When Life Happens

Our one week vacation over the Christmas holiday went by way too soon, and now we were back to the realities of life. We were in the thick of winter in Colorado. Fortunately, the climate in Pueblo West is much milder than in other parts of the state. It’s actually located in what’s nicknamed the banana belt of Colorado. But regardless, it’s still colder, and of course, snowier than Phoenix, Arizona.

By the afternoon, the sun usually melts most of the snow on the road, not that day. This was more snow than usual for this part of Colorado.

Winter 2011 – Our RV was nestled on the side of our new home. We began to enjoy living in this newly built house and finally understood why our customers loved the floorplan. After selling our large custom home, we decided to build our “bread and butter” floorplan for ourselves. Sure, I had spent plenty of time in this floorplan at the model home, but I had not personally lived in it.

Our poor RV covered in snow. She wants to go to south.

As well as selling our custom home in 2010, we also sold the model home. We were still in the throws of surviving the Great Recession, and although we managed to keep building homes here and there, it was a scary time financially. Building one home at a time was a far cry from juggling the usual six at a time.

In our small community, we were considered a mid-sized volume builder. There were no national builders for us to compete against. I loved my job and quite often worked seven days a week, but that all changed when the economy changed. Nonetheless, we were one of the lucky ones still able to hang on with a couple of new custom home builds contracted for the year. A lot of home builders had closed shop along with many of the subcontractors. It was a challenging time to work in the construction industry.

The phone call we all dread

April 2011 – The phone rang. It was my sister. Mom had been in and out of the hospital the past year, but this time my sister wasn’t sure how much time mom had left. Her COPD was winning! After the recent hospital stay, mom was admitted to a rehab center, and her survival was questionable. I immediately booked a flight from Denver to Chicago for a ten-day visit.

My brother arrived a few days earlier than me allowing him a little one on one time with mom, and then he left before me so I too could have some one on one time with her. Dad was doing as well as could be expected and was grateful to have his three children nearby to help him through this difficult time.

My mom and dad, aka Oma and Opa, in their early 80s.

A week after my return to Colorado, mom passed away, but those conversations are forever etched in my memories. I’ll always miss her!

I feel so grateful to have had ten days to sit with mom and just talk. Not everyone is as fortunate. Mom repeatedly encouraged me (and Al) to “Hop in that RV and LIVE … enjoy life while young and healthy … life is short. Who needs a house when you have an RV … a house on wheels. Go live, explore, have fun.”

She absolutely loved the RV lifestyle and when they had to call RVing quits due to health reasons, she was pissed. “Damn cigarettes!” she’d say.

Life goes on

With the arrival of spring and the snow long gone, our new home was in dire need of landscaping. And I was in dire need of a project to keep my mind and hands occupied as I worked through my grief.

There are very few subjects that Al and I have difficulty working through together. We’re a pretty good team and have worked together from the moment we met during our airline careers as Pilot and Flight Attendant. Then years later, we ran a home-building business together. We rarely fight with the exception of backing up an RV or doing yard work. Then, all bets are off!

Al having fun with the Bobcat. So this is what it took for him to enjoy yard work? Boys and their toys!
While Al dumps the gravel with the Bobcat, I rake it out. Team work!

Unfortunately, Al’s dad put a bitter taste in his mouth when it comes to yard work. His dad didn’t just want Al to mow the yard but also wanted it done a certain way including alternating directions from one week to another. I’m sure that’s the short version of the story, and we’ll leave it at that. I guess, we all carry around negative experiences from our childhood, and when it comes to landscaping and general yard maintenance, Al prefers to hire it out. End of subject.

But with our finances in less than stellar circumstances and my go-to landscaper out of business, what’s a gal to do? I know, bribe the husband with a Bobcat rental. A week later, we had just enough landscaping around the house completed to make it look presentable until I could come up with a plan for the rest of the property, and the bonus was a husband who didn’t complain once about landscaping the yard ourselves. That’s a win in my book!

Ah, but what about that neglected RV on the side of the house? We really should plan a trip, but that’ll have to wait until work allows us to sneak away. I’m just glad we’re still working!

Our crew swinging trusses at one of our job sites.

This post is part of my “Blog to Book” series where I step back in time and share our journey to full-time RV living, share the RV lifestyle, and the places we visit. As I rewrite older posts, I plan to add more details and personal content … new tales never shared before. For more information about my goal for this blog series, please visit this post. And if you’d like to start from the beginning of the story, you’ll want to start with this post. I share new posts every Sunday morning and occasionally Wednesdays.

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Focus on a Story with Your Photos

Focus on a Story with Your Photos

We all have a story to share, and as bloggers, we love sharing our stories. Some of us tend to lean toward visual inspiration and share our tales via photographs while others are gifted with words and the ability to write. But when photographs and words come together, it’s pure magic. Well, in my book anyway!

Think about it … many of us have a favorite children’s book that is filled with a combination of images and words. I still have a few of those books from my childhood tucked away in storage. And then there’s my collection of cookbooks. I love cookbooks but rarely buy one without a healthy dose of tantalizing food photos to accompany the recipes. But my favorite is a beautiful coffee table book filled with stunning photography taking me on a visual adventure.

Storytelling with photographs is all about the images with just enough words to enhance the story.

This is the road to our summer/fall home.

Visual storytelling with photographs

The photographs we share depend largely on how we want to tell the story. As someone who enjoys travel in an RV, the majority of my photographs, and thus my stories, are centered around the places we visit along with my personal experiences and thoughts. There’s an excitement to traveling, to seeing new sights, meeting new people, having new experiences, and capturing those moments and memories is important to me. The ability to share them with you is a bonus! ūüėĀ

When I think about my adventures and how I want to preserve a memory and how I might want to share a story, I keep a few thoughts in mind …

5 Elements to help tell a story.

  • Idea: what, where, when?
  • Plan: execution, how?
  • Memory: preservation, what do I want to remember most?
  • Emotion: feeling, sentiment, how does it make me feel?
  • Narration: words to complement the images and help deliver the story.

It doesn’t matter what kind of camera we use to capture our story. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite recent fall photographs was taken quickly with my iPhone. Al and I had gone on a scenic drive and stopped to explore a national forest campground on Lake Namekagon in northern Wisconsin. It was a gorgeous fall day, and I was easily distracted by the beautiful autumn colors. While Al strolled back to the truck, I ventured down a trail.

Knowing Al would be waiting for me (patiently) and realizing we still had several more places to visit, I was rushed, but I felt compelled to capture snippets of my experience. Without much thought, I pointed the iPhone … click to the left, click to the right, click up high, click down low, time to go! Regrettably, my Panasonic stayed slung across my body.

Trust your instincts when capturing the moment. Try not to overthink the composition … unless your goal is for professional reasons or a wall hanger, in which case you’ll want to pull out the good camera, tripod, and spend some time composing. But for storytelling, go with your gut and capture what makes you happy at that moment … it’s your story.

hiking trail with fall leaves on the ground
This is one of my favorite photos taken this past September.

Memory / Emotion: The image above evokes a calming joy within me and that’s exactly how I felt strolling through those leaves, and for some reason, those leaves almost looked like rose petals guiding me further into the forest. Whenever I look at this photograph, I’m reminded of the wonderful autumn day that I shared with my husband. I realize the way the image impacts me is unique to me personally.

I’m curious though … how does the image make YOU feel? What does it say to you? Perhaps you don’t even care for the photo, and that’s ok, but the photograph is part of my visual story from that day.

Idea / Plan: The whole reason for us to remain in northern Wisconsin into October was so I could capture autumn foliage. So with that in mind, I set about planning where I wanted to go. For three weeks, starting in mid-September, whenever the weather was agreeable, I was off in search of color.

Scenery along the way!

I was rewarded with stunning colors in all directions. Sometimes I was able to pull off to the side of the road and snap some photos and other times I wasn’t so lucky, in which case I would have to savor those views in my memory. I knew when I planned these photo outings that I’d want to share my tales here on the blog. Therefore, I made mental notes and had an idea of what kind of images I wanted to capture to help tell my story … visual storytelling.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Narration: Years ago, long before personal computers, the internet, and digital photography ūüėĶ, I was into scrapbooking. I have about three large storage containers filled with photo albums. I treasure those albums, but when I recently started flipping through one, I noticed the lack of narration. Writing has never come easy to me and that was more apparent than ever when reviewing that photo album.

Oh, how I wish I had shared more information about the photographs, about the events, about the places and people. Even though a picture may be worth a thousand words, adding additional information via words will enhance any story. Besides, there’s a little storytelling in all of us.

Color was seen everywhere!

Hopefully, I’ve offered a few tips that might help you focus on your own storytelling via photography. If interested, here is one of my favorite tales where I take my readers on a hike at the incredible Kasha-Katuwee Tent Rocks.

Do you have a favorite visual story?

I loved the tiny island with the colorful trees in the distance.
blue and pink sunset over a lake with ducks
Beautiful ending to a beautiful day!

Photo Challenges: This week for Sunday Stills, Terri asks us to share photographs of leaves. Another photo challenge is from Patti – Lens-Artists #121 Focus on the Subject. As opposed to focusing my camera on something specific, I chose storytelling as my subject to focus on.

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Are They Goals or Resolutions?

Are They Goals or Resolutions?

As I switch out the calendar hanging on my wall, I’m saddened by the thought that 2019 has come to an end. I had a fantastic year, a year filled with good health, mingling with friends old and new, lots of time connecting with family, and traveling in a relaxing sort of way. So, as I reflect on the passing of yet another year, I look toward the future.

Not only is it a new year but a new decade. 2020 sounds so George Jetson like, doesn’t it? And although we may not have a Rosie in our lives, we do have Alexa, Siri, Roomba, self-driving cars, smartphones, and all the other gadgets out there that supposedly make our lives easier. I’d say, we’ve come a long way in the past decade and it’ll be interesting to see where this new decade takes us.

spreading your wings. a sculpture with wings out stretched
Spreading our wings in 2020

Resolutions are made up of goals.

Yeah, 2019 was a good year for me, an excellent year, but there’s always something refreshing about changing out that calendar. With a new year and a new decade in front of me, I feel a sense of a blank slate that needs to be filled with hopes, dreams, and goals. I don’t usually do the whole New Years Resolution thing per se, but I do think about loosely set goals. However, goal setting, in general, is something I consider regularly and not just yearly.

Hmm, I wonder what’s the difference between resolutions and goals?

While there is a difference between goals and resolutions, they are intertwinded. Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something. Goal: the object of a person’s amibition or effort; an aim for a desired result.

Goals provide a direction to follow to achieve a desired outcome. Goals involve planning, preparing, and taking action. Ah, I do have goals indeed and perhaps even a resolution thrown in the mix just for fun.

My top five goals for 2020

  1. Eat healthier and hopefully lose a few pounds (isn’t this on everyone’s list?)
  2. Exercise more – get more physically fit (again, popular)
  3. Save more, spend less money (this should be on everyone’s list)
  4. Blog consistently – for fun and to provide helpful information
  5. Embrace cooking and try new recipes regularly.

blueberry coffee cake baked in a cast iron skillet
I wonder, will I be baking as much in 2020?

Ah, I’m sure those top three goals aka resolutions are on most peoples list and usually are every year. Guess I’m not being too original, but I’m ok with that. However, seeing these goals down on paper (or rather computer screen) seems like a lot to be working on all at once. I know I’ll have good days and bad days achieving these goals, but I’m hoping by writing things down via a daily journal that I’ll have more successes than failures. I assure you my computer’s cookies are loaded with how-to “bullet point journal”. Did someone say cookies? ūüć™ūüć©ūüć™

It also helps that Al, darling husband, shares these same goals … well, except for #4 and #5. First, he doesn’t blog, and second, he doesn’t cook, but rather encourages me to cook and him to suffer through the taste testing. Don’t you feel sorry for him? Actually, he can cook when he has to, but not the kind of dishes I’d eat … very bachelor/guy kind of stuff. Between you and me, I don’t think even he likes his own cooking. He much prefers encouraging me in the kitchen and he’ll even run to the grocery store to help me out. Awe, isn’t he sweet? Did someone say, Sweets? (Diets suck!)

So now that you know my goals for 2020, I’m relying on you to help keep me accountable ūüėÜ

a mysterious path in the forest
What does your path look like in 2020?

2020 Travel Plans

Having lived and traveled in our RV fulltime since 2013, we’ve slowed down the last couple of years … not that we ever crisscrossed the country like some RVers or had any specific travel goals in mind like visiting all 50 states. No, we’ve always planned our travels more on a whim and keeping visits with our children in mind.

Now that both kids live in Phoenix, Arizona, it makes travel planning super easy, at least the winter plans. We enjoy spending the winters in Phoenix and the rest of the year is determined by the direction we point the RV.

Last summer, we spent three months camped on Al’s sister’s property near Hayward, Wisconsin … lakefront property I might add. We had a great time, so much so, that we’ll be doing a repeat this summer. We do have a few out and back trips into Minnesota and the Upper Penisula of Michigan planned, but we’ll have to see how that all plays out. Ya know how that goes … plans written in jello with lots of wiggle room.

The main difference between last year’s travels and this year will be the journey between Phoenix and Hayward. Last summer we took almost four weeks to drive the nearly 2,000 miles. This year we don’t plan on meandering but rather focus on the destination and hightailing it in about four days. Our route will be determined by spring storms and the avoidance of running into Dorthy and Toto aka tornados. Yeah, the month of May can be a dicey month crossing the Great Plains¬†and keeping an eye on weather conditions is paramount.

reflections in water
reflecting on life

Happening around our RV

Even though we’re only five days into the New Year, I’m down a pound. My meal planning has been successful and my legs are feeling the activity. So far, so good! And things on the blogging plan front? Well, that still needs a ton of attention. I’m still suffering from a creative block. That’s a real thing, isn’t it? I haven’t been out with the camera much and I certainly haven’t been writing. Perhaps I just need a nudge and if that means staring at a blank computer screen for thirty minutes or just taking random photos of something, that’s what I plan on doing to try and get myself back into a creative mood … ya know, get those creative juices flowing again. After all, that’s when I’m at my happiest; when I’m creating.

I’m excited about the possibilities, goals, and plans for 2020. Whether I’m exploring new places or revisiting some old favorites, my hope is to start the new decade on a positive note and keep it going throughout the new year and beyond.

How about you? What are you looking forward to the most in the new year?

quote carved in a stone bench Where do we go from here
Where do we go from here?

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Three’s company, or not!

I Googled the meaning of adventure.¬† The word adventure could be used to describe an unusual and exciting, sometimes hazardous, experience or activity.¬† Hmm, I pondered that for a moment.¬† Quite frankly, I think life’s an adventure it’s just some days¬†are filled with more excitement than others.

hot air balloons
This photo was taken right out my RV door while still in my nighty!

It’s been an interesting couple of days around our little home.¬† One might even use the term adventurous to describe our exciting and unusual morning(s).

adventureIt was around 4:00 a.m.¬†Wednesday morning as I laid in bed.¬†¬†I wasn’t¬†in a deep sleep, but not necessarily awake.¬† I’m laying on my side with my back to hubby when I feel Al lightly drum his fingers down my arm.¬† Then he rested his hand before continuing the light drumming back up, then down, then gone.¬† As I laid their half asleep yet half awake, I thought to myself…. how strange.¬† He’s never done that before.¬† Oh well, and quickly fell into a deep slumber.

Around 5:30 a.m. I’m awakened by Al’s chuckling.¬† He says, “What are you doing?”¬† Groggily, I responded with a, “What are you talking about”.¬† He says, “You know… that light tickling drumming with your fingers down my arm”.¬† “Honey, I’m laying on my stomach and in this position even the most talented of contortionists wouldn’t be able to even touch your arm let alone¬†roll fingers”.

Say what?¬† Somewhat startled, we¬†quickly became WIDE awake.¬† We¬†swiftly sat up and looked around.¬† Apparently, we weren’t alone.¬†¬†It became obvious¬†I wouldn’t¬†be going back to sleep anytime soon, and¬†thus¬†I got up¬†to start the¬†coffee and frantically¬†looked around for¬†any unwanted¬†guest.

It was a particularly beautiful morning.¬† While looking out¬†the RV bedroom window,¬†I sat in bed having my coffee.¬†The lovely sight of colorful balloons temporarily eased any concerns of a third party in bed with us. It was the perfect day for an adventurous hot air balloon ride.¬†I watched as a dozen balloons¬†floated by. ¬†Ah, one day I’ll¬†go up in¬†one of those baskets.

adventure
the view out my bedroom window

While I was enjoying coffee with a view, Al continued the critter hunt to no avail and eventually we went about our day…. that is until it was time for lunch.¬†¬†Was it¬†the smell of food that finally lured Lorenzo out¬†into the open?¬† The next five minutes unfolded like a¬†scene out of¬†an episode¬†of the Three Stooges as Al and I escorted Mr. Lorenzo Lizard to the nearest exit.

lizard
“Hey, you could’ve at least fed me before kicking me out!”

With the bedroom mystery solved, that night we¬†were able to enjoy¬†a good nights sleep… that is¬†until about 3:00 a.m.¬† That’s when Donatella Donkey and her family decided to munch on the weeds next to our RV.

donkey
Dad on the left (yes that’s dad, I double checked – he’s just cold or shy at the moment), mom middle, child on the right

donkeyWith the beautiful spring weather we’ve enjoyed in Phoenix, we’ve slept with the windows open at night.¬† Therefore, the braying ….¬†hee-haw sound of the donkey right outside our window had Al and¬†me laughing.¬† We literally¬†could hear them pulling the grass and munching, but that braying sound was/is hysterical. And it’s loud.

If you’ve never heard a donkey bray, click here to be entertained.¬† Trust me, it’s worth the click to listen to these guys.

These donkeys aka wild burros casually roam about the desert in the northwest part of the Phoenix valley near Lake Pleasant.

Ah, but our little adventurous encounters didn’t end there.¬† We have the tale of Millie who was so brazenly bold as to mosey from behind my chair over to the slatted vent under the frig all the while¬†exchanging eye contact with hubby….. the hussy!

mouseOnce behind the vent, she continued looking at Al for another minute before disappearing.¬† Al found the encounter rather humorous but that didn’t stop him from setting a mouse trap that night.¬† It¬†remained empty the next morning.¬† Perhaps Miss Millie heeded the evacuation notice.

The next day it was time for me to bake.¬†¬†Since I’ve been following¬†a Paleo¬†based diet, I like to keep the freezer stocked with fresh-baked¬†scones or muffins¬†made from almond or coconut flour.¬† I recently purchased a special silicon bagel/donut mold and was looking forward to giving it a try.¬† In an RV, storage needs to be fully utilized.¬† I stow my cookie sheets and muffin pans including the new donut mold in the RV oven when not in use.¬† When I emptied the oven to lite the pilot light,¬†I excitedly reached for my new bagel mold….. “What’s this – crumbs?”¬† Miss Millie Mouse had nibbled on my brand new, never been used silicon donut mold and chewed a hole in one of the rings.fuming madTo say I was fuming is putting it mildly.¬†¬†Expletives¬†were flying out of my mouth.¬†¬†Words that would make a sailor blush.¬† Millie was immediately sentenced to death via the guillotine.¬† The next day, it was another very early morning wake up¬†for me when a¬†SNAP was heard!¬† Remember, adventure sometimes means hazardous?

So there you have it.¬† Adventure comes in many forms.¬† Just another day in the life of an RV’er and why do things always seem to happen in threes?

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