.
I got an earful about how she was the only one working, and then one rude comment after another. I mentioned that I was used to clerks saying, “Yes, ma’am,” and agreeing with me when I made conversation not arguing with me. I had just left a very pleasant experience at the Dollar General with a personable young clerk and was in a good mood. To my benefit, I remained calm and kept my tone at a conversational level, mostly because I felt sorry for her, more than anything else. Something was going on and it wasn’t something I started.
I’m not a saint. I’ve been a very difficult customer in the past, defensive, self-righteous, and angry. Someone who works with the public should never take their personal feelings out on the customer, no matter how difficult the customer is. That’s one reason I never seriously considered a career working with the public. It’s not my forte. But this time, I gave her no reason to treat me the way she did.
After throwing the money at me without counting out the change, I calmly said to her that there will always be difficult people in the world, those with mental health challenges, those with addictions, and just angry people. As a customer service representative, she should be able to remain pleasant and not get defensive. I’m sure my little “speech” just went right over her head. I can’t imagine working in a job you hate and are not suited to, no matter how hard times are.
We have to be the best we can be no matter the chaos around us. I’m proud of myself for learning to let things roll off and almost always leaving a store with a smile on my face in my senior years. Maybe I’ve left someone else with a smile too more often than not. I hope so.