A family on the road living fulltime in an RV.

Tag: Marriage

What it Was Really Like for Our Family to Stop Full Time RVIng

This morning as I lay in bed awake but with my eyes closed, I listened to Thing 4 breathing near my cheek and felt the warmth of Brent’s body against…

This morning as I lay in bed awake but with my eyes closed, I listened to Thing 4 breathing near my cheek and felt the warmth of Brent’s body against my back. The night had been rough with Thing 3 waking up multiple times in tears and Thing 4 needing to be nursed for what seemed like a million times. But now with the soft grey light curling around the blinds, everyone but me was sleeping soundly. It was cozy. I didn’t want to wake up because that meant letting go of the comforting blanket of peace that surrounded us and embracing the everyday chaos of taking care of a toddler, baby, and two teens. Instead, I thought about how whole and safe I feel in our nest of a bed tucked away in the slide out of the RV. Eyes still closed, I reached out to tighten the curtain when my hand abruptly fell through the imagined wall.

I wasn’t sleeping in my nest-bed in the RV. I was sleeping on a new bed in a new house, a house without wheels. I wasn’t going to wake up and walk a few steps to our kitchen. I would walk up a flight of stairs. I wasn’t going to wake the boys up from their bunkroom 20 feet away to get started with their homeschool. I would go to each of their separate bedrooms to wake them up to go to school. I wasn’t going to have a day exploring new places. I was going to drive the same streets to the same places.

Saying goodbye to our beloved RV. The family who bought it has two little boys and lives in it full time too.

It’s been just over a year since we moved out of the RV. Even though we knew our decision to stop full time RVing was the right one, moving out of the RV was easier said than done. With the help of some friends, it only took a few hours to get all our stuff out of the RV. The emotional “moving out” has taken much longer. For Brent and I, it’s been a surprisingly difficult painful new “road”.

Settling down has been a kind of divorce. The dreams we had of our future have changed drastically. The way an identity can get wrap up in a spouse, much of Brent and I’s identity, naturally, got wrapped up into being nomads. Over the last year we have been fumbling around trying to figure who we are as suburbanites. I’m not intending to minimize divorce. One way to look at divorce is “a complete separation of two things.” Our two lives, the one on the road and the one in a house, are so completely different, so separate, and so often, very lonely.

But if living full time in an RV taught us one thing, it taught us we are adaptable.

Our last family photo in front of the RV.

The kids, as kids most often do, adapted quickly. The hardest months for the teens were when they started school but we were still living in an RV. The best part about our home on wheels were the wheels and when the wheels weren’t rolling it was an entirely different experience. They didn’t want to invite friends over or be dropped off at the campground. While Brent and I were more than happy to share why we lived in an RV, what mattered to the teens was what other people thought.

Our last campground as full time RVers, Garden of the Gods RV Resort, was a wonderful spot to visit but a bit cramped for an extended stay.

We had planned to stay in the RV for an entire year after being stationary but soon realized that wasn’t going to work. Not only were the boys embarrassed, our 41′ RV shrunk exponentially once we quit moving. Having Yellowstone or Lake Superior as the playground in your backyard is much different from the city campground where the RVs are crammed together like books on a bookshelf. So we found a house and a few months later said goodbye to the RV.

For months after settling down, I struggled on and off with depression It’s a rather long story but the short of it is I did not adjust easily back to life in a house after four years on the road. It’s been hard. Really hard. At times, I’ve felt like I’m 19 again but not in the life-is-an-open-road-awesome-way but in the lost lonely what-am-I-doing-way. It sucks to be 39 and feel like a depressed confused 19 year old.

So grateful for the hundreds of magnificent sunrises and sunsets that we witnessed all over our country.

 

I’ve been trying to feel grateful for the life we had and I do. I feel extremely grateful but when I only focus on being grateful and try to bury all of the other emotions, I feel bad. I feel angry at myself for feeling any other emotion other that gratitude. Then I feel disconnected from the people around me because “they don’t get it”. And mostly I feel guilt. Guilt for feeling angry and disconnected and for basically feeling anything else other than gratitude. So then I try harder to feel grateful and the cycle would continue.

Grateful. Anger. Disconnect. Guilt. Grateful. Anger. Disconnect. Guilt….

To break the cycle I needed to let myself grieve. It felt silly to grieve something that I realize I was very fortunate to experience like grieving a stain on a designer blouse. You know, first world problems. But judging my feelings only served to keep me on the disconnected emotional hamster wheel. So now I let myself grieve as needed and try to suspend judgment on my feelings.

Our stuff the day we moved out.

We spent years preparing to get on the road but didn’t give much thought for preparing to get off the road. There were practical and financial challenges like starting over with nothing in terms of furniture and selling our truck and RV to replace them with something more weekend friendly. The month following Thing 4’s birth our family couldn’t go anywhere together because our truck only sat five people. There were emotional challenges like letting go of my dream to homeschool the boys and watching our friends travel while we sit still. There were physical challenges like having a new baby and the hormonal sleepless nights that followed. There were relational challenges of connecting with each other in the mundane and finding friends in our new community. It was so easy to connect with other nomads but we’ve found it hard in a town of 500,000+ people to find our tribe. After four years in the slow lane, I had forgotten how busy people are and it’s been overwhelming. I can’t and don’t want to keep up and often feel like I’m on the outside looking in. To top it off, there is the spiritual challenge of having found my identity in the external, being a nomad, instead of finding it in the internal, which for me is God. Nothing like a little identity crisis to keep the emotional roller coaster oiled.

Brent and I experiencing Laird Hot Springs on the Alcan (Alaskan Highway) in British Colombia.

I once read an article that said having adventures, big and small, were the secret to long lasting happy marriages. I think about all the people I know who are happily married, not the ones who manage to get along and check off life’s boxes like efficient business partners, but the ones who delight in each other, the ones who share a certain noticeable energy that seems to propel them through life. I’ve noticed most of these people make adventure a way of life whether it’s driving across the county to see an iron bridge, taking a different way home just because, trying new restaurants, challenging their minds together, or spontaneously flying to France because they found cheap tickets online. (Umm…that would be my crazy parents.) This past year we’ve been so overwhelmed by adjusting back to a normal life with things like electric bills and school commitments that we’ve almost forgotten to have fun. It was like suddenly after 16 years our honeymoon was over.

RVing on the Homer Spit in Alaska.

Brent misses traveling full time just as much as I. The other day he told me he thinks about being in Alaska nearly every day. So even if it’s hard to connect over who is going to pick up the boys after school or do the grocery shopping, there is always the crashing waves along the Homer Spit or the golden leaves in Yukon. We can go there in our imaginations together as we continue to figure out how to have adventures while making sure the gas bill gets paid.

Life as a suburbanite isn’t all bad. Like most of life, it’s a matter of perspective and attitude. I’m slowly incorporating things that I used to enjoy about being in one place like going to libraries and getting in my  favorite cashier’s line at the grocery store. <== I’m obviously the life of the paaartay. Simple things that I didn’t realize I missed. I’m an introvert and homebody so it’s hard for me to get out and meet people but it’s happening. Slowly.

Thing 3 hiking with our toddler hiking group.

Slowly, I’ve been able to stop wishing I still lived in our past and embrace the moments I’ve been given in the present and the people God is putting in my path no matter where I am.

It may sound trite but every day really can be an adventure of some sort and I’m committed to finding that adventure even if it’s in my own backyard.

My happy place. (This was taken in Alberta, Canada.)

Plus summer break is just around the corner and the whisper of the open road is growing louder.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Goodbye Family of Four and Hello Family of Five

Before baby nomad gets here we decided to head out to the beach with a tripod and camera to get some pictures while we are still, sort of, a family…

Before baby nomad gets here we decided to head out to the beach with a tripod and camera to get some pictures while we are still, sort of, a family of four.

We are really excited about the new baby but along with that joy there is some, for lack of a better word, “sadness” in saying goodbye to the life that we have known for the last eleven years as a family of four.

I hope that doesn’t sound bad.

I’m so thankful that we’ve had these past two and a half years on the road to slow down, explore, and create memories to numerous to count with Thing 1 and Thing 2.

I’m also thankful for this new family member on his way and look forward to the joy he will bring and the many adventures that lie ahead.

Family Holding Hands Beach FL 1

Mama and boys Pregnant FL 1

Family Mama Pregnant FL 1

Pregnant Holding Hands RV FL 1

Pregnant Nomad FL 1

Soulmates Pregnant RV FL 1

Pregnant Feet Beach FL 1

Pregnant Gypsy at Sunset FL 1

Nomads on Beach Family FL 1

Now it’s time to get this show on the road. I’m ready to hold a baby in my arms instead of a 40 lb bowling ball in my belly!

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Ten years in One – Our One Year Nomadiversary

In the days before we left I held folded laundry as if it were an anchor and cried secret tears of fear and doubt. Tonight as I sit at my…

In the days before we left I held folded laundry as if it were an anchor and cried secret tears of fear and doubt.

Tonight as I sit at my computer, a year after leaving home, my fears are not of the unknown but of the known. My fear stems from knowing what it’s like to live the fast paced American way, a life that is too busy to count the freckles on my children’s faces, too busy to watch the sunrise illuminate the changing leaves, too busy to take a friend’s call, and too busy to breathe those big gulps of air that fill every crevice of your lungs and leave you pleading with God to freeze time.

We were there and after 24,717 miles on the “scenic route”, the “fast lane”, especially in southern California where the speed is extra fast, scares me. I’m not afraid of a house without wheels—there are many wonderful things about having a home in a community—I’m afraid of a life without brakes.

This past year we have swam with manatees, canoed with alligators, explored caverns, visited almost 70 National Park sites,  walked in many of the paths that shaped America’s history and numerous other things that I haven’t had time to write about yet but nothing, nothing, compares to the many slow hours with the boys and Brent. When I think back over this year the memories that stand out are cuddling on the couch with schoolbooks while the rain pours outside, sitting around the table as a family for 3 meals a day, and hanging out with my cat but that’s only because he hypnotized me and has nothing to do with being a crazy cat lady. 😉

I feel like I have lived wonderful 10 years in one.

That’s not to say living on the road has been perfect. Raising a preteen in a 300 square foot space is not a fairytale for him or us.

Sitting on the side of the road screaming obscenities fighting in front of the kids is not our proudest moment.

Convincing myself that my 9 year old son won’t get bit by a viper if I let him catch frogs in stream takes the courage and faith of a bungee jumper.

Pulling the boys our of a pit of “quicksand” makes a mess and nearly sent me to the psychiatric ward.

Watching friends go to parties on Facebook makes me feel like a left out 15 year old girl.

Wondering if a payment from a client is going to come through so we can fill our gas tank is not fun.

I still don’t like it (and may even drop a choice word or two) when cans or shoes or mouthwash come crashing out of cabinets onto my face because, for the life of me, I can’t remember that stuff shifts while we are driving.

Putting away groceries in our tiny fridge is like playing a game of Tetris that can’t be won.

I don’t even want to talk about the big black spider I killed in the campground shower this evening.

We have been forced to deal with each other. The good, the bad, and everything, oh yes everything, in between. When you are together all the time in a 300 square foot space there is no sweeping things under the rug. The rug is just too damn small and the dirt just too much. We lost that parental luxury of “pretending not to see” and oh how do I miss it! Problems are always two feet away and retail therapy isn’t an option when your closet rod is already breaking under the weight of too much stuff. I needed my leopard print wedges, damn it!

People always ask me what is the hardest part of living in an RV. Besides trying to convince myself I’m not “living in a van down by the river”, the hardest part is trying to deny the images my children reflect back at me and having no where to hide and no way to deflect the real me. I knew before we moved into a tiny space that I had “stuff to work on” I didn’t realize I was a “real piece of work”. (Okay well maybe I did but I was better at hiding it.)

That is hard.

Yet, it is all worth it and I wouldn’t change a thing except for spider free showers.

While our list of imperfections is great, God’s love is greater.

We may have a moody soon-to-be-teenager but we also have a preteen whose greatest influence right now is not tv or video games but experiencing life outside of the system. Someday when he is confined to a cubicle, he better will think, “I had the coolest parents ever.”

We have an almost 10 year old boy who had gotten to spend countless hours exploring the woods, building fires, fishing, and catching frogs even if it meant his mother had to get an Xanax drip.

While our friends back at home are irreplaceable (You guys know how much I miss you!), we’ve reconnected with old friends all over the country and unexpectedly joined a community of like minded gypsy hearts.

Marriage is 300 square RV is at the same time mundane and magical because there is magic to be found in the mundane. You just have to slow down to see it and when you are stuck in a campground because the gas is almost $5 a gallon you can choose magic or mundane. I didn’t think it possible but a year later I love Brent more than before. I’m certain that someday my heart is just going to burst and, like confetti, be carried away on the wind. Go ahead and gag.

The person reflecting back in the mirror is amazingly even less put together than I once thought but I mysteriously feel more loved than ever before.

I could write so much more about places we have seen, the people we have met, and the freedom that comes with simplicity but that would need a book.

Yes, we have a list of memories as long as the miles we have driven and I wouldn’t trade this year of my life for anything in the world.

And we’re not done. One year wasn’t enough. We still have mountains to ski, highways to drive, states to see, but most of all, memories to make. Memories of boys who are too quickly becoming men and parents who, at heart, refuse to grow old.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Swept Away on Sanibel Island

As you can imagine living in an RV with 4 people can feel a little tight and there isn’t a lot of space for “grown up” time. It’s okay because…

As you can imagine living in an RV with 4 people can feel a little tight and there isn’t a lot of space for “grown up” time. It’s okay because we know it won’t be long before “are we there yet?” coming from the backseat is only a memory.

Still, sometimes when Brent and get the rare opportunity to be alone, we get so overwhelmed by the prospect of being able to do whatever we want – What? No whining from the backseat! – that we we find ourselves frozen in the face of options. We can stop for coffee without spending a small fortune for four people? We can take a long bike ride without worrying about someone riding out into traffic? We can wait for the sunset without being reminded that someone is “hungry”?

We can and we did at Sanibel Island.

When my mom and dad offered to watch the boys and Brent and I loaded up our bikes and headed to Sanibel Island, an island (you figured as much) off of Fort Myers. We parked in the chamber of commerce parking lot and took off down the miles of bike path that stretch over Sanibel.

Joy. Pure joy.

We rode in the warm breeze our hearts carefree and as light as the wind. We shared the best blended ice coffee ever at Sanibel Bean. We found a nearly deserted beach and watched the sunset. We talked. We laughed. We held hands. We hugged. We kissed.

Sanibel swept us off our feet and we enjoyed every minute.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Shrinking Shadows

(I wrote this a few days ago after a particularly rough night. I considered not posting as I’m feeling much better but decided it’s a part of the journey.) I…

(I wrote this a few days ago after a particularly rough night. I considered not posting as I’m feeling much better but decided it’s a part of the journey.)

I talk about all the wonderful moments of living in an RV. The beautiful places we see.  The curious people we meet. The quiet evenings filled with peace and love. The times with friends and family.

These are the moments that fuel my soul. The moments that make me feel like my lungs breath magic not oxygen.

But that isn’t the whole story.

Last night, I cried myself to sleep. Heaving sobs rocked my body for no apparent reason.

Depression.

While we travel many new roads, this one is not. Many years ago, it defined my life. Over time, therapy, a patient husband, amazing children, and a loving God swept that shadow away. Mostly. For the past 11 years, aside from 6 long dark months and an occasional gray day sprinkled in to remind me how far I’ve come – how good God is-  depression has been little more than a distant memory.

Now here I am living one of my lifelong dreams and the shadow is on my heels. The shadow with a voice that tells me of my failures, plays on my insecurities, growls my fears, and mocks my sadness.

I’m angry that this shadow has decided to come knocking now. Knocking while I’m living one of my dreams. But that’s life. It’s not a Thomas Kincade painting. (Thank God I’m so over snow.) There are no shortage of struggles even when life is surrounded by a white picket fence. Life is messy, complicated, often painful, and, yes, beautiful even admist struggles.

So I wait through the night knowing morning will come.

Light will shine over the sometimes dim forest of life and the shadows will shrink.

The light of God surrounds me. The light that comes with a walk through the woods or the view from a mountain top. The light found in my children’s smiles. The light that shines through my husband’s arms.  The light that follows sharing the truth.

Darkness may come but morning always follows.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Days 51-53: Stuffing My Soul

When we left on our road trip I had visions of what it would be like to live on the road with my family in an RV. My dreams didn’t…

When we left on our road trip I had visions of what it would be like to live on the road with my family in an RV.

My dreams didn’t include family photos in front of Mt. Rushmore or touring the Smithsonian. Although we plan to go to both places.

My dreams were made up of far more simpler things. Things that have filled the last three long rainy days here at Lake Texoma.

I imagined…

…cozy days in the car

…school days on the couch

…that turned to naps

…I guess “working with sentences” isn’t very interesting

I imagined…

…wonder

…friendship

…cat naps

…and playing footsie with my love under the table.

(Okay so I really didn’t imagine footsie but I sure do like it.)

I wish I could just hold my breath and with it these moments. These not-so-small-anymore-hands grow as I hold them in mine. I’m all to aware that these days are limited. I do my best to stuff as many of these moments as I can into my soul. My soul is infinite but these moments are not.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Great Noni

There is nothing like getting ready for church in the Wal-mart parking lot when it’s so cold you can see your breath. We are in Turlock, CA, to see Brent’s…

There is nothing like getting ready for church in the Wal-mart parking lot when it’s so cold you can see your breath.

We are in Turlock, CA, to see Brent’s “Noni”.  We’ve been meaning to see her for years and had decided that this was one of the first things we would do.

We got ready and headed over to her retirment community where we took the shuttle bus to Turlock Covenant Church.

Today was one of those mornings where I felt God’s presence as sure as I felt my own pulse.   Church isn’t always that way for me.  Faith has always been somewhat difficult for me to embrace as I’m a bit of skeptic by nature but today I fought back tears as a deep peace settled into the crevices of my soul.

After church we spent the afternoon visiting with Noni.

The boys swept her porch.

Thing 1 played the piano for her.

I sat in her small apartment, not much bigger than our RV, looking at her things.  Everything had a history, a story.  I noticed picture upon picture of family and I thought about how grateful I am for mine.   Dear family, I hope you know how much I love you.

Later, while Brent and the boys went move the RV closer to Great Noni’s apartment so she could see it, she and I spent a few minutes alone.  She told me about her wedding and how her and sister had a double wedding.  She told me about how she missed her husband.  Being missionaries to Africa in the 1950s, they had their own set of adventures.  I was reminded of the real reason behind our year on the road.  Love.  To say Brent still gives me butterflies is an understatement and going on this adventure with him…for lack of better words…is a dream come true.

Sappy, I know.

We said our goodbyes to Noni…

and hit the road.

We drove through fields

through small towns

and up into the mountains to Thousand Trails Yosemite Lakes to spend a few days enjoying the beauty of Yosemite National Park.

 

It’s beautiful but sure is cold cold up here…even colder than the Wal-mart packing lot we woke up in this morning.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Sunrise Coffee Kisses

Brent and I could have fun together in a cardboard box. Put us in the mountains at sunrise with cameras and coffee and 2 hours feels like 2 minutes. The…


Brent and I could have fun together in a cardboard box.

Put us in the mountains at sunrise with cameras and coffee and 2 hours feels like 2 minutes.

The day after the cast and crew left Brent and I got up at 5:30 am to film b-roll (him) and take pictures (me).

There was dew.  There were ducks.  There were shadows. There were jumping fish and croaking frogs. There was some nut job a girl army crawling across cracked pavement to get within feet of a rabbit.  (Ahem.)

There was no one else there around the lake except the critters and us which meant there were also….

….kisses.

Who doesn’t like coffee breath kisses at sunrise.

With Love,
Jenn

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