BOOK TWO HOME ON THE ROAD MOVING ON

Moving On: Oneness with God. October ’97 — March ’98: Colorado, Southern Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Southern California.Rodeos, Oranges, Riverwalk and the seashore in Texas, and so much more.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Foreword

Letting go, Endings, Beginnings, Dreams, Reality

Chapter 1   The Right Place; the Right Time

Chapter 2   The Good I am Seeking 

Chapter 3   “Gotcha” at Pawnee

Chapter 4   At-One-With All Life

Chapter 5   Angels Unaware 

Chapter 6   Painting a Word Picture: South Padre Island  

Chapter 7   Parking and Parks; Texas to Arizona 

Chapter 8   Luckenbach, Texas: A Love Story 

Chapter 9   Arizona: Freedom or Prison? 

Chapter 10  Choice, Chance, or Gamble?  

Chapter 11  “Forgetting What Lies Behind” 

Chapter 12  I Press on to the Goal…”  

Chapter 13  The Elephant in the Living Room 

Chapter 14  “That’s How I Am” 

Chapter 15  The “Big 80” Celebration

Chapter 16  “And This is How I Am!

Chapter 17  Life Can be Fun

Chapter 18  Is This all there Is?

Epilogue:   The Sacred Now

 

FOREWORD

Letting Go Attachments

Fortunately, not everyone is on the same Path; mine seems to be about letting go attachment to anything that keeps me in bondage.

For instance, it took several years of preparation before I was emotionally able to let go of my three-level home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Diego’s North County. Though rented, it had been the center of family activities, including births, graduations, weddings and deaths, for sixteen years. But the family moved away, my dad died, and my mother went to Oregon to be near family; and Van got downsized so that we could no longer afford to live there.

The pain and stress of Van’s downward spiral resulting from the trauma of his “early retirement,” took me Down the Tube with Him, as I wrote in a book by that name. And the fact is that we had to downsize our lifestyle, because Van simply was not able to work or otherwise provide for us financially or emotionally. He was immobilized. So, after five years, I was willing to do whatever needed to be done to survive. 

After years of prayers, I felt strongly guided to file bankruptcy, and take advantage of the Fresh Start Law, as our attorney described it. He also said, “If this Law is meant for anyone, it’s meant for you.” Dealing with the emotional process, as well as the paperwork took its toll, but we made it.

By then Van was eligible for Social Security, so the questions became: “How can we best live on this meager amount, until or unless one or both of us can generate an income?” And: “Where do we want to live out our Golden Years?”

The answers began to formulate: Downsize. Move to Colorado, near my daughter, Dottie, and her family. My stepmother had setup a three-year financial gift that could be invested in a modest lifestyle, so we flew to Colorado with the intention of buying a mobile home. We found one we liked, but it was sold to someone else.

One morning, while we were trying to decide what to do next,  Van offered a brilliant idea, one I’d been suggesting for several years: “Let’s buy a motor home, and travel.”

Before the words were out of his mouth, Dottie was on the phone with Steve, who worked for a RV dealership, and said, “Mom and Van want to buy a motor home, we’re on the way over.” 

At the RV lot, despite a snowstorm, we selected what Steve labeled, “The only one in your price range, I’d consider selling you.” It was also the one I’d selected: a 35 ft. 1990 Holiday Rambler, with all the conveniences. 

The rest is history (recorded in Book One, “On the Road, Again,” of this Travel Series Inner Freedom On The Road. We returned to California and went through the process of releasing our rented home.

Even harder than letting go of our home, as mentioned above, had been the disposition of our material stuff, representing a lifetime of accumulations; and every piece of furniture, and every knick knack had special meaning and memories. Yet, no one in the family wanted anything, and I wasn’t emotionally equipped to process through a garage sale, so I called in a used furniture dealer and endured the humiliation of seeing our life’s possessions hauled off in two rickety pickup trucks with side-rails for a fraction of its worth. But it was handled.

The remaining keepsakes, books and files were loaded onto a rental truck, along with some furniture for Dottie, and our precious Volvo car on a flatbed trailer. Away we drove into the sunset, only we were heading east into the darkness of night, and the unknown. But, at least we had each other, our few salvaged belongings, and our car that we’d named Golden.

 

Beginning a New Lifestyle: On the Road

Once we had liquidated our furniture and moved our personal belongings to storage near our daughter in Lakewood, we took up residence in Freedom (named for my Inner Freedom Ministry), our new home on wheels, with the minimal necessities for our new lifestyle on the road.

Our first journey took us to Oregon to see my mother, Valena, in a convalescent home, and my son, Marquam, who chooses to live near his dad, Randal. And we visited my granddaughter, Heidi, and several friends. A side trip to the Oregon beaches offered peace and tranquility.

Then we journeyed south through the Sierra Nevadas, using our Golden Age Pass to stay at National Parks for 1/2 price, a glorious summer of outer freedom while attaining more inner freedom. A brief visit with my brother, Gary, at a forest lookout near Lassen Park, and another with our friend Julie, in Napa, brought us to the Bay area. 

A month at the mobile park, where Van’s mom lives, offered us an opportunity for reflection as we visited many places from our past. We’d both lived in the San Jose area before meeting, and then lived together there for ten years after marriage. This sojourn gave us time for deeper healing of our inner kids, Joanie and Little Ralph (named while I attended ACOA — Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families, and released from wounded child to wonder child, when facilitating John Bradshaw’s Homecoming: Healing the Inner Child workshops) 

Our return to these scenes completed unfinished business for us, and inner child healing took place on even deeper levels. However, both of us got head and chest colds, as a result of this latest releasing experience. 

North to Washington we visited our friend, Bonnie, but a phone call from Dottie saying Mom had a stroke and wasn’t expected to survive the night, took us back to Oregon. 

Mom recovered, and we headed east through Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to Dottie’s, in Colorado, just in time for a blizzard that dumped 2 ft. of snow.

Trapped in a snowstorm, with Van’s health in relapse (it always happens in Colorado, where he was raised), we decided to head to southern Texas.

 

Chapter 1

THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME

“Which Way to Kansas?”

While traveling South in Freedom, our 35 ft. Holiday Rambler motor home, Van’s health began improving as soon as we left Colorado, but his cough still hung on, and we were now seeking warmer weather in southern Texas. 

Joanie felt much better after stopping at Dairy Queen in Clayton, New Mexico. The kids were obviously on a jaunt, and everything was okay.

We both laughed when a lady rushed in and ordered an ice cream cone, and asked the clerk, “Which way to Kansas?” The clerk was busy, so I said, “Oh, just go east, and you’ll see where the highway divides. Go north on 64. But just to make sure, ask at the service station next door.” She nodded and dashed out the door.

I said to Van, “I can’t understand anybody being this far on their trip and not even having a map. I hope she asked at the station.”

“I doubt it,” he said, “There’s no one there. It’s a self-serve setup.”

A sixty-something fellow eating a cone came over and said, “Excuse me, but do you need some directions?”

“Oh, I was just telling that lady how to get to Kansas. She doesn’t even have a map.” 

“Well, she has to go west a few miles, and turn onto 64, then go through Oklahoma, in order to get to Kansas.”

“Oh my gosh,” I gasped, “we by-passed that turnoff when we came into town. I thought 64 was further east. I hope she doesn’t get lost.”

“I think she’s set it up that way, My Love,” Van commented. Don’t worry about it.”

After discussing our journey with the gentleman, he said “I live in Dumas.”

“We’re going to stay in the City Park there tonight. Do you know where it is?”

“Yes, it’s just over the Railroad tracks, on the left. You can’t miss it.” He gulped the last of his ice cream, and went out the door.

Feeling like I’d been involved in a miracle, I asked Van, “How many times would you meet a guy at Dairy Queen in Clayton, New Mexico going to Dumas, Texas? It surely must be God’s guidance.”

This Must be the Place

Sure enough, several hours down the road, after driving southeast through flat, dry open land to Dalhart, Texas, we headed east, and finally came into Dumas; over the railroad tracks, and there was City Park, with a sign that read: Free RV hookups.

However, we drove past while looking for some place to buy crackers to go with the homemade soup Dottie had sent along. Our supplies had dwindled, while at Dottie’s, as she’d prepared all meals, and I’d contributed some of our provisions. Yet, as I took stock, I realized that all we needed for the evening meal were some crackers. Spotting a Wal-Mart on the main street, we made our purchases, and returned to the City Park.  

We drove past the playground and picnic tables to the flat area, where several others were settled in for the night. We selected a spot and Van hooked up to the electricity. Though it was windy, we felt peaceful as we watched the sunset, and relaxed on our first day in Texas. Thank you, God, for Your blessings and guidance.

The next day we slept in, and savored leisurely morning preparations. We weren’t in a hurry to go anyplace or see anyone; other than wanting to get far enough south to avoid any snowstorm. And we were still in the Texas Panhandle, where it does snow. 

While Van went through his morning routine, I read my Daily Word and reviewed my Adventures in Faith chapter from the course being offered at our church in Lakewood. The same message came from both readings: I am in my right place, right now!

If God’s voice had boomed from Heaven, or a neon sign had lit up across the sky, it couldn’t have been clearer, so I said, “Thank you God.”

Even Millionaire’s Make Choices

I again read about the importance of our thoughts and words being focused on the positive aspects of the abundance of prosperity, health and harmony. And suddenly a paradigm shift took place.

Rather than seeing Van’s approach of so-called penny- pinching, as a Silas Marner (the miserly character in a classic novel) consciousness of lack, I’d see it as prosperity. In other words, since we had a given amount of money on which to live, I would make the choice to stay at free locations in order to enjoy this lifestyle and have the money for the places we want to see.

In explaining the shift to Van, I said, “No matter how much money a person has, whether a hundred, thousand, or million dollars, they still must make choices as to the amount spent on any given expense. You see, it’s all a matter of desire and choice, just as the books have always said: We walk into Wal-Mart and say, ‘I want this, or that.’ Like last night, all we needed at the time was crackers. I still need to replenish other supplies, but last night I just wanted crackers, so that’s what we bought, and we paid for them. That’s prosperity.”

Van smiled as I continued. “Okay, so we could stay at the ritzy RV parks, if that’s our choice, and not travel as far; or we can stay at the free City Parks, Flying J Truck Stops, and otherwise boondoggle, which allows us to travel further and see more places. So if I change my attitude from lack to prosperity, then I’m giving the universe the message of abundance; and more is attracted. It’s a universal law.”

Van’s appearance lightened, as he said, “But we’ve already discussed this in the past.”

“I know, but for me this is a different application. Instead of resenting your attitude of more less, I’m seeing it as abundance. So I’m taking responsibility for my thinking, and letting you do what you want. In other words, I’m pronouncing it good. Therefore, more good will be attracted.”

“Sounds good to me,” Van concluded; no doubt feeling good that I was letting up on criticizing his approach.

That night we stayed in Amarillo at the Flying J Truck Stop, and I saw it as a blessing, rather than a curse as we pulled up along a curb, behind another RV, away from the smelly, noisy trucks. Throughout the evening, I marveled that several RV’s costing up to a million dollars were also parked near us. This confirmed my theory about making choices no matter how much money one has available. 

The difference is how we’re approaching it. Is it trying to get-something-for-nothing and penny-pinching; or is it an unwillingness to pay the price? The Bible says, “A servant is worth his hire,” and it’s a matter of consciousness whether we’re willing to pay for service given.

As Van fueled Freedom in the morning, I acknowledged that we do give back to Flying J; so it’s a mutual arrangement. My attitude was changing, and Van’s bronchial condition was healing as he processed through his inner child issues.

Snyder is a crossroads with highways going in all directions. We stayed for the night at Rip Griffins Truck Stop, at the far corner of their lot, away from the noisy trucks. I remembered that when driving our car through Wyoming, we had fueled at one, and also ate breakfast and bought some gifts. So I felt good about the reciprocity of now using their parking area.

The next morning we made a choice to continue south through Abilene. I wanted to stop at a Wal-Mart, and with God’s guidance found one as we passed through the outskirts of town. This one not only had their usual selections, but also offered a supermarket of groceries and meats.

“This is the place to replenish our groceries,” I said after selecting my postcards. We wandered through the aisles selecting our needed items, and even some extras for Joanie and Little Ralph. Whether or not we were millionaires, the process of making choices was necessary, and I felt prosperous as we paid the cashier and returned to Freedom with our purchases.

East of Eden

The next night, we’d planned to stay at the City Park in Ballinger, but learned that they now charged nine dollars, and we discovered that the road to the hookups was inaccessible for our 35 ft. coach, so we made the choice to drive another hour down the road to Brady, which is East of Eden.

I thought about the Freedomers as we passed the Eden Detention Center, and I said to Van, “I must tell them that they could even be incarcerated in Eden. Again, it’s choices whether to be in prison or not.”

The sunset faded into night as we headed toward Brady, and I said to Van, “This is the night I want to watch Scott Hamilton Returns to the Ice. I sure hope we can get it on TV.”

“Why don’t you turn it on now, and see if we get CBS?”

“Thank you, God,” I said as I discovered it was the only channel with reception. But I gasped as the picture began to fade the further east we drove. “Please God, I know you wouldn’t do this to me. I really want to watch this program.”

Soon we came into Brady, and I saw a sign in the dark designating “Richards Park,” with RV Hookups. We selected a site and Van hastily made the connection, and raised the antennae. I again turned on the TV, and rejoiced at the clear picture. “Thank you, God.” It felt good to be able to enjoy the normal routine of TV, even in our home-on-wheels.

I love watching figure skating, and had enjoyed Scott Hamilton’s unique style. I also admired the good person that he is, and I had been saddened when he announced his cancer affliction. Yet, with his courage and determination, and no doubt with his positive choices, he recovered, and this was his triumphant return to the ice with his skating friends paying tribute to him; and many entertainers, plus “a few thousand of his friends” in the audience. Not to mention the thousands who were watching — including one from a motor home in City Park in Brady, Texas. 

When we parked, we had noticed a rodeo arena adjoining the park, so while eating dinner, we watched the cowboys practice calf-roping, not my favorite sport, because of the cruelty to animals, but this is Texas, cowboy country. Soon the ice skating show began. Where else would one watch a rodeo practice and ice skating at the same time?

My heart warmed, and our entire motor home glowed as Scott’s friends performed; each coming to the rinks edge to greet and hug him afterward, and Scott smiling in appreciation as one who has conquered death. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and Scott beamed as the ice filled with his friends performing his most popular routines. What a delightful evening of topnotch entertainment. 

I too felt that I had come back from a long struggle of overcoming the nighttime of my soul. I’d made many choices at various crossroads of life, and now I sat here in my right place, enjoying the Present Moment as the world paid tribute to Scott Hamilton, an overcomer.

My heart was full, and I knew that more blessings awaited. 

Chapter 2

THE GOOD I’M SEEKING

What am I Seeking?

Van and I were not sure exactly what we were seeking. Yes, our own personal inner freedom, and also, during this winter of 1997, year of El Nino, we were also seeking a respite from snow, cold and rain. Our home-on-wheels allowed us this mobile opportunity, as the healing process for our inner kids, Joanie and Little Ralph, continued. 

But for me the seeking was for a place to belong; to be part of something larger than my personal Inner Freedom Ministry, giving service to people incarcerated who are also seeking inner freedom. 

And on a larger scale, I wanted to reach out to their families too, with a message of hope and understanding; but where, and how, and with whom?

The Bible promises, “Seek and you shall find,” but if we remain in a consciousness of seeking, we shall never find, because the message to God is seeking, rather than finding. Therefore, when we enter into the realization of Oneness, Omnipresence allows us to create our own reality on a new level. We understand and experience that the good we are seeking not only is “seeking us,” but in fact, we take a step higher in consciousness, as we say, “the good I am seeking is already mine, for I am One with God, and everything already exists with God.”

Taking this concept to a higher level, we say: “The good I am seeking I AM.” But is this the highest level? I don’t think so; because we are still coming from the consciousness of seeking. In other words, we don’t already have. So what’s the next level? Jesus gave us the example from the cross when He said “It is done?”

And He gave us another illustration: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” He put the fulfillment in the present moment. Not someday, but now, “today.” And He lifted the thief to that level of consciousness, so that he could see the desired result. We too must lift our awareness to this realization. We no longer seek, or expect our blessings, but claim our oneness — not with God, because that denotes separation — but at-one, as God. 

Van and I had been deeply into our inner freedom journey through the years. Mine began on a more intense level after my stress-out from ten years of my prison ministry-by-mail. And Van’s intensified after his downsize job-layoff as a computer programmer/analyst in Corporate America. Or should I say, Corporate Japan, as he worked for Fujitsu Systems of America, a Japanese-based computer company; that is until they merged with a British corporation and his expertise was no longer needed.

After attempting to make our fortune with a multi-level marketing company, and then going through bankruptcy, we found ourselves attempting to continue our lifestyle while barely surviving on Social Security Retirement. It wasn’t working, and Van was sinking deeper into trauma, and unable to re-enter the job market. I was frantically trying to find a solution to our financial dilemma, and support his flailing self-esteem. Once he had been my strength and support. Now the roles were reversed, and I was frightened.

In desperation, I suggested we downsize from our three-level home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Diego’s North County. Van was too depressed and immobilized to take any action, so I pursued the goal, with the help of my daughter, Dottie, who lived in Lakewood, Colorado, with her husband, Steve, who sold RV’s. They suggested we look at a mobile home for sale near them, so we flew to Colorado. The place was sold to someone else, so we considered other options, as mentioned earlier, and decided for this new lifestyle that gave us so much freedom.

 

Release the Past

Moving through northern Texas, reminded me of my Adventures in Faith lessons in Colorado, which had jolted me into awareness of the lesson that God wanted me to learn. The insights came with words written by Barbara Brennan from her book, Hands of Light, in which she reminds us that once we have the desire to be free from the past or so-called mistakes of the past, the effects are wiped out; like light dissipating the darkness. She says that our past history is erased, and we start with a clean slate.

Wow! Is that possible? Yes, because when we reach that place in consciousness, it is time; and the Law of Freedom releases us. And at that moment, we let go of the negative focus, and change to the positive energies. Poof, it’s done! It’s that simple, but not that easy. We can’t get there until we get there. And that can take time; or it can happen instantly. It’s another lesson in letting go attachments; in this case it’s the past that must be released in order to experience Oneness.

This realization of Omnipresent Oneness allows us to create our own reality on a new level. We understand and experience that the good we are seeking is seeking us. In fact, taking a step higher in consciousness, we can say, “the good I am seeking is already mine, for I am One, and everything already exists with God.”

In Quest of John Randolph Price

This Law of Manifestation was illustrated in northern Texas, when the idea came to me to contact John Randolph Price, author of Superbeings and Angels Within Us, among many others. He and his wife, Jan, organized the World Peace Healing Meditation that takes place December 31st. And they promote the idea of service, amongst many other worthwhile pursuits.

I thought the reason to contact them might be to join forces with them as an opportunity to present my Inner Freedom Ministry on a larger scale. 

In fact, I had already addressed an envelope to send him a copy of my booklet The Freedomers Say “Yes” to Inner Freedom, but I never mailed it. However, I had the envelope with me, and unearthed it to find his address. I discovered that we would be going through Boerne (pronounced Burney) on our way to southern Texas. I had read in his book, Angels Within Us, that the headquarters for his foundation, Quartus, was at the Guadalupe River Ranch near Boerne. So the quest began. 

From the quaint tourist town of Boerne, I called Quartus (listed in the phone book), and heard the message that the number was “no longer in service, or had been disconnected,” a disheartening message. But not discouraged, I called Guadalupe River Ranch, and was told that Quartus was no longer affiliated with the Ranch, which was under new ownership as a four-star Guest Ranch. 

I asked for directions, and we enjoyed a leisurely eight-mile drive midst chaparral, oaks and sumac. Arriving at the entrance, we were taken aback to notice that it was too narrow for Freedom. However, a wide gate next to the cattleguard allowed plenty of room, and I opened it wide for Van to drive through. We both felt excitement to be on these hallowed grounds where so many spiritual seminars took place, including the Mystery School workshops.

I knew I would find someone who could give me the necessary information to find John and Jan. Sure enough, Frances, one of the hostesses, gave me the phone number of their secretary, Laura. And Frances mentioned that we might be interested in attending the Unity church in Boerne, as sometimes John and Jan conducted the Sunday service. At least I knew they were still in the area, and I could feel their energies in this beautiful hill country near San Antonio.

We’d decided to stay at Guadalupe State Park, which was nearby, but when we got there, we discovered that their prices were too high, and the vibes didn’t feel right for us. So we returned to Boerne and settled in the Alamo Fiesta RV Park with all the amenities, including cable TV, for much less.

I couldn’t understand what was going on with me; I felt depressed, or frustrated, or disappointed. I’d planned to make several important phone calls, including the Unity church to learn the time of services the next day. But instead, I watched TV and went to bed early, turning the entire quest over to God: “If I’m to see him, God, then it’ll be your way.”

Sunday morning I awoke feeling refreshed, and ready to call Unity. I learned that services were at 11:00, giving us plenty of time to get ready for church, and disconnect from our hookups by the checkout time. 

Van doesn’t usually attend church or meetings with me, so he dropped me off, and I went inside the picturesque former country schoolhouse nestled among the chapparal trees. I used to do great at new situations, but since my reclusive writing lifestyle, and adapting some of Van’s non-social characteristics, I found it a difficult push-through to enter an unfamiliar situation. However, I greeted a man at the door, and asked, “Are you the minister?”

He said, “No.”

I said, “This is my first time here. We’re driving through the area in our motor home.”

He said, “Oh, let me get you a bulletin.” As we walked toward them, he said, “You picked a good time to be here. John and Jan Price are doing the Sunday service.”

I beamed joy from every cell in my body as I said, “Perfect. I’m looking for him.” I really wasn’t surprised, because I just knew he was going to be there. I put my purse and jacket on a chair, and walked to the front of the room. I’d never seen his picture, but I knew them by their energies. I walked up and introduced myself. He welcomed me like a member of the family and I knew it was destiny that we should meet. 

We chatted a few minutes, and he explained that they spend much of their time traveling and doing workshops; and that they’ve simplified their lifestyle, and now use a local guest ranch for workshops.

I said, “When God gave me the idea to contact you, I’d thought perhaps I could incorporate my service project with you, but sometimes God gives me an idea for the purpose of elimination, as I’m being prepared for His perfect plan.” He nodded, and I concluded that this must be another lesson in letting go attachments.

The service was about to begin, so I sat down feeling a spiritual high, even though I knew we wouldn’t be working together, as such. 

When it was time for visitors to be recognized, we were asked if we’d like to stand and introduce ourselves. I was on a roll, so I talked about our travels in Freedom, and about my Inner Freedom Ministry with prisoners (Freedomers). And everyone applauded. It felt good, and I knew this was another step on the way.

When the next lady stood up, she said, “That’s a hard act to follow,” before introducing herself.

The momentum was building as we sang, Count Your Many Blessings, and I knew this day was certainly one of my blessings. 

I’d already read the Daily Word, but I didn’t know what would be happening as this day unfolded. Now, as it was read aloud, I smiled in recognition of the appropriateness of the words: “God, you are the joy in my soul. God, Your spirit within me is the source of every gladness I have ever experienced or could ever experience. The moment I accepted Your presence as the joy in my soul, I awakened to a delight of spirit that words cannot describe.”

Yes, today was surely a day of joy as Jan spoke and lead a meditation expressing and experiencing the Omnipresence of God, and His love in us, as us, through us. And John spoke about living in the ideal level, rather than at lower levels of consciousness.

When the service was over, I bought John’s “hot off the press” book, Living a Life of Joy, and as he autographed it, I handed him the signed copy of my book, and said, “I had intended mailing this to you, but it is now hand delivered.” He smiled, and later as we were again chatting, he said, “Please keep in touch, and he gave me a newsletter with their address.”

I had said, “It’s important for Lightworkers to make contact and keep in touch.” He agreed. 

Later, as Van and I drove toward San Antonio, I still felt warmed by the day’s experiences. And I felt supported and strengthened in my own ministry. Often I feel quite isolated with my ministry-by-mail, and I know that I must soon begin to make contact with more people. This day was another step of preparation; it was the ending of one era in my life, and another was beginning; in fact, it had already begun.

 

Chapter 3

“GOTCHA” IN PAWNEE

Making New Friends

Our journey for Book Two had begun as we were “seeking” to avoid the wrath of El Nino, but to no avail. It finally won at the game of “Gotcha,” in Pawnee. With only 150 miles to the border, our spirits sagged when the rains started, while we were visiting with our new friends, Linda and Ken, for the first time. Linda is mother of two Freedomers (my name for inmates seeking inner freedom), Adam and Michael Martin.

Michael had given me his mother’s phone number, but no address or last name, so I had no idea where they lived. Then, while in Boerne, near San Antonio, I learned that we were in the same area code, and I called Linda. I was so excited, as I prepared to meet the mother of the two Freedomers, as she was the first family member of my acquaintance. 

They were second generation Freedomers, and I’d corresponded with their dad, Donnie, for four years before his release. I’d even written to Adam, the older boy, during his first incarceration while he was still a teenager. He’d been released on shock probation after six-months, in hopes he’d learned his lesson and would stop crime. But, heavily influenced by his dad, and determined to “be just like you, Dad,” he’d continued. 

When Donnie got paroled, he’d incorporated his son into the “family business.” While in Phoenix, Arizona, on a money order scam, they got caught. Adam was arrested, but determined not to spend any more time in prison, Donnie ran across a field, shooting toward the police. They returned fire, and Donnie was killed, as his young son watched in shock. 

That was over ten years ago, and we’ve been corresponding ever since as the boy grew into a man — now thirty-one.

In the meantime, his younger brother, Michael, was growing up without a dad, but influenced by their role model and he too became involved in drugs, alcohol, and criminal activities. One night, while intoxicated, he accidentally shot and killed his best friend. At age 27 he was incarcerated in Tennessee.

Now Linda had two sons in prison, both influenced by her first husband, whom she’d divorced when he began criminal activities. Needless to say, her bitterness toward her first husband ran deep and unforgiving for the damage he’d inflicted on their sons.

But life moved on, and now she and Ken — and his son, JC — moved to a lovely home on acreage near Ken’s parents. We spent a delightful afternoon visiting, just like old friends, or family, talking about her sons, and their lives together, as she showed me pictures of the boys, and her third son, Noel, by another husband. She talked about her visits to each of the boys, but soon the conversation shifted to happier times with vacation trips to fun places, and the good life she’d managed to create.

We stopped talking long enough for Linda to serve us homemade vegetable soup for lunch.

Mid-afternoon, because of the rain, and with darkness approaching, Van decided to move Freedom to more solid ground, as the heavy RV was parked along the side of the road, at the end of the driveway, and he feared we might get stuck, despite Linda’s assurance that it was firm. Of course, she hadn’t anticipated the rain. Ken went along, and Linda began showing me pictures of a cruise she’d won to Cayman Island and Jamaica.

Stuck in the Mud

But our travels were interrupted when Ken returned. “Oh, oh,” Linda groaned, “this doesn’t look good. He’s alone. I just hope your motor home isn’t stuck.”

Ken came in with that look of a man with a mission, as he grabbed the keys to the tractor and said, “He’s stuck, but we’ll get him out with Ole Blue.”

I began affirming Oneness with Omnipresence, knowing it is done, as we continued looking at the pictures. Suddenly Linda looked at the clock, and said, “I’ve got to pick up JC in Three Rivers. Do you want to come with me?”

Anything to keep my mind off the situation, so I agreed. As we drove along their muddy dirt road, in the pouring rain, we could see Freedom still sitting there, only bogged deep into the earth; and so was Ole Blue.

But we also saw a two-trailer dump truck backing down the highway toward them, obviously with the intentions of helping. “Thank you, God,” I silently prayed as Linda maneuvered around the truck. 

“Looks like the tractor got bogged down, too,” I said as I looked at Freedom stuck in the mud alongside the road. 

Hydroplaning to Three Rivers & Back

We hydroplaned along the country road for eighteen miles in the deluge. Windshield wipers could barely keep the windows clear. Even though I continued to affirm Oneness, I felt terribly nervous. Yet I felt that it was being handled as we collected a soaked, cold JC from the high school where he’d been practicing basketball. 

Linda introduced me, and we chatted as she drove back to Pawnee. Ken had said they’d park Freedom on pavement, at the elementary school when they got free, so we watched hopefully as we neared, and JC said, “There it is!”

What a welcome sight, as we pulled up. I climbed out in the heavy downpour, and went inside. I’d expected Van to be wiped out, but he said, “Are we ready to go back?” He rode with Ken, and we retraced our way through two gates, which JC opened, and we arrived safely at their warm home. 

Southern Texas Hospitality

Ken revived the fireplace fire, and Linda pulled some bowls from the refrigerator, zapped in the microwave, and soon we were enjoying Southern Texas hospitality: beans, jalapeno cornbread, liver and onions with gravy, and mashed potatoes, while JC finished the homemade soup from our lunch; such a happy, wholesome family.

We took pictures to immortalize this meeting, and planned to send them to Adam and Michael. In the meantime, JC asked to use our camcorder, and happily captured every room on film. 

I envisioned a time, in the future, when we would all sit down with Adam and Michael included, and watch these videos. In my mind’s eye it is already a reality.

But for now, we said our “goodbyes,” as they drove us back to Freedom, and we headed south in the continuing deluge.

It is Done!

Would we ever find warm dry weather? Yes, because in truth we know that it already exists, and we declare: It is done.”

Seeking is not the solution. Being is the answer, while giving thanks, in advance, for the fulfillment. Jesus gave us this illustration before He Raised Lazarus. He said, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me, I know thou hearest me always.” A perfect prayer that guarantees results. Jesus lived at that consciousness: It is done.

A worthwhile concept, but how do we apply the practicality in daily living? 

While traveling south that blustery, wet night we did not feel the warmth of sunshine. But our focus wasn’t on the present conditions. Instead, we concentrated on the good we now had, and felt thankful for the furnace. Staying the night on Wal-Mart’s parking lot, we also gave thanks for the opportunity to stop and enjoy a night’s sleep, before moving on.

Chapter 4

AT-ONE-WITH ALL LIFE

Orange Trees and Sunshine

When we awoke at Wal-Mart the next morning, the rain had stopped, and we enjoyed a pleasant journey, as we continued driving south under overcast skies, but warmer weather. Thank you, God.

Our spirits soared, as we began seeing sub-tropical citrus and palm trees; and we fulfilled our agreement to stop when we found warm weather. 

Orange Grove RV Park in Edinburg, Texas, offered a safe haven for a week. And it served as another reminder of the abundant good of the universe, for every site boasted orange or grapefruit trees heavily laden with citrus fruit; just for the picking.

Although I’d been allergic to citrus for many years, I couldn’t resist, so selected a ripe orange for my first test. It was delicious, and my body purred in response to the fresh vitamin C and bioflavonoids surging through my system. Another step in freedom had been taken as I declared, “Everything agrees with me, for I am one with God, the good.”

In Search of the Elusive Rio Grande

Our first attempt to see the Rio Grande River came as we followed Highway 281 from Edinburg to Hidalgo. Suddenly we were in a hectic border town, and desperately trying to stay on the American side. But the confusion was so intense that the energies caused me to have a headache, and we found ourselves going around in circles. We wanted to park and walk to the river, but couldn’t find a comfortable place to leave Freedom, so after the second go-around, we gave up and headed north.

My nerves were so shattered that my inner child wanted something to eat, so we stopped at a service station by a Burger King. While Van replenished Freedom’s fuel, I bought two 99-cent Whoppers and then went to the Tex-Mart for some ice cream to add to our pumpkin pie I had purchased earlier.

I know I’m in emotional overload when I need to compulsively eat. And one of the triggering devices is when I find myself faced with an unfamiliar situation, and I’m expected to know what to do about it. That pattern goes back to childhood when I was supposed to take care of my mother during her mental illness after the birth of my brother; just before she was institutionalized. And of course, I knew it was all my fault, because I didn’t take good enough care of her. 

Now, I have to remind Joanie, “That was then; this is now. I’m an adult, if I can’t do it, I can ask for help.” Or, in this case I can leave.

This Quest is Fulfilled

Still searching for a place to belong, or become involved, we went on another quest: Unity of the Valley in Pharr. I’d located the church in my outdated Directory of Unity Ministries, and had even called the listed spiritual leader, only to learn that they now had a new minister. 

Van parked in front, and I went inside. The minister, Rev. Alfreda St. Tours, was eating her lunch, a Burger King Value Meal. Right away I knew we had a lot in common. I introduced myself, and insisted she continue eating her lunch, as I chatted about our travels, my ministry, and my Unity history, such as having first attended in Portland, Oregon when Ross Goodman was minister. Now, he’s just retired from Unity in Tampa, Florida.

She swallowed, and said, “I’ve recently completed seven months as interim minister at Tampa. I talked with Ross daily. The conversation turned to the health of his wife, Joann, and their retirement plans.

I then added another coincidental bit of news, “I met the new minister while in Palo Alto, where he and his wife had attended church before going to ministerial school. They were saying their goodbyes to the congregation.

Later in the conversation Rev, Alfie (Rev. Alfreda St.Tours), mentioned that she’d been minister in Fresno, California.

“Wait a minute,” I said, “I’ve talked with you on the phone.” I reminded her of my call about giving a workshop while on a trip north, and then added, “But you were planning to leave, so I decided to postpone my workshops. I still haven’t done them,” I added. “Other than at Carlsbad Unity, where I attended.”

“I applied at that church,” Alfie said.

“Now that you mention it, I think I told you about them needing a minister.”

The coincidences of our paths having crossed continued throughout the conversation. Finally, she said, “If you decide to stay in this area, I could use a Licensed Teacher here. In fact, I could put you to work right now.” She opened a file on her desk, and removed a letter. “Here’s a letter from a prisoner that I need to answer.”

“If you give me his name and address, I’ll be glad to write to him.”

She stopped and wrote the information, and handed it to me, as she said, “He was from this area, and wrote to welcome me to the church. He’s incarcerated in South Dakota.”

“That’s interesting, because I’m planning to visit that area in the late spring or summer. Maybe I can visit him.”

Rev. Alfie showed me through the pleasant church with its spacious sanctuary, and pointed to the well supplied bookstore. Then she took me out back to the area where a Meditation Garden is planned, and then into the Sunday School building. 

Again she invited me to return here, and I felt excited, because I knew this would be a place where I could become involved. I said, “I’ll keep in touch, and let you know our plans. I’m sure we’ll be back.”

We said our goodbyes, and concluded with a hug. I walked across the street and found Van in a friendly conversation with another RVer parked nearby. It definitely felt like we could be at home in this area.

Then we drove down the road to the Tropical Star RV Park, and I loved the energies of this moderately priced 5-star resort. I said to Van, “If we move here, this will work. And they even have a tennis court. You’d love that.” 

Pavement Ends; Road Ends

The next day, after staying all night at a Wal-Mart parking lot and grocery shopping at their Supercenter, we again drove south to 281, and headed east to Brownsville. For an hour we paralleled the Rio Grande, but never once got a glimpse despite being less than 1/2-a-mile away. 

“It’s on the other side of the trees,” Van said, “but it’s so flat here that we can’t see it.”

“Well, it seems they could have a road that goes to it,” I countered.

Finally, we arrived at Brazos Island (which isn’t an island), near the mouth of the Rio Grande. After driving for over twenty miles on a narrow paved road surrounded by undeveloped backwater land, we were greeted by one of our worst nightmares. The first sign read: Pavement Ends. Then another sign announced: Road Ends.

Fortunately a pull-out with some RV’s gave us opportunity to stop and survey the situation. Van went over and talked to two seniors sunning by their vehicles. When he returned, he said, “This is the end of the road. That’s the Gulf of Mexico up ahead. We can chance driving onto the beach, which is packed sand; or we can stay here, or we can go elsewhere.”

“Let’s stay parked here, and walk up there before deciding,” I suggested.

The weather was overcast, but warm and breezy. Although the sun behind the clouds created a sultry sauna atmosphere, I wore a sweatshirt. Van, on the other hand, who usually is susceptible to cool weather, decided to tempt fate by wearing only his lightweight t-shirt. 

Joanie was excited to be within minutes of the Gulf of Mexico. “Maybe we can see the Rio Grande emptying into it,” she said, “I wonder how far it is?”

“I have no idea,” Van replied, “but it can’t be very far.”

As we neared the water, a man was returning to his car parked along the edge of the road. We greeted him, and chatted. He said that he photographs plants in this area, and already has a book published. 

I talked about trying to find the Rio Grande, and he said, “It empties into the gulf down there. It’s only about 2-3 miles. You can drive along the sand.”

We peered into the fog and overhanging dark clouds, and said, “Okay, thanks.” 

Although many vehicles drive along the hard sand, and it probably would have supported us, we chose to walk; having gotten stuck in the mud, while visiting Michael and Adam Martin’s mom, and being pulled out by a two-trailer gravel truck, we opted to keep a firm foundation under us at all times. 

Within minutes we were walking along the sand, watching the waves rolling into shore, and seeing the various beach birds. Joanie stopped to pick up seashells, and Van kept a wary eye on the sun hovering behind the western clouds. “We need to move right along,” he warned.

After several miles, the novelty had worn off, and we’d passed the place where we thought the Rio emptied into the gulf, but no river was in sight. Van asked a fisherman, who optimistically announced, “It’s only about a mile-and-a-half from here.”

By now we were both tired, the sun was getting close to setting, and the breeze had become so cool that I was cold, so I knew Van needed to return.

I grumbled all the way back, because he hadn’t worn a warmer top, and I was really disappointed, but I knew we’d made the right choice when the sun set before we got back to Freedom.

“Let’s go ahead and stay here tonight, My Love,” I said, knowing that we were both tired, and had no idea where else to stay.

I Am One

The next morning I took time to write to Earnest in South Dakota, the name given me by Rev. Alfie. I felt good to be making another contact with my ministry. The more I wrote, the more excited I got about God’s mysterious ways of working. I’d been seeking answers for so long as to what to be doing with my ministry; and all along God was answering, and showing me. 

I realized the truth of the words I’d written in the preceding chapter, not only is the good I’m seeking, already mine, but there is no need to seek. It is done!

Before writing my letter, I’d been reading Living the Life of Joy by John Randolph Price, and using his meditation on love. He’d said, “The love I am seeking is seeking me, and then took it higher in consciousness to say, “The love I am seeking, I am, and concluded, I am one.

As I looked around at the opulence of beauty in this so-called wasteland, I felt God’s love, as I thought: “Here we are as far south and east as we can drive, with the Gulf of Mexico almost at our doorstep; at least as close as we choose to be, without being on the sand and worrying about the tide coming in. We have a warm home, good food, and free rent. Life is indeed good. And it’s not about where do we go next, but enjoying life where we are.” And I changed the affirmation: “The life I am seeking is mine” to “I am One with God-life,” and I felt a deep peace.

With my eyes still closed, I recalled the amazing phenomenon we’d seen the night before when all the lights were out. Lightning bugs were dashing across the sky casting almost enough light to see by. One flash of light started at one end of Freedom and went clear to the other end, spreading light the entire length of the RV. I’d never seen anything like it, and sat in amazement watching the flashes of light across the expanse of marshland. 

Again, I changed an affirmation from: “The Light (wisdom, ideas) I am seeking I Am,” to “I Am One.” And then I added, I am One as Light, Life, Love. For a moment I felt the Oneness. 

“There are Border Banditos”

But I still hadn’t seen the Rio Grande. In an effort to make up for the walk cut short, Van offered to drive back into Brownsville, before heading elsewhere, so we could view the river. Van studied the map, and despite our last experience at a border town, we followed the route to the International Crossing. 

It was even worse than Hidalgo, and suddenly we were caught up in the hectic downtown traffic on narrow streets. Before we could get our barings, we were past our destination and heading west on Mexico Blvd. 

“Stop,” I hollered, “There’s a Wal-Mart!” Thank God for something familiar. Everything else was Mexican, and we thought sure we’d made a wrong turn, somehow. Yet, we knew there’s no way across the border, except at the Entry Points. 

Van looked at the map, again, and said, “Amigoland Theme Park is across the street, so we’re close to the border. We can park here and walk back to the river.”

“Oh,” I exclaimed, “that means Amigoland Mall must be nearby. Let’s go there for a buffet lunch at the Gourmet Kitchen. I saw it advertised, but had no idea we would be close.”

“I thought you wanted to see the Rio Grande.”

“I do, but right now I’m so frazzled, I need something to eat. It’s cloudy and dark, and I’m confused. First, let’s ask someone directions.”

Getting out of Freedom, we walked over to a nearby car. “Do you know where the Gourmet Kitchen is?”

A fifty-something fellow shrugged, and looked blank. I should have known, everyone speaks Spanish. I said, “Amigoland Mall. Gourmet Kitchen?” He pointed across the side road and said “Penny’s.” Then he pointed the way to get over there by going back to Mexico Blvd. and taking the next street.

We started to walk, but then I said, “Let’s go into Wal-Mart and ask if we can park here, and if it’s safe to walk over to the Rio Grande. Remember, the fellow at Brazo Island said it’s not always safe parking along the border.”

As we walked through a throng of Mexicans, I spotted a pleasant-looking man in uniform standing by the door, and noted this is not a security officer, but a Brownsville policeman. Wow! Even Wal-Mart is not a safe place to be. Nevertheless, I asked, “Do you speak English?” 

He said, “Yes,” so I explained our situation, and my desire to see the Rio Grande. I then asked, “Can we park here and walk over to it?”

“No, it’s not safe. There are border bandito’s.” I gasped, and he continued, “It’s better to drive back to 12th St. and park. Then walk across the street to Hope Park. You can see the river there.”

We said, “Thank you,” then asked, “Is it okay to park here to go to Gourmet Kitchen in Amigoland Mall?” 

“It’s okay to park here,” he replied, or you can park in the mall parking lot. They have Border Patrol Officers and city policemen on duty.”

Again, I looked surprised, but asked, “Is it a good place to eat?” 

“It’s decent,” he said. “There’s enough selection that you should find a good meal.”

The dark cloudy skies seemed like a setting for a mystery, as I warily looked behind every car and avoided the bushes while we made our way past the parking lot and across the street to the mall’s parking. 

We felt like we were in a foreign country as we realized that not only were there no other Caucasians in the mall, but none in the Gourmet Kitchen. But, at least the hostess spoke English, and we managed to pay the required cash for our lunch.

Joanie is usually quite excited about a buffet, but this time she felt intimidated and overwhelmed by the unfamiliar surroundings. Despite her anxiety, she selected from the Mexican, Chinese, and American buffet, and joined Little Ralph, who was already eating. Van’s inner child also loves buffets, and he wasn’t having any problem with the nationality difference. Food is food in any language. Well, almost. As the police officer said, “It was decent.”

Remembering my lesson on Oneness, I changed from thinking about differences, and began to focus on the various families. From this viewpoint, I noticed that they were just like any other group at a buffet lunch in the mall. One well-dressed mother, dad, and pre-teen son were eating silently between trips for refills. The boy looked uncomfortable, and pouty. No doubt this family outing was not his favorite activity. Though I couldn’t understand their words, other groups were enjoying the camaraderie. And there were some babies crying, and kids running back and forth for refills. 

I could feel myself at-one-with everyone, and we too were having a pleasant experience. I could see why God had guided us to this setting for our meal. It was an opportunity to put into application the lessons I’d been reading about. Feeling love and oneness really works.

Finally, we’d finished eating, and were standing in Hope Park looking at the small curve of the Rio Grande River visible from our mostly obscured vantage point. Our view was hampered by trees and shrubs, and the overhanging dark clouds. The scene seemed to have a sense of foreboding as I remembered what the officer had said, “You might be disappointed, because it’s damned further toward the mouth, and it’s quite narrow through town.”

Yes, it’s narrow and muddy, but it is still the Rio Grande River, and my quest was fulfilled as I happily aimed my camcorder across the river to Mexico, and along the bridge where people were streaming in both directions. 

However, our enthusiasm was soon cut short when a Mexican on a bicycle began hanging out by us, and striking up a conversation. Van chatted uncomfortably while I got my pictures, but I guarded my camcorder lest he be a “bandito” and quickly finished my filming. I reminded myself, “I am at-one-with this man. He means us no harm.” 

“Let’s go,” I said to Van as I headed toward the main sidewalk out of the park. By now the clouds had begun to shed their rain, and we still had to negotiate our way through the narrow streets and out of town.

God Always Provides

From inside Freedom I filmed the surging crowds walking the streets, and urged Van to turn on the windshield swipes to clear the windows as the rain continued to hamper our visibility. Between us, we followed the directions given by the policeman at Wal-Mart, and soon were on Highway 48 toward Port Isabel.

“It’s just an option,” Van said, keeping his eyes on the road, “but what about staying at a Wal-Mart tonight, if we happen to see one?”

I could tell he was stressed, and so was I. Besides, it had gotten dark, windy and rainy. And we didn’t know where we were going, other than Port Isabel on the way to famed South Padre Island. It seemed feasible to give it up for one day, and just after we passed the sign announcing Port Isabel, I said, “There’s a Wal-Mart. Stop!”

When we listen, and stay attuned God always provides and takes care of us. And when we keep our focus on Him, and on love and goodness, our experiences are love-full and joyous; unless, of course, we create them otherwise. 

This day had taken us through some potentially undesirable experiences, yet our quest had been fulfilled to see the Rio Grande River without any negative incidence. And the same approach of oneness with Love, Light, and Life will guide, provide and protect us no matter what our quest.

Chapter 5

PAINTING A WORD PICTURE OF SOUTH PADRE ISLAND

A Dream-Setting

“It’s a dream-setting come true,” I said to Van as we looked out the window of Freedom at the Gulf of Mexico. “This is as beautiful as anyplace in the world.”

I fell silent as I surveyed our surroundings. If I were an artist, where would I start to paint this scene? Surely it would be the ocean-like water rolling against the sandy shore, with a shrimp boat noisily gliding by in the distance. 

A senior citizen with fishing pole and white bucket scrambles across the sand dunes covered with yellow-flowered green vegetation. And a bicycler ambles over the walkway from his morning ride on the beach, as a walker strolls toward the modern arched natural wood pavilion, with its kids area and barbecue pits, built to accommodate the day-users at this county park.

Ghosts of Past Projects

Ghosts of past efforts at public facilities haunt the shore, such as a rectangle two-toned block building with its gaping doorways and windows and sloping variegated metal roof. The three palms waving in the breeze add a tropical touch, and somehow allow the otherwise shacky disturbance on this tranquil scene to fit in. Not quite as picturesque, but far more updated, is another building — faded pink — labeled Civic Center, sporting two umbrella-like domes on top. One door is a decorative maroon, and the other is fuchsia. Big red letters on all sides of the building warn: DANGER: KEEP OUT!

Walking Hand-in-Hand

A retired couple, from one of the 600 RV’s, wanders down the paved road with two golden Pomeranian’s arrogantly marching ahead. The tranquility of this scene is somewhat jarred by the perpetual roaring ocean, and the intermittent calls of the seagulls perched on every lightpost and electricity poles, wildly proclaiming their territory, or demanding that someone throw out a morsel of goodies. When they shut up, one can hear the softer sound of songbirds twittering as they flit from bush to bush.

As Van and I are lured to walk its golden sandy shores, we see other couples walking along hand-in-hand, or single walkers briskly getting their morning exercise, while others, such as myself saunter along gathering the colorful seashells: red mollusks, though broken, add a new dimension to my collection. I cautiously pass by the myriad oyster shells that can cut into bare feet, and search for the golden-orange cockleshell, or the more delicate, almost transparent, ones.

Artifacts from Far-Away

The local guidebook says that artifacts, such as driftwood, prized glass floats from Portugal, or the Orient, or even flint arrowheads can be found along these shores. And it warns: Federal law prohibits collecting historical items, such as coins or flint points, that are more than 100 years old.   

Unfortunately, the biggest find along the beaches are discarded plastic items. But we paused a moment when we passed a swimsuit top lying midst the seaweed.

One day we walked south to the jetty along the channel, between South Padre Island and Brazos Island, and saw many people fishing from the granite-like rocks. We delighted to see a shrimp boat, from one of the world’s largest fleet, leaving its dock at Port Isabel, and passing through the channel to the Gulf of Mexico. A fishing boat also went by, and several sailboats and speedboats added to the picturesque scene. Along the shore, a bait shack awaited customers, and further inland, overlooking the Laguna Madre Bay, we spotted an Oyster Bar surrounded by palm trees and picnic tables.

Memorable Scenes to Last a Lifetime

No matter what direction we look, we see memorable scenes. This morning we walked north, wading in the waves; we passed the high-rise hotels and condominiums that form the skyline of this island, seen from many miles.

After two days in Paradise, we crossed the Causeway and continued to explore new places, as we drove north to Corpus Christi, and Padre Island, which is across the narrow waterway at the north end of South Padre Island; but it’s not connected, so vehicles must drive back to Corpus Christi and head north to Port Aransas, and then drive south. 

Chapter 6

“ANGELS UNAWARE”

Angels in McAllen

I am convinced that we have been helped by angels all along the way during our trip. Magical, mystical encounters that leave us smiling and saying, “Thank you, God.”

At first we thought they were “just coincidences,” but as time passed, and there were so many occurrences, we began to accredit the appearances to angels.

The Bible says, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware (Hebrews 13:1,2).” Maybe some of the incidences were folks doing random acts of kindness, but there’s no doubt that God brought these people into our lives at just the right moment to guide us. He used them as angels. But others seemed to appear from nowhere, and then disappear. 

As I write, sitting on a strip of land known as Padre Island, I’m looking out Freedom’s window at the sun dancing off the waves rolling into shore along the Gulf of Mexico, not far from Corpus Christi. 

How did we arrive at this beauteous spot? It’s been on our itinerary ever since looking at the map and seeing the waterways and islands along the east shore of Texas. And then one day while having lunch at Golden Corral in McAllen, we began talking with a couple at the next table — not our usual practice. They were from Laredo, and had been heading to Branson, Missouri, in their motor home, but the stormy weather in San Antonio had thwarted their intentions, and they were returning home.

“If you’re in that area, don’t miss the island,” the lady urged. “The most picturesque route is to drive through Corpus Christi, over the causeway and to Portland. Then take the ferry between Aransas Pass and Port Aransas. Be sure you stay at the county park at Port Aransas, and the Padre National Seashore further south. They are much less expensive than the RV Parks.”

“Will the motor home fit on the ferry?” I asked.

“Oh, yes, they even take trucks.”

We chatted awhile longer as we finished our meal, and then we left. That night they too stayed across the street on the Wal-Mart parking lot. Their Allegra motor home stood as a sentinel nearby, but we never saw them again. Nevertheless, their presence in our lives left a profound impact. 

In retrospect, I realize that they also told us about Brazos Island, or we would never have continued driving out to that isolated point. 

Ferry Angels

Thanksgiving day we drove through Corpus Christi without much traffic, and kept right on going over the causeway, past the historical USS Lexington airplane carrier, and we even by-passed Portland, though I’d planned to mail some cards from there to my family in Portland, Oregon. 

We continued driving east along wetlands and waterways, until we finally came to Aransas Pass, a small farming and fishing community, and continued on toward Port Aransas. 

Soon we saw the sign announcing the ferry crossing. “Let’s stop and survey the situation before we cross,” Van said. 

I knew he was nervous driving Freedom on board the congested ferry, but before we could think about it, we were at the gate, and cars were loading onto a waiting ship. 

They were almost full, so the attendant motioned Van to stop, and motioned several smaller vehicles on board. Then it was gone, and another one arrived and unloaded. Then the attendant waved several waiting cars past us, and finally motioned us on board.

It was all happening so fast, and I too felt apprehensive, but I remembered the folks saying they made it, so I relaxed. Van carefully maneuvered Freedom alongside the other cars.

We were so tightly compacted that I couldn’t even open the door to get out. Van encouraged me to climb out his side door, but we were already moving across the short distance, and I knew I couldn’t make it down the ladder-type steps, and back again before we arrived. So I stayed in Freedom and took a snapshot, since my camcorder batteries were recharging. What a time to be without my moving camera: water on all sides, fishing boats in the marina, and the picturesque port up ahead.

Within minutes we pulled into the dock on the island, and Van climbed back into his seat. The attendants trained guidance waved the other cars off first, then the pickup with a boat trailer, and finally Van rolled off the ramp.

“I’m so proud of you, My Love,” I said. “You handled that like a pro. And now we have the ferryboat experience under our belt.”

But our firsts weren’t over. As we followed the signs along narrow streets through this fishing port, toward the County Park, we suddenly came to the end of the pavement. Remembering the mud in Pawnee, Van stopped. 

I said, “My Love, I’m sure it’s safe. It’s packed sand. Look at all the cars and RV’s parked or driving along the beach. Why don’t you go for it?” 

I could see him holding his breath as he cautiously approached the edge of the pavement, and rolled onto the beach. Freedom held up fine, and so did Van. 

We pulled up in front of the office of the County Park perched atop a tower-like building, and walked up the stairs. A county officer greeted us, and Van said, “Happy Thanksgiving.” We empathized with his having to work on this family holiday, and thanked him for being there. 

A Sandy Angel

Now, here was another instance of an angel, or someone God uses to give guidance, because we had no idea how the rest of the day would go. We thought we’d select a spot and stay here, but the officer said, “You can stay here all day for no charge. Then if you want to stay overnight, you can come back and pay. Someone is on duty 24-hours. Though the price was only $6.00, we took his advice and headed back to Freedom.

The officer had given us directions for leaving the beach another route that would take us back into town where we could find someplace to have our Thanksgiving dinner. I’d originally wanted to partake of a buffet at the Omni Hotel along the Bayfront in Corpus Christi, but we had zipped right past, and were too far away now. I’d decided that a buffet would really be too much of a variety; what I really wanted was a traditional turkey dinner.

Thanksgiving Angels

But the further we got from town, the more apprehensive I’d gotten about the fate of our meal. “Okay, My Love,” I’d sighed, “I guess we’ll be having turkey burgers along the beach for this Thanksgiving.”

Now, heading back into Port Aransas, I said, “Maybe seafood would be a different approach.”

Parked in front of the seafood restaurants, we were standing in the lot looking at the boats in the harbor, when a white pickup truck pulled alongside. A fellow said, “Can I help you find something” You look like you’re looking for something.” 

“We’re looking for a place to eat Thanksgiving dinner,” I said. 

The fellow left his engine running, and got out. “The best place in town is right across the street.” He pointed and added, “It’s behind that motel.” 

We looked, but saw nothing resembling a restaurant as he continued, “You may need reservations, and it’s expensive, but worth it.” 

Still thinking about the novelty of seafood for Thanksgiving, I asked, “Are any of these restaurants open?”

“No,” he replied, “the only other place would be down by the VFW hall. But I don’t know if it’s open today. I’m going to have my dinner later at the VFW.”

“Van’s a former Navy Frogman,” I said, “maybe we should eat there too.”

“Well, sure, it’s open to the public, come on down.” He and Van talked about the service, and then the fellow pointed across the fence to the marina, and said, “That’s my boat out there. I’m going to buy a bigger one, and I’ll live on it.”

After talking about that lifestyle, he said “Goodbye,” and was gone. We looked for the boat he’d described, but didn’t see it, as we tried to decide where to eat.

“I’m not up to the VFW,” Van concluded, “let’s go across the street.”

“It does make sense when you consider that while we’re trying to find a place to eat, a guy stops and says the best place in town is across the street.”

We still couldn’t see it, until we passed the motel, and there tucked behind was Beulah’s, several houses — one with a veranda, and the other with an inside porch — sitting under the huge magnolia tree. It was like a stage-setting with well-dressed folks awaiting their tables, while others were quietly enjoying their meal.

I walked up to the hostess, standing at an outdoors table, and said, “We don’t have reservations, but do you have room for us? And do you have a buffet, or how is it done?”

She pleasantly explained, “We’re serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, ham, dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, and dessert — pumpkin or pecan pie, or lemon tart.” 

She added, I’m sure I can find a place for you, and disappeared inside. When she returned she said, “We’re kind of family style, so I hope you don’t mind sitting with another group,” as she lead us to a table on the enclosed porch, and we sat down.

Two ladies introduced themselves, and we began chatting. “We’re waiting for some others,” Susan explained. “We’d expected several more, but they aren’t coming.” 

Within minutes a distinguished looking gentleman and his young daughter arrived and sat across from us. At first it felt uncomfortable, like imposing on a family gathering, but Gregg introduced himself and his daughter. The lady who accompanied them returned and began talking with the other two ladies. Gregg explained that they all met at a divorce support group, and have met here every Thanksgiving for the past three years.

The cheerful waitress arrived and took our orders for beverages, and while everyone quietly chatted, she brought our drinks. 

By the time the meal was served, we felt like part of a very special family. Gregg listened attentively while Van and I shared about our travels, and his daughter, Dania, patiently entertained herself until the food arrived. And the other ladies, at the other end of the table, visited together; and sometimes talked with me about our travels.

These people, too, seemed like angels who were brought together as our special Thanksgiving family. At times, when talking with the waitress, who was happy to be working here, she too seemed like an angel in this enchanted setting. 

While savoring the tasty pecan-chocolate-bourbon pie, Gregg said, “Here’s my card, and I really want to keep in touch. The next time you come this way, plan to park at my place. I have lots of room, and also a studio cottage where you’d be welcome to stay.”

“Whew, that’s a wonderful offer; and we’ll take you up on it,” I said as I reached for his card.

“You’d better,” he replied, “Because if I ever hear you’ve come to town and haven’t contacted me, you’ll be in trouble.”

I laughed, as I rummaged through my purse and found a tattered copy of a newsletter with my mailing address, which I send to Freedomers, as an update of our travels. I handed it to him, and said, “Here’s my address, so we’ll be sure not to lose contact.” 

He looked pleased, and said, “Thank you so much.”

When we all parted, I felt a sense of sadness that this enchanted meal was over, but thankful for Gregg’s card. “Maybe they’re not angels, as such, I thought, but they sure are angelic.

Van and I walked back across the street to Freedom, but wanted to linger in the energies of this place. We strolled along the marina as the sun reflected across the water and the boats gently swayed in their dockings. In the distance we could see the huge pipes of the oil distilleries as the smoke wafted in the breeze. And along the shore the picturesque restaurants, now closed for the holiday, waited for another day of activity.

Finally, we climbed aboard Freedom and with a wistful glance across the road to the Beulah’s hideaway we headed south. Sand dunes covered with vegetation loomed above the marshlands, as Laguna Madre sparkled in the sun to the west, and the Gulf of Mexico’s waves rolled into shore to the east. Indeed, surrounded at both ends by water, this is an island. 

I reminded myself that we had enjoyed our stay at South Padre Island, and looked across the channel to Brazos Island on the mainland. And today we had crossed the ferry at the north end. 

We drove about twenty miles to the city of Padre Island, and continued south to Malaquite Park in the National Seashore, which entitled us to free entrance with our Golden Age Pass, and 1/2 price for an RV site: a paved area with cement picnic tables, and a view of the gulf, only a stone’s throw from our picture window, and the dunes beside our door. We had been from one end of Paradise to the other, and now, in the middle, we stayed four sunny days and star-filled nights.

Beach Angels

Only the roaring tide interrupted the tranquility of the endless beach as we ventured in both directions throughout our stay.

One day we wandered south along the Visitor’s Center where day users waded in the surf searching for its treasures washed ashore in the tides. Some were resting under the shaded picnic areas, and others strolled along the sand. A curly-haired youngster frolicked in the water, and running up to me said, “We don’t live here. We live in Texas,” and she darted off. I continued wading, and suddenly she returned to announce, “We bought a new house,” and she was gone again.

Her mom — a tall, willowy lady — watched and walked along the water’s edge. Between encounters with “Em,” I wandered toward Chris, and she said, “This is Emily’s first time seeing the ocean. She loves it.”

I commented on the girl’s exuberance, and her mom said, “I’m a single mom, and I’ve tried to encourage her sense of awe and wonder over life.”

“Well, you’ve done a good job,” I said, “she’s so free-spirited.”

We walked and talked, while Em darted into the surf, and back to show us her latest treasures of seashells. Van lingered nearby in the white sand, somewhat thwarted by the delay in our beach walk. And under a picnic shelter, Chris’s new husband patiently waited. “We were married in July,” she explained, “and after a big wedding, we are so tired of people and activities that we came from Houston for a respite. We spent Thanksgiving at the Aquarium.”

She talked about having adopted her precious “mixed-race” daughter as a baby, and then returning to their family in Montana, for two years for help in raising Em, while she taught at the University.

“I spent seven crazy years at Berkeley in the seventies,” she confided, and never did use any of my expertise. Instead, I became an Episcopalian Priest.” She talked of having been appointed to the Aides Commission, and the hopelessness of seeing such devastation, and the frustration of the politics involved. “I finally had to give it up,” she concluded.

When she paused, I said, “I’m a minister too.” She looked surprised, and I shared some details of my ministry with Freedomers, and added, “I stressed out too, and as a result I learned that I simply can’t take on any crusade.” Chris nodded in agreement as we stood still during this intense and personal communication.

I wanted to continue our conversation, but Em rushed over and said, “I’m hungry.” Chris said, “Me too,” and I added “Me three.” 

I’d introduced Van earlier, and motioned that we were leaving, so he joined our return toward the picnic shelter. I felt reluctant to part from this woman with whom I felt such a connection, yet, I didn’t want to intrude anymore in their family outing, so while she and Emily were talking, Van and I walked up to the Visitors Center. 

After watching the information video, I saw the three standing by the entrance, and I yearned to ask for her address, yet, a voice within said, “Release them. You shared a special time together. Now let them go.” 

It was hard. As an adopted child myself, I tend to hold onto relationships. Yet, I’m learning while traveling that people come and go. Perhaps Chris and Em were special angels brought into my life for a short time to warm my heart, and then go their way. But I will always carry the memory of our meeting.

Angels are Energy Masses

With the popularity of James Redfield’s books about the Celestine Prophecy, more is understood about the exchange of energies, and about so-called coincidences. Therefore, it’s not too shocking when I say that angels are energies, because after all, everything is energy that has been brought forth into matter. Some angels are mostly unseen, but materialize when appropriate, such as in the TV series, Touched by an Angel. Others may not even know they are angels, for God is simply using them, at the time, to fulfill His purpose.

I know that I have walked and talked with angels unaware, and I will continue to do so. I hope that I too am an angel for others along life’s path. That is my intention, and that is my desire. 

Perhaps you are an angel too. How many lives have you touched and inspired by your presence? 

Chapter 7

PARKS AND PARKING; TEXAS TO ARIZONA

Padre Island National Seashore

As Joanie (my inner child), stooped to pick up treasures washed ashore by waves along the Gulf of Mexico this sunny last day of November, she felt sad. It was hard to leave Padre Island National Seashore and head back across Texas toward Arizona. She felt as if her vacation was over, and there would be no more fun — forever, especially since the weather report had predicted clouds and rain from the Pacific Storm moving this way across Arizona. 

“Why would I want to go there?” She mumbled as she loaded her plastic box with bits of colorful seashells, adding, “These will be nice Christmas presents for Brandon” (Joyanna’s eight-year-old great-grandson) and Airica” (her teenage granddaughter). 

Joanie’s big quest was for a whole sand dollar, however, only bits and pieces appeared; not only sand dollars, but all of the shells. Finally, she sighed, “Oh well, they may be broken, but maybe Airica can use them for crafts.” She envisioned their joy at examining each shell, with its ripples or designs and intensity of colors.

Despite the cooler breeze, Joanie and Little Ralph were reluctant to leave this paradise; yet the time had come, and they headed toward Freedom. But as fate would have it, two angels (disguised as RVers) stopped to talk when we passed their coach. As usual with travelers, they were a wealth of information with the complicated directions for our next destination. 

Home Away From Home

Parking from Texas to Arizona fluctuated between the generous policy allowing RVers to stay overnight at our home away from home: Wal-Mart, Flying J and Rip Griffins Truck Stops. Of course, we had our home with us, so wherever we stayed, we were home; an enjoyable feature of this lifestyle. Yet, it felt reassuring to stay at these familiar and welcoming stops. 

However, our first stop, on our way to California, is City Park in Corpus Christi, and we were grateful for the details given us by the RVers. It is located northwest of the city, right after Highway 37 joins with 77, and makes a loop back under the overpass.

  Without the help of our angels, we would never have found it. But, once there, it proved to be quite lovely; situated along the Nueces River bank with colorful shrubs along the far side of the river; and a glorious orange and gold sunset that reflected s pink, violet and purple on the clouds to the east.

The free parking requires a permit from the Tourist Information Center located at the park. Here we met another angel, the clerk who greeted us. Although they were about to close, she handed us a packet of brochures and booklets to make life easier for our travels. We’d already collected some along the way, but hers were helpful for the next stages of our journey.

Later that night, I opened the curtain to look outside, and was horrified at the darkness around us, because the park’s overhead light wasn’t working. Further down the road the lights were brightly shining, and I could see several figures standing around a red pickup. Somehow my mind conjured up illusions other than angels, and I insisted Van move us. While we prepared to move, the pickup left, and I could see another RV parked for the night. 

“Okay, My Love, it’ll work to stay here, if we park under a light near the other RV.” Once done, I felt safer, and could fully appreciate the value of clustering: parking close to another vehicle. I settled down for a good night’s sleep with the unknown angels nearby.

As usual, I gave thanks for His protection and guidance, and also for the various angels He had sent along the way. I also truly appreciated the benefits of travelers recommending safe places that one might otherwise find threatening. This park is listed in one of our guidebooks, but the input from someone who has been there makes it more factual.

I realize that unseen angels are always guiding and protecting us, but as we travel I’m learning not to tempt fate. There are those who have no fear of parking in isolated, dark places, but I’m not one. The consensus of those we’ve talked to agree that it’s just as easy to park in well-lit, safe places.

As mentioned in another chapter, we’ve also learned not to park off the highway in inclimate weather. 

This State Park is too Isolated

Now, after leaving City Park, and studying the map and travel guidebooks, I’d selected Choke Canyon State Park as our overnight stop at Three Rivers, near Linda and Ken’s, whom we looked forward to seeing again; though I hadn’t called ahead to arrange the connections. 

We’d arranged to have our mail forwarded here, as the pivotal point for our journey West to Arizona. At this point we could decide whether to make one more visit, while in Texas, or begin our westward trek; and also which route would best serve our purposes of getting to Laughlin, Nevada by December 19th in time to meet with Van’s mom, Betty. 

Fortunately, our mail awaited us at General Delivery, so one big concern was eliminated. After our last effort to use General Delivery took two months to get our mail, we’d been apprehensive, but it works for others, so we’d tried it again; and it worked.

The mail gave several answers to questions that would determine our next direction. The first was whether or not to visit Buddie Williams in the Huntsville prison. Although his letter revealed that he had gotten my name on his visiting list, he added that he was still being hauled between there and the John Sealy Hospital in Galveston. Also he mentioned that the weather in Houston hadn’t been good, which confirmed the weather reports that we were again faced with predicted rain for several days. 

Another Visit with These Angels

The letters from Adam and Michael reported on their mom’s favorable response to our visit, and that she was looking forward to seeing us again. 

Good! I now called Linda’s house and JC answered. He’d had the day off from school. Rather than me trying to reach Linda, he agreed to call and give her my message, including the request that she look in the computer at the prison, where she worked, to ascertain whether Buddie was in Huntsville or Galveston, at this time. 

Now, let me pause to mention that God again provided an angel to help with my dilemma. How many people know someone who works in the office of the Texas prison system, and how often would one be passing by that person’s home? You see, God does have many angels, and I’ll bet Linda never thought of herself as one. Yet, when I called JC later, he said we were on for dinner with them.

In the meantime, Van and I had driven out to the State Park, and learned that it would cost $11.00, plus it was too isolated for us, and too far to Pawnee (twelve miles), so we decided not to stay. Instead, we parked at a Diamond Shamrock Truck Stop. 

While at dinner with our friends, at Julie’s restaurant in Karnes City, Linda said that Buddie is in Huntsville, and because I was on his Visiting List, she could give me the information. She also noted that he had been traveling between the two places; but she didn’t know where he would be in the next week; the time it would take us to get to Huntsville. I set aside the information, and enjoyed our visit with our new friends (angels).

Ken announced that he had quit working for the prison system; just too much pressure. And he was now doing contract work for Oakwood homes, the company that sold them their double-wide. He loved working his own hours, and the stress was gone.

As we talked, I told Linda that both her boys had said how proud they are of her, and how much they respect and admire her. She didn’t respond, but I felt that was an important communication. And I added “They both admire your strength, and ability to survive.” She smiled. 

Before we left, I handed her my booklet, The Freedomers Say Yes to Inner Freedom, and said, “It’s not about your boys, but I think you’ll enjoy it.”

On our return to Pawnee, where we’d parked Freedom, we passed through Karnes City, and Linda said, “Let’s drive by the house where we lived for two years.” And soon we viewed a modular home in a pleasant neighborhood. 

Linda laughed as we drove two blocks to a school, and she said, “JC complained about walking here to school, and wanted us to drive him.”

“Yeah,” he added, “now I have to walk 1/2 a mile to the school bus, and then ride eighteen miles.”

Linda said, “I want to show you something,” and Ken slowed down by an abandoned Chevrolet dealership. With great excitement she said, “Oakwood has agreed to give me three mobile homes to put on this lot, and when I sell them, I get a commission. I’m really excited, because I can work here weekends, and keep my present job. When I make enough money for six-months payments on our home, I’ll quit the prison job.”

We were thrilled, and I realized this is the kind of thing that makes her sons proud of her. This angel was creating a miracle.

Truck Stops are Good for Parking

After they returned us to Freedom, and we again said our goodbyes, Van and I talked about the option of driving the long distance to Huntsville to visit Buddie. Finally, taking all factors — weather, time, distance, money — we decided to wait until our next trip.

This time we only drove back to the Wolff Truck Stop at Three Rivers, and stayed overnight. Sure enough, when we awoke the next morning, it was raining. But we were securely parked on pavement, so leisurely walked to their restaurant and both enjoyed a good ole country breakfast for under $5.00 each.

Wal-Mart is Our Old Standby

By evening we’d out-skirted San Antonio, as we headed back to Hill Country along farm roads through peaceful scenes and small towns. I’d wanted to see Bandera, a picturesque tourist town, but in the downpour and fog we drove right on through. The same was true of Hondo, which we by-passed, rather than take the side road into town.

The Hill Country tourist attraction, Kerrville, had been our destination, but in the deluge and visibility confusion we decided to pass through it, cross over I-10, and drive about twenty miles to the historical town of Fredericksburg.

Miraculously the rain had now stopped, and we could enjoy the quaint buildings and shops along the downtown area; all lit with tiny Christmas lights — none of which I could record with my camcorder that needed recharging. 

There were several state parks nearby, but we’d gotten discouraged with the high price of an entrance fee plus overnight parking charge, so we pulled onto Wal-Mart’s parking lot and settled down for the night, because we’d planned a big day at the LBJ Ranch State Historical Park. However, we got side-tracked to Luckenbach, which requires its own chapter.

 

Chapter 8

LUCKENBACH, TEXAS: A LOVE STORY 

A Hole-In-The-Wall

Hondo Crouch and Luckenbach, Texas, had been brought to my attention several times, in the past, and a recent letter from Freedomer, Michael Martin, (Linda’s younger son), mentioned  Luckenbach, in the Hill Country of Texas, as a “Safe House” where folks could cool off from the heat of the law.

I remembered that his dad, Donnie Halbert, also a Freedomer, with whom I corresponded for four years, and wrote a book about, had mentioned the town, and he also spoke of Willie Nelson hanging out there, sitting around the potbelly stove singing the famous song (among others) about Luckenbach. 

So when we were in Fredericksburg, near the LBJ Ranch, and I saw (on the map) the town’s location nearby, I knew, as a writer, that I had to experience this mysterious place. In my mind, I pictured something like A-Hole-In-The-Wall, depicted in western movies. My excitement mounted as we turned from the main highway onto the farm road winding between mesquite trees and green pastures.

Nearing these energies, my thoughts drifted back to my friend, Donnie, and our unique relationship that spanned many lifetimes. This time he was a high-tech conman in Leavenworth Prison for refusing to give evidence against some of his Mafia associates; not that he hadn’t done plenty of deeds that warranted his prison times. And I was his minister-by-mail who cajoled, pleaded and threatened in order to “rehabilitate” him during the four years we corresponded. As trust evolved, I’d given him our home phone, and we always talked until the prison officials pulled the plug.

We had great dreams of building a wonderful ministry that would transform lives. I knew I couldn’t do it by myself, but with his innovative mind and can-do attitude, it would happen. For four years we would suffer through his parole denials, and then finally he made it! But because crime is an addiction, he rapidly returned to his old ways. And within months, after being caught in a bank money-order-scam, he was shot down in Phoenix, Arizona. Police shot and killed him in a field as he tried to get away. 

Donnie and I had shared an unconditional love throughout the stormy ups-and-downs of our relationship. Sometimes he’d be high on the various drugs he obtained, and others he would be paranoid. Then there would be months of silence when he reverted to his tough-guy role. But always, we maintained the trust and acceptance which had built between us during this lifetime, and others. Once he said, “Next lifetime I want to meet you much sooner, before I get myself into trouble.” I doubt if it would make much difference, but I appreciated the compliment. After his death, our dreams died too. 

But I began writing to his older son, Adam, only 21 at the time. He had been involved in the crime too. Captured and hand-cuffed, he stood by watching as his dad was shot to death. After ten years, Adam is still serving time for that crime. 

My reveries were jolted when Van said, “I think we passed the town.”

“How could we?” I asked in alarm. “We didn’t go through any town.”

“It was at the turn-off when we passed that sign that read, “Luckenbach Ladies Chili Cook-off.” 

With nothing more than country stretching ahead, I realized how small this town must be. Van kept driving.

“Well, let’s turn back,” I coaxed with high urgency. “I don’t want to leave without seeing it!”

He turned around and grumbled, “I don’t want to drive down that narrow road with the overhanging trees.” 

As we approached the sign, I said, “Then park at the entrance of this road, and we’ll walk in. I am not going to miss this opportunity to see Luckenbach.” He stopped.

I felt like Alice in Wonderland as we walked the 100 ft. along the isolated road, pausing at the entrance to film a house designated “Historical Site.” 

Walking along a parklike setting across the creek, Van continued to complain about the low-hanging trees that he knew would drag on Freedom, as I captured every detail on film. “It’s part of the charm,” I said focusing on the old building at the end of the road. “I wonder if that’s the store?”

As we approached, I could hear Willie Nelson’s voice singing in a large wooden building that loomed into view on the right side, and I knew I was in a time-warp. Tiny Christmas-like lights bedecked the building, and as I peered inside, I saw a twenty-something fellow industriously pushing a brush across the floor. 

I greeted him, “We’re on our way to Arizona,” I explained, “and I just had to stop and see Luckenbach.” I fell into step as we walked back and forth. 

“I just got back from a gig there,” he said in a friendly tone.

I continued, “I wrote a book about a fellow who stayed here in the seventies, Donnie Halbert; probably before your time.”

“Yeah, I’ve only been here three years.” Then he introduced himself, “I’m Roger Moon,” and he reached out to shake hands.

I was so excited to be in this mystical place that I can’t even remember what we said. Chitchat mostly, about Willie, and other Country Western singers. And I talked about Donnie and Michael — Big Mike. He showed no indication of knowing them; but then, he wouldn’t. “Honor among thieves,” as the saying goes. 

He shared that he’s a singer, guitarist, song-writer, and often entertains here on the weekends, though he spoke of his aspirations to reach more audiences. With his pleasant country charm, I knew he would have no problem attaining his dreams as I asked, “Have you done any gigs in Austin?”

“Yeah,” he said, “Oh, not Austin City Limits, but I’ve played some good places.”

“Someday you’ll be on Austin City Limits” I prophesied.

He grinned, “That would be nice, but I’m pretty happy with smaller audiences.”

Van had returned to Freedom to get more film for my other camera, and I could see him wandering around outside, as the time passed peacefully in this timeless place. Somehow now seemed to merge with then, and I could feel Donnie’s presence, and the energies of Willie sitting under a tree, as his voice sang from Roger’s stereo.

In time the sweeping was done, and Roger searched in the back room, then said, “I’ve got to go to find some more cleaner to mop,” as I followed him to the old wooden building with an outdated, rusty 7UP sign. I was glad he opened the door, because it kind of blended in with the unpainted faded wall, making it difficult to find — part of the charm.

As we strolled across the driveway, under the enormous low-hanging trees that enshrouded this magical town, Roger explained that Jimmy Lee Jones, the bartender, has been an opener for Willie Nelson.

Walking inside is like a step back in time, as the potbelly stove stands in the center of a small store-bar-music hall with a few chairs and benches along the walls. Plastered from wall to ceiling were dusty memorabilia — everything from money and receipts to autographs and pictures; not to mention horse collars, and the like from by-gone days.

As Roger introduced me to Jimmy and discussed the need for cleaning solution, I shook hands and went into overwhelm. So much to see and take in, my mind couldn’t register it all: counters piled with displays of snackies, beef jerky and more memorabilia, a giant, old-fashioned wooden block cheese cutter, and more “stuff.”

In a chair, by the door on the other wall, sat an old-timer with his face shadowed by his brimmed hat. His energies were so depleted that he was almost invisible; and maybe he preferred it that way. After all, this is a Safe House, and one can’t help wondering “Who is he?” I chuckled as I read the town motto: “Everybody is Somebody in Luckenbach.” Okay, better let that one go, and simply say, “Howdy.”

Roger completed his conversation, and we returned to the dancehall where he busied himself filling the mop bucket from the outdoor hose and squeezing in the last of the cleaning solution. “I’m going to mop it twice, anyway,” he explained, “and I’m going to wax it too. But it doesn’t do much good, because it’ll just be full of spilt beer and sticky stuff after the weekend.” He looked up and added, “You ought to come over this weekend. We’re having our weekly Christmas sing-alongs.”

“That would be fun, but we have to get down the road. You can be sure I’ll be back.” 

Back inside the dance hall, I again followed Roger back and forth as he said, “You being a writer and all, maybe you can help me. I haven’t been able to write any songs here lately. What do you figure I can do to get started again?”

I love it when someone asks my help, especially when it’s something I know about, or can allow God to answer through me. I paused to listen within, and the answer came: “Didn’t you say that you just got married in June?”

“Yah.”

“Well, you’ve had other priorities on your mind, and that’s natural. It takes a lot of getting used to the new lifestyle with another relationship. Give it time. Don’t be anxious about it. Once you relax, the creative juices will start to flow again.”

He smiled. “You’re right,” he said, “Thanks.” 

I felt good to have been helpful, and added, “You probably think that you should be able to write about all the great emotions you’re feeling, right?”

He looked up and smiled, “Yah.”

“Don’t worry, it’ll happen. Just enjoy yourself now.” I noticed Van outside, and said, “I’m going inside the store for awhile. I’ll see you before we leave.”

Van hesitantly followed me inside the elusive door; and once inside, he remained close by it, as his engineer’s mind quietly took in every detail, while I chatted with Jimmy, and a talkative newcomer to the room, a kind of Kenny Rogers lookalike, who had gone to school in Tustin, California in his earlier years.

Jimmy, with his pigtail down his back, glasses, and baseball-type hat, remarked that he had lived in Solano Beach, near Leucadia, where we had lived. “I used to play at the Belly Up,” he said, with a twinkle in his eyes, as he recalled some memories. 

I’d sat down on the bench, and as the chatting continued, I again felt in a Twilight Zone between then and now. I could feel the highly charged energies of the “Somebody’s, who had passed through these doors, but mellower energies prevailed; of Willie, and others, singing and sharing their quieter moments.

Some tourists came in, so I wandered up the steps into the General Store-Post Office section to buy a memento of this Silver-box moment. This room, beyond description, reminded me of Hartman’s Store in Wapinitia, a similar town near the Indian Reservation where I’d grown up, at Kah-nee-ta Hot Springs, the resort my adopted parents owned. Floor-to-ceiling dusty old “stuff” hung on every space and from the rafters.

“Lux, Ivory, Rinso. I never thought I’d see those old soap boxes again, except in a museum,” I said to Van, as he followed along, equally awestruck, 

“This looks like one,” Van observed.

“You’re right. If it isn’t in here, it probably never existed.” I paused to select a “Luckenbach cup, as a memento.” Then I spotted a new book, Hondo My Father, by Becky Crouch.” I knew I must have this book. And of course, the bumper sticker: Everybody is Somebody in Luckenbach, plus a few postcards of the ramshackle looking exterior of the “Post Office,” which is in a corner of the General Store. 

I smiled as I recalled the sign on the front door: Post Office is closed on Wednesday; Probably Today. 

“As a matter of fact, today is Wednesday,” I’d said to Van at the time, lamenting that we wouldn’t get to go inside. I have a suspicion that’s just another gag leftover from Hondo, the outlandish founder of the town.

He is notoriety in these parts, and his bust sits atop a pedestal in front of the Post Office. The story is that he got tired of the store being closed when he wanted a beer, so he bought the whole town, which mostly consists of the one building.

Once I’d made my selections, I returned to the bar, so we could pay Jimmy.

“Do you take charges?” Van asked. 

I was embarrassed to think he’d ask such a question in this place, but Jimmy said, “I have a charge machine in the General Store.” 

After the transaction was completed, I was reluctant to leave, so again sat on the bench and enjoyed the warmth of the potbelly stove and chatted with “Kenny.” The old-timer had left; probably uncomfortable with so many outside folks.

Jimmy picked up his guitar and asked, “Would you like to hear a few songs?”

Would I? You bet, but Van nodded, as I said, “Yes, please do.” 

He sang three or four colorful country-western songs; great songs, with stories. One was about Christmas, and his mom and dad both getting drunk. Sad. The other was about him not being a drinking man, but his father asked him to take care of the still, and he decided to try a drink, then another and another until he was wiped out. Then a bear came along and he gave him a drink, and another and another, until they both passed out. When he came to the bear was gone, and so was the still.  

When he finished, he set his guitar down, and we applauded and I asked, “Did you write them?” 

“One of them was Willie’s,” he replied 

“I thought I remembered hearing him sing it, but I wasn’t sure.” 

He didn’t say whether or not he wrote the other two, and unfortunately, I can’t remember the names. 

In any event, I knew it was time to leave this wonderland, and we said our goodbyes. I picked up a copy of the Luckenbach Moon newspaper, and savored its contents, as we traveled onward. 

But first I went over to the dance hall and said goodbye to Roger. My timing was perfect, because he’d taken time out for lunch, and had just returned. I asked for his name and address, so I could write to him. We made an agreement: he’ll come to my Pulitzer Prize event, and I’m going to his Austin City Limits debut.

From Luckenbach, we went to the LBJ Ranch, Pedernales Falls, and finally back to Kerrville, before resuming our westward journey to Arizona.

LBJ Ranch State Historical Park

What a glorious sunshine day greeted us! Perfect for touring the famous ranch; not as spectacular as the King Ranch, but this one belonged to a president; and his First Lady still lived in the former Texas Whitehouse.

We gleaned all this information from the pre-tour video at the Visitor’s Information Center, and during the tour itself as we rode in the back section of a double-coach bus. Talk about being part of a larger group; both sections were filled with a tour from Kansas on their way to San Antonio. When I told them Van was born in Topeka, we were immediately accepted.

Accompanying our tour guide in describing some of his favorite scenes was the voice of Lyndon himself, with his deep, rich Texas accent, extolling the virtues of peace and serenity he’d felt in this Hill Country that he enjoyed as home. Not only was he born (in the house we walked through) and raised here, but his ancestors inhabited a “settlement” in nearby Johnson City. No doubt, this is Johnson Country, made even more clear as we passed his famous white Lincoln Continental convertibles, and heard the personal stories of his life, while stopping to examine the descendants of his prize cattle at the show barn, or passing by his old stomping grounds along the Pedernales River that flowed along the front of the ranch.

In fact, it served to divide the State Park, where we bought the tickets at the Tourist Center, from the LBJ National Historical Park that conducted the tour. It’s confusing to me, but that’s the way it’s done. Part of the land was donated by LBJ and Ladybird for the park. So it’s necessary to go to the State Park in order to buy tickets to ride the tour at the National Park.

Once returned to the Visitor’s Center, we drove another fifteen miles to Johnson City with the intentions of touring the LBJ State Historical Park. But when we arrived, it was closed, so we walked by his boyhood home where he lived while attending school, and took some camcorder pictures. 

Warning: Steep Grade and Sharp Curves

We’d already been fully saturated with the LBJ energies and story, so we moved on down a side road to Pedernales Falls State Park, which probably would have been a beauty spot. But as we approached, we read a sign: WARNING: STEEP GRADE AND SHARP CURVES. 

For some reason the warning seemed ominous, so we turned around and drove into a glorious sunset, as we were ready to begin our trip West. This seemed the right direction, so we drove to Kerrville and stayed at the Wal-Mart parking lot near I-10, which would take us all the way west to Arizona.

 

Chapter 9

ARIZONA: FREEDOM OR PRISON?

 

Back to Now

We are all prisoners to something; either habits, patterns, or addictions; or perhaps limiting lifestyles of poverty, illness, or enabling relationships. Many of us are in bondage because of our thinking, emotions, or fixed attitudes. 

In its own way, El Nino is keeping us all captive this winter of 1997. When in the rains of Texas, we thought Arizona’s desert would be warmer. But we were greeted at its border by mountains, dark clouds, heavy rains and wind that made driving perilous, so we stopped at the Rip Griffin Truck Stop in Willcox and welcomed its shelter. 

Trucks, trucks, trucks — on both sides and in front — and all around — all with their generators roaring and vibrating. We’d selected a spot next to the driveway near another motor home and a 5th-wheeler, but to our amazement two trucks squeezed between; and another even parked on the access road which we thought would protect our other side. We were captive. 

In this restricted environment I decided to tackle my disheveled Christmas List, which consisted of three lists that needed sorting and compiling. A seemingly insurmountable task, but with extra time from our enforced stop, I began.

Soon Van announced that our generator must be turned on to assure electricity for blankets during the night. “I’m going to heat some water in the microwave as long as the generator’s on,” he added.

My concentration already disrupted, I said, “Then I might as well cook up that leftover chicken carcass and add some rice and Cream of Celery for soup.” 

I left my Christmas List and prepared the soup, midst the rumble of our noisy quaking land yacht. Frequent interruptions for stirring and checking the soup caused an extra burden to the seasonal hassle.

“I’m going to the bedroom,” I announced as Van turned on the Monday Night Football. 

Cross-legged and hunched over the portable table, I sorted, eliminated and added names. Frustrated by the confusion, I contemplated a simple way to handle the address labels: either they would have to be updated on my computer, and printed out, which meant more generator time: or I’d have to handwrite them while stopped (too jiggly while traveling); which meant consuming unavailable time.

That reminded me that we needed to make certain of our scheduled rendezvous with Betty, so I asked, “My Love, would you please call your mom and confirm our meeting with her for December 19th?”

“Good idea,” he said, and left me to struggle through the solution for the labels: salvage the useable names from several stacks of unused labels; time consuming, but workable.

My legs ached from the cramped position, and I was getting a headache from the fumes and noise. Usually we do quite well with our confinement, but with the Christmas Crunch added to the depressing weather and barometric drop, it was a bridge too far. When Van reappeared with a somewhat sheepish expression, I asked “Are we okay for December 19th?”

“Well, no. We have to meet her in Laughlin on the 15th.”

“WHAT! You mean this Monday? Oh, My God! I’ve got over 100 Christmas Newsletters to prepare, presents to wrap (this was written before those chores were completed).” 

“Yep,” Van said. “We can do it.” 

I looked at the map. “Laughlin is in the northwest corner of Arizona, and we wanted to check out this area for places to spend the winter.” 

This disruption and time crunch was too much. I cleared the bed, and got in. Why bother? With all the noise and vibration, who can sleep? I got up and took a Tylenol PM for pain and sleep, and put in my earplugs.

The next morning the sun was shining in a bright blue sky, interspersed with light fluffy clouds, and the dark ones working their way East. On their way to Texas; I thought.

I opened the curtains, and to my delight the trucks were gone. Magic! Across the dry sandy desert I could see the typical jagged bald mountains in the distance on all sides.

“You Must be Perfect…”

After my morning meditation, I enjoy reading something inspirational when I first awake to get my thoughts attuned for the day. I picked up, Living a Life of Joy, the latest book by John Randolph Price, and became totally absorbed with his approach to the Bible verse, “You must be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” I rejoiced that someone else agreed with my viewpoint, that it’s a statement of fact, not a possibility. It is a confirmation of certainty; not an affirmation of hope. Because everything we desire is a certainty — already exists — in God. 

You see, it’s only a matter of logic: If we are One with/as God, Who is perfect; then of course, we too are perfect. What a realization! 

Mr. Price describes this concept as “I-can-do-anything power.” He concluded that the only interference with living from this level of consciousness is our ability to understand and accept its truth. Yeah and Amen!

But, he cautions that the ego control interferes, and that it short-circuits our demonstrations or manifestations of our hearts’ desires. I agree, and that’s why I now focus on teaching how to overcome the ego’s control by changing the patterns, habits, addictions, and other tools that keep us in bondage. We must remove the ego projections; and it’s not easy, because the ego wants to remain in control.  

For instance, I’ve been talking with Van about these truths for years, but his ego is still in firm control with his addiction to smoking, and with some patterns that still raise their head when triggered or threatened.

“I’m Perfect, But What About You?”

I decided to read the chapter aloud to Van, while he ate breakfast. He is in perfect agreement with all that’s said, and usually lives accordingly. But his ego felt threatened, especially when I began to expound on the subject of ego-control and his addiction to smoking. I could feel his energies shift, and his behavior change as I read awhile, and then offered my viewpoint, and asked his — usually a brief, cryptic comment and always noncommital, such as “Sounds good, My Love.” 

From Higher Authority

This time, he continued his breakfast routine, after I finished reading. So I became quiet, and went into my meditation. Suddenly I felt words begin to formulate in my mind, and I knew that I was to speak them aloud.

“STOP SMOKING. YOUR HEALTH IS BEING THREATENED. BUT, AS ALWAYS, IT’S YOUR CHOICE. WE WILL HELP IF YOU ASK. STOP ALLOWING YOUR EGO TO REMAIN IN CONTROL.

The ego didn’t like that: rattle, rattle, rattle as he opened his coffee cake package.

STOP ALLOWING YOUR INNER CHILD TO RUN THE SHOW.

I could hear Little Ralph: sniff, sniff, and sniff. 

STOP THE GAMES, AND THEY ARE GAMES. YOU ARE STANDING ON THE THRESHOLD. IT’S TIME TO ENTER THE DOOR AND MOVE THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE. IT’S LIKE YOU BEING HERE AT RIP GRIFFIN’S TRUCK STOP, BUT IT’S NOT YOUR ULTIMATE DESTINATION. AND LAUGHLIN ISN’T YOUR DESTINATION EITHER. THEY ARE STOPS, AND YOU CAN STAY HOWEVER LONG YOU CHOOSE. IT’S YOUR CHOICE AS TO HOW LONG YOU CHOOSE TO REMAIN AT EACH STOP. AND WE WILL SUPPORT YOU, WHATEVER YOUR CHOICE. BUT REMEMBER, THERE IS A CONSEQUENCE FOR EVERY CHOICE; SOMETIMES DESIRABLE, AND SOMETIMES NOT. IT’S NOT A PUNISHMENT, BUT SIMPLY A RESULT OF A CAUSE.

Van had been peeling an orange, and its pungent fumes saturated the room. His energies were so intense that they short-circuited my connection, and the message stopped; just as he intended. I heard him retreat to the bathroom midst loud sniff, sniff, sniff’s.

I felt angry. He’s into his Diversionary Tactic again, I thought. The voice within my head spoke: JOYANNA, GET INTO YOUR OWN ENERGIES. FOCUS ON GOD, CHRISTMAS, WRITING, VISITING ADAM. REMEMBER, YOU ARE A TEACHER TO VAN; AND HE TO YOU. YOU ARE BOTH HERE TO SUPPORT EACH OTHER’S LIFE JOURNEY.

I said, “But I wish I could be teaching these truths on higher levels to others, who are interested and responding. 

YOU ARE. REMEMBER “BE FAITHFUL OVER FEW, I’LL PUT YOU OVER MUCH,” AS THE BIBLE SAYS. EVERYONE GETS WHAT THEY GET TO THE “DEGREE OF THEIR UNDERSTANDING AND AWARENESS.”

BE PATIENT!

Let God do it

The message ended. I got up and put on my Christmas music. Van returned looking clear and radiant. “Thank you,” he said.

“What for? The Christmas Music?”

“The Message,” he responded. And that was the end of the conversation.

I decided to let well enough alone, and let God do whatever work He had planned within Van. 

The misty clouds over the mountains had promised more rain. And now it began with a slight drizzle, and worked itself up to a heavy downpour. I knew that the desert is often a time of cleansing and purification, and I knew on a deep inner level that something profound had happened here at the Rip Griffin Truck Stop in the Arizona desert at Willcox. But as the Message said, “It’s a stop, not our destination,” so when the rain stopped, we moved onward to Benson, a small town we’d heard would be a good place to winter.

Christmas Preparations in Green Valley

We surveyed the town, made mental notes of the RV Parks and peaceful, quiet environment; and moved on toward Green Valley, south of Tucson. The heavens opened up and a deluge of rain made the visibility hazardous, though we did spot a Wal-Mart and stopped. 

Not to be thwarted by El Nino, I used the time to write notes on each Christmas letter, and complete the process with Van’s help. Also, he helped prepare several gift packages for mailing. Joanie busied herself finding two round plastic containers, and put the sand on the bottom, then added “treasures” (seashells she’d gathered at the Gulf of Mexico). 

Wal-Mart in Green Valley, Arizona, became our refuge, as we waited out the storm. Christmas was coming, so I addressed my Christmas Newsletters to occupy my time; and I also wrapped the few packages I sent this First Year of Traveling, including the seashells and sand to Airica and Brandon.

The storm lightened, and Freedom skipped through the raindrops to a post office in the very small town of Suharita, where I mailed my packages, on our way toward Tucson. We laughed at the thought of people wondering, “Where is Suharita, Arizona?”

The rain continued, as we crossed the state, and then holed-in at Flying J in Eloy. The sun actually shone, as we stopped by the post office in Eloy, to mail my completed 100+ newsletters. Once they were in the slot, I felt like a giant weight had been lifted. Now we could enjoy the rest of the trip without the additional burden of Christmas preparations.

Tortilla Flats National Park

Now we had two days and three nights to hang-out in the desert, before heading to Laughlin to meet with Betty. With the warmer weather, we decided to go to Tortilla Flats National Park northeast of Apache Junction (near Phoenix) in the Tonto National Forest (consisting of desert vegetation: saguaro cacti, Palo Verde, chollo and mesquite).

I mistakenly assumed this “forest” would be a desert-like setting at the lower elevation. But as we passed Apache Junction, east of Phoenix, and headed toward the mountainous area under the dark hovering clouds, I became apprehensive. 

As we passed the Lost Dutchman Mine State Park in the Superstition Mountains, Van came to life with the anticipation of another adventure into the unknown. We gasped at the immensity of those sheer cliffs, several thousand feet straight up; a rock-climbers delight.

However, eyeing the ominous clouds, I became apprehensive. I certainly didn’t want to get stranded in the mountains during another rainstorm like we’d just had. And we were heading into the same mountain range that went north to Flagstaff, where they were having record snow. 

“This darn El Nino,” I said to Van. “I feel trapped. If California and southern Texas and Arizona are affected, there’s no place else to go. And I’m worried about going into these mountains at this time. “

“Oh, don’t worry,” he reassured, “we’ll be fine.” 

I wasn’t convinced, but I’d been working with faith and Oneness, so I quietly affirmed” There’s nothing to worry about; everything is fine,” as John Randolph Price affirms.

Within minutes we were in some of the most beautiful scenery we’d ever seen. “Now I know what Arizona Highways was talking about,” I said. Grabbing my camcorder, I added, “I guess it’s worth the risk to be able to see these miles of colorful rock formations.”

“It’s no risk, My Love,” Van cooed from his observation deck behind the wheel. “It’s a good road.”

Higher and higher we climbed, until it seemed we could see forever across mountains and valleys, and the road became steep with sharp curves. “Yeah, sure. I’ll bet Pedernales Falls, in Texas, wasn’t anywhere near as treacherous as these.”

“Oh, but it’s different here. It’s still daylight. The sun had already set there. And we didn’t have a good feeling about it.”

I wasn’t convinced, but I busily narrated as I continued filming an orange-gold solid rock formation with limegreen lichens encrusted all over it. Freedom barely made it along the narrow road around the protruding rocks. But the miles of scenery were so beautiful that I didn’t care. And just as I thought it couldn’t get any better, we rounded a curve and saw Canyon Lake stretching over the canyon below. I kept filming, glad that I’d recharged the batteries.

Now at the top, we began a precarious downward spiral hugging the bank along the narrow, winding road. Then a gigantic red rock with green overtones appeared. “Wow, what a Christmas spectacular!” I gasped. 

Looking below, I spotted some RV’s along the lake. “Oh boy, what a place to stay,” I said in anticipation; but as we neared, the camping sign was X’d. “Darn! It’s a perfect spot. Why can’t we park there?”

We’d come to the end of the lake, and two miles later we approached “Tortilla National Park” and I looked in disappointed to see the campground, but no lake. However, as we wound downward into the canyon below the magnificent rimrock with the sun reflecting from the orange-gold-green cliffs, I decided “This will work.”

Saguaro cactus, the one’s that often look like they’re waving, stood as sentinels, along with other smaller cacti that protruded their needle-like spikes, and some prickly-pear, dotted the dry hillsides. Even a few trees relieved the otherwise barren appearance of sand, dirt and sagebrush. But the colorful rock formations made the scene spectacular.

We walked to the Assistant Camp Host, Kyle, and happily paid our 1/2 price privilege (with our Golden Passport Card for seniors). We talked with him awhile, and were joined by another camper walking his black and white Scotties. Both men extolled the virtues of this “quiet” lifestyle, and said not to worry about the rain, “It’ll clear up within a few hours. Even if the roads are flooded, they’ll soon be passable.”

Somehow the beauty and peace of this Paradise offset any further apprehension, as we settled into our evening at home on the desert canyon. When the lights were out, and we looked outside, the moon, peering from behind the clouds, lit up the landscape, and the rimrock was clearly visible by moonlight. Even the pitter-pat of raindrops didn’t disturb our tranquility. 

The only other signs of civilization were the overhead roar of planes leaving the Phoenix airport, and the faint glimmer of lights, in the distance, at the Tortilla Flats Restaurant. 

When I peeked out the window the next morning, a cotton-tail bunny hopped across the road and into the sagebrush, and the sun shone brightly on the colorful rimrock, with the Saguaro sentinels on the job. Everything was safe and peaceful; and no sign of clouds in the blue skies.

Later, we walked in the welcome sunshine, though brisk air, to the Tortilla Flats Restaurant; an unpainted, shack-look, natural appearance of the combined store, post office, ice cream parlor and restaurant. I’d heard they served good food, so we ordered Sonora-style enchiladas, and topped it off with prickly pear ice cream, made from cactus. “Like strawberry without the strawberries,” is my description of the pink delight. 

We laughed at the story unfolded by our server, Rick, explaining his limp. “I put a sheet over my outdoor shrubs, because of the predicted freezing temperatures. About one in the morning I was watching TV when my dog, spooked over the wind blowing the sheet, barked. I jumped up to see who was outside, and kicked the coffee table.”

“Merry Christmas,” I comforted.

“Yeah, that’s about when I’m supposed to be healed from this pain.”

Walking back from our jaunt, we passed our neighbors leaving in their van. They stopped, and I held the end of my ice cream cone in my hand as we chatted. Suddenly I realized that their white Scotty-type dog was eyeing my hand. “Oh, did you want this?” I asked as I broke it in half. The dog walked across the two laps and gently chomped the small bite, while his owner passed the other half to the dog in the back seat. 

  Joanie laughs every time she thinks about the evil-eye look that begged her last bite of cone. As a child, she always had to share her last bite with her dog, Foxy. “It was the best part,” she always complained. But this time she didn’t begrudge sharing her last bite.  

Lost Dutchman State Park

This peaceful interlude was hard to leave, yet, we must be moving on. As we retraced our steps, we stopped at the Canyon Lake Marina, where they feature fishing and steamboat rides, but the clouds were moving in, and I didn’t want to get trapped in the torrential rains. Thanks to El Nino. I suggested we stay at Lost Dutchman State Park in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains. Thus if we needed to make a getaway, during the storm, we’d have pavement and level ground.

I felt secure in the energies of the sheer-walled escarpment of these famous mountains, though many lives have been lost there in search of gold, especially the “lost gold” of Dutchman, Jacob Waltz, an eccentric miner from the old days, whose story we read at the Tortilla Flats Restaurant. He reminds me somewhat of Hondo Crouch, whose story was shared in the last chapter. Jacob liked good booze and good food, so with the help of his wife, an excellent cook, he opened his own restaurant in Tortilla Flat, Arizona, mentioned above.

Chapter 10

CHOICE? CHANCE? OR GAMBLE?

I am rich, I have discovered substance”

Choices

After our two days at the parks, mentioned earlier, we returned to the Flying J for another night, but this time we parked toward the front, away from the trucks. It was quieter, though they roared by on the entrance road all night. 

We could have chosen to pay $20.00 to stay at an RV park, but Van wanted to dump and refuel for our departure. It’s up to us to get clear on our priorities and to focus on what we want; because that is what we get. God always gives us what we want. The problem is that sometimes we are not consciously aware of what we want. Subconsciously our desire for love may manifest as a need for attention, power, wealth; and it may take on the form of illness, poverty, or other limitations. 

If we want to stop attracting limitations into our lives, we must first become aware of that part of us that is attracting them, and then discover the negative payoff. This is often very difficult to determine, because our ego is not willing to reveal these answers. It wants to stay in control by keeping us in bondage to those patterns, habits, or addictions that limit us, and cause us to feel powerless.

But we are actually power-full, for we are created out of the very essence of God; and God is Power. So, our purpose then is to focus on inner power, rather than power over; and the omnipotence of God is available to us — through us. And we can use this power to create our hearts desire.

God is the energy — substance — out of which everything is created; and that is the secret of creation that Hosea discovered when he shouted, “I am become rich, I have found me out substance.” 

We all have access to this same energy, the essence of creativity. It’s simply a matter of choice; and we each continuously make the choices. Good or evil, then becomes a matter of choice; not an indictment handed down to us by our Creator. However, with every choice there is the consequence.

If I know all this, then why aren’t I rich, or famous, or having whatever else I desire? Because somehow we are short-circuiting the flow of energy needed to bring about the demonstration (desired results). 

Our week at Harrah’s in Laughlin, a gambling resort town along the Colorado River gave me further opportunity to pursue and understand this subject of choices.

Is This What we Really Want?

We arrived Sunday evening at Katherine’s Landing along Lake Mead, where we planned to stay until the next day when we would meet Van’s mom at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino. Our intention was to keep costs down by staying at another National Park. But most of the sites had been closed for paving, so we selected one on a sloping hillside, which wasn’t really satisfactory. 

This was a new place for us, it was getting dark, and we weren’t sure of the options, so decided to walk around and survey the possibilities for a better location. We walked through the lanes in this twilight of the sun setting over the lake and behind the mountains, and neared the Camp Hosts trailer. Out of the eerie quiet a guttural man’s voice began growling and loudly swearing from within one of the RV’s. 

Van had already knocked at the Camp Hosts door, and was talking with the lady, when several more outbursts interrupted the otherwise tranquil setting. Just then another lady appeared from the dark to complain about the disturbance. The Camp Host immediately called the Park Ranger, and in the confusion, I said to Van, “I don’t think we want to stay here.”

By this time the mosquitoes were attacking us, and we looked like windmills as we swatted in all directions. We said we probably wouldn’t be staying, and the lady reassured us, “We’ve never had anything like this happen before.”

I said to Van, “Perhaps a site down by the laundry would work.” But it no longer felt right to us, so as the Ranger arrived on the scene, we returned to Freedom and drove through the night to the location we really wanted. In other words, we made a choice.

We Like This Choice

We drove onto a driveway that we thought lead to Harrah’s RV parking lot, but later discovered it was for the Gold River Casino. But we liked it, because it overlooked the Colorado River, which fluctuated between flowing gold, green, or muddy. Beyond the river the desert colors varied from sandy to golden to pink, depending on the time of day and sunset. But the crowning glory is the jagged top mountains that surround the valley. They change from black outlines at night to flaming golden-orange at sunrise and reflecting a pink glow at sunset.

All this creates an ever-changing panorama above and beyond the skyline of the Laughlin casino’s towering along the Colorado River. At night they are ablaze with flashing lights, and daytime their colors vary from beige to pink, such as Hilton’s Flamingo and the Gold River casino. Of course, the gigantic Colorado Belle replica of a Mississippi river boat is the highlight of the valley. And its new brewery, simulating a ship’s boiler room, attracts a whole new generation mingling with the senior citizen clientele (imported by tour bus) who frequent the casinos from Monday to Thursday.

The Lap of Luxury

However, Van’s mother prefers the convenience of a short flight to Las Vegas, and the bus shuttle to Harrah’s in Laughlin — a ninety-minute commute.

She’d previously arranged to meet us for dinner at 5:00, so we occupied ourselves with checking into our room — a rare treat from our land cruiser lifestyle. Van immediately availed himself of a long, luxurious massage shower while I devoured my magazines and mail that had been forwarded.

Though we were living in the lap of luxury, the rates are always low during this preholiday season when customers are preparing for Christmas, and the rooms stand vacant. So they’re offered for $10.00, less than a night in a full-hookup RV park. And his mom (Betty) treats us to this rendezvous. 

After dinner, traditionally Betty and I play slots, while Van watches. Sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose, but “that’s gambling,” as Betty says, “Gives you something to play with, until you get the big one.” She’s wise about gambling; either a time limit or a money limit governs our activity. Either way, when enough is enough, she goes to her room to rest. At eighty-something, she monitors her time and energy.

But, at 10:00 the next morning, we meet for breakfast at the Colorado Cafe, where we always eat while she plays Keno. I’m sure she would get indigestion if she ate without playing. I’d get heartburn if I did play while eating. Sometimes she loses for several days, then has a lucky streak and wins back her losses. But she doesn’t worry, either way. She simply enjoys the game. And when she’s through, she stops. To her it’s entertainment, and she allots a given amount for that purpose. No gambling addict here.

Van, on the other hand, discovered his addiction to gambling, so made a choice not to play. This time, however, he did put a few coins in the slots to hold my machine, and it didn’t trigger his compulsion to gamble. He seems to have a better handle on keeping a balance.

Usually, during mealtimes, our conversations revolve around solving the world’s problems, or the latest Hollywood or political news. Betty and I talk, Van listens and eats. And all conversation is subject to Keno interruptions — paying for the next game, or being paid for a win; and, of course, a few exclamations of “Hooray,” or “Darn,” depending on the course of events.

Little Ralph was a Good Boy

One evening the subject was about their lives together — and apart — when Van was a youngster. Betty recounted the story of her mother’s death, which almost devastated her for several years, and her dad’s decision to sell the house and buy a smaller one for Betty and her brother. During this time she could barely cope with life, and she definitely could not work and take care of a normal, active child. So, the decision was made, after his grandmother’s death, to send Little Ralph to Denver to live with his dad and paternal grandmother, along with his Aunt Betsy and Uncle Gene, who were still school age. 

During the conversation, I mentioned that Little Ralph had always thought he’d been sent away because of his behavior, and he always thought he was “a bad boy.” She seemed surprised at this disclosure, and reassured him that it was because of her inability to cope with life after her mother died.

Of course, nothing had ever been communicated about that to Little Ralph, and his eyes were big as he kept shuffling his food around his plate, as we talked. It was one of those healing moments in life, and I almost feared to breathe.

The next morning at breakfast, Betty delayed her Keno to bring up the subject again, and said, “I’m sorry that Ralph thought it was his fault. That wasn’t the reason at all. In fact, he was a good child.”

Whew! 

Later, on the road, I asked him how he felt about that, and he said, “It felt good to know that I was sent to Denver because mom just couldn’t take care of me.”

It was as if a ton of weight had been lifted from him. Little Ralph was now free to move ahead with life as an adult. 

Fun in Laughlin

During our Laughlin visit, the afternoons were free for us to make our own choices, and with the availability of the free shuttles, we had mobility. The first day we took Harrah’s shuttle to the hilltop, and walked across the highway to Freedom with the intention of doing our accumulated laundry. A neighbor had agreed to take me along in her car, but when we arrived, she’d already left. 

I felt abandoned and disappointed, but decided that these few days were my vacation, so I didn’t really want to wash clothes anyway. So we changed clothes, and took the shuttle to Gold River casino, which simulated a jungle rain forest at the entrance. In the past, we liked to partake of the huge strawberry shortcake for $1.00, piled high with whipped cream, but for now, Betty kept us fed.

From there we walked outside, past the empty lot, through the Pioneer casino, and along the River Walk to the Colorado Belle. Much to our surprise and delight, they’d remodeled a portion of the main floor into the Boiler Room Brewery with authentic looking old pipes and accessories.

We walked through the casino, took the escalator upstairs, and surveyed the area for my favorite restaurant, Mark Twain, where they serve the best BBQ’s. Thank goodness, it’s still there. Colorado Belle has old-fashioned type Christmas trees, which my inner child likes to see as we pass through. Down the stairs and along the River Walk in the cool breeze into the warmth of the Edgewater casino where Joanie delights in the annual penguin display. Down the escalator and along the walk to Hilton’s Flamingo, where we watched the poker contest and looked at their huge Christmas tree with the world’s largest ornaments in the hotel lobby. 

Time to catch the shuttle, which conveniently runs between the tiny Regency Casino and Harrah’s every 1/2-hour. We made it in time for our 5:00 dinner with Betty, followed by the evening slots.  

Day Two: More Fun

Day two we shuttled to the Regency, and walked across the street to the Horizon Outlet, a much larger mall than visible from the street, with everything imaginable in the name brand stores. This was a fact-finding trip; so again, we chose not to buy anything. We were deciding if we wanted to stay here indefinitely, and the book store, movie theaters and fast-food shops added to my fast-growing interest in calling the free parking lot “home.” Soon the time elapsed, and we again returned for our evening meal and slots with Betty.

Day Three: Antique Car Museum  

The third afternoon we again shuttled to the casinos, and this time walked all the way past the others, to the Riverside, the original casino, owned by Don Laughlin, who invested and promoted the town. He even built the roads and airport, before other casinos decided to join this gambling resort on the Colorado River.

Our goal for the afternoon, to visit the antique car museum at Riverside Casino; of more interest to Van and Little Ralph, but still worth seeing. The museum displayed everything from vintage Rolls Royce’s to Steve McQueen’s personal Dodge sedan and John Wayne’s safari vehicle. We checked out the upstairs theater and showroom, and then returned through the casino, along the River Walk, and back to the Regency to catch the shuttle back to Harrah’s by 5:00 to meet Betty.  

Back to Reality

The last morning, however, changed. We met Betty at 8:30 for a leisurely breakfast and no slots, before she boarded her shuttle to Las Vegas. We then returned to our room, and took advantage of the convenience to call Dottie. She said that she had sent our mail to Harrah’s, so after checking out, we discovered that the mail wouldn’t arrive until after 4:00 p.m. 

We caught the shuttle up the hill to the convenience store stop, and walked the several blocks to Freedom, while carrying our suitcases and bucking a very strong wind. It felt so good to be home again, and relax for the afternoon, that we didn’t bother to return for our mail. 

Instead, we talked about our options for Christmas, and decided that it would be good to drive on over to San Diego’s north county and spend the holidays with my stepmother, Arlene, and my brother, Gary, who was visiting her. Also, my daughter, Gail would be there for Christmas Day, and she wanted to spend the holidays with us this year.

The decision was not arrived at easily, as our finances had been depleted for the month, and the temptation to stay in the free parking beckoned, along with the fun lifestyle. But, family is family, and that’s what Christmas is all about. So the choice was made to leave Monday morning, assuming our mail had arrived.

Make the Best of it

Saturday morning we walked down the hill to Harrah’s, and were told there was no mail for us on Friday, and there’s no Saturday delivery. OOOOPS! This meant we couldn’t leave Monday. I explained the situation to the desk clerk, and she said to call the warehouse and see if it was there. A pleasant worker, Chris, not only confirmed it was there, but offered to bring it to us in the lobby. Thank you, God! And thank you, Chris. We tipped him for his efforts, even though he was leaving then, anyway.

We took the shuttle, and went to the Flamingo for their $1.99 hamburger and fries special, and took time to see the Nevada Gambling Museum, then walked to Gold River Casino for our strawberry shortcake, and got their shuttle back to Freedom for an evening of special TV Christmas programs and ice skating.

  Since we hadn’t gotten to go to the buffet at Harrah’s, while Betty treated us to the Colorado Cafe, we treated ourselves with the Christmas money she gave us. Talk about making choices! This buffet, voted the best in Laughlin, offered a bounty of delicacies from breakfast, Chinese, Mexican, Italian and American to soup, salads, and tasty desserts; and everything in between from breads to green and red tortilla chips. We’d walked down the hill, and after that meal, we decided to walk back up for the exercise even though it was cold and windy.

We were having so much fun in Laughlin that our inner kids were loath to leave. But that night it rained hard, and the wind blew unmercifully. The gusts were so strong that I feared we would blow over. I’d look out the window and see the other RV’s still intact, so decided to turn it over to God, and went to sleep.

Outta Here

The next morning, I couldn’t believe my eyes; the clouds had lifted, and the mountains were covered with snow. Threatening dark clouds were all around us, and the wind was still blowing; though not as gusty. 

I woke Van up and said, “Let’s get out of here while we still can. We’ll go as far as weather will allow today, and stop around Palm Springs.”

In the past my fear would have been insurmountable driving through these weather conditions, but I kept attuned to God, and followed His guidance and timing. For instance, while Van was outside Freedom, before we left, a neighbor stepped outside to visit. He said, “I’ve been listening to the weather reports. Don’t go west to I-15. Go straight south to I-10, and you’ll be okay.” 

Often God uses whoever or whatever is available as messengers. And sometimes He speaks directly, as guiding my choices to go to Desert Center, instead of Yucca Valley. We later learned they’d had 2 inches of snow in this otherwise desert community. Thank you, God.

If we only listen, and follow, God will guide us. We encountered some rain, but nothing hazardous, and the wind was either coming toward us, or pushing us, but not gusting from the side, so the trip went smoothly all the way to Thousand Palms, where we stopped at Flying J to replenish and empty Freedom. Since this wasn’t a full service Plaza, and the parking was limited and full, we parked for the night in the street nearby.

Sunny California

The rest of the trip, from the desert of Palm Springs, to the coast at Del Mar went smoothly, under the sunny California winter skies. And traveling along the familiar beaches of North County, where we had lived for seventeen years, gave us a feeling of nostalgia, as they brought back memories of the lifestyle we had left behind. But, for now, the freedom of the open road beckoned.

In the meantime, however, we had chosen to spend Christmas with family, and we were caught up in the usual activities with my stepmother and her sister, who lived in the next apartment. My brother, Gary, had arrived the month before, in his camper, when his lookout duties in northern California were over for the season. My daughter, Gail, drove down from nearby Mission Viejo, completing the depleted family gathering. 

Until a few years ago, this was the scene of a much larger gathering, but with Dad’s death, and Dottie’s family moving to Colorado, and the kids growing up, the family scene had changed. And now, we were grateful to Arlene for continuing the holiday tradition for us.

Chapter 11

“FORGETTING WHAT LIES BEHIND…”

The “Golden Years”

Every time we think about settling in one place, like southern Texas or Laughlin, I think, “Oh good, we can get Golden” (our precious Volvo). It’s my connection to stability and security.

Then on Christmas night, during their phone call, Steve and Dottie said they had a buyer who would pay $5,000.00. I gulped as my heart sank.

Finally, I asked “Who?” 

And he said, “I’d like to buy it now that I have a traveling sales job.”

The best I could do at the time was say, “Let me talk about it with Van, and I’ll get back with you.”

It seemed to me that Golden represented the last vestiges of my hopes and dreams; everything of material worth that we’d worked for to assure ourselves security and comfort in our Golden Years. While living in our motor home in the city of Golden, our car offered transportation and independence, and a sense of security.

But when we went on the road, the big question was: “What do we do with Golden?” Van wanted to sell it and buy a cheap runabout car. I didn’t want to sell it at all, and I certainly didn’t want to downscale to a clunker. We’d been told that Saturns are good for pulling behind a motor home, but Van wouldn’t consider investing that much, because he felt we could use the difference in cost to live on. No way would I do that!

Yet, the thought of pulling Golden behind on a flatbed trailer, which is the only safe way to haul a Volvo, was overwhelming. The dilemma of Golden continued during our two months in the RV Park. Finally, because I wouldn’t sell, and Van didn’t want to pull it, we left it at his Aunt Betsy’s house alongside the garage.

All winter, through the El Nino’s onslaught of snow, hail, rain and cold, it sat there uncovered. Van hadn’t gotten a tarp for it, but he did ask Aunt Betsy to warm it up every two weeks. I could hardly stand to think about it, and I can hardly write about this without feeling deep emotions — like leaving a dear family member out in the cold; perhaps it’s residue emotions from my abandonment syndrome of having been adopted. Yet, it’s very real for me.

I didn’t have time to discuss this important matter with Van right away as there was so much activity, such as talking with my brother, Gary, or playing cards with Arlene and her sister, Phyllis. 

“Who’s Knocking on our Door?”

That night, after we returned to Freedom, before I’d had time to talk to Van, he started up the engine to assure electricity through the night, and then turned it off, after about fifteen minutes.

I was still trying to process all the emotional aspects of the Christmas day, when I heard a car across the street from where we were parked. I looked outside, and saw a police car. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I figured it had to do with us. 

Sure enough, a knock on the door presented a policeman. Van answered, and listened to the polite officer apologize for disturbing us on Christmas Night, but that a neighbor had complained about the noise of our motor running. Well, of course, this is Del Mar, and that’s to be expected. I knew it was only a matter of time before somebody complained about something, so it was a relief now that it happened. And “Merry Christmas.”

The incident brought up all my feelings of not wanted, not belonging, not fitting in, and not doing it right. It was an emotional roller coaster. As I tried to process through my feelings, I managed to reassure myself that someone had probably had a bad Christmas, drank too much, or otherwise felt disgruntled, so we were handy scapegoats. Using all my Tools of Recovery from CoDa, I let it go enough to sleep through the night.

“What are You Doing in There?”

But my serenity had been shattered, and we decided to leave that evening. In the meantime, my daughter, Gail, who had stayed overnight at Grammalene’s, knocked on the door, saying in a gruff voice, “What are you doing in there?” She was only having fun, but I was still obviously shattered, and told her what had happened. She was nurturing, and helped me with completing the releasing process.

Suddenly there was another knock on the door, and a male voice said, “It’s the police.” I headed to the back to get Van, and Gail said, “Let me handle it.” When she opened the door, it was my brother, Gary, also having fun, and of course unaware of the police incident. 

Breakfast at Captain Keno’s

When Gail explained, Gary was embarrassed and apologized, then said, “I’d like to treat you to breakfast at Captain Keno’s — a favorite haunt of our dad, and therefore holding many memories. I hadn’t eaten there since Dad died nearly two years before, and I accepted the prospect with mixed emotions.

The four of us loaded into Gail’s car, and she drove us north through Encinitas, our hometown for twenty years, before we went on the road. This was our first time back, and emotions were running high for me, as I kept focused on the Present Moment. I reminded myself, “This is now. I’m here with Van, Gary and Gail. We’re having a good time.” And we did enjoy this unique occasion of Brother Gary treating us to breakfast. In the past it would have been Dad surrounded by his loving family. Now he was dead, and they were all scattered. “Okay, Joanie, we’re doing fine.”

We made it through the day with Gail preparing to return home to Irvine, about eighty miles north, in Orange County (south of Los Angeles). I’d been busy talking with Gary in an attempt to arrange our next location. He was going to the Borrego desert for a few days to work on his camper in order to sell it, and had a freebie location near the airport. But he would then drive north to Red Bluff where he would leave his Chinook camper, and pick up a new used one he’d bought. In January he’d return to Borrego, then in February in the Arizona desert near Quartzsite.

My intention had been to spend some time with Gary; partially because he’s very much alone now, and I thought he’d enjoy our company. And also it would give us some bonding time. But the other part is that I, as his older sister, tend to feel a responsibility for my brother, even though our only quality time together came during the three weeks after his birth, when I was only two-and-a-half, then he went to an orphanage.

A Win-Win Idea

Later in the day, I finally had time to deliver the communication to Van about Steve’s offer to buy Golden. Of course, Van thought it a great idea, and I felt good to know that Golden would remain in the family; but we were both apprehensive because of the past financial transactions with Dottie and Steve that contributed to our bankruptcy. It’s said that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. 

During my meditation, a win-win answer came loud and clear: If they could store our stuff, the $55.00 monthly cost of our storage locker, could go toward their car payment. No money would be transacted, but it would assure everyone of keeping the agreements. We would set a monthly payment amount; and when Steve’s finances picked up, he could include a cash payment too. We called them with the idea, and the decision was made to transfer the title of our car. Steve’s addition to the plan was to increase the monthly payback to $200.00 as soon as possible.

With this arrangement we were all changing past patterns. To me, Golden had been the last vestiges of our security, but I constantly remind myself that God is the Source of our supply, and I look to Him only for my security; definitely a test of faith and trust. 

But, now is the time to follow the admonishment of Paul in the Bible, “Forgetting what lies behind, I press on to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” This involves a deep inner forgiveness of all past transactions, and not allowing them to surface in the form of projections. Because, if they exist on any level — conscious or subconscious — they will become manifest in the outer experience.

So for me it’s a step on faith, but with vigilance on the part of all concerned, we are entering into a new level of trust in our relationships. At least this time we are all aware of the underlying patterns that we didn’t know or understand when we entered into the expenditures that lead to debt and bankruptcy.

This time we “turn it over to our Higher Power,” as our Twelve Steps recommend, and move forward into a new year and a new level of dealing with our money issues. 

Under the Basement Stairs

Part of the agreement for this transaction is that they will move the remainder of our life’s possessions from the storage locker to their basement, which means taking up space in their home. But, Dottie had said they could store our belongings in their “spare room,” but this threw me into my “not wanted, don’t fit in, don’t belong” syndrome. 

I felt relieved when she announced that everything fit in the space under their basement stairs; and it felt good knowing they were not suffering from the ravages of the El Nino winter in the thinly boarded storage locker. And now, when I need to get into the boxes, they’ll be where it’s warmer and handier. 

Along the lines of releasing the past, I knew that when we returned to Colorado, I must deal with the overwhelming task of again sorting through everything, and eliminating as much as possible — or perhaps by then we would be ready to rent a home and settle down. Dottie loves to do Garage Sales, so we now have that to look forward to.

Christmas Past

But all this is only part of the opportunities for releasing the past that we faced this Christmas season. Returning to Del Mar, the home where we’d all gathered for so many years with Dad, as our family patriarch, and his beloved wife, Arlene, supporting us all with her love and hospitality and wonderful meals had brought up those old feelings again. 

Now, with Dad no longer there, it was more difficult to push through my feelings of not belonging. But Arlene, as tired as she was from a month of company and Christmas preparations, did her usual best to make it an enjoyable occasion. My part was to “forget the past,” and be in the present moment — Christmas 1997.

Over the years I’d worked through my early memory associations relating to my brother, Gary, so being in the moment with him was fairly easy. He spent his time talking with Van, anyway. I thanked God that I’d processed those subconscious childhood memories that surfaced at this season. However, Gary tends to be withdrawn, especially from his birthday, November 18th, and during the holidays.

This is the time frame in which Mother’s schizophrenic episode cycles began. She was sent to a mental institution, and our family disintegrated. Therefore, consciously or unconsciously, we all experience the effects during this season. Even Dad would become morose, which had put certain pallor over the holidays; but at least he was with us.

 

Christmas Present

Yet, all that is behind us now, and we are endeavoring to move ahead with the remainder of our family. Arlene’s eleven-year-old granddaughter, Carolina, was spending the week here, and life was about The Hanson’s, a teenage musical group. Her compensation for a broken home is incessant talking, so the time she spends in front of the TV, or listening to her idols, is a welcome relief.

Doing What we Love

However, once Christmas had passed, we decided that we needed a break, and Arlene probably did to, so we drove about twenty-miles up the beach to Oceanside Harbor.

By the time we arrived at the Oceanside Harbor and found the perfect space overlooking the harbor and ocean, I felt refreshed. The fading sunset peaked out from the dark clouds over the ocean, and the lights from the boats danced across the harbor, and the seagulls called forth their mournful cry. “This is the best place in the world for us to be tonight,” I said. “Even if it does cost $20.00, it’s worth it; and we’re doing what we love doing.”

The next morning I awoke to the sounds of the fishing boats loading bait, and the birds going crazy in anticipation of a few morsels that might come their way. A boy and his black dog tended the anxious fishermen by dipping a net into a submerged enclosed container of bait-fish, and loading them onto the boat. I grabbed my camera and captured the moment as the sun was rising over the harbor, and a seal played hide ‘n seek. 

Later, we walked along the sandy beach and watched the surfers riding the waves in the midday sun as the waves pounded against the shore. Then we wandered through the harbor shops, and walked back along the sandy beach to the rock jetty where the boats were coming and going. We could see orange colored goldfish swimming below the water, along the rocky edge, as the seagulls and pelicans cavorted. I again felt centered, and ready to move onward.

Chapter 12

“I PRESS ON TOWARD THE GOAL …”

Choosing our Focus

It’s interesting how God gives us lessons at the perfect time, such as “Forgetting what lies behind,” at the end of the year. And then, at the beginning of the new year, emphasizing the rest of that Bible text, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 13 & 14).” 

Not wanting to focus on the verse out of context, I looked it up, and found the theme of this chapter, which is a continuation of the last one: choosing our focus, and remembering that with every choice there is a consequence.

The Letters of Paul to the Philippians and the Colossians give us positive direction for our focus: “The knowledge of God’s mystery (hidden for ages), which is Christ in you, your hope of glory.” So that we may be “mature in Christ.” It’s obvious that Paul had made this his goal, for he says, “For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me.”

I’ve also defined my goal: To experience oneness with God through living in the Present Moment, and to teach others, who are interested, in doing the same.

The awareness of Christ in us, the “Mystery Hidden for Ages,” brings us into the reality of Oneness with God; truly a goal (prize) worth our focus.

When reviewing these Bible verses, I greeted the heavily underlined passages as old and familiar friends with their messages highlighted in green, blue, red pens, and even pencil depicting the various times I’d emphasized their importance. 

They seemed especially meaningful in this treatise on our goals and focus at the beginning of a new year, because we arrived at Arlene’s on New Year’s Eve. We (including her sister, Phyliss and my brother, Gary), celebrated by going to Home Town Buffet. My favorite restaurant offered a bounteous array of delicacies, which added a gala atmosphere for the closure to 1997. I selected their Chinese cuisine, along with Teriyaki chicken wings, and several of my favorite salads — frozen peas and cheese, and also seafood with imitation crab.
The buffet is an excellent illustration for the lessons on choices. After all, most of us wouldn’t select everything on the tables, but would choose the ones which appealed to our taste buds, or nutritional favorites. Usually discernment and good judgment are factors in this encounter.

Garbage in; Garbage out

The same is true with life: everything is available, but we must be discriminating as we choose which is best for our well-being. The computer expression garbage in garbage out appropriately defines the process. Others have said, “Watch your stinkin’ thinkin’, and it’s also been explained that what gets your attention, gets you. 

One motivational writer says that our life is a result of what we think about. In other words, we must take responsibility for our thoughts, and not allow our minds to be bombarded with anything that the media sends out, for instance. Nor do we want negative input from foul-mouthed associates to enter the gates of our kingdom of heaven, which Jesus explained as being within. 

Restructured Thinking

Therefore, we must set boundaries, and make positive choices for our minds, for this reflects in our daily lives. It’s hard to accept, but true that our lives today are the results of what we thought about in the past. Ouch! That hurts. Yes, but the good news is that if we created our present condition by our thinking, we can change it, by restructured thinking habits. Oh, great, it isn’t enough that I have to exercise and monitor what I eat and drink, and how to relate with others, now I have rules and regulations for my thinking.

Absolutely, and your life will improve accordingly. For a primer, carefully choose your TV viewing. Then use discrimination in your reading, and the input of programming from your music. No wonder there’s so much violence and crime today. It’s been programmed by greedy people playing on humanity’s lower impulses. Remember, we already talked about the choices of good or evil, and paying the consequences.  

This is not something I made up, but it’s based on the Bible teachings. The Old Testament says, Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, Oh Lord, my strength and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).

Of course, Jesus’s entire life gave a road map of how to live so we too, can attain eternal life. 

“The Good Things of Life”

And His self-appointed apostle, Paul, wrote several Books and Letters in the Bible with detailed instructions. For instance, in Colossians 3:5, The Living Bible paraphrases Paul’s admonishments: “Away then with sinful, earthly things; deaden the evil desires lurking within you; have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust and shameful desires; don’t worship the good things of life, for that is idolatry.”

I think “the good things of life” requires discernment on our part too. There’s a difference between “worshipping them,” and enjoying the good life. Again, it’s a matter of priorities. Once we’ve set our priorities on attaining the goal of Oneness with God, then “the good things” are added. Even Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.”

And Paul continues to tell us how this can be attained: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved: compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

This is very intense, but if we are to enjoy the “good life,” individually and collectively, we’ve got to return to these guidelines. 

Who would think that a New Year’s Eve buffet would elicit this sermonette? It seems God is moving me into this more direct and definite approach in my writing, which means that you, the reader, are ready to receive it. So, don’t put the book down when you come across these time-proven messages. But, instead, let’s return to what works.

As Paul said in Philippians: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.  

Playing the Night Away

The Home Town Buffet is not the entire setting for this chapter. Once we returned to their place, Gary watched TV, while the rest of us played cards until the New Year. It felt good being with family, especially my brother for this evening. It gave me a solid sense of belonging, fitting in, and being part of their New Year’s Eve celebration; something I could take with me into the New Year to replace those old feelings that still surfaced when triggered.

 

“Grumbling or Questioning”

Of course, Paul has an antidote for such an eventuality: “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…(Phil. 2:14).”

As a recovering child of a dysfunctional family, I rebel at the words “without grumbling or questioning,” because a big issue in these families is that we accept what is going on without question or complaint. No, I’ve come too far in my recovery to allow that statement to go unquestioned. The “no-talk” rule in families, keeps us captive to their dysfunctionalism. The point of emphasis here is to remember that God is our true Father, and our inheritance is from Him.

An Inside Job

I’m not discounting our need to heal the earthly parental relationships, because I think they are vital to a whole and healthy life, but it is an inside job. One we must heal within ourselves, because in most cases, our parents won’t change. And that’s their responsibility, not ours. Our job is to take care of our own actions and reactions; and this is a fulltime job. One I’ve rededicated myself too this year. 

Paul put things in perspective when he said, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for God is at Work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

After we all exchanged our “Happy New Year’s” greetings, Van and I walked the several blocks along the street to Freedom, which was parked a long ways from the previous location. The ocean roared below the cliffs along the next block, and the evening fog and California winter breeze lightly dampened our cheeks, and it felt good to be “home.”

During the night, I again asked God to remove any lingering negativity associated with my former issues and patterns, and I dropped off to sleep. This chapter is the result of my prayer that night.

Walking the Rails

When I awoke, I informed Van that I had promised Joanie that we’d take a walk along the railroad tracks carved beside the palisades. As much as I love the view of the sunshine glistening on the blue waves that can be seen all the way from La Jolla to Oceanside, we seldom had time for the walk when we lived nearby and visited Dad and Arlene. So this time, it was necessary as a completion of our Del Mar visit. 

I felt a sense of calmness and joy this new morning of this new year. Van greeted each one with “Happy New Year,” as joggers, walkers, bicyclers, and dog-walkers passed along the path reveling in the morning sunshine of this fresh new start: 1998. Below, riding the waves, or waiting for a bigger one, surfers rode their boards and celebrated — glad for the holiday to spend time in their favorite activity.

Usually there are more people along the beach below cliffs, but the incoming tide splashed the waves against the cliffs in some places wiping out part of the beach. By the time we completed the circuit to Torrey Pines Park, and contemplated our return, the beach was impassable, so we took the alternate path up the steep hill that eventually lead to Arlene’s home. 

“Thank Goodness That’s Over” 

She had taken down her Christmas tree, and it was resting on plastic by the door. I offered Van’s assistance, along with Gary’s, to get it down the stairs. Once it was gone, we sighed with relief, “Thank goodness that’s over.” The room looked more spacious and fresh to greet the new year. What a great visual aide for forgetting what lies behind, and pressing on to the goal of living a more Christ-filled life at-one-with God. 

 

“What is Before us Now”

Paul said, “Have this mind in you which you have in Christ Jesus.” We do have this same mind within us, and we have the opportunity, if not the command, to make the same wise choices that Jesus made by thinking His thoughts after Him. Not impossible, if we take the task in simple increments by living in the Present Moment, and dealing with only what is before us Now.

We stopped to visit Gary as he worked on his Chinook camper getting it ready to sell. Arrangements were made to meet him in the Anza-Borrego Desert within the next several days.

“Don’t Worry; Everything is Fine”

Another day, Joanie’s heart had been set on walking along the Del Mar Beach, so with the tide out, we took a short cut to the beach. I should have known better, because the last time I’d gone down the makeshift steps, fashioned by surfers anxious to get to the beach, my leg muscles turned to rubber and I panicked. But these steps seemed much easier, until we got part way down, then the distance between increased, and I squatted down and stretched further. I could feel my muscles turn to rubber, but I continued to the bottom, reminding myself, “Don’t worry; everything’s fine.”

Paul’s reassurance, for such moments, advises, “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).

A Walk Along the Beach

Once at the bottom, Joanie took off her shoes and waded through the surf the 1/2 mile to the main Del Mar beach front with the famous Jakes and Poseidon restaurants. Van ambled along the shore in the dry sand as he took in all the sights and sounds of the beach. 

The crowds, beckoned by the warm January sunshine, surged along the sandy beach. The usual body surfers, waders and swimmers frolicked in the waves, until the lifeguards announced a riptide, and summoned everyone further south. 

  When we arrived at Ar’s that evening, Gary had already left, but we were too tired, from our adventure, to follow, so we stayed over another night. After playing cards, we said our goodbyes and then returned to Freedom, loaded with the presents, food, and blessings of our family.

Making good choices, living in the Present Moment, and keeping our focus on God, we’d entered this new year with bountiful measure, and knew in faith that they would continue, as Paul said, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  

Chapter 13

“THE ELEPHANT IN THE LIVING ROOM”

The “no-talk” Rule

The Twelve Step Programs often talk about “the elephant in the living room,” referring to the unwritten, but strongly enforced no-talk rule in addictive and dysfunctional families. This means that no one talks about the chaotic conditions caused as a result of the alcohol, addiction, mental or physical illness, or the rage-aholic or other contributing factors. It’s like an elephant sitting in the living room, but no one says it’s there. They simply crane their necks to look around it. That’s how it is with the family disorders that no one ever talks about.

In our family, the disorder stemmed from Dad’s egocentric nature, which compensated for a father who abandoned him, and the smother-love given by his doting mother. Gary and I share the same maternal history of schizophrenia from our maternal grandfather, and diabetes from our grandmother.

I’ve written many stories about Gary’s birth and the results when our mother “went crazy” and was sent to a mental institution, but I’ve never given a clear picture of the after effects on his life. This seems like a good time to paint that word picture, and it will evolve throughout this chapter.

During the night, after New Year’s Day, the rain pitter-pattered on Freedom’s roof. But the next morning, as planned, we headed toward the Anza-Borrego Desert. First, we stopped at the nearest Wal-Mart, in San Marcos, for supplies. Then we chose a route to the desert that we’d taken many times before, but never in Freedom, and we’d forgotten how steep and winding the route around Palomar Mountain was. Up, up, up, and around, around around in the clouds enshrouding the mountain. 

Close-knit Family?

As we headed toward our rendezvous with Gary, I thought about his beginnings. Unfortunately, he was placed in an orphanage at three-weeks-old, and stayed there until Dad divorced Mom and married Ermith. She raised him as her own, along with their sons, Larry and Bill. 

I only saw my brothers occasionally, as I was adopted by my paternal grandfather and his second wife, whom I acknowledged as my parents. I recall one time when they visited at Kah-nee-ta, where I lived with Mom Freeland during the summer and on vacations. Ermith offered me an Oreo cookie from an assortment box. I’d never had such a delicacy, and that endeared her in my eyes, or I should say stomach.

I remember visiting them once at their home in Milwaukie, Oregon, but my life was with Mom and Dad Freeland. 

Ermith died when Gary was in his twenties, and he always honors her as his mother. After all, she spent the years mothering him, and she’s the only mother he really knew.  Furthermore, he feels that any effort on our natural mother’s part to participate in his life is an intrusion. He even ignored the cards and gifts she sent when he was a youngster. 

And he only visited her twice in the seven years when she lived at the Convalescent Home in San Diego, not far from his home with Dad and Arlene. Once, when we needed to spend-down her money, I bought a Canon laptop word processor from Mom to Gary for Christmas. I managed to get him there to receive the present, and she was ecstatic. 

On the other hand, I’ve seen her in tears with loneliness to see her son. But none of this moves him to visit, although he actually headed to see her one winter when we thought she was dying. As fate would have it, in Bend he slid in the snow, into a truck and damaged his camper. Needless to say, after it was repaired, he went back to his “home” with a friend in the mountains. 

From a Distance

Now, we finally passed Mt. Palomar, and stopped at Lake Henshaw for lunch in the dreary, dampish gray mountains, and looking at the storm clouds ahead, we wondered if we’d made a mistake choosing to go to the desert to meet Gary. 

But the sky lightened as we neared the edge of another mountain that towered above the desert, and we could see sunshine peeking through the clouds as we hugged the narrow road along the mountain that wound 4,000 ft. below. I kept busy taking pictures of the intense, majestic, yet sparse scenery in order to avoid panic as we rounded the steep, sharp curves. Rocks, boulders, and cacti added the only break in the vastness of the mountains and desert; though far in the distance, we could see the inland Salton Sea at the horizon.

However, our destination, Gary’s campground across from the Borrego Airport, was much closer, and the mile-long asphalt runway could be seen beyond the town of Borrego Springs, at the bottom of the mountain. We could also see some grapefruit trees and palm trees adding the only green to the scene, otherwise occupied by the Anza-Borrego State Park.

And now Close at-hand

We’re the only family members who make an effort to find Gary’s lonely outposts, usually some lookout where he spends his summers perched high on an inaccessible mountain. As we arrived at his site, hidden by some towering tamarisk trees, he looked up from working on his little Chinook camper, and smiled at the sight of familiar faces.

We stood talking in the colorful sunset reflecting in the high clouds and the surrounding bald-mountains. I liked the energies of the vast dry desert, but definitely felt isolated in Gary’s hideaway.

Yet, some hearty folks had managed to inhabit this apparent wasteland, despite temperatures way over 100 in the summertime. This time of year, we were delighted when Gary said it had been over 70 degrees the past two days. Apparently the coastal storm had passed right over the desert, though a cool breeze had started, once the sun went down.

We surveyed Gary’s freebie site, where once a motel had stood. Now, totally abandoned, all that remained were some cement slabs, perfect for parking Freedom in case the threatening storm materialized. Hidden from the road in one direction, yet across from the airport, we could watch the planes landing and taking off. 

In all directions, other than the grove of towering trees, all we could see was dirt, sand, sagebrush, and dying mesquite trees in the distance. 

The next day, while taking a walk, we learned that a grub-worm type insect was killing them off. A fellow driving a pickup had gone into the mesquite grove to load the dead wood for fire burning, and stopped to chat as we walked by. I feared that he’d joined two other vehicles in a drug deal, but Gary said the locals come by for firewood all the time. So I stopped worrying. 

The Storyteller

After five years frequenting this hideaway, Gary knows about everything that goes on. In fact, he entertained us the first night with stories of several airplane accidents, including one fellow who apparently jumped from his plane, and let it crash near the Wells Fargo Bank in town. Fortunately no one, but the pilot (who died), was hurt. 

Another time, while standing on the balcony at the airport restaurant, he spoke to a pilot boarding his plane about it not sounding safe. 

The fellow replied, “I called the rental agency (in San Diego) and they said to try it again and see what happens.” 

Gary told him it was risky, but the fellow got on board, started up, and taxied down the field. He’d barely lifted when the plane crashed. Gary yelled to the Park Ranger, who happened to be on the field nearby, and they both jumped into their vehicles and drove along the road toward the fellow, who had crawled from his plane and collapsed. A helicopter life-flight arrived and flew him to a hospital. 

A Desert Sunset

As I’m writing, while still parked across from the airport, the sun is again reflecting like pink lemonade over the top of the mountains behind the airport. And the fluffy clouds in the distance, over the Salton Sea, resemble strawberry cotton candy, while the high mountains to the west are already shadowed black; though the clouds above are flaming orange; a glorious sunset on the desert. And Gary is working on his camper getting it ready to sell. A momentous event, considering it’s been his sole transportation and companion for over 11 years. 

It’s taken him up the perilous roads to his 7400+ perch in a lookout, atop 52 steps, with a 360 degree view of forests and mountains, including Shasta and Lassen. And it’s taken him to Oregon and back at least twice a year. But now he’s ready to release and let it go, as he prepares to take ownership of his larger used camper — with a refrigerator that works, and a shower and toilet — very upbeat for Gary’s simple tastes. 

“You Aren’t Important Enough”

Understandably, the years in the orphanage affected Gary’s self-esteem, and he’s unable to give himself permission to enjoy the “good life” of material blessings. His miniature camper, for instance, testifies to this, and he won’t go across the street to the airport restaurant, because “it’s too expensive,” nor will he spend money to drive, other than necessary, because “it costs too much.” But this is the result of his childhood, and the role model given by Dad, who would, at least, spend money to pacify his ego needs.

“You Aren’t Important Enough”

One of Gary’s bitterest memories is that Dad left, on one of his adventures, the day before Gary’s high school graduation. The message being, “You aren’t important enough.” And he gave that message to all of us at times. Yet, at other times, Dad was generous, and came through for us. It seemed to be a dichotomy, and one that was “crazy-making” to his family.

 Gary Starts a Family

Gary shared Dad’s enthusiasm for Mexico, and once lived there as an exchange student, and returning with Dad, or alone throughout the years. On one trip Gary met Mildred, and fell for her Latino beauty. She, on the other hand, though impressed by his handsome good looks, looked forward to living in the United States, where she could practice, as an attorney, and help provide for her and her young daughter, Millie. 

Gary and Mildred were married within two weeks, and after a second wedding in the Catholic church, they began life together. 

As a teacher, he took his jobs where they were available, which meant traveling to colder climates, such as Michigan and Oregon, which Mildred didn’t like. Finally, he got jobs in California, but after two children, and a third miscarriage, Mildred wanted a divorce.

Gary, the Loner

Thus began Gary’s full-fledged reclusive life, which was always part of his nature, having been in an orphanage for those young, formative years. When I lived with Dad, Ermith, and my brothers for a year, I can remember Gary, the loner, down in the basement, behind the furnace, working on model airplanes. And his pictures, as a child, had the saddest blue eyes.

Though he loves to talk, recounting his many adventures in Australia and elsewhere on his lone travels, he’s perfectly happy spending the summer on a lookout, or searching for gold in the Outback. I like to describe Gary as an Indiana Jones type, because he’s so mild-mannered, yet he’s lived a somewhat perilous life, tempting death many times. For instance, he almost got wiped out by a flash flood when stuck in a ravine in Australia, and he was struck by lightning on the lookout. 

Gary’s social skills are somewhat limited when it comes to close relationships. As a writer, he often courted by mail, but when meeting the girls, they never worked into anything permanent. I introduced him to several of my single lady friends throughout the years, but they didn’t develop into a lasting relationship either.

He never had a home, and in later years, when not on the lookout or in Australia, Gary spent his time in a little room built off the garage at Dad and Arlene’s home.

The Joy, and Sadness, of his Life

The greatest joy in Gary’s life was his son, Robert, who went on one of the adventures to Australia, and also spent some time at the lookouts. But after Robert’s mom died from cancer, he too developed cancer, and died seven months later at the age of 19. Gary never recovered from the loss, and to this day morns his son’s death. 

The saddest part of Gary’s life is his inability to relate with his daughters. Millie, his step-daughter, never knew another father, and our family is her family. Valena Sue, named after the grandmother she’s never seen, has suffered the most from the seemingly abandonment by her dad. I’ve tried to explain the family characteristics that have influenced her life, but it’s difficult for the girls, who feel it’s Gary’s fault. On the other hand, Gary feels it’s up to them to make the effort in the relationship; an attitude acquired from Dad: Life revolves around me; take care of me.

Hanging Out

I love and accept my brother as he is, and I understand why he is that way, after years of working on my own recovery. The difference is that he’s not as knowledgeable about the inner child and codependent characteristics. However, he has studied psychology in college, and majored in it to become a school counselor, after discovering that he couldn’t tolerate teaching. In time, after losing his tenure, he gave up his counseling, and spent his time between the lookout and Australia, and Dad’s. But after Dad died, Gary didn’t have a home, and looked for a place to belong. That’s about where he is in life now, as we sit here in the desert in our respective RV’s. He’s preparing to sell his Chinook and live in his Dolphin, and we’re simply hanging out, until we decide our next location.

Don’t Talk Abouts

So, the first day here, Gary arrived with his metal cup in hand for a “cuppa” (Australian for cup of coffee), before getting started on sanding his camper. The conversation covered all the family “don’t talk about” subjects, and somehow the day passed without his ever getting back out the door. He said, “I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything.”

I responded, “Oh, yes we have. We’ve at least talked about things that we’ve kept quiet about all these years, and that’s very healing.” 

I’m not sure he fully understood the significance, but I knew of its importance. And I thanked God for guiding us to the desert to start off this new year by uncovering so many subjects to be released and left in the wilderness.

A Much Lighter Load

Now, like the Israelites, who wandered forty years in the wilderness, before releasing their limitations, patterns, and burdens, we are free to move forward with a much lighter load.      

The desert experience not only gave us time with Gary, but provided some leisure time in the warm sunshine this El Nino year, when everyplace else is rain soaked or snowbound. One day, while walking through the sage brush and mesquite trees, we saw a large coyote run through the bushes, stop and look at us, and then move on.

Makeshift Tennis Court

Another day, Van and I played tennis, creating a makeshift court on one of the concrete slabs, left from the motel. Gary suggested that we could get just as much exercise helping him sand and wash his camper, but we didn’t accept his offer, probably to his disappointment.

An Old Pattern Returns

The last few days of our desert sojourn, Gary began coming down with a cold, and the old pattern, “Take care of your brother, Joanie,” tried to surface. It was hard for Joanie, but she managed to give him support in the form of vitamins A and C, plus aspirin, when requested, and she made him some herb tea. 

But his neediness threatened Joanie’s codependence recovery, and she feared relapse of the old pattern, so I prayed for his healing, and let him handle it his way with antihistamine and aspirin, plus sleeping it off.

I wished that I could talk with him about his health patterns being a need for nurturing and love that wasn’t ever given to him by his parents. But I kept my mouth shut.

Happy Birthday, Van

  My main concern was to keep my own state of mind positive so as not to “catch his cold.” And to pray for Van too, that he not take it on himself as part of his patterns relating to his birthday syndrome. He too has many of the same low-self-esteem patterns as Gary, and they surface around his birthday, in January (a few days away, in fact), just as Gary’s are triggered around his birthday in November.

On Van’s birthday, Gary decided, despite feeling miserable with his cold, to drive to a nearby city for a place to have his camper painted. So I insisted that Van and I go across the highway to the airport restaurant and celebrate. It’s not in his reality, but I felt it important to do something special for his birthday, though it didn’t matter to him. The excursion also gave him time to call his mother from the phone booth, and she wished him “Happy Birthday.” 

“It’s Always About Him”

While I was writing a note to our mom, Gary returned from his trip all done in, and asked, “Can I have another headache reliever?”

I gave him one, and then fixed him a cup of herbal tea, as I said, “I’m writing to Mom, do you want to add a note?”

He literally snarled at me, “I need a glass of water to take this pill.”

I’d been making every effort to keep my feelings under control, but I almost lost it. Nevertheless, I got his water and returned to writing my letter. But he wanted to chitchat. That’s the way it is with Gary; it’s always about him. Yet, his big complaint about Dad is the same thing. And it’s true. Like father, like son.

That’s because, as Ernie Larson, an authority and writer about inner child dysfunctionalism said, “What you live with you learn; what you learn you practice, and what you practice you become.” And this is true, even though we hated the very behavior that we take on, such as a child who has been victimized by an alcoholic parent tends to become an alcoholic, etc. And thus, Gary has taken on his dad’s characteristics, including narcissism.

Eventually, Gary took his pill and drank his tea, and went to bed. I finished the card to Mom and sent his love, too. That ended that. I knew it was too painful for Gary to deal with his relationship with his mother, who had abandoned him; even though it wasn’t intentional.

 

“It’s Enough”

I went ahead and prepared a special, but simplified turkey dinner, which gave Van a feeling of being honored and celebrated despite the lack of fanfare or presents. He said, “It’s enough that we’re here at the desert in this nice sunshine.”

Heavens, I’m surrounded by men with such low self-esteem that they can’t even celebrate their special days, or anyone else’s.

I hadn’t expected to see Gary again that night, but he surfaced in time for dinner, and requested another headache pill and more tea. Rather than return to his cramped, cold camper, he stayed and talked all evening, between coughs and sneezes. 

So, About That Elephant in the Desert

I’ve noticed that I didn’t write about any of the issues that Gary and I discussed, and I’m also aware that I haven’t reached the place of recovery to talk about the “elephant” with anyone else. And that’s okay too. Suffice to say that further inner child healing is in progress. 

  Chapter 14

“THIS IS HOW I AM…”

Going our Separate Ways

The next day we awoke to overcast skies, and were glad that we were returning to the coast to celebrate our stepmother, Arlene’s “Big 80.” We had no desire to get caught in a desert flash flood. 

We went our separate ways, as Gary went back over the hill, and we took the long way, via Salton Sea, Indio and Hemet to avoid the steep climb.

At the inland Salton Sea, we stopped to see if the abandoned yacht club was still there. Sure enough, on the water’s edge, midst waving palm trees, the dilapidated buildings that once offered a haven for boaters. 

A fifty-something couple got out of their late model pickup and strolled our direction. The man said, “I used to come up here and race my boat when this place was new. I wanted to see what’s going on.”

“Me too,” I said, adding, “Although it was already closed when we first came. I hoped it may have been rebuilt. It looks pretty sad.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet I came up here from Pasadena fifty weekends out of fifty,” he said wistfully. It sure was fun. Now I live in Bend, Oregon. We’ve just been up to Laughlin.”

Of course, we had recently been there, too, and planned to return for the winters, so we chatted about our favorite places in the gambling resort by the Colorado River.

The Beginning of the RV Repairs

As we neared Coachella, Van said, “I wonder if we can spot the RV suppliers that Gary mentioned? It’s supposed to be somewhere before Indio.”

We spotted Sunriver RV Supply and Service, and Van asked the service person if they could work on our engine, and was given a reference to Auto and RV Repair nearby. 

Eli, the owner, took Freedom for a test drive, and announced that we didn’t have any power. “It needs a new engine.” He proceeded to quote the cost for a new, used, or rebuilt — ranging from $3,000.00 to $5,000.00. 

After I picked myself up from the floor, I said. “We’ll sell the RV, before we put that much into it. We’re on Social Security, and we don’t have the money.” 

Eli then decided to try several other options, such as checking the compression, sparkplugs, filter and other mechanical functions. By the time he’d finished, he discovered some of the wires were deteriorated, and others weren’t even connected to the sparkplugs. Work was begun, but not completed by closing, so we parked in front of the shop and even got to plug into their electrical outlet. Such a deal! 

The German Shepherd and the Pit Bull

We even had a guard dog, a German shepherd, whose tail had been bitten and pulled out by their pit bull. The poor dog wore a lampshade-type protection around his head to keep him from biting the gross-looking open wound. 

Eli said the pit bull had been chasing a pig on their farm, when the German shepherd intervened. Suddenly the pit bull grabbed onto the other’s tail, and before it was over, the tail was gone. I about gagged at the story, but it’s so unusual, I simply had to pass it along. It seems as though the violence with people is reflecting in the animals nowadays. I wondered if the dog would bark or howl all night, but was reassured it wouldn’t. And it didn’t.

“My Needs Aren’t Being Met”

Yet, I could hardly sleep with the noisy trucks roaring by all night; not to mention the trains. I talked with God about the situation, and concluded, “I’m ready for a different lifestyle, God. I like traveling, but we need a few more luxuries.” I continued thinking about this subject, and praying about it. I knew that Van is perfectly happy with more-less, or as I call it, the Silas Marner complex. 

I recalled a recent discussion when we were at the airport restaurant celebrating his birthday. It had seemed important to me, but he didn’t want to go, and it didn’t really mean much to him. In response to my comment about his attitude, he said, “This is how I am; this is how I think, and this is how I tend to be.”

In the past that would have been the end of the discussion, but this time I said, “But it’s not how I am; it’s not how I think, and it’s not how I tend to be. So what do you suppose is the resolution to the situation?”

He said, “I dunno” and continued eating his 1/2 of the buffalo burger. 

I’d been trying to resolve this issue, which is a big difference between us, for several years; to the point that I’ve been ready to go our separate ways as the only solution. Yet, Van has so many wonderful qualities, and we’re compatible in many ways that I keep trying to figure out how we can both be fulfilled during our Golden Years

  Traveling in Freedom seemed to be solving the problem in many ways, but with the New Year upon us, and going through the process of reevaluation, I could see that my needs weren’t being met. 

I need to stay in one place awhile, with electrical hookups, and an opportunity to get my writing organized, and my books marketed. With the generator problems, I hadn’t been able to do anything more than update our current travels. 

Finally, I discussed the matter with Van: first asking him about his earlier comment. He said, “This didn’t just happen. It is starting to come from at least five-years back. It’s been building up ever since you’ve been making comments about it.” 

And that was the total of the conversation on his part. The rest was up to my imagination, and my memory. So, I began looking back at these patterns, which I’ve written about in Knocking on Doors and Down the Tube with Him. Now, I continued evaluating our situation. We both liked Laughlin, and talked about returning there for the winter. But I dreaded parking in the free lots and having to run our generator for electricity in order to write. Often the computer had stopped, and I feared another power surge that would mean replacing our power supply, which had cost over $300.00 the last time we had to replace one. 

Van had said he’d consider getting some kind of work to enhance our income, if we stayed in Laughlin. And that’s the only interest he’s shown along these lines, so it seemed worth following.

A Meditation Message

One morning during my New Year’s meditation, an idea came to me: “Pay to stay at Riverside Casino’s RV Park for the allowed two weeks. You’ll have the hookup for electricity, and the availability to the free shuttles and outlet stores, plus the movies and other conveniences. Without traveling, you can easily afford the cost.

“During that time you can write, and also pursue the idea of presenting workshops on Changing Money Patterns. This will be a perfect place to get started. Then, when the weather improves elsewhere, you can travel as planned, and present your workshops and sell your books.”

I liked the idea, as I wanted to get back into presenting workshops, but the longer I was away from my chosen profession; the harder it was to return. So, I presented the idea to Van, and he said, “Okay.” Now we had a plan.

Chapter 15

THE “BIG 80” CELEBRATION

Trying to Visit Van’s Friend

It rained all the way from the desert, Indio, to the coast, San Diego’s North County. We stopped in Escondido in a deluge to look up Van’s friend, Jim Deaderick, and sat in the parking lot until the downpour cleared. This gave us time to comprehend the mystery of finding this elusive person, who had returned from Scottsdale, Arizona.

We’d called his last phone number in La Jolla, but they’d never heard of him. Van asked Information for a referral, and there was none. Now, we thought we’d arrive on his doorstep, but that plan was soon thwarted when we discovered his address was like ours, a postal outlet. 

Van dashed inside with a note in a sealed envelope, but they refused to take it, or even acknowledge that he had a box. Nor would they call and let him know we were there. All we could do was stamp the envelope, mail it, and wait for him to call Arlene’s with his new phone number. But Van didn’t do that, and now it was raining again. Frustration and disappointment seemed the emotions for the moment. 

No Welcome Mat

But, forgetting what lies behind, we moved forward. After all, our purpose for returning to the coast was to celebrate Arlene’s birthday; and our destination was the coast, so we forged ahead, as usual at commute time, until we reached Ralph’s parking lot. 

This time, after shopping, I asked if we could park there, and the answer from a different manager than Van had asked before Christmas, “No.” However, we could park by the recycle bin, and hope an officer wouldn’t knock on our door and tell us to leave. Great! I love that procedure; but we were tired, so took the chance.

Knock, knock, knock! Around midnight, I heard the pounding on the other two RV’s, so awaited his arrival. Seems there’d been a complaint recently, so we could no longer park there. But, we could park on the other side, by the office buildings.

Take as long as you need to move — seven hours is okay.” Then he asked, “How long are you staying?”

“Just tonight,” I replied. “We’re going to my mother’s “Big 80” Birthday Celebration tomorrow; then we’re leaving town.”

“Okay, go ahead and stay here tonight,” he said, and wandered off to give his reprieve to the others.

Low-Grade Anxiety

I slept restless, and felt anxious the next morning as we prepared for the party; nothing specific, just a low-grade anxiety attack. These knocks on the door were taking their toll, but mostly I felt apprehensive about not blowing it for the birthday surprise party: when should we arrive? Would Arlene be there? What if we come too soon, and ruin the surprise? Maybe they’d get her out of the apartment on some pretense, like going to the cemetery to visit Dad’s grave; but it’s raining, that won’t work.

On and on it went. I’d keep telling myself: There’s nothing to worry about. Everything’s fine. It isn’t all up to you. Take it easy. Suddenly I remembered that I didn’t have any more film for my camcorder, so a mad dash to Costco must precede the party. Anxiety is such a pattern, that it’s only natural to find something to stress myself out over. If nothing else, the dilemma of what to wear would suffice. But this was solved by wearing the green silk outfit Gail had given me. That’s another thing: will Gail be there? I’m not up to dealing with her mood swings today. I have my own to handle.

The rain had stopped, and the ocean glistened in the noon sunshine as we passed the familiar route along the coast to Del Mar. I wondered who would be here for this big event. Of course, Gary, but the question is whether or not he recovered from his winter cold, and did he manage to pick up our brother, Larry, and his wife, Terry, at the airport? Would Larry be friendly, or surly? Several of his adult kids would be there, including Melinda and her family, who had moved to the Simi Valley, north of Los Angeles. These were Dad’s family. I just love these family get-togethers, though my own kids were too far away to attend, and probably didn’t know about it, unless Gail showed up. 

Arlene’s sister, Phyliss, who lives in the next apartment, planned and prepared the event, and her family all lived nearby, so they would be here. Somehow the two families never quite merged, though we’d had many gatherings over the years. Each tended to stay apart. Arlene’s son, Tom, who lived in Long Beach, was the friendliest. I hoped he would be there, but he has a restaurant, and often can’t leave. Surely he’ll be here for his mom’s 80th birthday celebration.  

  We’ll soon find out. Since I was wearing my non-walking shoes, Van left me off at the driveway and parked Freedom. I carried my package up the stairs, planning to say “It’s the plastic containers I’m returning,” in case Arlene was there. 

Surprise!

OOOOPS! There she is. Now what? I gave her a big hug, and she said, “I didn’t expect you back.” 

“Didn’t Gary tell you we were returning to pick up our mail?”

“No.” She looked mystified as she glanced around the room at all the people, and said, “Everyone just showed up.” I knew that was an explanation for the fact that I’d been asking her if she was going to have a “Big 80” Celebration, and she’d said, “No, I don’t want one.”

Seeing the balloons and streamers festively decorating the room, and the table loaded with goodies, I made a getaway to Phyliss’s to ask, “Does she know?”

“Yes, we had to tell her this morning when she caught us making a huge potato salad.”

“Whew! What a relief!” I sighed. “I’d wondered how you would be able to decorate, and set the table, because I knew you’d have it at her place.”

“We did it all after we told her.” 

Arlene wandered in still looking befuddled. “Are you mad at us?” I asked.

“No, not at all. I’m delighted to see everybody,” she said.

“The good part is that you don’t have to do anything, but show up, right.”

She smiled, and we chatted as she told me the story of how she’d caught them making the potato salad.

Throughout the day the various family members arrived, intermingled with the residents at the apartment house next door that Dad and Arlene owned, and Phyliss managed.

“From Those Who Love You”

Tom and his friend, Manny, arrived with a huge birthday sheetcake designed with a cryptogram that Arlene figured out to say: Happy Thirty-ninth Birthday from those who love you.” She loves crossword puzzles and cryptograms, so the idea was a hit.

During the evening, I called Dottie and Steve so they could be part of the festivities and wish Arlene “Happy Birthday.” They hadn’t known about the event, and were delighted to be included, and took advantage of the opportunity to wish Van a belated “Happy Birthday” too.

Family Reunion

Gary’s stepdaughter, Millie, arrived with her son, SaSan, and her daughter, Sara. I jumped up and gave them a big hug. We seldom see Millie and her family anymore. It’s too painful for them to be ignored by Gary, like the last time when he didn’t even speak to his own daughter, Valena Sue, who was in Chicago this time. He says it’s up to them, but he doesn’t make any effort, either. It’s a horrendous family problem, but he can’t help it, and that’s the way it is. 

I talked about it with Millie, and she said that she’d talked with her therapist about it. She’d explained that Gary, having been abandoned just after birth, and placed in an orphanage had left irreparable damage. I’m glad she understands, but I know that it doesn’t take away the pain.

There’s that Elephant, Again

So here was one family “elephant;” though we all talk about it and feel so bad for everyone involved. Again this time, Gary made no effort to talk with Millie. But she chatted with the various family members, and had a good time. 

Another “elephant” is the estrangement of Larry and his son, Brian, who had flown in that morning. They attend the same functions, but they don’t talk to each other. They are both strong-willed, opinionated individuals who don’t see eye-to-eye, especially over the fact that Brian refuses to marry the mother of his daughter. He does parent Natalie, but he has another gal friend, and is too self-centered to marry anyone at this time; typical of the Freeland men — self-centered. 

Now, here comes the big “elephant”: Everyone enjoys their booze, except for the ones who are abstaining for various reasons. But we don’t talk about it. I almost got blasted recently when I referred to one member of the family as an alcoholic. Oh well, at least I said it. There are more “elephants,” but I’m not brave enough to mention them, and it’s a matter of respect for the people involved.

“You Can’t Stay Here”

After the party, Millie and Tom returned to their homes, and we hitched a ride with Tom to Freedom, parked down the street — away from the area where the complaint had originated during our last visit. 

Yet, I still felt uneasy and in anticipation of the knock on the door saying, “You can’t stay here.” It’s so deeply connected to my feelings of not fitting in and not belonging. I think I’ll simply have to accept this aspect of myself as being part of me.

“God is Love”

One may question why I include this family gathering in my Travel Series. It’s because the love of family — for better or worse — is part of God’s Divine Plan, and I believe that families express the essential nature of oneness; of belonging. And it’s important for all families to return to the basic foundation that God is Love, God is All, therefore All is Love; and there is no way we cannot be in love. 

I’m writing this chapter for a definite reason, and that is to make note of the fact that Arlene, too, had always felt that we all (Dad’s family) only got together with her because she was married to him. The significant part of this “Big 80” party was that Arlene finally realized that everyone loves her because she’s Arlene, or Grammalene, as she calls herself. 

This was evidenced by the fact that we all showed up. And also by the cards and letters of acknowledgement for her wonderfulness, that she doesn’t recognize herself. The entire family honors her for her thoughtfulness and generosity, and for always feeding and nurturing us on all levels, and for her hospitality and willingness to take any of us in, and always find a place to stay. And especially for her love for Dad — Grandpa Barney to many in the family. I know he wasn’t an easy person to live with, but she loved him and was a good wife.

 

God Bless Arlene

Like I always say, “She deserves every penny she receives from his estate.” And yet, she generously helps us all out financially whenever appropriate. In fact, while we were there, she presented the checks from the gift she gave all of us kids — his and hers. So, even as she was receiving, she couldn’t help giving. And that makes her feel good, because that’s the kind of person she is — a good role-model and matriarch for our family — despite its dysfunctionalism. She gives us stability and nurturing in her own special way — with good meals and hospitality; and with financial aid. 

God Bless Arlene!

Chapter 17

“AND THIS IS HOW I AM!”

Fork in the Road

After the Big 80 celebration, it started raining, so we figured it’s time to move on. Once over the mountains, the rain stopped, and soon the clouds lifted. Before long, as we neared the desert, we were enjoying sunshine and weather in the 70’s. 

The first night we stayed at Wal-Mart’s parking lot in El Centro. The next morning we did our shopping there, and returned to Freedom for lunch, and were languishing in the warm sunshine, enjoying the stress-free location. We’d planned to move on to Yuma, but needed a dump site and a place to buy propane (the AmeriGas propane plant had been closed when we stopped the night before).

One Night Free

As I sat at the table working a crossword puzzle, a young, pleasant fellow stopped by the open window and held up a folded paper. “Would you like a free map of the Imperial Valley? It’s hot off the press, and courtesy of the Rio Bend RV Park.” He held up a pamphlet, and continued, “You can stay one night free, if you pay for one night.”

I opened the door and reached for the map and brochure. “How much does it cost for one night?” 

He said, “I’ll get you a price sheet,” and went to his car. He returned and handed it to me, saying, “It’s only $25.00 for two nights.” Then he showed me the directions on a small area map. By then Van had joined me, and studied the explanation for returning West seven miles.

We thanked him, and he went on his way to the next boondoggle — seven other RVers enjoying the warm desert sun on Wal-Mart’s parking lot.

I said to Van, “What do you think? Want to check it out, or are you ready to move on?”

He looked out at the sunshine, and said, “Oh, I dunno, what do you think?”

“Oh, I’m not in any hurry. Let’s go. We can take care of the dump, propane, and laundry while there. And it would be nice to enjoy the luxury of a full hookup; and they even have a swimming pool, which would be enjoyable in this warm weather.”

“Okay, let’s go,” Van said. 

This Will Work!

We backtracked the seven miles, found the oasis in the desert, loaded propane, and settled in for the next two days. Van hooked us up, including cable TV, and pulled out our awning. I fixed leftover turkey soup (carcass frozen from Christmas and cooked while at Ar’s) for dinner, and we then settled down to watch clear TV. Nice!

That night there were no roaring trucks, no parking lot cleaning, and no security knocking on our doors. Our electric blankets didn’t turn off during the night from the generator running out. I felt safe, secure and peaceful. Truly luxury living. I could live with this just fine.

The first day we concentrated on the convenience of doing our laundry in their brand new appliances while basking in the sun between loads, and watching the swimmers and sunbathers at the nearby pool. Van even took advantage of their showers next to the laundry room. He’d already done some projects in Freedom that morning while I wrote on my computer.

I could feel the culmination of a transformation taking place; as if this Rio Bend RV Park in El Centro, California were a turning point, as well as a new beginning this second week in January.

The second day, before checkout time, I enjoyed a swim and Jacuzzi in the warm sunshine, while Van luxuriated in another shower in their full-size facility — much larger than our 6 gallon water heater. Afterward, I too showered, and then returned to Freedom. Van was already disconnecting from the hookups, and we were soon on the road again.

He too appreciated the full-hookup benefits, and I knew God was preparing us for the next stage of our journey — inner and outer.

East to Yuma

I’d been praying and meditating about my ministry and writing; asking for guidance. I wanted to be able to write, uninterrupted by generator failure in the middle of a thought that hadn’t yet reached the “save button.” I also wanted to be warm all night, and I wanted to have availability to fun and conveniences. Laughlin met all of my criteria; and Van agreed that he’d like to stay there, until we moved on in the spring. He’d even said he was willing to consider a job possibility. Whew! Miracles are happening.

So, with Laughlin as our destination, we headed east to Yuma under warm, sunny skies. The Rest Stop in the golden sand dunes served as our lunch break. What a cacophony of activity: dune buggies, with their jaunty ball atop an antenna, warned others of their presence as they swished up-and-down over the dunes.

Highway patrol officers were questioning single, young men as to their activities — concerned about drug dealing. An array of vehicles were lined up for water, in this oasis of one spigot, to return to their dry-camps all over the desert and dunes. A young Negro wandered aimlessly from car-to-car looking for a ride; and somehow passing the officers scrutiny. Cars and RV’s came and went, as the folks welcomed the facilities — several chemical toilets. But the highlight was a racehorse being freed from his trailer and walked around the area, after having its drink of water.

This is truly desert country with an abundance of red-topped ocotillos, palo verde (green stick) with their green bark and sharp points, and chollo (the furry looking plants that are actually sharp quills; not unlike a porcupine) breaking the tediousness of the dry, flat landscape; but always the distant mountains added their relief along the horizon. 

“I’ll Have the 99-cent Special”

Finally, crossing the Colorado River, at the California-Arizona border, brought us into Yuma. We’d seen a Dairy Queen commercial for a $.99 special, so with great anticipation we belly-upped to the bar and made our request. “That special ended yesterday,” the snippy clerk announced. 

“But we just saw it yesterday,” I complained.

“Nope, it’s good Tuesday through Thursday.”

“Well, does that mean it’ll be available again on Tuesday?”

“Nope. There’ll be a different special.”

Disappointed, Joanie mumbled. “Okay, I’ll have a Buster-bar.” She chomped onto her hard-frozen ice cream with peanuts and chocolate confection, and stomped out the door. “Phooey,” she snarled as she climbed into Freedom. Little Ralph didn’t even order anything. “I’ll have some of our ice cream when we get to the Wal-Mart parking lot.” And he did too.

Carnival at Quartzsite

The next day, driving north, we passed through Quartzsite, Arizona. Carnival atmosphere is the only definition that does it justice, if you add State Fair and Flea Market. Renaissance Fair is more descriptive, but the truth is that Quartzsite has its own reality. Anyone who has been there needs no other definition.

After the mesmerization of desert travel on a state highway for several hours, the sudden congestion and high energies of thousands of RVers converging into this otherwise tiny town is overwhelming. Squeezed side-by-side for miles, vendors sell their wares; everything from health products and crafts to the tantalizing aromas of cooking tease the senses — even as we inched along the main street in Freedom. Even Burger King and Wendy’s had permanent miniature stands to collect their share of the money transference.

In addition to the vendors, the phenomenon of RVers stretches in all directions — north, south, east and west with thousands dry-camped wherever they can find space. My brother, Gary, has talked about this place for years, and even said he’d be here later this winter, and to look him up. Right! Like how would you find anybody in this mayhem? It’s mind-boggling to experience, and even more of a mind-stretch to imagine my loner brother participating; let alone expecting us to find him. No thanks. Onward to Laughlin.

“Are You With me; or Against Me?

However, after we stopped at Flying J, a few miles down the road (in Ehrenberg), we retraced familiar landmarks. This time we would turn-off toward Kingman, Arizona, following my meditation guidance to meet the minister and discuss possibilities of doing my Changing Money Patterns workshops. 

I’d been contemplating my plans, as we traveled across the desert, and now I was all business. As we passed Parker, I began talking to Van about plans.

“You recently gave me a short dissertation in which you concluded, “That’s how I am; that’s how I think; that’s how I tend to be. And I stated that it’s not how I am. Since then I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the conversation, and this seems like a good time to discuss the results.

“Every time I’ve asked you what you want to do, you say it’s up to me, so I’ve decided to go with it. Is this a good time to talk about it?”

Looking apprehensive, and negotiating the turns along the Colorado River route, he said, “Go ahead.” 

“Okay, so I’d like to stay at the Riverside Casino RV Park where we have full hookups and all the conveniences that we’ve checked into last time. I’ll be able to catch up on my writing, and maybe do some workshops. You said you’d like to stay here awhile, and we can have some fun too.”

Van kept driving and I kept talking:

“Then when the weather clears, we can head East, and start our next round of travel: central and eastern Texas, Branson, Mo., see Michael Martin in Tennessee, do The Carolinas and maybe see Christina in Kentucky. Then head north to Wisconsin and visit Dan Mueller. By then we’ll be ready to see Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills in South Dakota, and visit Tom and Joan in Wyoming. This would bring us to Colorado in time for Labor Day and Dottie’s birthday in September. How does it sound so far?”

“Sounds good to me.”

Now I approached the touchy subject — money: “I thought it was a good idea to invest my inheritance from Dad in Freedom, but I’m concerned about the depreciation factor. So, I’m thinking that we may want to sell it, and buy something newer and smaller. Then we can consider whether to stay in Colorado and rent an apartment, or we may even want a place in Laughlin. What do you think?”

“We may want to.”

“Since I have a fifty-percent investment in Freedom, I’d like for us to see a lawyer about its disposition if we should decide to end our relationship for some reason.” I could sense him tighten, so I added, “I know you feel this is a Trust Factor, and shouldn’t be necessary, but, I’ve watched a number of my friends devastated by a supposedly permanent relationship that went bad, so I want to safeguard my investment and my security. It’s simply a matter of good business sense based on maturity and responsibility.”

“Okay. Sounds good to me.”

I couldn’t believe I’d said all this. I hadn’t been planning this conversation, but it happened, and I felt relief; and I also felt proud of myself for such an adult approach. Indeed, transformation was happening. This must be the year. I could hardly wait to see what else would occur.

“No Overnight Parking”

By this time we had passed Lake Havasu aflame with the red sunset and the pink clouds reflecting on the mountains. It had turned dark as we drove east toward Kingman on I-40, but we found the Wal-Mart and prepared to settle down for the night, until Van noticed the sign that said: No overnight parking. 

“Wow! That’s a first,” I said in shock. Now what?

“What do you suggest?”

“How about you ask them what’s going on. Explain that we’ve never had that happen at a Wal-Mart.”

I walked inside with Van and selected a few needed items. He returned and announced with a smile, “It’s okay. That’s for people who set up camp for a month or so.”

“Good Heavens, I’d never think of such a thing. But I guess there are always those who take advantage of a situation.” We settled down for the night.

Minister or Clown?

I’d called the Unity church, and learned from the answering machine that services started at 10:00 a.m. Van got directions from a helpful door greeter, and we arrived at the parking lot. While Van maneuvered to park, a pleasant sixty-something lady, in a pink designer pant suit and matching pink hair greeted me. I asked, “Are you the minister?”

She held out her hand and said, “Yes, I’m the spiritual leader. I’m Dottie Hannah.” We chatted while walking inside the DAV building (rented for the Sunday service), and I learned that she drives the two-hours each way every week from Las Vegas. “It was a temporary arrangement — twenty-one years ago,” she explained with a laugh and a twinkle in her eye.

Although there were only about 8 — 10 in attendance, Dottie launched into an informal and inspiring presentation on the subject of Enthusiasm. Her bubbly personality and quick humor reminded me of an old saying, “Be careful how you live your life, you may be the only Bible your neighbor reads.”

Dottie told the friendly congregation that she was happy to be back from Colorado, where she’d given the memorial service for her daughter-in-law. But despite the sad occasion, she’d kept it upbeat with some humor, which she shared with us from a well-marked Bible from which she held up a picture of a laughing Jesus that she’d shared at the funeral.

With sincerity and casualness she shared stories and inspiration emphasizing her topic, and we added the laughter. Finally, while still talking, she began to unfold some piles that were lying on the table. She explained about her clown hobby, as she took off her jacket and pink shoes, and began to put on a long hot pink gown with shades of pink lace all down the sleeves and around the leg cuffs. She talked about clowning as she placed a pinkish frou-frou on her pink pompadour hair, and smeared some pink coloring on her cheeks. All this, her visual aide for Enthusiasm, enhanced her topic.

I thought, God guided me here to experience Dottie’s casual approach of just being herself. She’s a perfect role-model for my style of presentation. As Dottie talked about giving life the “light touch,” I understood that I too must use the lighten-up in my workshops. 

 

It’s Time to Get This Show on the Road”

After the service, I stayed for an hour of fellowship with the friendly group, and I felt motivated and inspired to get my show on the road. 

The first step was hooking up at the Riverside RV Park in Laughlin. I’d been apprehensive about several factors listed in the Trailer Life directory: 48 hour reservations and 14 day maximum stay. While stopping for a hamburger, I called the 1-800# and learned that neither was required. The phone receptionist said, “Just drive in and stay as long as you want. And the price includes cable TV, a free shuttle to the casino every 20 minutes, free mail and message service, a laundry and showers.” 

Yes! This works. It’s my kind of place. This is “how I am; how I think; and how I tend to be.”

And the best part is that, when we arrived, Van happily hooked up and enjoyed the luxury and conveniences too.

Chapter 17

LIFE CAN BE FUN!

A Daily Routine of Fun

Having taken the first steps of getting hooked up, and established in our upgraded lifestyle at the Riverside RV Park, life took on a pleasurable balance of daily living and fun. Actually even our daily living was fun with our view overlooking the Colorado River and desert and mountains, plus our jaunts through the casinos and along the Riverwalk.

A basic routine evolved: a balance between ministry, family, and fun that was working quite nicely for getting things done and giving me satisfaction and accomplishment, in addition to enjoying the bounties of life in Laughlin. 

“What Fun Shall we Have Today?

I took advantage of Van’s morning routine, which requires several hours, to handle my creative writing as well as my personal and ministry writing. Then, after he’d completed his various daily projects, we would handle our togetherness plans. Sometimes this meant walking to Riverside to the post office, or to the RV office. Other times we took off to the movies, or for our daily treats. 

Super Bowl Sunday

On Super Bowl Sunday (1998) as we awaited the Big Game between the Denver Broncos (our Colorado family’s team) and the Green Bay Packers, I completed my priority projects, and then came to a stopping place.

I made a potato salad for our snacking, along with cheese and crackers. I’d wondered if we should go to the casino and get hot dogs, but decided that would be off-purpose for this day. Instead, we created our own Super Bowl Party with my homemade nachos.

With the food handled, Van settled down to watch the game, which was important for Little Ralph’s enjoyment. I busied myself on the computer, but kept close tabs on the Bronco’s progress. I delighted to watch their inevitable triumph, as the game played out. Of course, I always see the human interest aspect, and noted several important facets that apply to this book. 

Number One is their team spirit of oneness, and their desire to win for their hometown fans, as well as for sentimental favorite, John Elway, to wear the Super Bowl ring. The Colorado spirit and support, too, is a big factor.

Number Two is the change in John Elway from an egotistical, arrogant player to a team player with humility. Van told me that at one time John had explained that he knew he needed to change, but he didn’t know how. Somehow, time, along with the support of his wife, kids, and father brought about his desired change. Of course, his “desire” and willingness were necessary too. Now, he wanted to win for his team and for his fans. Yeah Elway!

Number Three is Terrel Davis, the San Diego hometown boy returning to win the championship, not only to bring honor to his team and his hometown, but for his mother too. Interviews with them impressed the closeness of this important relationship in his life.

Despite Terrel’s migraine, he kept going, and he made the difference that brought about victory. His attitude and actions won him the Most Valuable Player award. 

Usually I’m not interested in sports, but this game offered actions and inspiration that one expects in the word sport. Finally, we have some top role-models worthy of the term idols. Perhaps the world is beginning to turn-around, after all. It was an inspiring game to watch, but the personal lives of these two players added the something extra.

When it’s Over, it’s Over

The results of that game are history, as the Broncos won, and John Elway got his Super Bowl ring, and the Colorado fans got a high.

Before the game, Van had been tempted to go to one of the casinos to watch on their big screen, but chose to stay home. So afterward we walked through Riverside and Flamingo’s Sports Book Rooms, where the bets are placed for horses, dog races and sports, hoping to get in on some of the high energies. Everyone had left, and only a few stragglers came up to the counter to collect their winnings, or complain when learning that they lost. But the energies were still charged from all the excitement. 

Yet, in other parts of the casino life was going on as usual. This is a place that loudly proclaims: when it’s over it’s over!

We agreed, and as we walked home I asked Little Ralph, “Are you glad we came down to the Sports Book Rooms?”

He smiled and nodded with a look of satisfaction on his face. I knew this had been an important day for Little Ralph to be able to enjoy the fun of normal boy-man activity, even if watched alone; and to experience the energies of the casino, where the group participation had been shared.

“I do Believe in You”

I’d been focusing on the wonders of life when lived at-one-with-God, so when I turned the page of my Daily Word, I laughed aloud as I read: Dear God, I do believe in you. I felt like I was in a time-warp, and God was speaking directly to me. The feeling intensified when I was discussing these words with Van while listening to a tape of Mantovani’s music. Again, I laughed when I remembered the words to an old tune, Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life. It says, All the longing, seeking, searching; at last I’ve found thee. They just don’t write songs like that anymore. 

Yes, life is God’s orchestration, and we don’t have to search any further to be entertained with magic, illusion and extravaganzas. 

Despite all this inner splendor, I still enjoy the outer pleasures, and wanted to attend Harrah’s live entertainment, Golden Girls, a musical production with all the gals over fifty. We saw two of them in their golden military-type costumes, and they didn’t look or act a day beyond their twenties. 

I’d been praying for a coupon so we could see the production for half-price. One day I picked up a free local newspaper, and began laughing. Inside was a free coupon for the show when you pay for one. Talk about God as our instant, constant, abundant supply!

Little Ralph decided to use the coupons to treat his mom to the show, when she returned for our March rendezvous.

God’s Extravaganza

That evening we headed out to the Gold River Casino for strawberry shortcake. Between the shuttles, and walking, we’d arrived at sunset for more of God’s extravaganza.

Suspended in time, above the Colorado River, we paused longer than usual as we stood on the garage rooftop and marveled at the panoramic sunset: to the north, where Freedom parked, the sun had already set and the hills were basked in a gray shadow. But directly east, beyond the river and foothills, the pink hues reflected across the jagged mountain peaks. The clouds to the south looked like a pastel golden watercolor painting as the Paddlewheel riverboat made its way down river, turned around and returned. We could hear the music from on board when it came within earshot, and it added a crescendo to the blazing orange flame clouds above the western hills reminding me of a similar scene emblazoned above the Rocky Mountains.

Then, as now, I felt God’s presence, and knew that the presence of God manifests in all His creation, whether within us, or all around us. I felt a deep sense of peace as I witnessed God’s beauty, and became aware of His everywhere presence. And I recognized that my search, on life’s journey, had not been about me, but for an awareness of God, Who was there all the time. 

For Others, Life Goes On

As the paddlewheel cruised by, the staccato yelps of a barking dog, across the river — in Arizona — brought our attention to the riverside scene: an almost vacant parking lot with three trailers hidden from the highway by tall trees, private homes hugging the riverbank access to water sports, and businesses spread along the highway. The flashing lights of a police car reminded us that for others life is going on oblivious to the glory in the skies around them. 

Casino workers too, rushing from the parking lot to the elevator, never looked up. And one young fellow, leaving the building, got into his car and blasted the tranquility with his loud stereo playing inane music. What a juxtapose to the otherwise serene setting.

Finally, tearing ourselves away from the last flourish of fading color, we took the elevator to the ground floor, and walked to the casino. Our mission: a piece of giant strawberry shortcake.

Strawberry Shortcake and the X Generation

As we savored the last bites, I’d been watching an “X Generation” father, with his four-year-old son, eating hamburgers and sharing a coke. Another senior lady and I watched in grandmotherly amazement, as the hungry lad devoured his sandwich quicker than his dad. She said, “He sure wolfed that down fast!”

“Yeah, he gets that from me,” the proud young father remarked, as he offered his son a sip of Coke. 

I thought to myself, “In my day, we wouldn’t think of giving a child caffeine-laden Coke.” But Joanie said, “Let’s go to the Flamingo’s restaurant and have a $1.99 hamburger and fries.”

Little Ralph’s eyes opened wide, and he stopped mid-bite. The furthest thing from his mind was another goodie. 

“Well, this is dessert. Don’t you want something else?” Joanie prodded.

“Probably,” he said, after putting the bite in his mouth.

“So, instead of snacking when you get home, you can fill-up on a hamburger and fries. We can share one, if you like.”

“Okay,” he mumbled between spoonful’s of the sweet treat.

Watching the little boy eating the garnish that he’d forgotten to put in his hamburger, Joanie asked, “Are you sure you want to share? I think I could eat a whole one, how about you?”

He looked up, “Sure!”

The Line was Too Long!

The shuttle bus waited when we left the Gold River Casino, so we rode to the mall, and walked across the street to the Flamingo, with its flashing pink logo. The line to the diner, where we were, was fairly short, but the one to the buffet snaked through the casino floor. While we ate, a diabetic actually passed out during the wait, and the waiters rushed two glasses of orange juice to the victim, now prone in the line.

“Too bad,” Joanie said, “he was almost there. I’m sure glad we came in to the diner. How’s your hamburger?”

Little Ralph happily munched away, “Good,” he replied. 

By the time we finished, there was nothing left but a few French fries, which we took with us to cover with chili, at a later time. 

Walking along the starlit River Walk, Joanie asked, “Aren’t you glad we ate?” 

“Good idea,” he said.

 

Mardi Gras at The Riverside

We arrived at the Riverside casino in time for the Mardi Gras parade with its festive New Orleans music and the “king” and “queen” tossing out bead necklaces and fake gold coins. I’d already gotten mine the night before, so we walked on to the drawing drum, where Van put in our tickets.

The crowds gathered for the big drawing, and we waited as the congestion grew. The security guards were desperately trying to make a passageway, but with very little success, as angry seniors pushed and shoved to get through. One lady was in a panic, as she attempted to get to her departing bus. I’m not sure she made it.

The king, now became the announcer, and was blithely going through his antics midst all the chaos. After all, he had an audience waiting to hear if they won the $500.00, plus an opportunity for the weekly drawing for a trip to Germany. No wonder there was such pandemonium.

Van had made it to the other side of the doorway into the main casino, but I was backed against the slots in the narrow walkway, and the lady next to me complained that she couldn’t see, “I’ve been here since 7:30.”

Finally, at the designated 8:00 magic time, the king drew out the two names — one blue ticket (men) and one pink (women) — for the daily winner. Happy voices from the crowd shouted their presence, and the festivities continued. But we left. The high energies of so many people were too disquieting to my serenity. I enjoyed the fun, but the confusion and anger were verging onto riot conditions, surprising amongst this older group, but nevertheless true: mostly due to the few who had been mixing drink and gambling. Their addictions had kicked in, and took away from the joy of the others, who were trying to have a good time.

Once outside, we breathed the fresh air, as the shuttle approached and then deposited us at our front door.

From inside Freedom, we looked at the peaceful night scene with the towering casinos, and were happy to be in our home. Sometimes the greatest joy is simply enjoying what you already have.

A Bountiful Harvest

One morning we celebrated life by going out for our first buffet, a delicious breakfast for only $1.77 each, at Gold River. I said to Van, “Talk about a bountiful harvest. This is it.”

Little Ralph and Joanie were in glory as we enjoyed the personally prepared omelets made to our specifications, and selected from an array of the usual breakfast items, plus fruits, cereals, muffins, croissants, cinnamon rolls, and even frozen yogurt with toppings.

Afterward, while walking to the Ramada Express, I said, “You know, I think it was even more enjoyable, because we haven’t been overindulging in food. We’ve been here two weeks, and this is our first buffet. I’m glad we’re balancing them out.”

Permission to Enjoy Life

Van agreed, but the kids were excited, because now they were going to another free forties movie, “Miracle at Morgan’s Creek,” with Betty Hutton and Eddie Bracken. I’d picked up more coupons at the Information Booth while waiting for the shuttle to breakfast. What a great lifestyle!

The interesting part about our current joy is that we’ve had to work hard to get to a place where we could give ourselves permission to enjoy it.

Both Van and I had subconscious feelings of not deserving, and it’s taken years to reach this place of recovery that we could be here enjoying this abundance. Of course, it’s been here all along, and others have been reaping the benefits, as evidenced by the hundreds of RVers who do this every year.

Chapter 18

IS THIS ALL THERE IS?

My Ultimate Purpose

And yet, I knew that Laughlin, and all this fun, was not the ultimate purpose or plan of my life. I would not feel the joy of fulfillment, if all I did was play. It was simply a necessary and enjoyable balance in my life.

Nor was my inner awareness of God the completion. What I longed for was the satisfaction of knowing that my life’s efforts, my writing, were reaching others and giving them peace, joy, and fulfillment too. This had been my motivation for over thirty years, and I longed to see it happen, as I listened for God’s guidance, and followed where it lead me.

Seeing the Potential Already at Hand

Once my Christmas “thank yous” were completed and mailed, I continued writing to Freedomers, as part of my ministry-by-mail outreach. But I began feeling closed-in by the shelves I’d had Van place on the opposite seat of my computer table, which blocked off the front of the coach. Now, in order to open up the space, we moved the shelf alongside the bed, but discovered that only the top shelf was usable; the others were below the bed. This wouldn’t work, but I knew there was a solution. 

Van’s engineering mind concluded that it would fit sideways on the computer table. In fact, I could finally use the lower shelves that had been inaccessible. This covered the side windows, but now I could see out the front ones, and the entire coach was now opened up. I could sit at my computer and look out the front window, beyond the casinos, across the river, and even beyond the mountains to blue sky and sunshine. 

Somehow, this simple act of changing the shelves seemed to culminate the lesson of seeing the potential already at hand. My life now seemed unlimited. What had seemed impossible, now seemed possible; even as finding a way to rearrange the shelves, in this limited space, had seemed limited; there was a way.

I knew that God had been giving me opportunities through my life experiences to learn and grow: to overcome my past history, and to live an expanded life; beginning now, in the Present Moment, and recognizing the abundance already available.

An Expanded Life

With this new outlook and open space, I felt so enthusiastic that I decided to finish writing Changing Money Patterns, while we were hooked up to this unlimited supply of electricity. 

It’s a book that I’d been living with and working on for over ten years, yet when I started looking through the computer files, I realized that it was never actually compiled into one book. 

Much to my amazement, I was Guided from one file to another; from a chapter here, to a paragraph there; and a sentence taken from one place, and added to another someplace else. I was dizzy, while the book writing process continued.

It felt as if I was not writing the book, but it was going together, as if by magic. Within a week, it was finished, so I printed it out and sent it to Dottie for editing.

Because I’d taken material from Down the Tube with Him, I knew that I must immediately work on that book, or I would forget what I’d done in the above-mentioned whirlwind activity. So I finished revising that book, and printed it out, and mailed it too. 

All the time, I basked in the joy of the full electrical hookup, and the new open view in Freedom; and I reveled in the ease of writing, as every word and action was being God-guided. 

Once these two books were completed and mailed, I asked Van if he’d be willing to help change the format of Chapter One, of Changing Money Patterns, into a booklet titled It’s Time to Say ‘No’ to Habits, Patterns and Addictions, which I could give as a handout. He’d been feeling so much better during this time that he agreed. And another project was completed easily and joyously.

With all this renewed energy, I decided to take advantage of staying in one place by compiling the first book in this Travel Series from the filed chapters into a book format.

I realized that perhaps Book One and Book Two needed to be somewhat revised. In order to know where one appropriately ended, and the other began, I needed to Outline both books; a task I usually avoid. But, much to my delight, the natural progression evolved, and so did the thesis for each. Until now, I’d been writing chapters as we traveled, without much attention to proper writing style. “Write it bad, just get it written,” is the guideline for this type of writing.

Yet, with very little effort, and still being Guided, the two books were separated, and the logical format established. Now, I had two more books ready for Dottie.

A Visual Aide of Oneness

As a conclusion to this book, I’m Guided to share an experience during a meditation in which God had given me a visual aide of Oneness. He had flashed before my eyes the cocktail ring I’d inherited from my grandmother, and which had been passed along by my dad, after his death in February 1996. 

I was told that the large center champagne diamond symbolizes God, the Father. And each of the two smaller diamonds represent Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The twelve diamond chips represent the Twelve Apostles. And the four diamond chips around the center champagne diamond represent Van-Little Ralph; Joyanna-Joanie. The totality of the circled ring represents Oneness. In other words: God-Jesus-Holy Spirit-Van-Little Ralph-Joyanna-Joanie=One.

This illustration, as it was given to me then, was given again, while completing this book, as a visual aide to share with you to help understand the concept of Oneness with God. Only this time everyone and everything was included in the circle of Oneness, with the explanation: “There is no separation; all is One.”    

THE SACRED MOMENT: NOW

 

Every ending leads to a new beginning, and both are contained within the Sacred Moment of Now. For within this moment is the Presence of God; and God is All.

The big word that describes this phenomenon, omnipresence, means that God is within, as, and through all. There is no separation from God. Therefore, whatever God is we are: I AM ONE. These can be just words until we reach the place in consciousness when we get the great “AHA.” It becomes real to us, and we realize I AM ONE WITH GOD. 

Once that happens, everything else I’ve said is transcended. It’s a shortcut. But it’s been my experience that most of us can’t get there from here. There is a process involved. The psychiatrist, Carl Jung, describes this process as uncovering the piles of accumulated negativity; much like a cat’s buried deposits. And we all have lots of work before us; some more than others, depending on how much has collected, or been exposed and transformed into positive and productive energy for good. 

Jung says that once we have completed this purification process, much like a spiraling vortex, we enter through the opening of the soul. And this is the place of recognition of at-one-ment. Sometimes we have inward glimpses, but as we’re spiraling through this cyclical process, we find ourselves seemingly going through the same issues again. But fret not, because we are at a different level of purification.

Then comes the day when we say: “It is done! Enough already. I was never separate from my Oneness. The time is now. I AM ONE.

I’ve been cycling through this process, and again I’m at that place of realization. It’s easy to know, because everything I’m reading is reminding me. And even my experiences confirm this reality.