Before the world goes dark

When the things you take for granted are taken away from you.

Imagine if you will. It is 7am. You are drifting in and out of consciousness, contemplating waking up when your four year old daughter lands on the bed. “Good moaning mom!” she exclaims, still not yet able to get that good “r” sound. She loves the mornings when she is one of the first ones up. She curls up next to you and starts coaxing you out from under the covers. “Mom! It’s moaning! The sun is shining! The birds are singing. The flowas are going to bloom today! You have to get out of bed!” Her giggles are contagious and uplifting, better that the coffee you can smell brewing in the kitchen. She snuggles her face up to yours, gently nudging like a puppy would do. You open your eyes. You can’t see her. And right at that moment, your heart drops and a tightness rises in your chest. You can’t see her.

You can’t see her expresso eyes glittering as the sun coming into the window hits them. You can’t see those chubby cheeks that you kiss at least fifty times a day. You know she is there, but she is hidden. You have been blinded in one eye with the very real possibility of being blinded all together. Today, you are able to roll over so the one good eye can see that beautiful miracle you made. But before you are able to think about how lucky you are that she is yours, you first have to push aside the fear that one day, that face may forever be hidden from you.

This is my story. Over the last few months, I have lost the eyesight in my right eye. My eyes constantly hurt with pain ranging from throbbing to stabbing pain. It is accompanied with other issues such as muscle weakness, fatigue, and body pain, but the loss of vision is the main issue that have the doctors struggling to find answers. I have been through more tests than I can count, yet we don’t have an answer for why I have lost half my sight or how much further it will go. As of the current moment, the doctors know I have some sort of autoimmune disease that is causing my body to attack itself, but autoimmune diseases are interesting in the fact that some are nearly impossible to diagnose or even figure out what can cure or at least slow it down.

Millions of people in this world suffer from autoimmune diseases. Some being very well known life Multiple Sclerosis, Celiac Disease, Type 1 diabetes. However, many are still random, unknown and not understood. It not only makes a person going through the process feel lost, but also a bit like they are losing their mind. There are days I can go all day without any issues (other than the whole blindness thing), and there are days where I feel like I am trying to workout while battling the flu. Days where naps are mandatory and even then, there is no energy flowing through my body. It’s perplexing, haunting, frustrating, and heart wrenching to say the least.

I have had to quit my job as a result of my loss of vision as well as the other physical tolls that this disease is having on me. I miss working. I miss the people, the job and the mission I was a part of. It is hard dealing with a constant sense of defeat, but I am not the type of person who settles and admits defeat. Luckily for me, I have a wonderful husband who has been there for me throughout this and is supporting me like no other. We decided to buy an RV. We took the kids out of school. We are traveling. We are seeing the world before the world goes dark. We are learning how to adapt.

My son is kind of like my seeing-eye kid. He walks on my right side everywhere we go and tells me what is on that side so I don’t bump into anything. He keeps me focused on the positive. My husband is devoted to finding a natural way for my body to heal itself. We are working on breathing, meditation, yoga. He reminds me not to stress myself out. He is understanding and encouraging. And then there is my daughter. Well, she is a bit too young to understand the concept of being sick. That’s what I like most. She pushes me to get out of bed. To open my eyes. To giggle and cuddle as much as possible. To go outside and see the “flowas” bloom.

The spring is here, it is a beautiful day. Let’s go out and see it.

Instant Gratification

Instant gratification and the effects of having everything right at your fingertips.

America has become the land of instant gratification. We revolve in a world that allows you to make your coffee in under ten seconds, connect with anyone around the world with no delay, and even have items delivered by drones within a couple hours after ordering them. At restaurants, you see entire families staring at their phones; having multiple conversations with anyone and everyone but the ones right in front of them. Children are handed an iPad instead of waiting patiently or engaging with adults while they wait for their food. Even dining establishments offer games to play to keep their patrons occupied while they wait.

I remember as a child riding my bike to a friends house just to see if they were home and wanted to hang out. I sent letters to old friends and family. I stacked jelly packets at restaurants while waiting for the food to come. I got toys on my birthday and Christmas, but rarely any other days. The world was simple back then. And then the computer era happened and it made life easier, quicker. Better?

While all the technology sounds great, could it be that this technology is distracting us from what truly matters? Does instant gratification take away our ability to be content with what we have and enjoy the richness of life? Or is it simply numbing out minds; allowing our culture to become narcissistic and disabling any hope for lasting, physical relationships.

While I sit here any type this, I think of the effect technology has had in my life over the years. I look at my Facebook page. It is a love-hate relationship. I find it rather odd that I can say I have a relationship with a website, but in reality, that is exactly what it is. It provides me with an outlet to discuss things or vent if need be and satisfies a social desire. I hate the drama of it, yet, somehow I am still pulled in late at night as I scroll through the endless stories of friends and family. Sometimes it can actually make me feel useless or not good enough. I see friends buying lavish things that I envy, even though I have no need, use or even want for them. I hear about husbands constantly buying their wives gifts all the time or random vacations. While I love seeing my friends happy, there is a part of me that may start to doubt my own life, adventures or even my marriage.

Why do people so quickly hop from now relationship to the next? Why are we unable to work on our marriage like previous generations did before. I never remember hearing my grandparents air out their dirty laundry, but now, all of cyberspace is open to the drama and has more than just an opinion or two to offer. How can two people be a healthy couple when the world is involved in their private business?

Moving away from a traditional house and into an RV opened my eyes to the destruction of self gratification. As I make my coffee in the morning, using my teapot and french press, I genuinely await the delicious taste that is being developed. The act is no longer a mindless act of putting a K-cup into a Keurig, but instead there is a process. Just like that of a great BBQ. You can’t just throw a rack of ribs on the grill and expect them to be falling off the bone in one minute. You make it an all day event. It becomes the centerpiece and highlight of the day. The guys sit around and talk by the grill while the aroma spreads throughout the neighborhood. The children eagerly await the feast and when it is finally ready, everyone comes together to cherish in that moment.

Technology isn’t always bad. It does connect us to those in another world. It makes life easier and allows us to discover more than we ever thought possible. However, keep in mind, that this is the only life we have. We need to embrace the real moments and not just the digital ones. We need to put our phone away and pay attention to what is in front of us. We need to cherish the process; for without the processes, the moments are hardly worth remembering.

Honey, you shrunk my kitchen!

The kitchen doesn’t have to be large in order to still work efficiently and create lasting memories for your family.

The kitchen has always been my favorite room in the house. It isn’t just the place where food is stored, it is a place of memories. A place where lessons are learned, magic is created, and imagination comes to life. I have been cooking for as long as I could remember. I have never been the best when it comes to baking pies and breads; maybe that is why my waistline still likes me. However, when it comes to the savory dishes, the eclectic salads, the tantalizing side dishes… well those I am pretty good at. I love making food memories. I love the process and the delight when a creation takes place. The reward of hard work. That is why the scariest part of moving into an RV was the size of my kitchen.

In order to come to terms with the shrunken version of my favorite room, I moved in phases. The first phase was getting rid of all the nice things that have limited function, but can be replaced. Basically, anything made by Pampered Chef. I love Pampered Chef and still have a couple things, but I know how to use knives with great efficiency and I have found that over the years, it is easier to grab a knife to dice up vegetables, rather than finding that one tool specifically made for that one specific vegetable, putting it together, using it for 5 minutes and then having to disassemble it and clean it. Second phase was knowing what I needed as far as pots and pans. Having a good pan is more value than having ten. I reduced my pots and pans to six total. (You don’t want to know what I did have). I also grabbed my Ninja, my crockpot, and my electric skillet just in case I needed extra help. Finally, I had to limit the amount of mixing bowls, as well as serving dishes, tableware, wine glasses (glass breaks on the road. I now have beautiful stainless steel ones!), and anything that was “excess”.

Little did I know that was the easy part. Imagine if you will, having two children (age 4 and 7) who LOVE to help you in the kitchen. Reduce the space to a small countertop, six square feet of walking space and having everything to include the stove, oven, sink, and fridge in that same area. It gets a bit tight. You have to get a little bit creative; use other tables in the RV. You learn that since you have to do dishes by hand, one of the sink’s sections is for clean dishes and one for dirty ones. You learn to prep even hours before you are going to start cooking. Prepping is what saves your sanity.

Then there is the food. In a “normal” home, you have a huge fridge. You have a huge pantry. you have the ability to house anything and everything your heart desires. You don’t have to worry about what you put in your grocery cart as you wander the vast aisles of Whole Foods. You have the room. Now…. in an RV. Things are different. But it isn’t bad like you may think. The fridge I have is SMALL. I think it my fridge may actually be envious of college dorm refrigerators sometimes. Cupboard space is limited. We have no room for junk food. We have no room for things we don’t need. We don’t have room to waste.

The average family in America wastes over 25 pounds of food a month. We don’t have the luxury to have that food just sitting in our fridge, growing new colonies of mold. We see everything in our fridge and it all gets used. Our fridge looks like the picture perfect image of the Ketogenic Diet. It is simple, yet elegant. Meat. Cheese. Milk, Veggies. Fruits. The masterpieces you can make when you have clean, fresh food. I am still able to make those inspiring dishes. In fact, I am actually forced to make them, because now, I don’t have the room for any frozen dinners, pre-packaged food, preservatives or fillers. Just real food. I also have to be creative while doing it. No more spreading out over an entire room, using 20 dishes to create one meal. I have become more intimate with my cooking; and I love it! I also love the amount of money I save as a result! We now spend about $100 a week on food for our family of four!

The best part: my children love it too. They still get to help. They will help me prep and they are more aware of what we get when we are grocery shopping. We don’t do snack foods. I don’t go and buy the 5lb container of fish crackers anymore for snacks. Instead, they ask me if they can have a cucumber with lemon squeezed on it. They know there aren’t any gummy snacks in the cupboards so they don’t ask. Instead, they ask for grapes. It makes me realize that even though my kitchen shrunk, the memories made in the kitchen didn’t. Now, I am giving my children the knowledge, the skills, and the nutrition to set them up for success later in life so one day, they can create their own food memories.

The First Week

I have always been a very passionate and ambitious person. I set my goals high and want only the best. However, what is the actual definition of “the best”? Is it is the biggest house, fastest car, nicest watch? It is an office with a view or your name on the building? To be honest, no matter how much money I had, I never felt any better than how I felt when I was struggling to pay the rent as a teenager living on my own. I have had many great jobs. I have served my country in more than a few ways and I love the mission associated in making this world a better place. But no matter what money I have made or what job title I have held, I still have not felt as though I was living the BEST life. My husband and kids are great but I am nowhere near the best wife or mother. I have always excelled in things, but never found that true passion.

What I have found is that the more and more stuff that I bought, the more stressed out I became. The more shoes and clothes I have to choose from, the harder it was for me to decide what to wear to work. When you accumulate so many things, they begin to own you instead. You work hard to enjoy your time off, but end up spending all your time off maintaining the things that you have.

SO WHY NOT JUST LET IT ALL GO?

That’s what we did. We sold or gave away pretty much everything. It was overwhelming at times. It hurt at first, but then I felt relieved not to have all of that extra stuff burdening me. The same stuff that I thought I had to have in order to live the best life. In less than two months, we moved from a 3 bedroom house with a  3 car garage (that we didn’t even park in due to too much stuff) to an RV. Two adults. Two kids. One dog. Just an RV.

It’s been one week. How does it feel? Honestly: amazing. Life is simple. It is easy. The kids go outside more because there is not enough room for them to spread out. We don’t buy as much food because our fridge is smaller. We don’t waste any food because I don’t think we can if we tried. We are closer as a family. The kids even put their shoes away! I guess when you don’t have much room for things, you can’t really make a mess.

Do I miss my stuff: no. I really don’t. I am learning that the best life isn’t one filled with things. It is filled with memories. With adventures. With moments that mean something. I don’t need to go to the store to buy everything I need. I already have it right here with me. So far, week one is a complete success. I know in the next month, I will be making a list of the things that you need to prepare for when downsizing to this extreme. Right now I think the biggest adjustment is just learning how to relax a little bit more. Maybe being ambitious isn’t the greatest thing in life. Maybe life is.