lately, also

In the RV, the morning is my time.

I’m up first, always. Usually an hour or more before everyone else. I make the coffee. It’s quiet and I try to keep it quiet. It’s almost always a peaceful time, even in a place like a noisy Walmart parking lot. On any given day, we can put our house anywhere, and when I’m the only one awake I’m lord of that place. It feels safe and right-sized. I listen to the birds or the semis idle. I think.

I think: How did people measure linear distance over a span of land that’s not flat before modern surveying equipment? Why do flies land on horses and cows, just because they are attracted to the smell or are they feeding somehow? The generator’s carburetor can’t be that hard to clean, right? How does lightning happen, is it kind of like static electricity on a grand scale? If I was a God, would I create humanity just so something would worship me? Isn’t that conceited, or needy? What is the minimal set of clothes which can produce the maximum set of outfits?

Lately, I also think: Are we doing the right thing? Have I modeled the numbers accurately? Am I being selfish? How will this change us, change everything? Will the kids adjust OK? Are we doing right by family? Will Sharaun hate it? Am I going to be able to perform, to meet expectations? Will I like it?

Mornings are my time.


far from over

To think that ten months has elapsed. Gone by. Been spent. It’s almost like an in-joke between us; there’s no way ten months have passed, we just started yesterday.

But really. Yesterday I drove up the Oregon coast. We got really cheap gas at that casino and ate lunch by those huge rocks. Remember I met that rail rider, the busker, in El Paso. Christmas was getting close and we slept at a Cracker Barrel across from him, his dog, and their flying sign.

We had coffee on the beach, it wasn’t very warm but it was beautiful. When we got back to the RV the kids had baked muffins as a surprise. And we had to move the RV to the parking lot and sleep there because the trees in the campground were at risk of being blown down in the strong winds.

We saw a nutria, and I learned that a nutria is a thing and what a nutria is. There were tarantulas scampering across the road. We hitched a ride with new friends, both families crammed in the back of a minivan. Jesus sang us a song for $10.

It rained. All night it rained. We got stuck in the mud but God fed us. We walked with ghosts and invited ours along, we even talked to one once. God met us again at the lake, he was a former tweaker. And again, but this time he saved kids for a living.

I guess, I don’t know. Maybe I kind of knew. Maybe this was always just a long beginning.


talking to a ghost

A huge beaming smile and long, wild white hair.

We’re walking back to the RV after shopping, pushing the cart of things we need to pack away. You’re exiting a smaller RV parked right next to us in the back forty of the Walmart. You see us and, impossibly, the smile grows.

“Is that your rig?!” In gleeful tone, you’re nearly shouting at me, like an excited kid. I like you immediately, and my own smile works my cheek muscles to try and mirror yours as I respond, “Yes!,” I answer, stopping to talk as the kids walk on ahead.

“You drive here from California?! How long you been on the road?” When you speak it’s like you’re barely able to contain some huge happiness, I love the sound of it, it makes me feel like you’re proud of me for doing something amazing. I don’t even know you and your joy has transferred.

“Yep! We’re currently living in it, this is our ninth month on the road. We left California on labor day last year.”

You’re staring at me but something’s wrong. You put one hand on my arm and with your other grab a small laminated card hanging on a cord around your neck. You hold the card up for me to read and say, “I should have told you, you’re talking to a ghost.” I must look confused because you clarify, “I’m deaf.”

Not knowing how to modify the conversation you initiated based on this new information, I laugh at your ghost joke and nod. You’ve already made physical contact so I touch your shoulder as I chuckle. Deaf or not, we’re good.

We have a grand, repetitive, and humorously loud conversation for several minutes. I’m sure to enunciate and give you clear view of my face. You follow incredibly well. I see my family settle in to wait-out the latest, “Dad met someone in the parking lot and now they’re best friends,” moments.

You’re also full-time in the RV. You live here in Maine but spend six months each year in Florida. “They call me Mr. Florida!,” you say. We trade tips and tricks of the lifestyle. “Always use the cruise control downhill,” you say, “The engine’ll brake for you and save your brakes.” I nod knowingly. “395 will get you north same as 95 but without the tolls.”

At some point you tell me that you don’t use the toilet in the RV, but instead poop in a bucket you then dump on the side of the road. I find this on odd thing to tell a stranger in a get-to-know conversation. You show me the inside of your rig, it looks like I’d imagine the inside of a rig of a guy who poops in a bucket would.

But you look clean, kept. You smell washed, your hair isn’t ratty even though it’s not combed. You’re so thrilled at our family’s present lifestyle choice. Several times you touch me lightly and say seriously, “Oh, it’s so great what you’re doing Dad! It’s amazing. I’m so happy for you.”

Our interaction, though a bit overlong, brightens my day.

Good travels, Mr. Florida!

right and crazy

Sometimes I start to tell people, “Yeah, man, this trip has changed me.”

But, this trip hasn’t really changed me all that much. Distilled, clarified, validated, those are probably better adjectives. Or maybe it’s most accurate to say it simply slowed me down, helped me do a better job listening to myself.

I am such a consultative person, always seeking opinion and consensus. Mostly making decisions after many conversations with trusted advisors. Having ten months where this consultation was, largely, not happening, my chief advisors being my wife and my own gut, was very different for me.

Liberating, even. Enabling me to make decisions unencumbered by outside opinion, operating on what puts my insides at peace versus how others may advise or respond. Like a solo decision you’d make in the heat of the moment: considered, weighed, decided, then acted upon. Self-reliance is empowering. Feeling good about choosing something that feels right is a powerful reinforcing thing.

I’m leaving my job of nineteen years. Not going back. The job has been great to me, but that season is over.

It means a lot of change. A new job, a move across the country, being farther from those we love and finding our footing in a new environment.

I’m excited.

i haven’t given up

I have this hat that I love.

I got it nearly fifteen years ago. It’s from Australia and it’s all leather. It’s made by BC Hats and they call it the “Bac Pac Traveler.” It’s entirely chrushable, it’s waterproof, I love it so much.

I’ve worn it on the John Muir Trail, in China, at Disneyland, at Disney World, in forty five states, in the Pacific Ocean, in the Atlantic Ocean, in Canada, in England, in underground lava caves, in Mexico, in Costa Rica. It has traveled with me and bore the weather and my sweaty, greasy head.

It has a smell. Like well-worn leather. Like when the funk of being a human settles in to a thing. It’s pliable and soft and smells like mine, my scent.

I enjoy wearing it so much and the signs of age it shows only make it look better. I hope I never lose it, it would take so long to get another this perfectly used.


thanks dad

Oh, and another thing…

Some mornings I wake up and this RV home is a mess. Crap everywhere. I really dislike clutter. Clutter, to me, is as bad as dusty baseboards to Sharaun (except one you can actually see and one you can’t). I’d take neat and organized over microscopically clean any day.

I feel this clutter press on me more acutely when it’s humid in the RV. I imagine the damp air and surfaces, and that the mess everywhere is stuck-on. The rug feels wet, the air is dank, everyone but me has left everything the touched yesterday anywhere but where it belongs.

But guys, and this is the best part, it takes no more than ten minutes to get this place back in shape. Things stowed where they go, loose items piled all symmetrical like in right-angled piles, etc. What’s more, cleaning the thing to Sharaun’s standards, like wiping down surfaces that are inaccessible, unseen, and unused, takes only another ten minutes.

Boom. And we’re tip-top again and ready to roll. Hugs.

walmart parking lots

I take a strange pride in the fact that my family is fine sleeping in Walmart parking lots overnight.

I suppose this isn’t the most common of reasons a father and husband may grade his shepherding favorably, but for me it’s a mark in the pros column.

I bet I’ve done several things in a Walmart parking lot that you’ve not. I’ve made spaghetti and fried eggs in a Walmart parking lot. I’ve taken a shower in a Walmart parking lot. I’ve watched a movie with my family in a Walmart parking lot. I’ve pooped. I’ve shaved. I’ve slept soundly through the night. I’ve done it (yes, it) in a Walmart parking lot.

This morning I woke to Father’s Day in a Walmart parking lot, and, man, I couldn’t be happier. I mean, my family is here and we’ve got our little space and we’ve got plans and ideas and things to talk about and share with each other and learn together.

Wherever this family goes, whatever we do, I feel like we’re ready. If we can be happy making love and eating spaghetti in a Walmart parking lot, what really can shake us?