Tires, exhaust, and brakes. ….Oh my!

I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.

— Thomas A. Edison
Working has been almost our whole life for the last 2 months. When we’re making money, we’re working at our massage business about 50-60 hours a week. When we’re not making money, we’re working on the Girl Next Door.
In a previous entry, I said I would write about the work we’ve been doing soon. Now it’s been weeks and I still haven’t taken the time to catch you up. Consider this your knowledge restoration.
At Somerset Auto Salvage, we finished sealing the roof and trying to fix the brakes. Pat even helped us fix some leaking tire hose extensions by removing them. We had to take the tires off to find out that the extensions were the problem and not a leak in the tire itself.

On a Monday morning, we went to clean her up and move her home. We paid our rental fees and Jeremy drove her while I followed with Ruby.

Before we could go too far, we needed to add some gas to move her home. We stopped and Jeremy added $25 worth. He cleaned the windshields and checked the oil, just to be safe. He got in, turned the key, and….. near silence. There was a light grinding, but no movement and no roar to life that we were accustomed to. So, the Holiday Gas Station’s gas pump became a shop for a few hours.
While she sat at Holiday, Jeremy and his dad changed all solenoids, the starter, and a post cable. They learned that they need to listen to me earlier; I had commented on the loose looking cable before they replaced all that other stuff. We’re glad we found and and were able to get out of there without a tow truck. Finally, Jeremy got to drive her home.
“Home” for The Girl Next Door right now is at Jeremy’s parents’ place. When we got there, he said that he spent the entire drive wondering if he would make it because the brakes were still not working correctly. Thankfully, she made it safely and he with her.
After getting her to the home base, we continued working on her regularly. The holey exhaust has been removed and replaced. That, in itself, was a huge project. An important reminder: The Girl Next Door is a 1990. That means that there are almost no parts still being made for her. This includes the exhaust. Jeremy made numerous trips into town, talked to people at Fleet Farm, NAPA, and the Muffler Shop. He bought more than 16 ft. of 2″ straight pipe and 3 different mufflers. He consulted many mechanics and enlisted our friend Jason to help weld. 2 weekends after the bad exhaust pipe, catalytic converter, and muffler were removed, she has a beautiful new whole exhaust system.
We also were blessed to find out that the front windows did not seal well enough when we put them back on last month. When it rained one day, Jeremy visited the Girl Next Door and found her front window wet. Tom & Lisa moved the RV inside their shed for us so that we don’t have to tarp the top.
 So, we removed the windows again, cleaned off the butyl tape that we had used, and bought some professional grade window/windshield adhesive. This weekend will be the beginning of putting the windows back in place and finishing up the front wall.
We both finally agree that this is going to be a full summer of projects. We’ve accepted the fact that The Girl Next Door will probably need constant upkeep. That’s alright because we love her and are looking forward to living in a vintage beauty. We’re looking forward to working together to problem solve and supporting each other through the transition. Be sure to check back from time to time to see how far we’ve come. I’m sure I’ll post more on our journey. We’ll see you on the road.

In Need of Progress Reminders

I think that sometimes, God reminds us of how far we’ve come by sending us back to where we were for a short time.

This weekend was an awesome weekend for the most part. Friday was a day fully dedicated to working on The Girl Next Door. I’ll write a whole entry about this week’s work on her soon. Let’s just say it was a lot of work and very satisfying.

Saturday, we worked on her in the morning. After doing as much as we could, we left to attend the Minneapolis RV vacation & Camping show. We had a TON of fun there. Next year, we will probably take either one whole day or come back for more than one time. We really enjoyed looking at new models of Class A, B, C motorhomes and travel trailers. We’re not much for pop-ups or 5th wheels, so we stayed out of them. We dreamed about what we might buy in the future and got a few ideas for The Girl Next Door. Catch us in 10 years when we’ll buy the 2017 Thor Vegas RUV Class A or a 2016 Pleasureway  Plateau XLMB Class B. They were both glorious. Plus, we were super excited to get to meet The FitRV after months of watching their videos.

After the show, we had some yummy food at Good Earth. We have found very good paleo options at stores that celebrate local suppliers and organic food. I had a wonderful blood orange smoothie, a Go Green lemonade (kale, spinach, & honey added), and some yummy BBQ pork chops over greens. Jeremy had a chopped salad that looked delish. And when the delightful dinner was over, we went to see one of our favorite local bands play. Dancing the night away is just as fun at 34 as it was at 21. I just don’t drink anymore, so I enjoy the music that much more. Good for Gary plays so many great dance tunes that all 4 of our party got on the floor. There was even a return of the BackStreet Boys that Jeremy danced to. What a goofy guy on the dance floor; that’s why I love him.

At 2am, we rolled into our friend Sarah’s place to stay the remainder of the night. All 4 of us quickly passed out, not being used to this kind of late night. We all slept pretty soundly and woke by 9am. Erin and I went to a local church, Hosannah! Church in Shakopee. It was definitely a style of church that I enjoy and I think I might go back the next time we stay over at Sarah’s too. Church gave way to breakfast; Wampachs had a great special for both of us: cajun eggs benedict. Yum. After some more hanging out at Sarah’s house, Jeremy, Erin, and I headed to a late lunch at Merlin’s Pub where there was mussels, tater tots, and sausages galore.

That was the extent of the wonderful weekend we had. Once we got home, things got hairy. On the way home, Jeremy had some conversations with his son and ex-wife. This tends to get him on the defensive in the first place. The anxiety of co-parenting can often be overwhelming. On top of the anxiety of this talk, he got more than one instance yesterday of his decision making ability being undermined by other adults. When he got home, the stress had taken over his ability to cope. He lost control of his temper and went into a tailspin. There was some yelling and swearing. I was not devoid of responsibility when it comes to the ramped up state of things. Between both of us not sleeping as much as we should and both letting go of control of creating our own food, we did not take good care of our bodies. I was caught very off guard by this turn of events.

You see, I had begun to take Jeremy’s good state of mind for granted. For over a week, he’s seemed very stable. He brought me breakfast in bed three times last week. He laughed, danced, and joked around. He worked hard, played hard, and slept when he could. We had a phenomenal weekend of happy times, fun work, and building our future. It’s easy to fall into a feeling of security in that. It’s easy to miss the early signs of a trigger. It’s easy to take for granted the stable times when they last for a few days or more. That state of complacency makes the meltdown that much harder.

Boy, it was hard for me. I did not deal well the way I have in the past. As a result, Jeremy and I spent the night struggling alone. Trying to be around each other was way too hard. We did apologize to each other; our mental health and relationship were able to turn around after some cool down time. It was just too tense to spend the time together. We’re lucky to have quite a few options when it comes to nights like that. We have friends and family that understand our situation, we have an office that gives us some space to cool off, and we have a whole bunch of great places to stay in our town. Right now, we also have a second bedroom in our apartment. We’re lucky enough even that The Girl Next Door even has extra beds in the living area of the coach, so we could sleep separately if we need it. That was one of the selling points for me: extra space if we need to sleep in more than one bed, whether that is for guests, the boys, or a night break.

We are still both very blessed to have each other. We are good at apologizing; we are both good at making amends. Over the years, we’ve learned to forgive. That’s part of our faith, but even more, it’s necessary to keep our marriage afloat. When mental illness is rampant in a marriage, forgiveness becomes an every day event. There are times that the forgiveness is small; there are times it is very very significant as this one was. Sometimes it is as little as forgiving the dishes only getting half put away or dropping something on the floor. Other times, one of us is apologizing for a major monetary hit from damage done in a rage or in an anxious outburst. Sometimes we risk our relationship by saying hurtful things. Other times we are remorseful for our massive insecurities stemming from past abuses. No matter what is going on, we have both agreed to communicate and forgive. I am bone-of-his-bone and flesh-of-his-flesh; we are united by marriage and need to work through those inconsistencies until we are one.

No matter what kinds of things hurt you, be ready to forgive. That is something that will always help both your mental and spiritual health. Embrace letting the desire for revenge go. Open yourself to new opportunities by releasing cherished wounds. Let yourself chase your dreams and we’ll see you out on the road.

Working on the Weekends

“These are homes that are under constant earthquake conditions and thus subject to more wear and tear through normal use.”–Cherie Ve Ard,”The Sucky Sides of RVing: 10 Things We Hate about Full Time RVing”, Technomadia

I know I haven’t written enough lately. As a result, this is a very photo congested entry, so give it time to load. It’s hard to focus on anything when you work full time on the weekdays, then spend so much of the weekend wearing yourself out. Jeremy and I haven’t been working at our office every day for the past month, but we haven’t exactly taken any days off.

The Girl Next Door wasn’t perfect when we found her; she’s not even really perfect now. However, now she is mostly sealed on the roof and ready to have windows put back in, brakes repaired, and exhaust replaced. Here in is the essence of optimism: we HAVE to focus on all the major work we got done or the mound of work we’re looking at moving forward will overwhelm us.

This started out as a very simple resealing project. It was in our budget’s best interest if we took care of this ourselves. The sweat equity in her hull and our home will help us really feel at home in this space, even if it’s horribly cold or feels too small.

Speaking of cold, we live in Wisconsin, so doing this outside wasn’t even an option. This is why we are really blessed to have friends. One of our friends rented us a large bay in his repair shop at Somerset Auto Salvage and Repair. Being inside a heated garage was invaluable to us, even though it will cost us some once we figure out the shop hours we’ve put in.

We thought we would take the old lap sealant off of the roof, scrape off some putty, and replace it all with newer, better sealant options.

We removed vents and began scraping off the icky, sticky putty and sealant. Things were going quicker than we expected at first. It helped that we had many extra hands. Jeremy’s parents, Lisa & Tom, and our close friend, Erin, all came to help us with the first day of deconstruction (and what we thought would be the beginning of reconstruction).

As Jeremy and Tom removed vents and trim, Lisa scraped the putty and old sealant off of them. Erin and I worked at removing the remnants from the actual roof. There were scrapers, putty knives, razor blades, and screwdrivers involved, along with a rotary sander and some mineral spirits. The hallway vent was removed and exposed a dirty secret: rotten wood. We had known there was a leak in the shower vent. We had been hopeful after finding no mold in the shower wall that there might not be any need to destroy more of the walls and wood. We were wrong. After finding the rotten vent hole, we knew we needed to remove the whole roof to replace the rotten pieces of plywood. Thus began a HUGE undertaking that has, so far, taken us 3 weekends.

We had to remove all of the screws, every piece of equipment attached to the roof, and even tarp The Girl Next Door over the week between the first and second weekends. In the process, we replaced rusty screws, broken vent caps, and the screens on the vent covers. Lisa was a champ at cleaning putty off of trim, vents, and vent covers; she spent about 90% of the time doing just that. Friday-Monday of our supposed “staycation” 4-day weekend, we worked on The Girl Next Door. Jeremy said “I need to go back to work just to get a break.”

We even worked on it at Tom & Lisa’s house for a while on Sunday, since we couldn’t get enough garage time. At the end of the first Saturday, we had everything removed,  and the roof ready to take off. By Monday afternoon, we had finished removing the roof, fixing the plywood, adding some HomeGuard building wrap , and putting the roof back on. We tarped her and put her in the yard for the week while we all went back to work at our day jobs.

In the process of removing the roof, we found we needed to lift the upper part of the cab to release the aluminum. To get it to hinge upward, Jeremy had to remove the windows. As he removed them, he found that the interior walls had some wet wood. It isn’t enough to be concerned the way we were with the Shower, sweet, shower post. We think it probably came from being tarped at Lisa & Tom’s for the last few months. No matter how the water got there, it needed to be removed. Our overhead windows came out and the wall on the front cap came down. More scraping on the windows happened at home.

Jeremy and I showed up very early on the next Saturday. We untarped The Girl Next Door in the dark. Once we got inside, we scraped more on the roof, reinsulated the cap with 6 cans of Great Stuff, and started the resealing process. Jeremy also added the leftover housewrap under the cap to add some extra water resistance.

We decided to go with Eternabond for our resealing. This stuff sticks to EVERYTHING. Thankfully, we had done some research and knew this already. It’s kind of a hybrid between butyl/putty tape and a smooth backed packing tape. From the reviews we’ve seen, this stuff isn’t going to leak or need replacing for quite some time. It is also very easy to get straight lines with it.

Eventually, everything went back on during the second Monday. The tape is pretty compared to the ill-conceived silicone that was on top of the original lap sealant and butyl tape. Really, if you’re working on an RV or camper PLEASE DO NOT USE HOUSEHOLD SILICONE! It was hell to get it off and it cracked in multiple places. That’s not something you want with a house under constant earthquake conditions. We got all of the seals closed up with the Eternabond and all of the vents back onto the roof. So far, we have a total of 33 shop hours in the last 2 weekends. This weekend, we are planning to get back at it again for a few hours Friday, maybe a little on Saturday, and hopefully a few hours Monday morning.

Eventually, all of the major problems will be fixed. We are lucky that we found the rot when we did. Starting out knowing that The Girl Next Door is put together right is going to be a bit load off of our mind throughout at least the next few months, longer if we decide this is definitely the life for us and stay in her for another few years. The peace of mind will be worth it. Either way, be sure to check for leaks everyone and we’ll see you on the road.

To the running part

It’s the time of year when the gyms are packed, diet plans sell like hot cakes, and Weight Watchers sees a membership increase of up to 5% according to the Wall Street Journal. We are not immune to the hype that happens this time of year.

Last year, I started getting rid of things. I had read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I took 8 garbage bags full of clothing to a clothing swap and got rid of it all. I still have a dresser and closet WAY TOO FULL of clothing. I believe I’ll go through again and get rid of half of my clothes again.

Last year, Jeremy made his goals for physical wellness. He planned the year of his 40th birthday to reflect the number 40. He participated in the 40th Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in June. He also did the Twin Cities Marathon in October. His year-long goal was to swim 40 miles, bike 400 miles, and run 400 miles. He annihilated all of his year-long goals! He ended up with a grand total of 67.8 miles swimming, 1419.5 miles running, and 1238.6 miles biking. He also lost 40 more lbs throughout the year to reach that lowest weight of 215. Physical fitness was really a big deal to him last year and will continue to be in the future.

One thing that we didn’t make goals for is our mental health. We both view this as a failure on our parts. We found throughout the year that our mental health is really what went awry. I fought with depression for 5 months before seeing my doctor for a medication. Our youngest had a lot of instability because of some other issues. Jeremy had some med changes that lead to some instability as well.

I won’t be neglecting my mental health this year. I’m realizing how extremely important it is with moving into our motorhome. I will need to be able to face myself in this space and we will need to be able to communicate and live together well.

Yet, not neglecting my mental health means also not neglecting my physical health. Jeremy has always said that he needs to run to get rid of the crazy. There’s something to be said for how endorphins effect the brain after physical exertion. Not only that, when you’re exhausted it is very hard to over think things or pick fights that don’t need to be picked. It helps reduce anxiety and gives you a quiet time to reflect on your strengths. It also pushes you to gain some accomplishments, which can help self-esteem. I’m hoping to force myself into all of these positives.

I have a mix of health goals for this year. I hope to do 2 mud races this year: the Spartan Sprint race in Chicago, IL June 10 and the Tough Mudder in Plymouth, WI on September 9th. To get ready, I need to get back to running regularly, lifting weights, doing the local par-course at least weekly, and fuel my body correctly. For my mental health, I have a few goals also. I want to participate in at least 1 yoga or BodyFlow class a week and I want to get a 90 min massage each month. Both of these goals will obviously help my physical health as well. I do believe that eating correctly will help my mental health as well. A final mental health goal that I haven’t partaken in for a while is that I’d like to start reading my Bible more regularly again. I find myself relying on video sermons and podcasts to feed me spiritually, but I really need to spend some alone time with God more often.

Now that it’s posted publicly, I’m less likely to miss these goals. No, these aren’t my only goals for the year. There are financial goals, relationship goals, and housing goals that I have. I’m sure they’ll all come up at some point. This entry is so that you know that you’re not alone in your quest for something different physically. Start where you’re at and find people to do it with you. Find someone to push you (they’re a little bit farther than you), someone who you can push (they’re right where you were or they’re just starting or they have longer to go than you), and someone right where you’re at now (you’re about the same speed, same weight, some stage of goals). With these three people, you won’t be able to sit on your butt all year the way I did in 2016.

Our Journey to Health and Wellness is a never-ending quest. It’s something you’ll hear about often from me. Health and Wellness isn’t about being perfect; it’s not about being skinny. This journey is about becoming the best people that we can be. There will always be something else we can work on; some other goal to reach. We are hoping to take you along on the ride. Stay safe and we will see you on the road.

P.S.- The latest news on the RV is that we got a Mr. Heater Big Buddy Heater and tried it out in The Girl Next Door today. It worked great!! The whole place was comfortably heated in about 45 minutes. After wiping down the surfaces to remove condensation, we just hung out for a good hour to get used to our space. We haven’t really tried the furnace yet, but we will make sure of that next. Now we know we can live at least warm enough not to get hypothermia, even if our furnace doesn’t work. We wanted to make sure that we have a few alternatives no matter what. Heat; check. One anxiety down; 75 more to go. Adios!

A Mexican Nightmare… Finale

After Day one, things got better. In day 2, we went to see the doctor. My client got approved for the treatment that the doctor had first suggested. He even started treatment later that day.

Also, during day 2, we found a company that was willing to build a ramp for his wheelchair to be able to take some tours. This is a big accomplishment in Mexico. There are very very few people with wheelchairs there, much less people with power chairs. We were lucky to find a company with caring staff that built a ramp just for my client and took the middle seat out of their van so that we could go around San Miguel.

Day 3 we changed some money and got used to our surroundings. Day 4, my client got a double dose of treatment and we took a tour of the city. Our first stop was Atotonilco, a church with a rich history and great paintings on the ceiling. Our tour guide told us that it is considered the “Sistine chapel of Mexico”. It was beautiful. Then, off to a local high end artist market. There was nothing there for me, but my client got his wife a very nice necklace. While he shopped, our driver and I talked some. We got to know about each other’s families and life outside of this day.

After shopping, we returned to the hotel. My client got another treatment. Oh, did I mention that the doctor made “house calls” to our hotel? It was much easier than trying to treat my client in his office, as his office was on the upper level with no elevator. It was very nice of the doctor to be willing to do this. I know the concept of a doctor coming to your  house or hotel seems foreign in this day and age, but this doctor still does it.

I finally go to do some authentic shopping at a large market that evening while my client got a shave. It was an alley littered with vendors. Every ounce of extra space was taken up by booths filled with handmade and reproduced souvenirs and Mexican goods. Every vendor took USA dollars and would give change in pesos. About 75% spoke just a little English. It was nice to find a few things to bring home to my family and friends while trying out my Spanish.

Saturday, day 5, was probably the best day of the trip for me. My client was pretty tired from his week. He wanted to rest up for the next day, which was a travel day. While he rested, I got a spa treatment. For 155 minutes, I got a body scrub, a mud wrap, a facial, and a massage. I fell asleep half way through, which almost never happens. It was glorious. Thanks Norma for a great treatment. Afterward, I went to get some fried chicken for supper and hit another, smaller market. It was much more unique than the previous day. I found some great gifts to bring back, as well as some of San Miguel’s wonderful leather in some wallets and a bag.

All in all, I felt very at home in San Miguel. Leaving on Sunday was hard for me. For one, I knew that things would probably not go swimmingly on the flights. Second, I did not want to return to the -20 degrees of Wisconsin. Third and finally, I was really starting to feel like I was hitting my stride in touristing.

We left the hotel at 1pm. Thankfully, we got our sweet cab driver from the week to take us to the airport too. It was a leisurely drive that we stopped to get a melon on and enjoyed the scenery as we went. That was the best part of our return trip. Thanks, Freddy, for a great trip. If ever you get to San Miguel, look up San Miguel Magico tour company. They were more than accommodating and very helpful.

The airport was a mad house. The day previous, there had been a snowstorm in the Midwest USA. That meant that many of the flight crews were stranded there for extra days, which delayed everything. The Leon airport had multiple cancellations and every single flight was delayed. Yikes! On top of that, their baggage check area is the same as their customer service. As I said, madhouse. Our flight was delayed 2 hours, moved to a different gate, and renamed. We were just happy to be able to have a flight at all. But because of our delay, we missed our connecting flight by 30 minutes. Ugh. This time, we had to wait for them to bring the wheelchair to us behind immigration and customs before we could go to the hotel. It took over an hour for them to bring the wheelchair to us. At one point, they even LOST THE WHEELCHAIR!!!

For those of you that know me well, you know that I do not lose my temper often. In fact, I tend to be very very chill and patient. So much so that it is annoying to those around me. When they said they couldn’t find this chair, I lost my temper. Not just a little bit; my client was visibly a little scared of my new stance. This is not a manual chair that folds and can be stowed somewhere under something. This is a humongous 350 lb specialized piece of equipment. Eventually, they found that the staff from the tarmac had taken it to the domestic side, rather than the international side.

We got the chair back after going through immigration and customs, since they would be closing soon. Then, on to customer service again. They were swamped again, for the same reason that Mexico was. We waited. Once we were in customer service, we mentioned our horrible time last time with Houston airport. They gave us a special person to help us with our damage claim. Except there wasn’t really a damage claim. There was a number that lead to a confusing bit of badly worded explanations and no names of who to contact. We found that the number the supervisor had given us the week before was to the woman we were now talking with. This, along with updating the badly written damage claim, took a few more hours. By the time that we were done with all of this, it was 2:15 in the morning. We had to be back by 8 am to get ready for our 10 am flight. If we had decided to find a taxi with a wheelchair ramp or lift, then the hotel room we were supposed to go to, then transfer to the bed, then back up in the morning, find a taxi back; we would have maybe gotten 2 hours of sleep.

We decided to stay the night in the Houston airport. It was cold, it was uncomfortable, it was ridiculous. Every 30 minutes or so, I would wake with another idea of what could be done to gain back some dignity and care. I called about 10 numbers that night searching for information and help. I took a picture of my client in his wheelchair sleeping in the Houston airport. It shouldn’t be like this.

To top off my anger, at midnight it had become my 34th birthday. I was supposed to be home shortly after midnight. I wanted to sleep in my own bed. I wanted to be held by my husband. I wanted to wake up refreshed and enjoy my birthday.

A young girl traveling with her family was tired of being in airports. She didn’t speak English, so I told her in Spanish that it was my birthday. She felt bad for me and congratulated me on my birthday. Her mother and I spoke a little in broken Spanish and English. I told them to call me when they got as far as MSP. I’d love to see them again.

16 hours in an airport or on a plane on my birthday was not my idea of a great birthday. 1 hour of sleep did not make it a really fun day.  It absolutely could have been worse. I had my health, my client was not in danger, and my husband knew I wasn’t going to be home yet. While his anxiety was high, he also was able to understand that I was safe. It was an adventure that I came out of.

I came out of it with first class seats, some knowledge of how to get my client a possible refund on his seats, and knowing some helpful people in 2 states in the US and at Leon, MX BJX airport. Adventures like this don’t usually come easily. It’s the times that you roll with the punches that things become real adventures.

As we embark on our next adventure, I’m even more prepared to roll with it. So, if you get a chance, come visit where ever we are at. Good luck with your travels and we’ll see you on the road.

A Mexican Nightmare… Part 2

When your connection is missed, as ours was, most airlines will put you up in a hotel if it’s overnight before the next flight takes off for that destination. Remember with a wheelchair, you need to check ahead of time if it’s an accessible room.

So, here, we wait for the power chair to come back. That  means that tomorrow we go through all of that again. If we could have gone without it, we probably would have just to save the hassle.

Boy, were we glad that we made them get the chair. When they finally brought out the power wheelchair, there was a collective gasp from my client, myself, and the attendant that the airline had sent with us. The chair was folded out all the way flat. You could see spots where the cover was cracked and one of the controllers was missing.That left controller was, thankfully, for the tilt of the chair. On the main controller on the right is where the computer and driving options are stored. The supports for the armrests were lose and the headrest was extremely off center. Thankfully, the chair was still usable by the computer override.

The extensive damage brought out 4 levels of management to deal with it. While I was on the phone with our Mexican taxi company and our hotel for the week, my client spoke to the managers present. When I turned back around, there were Italian suits and placation vouchers all around. We each got $400 for future flights, a new voucher for a free cab ride, and informed that a technician would come to our hotel room to try to repair the controller. Our attendant was instructed to help us get all the way to our hotel room. So we stepped on the Houston subway to go to the Airport Marriot. It was a nice room and we were well taken care of there. After so much excitement, we went to bed fairly early.

The next morning, we woke early. We called the doctor in Mexico to inform him that we had flight issues and would be a day late. We called the number given to us the night before for a repair technician and got no answer. By the time we got done with the room, the breakfast was over, so we got a small coffee and some scones in the hotel coffee shop.

After going through the excitement of check-in and TSA again (we had already checked our bag the night before), we went straight to the gate. At the gate, we informed the gate attendant that we would need an aisle chair and we would need to talk to the baggage attendant that would be getting the wheelchair. They came up to the gateway and were given much better instructions. We made it so all they had to do was push the chair, no power necessary. Then the 3 hour flight to Leon.

In Leon, the Mexican airport dealt very well with helping us with immigration, customs, and getting the chair back. The chair was in the same shape when we got there as when we left. They brought it out quickly when we were ready to get it. Here’s the thing, though: Mexico is NOT a very accessible place.

The number one issue we had was that our prearranged cab ride was for the day before. And they weren’t here for the rearranged pickup on Tuesday. We got an email from them saying that, because of the “no-show” the night before, they wouldn’t be there at 4 today. So, I guess it turns out that my horrible grasp of the Spanish language really did leave us fairly stranded. The Airport transport gave us a “free” cab ride voucher and set us up with the AT supervisor… who had no idea what to do with us. Mexico being as inaccessible as it is, the AT did not have a van with a ramp or lift. After about an hour, he says, “I think I have something. 15 minutes” We wait and a full sized van pulls up. My client is transferred into the van seat with very little supports. The chair is rolled to the back of the van. 6 AT employees work together to lift the 350 lb power wheelchair into the back of the van. No one puts the brakes on the chair down.

2 miles down the road, my client and I realize that the chair is rolling around in the back. Time to try my Spanish again. I convinced the driver, who spoke no English, to stop quickly so that I could climb into the back and stop the chair from rolling. The rest of the ride went well for my client and I.

We arrived at the hotel at around 6pm. Between hotel staff and the van driver, we got the chair unloaded and finally checked in. The room was accessible, beautiful, warm, and best of all, had nice beds. Finally, “day one” was done…. a day and a half later. This is akin to what must have happened to the person who first said “The important part is not the destination, but the journey.” This journey is not yet over… you’ve only heard the beginning.

Check in tomorrow for the rest of the trip.

A Mexican Nightmare… Part 1

I warned everyone that I was travelling last week. Considering the week I had, I think all of my previous travels have been too easy. I’ve traveled with wheelchairs before, young children, and very very old people. All had some SNAFU, but nothing prepared me for this trip.

I was offered a few months ago by a client that they needed a caregiver for a medical travel trip to Mexico. When I said “Yes!”, I didn’t know where we’d be going, what kind of treatment is was, or what kinds of support this client would need. All I knew is that they were planning to pay flight, hotel, and basic food, as well as paying me some kind of salary while we were there. I was expected to cover any extra snacks, souvenirs, and entertainment I might use. And that’s all I knew.

I ordered my first passport, started preparing Jeremy, and started researching dos & don’ts. Don’t drink the water, check; don’t go out in the country alone at night, check; check the travel advisory for your itinerary, um…. where are we going??  A few weeks before, I got some answers to the unspoken things in this agreement. None of the conditions sounded adverse to me. I found out we were going to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, MX (most commonly known as San Miguel). I learned it is a colonial town with a rich history, strong tourist business, and almost everyone knows some English. Win!! It sounded from the information I could gather that it was to Mexico City basically what the Hamptons to New York City; a quaint, well-cared-for town where wealthy people go to “weekend” or “summer”. I got excited.

I learned that my client needs full care for transfer and hygiene. No big deal, I’ve done this job for 14 years. For those that don’t know, I started my official life as a caregiver when I was 19. I inadvertently took a job with a personal care/group home company. All I  knew was that I wanted a job and they were hiring for better pay than most places. Since then, I have worked for 7 different companies, with over 100 different clients, and in 4 different states (I guess you can say 2 different countries now). I would consider myself an expert in the care and support of people with disabilities, especially those who deal daily with a power wheelchair or mental illness. So, the requests of transferring a large client, washing their body including genitals, & assisting with daily meds were all agreeable to me.

As I found out more about what my new client needed, I also learned about why we would be travelling. My client was going to Mexico to obtain a stem cell treatment. This was extremely interesting to me. My spirituality and academic degree allow me multiple perspectives on this subject. Having experience in DNA Analysis, chemistry, and a little biology, the concept of using basically “blank” cells to improve the health of a person is fascinating. The controversy over harvesting techniques and “acceptable” types of cells is also a motivating topic. The treatment would be administered by either intravenous infusion or intramuscular injection. I found that my client wanted the intramuscular treatment. The whole process was a geek heaven for me.

Another little tidbit of information I got before our trip was the weather: San Miguel is pretty much comfortable all year round. In May, they tend to have high temperatures that are just barely warm for some of us (80-90 degrees Fahrenheit). In “winter” (which is now), the temperatures are mid-70s F during the day and mid-40s F in the overnight. I think I may have fallen in love with this place. We went on our trip from December 12-18. This year, this week turned out to be -40 F with the windchill. Ummmm…. No. Very glad to be gone in Mexico during that time.
All in all, the trip turned out to look very very good from the front side. I loved the idea of doing some work, then some touristing. It gave me a purpose to travel. I liked that idea. Before we left, I felt significantly prepared for my trip.

Our crazy beautiful life-Part 1

We all deal with our ups and downs. Every type of life has them. It doesn’t matter how much money you make; it doesn’t matter what car you drive; it doesn’t matter where you life (or what you live in for that matter). There are good days and bad days for all of us.

That being said, I’ve found a life that has more ups and downs, as well as more extreme ones. Our family deals with quite a few diagnoses of mental illness. This brings a much larger reaction to the normal day to day struggles of life. Things just get a lot bigger a lot faster for families like ours.

Look, I get that it doesn’t bring more or less strife to our life. Let me give you an example of a typical struggle: You put on the breaks and slowly slide into the car in front of you, no injuries just a few dented bumpers and your car has a leaking radiator.

So, for those of you without mental illness first- You get angry at the car, you might even swear at the car and kick the tire. After 5 minutes or so, you calm down enough to talk to the other driver, exchange numbers, call your boss to let them know that the car stopped working, call your spouse to talk about next steps, call the insurance to see if anything that happened is covered, and call a tow truck. You are able to sit quietly and wait for the police and tow truck to arrive. You might even joke with the other driver and talk about how you’re happy no one is hurt. When they get there, you give them your information that you know where it’s at and are able to ride with in the small cab of the tow truck to the service station. All of this is probably over in 2 hours and You’re able to get a loaner and make it to work before noon.

This is what would happen in my house- Yes, anger at the car… it’s not a quiet swearing and kicking the tires. It’s a rage. It’s pounding fists on the car, it’s slamming doors. The brain of the driver is totally unable to control this activity. Headspin begins. The anger turns into anxiety. “What if this person sues me? What if I have an injury I don’t feel right now because of adrenaline?” The other person gets out of the car and is coming toward you “What if they want to hurt me? I better be ready to defend myself.” Now you’re in a defensive stance when a potentially adrenaline filled person is coming toward you. They may take this as a threat and you get in a brawl. Let’s assume they don’t. You’re still hopped up on adrenaline. now they’re asking for your information. You go to your car and because of your inability to remember things (a symptom of bipolar disorder) you can’t remember where the registration or insurance card is. After looking for 5 more minutes, you find them, but the insurance card is the old one because you forgot to put the new one in the car. You are at least able to give the numbers for the person. They have already called the cops about the accident. Your car is not running. You are overwhelmed by what has to happen next- do you call your spouse first, the insurance, the tow truck, the service station… do you try to move your car out of the way? It’s a lot of choices for someone who has a hard time making decisions. We are 20 minutes in and you start with the insurance guy. Then your spouse calls and asks why the cops are calling them. So, you explain and they’re irate that you didn’t let them know right away. Now your brain is telling you that this person you love more than anything wants to leave you because you screwed up again. You talk to the officer when they arrive, call the tow truck after that and sit and wait. About 2 hours after the accident, your boss calls you… Ooops… you forgot that you were on your way to work. You lose your job because of this, your spouse is irritated with you, and you start telling yourself that you screw everything up… and now you can’t remember the name of the service station you talked to, but you don’t want to try to call them again because there are so many numbers on your phone that aren’t your usual numbers.

You see, when your brain doesn’t process information correctly or in a scattered sequence, even a small change in plans can reduce your functioning. We deal with that in my family. Everyone does; there is mental illness in all of us at one level or another. Through this blog, we hope that you’ll get to see many different facets of recovery, treatment, and healing. We will take you with on our journey for physical, mental, and emotional health. We hope you’re ready for the ride.

 

Well…. That was fun

Yesterday, we parked The Girl Next Door in her spot for this winter. She’ll be “stored” this winter just because we still need to get rid of an apartment full of things and we’re not quite ready to be full time yet.

Her winter spot is between a large shed and a smaller shed at Jeremy’s parents’ place. There, she will be shielded from the wind and some sun, as well as out of the eyes of the neighbors. She’ll be close enough for us to work on making her our own, while far enough away that we (probably) won’t try to sleep in her during the cold of winter.

Anyway, back to moving her. It took us 8 tries to get her out of the spot next to the house (not ideal) and  situated just right before Jeremy and his dad thought it was perfect.  In one of the attempts, we caught a tree branch. Jeremy got a bit impatient and kept backing, hoping upon hope not to do any permanent damage. Unfortunately, that happened. Now, there’s a pretty fist sized dent in the right rear panel. Thank God for aluminum siding; it should be an easy fix.

This little slip of land that was finally settled on is fairly level, although pointed just a little down hill. It’s also grass. To prevent any sinking into the grass, we put some wooden boards under the leveling jacks to help them stay above the mud. In the front, we put 2 boards; in the back one. As the jacks came down, my father-in-law climbed off to see what a certain noise was. All of the sudden, the whole rig crashed forward!

With the tires back fully on the ground, Jeremy sat stunned, holding the brakes. I hurtled myself outside, expecting to see a splattered man under our new home. Thankfully, he hadn’t climbed underneath. THANK GOD! Although, he did say that he had been thinking about it. I’m glad his conscience got the better of that inkling.

After we gathered ourselves, turned the key off, and took a few breaths, we found out what happened. The first sound that my Father-in-Law went to investigate was one of the back boards breaking in the middle. We also found that the falling was created by one of the front boards slipping out from under the jack. Lesson learned: use boards that have some kind of divot that helps them stick together or something. It was a freezing day, so there was a tiny sheet of ice on the boards. Thankfully, the jack fell backward, so it was not broken. The spring needed reattaching, but we got it working again after a few minutes. This time, we weren’t working for level, just to take the weight off the tires. We’re not living in it this winter, so we don’t need all of the appliances to work perfectly. After that scare, we just wanted it to be stable and off the tires.

Once she was happy in her spot, we put on her tire covers, took the batteries in the house, dumped some fuel stabilizer in the gas tank, and stuck some dryer sheets in the tail pipe (to keep the mice out). She already had the water lines winterized, moth balls and dryer sheets in all compartments, and all of the cabinets open to let the smells permeate the crevices. I think Jeremy will have a hard time smelling mothballs in the future.

Today, we got an email from our landlord that we will be able to stay for 1 extra month. YAY! Now we don’t have to move twice. This means that we will have until April 1 to move out of the townhouse. We both agree that April is the perfect time to start out.

The Girl Next Door still needs to get a little work over the winter, but all in all, she’s ready for April. Now, we need to get rid of our stuff and find ourselves a semi-permanent place to park next Spring, Summer and fall… and maybe Winter… we aren’t sure yet. Have a good day and we’ll see you on the road!