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It IS harder when you’re the Fat girl

“People who are overweight don’t want unsolicited advice. Guess what. We know we’re fat. We live in homes with mirrors.” –Al Roker, BrainyQuotes.com

And we participate in extracurricular activities; we sit in seats made for someone half our size; we walk through doors built in the 20’s sideways; we go into stores to try to find cute clothing. Let’s face it, we have a constant reminder that we’re bigger, heavier, or “pudgier” than other people.

I went kayaking this Saturday with the Women in the Park program through Friends of the Willow and Kinni. It’s a non-profit group that does most of the programming in the two local state parks. They got a grant to offer this group, so it makes this fun experience accessible to many more people.

The program offers all of the events free to participants under the grant. If not for that, we’d have to pay for our own kayak rental, archery lessons, etc. I decided to participate because I’m trying to get out and do more active things. I figure I can meet more active people to be my friends if I do more active things. I love you all, but I’m tired of just going to dinner, drinking, and talking. Even a short walk after dinner makes it more interesting.

Anyway, I signed up for this class knowing that I’d know no one in attendance. I was just excited to get some real training on kayaking. I had done it a few times with the kayaks that my in-laws have and it was pretty fun, although I kept falling over and getting water in the boat. I found out that I was missing a key element of kayaking, so now I don’t tip as much.

Now, many are asking “what does being fat have to do with it?” I am reminded regularly by a co-worker that anyone being called “fat” is inaccurate and a trigger for some people. We have fat just like we have finger nails. I am heavier than I look. Many are larger than they would like to be. This is what I’m talking about.

Even the leaders of the class were surprised. At the beginning, we got in the water to practice certain necessary moves. I guess my kayak was sitting fairly low because, when we came out, the instructor replaced my boat with a deeper one that had been in the truck. He said it would help me stay higher in the water. This one didn’t have a strap on the back to hold my coat or my shoes (I prefer barefoot everything, if you didn’t know.) So, I left my coat behind and put my shoes in the bottom of the boat.

This deeper kayak did not keep me out of the water by any means, though. I am heavy, as I said. Apparently, I still weighted it down enough to get water in the kayak. Thankfully, it was less than I would have in the shallower boats. I was reminded as we went, me in my larger kayak, that I am significantly stronger than many people smaller than me. I have to be. Pulling my 266 lbs through the water is a lot harder than pulling Cathy’s 125 lbs. My strength is a positive in many situations. My strength comes from pushing around my fat.

As the day went on, I started to notice more of the water that was building  up on the bottom of my boat. On top of what was coming off of my oars, it started raining. My larger kayak had a larger hole as well. It caught more water. When we returned to shore, others were able to easily get out of their kayak and quickly pull them up to the trailer.

Here’s where another hard part came: Getting up. When you’re thin or light, it isn’t that hard to push yourself only partially onto your legs and press yourself to standing. When you’re someone like me, whose weight plays a significant role in the health of their joints, you don’t want to try to just spring that extra person off of the ground. You need to make sure that your hips are over your knees are over your ankles before you straighten said legs. It’s better for everyone involved. That’s hard to do in a kayak.

On land, if your legs are straight out in front of you, it’s possible to roll to the side to get your legs underneath you before standing. Not so in an aquatic vessel. On top of the not-rolling part, you can’t just put your feet down like in a canoe. The seats in a kayak are very close to the bottom of the vessel and usually do not move backward so that you can get your footing. I still haven’t found the key to standing up easily. What I did was push straight up, get my feet on the bottom of the boat, then grab the front of the gunwale to tip my weight forward over them. This is a hilarious sight if you can’t imagine it yourself. I learned it from the cows in my life… farmers know what I’m talking about.

Ok, after the funny tipping standing motion, I was able to get out of the kayak and started trying to drag it up the beach. The problem was that there’s now 10 gallons of water in the bottom of the boat. Someone tried to help me carry the other end of the kayak and failed miserably. There I stood, waiting for the tiny hole in the back of the boat to drain it enough that we could tip the boat over to drain out the big hole where I’d been sitting.

My adventure was not over. The park where we were at does not have parking right next to the beach. You park at the top of the hill, then walk down a very steep hill to the waterside. I knew on the way down that the way back up was not going to be fun. I was right. These other woman took the hill with ease. 125 lbs is not hard to get to the top of the hill. The momentum holding her back with gravity was so easily overcome that I was in awe. She hardly was breathing hard when we got to the top. I, on the other hand, was drenched in both sweat and river water, along with huffing and puffing like I was trying to blow down a house.

A good friend of mine told me once “My life is not worse because I’m fat. It’s just different.” Worse, maybe not. But I propose that it is harder, and that’s what makes us stronger. We have to work harder to get what we want, like making our own clothing, writing the manufacturer, or going to a different store (or 5). We have to go farther to make people understand, like the extremely unnecessary convincing of our doctors that it’s not because of my fat that I am depressed; it’s the other way around, or going to those 5 stores for a cute outfit, or taking the stairs because the elevator only has room for a skinny girl left. We meet far more people even if against our will, like dating 15 first dates but no second dates, trainers and nutritionists and endocrinologists that can’t figure out how to make us thin, and everyone we bump into in any kind of line.

Life is harder and that’s ok. What’s not ok is when there’s judgement because of it. I was lucky this weekend; no one openly judged my abilities to kayak but myself. I was grateful that no one offered to help me up the hill or suggested that I sit down half way up on the bench. I just wanted to keep going. But there are times when we can’t avoid the feeling of judgment.

Imagine being told you need to buy the seat next to you on a flight, that you are too large for a ride at a theme park, or that your company didn’t get your size of the company shirt that EVERYONE ELSE got. Now also think about the looks you get when you go out with the one you love. Instead of a tiny salad, you order a beer, burger and fries. The girl down the bar snickers and points your way and you can’t help but wonder if it’s about the food you got. The attendant at a clothing store looks you up and down and says “I’m sorry. I don’t think we carry your size. You’d be better off at Lane Bryant.” I do love Lane Bryant, but I wanted to try on that cute, flowy floral you had in the front window. Ordering bras from a catalog because they don’t carry your size, then having to send them back multiple times because the store attendant sized you wrong.

Self-judgment is the biggest risk we face. We try to blend in; to talk quieter so no one notices the fat girl. I won’t do that anymore. When I feel that bug in my brain start to attack, I get louder. If you don’t like the loud fat girl, you probably shouldn’t hang out with me. My husband says I could make friends in Antarctica, and I probably could. I like people and I do think that no one means to be mean. A lot of that judgment is self-preservation or self-hatred. They work so hard to be skinny that they’re terrified that the carrot cake they ate might make them look like me. Fine, let them be terrified. Looking like me is not the worst thing that could happen, but they don’t know that. I do. I have a good life, albeit harder than theirs. But I don’t battle with that fear. I’m happy to be me and to have my fat. I’m happy to be strong and loud and blunt. And all of these things because being the fat girl is harder.

Enjoy your cake and we’ll see you on the road.

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Hey it’s me, your suicidal friend

I like to go around reading others’ writing as well. Every once in a great while, I  run across something that I really relate to.

Today,  I saw something posted semi- privately and I instantly wanted to spread it far and wide. I can’t say that I still struggle with these thoughts,  but there are very important people in my life that do. I found this helpful for those of us that want to help,  but don’t know where to start.

I went about getting permission from this person.  She said she didn’t want any credit other than sharing her name.  No links; no pingbacks.  Her badge is Jade Sage. Thank you for sharing your heart and your writing. Hope we see you on the road.

So, without further adieu, here is a profound writing by Jade Sage.

Okay, so I’ve been dealing with some things lately, that have been pushing me towards that edge. I’ve been actively suicidal for close to a week… and this isn’t my first time here.

But this isn’t about me or my problems, specifically.

This is a PSA.

A lot of people don’t know what to do when someone they know is suicidal. They don’t know what to say, because what if they say the wrong thing? Or they don’t understand depression and can’t relate. And that’s okay. Really, it is.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have good brain chemistry. Some of us have developed healthy coping mechanisms. And some of us have neither of those things. Or parts of them, and it’s not enough.

Anthony Bourdain died today, from suicide. He didn’t commit suicide- he is not guilty of a crime. Suicide killed him. Depression killed him. I keep hearing that people are shocked, that they never saw it coming. Sometimes it’s the people that seem most together, that need the most help. Bourdain was a drug user- that was his coping mechanism.

People who die from suicide are your friends, family. Neighbours, pastor, anyone. There is no prejudice, for depression.

So when you have a friend who is suicidal, what do you do? What can you do? Here are my thoughts:

– be honest. If you can’t relate, tell us… but maybe add that you would like to help.
– ask us what you can do for us. Honestly, sometimes all I need are creature comforts, like my heating blanket, to make me feel a bit better.
– do not NOT talk about your life. So many people don’t want to overburden a suicidal person, but by shying away from sharing, you’re pushing us away, and cutting us out. By sharing your own life, you create grounds on which two way empathy can be built.
– check up on us. Please. Be annoying. We will eventually respond. Your messages tell us that someone cares.
– please don’t recommend therapy, drugs, or suicide hotlines. (At least, not more than once!) We know they exist, but if we are sharing with you, we need a personal connection. Suggesting these things, while meant in a helpful way, actually can push us away.
– be kind. Even if you don’t have the energy to handle us, be kind.
– it’s okay to not be able to handle us. Sometimes what someone else is dealing with is too much for you- and we understand that! That’s why we are in this situation! So if it’s too much for you, tell us you love us and that you want to help, but listening is too hard- ask how ELSE you can help.

Suicidal people are people. We need help and support. We don’t need lectures, moral opinions, and judgment.

Be kind.

Surfing in Wisconsin

“Social media sites create an illusion of connectivity” — Malay Shah

“We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we do it.” — Erik Qualman

“You have friends all over the world; you just haven’t met them yet” –Couchsurfing.org

I can go on and on with quotes about social media. We have a lot to say on this subject. There’s information to suggest that 55% of people throughout the WORLD use social media. There is NOTHING ELSE in the entire world that 55% of people agree on (other than needing oxygen, food, and water). And I’m thinking that this phenomenon has something to do with us feeling more lonely and disconnected.

I’ve noticed in recent interactions online, I feel empty. It felt like my interactions on social media were more about the “media” than the “social”. This led me to make a decision. I have decided to use Facebook only for groups and events now. Trying to avoid my feed as much as possible. Why? Because it’s not really social there. My feed is a bunch of information being thrown into the world; thrown at the wall by my friends and family. It reminds me of advertising in a magazine. We tend to just flip through it until we find something for us. It has nothing to do with connecting.

Anyway, I’m moving most of my social to groups and in person meetings. Last night was a good example. I used the Couchsurfing app to find a Twin Cities event that happens every week. This community has created great friendships and memory makers. Couchsurfing is a way to travel on the cheap and really see the world through the eyes of others. The idea is that you can lend your couch (or guest room or air mattress or floor) to a traveler or two. They, in turn, teach you something or hang out and offer the same couch service to others if they can. It’s a great way to find travel partners and new friends. I highly recommend you check it out.

Back to my experience with this website/app; Jeremy and I joined the site years ago, when it was in its infancy. When we checked it out first, it was an interesting idea, but not something that had hit any kind of stride yet. There was no one around us that used it and only a small handful of people in the places we were looking to travel to. We also had almost no friends who were willing to write us a reference. We filled out our whole profile and got as verified as we could without paying anything. Then we forgot about our profile there. When Airbnb came out, we touched base back there, but had no desire to focus enough to try this new concept and learn the new website. Then came the app and his most recent trip.

Currently, Jeremy is in San Diego, CA learning about Watsu. It is a bodywork modality that he’s gotten a new passion for. That passion led him to search out classes so that he can also be a practitioner of water therapy and help even more of his clients with their mental and physical illnesses. When we were planning his trip, the question of what I would do for 2 weeks without him came up. Would I still come home every night if I didn’t have to? Did I really want to keep travelling 52 miles one way each day for work? No to both. I wanted to stay closer to work so that I could drive less and enjoy my extra hours in the day.

Couchsurfing came to mind when we were booking his Airbnb stay there. Why couldn’t I stay on someone’s couch close to home? That way, if something was shady, I could just go home instead. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know the tricks to convince a host to let me stay. But I did know how to find local events on the app. I joined an event last night for the first time. My first time actually being able to use the app helped out a lot.

First of all, everyone that joined this event online actually showed up, plus a few that hadn’t joined. This is a new concept for us Facebook users. When we have 5 “yes” answers and 15 “maybe” answers, we expect 2 attendees. Events get lost in the turmoil of the feed. So, our social on FB can turn into that feed thing again. On Couchsurfing, there’s no feed really. The events are front and center; the interactions with real people become the focus. You can’t forget when the event feed is constantly reminding you that you have something coming up.

Second, all of these people value interaction. Why would you sign up on a site to be hosted or host someone if you didn’t care about the interactions? They want in person meetings, hugs, and sharing a drink. That interaction is what taught me that short “trips” are better than long ones. I had posted a 2 week hosting opportunity on my trip, hoping to stay close to work for 2 full weeks. Yet, I have Tuesday class that I would need to go home for and Wednesdays I have a standing time to stay with a friend already. Plus, my mom is coming up for a conference at one point and I plan to stay with her for 2 days. So, that breaks my “staying” down to a few short trips. I have thus changed my trips to a few short ones. Hoping this leads to a stay or two. I’m still hoping to interact with one person or more during the times that I’d like to not have to drive to work.

Third, references are important. Interaction and connection are vulnerable experiences. Having someone tell you that another person is good can be a big anxiety reducer. We already do this for people!! How many times do you vouch for someone in your life? “Oh yeah, I do know Troy. He’s a great guy” when your best single friend tells you that she met someone who knows you. “Kelly and I used to work together. Glad you met her.” “John and I went to school together.” There are ways on the Couchsurfing app to do this. There’s personal references, host references, and traveler references. You may have a great place to stay, but be a slob when staying at others’ places. That can be found on here. You may be great at making friends, but not be able to host anyone at your place. So you’d have no references from people you’ve hosted, but many can vouch that you’re a great person to host at their place. We do this in real life; I like that this community offers the opportunity to do it online as well.

Cutting back on Facebook for my social media experience is a hard thing for me. I have spent hours and hours just scrolling my feed, sharing things that make me laugh or cry or angry. It’s a bad habit that I’d like to break. I don’t want my hobby list to include “spending hours staring at a screen sharing pictures of words”. I’ve had moments like this in the past when I found it particularly good to disconnect. I think this will be a way to find real friends again, instead of 1000 followers that like my dog videos I share. It’s already been wonderful for me. Last night, I loved really connecting with a community of vulnerable people who crave interaction and genuine connection. I’m grateful for their new place in my life.

So, what Apps and events and groups do you use to keep it cheap and still fun? What ways do you really connect with people? How do you contribute to the giant brain we’ve created with the Internet? And how have you contributed to the hands and feet of it that go out and find real interactions? Hopefully, you’ll consider reaching out by staying on my futon. Come and surf in Wisconsin in The Girl Next Door. With that, we’ll see you on the road.

Catching Up

“When I have spare time, I catch up on things
I’ve had to postpone due to lack of time.” Steve Wozniak, Brainquote.com

For those of you that deal with chronic illness or severe mental illness, you know that sometimes life gets in the way. Appointments with the doctor, counselor, physical therapist, or other health professional tend to take up a lot of time. On top of that, there are times that you need to be making the money that you couldn’t make when you or those you love were sick. There’s also that all-too-sought-after ideal of this thing called “rest”. Who has time for sleeping, reading, watching TV, or “self-care”?

The truth is that we all have plenty of time. Our priorities just tend to take over one way or another. My priorities have been to do that self-care, to get the therapies taken care of, and to get my butt back in gear to live my life. So, let’s go forward and let you know how life is going now.

RV life is still happening!! Jeremy and I have loved being in the RV full-time. This winter, we remained parked at the Round Barn location. Our hosts are snow-birds and they left for Florida in November. They requested that we use the dishwasher, sink, and laundry, along with the toilet, to ensure that the waterlines remained in use. It took a load off of their minds to have someone checking this almost daily so that they didn’t have to worry about coming home to a flooded house.

The use of the dishwasher created a natural migration of our cooking to the house, since we could just put everything directly into the dishwasher. So, here we are learning how to cook in the RV again. We also had naturally migrated much of our clothing into baskets because of the back and forth to the house. Another re-learning experience: fitting all of our clothing into the tiny closets. It won’t be as steep a curve as it was last year. Now we at least have experience RVing, so we know what we need to do.

What has come about because of those “natural migrations” and “relearning opportunities” is that we have not put our things away where they belong. Our RV is a MESS!! I have called in a professional organizer to help me make sense of it all this Friday. I’m afraid it may take more than one session and I am willing to put forth the effort so that we can have a harmonious household.

Family life is much less strained. Jason has been living in a foster home for a few months after a stay in juvenile detention. Thankfully, he’s really putting in the work to stay clean, live by the rules, and straighten out his future. We’re really proud of the hard work he’s doing and we hope he keeps honest with himself and with everyone else. He should be transitioning back to his mom’s place within the next month or so. He will remain in treatment for a time and he enjoys the support he gets from AA meetings that he’s been regularly attending.

Jeremy’s mental health has bounced back very quickly since Jason got clean and started buckling down. I think it’s hard for me to grasp the enormity of emotion that goes with being the biological parent to someone with mental illness. It has helped me see Jeremy’s parents and their relationship with us in a whole new light. I’m so grateful that they stick with us and hold family as such a high priority.

Jeremy’s physical health has also made a bounce back. He’s been biking since January again and started running again just recently. He also swims with a group of friends 2-3 times a week. Last weekend, he raced in a duathlon; that is running and biking. He’s eating healthier and losing weight. His blood pressure seems to be better controlled as well.

Physical health has also moved back to the top of the list for me. Along with Jeremy, I’m eating better and exercising more. I’ve started making all of my social time into active time by going for walks, hikes, and bowling instead of out to eat or drink. Running 3-5 times a week has become the norm because of taking the community ed class, First Steps. It’s amazing what having a calm life can do for your health in every aspect.

Work is going well for both of us as well. Jeremy has picked up a new massage type (modality) called watsu. It’s a way of incorporating the buoyancy of water with light stretching and massage pressure.  He’s been doing intermittent training in it for about 6 months now. He also has been offering free practice sessions to our friends and family as part of his certification. I can say for certain that he has a gift in all things bodywork. He’s extremely passionate about the amazing things that water can do to facilitate healing and relaxation.

I’m still at Aveda working in the Quality lab and loving it. I have great coworkers, a wonderful benefit package, a decent wage, and I’m using some of the schooling I have in Chemistry. The only downside to my job is the distance from where we’re parked. It’s 52 miles 1-way to work. I’ve caught up on my music listening, call my family and friends regularly, and have gotten an Audible subscription. My hips and my back do not thank me for this drive. It’s not that I can’t keep myself busy; I would just like to be able to have a life outside of the car.

I know what you’re saying: “Can’t you just park somewhere closer? Isn’t that the benefit of RV life?” While this sentiment is very true, finding places to park a 30′ motorhome is not the easiest task in the world. We’ve been very very blessed to have family and friends who live close to our “home-base” that have allowed us to park in their yards. They’ve been amazing, helping us put in all of the work we’ve done this far. Our current location even has an RV electric panel now because our friends are so extremely helpful to us. That all being said, it is still hard to find parking spots.

RV parks and campsites tend to be fairly expensive compared to making deals with friends and family. It is not uncommon to spend $20 a day on a non-electric site, $35 a day on the electric ones. This is a barebones site, not often including water, dumping, WiFi, or cable (not that we need cable, as we do not have a television). There are some that have this, but usually run around $200/week. We just can’t afford that. I mean, that’s about how much we were paying for a 2 bedroom townhouse. We might as well not RV if that’s the case.

The spots that are not expensive have plenty of rules attached. There are free sites that can take a tent, but often need to be hiked into or used a boat to access. There are corporate sites at Casinos, Cabella’s, or Walmart, but you need permission and can usually only stay for a few days. $5 Truck stops don’t usually allow more than one day. The Girl Next Door is not young enough to be moving that often at this time. As we replace more parts, she’ll get younger and younger and be able to move more and more.

Thus, we rely on family and friends to barter and trade with us. It has worked out well and the current location is with people that we really enjoy our time with. So, I’ll be driving until we either buy our own place to park on or find another friend closer with a similar setup.

All in all, things are going well. With my new found energy, I’m hoping to be able to write a bit more here and fill you all in on the adventures that we take part in. Take care of your health and the health of those around you. We will see you on the road.

Short and Sweet

This is what we were doing a year ago.

It’s hard to believe that a year ago, we were rushing to make The Girl Next Door livable. It’s hard to believe that any of this has happened. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a year. It feels like we’ve always lived like this.

In a few days, I’m going to go back over everything that has happened in a year and our plans for the future. I’m so excited  you’ve decided to join us on our journey. See you on the road.

Rig-loo

“A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations,
but look what they can do
when they stick together!!” -Author Unknown

I am not one to pray for snow. I think it’s pretty when I’m looking out of my parents’ house; me inside with a fire, a good book, a dog to pet, and a blanket. I can totally appreciate how beautiful it is in the trees and creating a blank covering for all of the ground’s imperfections. And I HATE to be cold and wet! I’d rather be hot, dripping sweat, eating some ice cream than need to wear layers and layers of clothing to stay alive. By the way, I hate shoes and shoes are necessary in the snow. Many in my life can attest to my aversion to foot coverings. Again, I like pretty shoes, but rarely wear them. If it was up to me, I’d go barefoot everywhere.

I digress. Snow has not been something I longed for in the past. This is the first winter in my adult life that I was truly happy when we got snow. It wasn’t about the cold or the beauty that I was happy to see it come. It wasn’t about snowmen, snow angels, or snowshoeing. While those things are fun, I still prefer a treadmill, a board game, or a good book.

My longing for snow this year was purely rational; it is free insulation. God showers us with these miniscule pieces of ice. You’d think frozen water would make everything colder. The funny thing about this is that you can stick together these little pieces of ice to make a big fluffy pack of it. When stuck together, snow creates a great heat (or rather cold) barrier. It keeps the heat where it is and keeps the cold out of the heat. As long as it’s cold outside, the outside will stay cold enough to maintain the snow. As long as it’s warm inside, the warmth will be held in by said snow.

That’s what we’ve been banking on. Our skirting is good; our tarps are thick. We added plastic to the inside and outside of our windows. We added foam to the inside of cabinets. We even added Reflectix to our windows, vents, and walls. All of that costs money, so we couldn’t go hog wild on all of it. Now, snow is what we really needed and finally got last week. We shoveled it up and on top of itself to add wind barrier, as well as hold some of the heat in. The heater inside the RV went on half as much that night and less each night that we added more snow.

When we posted a picture of The Girl Next Door last week in an RV group, someone said “It’s a rigloo!” That got us to thinking, “Don’t indigenous peoples have a smart idea with the igloo? Let’s see what we can do with that.” We packed down the snow some, which helped even more.

Today, Jeremy got the best idea. He grabbed a 5 gallon bucket and started shoveling and packing. The 5 gallon bucket offers a consistent shape and size “brick” with a flat top so that we can put the next level on top. Hopefully, in a few more weeks, we’ll be able to really have a wall all the way around us, preventing wind and heat loss. While we’ve had it up as high as 80 degrees inside, we had all three heaters going to do it. I’m hoping we can really ride out the rest of this winter in style once the rigloo is complete.

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In other news, Jeremy had a bit of a run-in with the local wildlife last night. On his way home a whitetail decided to jump out in front of his car. The Buick got some damage to the front end, but the deer got the worse end of that stick. She didn’t make it.

And in good news this week, Jeremy also started his practice rounds for his new bodywork modality. It’s called Watsu as a play on the land bodywork therapy called shiatsu and adding water to it. In all reality, this therapy uses the healing properties of water with the resistance created in motion to promote relaxation and rehabilitation. In short, it’s exactly what Jeremy’s been looking for. His clients seem to be enjoying it too. One of his clients is who turned him onto learning this new therapy. Now he can’t get enough. He’s started training and part of training is practice. We’re excited to see where this goes.

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I’ve been supporting Jeremy in his athletic endeavors as well. He is off on his second fat bike race right now. Today is much warmer than his last race. The risk today is the ice on the trail. I’m praying that no one takes a severe fall because of slick spots. The last race was -14ºF. Everyone had ice on them at some point; Jeremy was no exception. Jeremy even went out one night a while back and tried running a little bit. Just as frozen; no thanks.

All-in-all, we’re doing well. With just the two of us in the RV again, we’re having to rearrange some organization again. More in the cupboards means more to keep the cold out, so we spread our stuff into the edges of the cabinets, hoping for more snow to add to the rigloo. So, start praying for snow for us and we’ll see you on the road.

Our Daily Bread

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
    but deliver us from the evil one.[b]

– Jesus teaching disciples to pray, Matthew 6:9-13

One discipline many of us struggle with is dedicated time for our spiritual practice.  I pray daily while I’m doing things and sing along with every worship song on the radio,  but I don’t get into the Word of God nearly often enough.

A lot of my early life was spent as part of the church. It helped that I grew up in a tiny little town. There were two entities that had events: the school and the church. There was only one school in town and 2 churches. Half of the people in my church also worked at the school, so there’s no getting things by on the church. You’re held to a higher standard in rural towns.

My parents are strong believers. They went on some short term mission trips and came back on fire for God’s calling. They included teachings of God in much of our lives. There were many mornings that my dad would pull out Our Daily Bread and read it to us while we ate breakfast. It was a nice start to the day. We went to church as a family most of the time. My father even got a chance to preach at times.

I was a very active member of our church. I was part of the youth group, the bell choir, the Christmas drama, and often ended up part of any other thing we had going on. I also took part in the youth group from the other church in town. Like I said, rural town; not much to do.

When I became an adult, my time was now in my own hands. I also moved to a place that had LOTS AND LOTS of events. I could go to a different event every single day if I wanted to. I also could be part of 90 different groups if I wanted. Church and school were not my only options any longer. Slowly, my spiritual practice time got chewed away at.

I was lucky that I transferred my junior year to a school with a fairly active Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I got involved in their Bible studies, their events, and even the gospel choir on campus. I didn’t need to do a lot of my own creation of spiritual practice time; this group created a lot of that for me. They also gave me accountability and “homework” to keep me up to speed.

Out of college, I got a job at a Christian camp. During their off season, they hosted retreats, so I became their retreat hostess. Once again, I was in direct service of God. My job included prayer, honest vulnerable talk about beliefs, and events that included the worship of the One Whom I Love.

Then, I married and got a job in my field. We haven’t had a “home” church for about 6 years. In this time, my resolve to spend time in my Bible and in worship has flagged. I’m blessed enough to have a great local radio station that offers worship music. There’s an AM station that has talk shows and sermons that gives me some learning when I crave it. I still pray whenever I’m led. The radio has sustained that “alone time” feel most of the time; it still felt lacking.

And then I discovered podcasts. In particular,  Our Daily Bread. I know that some might not like this publication’s format. That’s fine.  I may not relate to the writing every single day.  That’s fine too. The encouragement that I get from these 5-10 minute devotionals is worth every minute that may have seemed wasted at the time.

Commutes can be brutal. Something to listen to can be the difference between road rage and a calm ride. Radio stations lose signal at times. They also can air songs or sermons that get my ire up. The memory of a specific song being used to abuse someone can make me change the station. A sermon that highlights hatred or bigotry can do the same to me. That has been when I turn to the podcasts lately. Your church may have a podcast; many churches have gone to offering them. Getting a serving of the Bible is helpful for me. If you feel similarly, I included a link to the podcast I listen to for Our Daily Bread below.

Link for Our Daily Bread Podcast on Google Play Music: https://play.google.com/music/m/Ijpqyhygtcg63n5iutxzgt46cye?t=Our_Daily_Bread_Podcast_Our_Daily_Bread

I don’t know how many other sites have the podcast. I’m sure you can just search it in your software of choice. Either way, I hope you find a podcast or group that can offer you something to fill the static between your road rage and your craving for more in this life. While you look, keep moving; we’ll see you on the road.

Dumb Things People Say

Stepmom Magazine is a digital magazine that has had an impact on my life. I never subscribed to it, but I have seen articles and videos here and there that have helped me. I have stepmom friends who have been subscribed to it. They printed it out and read the whole thing, then shared it with the rest of our group to help someone else. It’s been immeasurably helpful to many many stepmoms, often keeping second and third families together.

A blended family can be a mix of first, second, third, and even 4th families. A first family is when an unmarried and never married person marries someone of similar marital past. They have children together and raise said children together. A second or even third or 4th family is a family created after a divorce, especially if there are children involved. Ours is a first/second/third family. I am on my first marriage as Jeremy’s second wife; his ex wife is married to her third husband.

Someone who hasn’t experience being in one of these situations has no idea what the participants go through. I am in part of this family, but I can’t even imagine what Jeremy’s ex or her new husband go through in their part of our family. Every little bit is different, making roles hard to navigate and communication tough to keep up with.

The most common thing that happens to those of us that are on the inside of a blended family is criticism. We get it from each other, from others in the family, and from outsiders. The outsiders part is really the most irritating. The people that are part of the family have a right to have feelings about what I do or say. Those of you not involved in it do not have any right to criticize. Even if you have had a blended family, you don’t know our exact situation.

That said, I know that many of you love people in blended families. You want to help and offering support or advice can be helpful. Sometimes, you don’t really understand what you’re saying though. This is a topic that has been addressed over and over again in the Stepmom magazine. Just in the time I’ve known about it, I’ve seen this topic addressed 2 different ways on the screen. One video is one that came up today for me on social media as a memory. I posted it 2 years ago.

Here is the video: 5 Dumbest Things People Say

Although they may be a little harsh, some of these original statements feel pretty harsh too. I still feel this way about most of these things people say:

#1- Like saying “You knew there were grizzly bears in the forest” or “You knew that cars get in crashes sometimes”… just because someone has kids doesn’t mean you knew how complicated that would be or what wrenches could possibly be thrown in by other people.
#2- Does anyone ever really “need” to have children? The point is that if she wants children or not has nothing to do with whether he already has them.
#3- I’d like to hear you say that to adoptive & foster parents and see how you come out… Here’s some protective headgear.
#4- Because love is just based on being nice… right? Oh… it’s not? Good, that explains the massive loyalty issues, love/hate complications, and painful baggage that my stepchildren have to deal with. It’s not about being nice, no matter how much you try.
#5- My horns are under this cute hairdo…

Read the comments of the video too. You might get some good feedback on how your “help” might be perceived.

Some things you CAN say to help when a stepmom is frustrated and needs to vent to you:

#1- That sounds really complicated. Can you tell me more about how you’re feeling on this?

#2- How are you feeling about his kids? Are you planning to have your own? How do you want to involve your step kids?

#3- Just listen and ask open ended questions. Advice isn’t always necessary. Comments on “parental status” aren’t necessary either. One question that may be helpful is “This is all really hard stuff to navigate. How much parenting do you feel you want to be doing in this situation?”

#4- Tough love is often hard to do, especially if you don’t get supported by all parents involved. Here, have another glass of tea/wine/coffee/etc.

#5- You look great today, despite all of the hard stepparenting work you’ve been doing. Nice job, lady.

If you must comment on these things, there are better options than criticism or assumptions. You can do it, I know you can. I’ve had some great support from people who previously were not so good at it. Communication and listening are a big part of that.

So, keep supporting your loved ones through their struggles and we’ll see you on the road.

A little RV update today: We are plenty warm. In fact, it was 80 degrees inside the other day when it was -20 degrees outside. Win! We’ve done some double insulating on things you’ve never thought of adding insulation to. We’re looking forward to even more time living in the Girl Next Door. How’d you weather the storm?

A Million Ideas

When life is busy, it’s easy to come up with ideas to write. Ideas jump out of the minute details of life. The only problem is that my brain doesn’t flow to typing when I am stressed.

You’ll remember that we recently (well, a few months ago) had Jason (16) move in with us in the RV. He’s had quite a few struggles so far in his short life and we were all hoping this would be a new start. At first, everything went along for a few weeks. Then, the bottom dropped out. I haven’t written about it because I just didn’t have the emotional energy.

Since that day, there have been multiple law enforcement involved events, as well as a few hospital visits. Jeremy took himself to the hospital twice, just to be sent home. These million ideas don’t flow from me, but they do get lodged in his head.

You see, with Jeremy’s mental disorders, he has a hard time letting things go. He also has a hard time sorting through the millions of ideas that already sit in his head. They all become jammed up when he gets stressed and collide in a horrific noise of anger and confusion. I have a feeling Jason has something like this happen too at times. Throughout the last few months, getting anything done was hard because their collisions were both happening simultaneously and being spewed out on each other.

Our place wasn’t a healthy location for Jason and it wasn’t healthy for us to have him living with us, just like his mom’s. It was toxic for everyone involved because of how he takes out his mental collisions and confusions. We (all of the parents in this situation) are not professionals and we are not equipped to deal with Jason’s myriad of mental illnesses, just as we wouldn’t be equipped to take care of a cancer surgery. Jeremy and Jason have both admitted that, when they’re amped up (excited, anxious, or angry), it’s hard for them to hear and see things as they really are. It’s not so much a loss of reality as it is a selective hearing that they don’t get to select. Then, that delusional state attacks them and tells them that they’re not good enough because they miss so much when they’re stressed.

That’s a dysfunction we’d like to change. We have multiple counseling appointments a week between all 3 of us and one of the regular focuses of these sessions is finding ways to deal with the delusions and the loss of memory tied to emotional dysregulation. #1 is to take breaks if anyone starts to get emotional. That’s hard when they’re already functioning lower because they’re the ones getting emotional.

That lower functioning has recently lead to some violence. Many forms of violence: physical, emotional, verbal, and property violence. Don’t know the difference? Ok, let’s address that:

  1. Physical violence is often what most people refer to as violence. In our house, it has recently come out as grabbing, shoving, punching, kicking, and spitting. Jeremy and Jason got into a physical altercation on December 4th. It resulted in Jason moving out of our tiny living spot into his brother’s house.
  2. Emotional violence. This can be paired with verbal violence, but does not entirely have to be. It could be a breach of trust. It could be violating someone’s privacy. It could be gaslighting. Intimidation is often an emotional violence tactic. It could be getting someone’s hopes up about something, then repeatedly disappointing them (most often a visit or something you tell them you’ll do with them). It could be just creating drama and picking verbal arguments. The emotional labor that’s necessary for these situations is staggering and makes it impossible to think of anything else.
  3. Verbal violence: Many people know this, but don’t talk about it as violence. It’s name calling. It’s swearing. It’s also gaslighting. It’s telling someone that their worth is nothing or that their hopes don’t matter. It’s the words someone uses to bring about emotional violence. It can be spoken, drawn, written, or digital. It can even be signed; with more than a middle finger sometimes. This violence has been part of our household for years. Many people don’t view this type of violence as as “bad” as other forms. Let me just tell you… It IS.
  4. Property violence is attacking your victim’s property in some way. Most recently in our house, stealing has happened. Jeremy came home from our vacation trip to find our business address locked, but had things moved around. Our electronics had been used. The Square credit card reader was stolen. The iPad had a factory reset done on it, deleting ALL of our apps and data. The safe had been moved, although not opened that we could tell because, thankfully, Jeremy had locked it. Jason is the only person other than us who knew where any spare keys were. He’s been hanging out with a man who has a felony credit card fraud on his record. I hope that man realizes that his parole can be revoked if Jason gets in trouble because of him. He could be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor if he let’s Jason keep coming around.
    Other property damage that’s happened is breaking or damaging someone else’s things. On the night that Jason attacked Jeremy, he also attacked Jeremy’s car. He was kicking and hitting it, which lead to dents. He was also purposely smoking in the car with the windows rolled down, so that it would smell up the car.  Jeremy and his oldest have put holes in walls before, both as intimidation tactics and property violence. Jason’s favorite form is to create more chaos. He will spread the contents of a car all over the yard or tear off the decoration from walls or remove the skirting from the RV. It’s a common occurrence that someone will steal money from others as a form of property violence. Property violence is a way to control someone just as much as emotional abuse, verbal abuse and physical abuse.

And that’s what it’s all about. It’s about controlling another person. That is disrespectful and creates many rifts in relationships.

I need to note here that this is NOT the same as a parent taking a child’s phone if they are doing something wrong or requiring a child to put money into an account to save for the future. It is not the same as a parent giving a child consequences if they are rude or disrespectful. It is not the same as an adult teaching a child by enforcing the rules. There are times when violence and consequences feel the same because no one wants either one to happen to them. The difference is that consequences are something that come because of our own actions. Violence is something someone enacts upon us.

We are sad that it didn’t work out how we had hoped to have Jason live with us. We will continue to love Jason and try to help him straighten his life out. We hope he will stop self-sabotaging by perpetuating violence and getting involved with people who lead him astray. That doesn’t mean we have to be in the way of the tornado until he starts to take responsibility. We will continue to work with his care team and hopefully, he will come clean and get straight before he has a consequence that is permanent.

So, it’s just Jeremy and I in the RV now. We are planning to continue to focus on our own health and wellness, trying always to help others when we can. Hopefully, you’ll join us. We’ll see you on the road.

Frozen Tundra

The Green Bay Packers football team plays their home games on a field that is lovingly referred to as “The Frozen Tundra”. There’s a good reason for this; Wisconsin is a very cold place to be.

We live in this very cold place because of family and jobs. Jason has friends.  I have a job doing production support for a high-end personal care product company. Jeremy has a stable client base. His parents live less than 30 minutes from where we are parked and Jason”s mom is about 45. The people and the jobs are important reasons for us to stay.

Living here is not extremely hard if you have 8 inches of insulation and double pain windows to protect you from the frigid elements. Wisconsin temperatures regularly drop to double digits below zero in the coldest parts of the year. The wind regularly reaches 20 miles an hour. Each year,  the place we are parked averages betweenbetween 50-100 inches of snow in season. This is the reality we are lookin at for the next 6 months.

For these reasons,  we have to insulate extra and find good reliable safe heating sources. For insulation,  we used mostly 2 inch foam board.  We have it in a makeshift wall that covers our largest window,  all around the skirting, and stuffed in the cabinets. We also have plastic wrap and reflectix for the windows. The reflectix alai helps with the vents. We bought a set of insulated curtains and hung them between the cockpit and the living room, making the cockpit into a storage area that’s 4 degrees colder than the living space. We even have a reflectix wrapped foam piece to put in front of the door when we are sleeping. We also placed a tarp over all of the skirting and the whole front end to keep out the wind.

Heat sources are a constant topic with RVers in the Midwest. For us,  we use a ceramic heater under our skirting and warm incandescent light bulbs in our tank bay, as well as the refrigerator compartment. We have a small electric heater that runs most of the time in the winter that sits in the kitchen. We have heated blankets for our beds. We will be baking and cooking on the stovetop regularly. We have one Mr. Buddy propane heater that we use only while we are awake to bring the whole place to a comfortable temperature.  Sometimes I’m awake at 2 a.m. for this reason alone.

While we do have a furnace that is built in to our rig, we have opted not to use it. We waited too long this summer to find someone to do a tune up and the furnace has exterior vents. We want to keep anything that goes outside closed if we can to limit the heat loss. Wealso want direct control of all heating sources and energy drains. A concern with RV living is carbon monoxide poisoning and propane furnaces are high on the risk scales.  So we have chosen to eliminate the use of this comfort in favor of things we only use consciously.

We also have a back up plan.  In the case that our current plan fails or it is far too cold for these measures to keep up, we have a house we can go into.  The place where we are parked sits in the driveway of a good friend of ours. They have included in our winter lease that we can come in the house if it gets too cold outside. Since this is our first full winter in The Girl Next Door, the house option takes a huge anxiety off our minds.

So,  to recap, we are not going south because we need to pay our bills and we don’t want to “just get an apartment for the winter”. We want to see how this works for us for at least a full year.  Being in our own home is important to us. This is the home we decided to try. Stay warm,  my friends,  and we will see you on the road.