It Is What I Say It Is By Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

Of late (really the past few years) my life continues to be in transition. Please make the blender stop…

I have been thinking about where my energy goes when everything is chaotic.

The first incarnation of our goal of moving onto property and living in our fifth wheel trailer proved less than hospitable to family life. With Kevin on the road for work, it was me—left with managing everything. First, a generator that worked intermittently and then finally not at all, which meant no electricity. Then the well pump was flooded on the property, which meant no running water. And finally the sewer tank was full with no way to empty it, which meant a walk outside to a bathroom. So to clarify there were no showers at home; laundry was done at a laundry mat; washing dishes involved boiling water; there was no heat for the month of October; and a chamber pot became our friend.

“The best laid plans of mice and men…” So as to not over dramatize the situation—only for short periods were all systems down all at once. But I must say that never in the two months did all systems work at the same time for more than a day or two. And school started so this crazy camping fun was superimposed over making sure that my daughter’s life functioned as normal.

Luckily, my daughter and I have continued with our reading of the Rose Years (Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter), which really helped keep things in perspective considering what life was like at the beginning of the 20th Century. Can I just say thank you for propane.

So besides dealing with the bottom two tiers of Maslow’s heirarchy of needs, what have I been doing? At times I can really beat myself up that I don’t get more done, particularly the more of my own personal writing. So in the midst of essentially camping my days involved: maintaining my daughter’s bedtime; making lunches she really likes; getting her on time to school (mostly) and to activities. These things all became my top priority—and keeping myself centered and creating a sense that life is a fun, unpredictable adventure.

On regular basis either my daughter or I would say that we were really tough pioneer girls and that our life was on the great frontier. Each morning with us bundled under multiple blankets and hats, I would remind myself of what I was thankful for: that our situation was temporary and that my husband would be home and we would move.

On a Saturday night after a late school party, when the temperature had dropped to under 30° and my daughter was asleep in the truck, I decided we needed to stay in a hotel. On the way there at around 10pm I passed a person pushing a cart and my sense of how much I really do have was burned into my mind. I (and my daughter) would not be sleeping under a tree or bush. Our hiccup of a moment was just that: a short-lived moment.

In all of this my daughter’s birthday happened and try as I might it was wacky—with family visiting; a barbecue in the dark; a smashed thumb (my daughter’s); and a backed up sewer tank—all happening during the birthday weekend. At one point when my daughter wailed that this was the worst birthday ever as only a new 10 year old can, I responded that when she was 20 years old she would look back and remember this first decade birthday and have lots of funny stories to tell (just like the stories I tell her…)

The most important thing I have learned from this experience is how much what happens for my daughter is defined by me. “It is what I say it is.” My daughter’s understanding and perspective of how to connect to the experiences of life are still very much defined by me. How I have responded to this moment has in fact dictated her response as well.

As things have settled down now that we have moved, I remembered a moment in the truck with my husband driving when my daughter was a five-month old. The route was slow and windy (very much a white knuckler for me) and my husband pointed out how my daughter was watching me intently. He said laugh or your daughter will find this ride scary, so I forced myself to laugh and smile. It was like magic: she started smiling and turned to look at her dad who was already laughing. For the rest of the ride she had a great time. It was still hard for me, but I focused myself to expand beyond my own fears.

This crazy camping moment is like that. I realized how much energy it really takes to not fall into anger or frustration or just general pissiness. Life is messy is so many ways—think natural disasters that impact our lives: electricity out for days and greater.

My daughter will remember this camping adventure—hopefully not for our discomfort—but rather for our great pioneering spirit. And I will remember how much I shape my daughter’s view of the world by my own interaction within it.


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  1. 2 Responses to “It Is What I Say It Is By Maureen Eich VanWalleghan”

  2. Great article Mo

    By D. Randall Fletcher on Nov 15, 2015

  3. My dear, I had no idea this was happening to you. I want to know more. And I truly believe exactly what your message is – our children believe what we mirror. It’s not always possible to control that, but it’s true.

    By Kristen Frederickson on Nov 15, 2015