Changing Money Patterns
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Our 35 ft. Holiday Rambler, Travel Series books, Joanie and Little Ralph, Changing Money Patterns
Money Lessons, at the slots, while spending four days at Harrah’s Hotel-Casino with Van’s Mom.
CHAPTER 1 Life Can be Fun!
Luxury of Riverside Full Hookup RV Park: Electricity, Cable TV, Fun, Food, Writing, Business
CHAPTER 2 Is This All There Is?
Moving on, Shopping, Burger King, Avi, Gold River,Olympics Closing Celebration, More Fun and Food
CHAPTER 3 Money Matters
Living within income, Spending Plan, Keeping Numbers, God is the Source, but family helps out, new money patterns and new attitudes, Still Having Fun
CHAPTER 4 The Big Storm
Bible quote, Abundance Here and Now, New World of Possibilities, “Dear God, I Believe, Oneness, Ultimate Purpose
CHAPTER 5 Home is Where the Heart Is
CHAPTER 6 “Ashes To Ashes And Dust To Dust”
Vietnam War Memorial, Steve’s Personal Vietnam Story
CHAPTER 7 “The Fields Are Already White With Harvest”
CHAPTER 8 Reaching Out as Love
Van and Joyanna’s Love Concepts,Parent Love Concepts, Love Pattern Changes
CHAPTER 9 Since We’re Neighbors, Let’s be Friends
More Socialable. Joanie and Little Ralph–Fun!
For the past year, my husband, Van, and I had been traveling in our 35 ft. Holiday Rambler RV, we named Freedom; purchased in a February snowstorm in Lakewood, Colorado, from our son-in-law, Steve, who sold RV’s for a dealership.
Now, we were wintering at Laughlin, Nevada, a gambling resort along the Colorado River, and our inner kids, Joanie and Little Ralph, were having fun at the casinos; not gambling, but enjoying the buffets and entertainment; and we’d been walking along the Riverwalk and riding the free shuttles, and seeing God’s wonders in the scenery and sunsets. But, in order to attend some live shows and otherwise increase our entertainment spending, we must eliminate the monthly cost of parking in the reasonably priced casino RV Park and move to the free parking lots at the Gold River Casino. In the meantime, we had fun.
The opportunity for us, this time in Laughlin, became Changing Money Patterns (the title of a book I’d written in the past, but an ongoing challenge), and also changing attitudes. What better place for God to give us these lessons than a gambling resort, with all its temptations to succumb to whatever addiction may beckon, such as money disorders, which is ours; a disease-type symptom resulting from childhood issues. So Joanie and Little Ralph are now learning that life is more than fun; it’s also taking responsibility for money matters, and learning to live harmoniously with each other, as well as in the community, and the world.
I’d already finishedBook One Home on the Road: The Beginning, the adventures of our first trip in our home-on-wheels, when we journeyed to Oregon, California and Washington visiting family and friends.As we traveled, God gave us experiences about its main theme, living in the Present Moment, which at times were challenging, but memorable. And Book Two, Home on the Road:Moving on, about our travels to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California had taken their place in our memories.
During the upcoming month, I would be writing Book Three in my Travel Series, Home on the Road: Wintering in Nevada (WIN), aboutchanging patterns,while living on our Social Security retirement in Laughlin, a gambling resort town along the Colorado River.And Iwould be printing out several of my past creations, based on my ministry-by-mail with Freedomers (inmates seeking inner freedom). And I would be updating books about our respective recovery programs: mine from codependency and Van’s from underearning; both resulting from the patterns that evolved from living in our dysfunctional families. In addition, we were both working to heal our inner kids, Joanie and Little Ralph, who were now enjoying life as RVers.
But, for now, we were staying put in Laughlin for most of January, February and March, until the El Nino weather settled down, so this would be about our inner journey, as we change money patterns while having fun at the gambling town of Laughlin, on the Colorado River.
Now, I must hasten to add that we always travel “as Spirit guides us,” and we’ve been strongly guided toward following the above itinerary. However, it is always subject to change without notice as we receive Updated Instructions from our Inner Tour Guide.
THE UNINTERRUPTED STREAM
The following chapter was excerpted from “On the Road,” when it originally occurred, and placed here, because the Money Lessons seemed to fit into this format. The events actually took place a month before this book begins.
“Prosperity flows through me as an uninterrupted stream, eliminating everything that is unlike it.” This affirmation came to life during my Magnificent Expression program in Colorado, and surfaced again as I sat at the Second Chance Pokerslot with a bucketful of quarter-rolls.
It’s become a tradition to meet Betty, Ralph’s mom, at Harrah’s Casino in Laughlin, Nv., a gambling resort overlooking the Colorado River and barren jagged mountains in this desert setting, the week before Christmas. So we parked Freedom in the free parking lot, and then checked into our room, as Betty’s guest, for four days at Harrah’s Hotel-Casino.
When on my own, I seldom gamble, and then I only play the nickel-slots, and go through my $2.00 roll in record time. But as Betty’s guest, she enjoyed my company at the quarter slots, and advanced the additional playing money as a bonus (Ralph doesn’t gamble).
“Be sure you use the five-quarter-limit,” Ralph’s mother said, “and let me know when you need more.” Talk about “Unlimited Supply.” Now, with Betty’s generosity, I felt I could forget all sense of limitation and simply enjoy playing the game. I eyed a poker game machine, and plunked in five quarters, as it played a pleasant welcoming tune. Nice. These computerized slots make it so easy to spend money, but complicated to understand. Every time I pressed deal, I got a new hand before I could play.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
Ralph, who stood nearby, explained, “You don’t need to press deal, it automatically deals your first hand.”
“How convenient!” I began playing my cards, and soon the Second Chance program kicked-in. While Ralph explained that I now had another opportunity to win with five more quarters, the indicator erased and flashed “Game Over.” Betty looked over and explained, “You have to move fast, because it’s timed to start a new game if you don’t add the quarters.”
I’d now wasted several dollars while learning this computerized version of slots, and voiced my concern. But Betty reassured me “Don’t worry about it. It’s part of gambling. You have to spend money to win money. There are losing cycles and win cycles, so just play through till you win.” Whew! What a concept.
I could feel myself letting go the guilt and fear of spending, and the “bad girl” concepts, as I adjusted to the idea of unlimited supply. Now I could simply play and enjoy the game.
“Life’s like that,” I thought. I know that God is Infinite Supply, and there’s an “Uninterrupted Stream” always available. It’s up to us to tap into it. So what’s in the way of my doing that?” I continued asking myself that question during the three days at Laughlin.
Ralph’s visit with his mom took place during mealtimes, where another Uninterrupted Stream lesson unfolded. Betty pays $7.00 for two sets of Keno cards with her predetermined numbers. She plays every game — win or lose — until she’s finished her meal and visit. Some meals were no win, and she played with as much gusto as if winning. “That’s gambling,” she says, “stay through the cycles, and keep your winnings separate.” She had a set amount for gambling, and then enjoyed the games.
Win Some; Lose Some
I’d been watching the Keno numbers each meal, but my favorite hadn’t appeared, so I waited. Finally, the third day produced a run of my numbers, so I ventured my play money using the grouping method. Sure enough, I won a small amount each game. Betty, on the other hand, played through several meals without a win, but finally won more than she’d lost. I kept asking myself. “There’s a lesson to be learned here, but what is it?”
Several times my casino bucket reached bottom, and Betty filled it with more quarter-rolls. On my winning-day we sat at a table-top slot while waiting for Ralph, who had the bucket-of-money. Betty reached over and put a $20.00 bill into the machine. Oh, this new-fangled gambling. All you do is press the buttons, and play until your credits are used. Your hands don’t even get dirty from the coins.
The Sound of 240 Quarters
Earlier I’d watched someone win three 7’s, and I’d said, “I’d just like to see what it’s like to do that on my machine. Now, as I complained about “never winning,” I looked in amazement at the three 7’s on my machine — 240 quarters!
When Ralph arrived, we gleefully shared the news. Betty announced her bedtime, so I pushed the cash-out button and listened to the sound of 240 quarters in my tray this time. Such a good sound!
Tapping the Uninterrupted Stream
My consciousness of the Uninterrupted Stream of Infinite Supply had been tapped. But our four days soon ended, and we drove to San Diego County to spend the holidays with my family in California, before returning to Laughlin. At this time, my stepmother gave me the second (of three) checks, as part of the legacy from my dad’s estate. This inheritance had made possible our current lifestyle, on the road, in the flow of the Uninterrupted Stream.
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, with our view overlooking the Colorado River, 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?
Each day, 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 Casino 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 Greenbay 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, since this is the home team of our Colorado family. 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 teammate 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 action 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, its 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. However, everyone had left, and only a few stragglers came up to the counter to collect their winnings, or complain when learning that they had 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.
Strawberry Shortcake and the X Generation
One day, as we savored the last bites of our $1.00 strawberry shortcake at the Gold River Casino, 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 amusement, 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 watching them enjoy their repast, 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 spoonfuls of the sweet treat.
Watching the little boy eating the garnish that he’d forgotten to put in his hamburger, Joanie asked Little Ralph, “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 awaited 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 who 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, as she said, “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 mixed drinking 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.
IS THIS ALL THERE IS?
I continued writing to my ministry-by-mail, but I began feeling closed-in by the shelves I’d had placed on the seat opposite my computer table. With Van’s effort, we moved it beside the bed, but discovered that only the top shelf was useable; the others were below the bed.
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, and my life too 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 my daughter, 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, since we had rearranged the book shelf, putting it along a window, rather than across the coach; and I reveled in the ease of writing, as every word and action was being 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.
Laughlin Can be Slippery
Laughlin is a gambling resort, and as such it has the energies associated with addictions. It can be extremely slippery for anyone in recovery from alcoholism, drugs, eating disorders or money disorders, which is my name for the outer effects of childhood issues that manifest in the compulsive money addiction diseases, such as overspending, underearning, shopping and gambling; and for their codependent spouses.
Everything here is designed to tempt and tantalize one to drink, eat, gamble and spend. Therefore, one’s intentions and resolves must be iron-willed to survive the seduction.
Money Matters Background
Van’s money disorders ran rampant after the downsize of the computer company where he flourished as a computer programmer-analyst. We’d been enjoying the Good Life in our three-level rented home overlooking the ocean in San Diego’s North County. We were not compulsive spenders, but the abrupt halt to our income caught Van unprepared for “early retirement,” and he became traumatized. In his late fifties, he lost heart for finding another job or starting over, especially since the computer industry was moving ahead at such a fast pace; several months out of the mainstream and it had moved on, without him.
At first Van had been excited about the layoff, because it allowed him to work full-time with the multi-level-marketing (MLM) program we’d been in partnership with Dottie and Steve (my daughter and son-in-law). I’d been deeply involved with my prison ministry and writing, but neither had provided any income, so I too supported their efforts by writing newsletters and giving emotional encouragement.
We survived on our severance package for six-weeks, and then went through our retirement savings, while waiting for the business to kick-in. But Dottie’s husband, Steve, who had been the sales person, returned to car sales, thus taking his energies from the business. Van, whose function had been Business Manager, suddenly faced the overwhelming prospect of coming out of his non-social shell and making people contact. He made a valiant effort for several years, and relied on the ever-available credit card loans to “see us through.”
Within a few years we were caught in the debt trap, and the MLM business required more and more money, like the carrot before the donkey. We had to put in money to make money, but the financial increase never happened. Then the company had upper-level partnership problems, and went into bankruptcy. We all lost heart and gave up the effort. Van simply became immobilized. For several years he barely functioned, and he had no idea what to do next.
In the meantime, I panicked. The person who had been our financial provider wasn’t able to think, let alone work. It became up to me to make the decisions and try to figure out what was happening with Van. We were both traumatized, and clueless as what to do about it. We had no insurance for treatment; and what would help this problem?
In the meantime, Van had reached sixty-two and we applied for early Social Security, which was like putting on a band-aide, but it was a start.
The Fresh Start Law
My next step was to confer with a free lawyer at the Seniors Center. He said to find a lawyer and file bankruptcy, the Fresh Start Law. It was designed for people in our situation. This was the first glimpse of hope for Van, and as he came out of his lethargy to fill out the forms, with the help of an excellent attorney, Van started to come out of his shell, but he still made no effort to increase our income. In fact, he was content to do nothing, and wait for things to happen. They didn’t, and I knew we could not continue to live this lifestyle on Social Security. I suggested various alternatives, including the possibility of someone living with us to help with finances. But neither of us were happy about sharing our home.
An Insidious Disease
Finally, desperate for help, I insisted that Van attend DA (Debtors Anonymous) and I went too. I also continued my support program, CoDa (Codependent Anonymous). We learned that we were victims of yet another compulsive, addictive disease described as overspending-underearning. The only “cure” is working the program, and allowing time to heal.
I’m convinced that money disorders are more deadly and devastating than any of the other addictions. For one thing, they are more subtle, and therefore harder to recognize. And the harmful aspects are less detectable. And the disease is more socially acceptable. I call it an insidious addiction, because the pain to the significant other is undetectable. There’s no bruise or bleeding we can point to and say, “It hurts,” and invoke sympathy or understanding from the onlooker.
The Cure: A Spending Plan
One of the tools for recovery in DA is a Spending Plan, similar to a budget, to force the victim to come out of denial and see the facts of their financial situation. And then to take steps to live within that reality. Whew! Easier said than done.
Another tool is talking about the problems, and most meetings were stories of the attendees’ efforts to take and maintain that first simple step.
Another tool is keeping numbers, which means writing down your daily expenditures no matter how seemingly insignificant. This is to put consciousness into one’s spending, and to take responsibility for their actions. This too brings painful confessions during weekly meetings.
Van never shared during the year he attended meetings. Oh, he learned a lot, and he enjoyed the companionship of other sufferers. But he never gave back to the group. And he really never worked the program. He continued to do things his way, but he never got involved. And this is characteristic of his none-intimacy issues.
But I’ve already written about this in my trilogy: Changing Money Patterns, about identifying and changing our money disorder patterns, Knocking on Doors, which tells his story, and Down the Tube With Him, which tells my codependency issues and recovery during the process.
Breaking the “No Talk” Rule
This book is about changing our money patterns, and this chapter is about the money issues, and the background that caused them. Although I feel that I’m breaking the “no talk rule” by telling family money matters, it’s important for our recovery, and it may be helpful for you. So despite the lump in my throat, here goes. Writing this out is a major step forward for me.
In early January, while at my stepmother, Arlene’s, she gave me the second (of three) checks that she equally distributed to dad’s four kids and to her three boys, as part of the legacy from his estate. The money wouldn’t need to be disbursed until after her death, but she chose to do this as a gift so we could all benefit during her lifetime. When I first heard this news, I felt a great sense of responsibility. I wanted to invest the money wisely, and in a way that would give me financial support the rest of my life. I felt that, somehow, this investment would relate to my writing, but I wasn’t quite sure how that would happen.
At the time Arlene told me of the gift, I was separated from Van, and living in Colorado, attempting to decide if I could continue our marriage. Exhausted from the pain and frustration of living with the above-mentioned money matters, I’d rejoiced to discover (after a few months away from him), that I still could enjoy life; and I also discovered that I liked who I am.
But, I decided to return to California and make a decision whether to remain, or finalize our marriage. At that point I really didn’t care which result evolved — and I heard that Van felt the same way. At first I hesitated to tell him about the gift, but things seemed to be going okay, so I mentioned that there was a sum of money available, without indicating the amount. I didn’t trust his money disease, and needed to safeguard my inheritance. We discussed possible plans, and for the first time since the bankruptcy, he showed signs of hope.
The decision was made to buy a mobile home in Colorado, but we bought Freedom instead, and the rest is history, recorded in my Travel Series.
Now for the next revelation about the check from Arlene. Because the gift was to arrive over a three-year period, we weren’t able to get financing, so Van asked his mom if she’d be willing to invest, and I’d pay her back each year. Not only did she say, “Yes,” but she said that 1/2 of the cost for Freedom would be invested by her for Van, so I’d only need to pay back the other 1/2. This first check, then, would go directly to her.
It’s a Matter of Intentions
I’d asked Van to let her know, during their weekly phone call, that the check would be on the way in a few days. But he totally forgot to mention it to her. In fact, he had looked pained at the thought of discussing money with her, especially on the phone — one of his bugaboos — but knowing he has a passive-aggressive personality, I should have insisted, and I should have known that he had no intentions of doing it, therefore, it wouldn’t happen. And it didn’t.
It’s My Obligation
But I didn’t allow his actions to detract from me fulfilling my obligation, though it was overwhelming for me. We’re talking serious money matters here. The procedure of signing over the check and mailing it to Betty took place in Laughlin, and was part of the larger money matters process.
I’d set aside the second day in town for this purpose. We’d learned that the Laughlin Post Office is in the Riverside Casino, because that was the original building in this town founded by Don Laughlin, the Donald Trump of Laughlin. As I write, I’m looking at the new twenty-four story tower with his penthouse apartment on top. Often his helicopter lands on the pad, and he walks inside his home with the 360 degree view.
I’d purchased two “thank you” cards the day before. And now with deep emotion, I wrote one to Van’s mother, Betty, and one to my stepmother, Arlene — our two mothers who had made this lifestyle possible.
Whenever dealing with money matters, I get lightheaded, a lump in my throat, and tightness in my stomach. Obviously nothing wrong with me about money. Actually, I’ve spent years processing through these symptoms, and finally concluded that I too, have a money disorder. Mine manifests differently than Van’s, and I hadn’t actually identified it, but it is just as real. That’s why I had to be very conscientious about this money transaction, and take it one-step-at-a-time.
I’d written on the card a notation for the purpose of the check and thanked her for her generosity and support, and had Van write his “thank you.” Once the check had been signed over to Betty, I placed it in the envelope and sealed and stamped it. Then I wrote a “thank you” note to Arlene, and completed the envelope preparations using the Laughlin General Delivery return address.
We then walked down the stairs of the various terraces, across the walkway to the Riverside Casino, and stood in line at the post office. I’d felt it necessary to certify the letter, and felt good once the transaction was completed. A weight had lifted with this momentous money matter accomplished.
Van shared in the process too, so we celebrated by going to another movie, Wag the Dog, which would soon become highly publicized in President Clinton’s sexual exploitations. But, for me, it emphasized the insanity when priorities get totally out of perspective. I love it when God gives me such an explicit visual aide, which I call an experiential aide, because I am living, not just seeing it.
“What’s Going on Here?”
But that wasn’t the end of our money matters process. The next step was to sit down and work out our Spending Plan. The day we’d planned for that purpose somehow got frittered away, and it wasn’t done.
In the meantime, we decided to pay for our second week to insure that we could keep our favorite spot. I’d asked Van to let the clerk know that we planned to stay several months, so they could make note of the information.
When he returned, he mentioned that we now had $5.00 left for the month, but he was “working it out.” I panicked. Creative juggling of finances is a definite symptom of the disease, and I shuddered as I wondered if he were in relapse. I asked if he’d told them we planned to stay longer, and he said, “No.” Then he added that he would go back, if that was necessary.
Now I was getting distressed. Withholding or not giving them what they want is one of the symptoms of his disease. Here was a second time he didn’t do what I’d asked. I could feel the negative energies of his patterns were back, and my codependent symptoms of anger took over when we discussed his calling to have our mail forwarded. I wanted him to be sure to ask them to mail it that day, so we could receive the mail the same week, as it was important to me. He got a look that said he wasn’t going to do it.
Okay, this is it. His demeanor told me that we’re in trouble here, and it’s all about money matters. I could feel the negativity, and my anger retaliated. On one level he was being cooperative and pleasant, but on the other he was resisting.
I said, “Van, what’s going on here?” He looked surprised, but said nothing, so I continued. “This is the third thing I’ve asked you to do in the last few days that you obviously had no intention of doing. If you don’t want to do it, say so. If you feel that I should handle these things, then say so. You seem to be slipping into an old pattern.” I resented being forced into the Mother-role, but he’d regressed to his inner child role, so I added a few more observations, and then asked, “So what are you going to do?”
Like a dutiful child he responded, “I’ll ask him to send the mail out today.”
“Okay, what about the reservations for this spot?”
“I’ll go tell them.” He went out the door.
When he returned, Little Ralph announced triumphantly, “The mail will be sent today.” I asked about the reservations, and he said, “We won’t be able to stay in this site for three days starting February 14th, because a large group is arriving. They’ll try to find us another spot.”
I said, “That’s important information. Thank you.”
As the day progressed, and he had his own projects, such as running the engine, I realized that he had no intentions of discussing money, besides I didn’t want to have this important conversation with Little Ralph, so I suggested we postpone it until the next day.
Instead, I suggested we reward Little Ralph’s phone call and reservations with an outing. We took the shuttle to Riverside Casino and got a 99-cent hot dog with the trimmings — and a free soda. Then we went to the Antique Car Museum on the third floor and wandered through miles of Don Laughlin’s fascinating car collection, while gentle music softly played over the intercom.
Okay, Now Let’s do Our Spending Plan
But we still hadn’t had our Spending Plan discussion. The next day was set aside for the traumatic event. After Van’s morning ritual, and my computer time, we sat down in the front of Freedom and began.
I’d hoped Adult Ralph would make his presence known during this procedure, as Van had an empty pad before him, and titled it: Spending Plan, and dated. Unfortunately, Little Ralph seemed to be an active part of this meeting, and maintained a blank expression throughout the process. Like he wasn’t really participating, but since I insisted, he was doing it.
I had to continually urge him to tackle the next step, so I said, “Let’s list the ongoing monthly expenses, including credit card charges (not acceptable in DA program), insurance, mail services and a dentist payment.” These base expenses equaled $400.00, and we owed a payment of almost $400.00 for an RV repair bill, acquired the previous month.
Since we planned to stay another month, we listed: Rent — $400.00. Already we were at $1200.00, the full amount of our Social Security Retirement income.
I asked, “What about food, gas, propane, telephone, postage and your cigarettes?” These items weren’t in Van’s reality, so it took awhile to compile, because I had to pull each one from his memory. Now we’d exceeded our limit, and we hadn’t added Entertainment and Eating Out, which for me — while at Laughlin — was a must.
I knew we were in trouble when I suggested we make a list of the activities we would enjoy, such as movies and live shows, plus our ice cream cones, strawberry shortcake and hot dog treats. Like a little kid, he took the fresh sheet of paper and plopped it on top of the pad, still with a blank look that said, “Now what do you want to do? Like he was awaiting his mom’s instructions. Help!
I was exasperated with Van’s seeming relapse into his wounded inner child, but in time we worked out a reasonable program to fit the extras into our schedule. Then we figured how much that would cost. Allowing for only one buffet a week, and one meal at the mall, plus one movie or show a week, we arrived at $262.00, which brought the total above our income.
This pushed Joanie’s buttons. She’d been faithfully pushing through this process, but the prospect of giving up her fun didn’t go over at all. She figured, “Oh well, if we want to enjoy any entertainment, we might as well move to the free parking lot.”
As usual, I went into overwhelm, frustration and anger. I shouted, “This is always the way it is no matter how much we earn or spend. It’s the under-earners pattern. It’s hopeless. There’s no way out.”
However, I’d made up my mind not to go into a major upset resulting in my making Van wrong. The purpose of this meeting was to work on our Spending Plan, which we’d done, so at this point I thanked him for his time and participation, and the meeting was adjourned.
It seemed to me that we ended the meeting, with nothing resolved, but at least it served the purpose of letting us know where we stood, and giving us some direction. But I was definitely in a state of hopelessness, and it took all I could muster to keep my mouth shut, while I prepared lunch. Van never talks during meals, anyway, but this time I too was silent.
Give up, or Persevere?
I focused my attention on Don Laughlin’s penthouse apartment towering in front of us, and I wondered how he managed to accumulate such wealth, including an entire town.
After lunch, I plopped on the couch and was zapped for the entire afternoon. At times I opened my eyes, as the planes took off and landed on the jet-sized landing field across the river (at the airport that Don Laughlin had financed).
I concluded that the first step is perseverance in following his dream; and not letting it die, despite defeats. And he had had many, according to his story on the free video, at the casino. He’d even paid for the highway and bridge, because the state wouldn’t do it. Much like Walt Disney, no one could see his vision for this desolate desert. But he kept going, and now the major casinos competed for the dollars in this gambling resort along the Colorado River.
The Spending Plan Session had been overwhelming, and Van too dozed in the chair. Neither of us said anything more about money. Our inner kids were probably upset, because they’d been promised an ice cream cone for their efforts, and it didn’t look like one was scheduled, not only for today, but not even the rest of the month, since we’d already overspent this month’s income, and the Spending Plan didn’t come into effect for almost two weeks.
Do Something: Anything
I knew we couldn’t sit here doing nothing. Finally, as the sunset was reflecting across the mountains, I roused myself, looked at the clock, and said, “Let’s take the shuttle to Avi. We have 20 minutes to walk over there.”
A flurry of activity got us ready and out the door. We walked through the sea of RV’s and across the vacant field to the mall, where the shuttle would pick us up. Even if we couldn’t have an ice cream cone, at least we were doing something by getting out of our lethargy.
Just to make sure, I walked to the Information Booth and asked , “Does the bus to Avi come at 5:00?”
A pleasant gal responded, “No, it doesn’t come until 6:00, and the last one back leaves at 7:00,” she pointed to the schedule in her hand, and gave it to me.
The shuttle for Ramada Express pulled in, and I said to Van, “It takes at least twenty minutes to get there. No use going. C’mon, let’s go to Ramada.” He followed as I scrambled on board. Two ladies laden with packages scooted into the front seats, and I said, “You’ve been doing some serious shopping.”
They laughed, and one said, “Well, I’d rather spend money on this than on gambling.”
I replied “Yeah, at least you have something to show for your efforts, and you had fun doing it; and fun enjoying the purchases when you get home.” I thought to myself, “Nice that some people have money for shopping. We didn’t even put that item on our List.”
God is the Source: Even via Discount Coupons
By this time we were at the casino, and everyone got off. After the day’s money session, I felt like an alien midst all the activity and bright lights, especially since we couldn’t spend any money. But soon Joanie’s enthusiasm kicked in, and as she wandered through the slots and past the gaming tables, she remembered the coupon book she’d been given at the Information Booth.
“Good thing I brought my purse,” she mumbled as she searched for the envelope.
Little Ralph had been following along behind, and almost ran into her as she paused to flip through the booklet. While wandering through the corridors, they both stopped at the lounge and listened to the jazz music being played by an old-time combo. And it was free! The gray-haired black musician playing the saxophone brought memories of Louis Armstrong with his mellow sounds, as the senior citizens sitting in the lounge listened to familiar songs from our era. I too hummed along while watching the dancers on the darkened dance floor. Nice, but the kids weren’t interested in dancing, so no use mentioning it to Little Ralph.
Instead, Joanie lead the way to the Whistle Stop snack bar and sat down, as she continued searching through her coupon book. “Aha,” she exclaimed in exaltation. “Buy one, get one free.” She looked at the price list and then said, “My Love, I have $1.00 left. Would you like a frozen yogurt?”
Little Ralph perked up, “Sure!”
At the counter, I told the lady, “Two swirls.” She asked, “Cup or waffle cone?” Joanie chirped, “Waffle cone,” and Little Ralph, in his wounded child syndrome mumbled, “Cup.” The assistant handed Van his cup of chocolate/vanilla swirl, and I said, “Oh, I wanted strawberry swirl.” When the attendant handed me a huge waffle cone filled with a pink swirl, Little Ralph’s eyes opened wide.
We sat down, and I said, “Want a bite?” He nodded, so I held out my gigantic cone and he took a spoonful and muttered, “Good.”
“I didn’t know they had chocolate swirl,” I said, “Sorry.” Then as I licked away at my pink swirl, I added, “Guess it’s a matter of consciousness.” Little Ralph didn’t say anything, but slowly spooned his treat, making it last much longer than mine, which Joanie quickly devoured.
I felt good about buying the ice cream cone, and we certainly deserved the reward for our Spending Plan efforts. It was worth it, especially when you consider the enjoyment we shared for only .50 cents each. And the activity put the emphasis on having, rather than not having.
Experience, not Theory
There are things about money matters that I simply don’t understand. Most of what I share in my writings and workshops is based upon experience, and not theory. I’m not sure how much is actually known about money disorders, but I must have been Divinely Guided, and did something right. Because the next day Van awoke in his usual pleasant mood, and said, “I’m going to phone in our order,” which is for the liquid herbal drink that we still take, and which accounts for our good health.
I about fainted. First, he’d changed his morning routine that usually takes until about noon before he does any other project. And second, after examining the Spending Plan, I’d said that we couldn’t afford it, and I was willing to sacrifice my health, if that’s what it took. That was the last discussion on the subject.
Now, he not only called in the order, first thing in the morning, but he suggested that he could cash a check at the cashier’s booth at the casino.
“What do you plan to use for money?” I asked.
“Oh, I have some extra that I hadn’t accounted for,” he replied. “I can withdraw $40.00.”
I looked surprised, but didn’t make my usual negative comments about his holding out. I simply said, “Okay,” and he looked pleased. On some level, our patterns were shifting.
As I said, “I don’t understand what happened, but I do know that money disorders, as with the other addictions, are related to control issues; and it’s my observation of others that money is used to control. Apparently something about the Spending Plan process, or maybe the ice cream cone treat, changed Van’s pattern, or gave him the incentive to change the pattern himself.
I definitely know that the withholding pattern, with its message, “don’t give them what they want” was changed. I could feel it in his energy projections. Whereas the day before he’d been withholding money, as a control device, the next day he was willing to share money that I didn’t even know he had.
And that too, is part of the money disorder pattern — secret money stash, and being able to transact it at their own discretion. For many in the DA group, even talking about money with one’s mate was threatening, so discussing our Spending Plan must have been overwhelming for Van. He was not able to put it into words, yet his actions showed the recovery process.
Taking a Step
While Van’s healing was obvious to me, I too was healing, as I found myself at the computer working on my flyer for the Money Matters Workshop. Something I hadn’t been able to do since we’d gone on the road. Now, I was taking a step toward moving forward with this program, which had seemed frightening and overwhelming up until now.
I’d been thinking about where, when, and how to present my workshop, but kept coming up with reasons why it wouldn’t work. Yet, I felt that Laughlin was a perfect place to reach the gamblers and others with money disorders.
I’d awakened that morning with the readiness to move forward, and had begun making the computer changes on my flyer, but this required input from Van’s technical expertise. He’d been resistant to do anything with the computer for a long time, but when I’d recently asked if he would be willing to help, he’d said, “Yes.” So when I requested his input, he gladly gave it.
Something was happening, and I was excited. But I kept hearing the inner Guidance, “Take it one step at a time, and take it easy,” and this felt good to me, because I went into overwhelm every time I anticipated the prospect of once again putting myself before people as a workshop facilitator. One part of me loved doing it, and was good at it; but the other part feared the failure, rejection, and even the success.
Fortunately, we had time to work through this process, and to take it one step at a time. I completed the flyer changes, and stopped any further efforts on it for the day. In the past I’d take the ball and run with it. Now I would let go and let God guide me.
I knew that letting go would work, if I let it, so after my computer time, we walked to the post office at Riverside and collected the mail that had been forwarded.
Sitting on a bench along the Colorado River in the warm sunshine, I opened the package and handed Van three belated birthday cards. He gasped as a check for $200.00 fell out of the card from his mom, and he took a long time to read the “Son” greeting on the oversized card that oozed with love expressed in Betty’s own way.
Finally he opened the card from Arlene and carefully removed a $50.00 bill, while he read the greeting “On Our Mutual Birthday,” and he commented, “That’s an unusual card.”
I said, “Leave it to Arlene to find the perfect card.” She also wrote a note acknowledging that they hadn’t officially celebrated their mutual day.
I watched the Mallard ducks flocking and fluttering in the water below, as a lady tossed out pieces of bread. Sometimes an astute seagull caught an entire slice in its beak, and the others would grab for their share. What a sight, with the sun reflecting from the green necks of the males. As a pair flew in for a landing, Van said, “Look at the shades of blue in the feathers of the female. I didn’t think they were colorful.”
Indeed, the melee of ducks and seagulls (white with black wing tips) created a picturesque scene along the river bank, as the free river taxis scooted back and forth taking passengers to the Arizona side. And the regular river taxis zipped downstream toward the other casinos. When we first arrived, the Riverboat was loading passengers for their hour-long cruise, and it had now begun its cruise along the river.
While Van read the card from his stepmother, Ruth, I interrupted, “Isn’t it interesting that you received this money the day after we did our Spending Plan? Or maybe it’s a matter of a change in your consciousness?”
He looked up and replied, “Both,” and returned to reading his letter.
When he finished, I said, “Are we going to the bank now, to cash a check?”
“Don’t need to now,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye. He then added, “About 4:00 o’clock, let’s come back and get an ice cream cone.”
I knew that the arrival of the birthday money had added a great deal to his feeling of self-esteem, and Little Ralph truly understood that it was a reward for “doing it right.”
This was his moment, but as we passed a clock, Joanie couldn’t resist, “That’s only an hour. Why not get the ice cream cone now?”
“We’ll want to take the mail package home first.”
I sensed a touch of control on his part, and knew I should let it alone, but when we passed the ice cream shop, Joanie had to stop and select hers. Looking at the display of goodies, she said, “I’m going to have the sugar and fat free chocolate. What one do you want?” Little Ralph already had decided what he wanted the night before, so she teased, “I’ll bet you want the bubble gum.”
He looked disgusted, “No, I want the banana nut,” he said as he eyed the tub of yellow confection.
As we wandered through the casino, I said, “So what are you planning to do with your money?”
“I’m going to buy a new pair of work gloves and a special wrench for those weird screws.”
I was thrilled that he’d given himself permission to get something for himself, even if it was a tool. This was a first of the highest magnitude. In the past, he wouldn’t have thought of buying something for himself. I knew that a new level of recovery and healing had taken place. Hooray!
Walking through the casino, Joanie stopped to watch the free video about Don Laughlin, now gray-haired, as he mentioned that he had to go through 38 government agencies to get his bridge built, even though he paid for it himself, and it took four years. He added, “It only took four months to build the bridge.” He’s clearly a man who gets things done.
As we passed the lobby in front of the doors to the Celebrity Theater, Little Ralph stopped in front of the free video of the current entertainer, Charlie Prose, who was doing his comic dialogue about a seeing-eye dog at the bar. We both laughed at the punch line, and wandered out to the free shuttle.
Keeping in mind that we didn’t have any money for the rest of the month, Joanie couldn’t resist asking, “So do you plan to spend any of your birthday money on our treats?”
“Sure,” he said. “Well, at least the cash. I’m going to deposit the check.”
Joanie smiled with relief, and I could sense that we had “done something right,” and as a result had reached a new level of consciousness that would be a turning point for our future.
But for today it was enough to return for our ice cream cone and sit at the table in the deli chatting and enjoying ourselves as Little Ralph happily licked on his big waffle cone, while this time Joanie proudly savored her healthful regular size cone. After all, we have to use wisdom and good judgment in our fun choices.
Looking ahead to the next day, she said, “Let’s go to the free movie at Ramada tomorrow. It’s Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire in Band Wagon.”
“Okay,” Little Ralph replied, as he licked a yellow glob of banana nut ice cream.
“Is it as good as you anticipated?”
“Will you order it again?”
“Well, I want to try some others, first, but I’ll get back to it again.”
I rejoiced at this healthy, normal conversation between Joanie and Little Ralph, as I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, “We’re going to be okay,” because, until recently, Van wouldn’t allow himself anything, let alone his own ice cream cone. Instead, he’d hesitantly use a plastic spoon to taste mine. Now, he not only selected his own cone, he looked forward to his next one; a major change in his underearner pattern.
THE BIG STORM
This Show Is Up to Me
We continued having fun together, and I continued writing every day. But with the arrival of a new month, I said to Ralph, “We need to update our Spending Plan and Numbers again.”
He immediately went into his withdrawal, but sat and listened as I began discussing our current finances, starting with an account I’d been keeping of the daily expenses while using my cash.
Then I said, “We need to add the birthday check from your mother to our personal Spending Plan.” He looked blank. I explained that it was additional income, and needed to be accounted for. Still no action. Finally, I said, “Could you please get out the book with our Spending Plan?”
Like a kid, he jumped up, grabbed the book and plopped it on the table, then looked at me blankly and said, “Now what do you want to do?”
I could see the way this was going, and I began getting angry. Again, I’d hoped that his adult-self would be participating in this discussion, but instead I had to cope with Little Ralph. I said, “Why is it about ‘what I want to do?’ Can’t we work this out together?”
Blank look. So I continued “So where do we need to list the birthday check?” Still blank, as he said, “I don’t know, where do you think it should go?”
Exasperated, I realized that this show was going to be up to me, so step by step I went through the process of updating the Spending Plan and Numbers, and Ralph participated by entering the figures in the calculator and writing them down where I suggested.
With much probing on my part, I learned that he’d written out several checks to pay the items already listed, so I said, “Let’s date them to indicate the day they were paid.”
Obediently he dated the entries. As we progressed, I had to prod for each bit of information as to how much he’d paid. At one point I said, “There’s a large discrepancy between the amount listed ($100) and the amount you paid ($440).”
He explained, “That includes the repairs on Freedom.”
“But they aren’t listed on our Spending Plan. This is going to throw our figures way off.”
“I used the money from Mom.”
“Oh. So where is that listed?”
“Okay, so where do you think it should be listed?”
“I don’t know.”
We found a place to list it, and upgraded our Spending Plan to include a running account of money in and money out, with a balance readily visible.
Money is a Control Issue
Having attended Debtors Anonymous meetings for a year, I knew exactly what was going on with Ralph. After all, money is a control issue, and though he wouldn’t admit it, he felt he was losing control. That’s why the victim of this money disorder likes to keep his finances secret. But there was no use discussing this with Ralph, because he was in his disease. It would be like talking to an alcoholic about his addiction when he was in a raging relapse.
On one hand, Ralph was happy to have me involved, but the disease didn’t want me knowing his finances. It’s a matter of control. I’d heard people in DA share heart wrenching stories of their efforts to discuss their finances with their mates. We’d all applauded the efforts of one fellow who, in tears, told the group his intense emotions as he had finally managed to talk about money with his wife.
So I knew we were in an intense part of this money disorder recovery process. The only way out was through the discomfort. I kept prodding him onward, until all the figures were accounted for, and we had a complete and conscious account. Not an elaborate system, but one a child could fathom. And after all, we were dealing with his inner child in this process. Adult Ralph was once a personal financial consultant, and is perfectly capable of handling complicated transactions.
Time and Patience
Time and patience are the key words here, and my own inner child was barely recovered enough to cope with money matters, so it took a lot of patience and understanding on her part. I was very proud of her for supporting us through this process. And Little Ralph too was undergoing a tremendous step in his growing up evolvement.
By the time we were finished, we knew exactly where we stood: about $400.00 more outgo than income. This is why it’s called underearning and overspending.
I said, “Looks like we’ll have to revise the Entertainment and Eating Out part of our Spending Plan.”
Little Ralph still looked blank.
I reached for the paper with them listed, and began cutting down amounts, until we finally balanced the income and outgo. Triumphantly I said, “If we follow these guidelines, we can live within our income.”
Time for Nurturing
We put the notebooks away and I fixed lunch. My inner child always needs to eat, for her nurturing, after one of these sessions.
By now the storm clouds outside were gathering and we turned on the lights while I worked on the computer and Ralph read a magazine.
Around five o’ clock I said, “It looks like it’s going to rain any minute.”
Ralph looked outside and said, “Oh no, it’s going to blow right over.”
I insisted, “Let’s take the next shuttle to the casino and walk around inside. Maybe we can share a piece of that chocolate cake with the coconut frosting.”
The shuttle came early and we missed it. Before the next one arrived, the rains began, accompanied by strong winds from the south that had blown the storm in. We decided to rush down the steps and wait in the shelter of the laundry building. Good thing too, because the shuttle didn’t come for about a half-hour, and the rain turned into a downpour with the palm trees whipping in the high winds.
“Our timing is sure off,” I said. “It hardly ever rains here, so I don’t know why we’re going out in this storm.”
Little Ralph was excited to be on an adventure, and didn’t seem to mind a bit.
Finally, the bus came and we rushed from our shelter into its welcoming doors.
Once inside the casino, we headed for the deli. By this time Joanie was hungry again, and she’d had her mind set on having one of their thick sandwiches.
“Let’s share a sandwich,” I said to Ralph. “Do you have any cash?”
“A few dollars,” he mumbled.
“You can cash a check at the Cashiers.”
“I’d rather wait until tomorrow and cash the MLM bonus check. I didn’t know we were getting into this kind of a situation.”
I could tell that he was upset. Another storm was brewing. Nevertheless, I stood in line. “What kind of a sandwich do you want?”
“I don’t care,” he growled.
“Okay, I’ll order turkey. Do you mind if we leave off the onions?”
I looked into my fanny-pack and found two more dollars. “I’m going to order a piece of that cake too.”
Now I could tell that he was really angry. I knew it had to do with his need to control. He hadn’t planned on this so-called elaborate meal, and he felt he’d lost control. I didn’t do what I’d said we’d do — share a piece of cake. But I was hungry, and I didn’t feel it was unreasonable to upgrade our meal by also sharing a sandwich. We could compensate for the cost by spending less on another meal.
Nevertheless, we ate in silence. I wondered if I’d really gone too far, and was, in fact, succumbing to my money disorder by spending more than we’d agreed. Or, was it my need to eat? It doesn’t matter. I’m hungry and I’m going to enjoy this meal. It’s delicious. Furthermore, I felt good about myself for not giving in to Ralph’s money control issues. I decided that he could work it out himself.
I finished long before he did, so went to watch the free entertainment for their Mardi Gras celebration. As I enjoyed the gala music, and watched the dancers bouncing to a cha cha cha, I thought, “I can’t let Ralph’s negativity take away from my joy.
During a break, I returned to his table. The storm clouds were still over his head, but he seemed mellowed from the good meal.
“Good chocolate cake, huh?” I chirped.
“Yeah, but it’s rich.”
“I know. It’s supposed to be.”
We walked toward the door and looked outside. Still down-pouring. When we passed by the Mardi Gras area, I said, “Let’s put some tickets in the barrel. Maybe we’ll win.”
We stayed for the rest of the festivities, including the drawing, but we didn’t win. However, Ralph’s mood had shifted, and he’d returned to his smiling self.
As we walked through the casino, I knew that his inner storm had passed, and I rejoiced that I’d maintained my level of joy without succumbing to his negativity.
Despite the clearing of Ralph’s inner storm, the outside weather continued its downpour, and we gladly joined the others awaiting the shuttle.
The Storm is Over
Once home, Ralph had returned to his pleasant self as we watched the preparations for the Nagano, Japan Winter Olympics. Hearing the stories of athletes who had faced and overcome their personal demons of physical or emotional setbacks, I felt that we too were winners in our inner battles to overcome the devastation of our money disorders.
The storm had cleared by the next morning, and the white fluffy clouds capped the jagged mountain peaks across the river and added happy accents to the blue sky. Ralph too awoke cheerful with a warm greeting, as he surveyed the surrounding panorama from our window on the hillside.
I continued writing while he went through his morning routine, and when he returned from his shower at the park facility, he got out his notebook and began making entries for our previous night’s snack expenses. Hooray!
“Are You Really Hungry?”
I realized that a milestone had been reached, as I sat on the couch and said, “My version of what happened last night is that you were facing control issues. After all, money disorders, and eating disorders, too, are control issues, and your ego felt you were losing control.”
I went over the events, and put into words how I saw the incident, including my interpretation of his actions and words. Then I concluded, “I was hungry, and I’m not sure if I really needed food, or if my eating disorder kicked in. It had been intense for me doing our Spending Plan, and fixing my own lunch doesn’t cut it for me. It doesn’t emotionally nourish me. So I may have developed the feelings of hunger, so that I could eat.”
Ralph looked surprised at my self-honesty.
I continued, “In the future, to avoid these upsets, it might help you to clarify what’s happening by asking me, ‘Are you really hungry or do you need inner nourishing?'”
He looked relieved to have a solution, and said, “Okay.”
But just as the weather news warned of more storms to come this El Nino year, Ralph too faced another money storm when we went to the casino to cash a check.
The first cashier said that he would have to go to the New Accounts Cashier, so we followed her directions and stood at the window while she took her time coming to help us.
I could tell that Ralph was uptight as he made his request, “I’d like to write a check for $20.00.”
Firm, but pleasant, the lady whose demeanor somewhat resembled his mother, said, “You have to write a minimum of $100.00. Then you must have identification, including your Driver’s License and Social Security card and a credit card.
Meekly he asked, “Can I use my debit card for this transaction?”
On and on it went for twenty minutes as a line formed at the other window, while Ralph processed through the transaction. I watched Little Ralph grow up right before my very eyes.
Finally, with all criteria met, except for the Social Security card, the lady Okayed his transaction. But first he had to open an account. She filled out the card, and had him sign it, then handed him a form to take to the cashier.
He filed in line and waited. Finally, he said, “The employees got paid today. That’s why there’s such a long line.”
We Need a Reward!
With his $100.00 cash safely in his pocket, I figured we needed a reward, so I said, “Let’s go over to Ramada and get a frozen yogurt.
Little Ralph gladly said, “Okay.”
And we began the adventure of walking across the parking lot, and the vacant field, and waiting in front of the Horizon Outlet for the Ramada shuttle, then wandering through the maze of slots at the casino, standing in line and getting our 2 for 1 frozen yogurt in a waffle cone. Can life get any better than this? Especially when you add the live swing jazz music that we enjoyed free, in the lounge, without even ordering a drink.
That night, after returning home, Ralph sat down on his own, and made his daily expenditure entries without Little Ralph’s interference. Then he showed them to me. Hallelujah! The healing integration of Adult Ralph and Little Ralph had reached another level.
The Spending Plan Really Works!
The next day, after having our 99-cent hot dogs at Riverside Casino, while walking back along the entrance-hall, I felt a strong urge to call Dottie. In fact, I’d been feeling this inner guidance compulsion for several days, and knew that I’d better not ignore it any longer.
Dottie began talking about their present state of financial chaos, as she said “If I made a list, I could write pages. And it seems like we get one thing fixed, and another part of it stops working; or something else falls apart or is broken.”
I exclaimed, “Wow! I remember that happening one time while you guys lived with us. Sounds like you’re in the middle of some drastic pattern changes. In other words, it’s up and it isn’t going away until you get on the other side of it.”
“Right,” she agreed, “but some things are getting better. For instance, we finally made a Spending Plan in January, but it was hard, because Steve doesn’t make a specific amount of money each month. But we wrote everything down, anyway.”
“That’s an important step,” I said, “and once we took it, money started coming in; and it was easier to take the next step.” I told her about our second session with our Spending Plan.
“I know what you mean,” she commented, “after we did ours, Steve’s second job agreed to give him a weekly draw of $500.00, so we can count on that, and it gave us a starting place.”
“Congratulations!” I exclaimed. “This stuff really works!”
“Yeah, it does, and that’s not all. Now that I’ve stopped working, he’s making more money.”
I interjected, “You know, I was just reading about that pattern you two have, while adding your Free to be Me chapter. I’m beginning to wonder if some of these patterns are so strong that all we can do is accept them and live with them.”
“Well, I don’t know. It’s really working out good for me, now, because I’m taking care of me, and the anorexia patterns aren’t in control. I know that, because I really enjoy cooking creative meals now, and that’s a big change.
“Wow! I’m impressed.
She continued, “It even gets better! Steve sold his trailer hitch, and some other stuff, so we had money to pay a few bills, and go shopping at Costco.”
“Oh, you mean you went to the battle front?” I was referring to their ongoing money disorders and eating disorders control games that are consistently triggered during their Costco Treks.
“Not really. This time it was even fun, as we selected the foods that I wanted for my creative cooking.”
I interjected, “That reminds me of a turning point for me. It’s when I told myself that I needn’t feel deprived if I realize that even millionaires have to make choices of what they purchase. So I now make choices how I’ll spend our money. This time, when we got to our second session on the Spending Plan, it wasn’t as painful to cut down the amounts for Entertainment and Eating Out.”
“Exactly! That’s how it worked when we were at Costco. And it was actually fun.”
Now Dottie was on a roll, as she said, “And I’m keeping the house clean, the way I like it. I’ve even cleaned up my computer room, and I’ve filed everything!”
“Good Heavens,” I exclaimed as a picture of the cluttered room flashed in my mind. “That’s amazing. I never could understand how you, as a Virgo, could stand it.”
“I know, it’s just part of the negative pattern.”
Seldom does Dottie refer to her anorexia, and though I went through the recovery process with her, and attended the Twelve Step meetings, we don’t discuss it, because I understand what she’s talking about. In this instance, I realized that the self-deprivation and the control factors of anorexia are part of the “free to be me” issues; giving herself permission to do what she wants to do, and to have what she wants and needs. These are all steps toward building her having it all consciousness on a stronger foundation.
Cyclic and Spherical
It would seem as if we hadn’t made much progress with these patterns, unless one realizes that this inner journey is cyclic (in cycles) and spherical (circles; repeats), much like a nautilus shell, so when it seems like the same stuff, it’s actually at a deeper level of recovery. Like the psychiatrist, Carl Jung, explained when he compared it to uncovering the piles of stored energies from past experiences, on our way toward entering into the soul realm of existence. I hasten to add, that’s my interpretation of his explanation.
Dottie and I were at high energy, as we shared our money progress, and I knew the timing was right, because I was compiling the book, and all these money matters were fresh in my mind.
“Now I know why I was supposed to call you tonight.”
Changing the Subject
But, I also wanted to talk to her about my writing, as her nitpicking Virgo abilities make her my toughest critic, and also the greatest editor.
Changing the subject, I said, “What did you think about the chapters I sent you?”
“Oh, that’s on my list of things to talk about. The one about your future plans only had a few small corrections, such as punctuation. It was really good.”
“Wow! That’s great. It seems to me that Rocky Mountain High article was pretty good too.”
“Yeah, it was. I only changed a few words, and some punctuation. And I enjoyed reading both of them.”
“I wish it always went that smoothly. It would make your job much easier. But sometimes I get in a hurry, or lazy, and my writing gets sloppy. Or I want to get it written down, so I resort to narrative, rather than creative writing.”
A Role Model for Success
As I was sharing earlier with Dottie all the news about our Changing Money Patterns progress, and she was telling me about their metamorphoses process, I heard Ralph talking with someone. I looked around, and he whispered, “That was Don Laughlin.”
I passed the news along to Dottie, adding, “It’s been my intention to see him while here. To those of us staying here, he’s like ‘Dad.’ After all, we’re living, eating, and playing in his home, so to speak. It’s timely for him to pass by as we’re in this intense, hour-long conversation about our Money Matters. He’s definitely a role-model for success.”
Now, I was again interrupted by a commotion, as I heard Ralph again talking with Don Laughlin, who had already attended his meeting, and was now returning down the hall.
Talk About Control!
“Oh my gosh,” I exclaimed, “We’ve been talking so long that my prepaid calling card must be expired. Maybe we’d better finish our visit, and hang up. The Big News is that I’ve about finished Changing Money Patterns, and it’ll be ready to send you. Are you in a good space to edit it for me?”
“Sure,” she replied, “send it. I’m not working outside my home anymore, and my home is again in order, so I have extra time.”
In the middle of our chitchat about family news, the line went dead. “How rude,” I said to Ralph, as the computerized voice gave me an option to renew my precharge. But before I could get the phone to him for activating, they said we’d used our allotment for the day. “Talk about control!” I grumbled as we headed down the hall.
What Did You Talk About?
But I had more important matters on my mind, as I asked Ralph, “What were you and Don Laughlin talking about?”
“Huh? Oh, I just said, ‘Howdy, how are you doing?’ And he said, “I’m doing fine.”
“Is that all? It sounded like more than that.”
“No, that’s all.”
“Well, what about the second time?”
“Same thing, only I added, “You’re looking well,’ and he said, ‘Thanks, I’m doing good.'” Then Ralph added, “I really wanted to say ‘Thanks for having such a nice place to be.’ It needed to be short, because he was just passing by.”
“That would have been nice. Too bad you didn’t say it.”
El Nino and The 1998 Olympics
While waiting for our return shuttle, it began sprinkling; and by the time we reached home, we ran to our door to avoid the rain. Once inside, another El Nino downpour pounded on our roof. But, it only added to the ambiance as we settled in to watch the Opening Ceremonies of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
First a replay of the 1994 Winter Olympic highlights, and a rehash of the Tanya Harding — Nancy Kerrigan fiasco, and then videos of the current contenders, Tara Lipinski, Michelle Kwan and others.
Finally, after the emperor and his entourage were seated, the excitement of the actual ceremonies with the Sumo wrestlers blessing the Games, the winter children were bringing the message of innocence, and the entrance of the athletes: and, of course, the poignant lighting of the Olympic Flame.
Everything designed to enhance the message of peace and unity, with the highlight of the five choirs, on five continents, singing together in unison with the wonders of modern technology.
Expectations Too High
Ralph complained “When you have five choirs around the world, I want to be able to see and hear them all at the same time.”
I replied, “My Love, you’ve got your expectations too high. Rather than enjoying how it is, you’re wanting it some other way. Let go and take pleasure from the wonderful experience we have.”
I wondered what this Olympic dissertation had to do with Changing Money Patterns. and when discussing the above conversation with Ralph the next day, I said, “Maybe this is a pattern of yours. You live in a state of disappointment, because neither you, nor others, can live up to your preconceived high expectations. Perhaps it would be good to find a balance between them and settling for mediocrity or the other extreme of indifference, or not caring.”
He seemed thoughtful, and in his usual lengthy comment, he said, “Maybe.” And that was the end of that discussion; but still an important insight into his patterns.
The Unexpected Payoff
In the meantime, things were working so well since we’d done our personal Spending Plan, I decided to put consciousness into the Inner Freedom Ministry Spending Plan. Again, it took several days of going to, before I finally did it. In the first place, there isn’t much income. But, that’s not the point.
I listed the two Christmas cash donations, which reminded me that I’d forgotten who had sent one. Talk about not being responsible for money. When I looked for the card from the friend whom I thought had sent it, I couldn’t find it. That made me wonder if she’d actually sent one. If she didn’t, then who sent the donation? I felt really embarrassed when I wrote her a letter explaining my dilemma. And I knew this was part of my money disorder, not being conscious about money.
Once I had the items listed, it took another few days before I could get together with Ralph to complete the process. There were some matters we needed to discuss, such as whether or not to close the bank account, or allow the interest to dissipate the remaining funds. I felt they had been donated for the ministry, not the bank, but Ralph brought to my attention that it’s part of life to pay the interest for the convenience. As the Bible says, “A servant is worth its hire.” So the account remained intact.
Then there’s the matter of reimbursing our personal account for the newsletter copies we’d charged at Christmas. I begrudgingly agreed that the $30.00 donation could serve that purpose. I must admit, I did feel better, knowing that my debts were cleaned up; an important part of recovery from the money disorders. And Ralph seemed very pleased that I’d fulfilled my obligation. The unexpected payoff is that this resolution gave us cash to see us through the month. Otherwise, I would never have used the ministry money for personal use. It pays to put consciousness into one’s finances.
It’s Time to Tithe
When we began talking about tithing, we were getting into the nitty-gritty. Ralph had agreed that we should tithe on our personal account, and decided to donate it to Inner Freedom Ministry. But as I started taking responsibility for the ministries use of the motor home, plus utilities, and other expenses, they equaled the exact amount of the tithe. We concluded that it would be a paperwork transaction. I felt good that we’d handled this matter as adults, but Joanie and Little Ralph felt they’d helped with the decision.
A Bountiful Harvest
I felt so good about myself for completing the Inner Freedom Ministry Spending Plan that we celebrated 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.”
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 has taken years to reach this place of recovery that we could be here enjoying the Harvest. 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.
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.
Home is Where the Heart Is
Time to Move on
As much as I loved staying at the Riverside RV Park, I knew we could not afford this luxury, on our limited Social Security retirement income, especially since we wanted to see some live shows that would be coming later in the season: Roger Whitaker and Debbie Reynolds, plus several local shows. And I was clearly Guided that it was time to move on; but only up the road to the Gold River free parking, where we’d stayed prior to Christmas.
The process of unhooking, securing, and moving on was traumatic, and took part of the final week to complete one-step-at-a-time, because of the emotional trauma for our inner kids, of making this change. For instance, I decided to further utilize our electrical hookup by doing my semi-annual vacuuming (a minor priority since our lifestyle change). And another day I used what I had on hand to cook four meals of soup or casseroles, which would last us twice as long — we don’t eat large meals.
In the meantime, since this was the three-day holiday of President’s Weekend, I kept working on my books. Also Van and I kept having fun. For instance, Tuesday we went to the $2.50 movie at the mall, and saw Robert Duval’s The Apostle.
I knew God was using this movie as another experiential aide, because the running commentaries within my head kept bringing to mind reminders that I could use the methods of Robert Duval’s preacher character to start over and gradually rebuild my ministry and workshops, which had been shelved, while on the road.
Changing Money Patterns
The timing for me to see The Apostle was uncanny, because during this month, I had been inspired and motivated, while writing Changing MoneyPatterns, my book about our personal money patterns and attempts to change them.
So, the day before our move, I dressed in my Kelly green silk pants suit, and walked into the Executive Offices of Riverside Casino. I’d already been given the name of Tom Kostoff, as the person I should talk to about renting a room for facilitating my Changing Money Patterns Workshop, so I asked to talk with him.
As God would have it, this usually busy man actually had time for me to talk with him. He told me the cost of the appropriate meeting room would be $125.00. But when he looked in his books for an open Saturday in March, they were all booked. However, he did have other times and days available. He also offered a semi-private lounge, and suggested I look at it. One look and I knew it wouldn’t work, because we need privacy for this life-changing process of transformation.
“I Can’t’ Transforms into “I Can”
That night I couldn’t sleep as I began recalling past efforts that ended negatively when I came up against my wall of limitations with “I can’t.” This time, during another meditation, I asked that all those negative limitation energies be removed and returned to God to be transformed into positive and productive energies for good.
The “good” began coming as God gave me an “At-one-ment Visualization.” And He took me to another new level by telling me to include the past patterns, blocks and limitations, and inviting my ego to become One. I saw the ego “i” merge into Oneness with the God “I”. And the visualization ended with the smaller “i” inside the large “I.” It’s hard to capture the concept here, but I’m being given another formula that expresses the merging process of the ego with God: i+I = 1. Or, biblically: “I of myself can do nothing; it is not i but the Father (I) within who doeth the works.” With this process, the “I can’t” becomes “I CAN DO.”
During the meditation, ideas kept racing through my mind for offering an ongoing support format throughout the month of March; perhaps daily or nightly, during the week. But I was Guided to talk with Mike Scanlon, Marketing Director. I’d been feeling the Guidance all along to talk with him, but had ignored it.
Now it was moving day, but I felt that I must take action today, before we moved on. After we unhooked, I again dressed in my green outfit, and Van drove to their free parking lot by the casino. Then he walked with me to the door, and waited while I went inside.
However, this time I had to wait for Marty, the secretary, and tell her my ideas. She suggested I leave my Outline and Changing Money Patterns Flyer, so Van and I walked back to our conveniently parked home and retrieved the required papers. Then I took them back to Marty, who made copies. “Call about mid-morning on Monday,” she suggested, “by then Mike will have had time to look at your ideas, and if he’s interested, I can tell you when to come see him.”
Whew! Between moving from our cherished site, and pushing through with steps toward presenting my Changing Money Patterns Workshop, I was overwhelmed.
Let’s Take it!
We still had to do our Wal-Mart and grocery shopping, and find another place to park free. So I changed into my comfortable clothes, and we drove across the Colorado River to Bullhead, Arizona.
Once our errands were completed, and I’d nurtured myself with a Burger King, we headed back across the river (about ten miles further south) to the Avi casino and resort on the Indian Reservation. We’d heard this was a place to park free, and they had a good buffet. Throughout the day I’d been affirming, “Thank you, God, for the perfect place for us to stay free.”
By now it was cloudy and dark, and it was raining. Besides that, the day had obviously been too much for me, and I had stomach cramps. I just wanted to get into our own space and settle down. But as we drove around their lot in the rain, we were shocked to discover there were very few vacancies. So Van tried to fit into a too-small spot, only to put us both into panic as he carefully backed out.
“Okay, I said, “let’s head back to Laughlin, and find a place at our favorite Gold River spot. It’s getting dark, and we’ve got to get settled.”
Now back on the Nevada side, I continued thanking God for the perfect space.
As we drove through the RV parking lot, there was only one space available, crunched between two RV’s, but I gladly said, “Let’s take it. Even if it is in the second row, at least we can still see the mountains, and a peek of the River.”
Van easily parked, and we settled down for the night as another El Nino downpour let loose. “Thank goodness we’re settled,” I said as I crawled into bed to ease my painful body, and Van began watching the Olympics.
Go Ahead and Take it!
Exhausted from our active day, I fell asleep. Usually awake and on the computer, I couldn’t make myself rouse at all the next morning, until Van finally began to stir. We both looked out at the unusually overcast morning, and drowsily trudged through our routine. When my inner fog cleared, I said, “Look, the RV that was in our favorite spot is gone. But there’s a ‘taken’ sign on it.”
“Yeah, he must have left early,” Van said. “Maybe he’s dumping, or refueling, or shopping.”
Finally, the rain stopped, and a neighbor braved the elements for fresh air. I felt Guided to open the window, “Is it cold?” I asked.
We chatted awhile, and I asked where to buy propane. He pointed across the river and gave directions. At some point he asked, “How long are you staying?” When I told him another month, he pointed to the vacant spot and said, “Why don’t you take that place?”
“It says ‘taken'” I responded.
“It’s not. Go ahead and take it.”
Why is it that when we get exactly what we want, we often hesitate to take it? I had to ask Van if he’d mind moving, and we actually questioned the advisability of making the change. I think God hit us over the head with a two-by-four, and I finally said, “I want this place. Let’s move!”
By this time the people next to us had gotten in their car and temporarily left, so I said, “All you have to do is back up the way you came in, and angle around that RV. Then you have a straight shot into the space.”
Home for the Winter
Once in place, with the help of the neighbor to guide Van, I looked out the front window at my cherished view of the mountains and river, and the airport and casinos, and said, “Thank you, God, for giving us what we really wanted.”
Olympic Closing Ceremonies: Oneness
We’d begun watching the Olympic Games on cable TV out of Las Vegas, Nevada, at the Riverside RV Park, but now, fueled by our generator, they came from Phoenix, Arizona on a different channel. Yet, we were thankful to watch the splendor, courage, and sportsmanship of these Games from Nagano, Japan.
The last night, prior to the Closing Ceremonies, the story of Louis Zamorini was presented. At first I was disgusted that they would bring up the negative memories of World War II at this time to remind us of its horrors. But then I realized that the message was clearly one of forgiving and forgetting, and healing those still buried, unspoken emotions. Yet, I had found it difficult as the Japanese flags with their red sun were waved throughout the Games, and at the final Ceremonies.
I’m sure that many of my generation retain our prejudices against the Japanese, for they are deeply ingrained. I still remember World War II quite clearly. As a child, at the time, I became fearful whenever an airplane flew over Bonneville Dam, where I lived, as I knew it was a prime target for bombs. And as I grew older there were Victory songs of all allied nations, along with gas and sugar rationing; and family members going off to war.
Perhaps Louis gave us a blessing, after all, by helping to release those buried animosities, and freeing the energies for love and joy.
In any event, the Closing Ceremonies, with the marching of the combined flags, and the theme of oneness with all nations and all people created a sense of forgiveness, healing, and freeing for us all to move onward in love.
“ASHES TO ASHES AND DUST TO DUST”
Traveling Vietnam War Memorial
Along the banks of the Colorado River it stretched; all 252.83 feet with its 58,209 names, including eight women, all killed during the Vietnam War.
We were looking at one of three traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial walls, called The Moving Wall. This one had been brought to the gambling resort town, Laughlin, Nevada, by the American Legion Post #60 and Don Laughlin, the town’s founder and namesake.
I stooped to read the opening remarks of a lengthy letter, carefully wrapped in plastic and left at the bottom of a six-foot panel: “I’m sorry,” it said, “I should have been there.” It was too personal and too painful. I didn’t read further, and it wasn’t meant for my eyes, anyway.
But then, whose eyes were meant to read its message? From my understanding, the point of this memorial, and the letters and mementos left behind are for the healing and completion of the 2.7 million men and women who served in Vietnam, and for those who visit the memorial.
As a mother, I grieved at the names of sons who died in the prime of their lives. I could feel the pain and emptiness of the wombs that carried these sons and delivered them into the world full of hope and promise. And I thought of the eighteen-plus-years the mothers and fathers cared for their boy’s childhood diseases and heartaches and education; and their plans for the future. But all was for nothing, other than a name, amongst thousands, on 74 separate frames.
“It was a senseless war,” a sixty-something lady mumbled as she left the scene. I’ve heard that most vets feel that was the attitude of Americans for this war that nobody wanted; least of all the youth who were enduring the hardships of this heretofore unknown Asian country.
“Where was I while they were fighting and dying for their country?” My only answer was a blanket “Raising kids, I guess (two girls and a son, who thankfully was much too young for this war).”
I turned to my husband, Van, who was quietly surveying the scene with his own memories as a frogman (Navy Seal) during the Korean Conflict. “Were you in college during Vietnam?” I asked.
He looked distant, as he said, “I was trying to get out of the service to avoid being sent to Laos, where that war started. After four years in the Navy, I had no desire to swim in their infested rivers. And yes, I then went to college.”
A radio disc jockey came by commenting to his unseen audience, “Hey, folks, come on down and see this Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It’s next to the Riverside Casino at the Avenue of Flags.”
I looked up at the circle of American flags honoring all veterans, and then to the flags flying above the Memorial. One for each service: Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force, plus the American flag in the center.
Nothing I had heard or seen prepared me for the reality of this experience. The Moving Wall is angled toward the center where each panel has 137 lines of names listed one after another. The lines decrease along the panels reaching away from the center, until there is only one name on each of the two outside panels; something like two arrows from center to outer edge, with seemingly endless rows of names with either a diamond or a plus by them to indicate whether they are dead or amongst the 1300 missing in action (MIA’s).
A local fire truck arrived and parked. The firemen walked solemnly over to the desk manned by a man and woman volunteer from the American Legion. Several mentioned names, and the helpers looked through the thick book with alphabetized names, that also listed their former address, and which panel they could be found on The Wall.
The firemen joined others standing there looking for names, and their shoulders sagged while they greeted the name of an old friend, or father or brother, or other relative.
Many onlookers took pictures, and some wept. One fiftyish man stood with shoulders slumped and arms crossed. A former military man with his shoulders back and arms swinging, approached the desk, while his wife stood by, and then joined him and walked by his side as they slowly approached The Wall, and stood in silence with his memories.
Though I personally knew no one who was killed in Vietnam, nor did Van, we felt a reverence for the feeling of those who did. And we talked of our son-in-law, Steve, who still fights his demons resulting from his three-years as an Air Force M.P.
Several years ago Steve had attended a workshop where Bert Carson addressed the Vietnam War issues, and it opened a floodgate of emotions for Steve. Bert had given him a medallion honoring his Tour of Duty, and Steve began to share with his wife, Dottie, some of his horrifying memories, and he cried as he released some of the pain.
Later, in a phone conversation, he again wept, as he shared some of the experiences and feelings with us:
“I arrived in Cameron Bay February 10, 1969; an eighteen-year-old kid, green as grass about war. We’d been well-trained, but we thought we were going to what had been called a “R and R” assignment; not a war-zone. Thirteen days later, February 23rd, we awoke to the most deafening, indescribable sounds you can imagine: rockets landing all around us. A voice was yelling over the bullhorn, “Charley’s hit, Charley’s hit” which means, “We’ve been hit.”
“We were all just kids — 18, 19 — and no one knew what to do. Midst pandemonium we scrambled into full gear, as commands continued to bellow from the bullhorn. And then we ran (in full gear) the mile to the CSC (Command Supply Center) where our weapons were stored. We were totally defenseless as rockets landed all around us. I can’t describe the terror and chaos of the scene. Only those who were there can understand.”
Steve continued his agonizing account of the dilemma that faced him that night and haunted the rest of his life. “At the weapons dispensary, every 12th to 16th man was given a 30 lb. M60 machine gun — about 3 ft. long. In addition to that, two cans of ammo, weighing about 30 lbs. each — like an oversize lunchbox. And, of course, my usual issue of a .38 revolver, and another M16 rifle. No one knew what to do, and we were scared, but we ran toward the trucks. Just as I got about 10 ft. from my truck, it pulled out; and I was left standing there.”
He stopped, gasping for breath, then said, “It’s hard for me talk about this, but I’ve got to get it out in order to take the energy off. It’s better since I told Dottie, but that’s the first time I’ve ever talked about it, and I still feel a lot of emotion.”
He continued: “I knew everyone in that truck would die, and it would all be my fault because I wasn’t on the truck with the M60. At first I just stood in the middle of the drive as trucks swerved around me. I felt sick. Then I walked over to the side of the road and sat down and cried. I literally grieved over the death of all my buddies. At some point a sergeant came over and asked if I was okay. I told him what happened, and he said to go back to my hutch (barracks). I felt sick with fear and guilt as I flung myself onto my bunk. But the worst part came when they all returned. I was relieved they weren’t dead, but it was still in my mind that I’d killed them. And now I feared their taunts for not getting on the truck, but they were so into their own drama, that no one said a thing to me. I doubt if they thought anything about it. But I did, and I felt such shame.” Again he couldn’t speak, so we filled in with an attempt to understand and comfort.
Finally he went on to say, “There is nothing like the Vietnam experience. That’s why we feel so isolated from society. And the worst of it is that the public doesn’t want to hear about it. They not only didn’t receive us as heroes when we returned, they even hated us for having been involved. It was a totally ‘no win’ situation. And nothing can ever make up for it, or make it right.” There was no self-pity or attempt for sympathy in his voice, he was simply stating a fact as he, and most Vietnam vets, experience it.”
This was my first reality of the devastation of that Vietnam War. Oh, I’d seen movies, like Jane Fonda and John Voight in “Coming Home,” or Tom Hanks in “Forest Gump,” but that wasn’t real to me; it was a movie, and it was acting.
World War II Memories
On the other hand, I clearly remember World War II; though I was only nine-years-old when Pearl Harbor was bombed on that December 7, 1941 day. Yet, that war was real, because I lived at Bonneville Dam, Oregon, and I knew we were a prime target for Japanese bombs. I lived in fear of every plane that went overhead, and I hid under the car in the garage when I heard their motors. Of course, we weren’t bombed, but the possibility was very real.
And as I grew up, I knew all about gas and sugar rationing, and I participated in the Victory Corps, and I sang Victory Songs. I even knew the words, in their language, of some of our allied national anthems.
I hadn’t thought about these events, until watching the 1998 Olympics and seeing the red sun on the Japanese flags, and watching the Japanese waving happily as they cheered on their teams and athletic heroes. But the memories surfaced of the Newsreel pictures of the slant-eyed hari-kari pilots diving into our ships. And, of course, how could anyone forget Pearl Harbor? After all, we were constantly told: Remember Pearl Harbor. And we did.
I simply couldn’t believe my eyes or ears as I heard Louis Zamborini tell his story at the Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics. I asked, “Why are they bringing up all these memories now? It’s not fair to the Japanese, and it’s not fair to us.” The pictures and story of Louis’s capture and imprisonment were horrific, and I felt those programmed feelings of hate again surface.
But Louis’s story was being told to illustrate his ability to forgive and feel love for his one-time enemy. They even showed “then and now” pictures of his captor and torturer, an officer they called The Bird. And Louis talked of his efforts to again face the man, and express love and forgiveness. However, it was too much for the elderly Japanese, and he refused.
I hadn’t realized that these feelings were still part of me, and I acknowledged that mine too must be forgiven and replaced with love. It wasn’t enough to say “out of sight, out of mind.” The repressed feelings must be allowed to surface, and then be freed. And I began to see that Louis’s story must be told, so that all of us could heal those memories and allow forgiveness and love to replace and prevail. And life could go on at a new level.
I thought the war scenarios were over, but the evening after we returned from visiting The Moving Wall, we watched on TV, America During the 40’s. I’d expected this to be a musical, but it was actually an entire rehash of the horrors of World War II; with a few sentimental war songs added.
“Okay, already, what’s going on here?” I wondered. Why are they reactivating all these war memories? Perhaps they’re trying to stir up some good old American patriotism in the prospect of another war; this one with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. But, fortunately, the war was postponed as an Agreement was reached.
A Different Kind of Lent
Well, yes, but there’s more to this story. While returning from The Wall, on a relocated trolley shuttle, I noticed a young lady with a dark circle on her forehead. “She must be from India,” I thought. And soon I saw a young man also with ashes on his forehead. And I remembered. “Of course, it’s Ash Wednesday: the beginning of Lent.”
As a minister, I usually participate in all religious holidays and events, but we were enjoying our retirement in our motor home, by wintering at this gambling resort town, Laughlin. Perched atop a hillside overlooking a panoramic view of the Colorado River, the rolling desert hills, and the jagged mountains that beautifully reflect the sunrise and sunsets with a pink glow, the Lenten season had come upon me unexpectedly.
But Lent is not to be ignored, because it’s a time of preparation for Easter, and I like to participate by changing patterns of limitation that God always brings to my attention during this season, whether I’m ready, or like it, or not.
Seeing Life from a Different Viewpoint
So, the morning after Ash Wednesday, I selected a spiritual magazine, Unity, in hopes of inspiration and motivation for the Lenten season. Much to my surprise, the monthly theme, What if You Saw Beauty in Everything, for Lent, is about changing our way of looking at things. In other words, seeing life from a different viewpoint, which is basically the idea for this book: seeing everything through the eyes of love.
As I review the events I’ve mentioned in this chapter, needless to say, God has been giving me experiential aides, as usual. They go beyond visual aides, by giving me an experience of the lesson involved, which will be the concept of this book. Every lesson in love will be based on an experience during our travels.
Now, it all begins to make sense: the war memories were surfacing to be faced and freed; and to be replaced with love and forgiveness.
With all this in mind, let me return to what we’ve seen so far through the eyes of love. We’re learning to forgive and love our enemies from World War II, and the Vietnam War; and to love them as God loves them; not as enemies, but with Unconditional Love. That’s what Louis Zamborini learned from his conversion with Billy Graham, and it’s what he now teaches and lives. It was the purpose of his trip to Japan during the 1998 Olympics.
And it occurs to me that forgiveness and love are the lessons that the Vietnam Vets ultimately must learn and practice; beginning with forgiving the American people and government. And finally forgiving and loving the enemies of the Vietnam War.
As I’m writing, I’m wondering if there isn’t a lot more to the forgiveness and love lessons of the Vietnam War. Perhaps there is a need to include themselves on some level and their families too. But, of course, this is not a lesson that only their generation must learn. It applies to us all, in every generation.
I’ve spent many years, and gone through intense pain as I’ve met and healed my inner child; and learned to forgive and love her, and ask her forgiveness and love for the lifetime of neglect. Now we are friends, and we are happy, as one.
Part of the healing process has been to understand her deeply buried feelings of not being wanted, which evolved from my having been adopted at an early age, and to reassure her that my mother’s mental and physical illness was not her fault. Though most children feel that everything revolves around them, they must learn that these events were due to circumstances that really had nothing to do with them.
The truth is that the parents were supposed to be taking care of the children; not the other way around. So we have tremendous Responsibility Factor issues that the Vietnam Vets are dealing with resulting from the lack of parenting skills by their parents, who were themselves victims of multi-generational dysfunctional parenting. So, even without the Vietnam War, the need to understand, and to forgive and love their parents and their inner child is a first step in healing and recovery.
Good Will Hunting
This lesson was brought to my attention in a recent experiential aide in the movie Good Will Hunting, about a twenty-something guy with deep emotional scars from being raised by an alcoholic father, who physically and emotionally abused the boy. As a result, the child, Will, grew into a hard-skinned, indifferent person unable to function in the world, or deal with intimacy in his relationships. His was a classic example of rebellion, despite his superior intelligence and good looks.
The movie tells the story of an unconventional psychiatrist’s methods of relating with his client. The young man finally reaches the place in recovery where the counselor says, “It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault.” The boy’s hard shell wilts before our eyes, and he finally grabs the man and cries. This process opened the door to allow him to feel, to become successful, and ultimately to love.
It Isn’t My Fault
Those of us who have been terribly hurt by life’s blows, must heal our inner child, and learn to love and forgive, and then to live life as whole human beings. This is the place I am, after writing many books about my own healing process and recovery. And then I wrote about Van’s recovery as he too went through the process of healing his inner child, whom we lovingly call “Little Ralph.” He too shed tears with Good Will Hunting, as he watched the movie, and identified with the tough guy who learned, “It wasn’t my fault.”
These are the same words that healed my inner child, who asked to be called Joanie, a term of endearment from childhood, before adoption, when I still lived with my natural parents and maternal grandparents. But that story has already been told. This is a new story.
“THE FIELDS ARE ALREADY WHITE WITH HARVEST”
The Good we Seek is Already Here
The above Bible quote tells us that the good we seek is already here. All we have to do is recognize, accept, and enjoy. But too often we look elsewhere for the blessings. We think that life would be better, if only. “If only what?”
It’s a universal law, expressed in the Bible many ways, that we must “be faithful over little,” in other words, appreciate and utilize what we have, and “I’ll put you over much.” It’s a consciousness of having, rather than not having. Then more is given out of the awareness of the good we already have.
I’d been living from this point of view more and more, especially in Laughlin, where we were actually enjoying the “more.” And that’s because we are seeing it. The entire title quote says, “I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest.” Within these few words are the basic steps of creativity, and they were brought home to me as this chapter unfolded.
With What we Already Have at Hand
I’d started the day by listening to a tape of a Sunday service by Rev. Roger Teel, the minister at the Mile High Church in Lakewood, which I attend when in Colorado. He was talking about prosperity and commitment, using the above Bible excerpt.
My Guidance said to look it up, and I did (but not until Tuesday; and that comes later in the story). In the meantime, I began to follow the Steps, as they were being revealed.
“See that the fields are already white with harvest.” In other words, stop waiting for something to happen, and start doing something now with what you already have at hand. This step was emphasized in the Old Testament when Joshua was told that he could lead the Israelites out of the Wilderness (of confusion and transition), and enter the Promised Land, by first stepping into the “flooded Jordan River.”
Once that first step was taken, even in the appearance of overwhelming negativity — in this case the flood — only then does God do His part to help us along to the next step. He stopped the waters, or the flowing of further negative ideas and thinking. We took our first step to prove our Faith, and then He helped by stopping further flooding.
Remove the Character Defects
In AA’s Twelve Steps, we ask God to remove the “character defects,” which I interpret as the former habits and patterns that have kept us locked into the bondage of limitation, whatever it may be in our individual lives.
With these patterns finally stopped, we are able to move forward, as when the Israelites were “passing over on dry ground.” In other words, they held firm to the ideas of God, rather than the negative thinking that kept them in the Wilderness so long (I’ve written an entire series, Journey to Freedom, based on this Exodus, so I won’t elaborate here).
Our second step is to “see” the good that is already at hand. For me it meant to start taking care of my current priorities, before launching into my new endeavors. In other words, I asked myself, “What’s at hand to do?
I wrote a Newsletter update for the Freedomers, and sent it, along with a personal letter, then included some family and friends, as time allowed. But, in the meantime, I created several congratulations cards: Michael Martin, for having his parole hearing date set; and my granddaughter, Arianna, for resuming her college program, and getting clear on her major, Sociology.
Now, I had stepped into the flooded waters by taking action regarding the immediate business-at-hand: my family and friends, and my ministry. For some family bonding, I sent a Road Atlas to Brandon, my great-grandson, so he can keep track of our travels, and wrote to Airica, my teenage granddaughter, and sent her a new magazine, Teen People.
A New World of Possibilities
Monday morning, as part of my meditation, I looked up the title Bible verse, which opened a floodgate of inspiration that I’ve written at the beginning of this chapter. Then I read my Daily Reading, which I’d neglected for several days, and I knew that God was speaking to me, as He often does through books, TV, or movies with experiential aids.
Its title read: I am continually discovering a world of great possibilities. The main subject was seeing the possibilities at hand from a different perspective, which related to the John 4 verse. In other words, changing our outlook to see the world as God created it — already complete and perfect. It concluded: With love and appreciation I see the potential around me.
Jesus also taught us to pray by His example of prayer when asking that Lazarus be resurrected. He gave thanks in advance for the desired result: Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me; I know thou hearest me always. Answered prayer requires an attitude of gratitude.
And the Bible verse affirmed the overall message: When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me (Jeremiah 29:13-14).
Again, here are the Steps: 1. Search for me — action. 2. With all your heart — commitment. 3. You will find me — promise (faith). 4. I will let you find me — revelation. In other words, “It is done.”
The Silver Chalice
The lessons continued throughout the day as we watched an old movie, The Silver Chalice on TV. It was Paul Newman’s first movie, a biblical epic based on the silver chalice from which Jesus drank the wine during His crucifixion.
Paul played Basil, who had been adopted into wealth, then had his adoptive rights denied, and his inheritance stolen. At one point, in searching for Peter, he lived in the very house, but didn’t know the servant was actually Peter. The servant said, “Peter will reveal himself when he is ready.” Again, the search, not seeing what is already there, and then having it revealed.
First Within and then Without
The ongoing lesson here is that we stop looking out there for our answers, and look within to the indwelling Christ presence, the mystery hid for ages. Again, this was emphasized when I read my Daily Reading: God’s loving presence is the firm foundation on which we build our true security: first within then without.
In the past, I’d always looked to Van to provide our finances. Yes, I knew that God is the Source, but I’d come to depend on Him providing through Van; not only for our income, but for the strength and guidance in our lives. When that was taken away, after his job layoff, my security seemed to crumble. Living with the reality of his incapacitation for the next five years, I was forced to rely on God, not only as a belief, but as a truth.
I Depend on God
“I depend on God,” is now more than an affirmation, for I know that God is always with me. He has revealed Himself to me in so many ways. And, of course, the truth is that He was there all the time. So His love and wisdom provides our security.
This lesson had been a source of solace when I called on Mike Scanlon on Monday, as directed by Marty. He said that my ideas were good, but that the timing wasn’t right, and suggested that I talk with him again at a future time. This was okay with me, because I knew that I wasn’t ready, yet, either. I wanted to be ready, but there was more preparation to be done.
“REACHING OUT AS LOVE”
When the idea came to me for this book, especially the part about “Reaching out as Love,” I thought it would be about our travels, and the people we would be visiting along the way, as well as new places we’d see. And definitely it would be a nice, happy book about love.
But, like my first book in this series, we started during the first two months when we lived in Freedom (our 35 ft. Holiday Rambler motor home) without turning a wheel. We simply stayed in the RV Park and got used to the confined lifestyle, while in Golden, Colorado, near my daughter, Dottie, and her family, and with the added mobility of our Volvo.
I call this period The Beginning, which is needed in any trip or new venture. It is the preparation process before the beginning; when we make plans, consider our destination, make reservations, pack, and otherwise get ready. For me, at least, it’s usually a learning period too.
As the Love Lessons are unfolding, I can clearly see that this preparation is necessary, before the next phase of our trip begins. Not that I personally made any effort, but rather that the experiential aide, as I term the process that takes me through the experience, rather than observing, is in progress.
“Tell me Who You Are”
This process began when I played a tape of our church’s Sunday service that Dottie sent me. The minister, Rev. Roger Teel, took us further than we might expect with his title, Tell Me Who You Are.
In fact, Van, hearing the beginning, decided to step outside for his morning cigarette; and that’s what started this experience.
“Talk about being cut off,” I said.
It was obvious that wasn’t a good idea from my viewpoint, so he sat back down, and mumbled, “I heard his opening statements, and it’s pretty much what you’ve been writing.”
He Wasn’t There
I glared out the window, and tried to concentrate on the tape, though I felt rage. Once again, Van cut me off, or otherwise wasn’t there. In other words, he wasn’t participating in something I was doing, which is pretty much the story of our relationship. Oh yes, he gives me space to do what I’m doing, and he supports me doing it. But he doesn’t enter into it with me. There is no teamwork aspect to our relationship; and the intimacy is non-existent.
Of course, this is characteristic of Van, and I’ve learned to live with it, but I don’t like it. Actually, I learned during my years in the Twelve Step Program, CoDa (Codependents Anonymous), that wounded children from dysfunctional families, who become codependent, usually become alcoholics or addicts; or they marry — or have a relationship with — one, or with an otherwise emotionally unavailable person. As they say, “It’s not an indictment, but an explanation.”
It Sounds Like my Biography
You got that right. As with all the Typical Characteristics of a Codependent, it sounded like my autobiography. All of my relationships fit that description. And, furthermore, I’m tired of it. However, I’ve learned that unless I change the patterns within myself, I’ll only recreate the same situation next time. So I focus on my own pattern changes.
Nevertheless, I’ve also learned to recognize and express my feelings, rather than deny or bury them. So, as I listened to Dr. Roger’s tape, I was angry. But it was difficult to stay angry, because he began talking about love. Of course, as is always the case when we hear a good sermon, it applies to the other person. But it really doesn’t; not any more than it applies to oneself.
All is Love
The emphasis of the Sunday message is exactly what I write, “I am love.” And I believe that. I also believe that God is Love, God is All, and All is Love; therefore I am love, and you are Love. In other words, there is no way we cannot be Love. And that is our true identity.
Become Part of …
In any event, the tape ended, and we went about our daily activities. Later in the day, we walked to Ramada Express Casino for a frozen yogurt; a love-relationship activity. And afterward we stopped by the open lounge to listen to a group, Lucky, play a varied selection of music from the forties through the present time.
Three couples of professional ballroom dancers gracefully glided across the postage stamp dance floor, or bopped, or jitterbugged. I decided to change the pattern of standing on the outside, and suggested we go inside and sit down in the last row. Actually, our view wasn’t as good, but at least we were now part of the crowd sitting in the darkened lounge, though we declined to order anything to drink.
Our eyes no more than adjusted to the dark, than the band took a break. So, I took advantage of the time for us to move closer to the front. Wow! That’s daring. Now we were at the little round table behind the dancers, in the middle of the room, although they took a break too. But Van was sitting by a group of drinkers and loud talkers, so he couldn’t hear anything I said. Furthermore, from my viewpoint, he was detached and not participating. In other words, as usual, he was there, but not there.
This triggered more emotions, of the ad infinitum times I’d been with men — dates or husbands — who weren’t there. Dissociation is the technical term. This time I chose not to dwell on the feelings, and concentrated on several couples dancing to the canned music. Finally, the musicians and dancers returned, and we enjoyed the entertainment, until the next break when we too left.
In the past, I would have quietly seethed over my feelings about Van’s behavior; or I would have indulged in a barrage of verbiage aimed at him about being so distant. But, with years of recovery programs, including therapy, I’ve learned to accept that’s just Van being Van. I have choices: accept it and live with it, change myself, or leave the relationship.
Since I already know that I would simply recreate the same kind of person, I’ve chosen to change myself and remain in the relationship. When we work our recovery program, “The Promise” is that we will enjoy more fulfilling relationships. And in many ways, Van and I are more compatible than ever.
After his computer programmer job layoff, when the company downsized, Van went into trauma for the next five years, and life was about his getting through the process; and about our financial downward spiral; and finally our upward trend during his healing and recovery, mostly with the help of DA (Debtor’s Anonymous) and my ongoing support. But this experience took its toll on our lives, and our relationship.
We financially bottomed-out, declared bankruptcy, and eventually down-sized from our large home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Diego’s North County. The greatest vehicle for Van’s healing, and therefore mine, was buying Freedom, with the financial support of his mom, Betty, and my stepmother, Arlene.
Some folks feared such confined quarters would be the end of our marriage. But the opposite is true. In fact, the first year’s traveling actually brought us closer together. We both enjoy the diversity of travel, and being on the move, and seeing new as well as familiar places. And the old adage, time is the best healer, held true.
Van didn’t like to make decisions about our destination or ventures, and he was perfectly willing to go where I chose, which added to our compatibility. And we both listened to God’s Guidance and focused on living in the Present Moment.
I’d mellowed considerably through the years, especially after the temporary separation from Van in the fall of 1996, when I stayed with Dottie’s family for two months while doing my Moral Inventory, as part of my committed Twelve Step Study.
At the end of that time, during a meditation, I was given an experiential aide of at-one-ment: Van-God-Joyanna. I also made choices to stop taking Van’s Moral Inventory, and trying to fix him. I chose to focus on acceptance, rather than judgment.
In the meantime, during my two month’s absence, Van became quite independent, as he discovered that he not only could survive without me, he could thrive. He took care of himself, and he resumed playing tennis every day.
After I returned to Van in California, we gradually grew closer, even though we had both become less codependent and more independent. But that is the basis of true recovery. Now we each had a strong foundation that could merge into a base for our marriage.
Maybe it’s me
Yet, there was always my feeling of his distance and non-involvement that interfered with my feelings of satisfaction in our relationship. But again, I had a history of non-emotional attachment. And I began to wonder if it were something in me, as well as my mates. In other words, my projections. Needless to say, my having been abandoned by my natural parents and adopted by my paternal grandparents had definitely left a scar on my own emotional wellness.
I too had had a detachment issue, and I carried a deep message that said, “I’m not wanted, I don’t fit in, I don’t belong.” This pattern finally changed as I asked God to remove it, along with other character defects that surfaced during my recovery process.
“How do you Show Love?”
Now, while in Laughlin, before departing on the next phase of our journey, after the spring thaw, a deeper level of love-healing was surfacing.
I awoke the morning after our lounge experience with a zillion thoughts and feelings chasing through my mind. I hadn’t satisfactorily dealt with the previous day’s emotions, and I needed to free myself, so I took time for a lengthy meditation.
When Van awoke, I acted upon my inner guidance, and asked him: “How do you feel you show love to me?”
Without hesitation he said, “Respect, and doing things together — being with you. Doing what you want to do.”
Now for Van, a man of few words, this was a major communication, and I’m sure the timing was right, because we couldn’t, or wouldn’t have been able to have this conversation even a week sooner.
I then heard the next words I was to ask: “How do you show love to yourself?”
I could hear his inner child respond this time, “Being happy. Enjoying what I do.” Had he not gone through the intense process of getting acquainted with Little Ralph, and healing that deeply buried, untrusting, wounded inner child he could not have responded this easily. In fact, during those five years while he was traumatized, and before his recovery, Van was emotionally paralyzed and physically immobilized. He barely functioned, and was like a zombie. It was not a happy time.
Now, he continued his answer, “By following the Laws of Spirituality, such as the Ten Commandments and the Universal Laws. And by avoiding the Deadly Sins mentioned in the Bible.
I interjected, “So this would be your relationship with your God-self?”
“Yes, and there’s more. What’s that called?”
“Do you mean “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?
“Yes, but there’s something else.”
“Maybe you mean the Great Commandment, ‘Love the lord your God with all your mind, heart and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.’”
For a non-religious person, Van’s spirituality — his relationship with God — is intact. And it has supported him through his transition period.
How do you Show Love for Your Mom?
But there were more Questions. And I was guided to ask the third, and the most revealing: “How do you feel you show love to your mom?”
I held my breath. This was the hardest question, and his answer could be life-changing. I knew that Van’s relationship with his mom was the role-model for his male-female relationship, and therefore his and mine.
Betty was a strong-willed, opinionated, controlling woman, who admitted that she’d been a lousy mother, because she was too young and selfish when married at eighteen, while still in high school. And when his dad was discovered with another woman, and told to leave, Betty’s mom continued with much of Little Ralph’s care. It’s when her mom died, that Betty went into a nervous breakdown, and unable to care for her son, sent him (at age 5) from Topeka, Kansas, to live with his dad and paternal grandmother in Denver, Colorado.
Until recently, he’d thought she’d sent him away, because he was a bad boy. The revelation about her health being the reason, was perhaps the most important factor in the self-esteem aspect of his healing.
When Van was in the Navy, his mom lived in San Diego, but there was always the distance between them. He said that she said, “I don’t want to see you at my doorstep all the time.” So they had that kind of relationship. And his relationship with his dad, too, was detached; they hadn’t even seen each other for over twenty-years, until I finally persuaded Van to get together with him. Fortunately, he healed their relationship, because his dad died shortly after our second visit with him. Van had no other role model for a love relationship.
Love is Respect and Freedom
Now came Little Ralph’s answer: “I show love for Mom with respect, and giving her freedom to do what she wants.”
I stopped dead in my tracks and responded, “Well no wonder you’re the way you are. Your love concept of freedom, is conducive to non-participation, non-social, and non-intimacy.” It was like a light had gone on and everything was suddenly brighter and clearer. Van’s entire perspective of love is about staying out of the way — non-involvement — and giving the other person freedom to do what they want.
I gulped, but went ahead with the next set of Questions, as I was guided: “How do you feel that I show love for you?”
No hesitation as he replied, “Being respectful.”
I said, “What about acceptance?”
“That’s part of respect, which is pretty encompassing.”
“Well, do you feel I show love by being supportive?”
“Yes, of course.”
Having Miracles Available
I could tell he felt he’d covered the subject, so I went on: “Okay, so how do you feel you show love for yourself? I guess that would be like you answered the Question before: About Little Ralph and God.”
Little Ralph spoke for himself, “Being happy, and enjoying myself and what I’m doing.” And he also responded to the second part: “Having miracles available.” And Adult Ralph clarified, “Allowing us freedom of choice, after having given us all the capabilities.”
Again, even with his love relationship with God, the detachment, non-involvement as he sees that God has given everything to us, now it’s up to us to use it. But no personal involvement or participation.
My part was to ask the Questions, hear the answers, and be non-judgmental, while understanding and accepting: That’s Van. I could hardly wait to hear his answer to the next Question: “How do you feel your mom shows love for you?”
“She respects what I do, and she supports what I do. She gives me freedom to do what I want.”
There it is again. The distance kind of love; non-involvement, non-participating. How could he be any other way?
I asked, “What about your money relationship with your mom? It seems that in the past she showed love by financially supporting your projects. And now, when you’re together, she gives you money. It seems like that’s another love-concept between you and your mother.”
Van avoided that one. It was going too deep; seeing places he wasn’t yet ready to see. He replied tersely, “I guess so.”
But I wasn’t willing to let it go, so I asked, “What is your money-love concept?”
This was non-personal, so he answered, “You can help another person with it. It can help the other person.”
I asked, “Do you think withholding money is a form of withholding love? And giving money is showing love.”
It’s getting too close again, so he replied, “I guess it could be construed that way.”
“Well, in my reality that’s how it goes. Money can be used as a form of punishment. For instance, I was given an allowance, and if I wasn’t good, it was withheld. I raised my kids the same way. To me it’s a reality.”
He looked blank, so I knew that part of the conversation had gone far enough.
Reverse the Process
But we weren’t through. Now it was my turn. Van had asked me, after the first Question, “How do you feel I show love for you?” Once I’d finished with him, I quietly went back over the Questions, and wrote out my answers.
I feel that I show love to Van by support, acceptance and understanding; and by doing things together; by being together.
Of course, Joanie had to answer the next Question. I (Joanie) show love to myself by having fun, being happy and being well; and by being creative, as with my writing.”
Earlier, while asking Van some other Questions, I’d had a flash of insight that revealed more light on the subject of our relationship. It first came as the answer to my feelings about my relationship with God. The answer very clearly is “Being at-One, integrated.”
And then I realized that’s the basic difference between Van’s love concepts and mine. His is freedom, which I interpreted as detachment, while mine is integration, togetherness, harmony, compatibility. How could he and I ever have a compatible relationship with such basic differences about love?
As Scarlet O’ Hara would say, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Today I had to complete these Questions.
Take Care of …
“How do I show love to my mom?” That’s easy. From the time I was able to walk, my job was “Take care of your mommy, Joanie.” And then, after my baby brother was born (when I was 2 1/2), my duties were “Take care of your baby brother, Joanie.” So when Mom had a nervous breakdown (post-partum blues), which was her first schizophrenic episode, and was put in a mental hospital, I hadn’t done my job right, and it obviously was all my fault. And that was the birth of that pattern; one that I have since asked God to remove.
Nevertheless, an intricate part of my nature is taking care of others. After I was adopted, and through the years, I wrote to her; and she wrote back. But during my thirties, her schizophrenia symptoms worsened and she stopped writing. I made several efforts to see her, which were rewarded with her cries, “I don’t want to see her.” Now why in the world would I have a “not wanted” complex?
And then when her caretaker husband, Ed, became incapacitated, I was asked to “take care of her.” But she worsened, and I had to put her in a care center. Then I showed love by going to see her, and taking care of her affairs. This evaluation doesn’t leave much room for doubt about my love concepts.
Keep Them Happy
But what about my dad? My relationship with him has always been about food, and about being pleasant and funny. In other words, in both cases, my part is to keep them happy.
I can clearly see how insightful this exercise has been so far. My part is to take care of, and keep happy. How codependent can you be? But as I learn to accept myself, I see that’s me, so why fight it? It’s okay for me to have a ministry-by-mail with prisoners. If it weren’t that, it would be something else; so I choose to do what I do. And that’s part of my ability to love. It’s how I show love.
Solve the Problem
When I’d awakened prior to my recent meditation, I’d been dreaming about a man being released from prison, and our embrace in a loving hug that merged into Oneness. As I understand dream interpretation, the male represents intellect and the female represents feelings; so the dream meant that my intellect and feelings were merging, which also indicates a freeing of my ability to love on a deeper, more feeling level.
And this reality became clearer as I continued answering by reversing the Questions. First: How do I feel that Van shows love for me?
I remembered that when I was staying in Colorado, I had a problem with the computer, so called Van. Although he had been distant and detached in previous phone conversations, his warmth and interest surfaced as he carefully guided me through the steps of solving my computer problem. And I felt a sense of intimacy between us. That’s when I realized that one of the ways Van and I relate in love is through his assistance and support with my computer writing and projects; problem solving.
For instance, he lovingly and patiently taught me how to use the computer as a word processor, while I sat there in tears trying to make my right-brain-mind function with the left brain. It was painful, so as a result, I learned enough to get by, but often I come up against obstacles beyond my knowledge, especially technical projects, such as scanning, or the logistics of transforming a manuscript on the word processor into a book format on the publisher; and so much more.
These realizations brought me to a new appreciation and acceptance of our love relationship. It was a turning point, and as a result I began to think of other things we had in common. In fact, I took myself through a process that comes up later in this chapter: writing down everything I like about Van.
I Like it That Way
But for now, I’m still answering the question of how I feel he shows love for me. A major issue for me is his handling our finances, and all business and money-related matters. I was raised when women took care of the household, and men took care of business. Women were the nurturers and men were the providers and protectors. I like it that way.
But here’s where the love relationship role-models of parents enter the picture. I’m getting ahead of the sequence of Questions, but it’s necessary to weave the story together.
Because I was adopted and raised by my paternal grandfather and his second wife, they had a greater influence in my life as parental role-models. I have no idea what kind of a person I would have been, had I been raised by my natural parents. In fact, I shudder to think of the possibilities as I look at options.
“He Didn’t Want me When he got me”
For instance, my brother, Gary, was raised by my dad and his second wife, Ermith, so he reflects much of dad’s influence, as do our two half-brothers, Larry and Bill. They, fortunately, had no heredity of mental illness, but all three boys have other issues resulting from dad’s s’mother-love upbringing. A pampered, narcissist, self-centered mama’s boy, who had been abandoned by his father at an early age, then kidnapped (by his father) and taken away to Washington D.C., where his dad (my grandfather) went to medical school. But, as Dad said, “He didn’t want me when he got me, so when Mom came, at Dad’s request, he was glad to let her take me.”
A New Dimension of Understanding
So, it’s with a newfound appreciation that I remember Mom Freeland (my adopted mother), whom I hated most of my life for her controlling, domineering, often violent behavior. It wasn’t until I got into the Twelve Step Programs that I realized that I was raised by an alcoholic, which explained a lot, and added a new dimension of understanding.
Nevertheless, Mom Freeland had many virtues, and one of my favorites was her cooking ability. I love to eat, and that’s how I felt nurtured. It’s one of my most dominant love concepts. And one of my fondest memories is the tooth fairy leaving me cinnamon rolls. I can smell and taste them, even now; and I’ve never found any to equal Mother’s.
Sewing was another of her skills that I appreciated. I can remember when she created a blue velvet dress patterned from one worn by Aubrey Hepburn in War and Peace. I loved that dress, and so it was a love association.
But these were not the most dominant features of Mother’s character. When younger, before she married Dad Freeland, she had been a professional organist in the theaters, and played background music for the silent movies. She was an excellent organist, and much sought after. So she attained quite an ego to go with her inherent strong will and obstinate personality. But most of all, she was independent and ambitious. And those were characteristics that I reflected. I think of us both as being powerful women, which caused us to lock horns and battle on a regular basis.
Dad was a Problem-Solver
Since I’ve wandered so far afield with my Questions, I’m going to bring Dad Freeland’s influence here too, because it explains the love relationship between Van and I.
As a medical doctor, Dad was busy and detached, distant; so I’m used to those characteristics in a man, which works well with Van and I. My clearest memories of Dad are his listening to the radio, reading the paper, or taking a mid-day nap. A Victorian-type male, he was not an emotionally available man, either. But, he helped me with my homework, especially story-problems, which my left-brain could hardly fathom; so the longer I took to understand, the more time he would spend with me.
Aha! Now the patterns are fitting into place, and the love relationship between Van and I makes sense based on the role-model of Dad Freeland (who was also my paternal grandfather).
Now we can move along to the second aspect of my recognition of how Van shows love for me by taking care of the finances and business, which, of course, Dad Freeland did as a husband-father in the thirties and forties.
Happy and Carefree
With my parental-love role-models in place, I can now answer Questions. Once removed from the chaos of my natural parents during their struggles in the Great Depression, and with Mom’s nervous breakdown, I was delighted to escape.
I was a happy, carefree child growing up at Kah-nee-ta Hot Springs, with our dogs for companions as we climbed the barren hills of Central Oregon and roamed the valley in search of agates and crystals. I also had a warm-water pool and a rippling river to swim, and my own chain-link swing and a sandbox, and a playhouse. And Mother was okay in those early years.
Becoming Introverted and Guarded
But when she began drinking, her personality changed, and gradually I changed, becoming more introverted and guarded. Finally, at fifteen, I left and went to live with my dad and stepmother, Ermith. But my wounded inner child had withdrawn, and it wasn’t until my fifties that we again reconnected.
Now I show love for her by making sure her needs are met, and as we’ve integrated, she shows love for me by being happy and creative. And our integration has opened the way for my at-one-ment with God. So it’s no longer “we,” but I, as One. And that’s my love concept: Oneness, alignment, harmony, teamwork, partnership.
This is already an extensive treatise on love. But the conclusion is the highlight. Because once I recognized the differences in Van’s and my love concepts — freedom verses togetherness — I understood the reasons for our respective behavior, and this process brought us both to a new level of acceptance.
As a result, I could give Van more freedom. Rather than seeing his behavior as “You don’t love me,” I understood that he was giving me freedom, thus showing that he loves me. What a breakthrough!
On the other hand, with his deeper understanding and freedom, we automatically experienced a greater sense of togetherness. So, perhaps it’s not “Freedom verses Togetherness,” but, as Van says, “Freedom–Togetherness,” which equals: Oneness.
It Was Fun!
Earlier I mentioned my recognition of some of the aspects of our love relationship, such as the computer and finances. The problem is that when Van went into his downward spiral, he found it difficult to function in either of those activities, and needless to say, I felt abandoned and unloved.
However, as he completed his healing process, and enjoyed a greater degree of recovery, he resumed interest in helping me with the computer. And I’d learned not to be as needy and demanding in order to feel loved by his computer support. In other words, it became a more normal, healthy activity. I knew we were in a good place when, after some recent computer time, he said, “It was fun.”
The same is true with finances. We’d begun working on our Spending Plan together, which was a push-through for us to discuss money. But after a full month of consciously staying within our income, he seemed relieved, and happy to resume the financial accounts. The difference is that now we are equally involved, and he’s not left with the full responsibility.
I’m not going to list all of Van’s fine characteristics; they’ll be revealed as the Travel Series continues.
But I’d be remiss not to share Van’s responses to the exercise in listing “Things I Like about My Love (our mutual term of endearment):
Things I Like About My Love
“Just about everything.” In the past I would have pursued that to learn what he didn’t include, but now I didn’t ask. I took it as a positive.
He then added: “we’re compatible, and we do things together. You have a positive approach. You have good ideas.”
His list wasn’t going fast enough, so Joanie had to help: “I have a good sense of humor and I’m fun, right?”
Being a man of few words, Van had already figured his first statement was sufficient, but I always like the details, so I pressed further. “You like my spirituality, right? And my creativity?”
“And don’t forget my great meals. Not that I cook that much anymore, as such, but I do fix quick and easy meals that we enjoy, and that are inexpensive, using what’s on hand, right?”
He smiled as he said, “That’s right.”
A Healing Time
Of course, Little Ralph likes our adventures down the hill for the 2-for-1 frozen yogurt, or the 99-cent hot dogs and free beverage too; as does Joanie. This keeps our kids happy and cooperative. And we both like the $1.77 breakfast buffet at Gold River.
In retrospect, I can see that this interlude at Laughlin has been a healing time for us. We’ve had fun, we’ve relaxed, we’ve exercised on our river walks and along Casino Drive to the coupon food offers, and we’ve grown back together as I’ve kept writing, and Van’s helped on the computer. Also, we’ve kept our Spending Plan, and managed to live within our income.
A Big Decision
In other words, we’ve done our preparation, and we’re almost ready to See Places We’ve Never Seen Before. Though this title relates to our travels, I knew our inner journey had already been to places we’d never been before.
From time to time we’d discuss our plans for travel, concluding that we would be heading across Texas, Missouri and Tennessee. But the El Nino weather news warned of hurricanes and tornadoes. And the better Van felt, the more inclined he seemed to want to change our itinerary to first go north to visit Dottie and her family in Colorado. In the past, he got sick whenever we were there, so despite my desire to see my family, I’d given up the idea.
I knew another level of healing had taken place when Van announced that he wanted to go to Colorado when we leave Laughlin. Hooray!
But we still had another month in Laughlin, and Van’s mother would be visiting, which means she would pay for us to stay at Harrah’s four days and nights. But this would be a later chapter.
SINCE WE’RE NEIGHBORS, LET’S BE FRIENDS
Before marrying Van, I was outgoing and sociable. But, the old saying that married people tend to become alike, held true, despite my desperation to maintain my own identity.
Twenty years togetherness, plus isolation in my writers ivory tower, and I awoke with the realization that I too had become reclusive. Of course, this is characteristic of a codependent, and during my CoDa recovery program, I’ve endeavored to again open up and reach out; conscientiously encouraging my flickering love-light to burst into the flame of joy and friendship.
The truth is that Van also attempted to become more social, especially when involved in the MLM business. However, with the advent of his traumatic withdrawal from life itself, he reverted to the comfort and familiarity of his former non-social existence.
Yet, the very nature of this on the road lifestyle is conducive to socialness. Being confined to 9 by 35 ft., no matter how luxurious, is still limiting, and saying “Howdy” to fellow travelers is not only acceptable, but expected. And then there’s conversation about weather and road conditions, good accommodations — RV parks or National and State Parks. Or exchanging information where gas, propane and dumpsites are located.
And once settled into an RV park, or even a Truck Stop, where coaches are often packed in like sardines, it’s difficult to avoid human contact; though many RVers remain behind closed doors with curtains drawn, simply for privacy. Van steps out for a cigarette, or to check Freedom (the name of our motor home), or to utilize the facilities, such as rest rooms or showers when available.
It’s been fun watching him open up and converse about RV-related stuff, “Where are you from? Where are you going? How do you like your RV; or RVing?”
Often I’ve remained inside at the computer or kitchen, partially because I covet my time for writing, and I’ve become so non-social that it’s difficult to break the pattern and socialize. Furthermore, I savor the anonymity; being one of the crowd. Otherwise, the conversation inevitably comes around to my writing or my ministry, and I face the possibility of confront, criticism or rejection when it’s learned that my ministry is with prisoners, and it’s metaphysical. So I’ve chosen to avoid the issues by remaining reclusive.
And this in itself is a cathartic confession, especially since I am choosing to reach out as love, in our travels and relationships, and with my ministry. It’s obvious that if I’m going to again facilitate workshops or lectures, it’s time to become more sociable.
So, I’ve begun smiling and saying “Hello” to our neighbors, and to indulge in light chitchat in an effort to build up my confidence for coming out of hiding with a sign on our coach, or passing out flyers.
I’d rather put an ad for my books in newspapers in distant cities, but it’s not the full scope of my abilities, and I actually enjoy the inter-relationship with people, once I’m doing it.
I was too busy writing while staying at the Riverside RV Park with full hookup; and we spent our spare time roaming the casinos for coupon specials, such as 99-cent hot dogs, or 2-for-one buffets. We also indulge in the free movie at Ramada, or the Tuesday $2.50 movie at the Horizon Discount Outlet mall; or paying the full $4.00 at Riverside Six movies for such unforgettables as Titanic and Wag the Dog, especially during the advent of our president’s sexual exploitations. On the other hand, we chose not to submit to the temptations of gambling or drinking or expensive buffets, despite tantalizing enticements, such as promotional specials or other something for nothing offers with billboards and flashing lights.
But once we moved to the free RV parking on the hill above Gold River, and met our neighbors, Chuck and Alma from southeastern Oregon, I again felt the joy and warmth of camaraderie.
When Chuck noticed our Oregon license plate, he soon revealed that he also owns a farm at Madras, besides living in Nyssa (in eastern Oregon). And I shared that my parents had owned Kah-nee-ta Hot Springs, and I’d spent many happy summers there.
As we chatted, we discovered that we’d been at Kah-nee-ta, during the past summer, at the same time. And these coincidences are part of the fun of RVing. This common bond became the base of our short visits when standing outside, or meeting at everyone’s’ favorite $1.77 breakfast buffet. Once we stopped to chat while looking at the used cars brought in for the big sale at Harrah’s nearby upper parking lot. We even contemplated the possibility of a car to tow behind Freedom, sometime, but not now; and Chuck shared that he’d been a car sales manager for over thirty years in Nyssa, where they live.
One day, while talking outside their coach, I asked about the layout of theirs, and he invited me inside to see his wide model, and to visit with Alma, who seldom came outside. Now we too became acquainted. She voiced a preference for their other coaches, which are Holiday Ramblers, the same manufacturer as ours.
What did you see in Your Telescope?
Spotting his telescope, I asked, “Did you see what was going on the other night with all the flashing lights across the river?”
In his soft-spoken voice, Chuck said “A homeless man went into the street to try to save his dog from getting hit. But instead, he got hit by the lady trying to avoid the dog.”
Amazed, I asked, “Did you see all that in your telescope?”
“Yes, but I also heard it on the radio, and read about it in the local newspaper.”
“That’s a powerful telescope,” I said.
Alma quietly spoke up, “When we were here last year, we watched a Mexican wedding over there along the river. We felt like we were part of the festivities.”
Here Today; Gone Tomorrow
I laughed, and we continued to talk about safe, non-controversial subjects. Something reminded me of my manic-depressive daughter, and I talked about her, and then said, “She’s moving to Bend, Oregon, as we speak.” Alma shared about a relative with similar disorders.
I finally felt safe enough to reveal, “I’m a writer and have a ministry with prisoners, so I spend a lot of time on my computer.” Not only were there no repercussions, but Chuck said he’d had a borrowed laptop on their last trip here. It felt good being with them, and I could feel a friendship building.
Of course, one of the pitfalls of making traveling friendships is their transient nature; here today, gone tomorrow. Because of my childhood abandonment issues, this can be challenging, but at least I know they will be leaving, and that allows me to prepare for a short term friendship, even if we exchange names and addresses. Most people, especially travelers, don’t answer when I write — and I always do, at least once.
I tend to want to become attached, and maintain relationships, but I’m learning to live in the Present Moment: enjoy who and what is here now without attachment, and move on. It’s that way in this lifestyle. For instance, when we arrived here, a fellow with a cane directed us to a parking place on this very crowded lot. We saw him from time to time, but didn’t become acquainted; and then one day he and his wife were gone.
“We’ll Take it”
And the second morning here, I said “Hello” out the window to John, who later pointed to the prize spot overlooking my favorite view of the Colorado River, the barren desert, and jagged mountains that reflect the sunrise and sunset.
“Do you want that spot?” He asked.
“It’s got a ‘taken’ sign on it,” I replied.
“You can have it,” he countered.
I hesitated a minute, unable to realize that the exact place I wanted was waiting for me. “We’ll take it,” I said. But we didn’t see John very much, and then we learned they had left to visit their son in Sacramento, but they’d be back later.
He Slept Through the Whole Thing
Despite the number of people, there’s not usually much excitement in this lot. However, I awoke one night to hear voices next door. Looking outside I saw a police car and several men talking. But why was there a pile of stuff sitting in the space next to the fifth-wheeler?
Eventually, as I watched, the police car left, and so did the other two men. Now the guy dragged his belongings across the asphalt and replaced them under his home. Finally, peace and quiet was restored.
The place was abuzz the next morning, as neighbor shared with neighbor their version of the middle-of-night events. To my amazement, the neighbor at our south said, “A tow-truck was working its way in the space between us, trying to hook up to the fifth-wheeler. But there wasn’t enough room. Finally, the driver knocked on my door. He apologized, but asked me to please move my car.”
As she told me the story, her husband looked surprised. “He slept through the whole thing,” she said.
Then she continued, “A woman in another car had accompanied the tow truck. Maybe she was the guy’s ex-wife.” She stopped as we clung to her words as she gathered her thoughts, and then continued. “Ordinarily the owner works nights, but he was there too. He may have been asleep while they tried to tow it away.”
I gasped, “Can you imagine being sound asleep, and having your home jolted out from under you? Who called the police?”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t hear what all was going on; the woman was waving a paper, and finally the tow truck driver said, ‘I’m not going to be part of this,’ and he left.”
“Oh, so that’s why I didn’t see it when I looked out.”
“Yeah, things calmed down soon after the police arrived.” Our neighbor had told her story, and they got in their car and drove away. But I knew there was more to the story.
Later in the day, Van came inside from talking with Chuck, and said, “They had their window cracked, and heard the lady say to the officer, “I have the title. It’s mine. We’ll go to court.”
I figured there was more to the story, but I didn’t hear it until we returned from our overnight jaunt to Roger Whittaker’s live show at the Riverside Casino.
Our Night — and Day — Out
But first we drove Freedom across the bridge to Bullhead, Arizona and got gas, plus our groceries, and then returned to park at the Riverside free parking lot, where RV’s were allowed to park indefinitely. I figured it would be much easier to see the show and return to the convenience of our home.
We’d gone inside to the post office and had eaten our 99-cent hot dogs earlier, and then returned to change clothes. A vehicle pulling a trailer had parked next to us. I looked inside the covered pickup, and began talking to a large, gray and black dog lying against the open windows. I asked the pleasant thirty- something gal standing nearby, “Is it an Alaskan husky?”
She nodded, “Yes, it’s called a malamute. He’s a talker.” About then the dog began making low, guttural sounds as if talking.
I chatted with the gal awhile, and noticing her tan, I asked, “Where did you find a tan this time of year?”
“We stopped at Valley of Fire State Park north of Las Vegas. It was really nice; especially after being in a terrible storm around Salt Lake City.”
Her husband, who had been talking with someone at another RV, appeared, and we talked about the weather, and he introduced themselves as Kent and Linda. They’d driven over from Bend, Oregon, to visit a relative in Ogden, Utah, but headed south to get away from the storm.
I asked if they knew my brother, Larry, who owned an electric business in Bend. And then we talked about Kah-nee-ta, and soon we were enjoying a pleasant conversation.
“We just pulled in here a few minutes ago,” Linda said, but we’re thinking about staying in this area, and getting jobs,”
Kent asked, “Do you know if it’s okay to stay on this lot?”
We said, “Yes,” and told them the advantages of where we usually stay. I liked these fellow Oregonians, and hoped to reconnect after the show.
In the meantime, we went inside the casino to attend the Roger Whittaker performance, and found our seat in the packed auditorium; at a narrow table holding six people on each side. As we chatted with the two ladies across from me (next to Van), one said, “We drove all the way from the Palm Springs area to see Roger Whittaker. We’re going to stay overnight, then drive back.”
Roger Whittaker Live
Now we had new neighbors, of sorts, to get acquainted with, and the time went quickly. As we lamented the congested seating, one lady said, “Roger won’t come here unless they guarantee 1,000 people.” They were definitely fans, and showed us the program they’d bought, with pictures and information. All I really knew about Roger Whittaker was his music, which I played often, on our tape deck.
Roger had a strong following, and everyone applauded as he took his seat on a stool in front of his group: a guitarist, a drummer, and a pianist. Wearing a casual black shirt and pants, he wove stories from his life, with his music; some of which had an African flavor and beat, reflecting his having been born in Kenya, Africa; other music reflected his English background.
But the audience came to life when he sang his “career songs”: I Don’t Believe in If Anymore, Last Farewell, and Durham Town. And they mellowed as he sang The Wind Beneath my Wings, which he’d recorded with Chet Atkins, but was “popularized by someone else,” as he put it. Roger features whistling in his music, and encouraged this senior-oriented audience to participate, but without much success. However, they did clap in time with some of the catchier numbers, and when his female singing partner — with a Teresa Brewer style — pelted out Jambalaya, and another rouser, the old-timers came to life, and gave him a standing ovation to prompt an encore.
By the end of the evening, we felt we’d made another good friend with our bespeckled, gray-haired compatriot, Roger Whittaker. And though we parted company from him, and our temporary neighbors, we carried a warm-glow from their companionship, which could be reflamed with the flick of our tape deck switch.
Back to Reality
Unfortunately, we didn’t reconnect with our parking lot neighbors, because they were gone when we returned, and we left early the next morning, before they were up and about. I felt a sense of loss, but knew that we’d touched lives for a brief time, and hopefully made their visit easier by passing along some of the information that had helped us enjoy our stay. And that’s how it is with RVing.
In retrospect, the main reason we didn’t stay longer to say “Goodbye” to Kent and Linda was because a van had sandwiched between their setup and ours, crowding so close to Freedom that Van could barely get out the door to check the area, before leaving. I felt trapped and uncomfortable, and I wanted to get out of there. Whether or not it was them, or something else, the energies in this lot felt stifling, and all I could think about was getting home.
When we arrived back at our Gold River RV parking lot, no one was in the access space, and Van easily drove home. Chuck’s tow-vehicle was gone from the spot next to ours, but the fifth-wheeler occupant was standing by the fence surveying the view.
I got out, and chatted about his job doing maintenance for Don Laughlin, “We saw you last night arranging chairs after the Roger Whittaker performance.”
“Yeah, I help with the setup, and then between shows. I actually have to measure the distance between each chair.” And he confirmed, “Roger Whittaker wants at least 1,000 people, so we have to take out the risers. Then put them back for the next entertainer. They all have their own ideas of how they want the room set up.”
“They must have a big space to store the stuff between shows,” I said.
“Not big enough,” Jimmy added.
“Where did you say the bowling alley is going to be?”
“Above the valet area in front,” he explained. “Don’s going to enlarge his auto museum too.” The chitchat continued as Jimmy pointed to the Gold River Casino and said, “The new owner is going to make a lot of changes here too. That entire mine shaft decor is coming down, and he’ll renovate the inside with a tropical entrance.”
I felt sad when Jimmy said, “This free lot won’t be here next year. They plan to upgrade, like Riverside, and charge for the hookups.”
The wind was blowing, and I was getting cold, but I couldn’t resist, “I slept through that tow-truck episode, but the police and talking woke me up. What was going on?”
“Oh, a friend was letting me use it, while he was in prison. Then he got out, and took some money and stuff from his wife. He’d put the fifth-wheeler in her name to get insurance, so she decided to take it away to repay the money he took.”
“Were you inside when they came?”
“No, I was at work. She called and said, ‘I’ll give you twenty minutes to get your stuff together.’ I couldn’t leave work then, and it wasn’t enough time, anyway.”
“How did you get them to stop?”
“I told them the situation, and the tow-truck driver didn’t want to get involved. He said, ‘It’s costing her $800.00 for me to come up here.'”
Jimmy was walking toward his home, and I asked, “So is it taken care of now?”
Like the saying goes, “If you want to know the truth, go to the source.” I’d learned some of the truth, but why Jimmy couldn’t afford a home, after twenty years working for Don Laughlin, still remains a mystery.
The Generator Story
But I had my own problems, so went inside and asked Van to start the generator. He’d tried to start it at Riverside, but it didn’t work. I’d prayed about it, concluding, “It is done,” and now expected it to start. He pressed the button, but nothing happened; a second try and still nothing.
“Well, you should have done it before we got back in here. Now we’ll have to go out again to get it fixed. Besides, I’m really upset ’cause I thought it was handled.”
“It probably is,” Van said. “We’ll take it out tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll ask around as to where to go.”
“Ask Chuck,” I said.
In the meantime, another RV pulled behind us, blocking our escape route, and I again felt trapped. Now I also felt angry, because we’d have a difficult time getting out.
“We should have done it today,” I grumbled as I pulled down the blind on the back window that looked into the new neighbor’s window. I could see that they were from Illinois, and next to them, another RV had pulled in while we’d been out. It was from Wyoming, and the fortyish lady from Illinois was talking with the elderly fellow.
I returned to the sofa and pouted. Soon Chuck and Alma drove in, and the Illinois gal came over and said to him, “I came over to look at your view,” and they began talking — outside my window — while she stood there in her sleeveless tank top with the cold wind blowing, as she enjoyed the view.
Soon she went home, and Van went outside to talk with Chuck. I heard the generator door open, and within minutes the generator started.
I Flipped the Circuit Breaker
I opened the window, “Chuck, you’re a magician. What happened?”
“I just flipped the circuit breaker.”
“Yeah, he did it hard. I guess I didn’t do it hard enough,” Van said, rather sheepishly.
“Thank you, so much,” we both said. And I added under my breath, “Thank you, God. You said it was done, and sure enough, it was taken care of.”
A Sense of Loss
As I am writing the above words, I heard Chuck start up his engine, and asked Van, “They aren’t leaving are they?”
He stopped reading, and looked out the window. “No, I think they’re just going out to dump, or maybe for gas.”
I felt a sense of anxiety and loss. I don’t want them to go. I must get their address. I really like these kind, gentle people. I thought to myself, “Why couldn’t I have had parents like them?”
They had said that their son was coming to visit from Oregon, but then he decided it was too far, so changed his mind. They’d also talked about visiting her brother in Tucson later this month. We would be staying at Harrah’s four days when Van’s mom visits, and then we would leave. At best, we’d only be seeing our neighbors another week.
Preparation for changes were in progress. I looked out the window at the jagged mountains across the river, and heard the sound of an airplane overhead as the wind gently rolled Freedom.
Sunday morning we braved the brisk wind while walking down the hill to the Gold River Casino, and stood in line for 1/2 hour awaiting the $1.77 breakfast buffet; well worth the wait, as the food was delicious. It featured the usual breakfast entrees, fruit bar, and pastries, plus our personally cooked omelet.
News from Home
After breakfast, we again faced the wind and walked a few long blocks to Ramada, with the intention of watching their free movie. However, the projector was being used elsewhere, so the movie was not shown. Despite all our activities and fun, I missed my daughter, so as we passed the telephones, I called Dottie. But I could hardly hear, so asked her to standby, and I’d call later from Gold River.
Once at their quiet basement phones, I again made connection, and she updated me on the family news, including some internal feuding; and finally concluding that the family dog, Rascal, and the cats, were all sneezing with some virus.
I hadn’t talked with my son, Marquam, in Oregon for several months, because of his flexible schedule, and my unavailability to phones, but took a chance and called.
His roommate answered, and announced, “He’s staying overnight at his dad’s. They’re flying to Reno tomorrow.”
Disappointed, I said, “Well, tell him I called and I love him. I’ll call next week.” I said to Van, “At least he’ll be in Nevada, so that’s some connection.”
Somehow, these family calls are stressful, as they bring up such mixed feelings: sadness, disappointment, frustration and anxiety mixed with love and concern. This time I had no intentions allowing the phone calls to diminish my good feelings, so I said, “Let’s come back and see Sandy Hackett’s Comedy Club tonight. I could use some laughs.”
I Could Use Some Laughs
We rode the shuttle bus home, and asked the driver to return at 7:15, otherwise, no telling when they come by. In the meantime, we’d about decided not to go, because Van hadn’t finished his snack, and I was feeling lethargic, after my phone calls. But, I knew we needed to stretch beyond our comfort zone, and besides, I’d asked the driver to be there, so we rushed to the shuttle pick up stop, and right on schedule, he appeared. We showed our appreciation by tipping him $1.00, and rushed to the show ticket desk.
We bought our $12.95 tickets to Sandy Hackett’s (Buddy’s son) Comedy Club. My first disappointment: Sandy didn’t entertain, in fact wasn’t there, and the host was boring and rude as he bashed the audience for not laughing, “I’ll slow down for you.” The truth is he wasn’t funny, nor was the second comedian. However, the featured guest, Zooman, from San Diego, had performed at the San Diego Zoo, and his professional background was obvious, and enjoyable.
We stayed later for the free entertainment, A Tribute to The Righteous Brothers, by impersonators. They informed us that originals approved their similarity in looks and sound; and rightly so, as they played excellent 60’s music. Though I’m not a fan of their rock n’ roll style, I especially enjoyed Unchained Melody, by these quality entertainers who played to a packed audience in the Comedy Club lounge.
During the act, each “brother” came into the audience, adding a touch of friendliness, by shaking everyone’s hand, accompanied by the background group. Since we always sit further back, they missed us. But they again greeted everyone outside, after the performance, and I made sure I shook hands on our way out.
As we rode the shuttle up the hill, we again thanked the driver for making a special trip to pick us up earlier and drive us to the casino. Now, on the return, he chatted about the upcoming changes, and he confirmed that this free RV parking will no longer be available in the new look.
Again, I felt sadness about the changes, but gratitude for the time we’d been able to enjoy the facility. The two months in Laughlin had been so good for us. Van was finally pulling out of his trauma from his downsize layoff, and I rejoiced as he resumed interest in helping me on the computer with tasks beyond my word processor capabilities. His former pleasant disposition had returned, and with his attention to his inner child, Little Ralph, his former moodiness had vanished. Hooray! It had taken over five years, but I could see “The best is yet to be.”
As we now faced short time — Chuck and Alma leaving, and our moving to Harrah’s, and then leaving, we cherished our remaining time here.
By Monday morning, March had finally arrived, giving a reprieve from the ongoing El Nino effects of a windy, cold winter. The RVers, used to sunshine and the outdoors as an extended living room, mushroomed into the parking lot. As I continued to finish revising my Journey to Inner Freedom course, Van sauntered outside, and spent the day talking with Chuck and The Boys.
A “new kid on the block” from the Rolls Royce of RV’s, a Beaver Patriot, arrived and asked where to find a telephone. Van gave directions down the highway to the convenience store.
I thrilled to hear his laughter and see his smile as the light breeze rumpled his hair and the sun tinged his cheeks. RV related chitchat wafted through the open window, as I forged ahead to complete the chapter for Dottie to edit while we were in Colorado.
I stopped long enough to fix lunch, and when Little Ralph came in to eat, the other “boys” dispersed for their individual projects. But when he went outside again, they all reappeared. I knew he was happy, and that evening I asked, “Did you have fun with The Boys?”
“Yeah,” he said smiling from ear-to-ear. I knew that his childhood feelings of not belonging were laid to rest, as the pattern had now changed, and he fit right in.
The next morning Van said, “The fellow with the white dog, from the end of the parking lot wondered if you have a Literary Agent. He said he has one, but wants another one, as his isn’t doing anything for him. I knew you were busy, and didn’t want to interrupt, yesterday, so he said he’d come back later.”
“Thank you, I appreciate that. I’d love to talk with him, but I don’t have an agent. Maybe I could get some ideas from him.”
I’d always believed that’s how it would happen, without my searching and efforting to find an agent or publisher, although I’d sent out over fifty query letters in the past. Now, I just keep writing, and trust God to guide me to the right place at the right time. Who knows, maybe it’s an RV parking lot in Laughlin.
I’m a Winner!
In the meantime, Chuck and Alma would be leaving the next day, and I’d asked for their home address. As we were leaving to get strawberry shortcake at Gold River, I peeked around the corner, but their Tracker was gone. “Darn! I don’t want to miss them,” I said to Van as we walked down the hill.
Digging into the giant heap of cake, berries and whipped cream, I was startled to see Chuck and Alma appear at our table, “You’re smart to share one,” he said. “We ate one each, and it’s really too much.”
They sat down and we chatted while devouring our dessert. However, it was dinner time, and soon the tables were full, so we got up and went our separate ways. Chuck had accumulated a pocketful of nickels, and wanted to feed the slots before heading out in the morning.
We trudged up the hill in the warm spring evening air, and laughed as we heard a honk from the highway below when Chuck and Alma zipped by in their Tracker.
Meeting at our space, Chuck smiled and proudly announced, “I’m a winner. I put the nickels in the slots, and won $17.75. We rejoiced with him, and I said, “Don’t forget to give us your address.”
“Oh, that’s right,” he said, “I’ll be right back.”
Within minutes he returned with the pertinent information that would be a lifeline between us during our travels. And I knew that one day our paths would again cross.
“Give me your address too,” he requested, and I felt good that the connection was mutual. “In fact,” he asked, “Do you have an e-mail address?”
“Yes, I have,” and I unearthed it from my stack of unused files. “We’ll have access to it at Dottie’s, and I’ll leave you a message.”
“Good,” he grinned. “I’ll go find mine,” and he disappeared. When he returned, he handed me a poem, which I’d intended entering here, but I can’t find it.
Trying to Hold onto the Moment
A knock on our door the next morning, heralded the departure time for Chuck and Alma, “We’re going now, and we just wanted to say goodbye.”
“Oh, I didn’t think you’d leave so early,” I gasped trying to hold onto the moment.
“Well, we’re going to dump on the way, and just keep going. We’ll stay tonight at Parker Dam, and then be in Tucson tomorrow.”
And they were gone. We watched as he skillfully backed their Rockwood coach out, and departed down the highway with Alma driving the Tracker as far as the dump, where they would hook up.
Later, John, the neighbor who had offered us this spot, announced that he too was heading for the dump in preparation for his departure the next day. A new neighbor had already filled Chuck and Alma’s space, and were off enjoying the Laughlin activities.
We too intended to partake of our weekly ritual at the dump, and I walked behind our coach to guide Van’s backup. Another neighbor was atop his Airstream, and I asked, “Why did you move?”
“I’m leaving tomorrow,” he replied. “I’m going to a wedding in Mississippi.”
“Oh, we’re planning to visit relatives there later in the season. I’m waiting for the hurricanes to calm down.”
“Well, I’m going on to The Carolina’s and Pennsylvania, and then to Alaska, where I have a place to stay. I’ll just have to take the chance that the weather will be okay.”
I’d been directing Van, who was now ready, so I said, “Goodbye” and climbed on board.
Release and Let Go
We lined up behind John at the dump, and then said “Goodbye” as he left.
“I guess this is a good place to release and let go,” I thought, as Van hooked up and began the process.
When he finished, he hooked up to the fresh water and filled our tanks. “Life goes on,” I thought. “People come and go in this lifestyle, and so do we. Actually, I like it.”
“Let’s stop for our mail at Riverside,” I said to Van.
The sun was shining, and no breeze, as I walked along the River Walk, reading a short note from my mom. “It’s a good life,” I said aloud.
“Yeah,” Van agreed.
We arrived at the Colorado Belle too early for pizza at the Boiler Room, so I called Dottie. She updated me on family news, and then our prepaid calling card ran out, so the conversation was short, but it felt good making the family connection. We selected a seat overlooking the River, and ordered barbecue chicken pizza.
The server arrived with two big glasses of water on a tray perched on one hand. As she lifted off one glass, the other became off-balanced and slipped from the tray, spilling all over Van’s and my laps. Cold and wet!
We jumped up, and she began wiping up the mess on the table, as we swished at our wet pants. The waiter appeared and took the glasses and soggy place settings. Then a manager came by and asked if we were okay. We assured her we were fine.
Much to our delight, after we’d eaten, the waiter offered a free dessert cocktail consisting of milk, hot fudge and whipped cream. We requested no Kahlua, and giggled as we sipped together through the big red straws. Yes, life goes on, and it’s even fun!
I awoke the next morning as John’s rig eased behind us, and down the road. Later, the fellow from the Airstream ambled toward the edge and took a long last look while leisurely puffing his pipe. Soon his red pickup with the black homemade top started, and away he drove.
“Oh well,” I thought, “in a few days we’ll be shifting to Harrah’s for our visit with Van’s mom. And then we’ll head to Colorado. More adventure awaits as we “See places never been before” and some places we’ve already been as we participate in our family activities.
DO YOU PLAY TO WIN; OR NOT TO LOSE?
Winter Olympics ‘98
While reading my People magazine at Harrah’s Hotel in Laughlin, I paused to reflect on the words of Todd Eldridge commenting on the 1998 Winter Olympics, “Michelle (Kwan) skated not to lose, and Tara (Lipinski) skated to win.”
I remember when Michelle Kwan won her World Championship, she skated like she had wings; so light and confident. And then the price of fame, without being prepared, took its toll and she began to falter; then spiraled downward, falling badly during several performances. She’d tasted defeat, and the uphill road to recovery was difficult, but she did some inner work, and made the transition. Yet, as Todd said, her flawless presentation at the Olympics was tremulous, and her tenseness interfered with her joy, and ours too. Silver was not what she wanted, yet it’s what she got.
In the meantime, Tara enjoyed everything about the Olympic experience. She had fun; she was relaxed, and she gave us a memorable performance.
I’ve Already Won
Our five days at the casino resort along the Colorado River offered many opportunities to consider Todd’s words during our five day visit with Van’s mom. Besides the luxury of a room, eating two fabulous meals a day and attending several live performances, she and I played the slots.
The first evening, after a prime rib dinner, we selected our quarter slots and settled down for an evening of fun. Of course, I enjoy the benefits of already having won, because Betty pays for our room, meals and entertainment, plus my slots; Van chooses not to play. We are her guests here, mainly because she lives in a mobile home and doesn’t entertain there. Much more fun for all concerned to meet at Laughlin several times a year.
I’m a Winner
I’ve never won much at gambling, and usually pour the coins like sand down a rat hole. But this time, at a five times pay slot machine, I won a $375.00 jackpot. Excitement abounded as the bells rang, lights flashed, and everyone stood around offering congratulations, while the staff filled-out their paperwork, and then the change-person counted into my hand three one-hundred-dollar bills, three twenties, a ten and a five. Needless to say, I was ecstatic at being a winner,
I reimbursed Betty’s generosity by handing over the bills to her. Since her policy is to change machines, after a win, so we moved on, and continued playing with the usual wins and losses.
It’s amazing the difference when playing from already having won. I’ve learned to think of myself as a winner, rather than loser, in life; but once I’d actually won a jackpot, though small, I knew I could do it. By the same token, once a person has lost, they know it can happen, and something changes. It’s important to remember to have fun and enjoying playing, which I did this time, especially after I’d won. I no longer felt I had to prove myself. I did it. I was a jackpot winner.
The Big Jackpot Winner!
The next morning, I fairly floated through my Belgian waffle with Bananas Foster (a light Rum sauce), and approached the slots with pure joy. After all, I’d won. And I had fun, like Tara. Playing the ten times pay machine, I rejoiced over the cherries and bars as they paid off; and then I couldn’t believe my eyes: two sets of 10 x’s == 200 times the blue 7 — $500.00. The excitement happened all over again. Only this time the change person counted five $100.00 bills in my hand. Now, I not only was a winner, but twice-a-winner!
Van dubbed me “the Big Jackpot Winner,” and even though I gave the money to Betty, I still felt rich, and I remembered a poster I’d hung in my kitchen: “I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” Yes, definitely, especially with Betty treating to this opulence.
That night the three of us took a taxi to the Riverside Casino to watch Debbie Reynold’s live performance. As we left the elevator, I heard Van say, “Howdy Debbie.” A voice replied “Hi, how ya doing?” I turned in time to see her, escorted by a Security Guard, enter a door and disappear, apparently into the door to backstage.
Van held his mom’s arm, and she supported herself with a cane with the other hand. Van’s plan to take the taxi, and get out by the elevators to the auditorium worked perfectly, and Betty easily slid into the aisle seat at the elevated tier, with no one in front of her. Van sat next to her, and I took the aisle seat across from Betty; perfect viewing.
Soon Debbie appeared on stage wearing her sparkling Las Vegas gown with the slit for her curvaceous leg. During the performance, she remarked about her trademark blonde wig, and often joked about her “lousy choice in men,” such as Eddie Fisher, who divorced her for Liz Taylor; and Harry Karl, the millionaire shoe retailer, who gambled all his money, plus her eight million, leaving her penniless, and having to resume her Las Vegas stage career. She reimbursed her losses, and married a third time, to another loser.
It was fun having Debbie speak to us seniors, who comprised 99 percent of her audience, as she chatted about things we all have in common, as she joked about herself, and of course, President Clinton’s sex life, the topic of most comedians and commentators these days of the Monica Lewinsky fiasco. Debbie is a class impersonator, and did Bette Davis, Barbra Streisand and Katherine Hepburn quite eloquently.
As she talked about her memorable movie, Unsinkable Molly Brown, and sang familiar songs, including her trademark, Tammy, we felt like we were spending time with an old friend. And all too soon her show was over, and it was time to leave. We passed the table in the lobby where she was signing autographs to a line that went all the way down the hall; but we didn’t stay.
It’s Called “Gambling”
Instead, we took a taxi back to Harrah’s, and since we’d attended the 6:30 show, Betty treated us to a decadent chocolate Brownie ala mode, and then we played more slots. This time we didn’t win anything; in fact, we lost much of our earlier earnings.
And the next day, after a leisurely breakfast of Mexican Huevos Motuleno (with chorizo), our luck wasn’t much better. I was rapidly losing my winners enthusiasm, as I pumped quarters into several machines.
The Golden Girls and Tom
We all gathered refreshed for an early dinner, before The Golden Girls, the stage show at Harrah’s. Anticipating another after show dessert, I indulged in a light Caesars Salad.
Later, Van took his mom’s arm and escorted her through the casino and to the showroom, where we walked right to our eighth row aisle seats in a theater-style layout. Talk about winning, no one sat in front of us, and we had an excellent view of the seven gorgeous blondes in their short golden military-type uniforms and caps; and the three handsome men in their army, navy and air force uniforms.
Fast paced songs and dances at a simulated military base on a Pacific Island entertained with patter from the men between numbers during costume changes. For their Las Vegas spectacular number they dressed like showgirls with sparkling beads and fancy headgear, while featuring a lady selected from the audience as the American Beauty Rose. The cute, short senior lady smiled and made the best of her “fifteen minutes of fame.”
Mine came later, when all the cast came into the audience and selected dance partners. A Golden Girl asked Van to dance, but he refused. Suddenly a handsome Navy lieutenant asked me to dance, and I was in his arms, on the stage with the other nine couples, as Joe sang to a recorded band accompaniment.
As we spun and twirled, Tom asked where I lived, and I told him we live fulltime in our motor home, but claim Oregon, California and Colorado as hometowns. Tom told me that Joe would be leaving for Branson, Missouri, where he’s featured in an Easter play. I smiled happily as we danced. How I loved chatting and being in on the inside information.
But all too soon, it was over, and I returned to my seat. Van glowed at my good fortune, as Betty leaned over and said, “Tell me later, but what was he talking about?”
From then on, Van referred to me as the Stage Star, and I must admit, the fifteen minutes of fame felt good as we walked out to the foyer, after the show, and Tom gave me a wink. I bought a group picture, and had him autograph it for me.
While eating a giant piece of carrot cake, I told Van and Betty all about our conversation. Betty even lost track of her Keno game with all the excitement.
Two New Machines
Afterward, we played several new machines with fancy graphics. Betty’s had a simulated diamond mine shaft that the diamonds went down as she collected points; quite complicated, but Van’s engineer’s mind explained it to her, and she had fun watching all the activity. In the meantime, I selected a machine with a giant thermometer that filled up with red, as I accumulated points with every win. Of course, I was hooked to stay at the machine for the 100 coin bonus, and eventually bells rang and flames blazed as it reached the top. Yeah! Another $25.00 win.
I’d been eating quite lavishly, so the next day I decided to taper off with a delicious, large bran muffin with pineapple chunks, poached egg and hash browns. As usual, Betty played Keno during breakfast. Lots of times she loses, but always makes it up during the four days. She definitely plays for the enjoyment; another good concept of life. One morning she’d won $43.00, which paid for her previous games.
Wheel of Fortune
That evening, after a delicious Chinese dinner, we headed for the slots. Betty was willing to venture to the non-smoking area where we played the Wheel of Fortune. It’s fun, because whenever Spin shows, you get to press the Spin Wheel button for bonus coins while a chorus shouts: “Wheel of Fortune,” and then it plays their little ditty, and the chorus cheers. Everyone stops to watch as the wheel turns, and cheers or groans accordingly. Usually it passes the 100 and 1,000 and only pays 25 or 30, which is still fun. I always say, “This time it’s 1,000;” and to my amazement it went right past the 25 and 30, and stopped on 1,000. Oh My God! I was so excited, as the machine started spitting out $250.00 in coins, then ran out and the Supervisor had to refill it with more quarters. Whew!
But, tradition says, “Once a machine pays off, move on;” otherwise you’ll pour it all back. So Betty went back to the Diamond Mine, and I took a Double Diamond that offered a wheel spin for a bonus. I’m usually happy when winning cherries and bars, so was ecstatic when the bonus wheel hit 900, and spewed out quarters, plus the coins I’d already won — over $250.00!
Betty also had been winning, so we decided to stop while we were still ahead. We walked over to the change booth and cashed in our winnings — three full buckets of quarters. After Betty had received her money, she handed me five $100.00 bills, and said, “Here, we’ve come out ahead this time. You said you might need to fix the generator, so this will help.”
Joanie Had Other Plans
Delighted, I simply said, “Thank you.” But Joanie’s temperature shot up like the blazing thermometer. Like, I’m going to spend my winnings on repairing the generator! I had other plans. But at the elevators, we said our goodbyes, as Betty would be leaving early the next morning, and Van would get up to see his mom into the shuttle to the Las Vegas airport.
However, once she’d left, our day wasn’t over. Joanie had plans to enjoy our luxurious facilities to the max. We had until 11:00 a.m. and she headed for the outdoor swimming pool, but the water was cold, so instead, I lingered in the hot tub.
While basking in the warm sunshine, I reviewed our stay at Laughlin. Obviously Van and I had changed our money patterns, and this time his behavior was totally different with his mother.
For instance, when we went to see Debbie Reynolds, he’d arranged for the entire evening (a first for him): selecting easily accessible seats and plotting the easiest route to the elevators and auditorium (because her weak legs required a cane), and even arranging for the taxi. In the past, his extremely independent mother would have handled everything, but since his transformation, Van readily took charge (and I loved it).
At the casino, he held her arm, as he guided her into the elevator, past the long line (having asked for preferential treatment), and into her aisle seat, which she praised for its excellent view. And best of all, he felt good about himself.
Spending Our Winnings
After my swim, we packed and left our baggage at the Bell Station, while we had a last breakfast: another bran muffin and tea for me, and Van savored a giant cinnamon roll. We’d been economizing for so long all winter, and then enjoyed lavish meals with Betty, so the lighter meal had been a careful choice, and seemed sufficient.
With my windfall winnings, I wanted to buy gifts for our family, so I carefully selected meaningful, but inexpensive gifts in the Gift Shop; decks of Harrah’s cards for the guys and angel pens for the gals.
And then, after four months of waiting (since December, when I’d spotted a teal blue pantsuit outfit in Harrah’s dress shop), another highlight of the trip came when Van said, “I think you want to buy the blue outfit with some of your money.” Ordinarily, clothes aren’t in Van’s reality, so this suggestion indicated a pattern change of the highest magnitude.
I’d already returned to see if it was still there, and tried it on, marveling at its luxurious velvet sheen and perfect fit. I’d said to myself, “If Betty gives me extra money, I’m going to buy it.”
Happily, I tried it on one more time, modeled it for Van, paid for it with my own winnings, and headed out the door. Because the outfit symbolized our inner winnings (transformations), I would cherish the memories every time I’d wear it; and I knew the elegant velvet pantsuit promised memorable times in the future.
Changes in Progress
We took the shuttle up the hill, and Van carried our suitcases, while I toted my precious purchases to Freedom. All the familiar coaches were gone.
Changes were in progress, as the Snowbirds were returning home; and we too would leave in the morning. Even the local landscape was changing. We could see a huge crane atop the Gold River, and the old decor was coming down. When we would return in the fall, its beautiful gold and white colors would greet us.
One more necessary change must be made, so we returned to the shuttle and went to Riverside to collect our last mail, and then left our forwarding address to Golden, Colorado.
Our Last Meal
“How about one more last meal?” I asked Van. He nodded, so I said, “Let’s go to the Regency and try that prime rib we’ve been hearing about.”
What a treat! Only $7.95, because we decided to share the 11 oz. tender morsels. Sitting in this local’s favorite restaurant, with the waitresses greeting the customers by name, we began feeling homesick to return to our familiar haunts. I felt sad about leaving, but with the heat already in the nineties, I knew it was time. And Dottie was waiting to help with my manuscripts.
That night we looked out the window at the display of ’60’s Chevrolet Classics at Gold River’s parking lot below us; and listened to the ’60’s music wafting our way from their disc jockey hosted outdoor dance.
I thought: I love this place! Where else could you have all this fun and entertainment while sitting on a free parking lot for two months; and feel more healthful and rejuvenated too?
Whether we were living to win, or not to lose, we were winners in Laughlin. In fact, our choices had offered us the opportunity to live at the level of win-win.
But, now we must move on; and that’s another part of this lifestyle that I like: new places, new scenery, and new people.
A MAN’S HOME IS HIS PALACE
After the unpredictable El Nino winter, the spring sunshine enticed RVers from Yuma and southern Arizona to head north in a mass Exodus with stopovers in Laughlin (for fun) and Las Vegas (for supplies). We were happy to be on the road again, as we joined the parade; ninety miles from Laughlin, over the mountains and desert, to Henderson, a Las Vegas suburb, with our first stopover at Sunset Palace Casino parking lot.
The outside looks like a garish extravaganza of nondescript architecture representing a Mexican Palace covering at least a block. And the inside was more of the same, but with a definite Mexican decor: stucco balconies draped with ivy, a giant matador and bull, a 3ft. simulated marble carving of a Mexican court scene, immense stained glass ceiling overhangs, and an indoor false sky with white fluffy clouds accented miles of slots and gambling tables, seven restaurants, a cinema with six theaters and a full-fledged children’s care center like an oversized McDonalds’s with computers, nintendo’s and anything a child’s heart desires; and for older kids, a state-of-art Arcade. “From the cradle to the grave” could be the theme of this addiction palace based on the new family theme.
In addition to the casino, hotel, restaurant features, a mini-brewery proudly proclaimed: “Las Vegas’s only fine-crafted brewery.”
Walking through this extravaganza felt like a trip to Disneyland, which is the intention of the Las Vegas casinos. But the high energies and fast pace is too overwhelming. Laughlin, on the other hand, is something I can handle, because of the natural setting and quieter lifestyle. And we’d enjoyed other features, such as the Colorado River, jagged mountains and desert, and the free movies and coupon buffets. Since we don’t drink, and only gamble when Van’s mom is with us, I think of these addictions as an accessory; but for those who lose money on a regular basis, it’s a sad experience. Las Vegas was too much. I just wanted to leave.
The First and Last
But first we stocked up at our first Costco since San Diego; and our last Trader Joe’s (a unique grocery store), as we headed east. We’d prided ourselves in locating these services (with the help of their Directories, plus directions I’d accumulated and asking questions); all within a few blocks of Sunset Palace Casino.
Leaving town, along I-15, we passed the gleaming pyramid-shaped Luxor Hotel Casino, and I recalled once having gone inside and seeing the giant 30 ft. high Pharaoh and Cleopatra statues, and her huge barge; everything Egyptian, on a giant scale.
And Caesar’s Palace too had been expanded to include a replica of many Beverly Hills, shops under a simulated sky. It’s an indoor mall that gives the appearance of outside. And with the Las Vegas summer heat, that’s necessary to attract year-round visitors to spend money.
We passed The Mirage, which featured Siegfried and Roy’s magic and an erupting volcano, and Treasure Island with its pirate ships waging war in an oversized moat. And the newest addition: New York New York, similating the City’s skyscraper skyline with a giant Statue of Liberty and a roller-coaster thrown in for added attraction. The Space Needle stands out from the rest, replacing the original Landmark Casino.
And our last glimpse of Las Vegas, the Union Plaza downtown at the train station, reminded us of a past visit when Van attended a convention, and we stayed there and saw a live show. In subsequent years, we’d gone through all the older casinos, and our last trip we wandered through the newer ones, mentioned above, and kept right on going to our home in San Diego.
Unusual, Interesting and Friendly Folks
This time, our only stop was to fuel at the Flying J Truck Stop, on the northeastern edge of Las Vegas. Ordinarily the Truck Stops don’t warrant mention in my travel writings, but people are the focus of this book; especially interesting, unusual or friendly folks. And all three features were aptly represented by a couple returning home to Montana.
I’d notice a covered cage in the back of her jeep, and as the pleasant, fortyish lady pulled away from the pumps, I could see an animal head moving inside, but I thought the ears were unusual for a dog. Indeed, they were, as I soon discovered.
A few minutes later, while talking with her husband, a Kenny Rogers look-alike (with long white braids), she entered the conversation, after parking in front of their RV pulling an open trailer. They’d been wintering in the Phoenix area, and were returning with a herd of goats. I looked aghast, so she took me to the jeep to view a nanny and her kid peering at me with big brown eyes from their cozy cage; and, of course, the ears I’d seen earlier made sense atop a goat.
“We have four nannies and four kids in the trailer too,” she announced, as we wandered toward the trailer. Sure enough, eight more pair of questioning brown eyes greeted their visitor.
“Will you sell goat milk?” I asked.
“No, we’re raising them for 4-H projects. Our friends in Phoenix gave them to us,” she said as she got into her jeep. Then added, “Usually the jeep rides in the trailer, but they’re always giving us things, and the trailer is full.”
We said “Goodbye,” and I headed back to the RV’s, still at the gas pumps. When I commented on the herd, “Kenny” said, “We have a herd of miniature horses too.” I laughed, and he added with a smile, “Oh, it makes her happy, and that’s all that matters.”
Now they are real people, I thought, as their two vehicles headed north. “Maybe we’ll see you along the way,” I said to myself.
Heading east late in the afternoon, we passed two truckloads of sheep, and I wondered if they were being transported back to high country, after wintering in warmer pastures. At least, I hoped that was their destination.
Valley of Fire State Park
Our first night’s stop, only 50 miles from Las Vegas, was an abrupt and drastic reality shift. Valley of Fire State Park had been recommended by Linda (with the Malamute dog at Riverside Casino in Laughlin), and we followed this reliable word-of-mouth networking pipeline.
Eighteen miles of desert terrain, off the freeway, brought us to a turn-in-the road that overlooked a landscape that truly appeared to be afire as the setting sun created the effect on blazing red rock formations a hundred feet high, and in the distance, Lake Mead. Now this is my kind of extravaganza! Nothing manmade would compare to the wonders of nature. Giant red rocks; many with varying sized caves and caverns.
Later in the evening, when we walked in the cool dusk, our imagination titled some formations: porthole, balancing rock, puppy dog; and many that defied description or definition, but simply to enjoy as we wandered along the parks dirt road, past many campsites hugged into the base of the red rocks.
“What a contrast!” I said to Van as we walked past the crackling campfires and smelled the burning wood. We followed the road past the battery-operated lights marking the tents or RV’s in the quiet evening, and stopped to chat with a camper who had greeted us earlier.
In the distance, the lights of Las Vegas glowed above the gigantic rocks. We looked up at the real sky with real stars, and airplanes rushing to-and-from Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas has its artificial palaces,” I said, “but there’s nothing like the majesty of nature.”
Soon we were back inside the comfort and convenience of our own palace, Freedom, looking out at the serene setting.
In the morning sunlight, we again walked the loop, and marveled at solid massive walls — taller than buildings — of this red rock; some potholed with caves, caverns, or circular whirlpools, as if made with a giant eggbeater. Red slabs lay in all sizes and shapes, and other gigantic formations towered above us forming a canyon through which we walked. Nature’s spectacle still supersedes anything manmade.
Leaving the phenomenon of the Valley of Fire, I knew that the next day we’d be overlooking another scene from the sanctity of our home as we wended our way toward, and over, The Rocky Mountains.
Rock and Rollin’ Sanctuary
In the meantime, the Journey through Utah offered myriad colored canyons, mountains and plains, and that night we parked at Wal-Mart, our home away from home, and didn’t even go inside, as we’d stocked our supplies in Las Vegas.
As the wind rocked and rolled our sanctuary, we watched an extravaganza of another sort: The Seventh Anniversary of the Academy Awards, and I must admit that this tribute to man’s imagination really inspired me. I was happy to see Titanic, the highest grossing movie in history, receive all its awards. But my favorite part was seeing all the past Oscar winners gathered on stage at one time. What a panorama of entertainment moguls! Everyone from Shirley Temple, who won hers as a child star, to Gregory Peck, who only received one Oscar for his lifetime of contribution; and the same is true for Charlton Heston, Angelica Huston, Anne Bancroft, and so many topnotch stars.
Tribute was also paid to the performers who have passed on to the next dimension. Yet certain lifetime achievers, such as Liz Taylor, Mickey Rooney and Shirley MacLaine were not at the Awards for health or personal reasons.
Our Palace on Wheels
Yes, nature’s wonders are awesome, but I’m thankful to the entertainment industry for their dedicated contribution. And I’m also grateful to Laughlin and Las Vegas for their palaces and casinos; each serves its place. We’d even stopped at the Oasis Casino in Mesquite, at the state line of Nevada, for one last delicious buffet. And for that we’re thankful too.
But our return trip to Lakewood, Colorado, in our palace on wheels was just beginning, and as we traveled north along Interstate 15, we passed many RV Snowbirds wending their way homeward, after wintering in the so-called warmer climate. I felt sadness that, like us, they were uprooting from a fun lifestyle with fellow Snowbirds. Though they too were no doubt returning to family and friends; and some would shake the dustcovers from their furniture, and resume their daily routines.
Others, such as ourselves, however, were simply moving on to the next phase of their journey over familiar or new territory. Our main concern was getting over The Rocky Mountains before the predicted next El Nino storm blew in. But, we enjoyed the spring beauty of nature’s wonders from our living room window along the way: the towering red adobe mountains of Utah, some frosted with snow, and intermingled with snowcapped peaks.
A Cold Night in Utah
We settled for the night at the Wal-Mart’s parking lot in Cedar City, Utah, with a white splattering on the red mountainside, reaching almost to the parking lot. In fact, a dirty pile of snow, deposited by the plow, lay melting at the edge, and I hoped that a new covering would not arrive during the cold night.
And it was windy, too. I felt sorry for the little girl sleeping with her family in their cabin cruiser, pulled behind their pickup truck, when Dad opened its door, and a cherished balloon took flight across the adjoining soccer field. No one bothered to chase it, as the family crowded into their vehicle and disappeared down the road.
Soon we followed further north along I-15, and turned east along I-70 into the first range of the green and white panorama of The Rockies. Now, the only car license plates belonged to Coloradoans scurrying home between the truckers chugging over the mountains.
But very few RV’s were heading east. In fact, we talked awhile in Rifle, Colorado, with an RV couple heading to Laughlin to meet friends from Tucson. Van and I felt a tug at our hearts with thoughts of our happy winter there. But our direction was set, and we moved forward.
The World’s Largest Warm Outdoor Swimming Pool
After the heavy winds in Green River, Utah, nearly blew off our awning, we welcomed the calmer skies of Colorado. And I rejoiced to warm sunshine, as I swam in the “World’s Largest Outdoor Warm Swimming Pool,” in Glenwood Springs. Because I grew up on a hot springs, I’ve never gotten used to cold water swimming, and these waters felt familiar.
However, I hadn’t anticipated the tremendous crowd, as I ducked around the frolicking kids and splashing water. Suddenly I was facing a senior lady, who had just gotten splashed.
“Spring Break,” she announced.
“Oh, that’s it,” I replied. I wondered. I thought it was last week.”
“Some were then, and others are this week,” she said.
We continued talking and bouncing in the warm water for nearly two hours. I’d made a new friend, Jeannie Castler, an artist, whose husband had died two years ago, and she was still recovering from her grief of loss.
“He’d retired, and we bought a 32 ft. RV, and planned to travel, while I painted,” she said, “but one day he sat in his chair and stopped breathing.”
Not willing to travel alone, she finally put the RV up for sale. “You know,” she added later in the conversation, “for the first time since his death, I felt a sense of inner freedom, and I almost felt guilty.”
I told her about my Inner Freedom Ministry, and that I encourage people, through my writings, to reach that place, as I said, “You’ve accomplished what some people take a lifetime to discover. Congratulations! Don’t feel guilty.”
When we parted, she said, “Thank you, for giving me joy.”
I felt good that I had brought some Light into a lonely person’s life, simply by listening and caring.
We’d planned to stay overnight at Glenwood Springs, but with Spring Break in full swing, the place was packed, and there was no place to stay, so we followed the winding Colorado River through the sheer-walled colorful Glenwood Canyon, then into the valleys, and finally said “Goodbye” as the river disappeared into a northern canyon, and we continued east into the mountains. Yet, until we passed the famous ski resort at Vail, the snow seemed minimal. No doubt another surprise from El Nino.
Are we There, Yet?
Then as we climbed higher and higher and higher the awesome, snow-covered Rocky Mountains lived up to their majestic image, as their highest peaks glistened in the sun. Soon Freedom chugged up the steep highway between massive piles of snow left at the roadside by the plows. And the higher we inched, we eventually found ourselves in the clouds, and nighttime was upon us.
I’d forgotten about this long and arduous part of the trip. I hoped each steep upward pull was the last, but we’d slowly wind around or downward, only to again ascend another mountainside.
“Will we ever get to the Eisenhower Tunnel?” I asked Van.
“It should be coming up pretty soon,” he replied, as he intently steered Freedom over the passes. By this time the night, and the altitude, and the snow had caused a chill, and I turned on the furnace for warmth. We had definitely found winter. But, thank God, it didn’t snow or freeze, so the roads were safe.
At last, the Eisenhower Tunnel, and then the downward trend with the warning signs to truckers as we too continued the snail pace to avoid burning rubber and brakes. And then, when we finally reached Idaho Springs (with its waterwheel and frozen falls along the side of the road, we think it’s safe to speed up, but a sign looms up before us, reading: “Truckers, you are not down, yet. Drive slowly.” And, believe me, it’s good advice.
Finally we rounded a curve, and the lights of Denver stretched across the plains in the distance. Now, the Rocky Mountain trip is over, and we can press the pedal to the metal. Wrong! Another warning sign to truckers appears: “You’re not down, yet. 7% grade for next 10 miles.”
Once beyond this stretch, however, we were in familiar territory, and took the exit to the old I-40 that goes into Golden, past the Dakota Ridge RV Park, where we spent our first two months in Freedom. Within minutes we’d passed the Colorado School of Mines, where Van had lived as a youngster, when his dad assisted in the Chemistry Department, during his apprenticeship at Foss’s Drugs; which is still an attraction in this tourist town.
We stopped at our mailing address to collect our mail. By this time we were exhausted from the tedious trip over The Rockies from Grand Junction.
I said to Van, “Let’s change a pattern; instead of greeting everyone when we’re tired, let’s stay overnight at Wal-Mart’s parking lot, and then arrive in the morning rested and ready for our visit with our family.”
“Sounds good to me,” Van replied, and drove Freedom past the famous Coors brewery and its emblem, the Castle Rock, where he had hiked and played as a child.
Finally, at rest in Freedom, after traveling from Laughlin, which had been our home the past several months, and now within a few miles of our family, where we would be parked in the street in front of Dottie and Steve’s home (another bonus for having our home-on-wheels), it’s nice to know that we can visit family across the country, and still have our own home.
I again rejoiced in a lifestyle where we take our home wherever we go: from overlooking the Colorado River for the winter, to the Sunset Station in Las Vegas, and the Wal-Mart parking lot in Golden. Truly, our home is our castle.