Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mom's Beaumaris Essay

Tomorrow we fly to Boston, where we will spend a few days getting ready for our trip to England and Wales. We'll get to spend more time with my sis, brother-in-law and neices, pick up my global phone and pounds sterling, and make use of the laundry facilities!

Writing the last several posts was very healthy for me - it took a while before I had the perspective and emotional energy to talk about it. I'm so glad I did! And, I DO realize how fortunate I am to have this amazing opportunity to just travel and take it all in. All my life I have longed for this kind of freedom and now I have it! I think when we return from England I'll be entering the next phase of our RV adventure with a much lighter spirit, and hopefully, an RV home that is working spectacularly well in all respects :).

I wanted to leave you though, with the essay my mother wrote that started me down this path of discovery about her time as an evacuee to Wales. She was 15 when she wrote this. Here is her passport picture taken in June 1940, just before she returned to the U.S.

By Gwendolyn Simm

I awoke early on the morning of September 4, 1939, to the realization that today I was to set out on a new adventure in life. I was to be evacuated to a place I had never seen before in my life; it was Anglesey, Wales. I was to live with people I had not even set eyes on before.

At 10:30 a.m. on that same morning, three hundred other children and I were assembled on the platform of Lime Street Station, waiting for our train to arrive. Among the many crowds of people waiting there, I noticed little children with luggage labels tied to their coats as identification cards, clinging closely to their mothers’ skirts. Others were happily awaiting their first train ride or perhaps their first journey away from the smoky towns. The whistle blew! Slowly the heavily laden train steamed out of the station – midst many wavings of handkerchieves and good-byes.

We passed through miles upon miles of smoky towns: Liverpool, Birkenhead, and Chester, then small towns and villages, and finally we reached green fields and meadows.

As it was still September and summer was not yet over, the sun was with us too, and looked resplendent, shining on the winding brooks which we passed on our way.

The latter part of our journey consisted of a train ride around the feet of many mountains, in between which lay a stretch of water known as the Minai Straits. It was on the edge of this Strait that I was to make my future home. I always remember stopping at a very small Welsh junction the name of which caused us much laughter, for there were thirty-nine letters in the name. It was Llanfairpwlgwyngil-go-gery-tyn-silo-so-go-goch.

We arrived at our destination, which was a town called Beaumaris, late in the afternoon, and were taken to sit on the waterfront while some were taken to their new homes – billets, as they are termed. Being fortunate, I was in one of the first groups to go. An old-fashioned house right on the waterfront, in which an old lady and her maid lived, was to be my new home.

I should now like to tell you something about my life in the very small town of Beaumaris. In the summer time we used to play games on the stretch of green grass before my home. We would take long walks through the beautiful Welsh countryside. In the morning, we would rise early enough to swim in the icy waters of the Strait, or pick blackberries while the dew was still upon them.

Winter time for us, and throughout England, was long, cold and dismal. We did our homework by the light of a paraffin oil lamp. Fortunately for us, our home possessed a large library. In that room, we spent many winter hours reading famous old novels and plays. At night we used to sit by the dining room window and see the silvery moon crested on the snow-capped mountains, or see them reflected in the calm still waters beneath.

It was here in this house and village that I spent ten very happy months of my life, and when I go back to England, I know I shall find that same old house and many of those friends, for, “There will always be an England.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

And now for something completely different ....

I've written about Detours in my last few posts, and now I want to tell you about our next BIG detour. We're going to England and Wales!

We'll be visiting my dear friend Deirdre and her family in Bath. She's got three children: Orla, Lorcan and Ronan. I've never met them, and I can't wait.

Then we are going to Liverpool to see the boarding school my mom attended. If you've been visiting my blog for a while, you'll remember I wrote about her experience as a 14-year-old evacuee at the start of WWII. She and her entire boarding school were evacuated to Wales.

After visiting the school, we are going over to Wales for a few days. I want to see the places there that Mom liked so much. She had an unhappy childhood, but she described her time in Wales in idyllic terms. I'm hoping that my whole family will make a trip over there together in a few years, but for now, I can scope things out for us! First we'll fly back to New England and get to have a brief visit with my sister, Jess, her husband Terry, and our neices, Olivia and Elizabeth. Then we fly out from Boson on Monday.

So it's a two week detour from our RV road trip adventure. While we're gone, Nexus will work on our RV, making her all better for our return.

I'm not taking my computer to England, so I won't be posting while we're gone. I look forward to seeing you all when we get back in mid-September. Can you believe it will be September already? This year is flying by!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Detours, Part III

Thank you all for the supportive comments on my last post - it once again shows me that when we share our challenges, we find out that we are so NOT ALONE.

I believe that there are "no coincidences" - that coincidences are anonymous divine intervention. Not everyone believes that, I know. But here's an example that happened for me during the time in Nova Scotia when I was struggling to figure things out.

The Gerzon book (Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety - see previous post) says that we drive ourselves nuts with anxious thoughts because we are worried that things won't turn out the way we want them to and because we want to know the future and we can't. Since we can't, our minds work overtime, conjuring up the worst possible scenarios! Gerzon says that what we need to do is stay present, to keep our thoughts in the present and to LET GO of trying to know the future. To turn it over to a higher power and trust that it will work out to our benefit.

When we are in our familiar setting and the routines of our life, we are under the illusion that we know what the future looks like. But it really is an illusion, because our lives can take unexpected turns on any day. Just ask my friend who drove up the mountain to take her Monday morning hike, and had a car accident that has changed her life.

When we are in unfamiliar territory, groping to find our way forward, we become all too aware that our illusory comfort zone about the future has totally disappeared. Not knowing what the future looks like was a huge issue for me during those first weeks in Nova Scotia. I tried to focus on "letting go," which we all know isn't as easy as just saying, "Oh, good, I've LET GO. Glad that's done!" It takes some time. It takes some mental reprogramming. As I worked on letting go, I'd catch myself mentally singing the Beatles song, Let it Be. Every once in a while I'd tap into my thoughts, and discover that this song was playing in my head behind the scenes.

Down the road from our campground was a small Anglican church. I grew up Episcopalian, and Anglican is pretty close to that. In times of trouble, I always find comfort in churches - any kind of church really. Comfort in the quiet surroundings and in the familiar rituals. So, I decided to go to a Sunday service at the little Anglican church.

Well, it was just the funkiest little church you ever met. The first week I went, the message of the service was "fun." They did a funny little skit and the sermon was about allowing more fun into our lives - about how God really does want us to have fun and not take everything so seriously. The timing of that message was perfect for me.

The second week I went, it was the celebration of Mary Magdalene. And wouldn't you know it? Among the songs listed on the program for the service that morning was the Beatles' Let it Be. Two guitarists joined the organist and we all sang Let it Be in church. I've never sung Let it Be in church before. Ever. Coincidence?

Not everyone believes there is a higher power of some kind out there helping us, but I do. There have been too many times when I've gotten just the help I need at just the time I needed it, and in just the way I needed it delivered, to believe that's it's "only coincidence." So I share that for what it's worth. Any time we feel alone and are struggling, help is out there. Ask for divine help, whatever your definition of "divine" is, and most likely it will show up very soon, usually delivered by other human beings.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


The previous post was about the literal detours we've made during our first 6 months on the road in our RV. Today's post is about detours in the figurative sense ....

Despite the problems we had with the RV and all the hassles of detouring and trying to get them fixed, RVPainter and I continued to have fun. BUT, there's no question that it got to me sometimes. And it wasn't just the problems, it was the whole CHANGE thing - a huge transition for a girl whose always been all about "home." I LOVE having a home, I LOVE creating a lovely home, decorating it, arranging it, rearranging it - these are creative pleasures that are a big part of my life. Suddenly, these are gone.

And, I've always liked the security of knowing where home is and the comfort of familiarity and routine. But routine can also become synonymous with "rut." I've never been adventurous, and I've often been afraid to experience life to its fullest. I know that about myself, and it's something I've wanted to change.

Nova Scotia was our first long stop - a full month. We'd been looking forward to this rest from covering rather a large amount of territory in a short time. We thought, "This is when we'll start to see how you 'live' in this kind of lifestyle - as opposed to acting like you're on vacation all the time." I thought I'd write and RVpainter would paint.

But when we stopped, suddenly all my fears about the magnitude of this change and about the future crashed down on me. It was unfamiliar, we had no TV stations and internet was spotty. Everything that could possibly come up did - fears about all the awful things that could go wrong and fears about not knowing where we would end up or if I'd ever get back to having a home again. Not knowing how to make a daily life in this new set of circumstances. For about two weeks my anxiety was high and free-flowing.

But then I read a wonderful book by Robert Gerzon called, "Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety," which helped me a lot.

I began to realize that I have become conditioned from childhood to "achieve". To always be doing, working, studying, producing. Striving and toiling. And that a big part of my problem was adapting to doing less - to in fact doing little more than just ... enjoying the day and the scenery. In the past I've been able to relax easily on vacation, but I realize that it was because I knew it was temporary. To see that same sort of relaxation stretch on indefinitely into the future seemed to terrify me!

In his book, Gerzon says to ask yourself what God would want to say to you about the situation you're struggling with, and this is what I thought he'd say: "Melissa, you've been striving and toiling your whole life. It really would be just fine with me, and with everyone, if you goof off for a while. A long while. No one is waiting for you to deliver anything. No one is pressuring you to write your next book, or to produce anything. Only you are creating that pressure. See that beautiful ocean I created over there? Why don't you just go appreciate how beautiful it is, how wonderful the warm sun feels on your face and the cool breeze on your skin.Give it break, girl, it will be okay, it really will. "

Slowly but surely, I started to become comfortable with just "being" and not having to be "doing." One day I noticed that I wasn't worrying anymore; that I had moved into a place where I had handed over my fears about the unknown future to a higher power. I've always been a worrier, and I realized that worrying only makes you suffer constantly over things that haven't actually even happened. It steals the joy from the present. Since mid-way through Nova Scotia, I've found that I haven't been worrying much at all.

So ultimately what I realized is that this whole RV adventure is a DETOUR for me in my way of LIFE that I badly needed. It's not that I want to goof off forever. I'd get bored. I do want to write my next book, and the next and the next. But I felt pressured to get right to it, to not lose the momentum created by my first book. I also realized though, that I needed to back off from that and let the book emerge from my heart and my soul, and not from a place of pressure. And that the only person putting that pressure on me, was ... me.

I don't want to just write books to make money, I really want my books to be the best they can be. I want to be very proud of them, and I want them to delight my readers. My first book took me quite a while to write. Inspiration didn't just come to me continuously - it came to me over time. So I've decided to trust that I'm just where I'm supposed to be, doing just what I'm supposed to be doing, and that everything will come around.

If I just travel and see new places and experience new things, sit on beaches and under trees, rest and read and take walks, think and pray and appreciate for a while longer, I think it will be just fine. The point will come when I'm raring to get back to work, and the time will come when my next home will find me, and it will all be at exactly the right time.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Detours, Part I

I've been thinking about DETOURS lately - in both the literal and figurative senses. So today's post is about the literal detours we've made in the first five months of our RV travel adventure (can you believe it's been five months???), and tomorrow's post will be about the figurative DETOURS  I've been pondering.

Before I start this, let me say that despite what I'm about to tell you, we have had a wonderful time on this journey so far!! Experiencing new places like Charleston and San Antonio, Acadia and Nova Scotia; visiting familiar ones like York Beach, Maine and Quebec City, spending time with our families and friends - it's been truly wonderful.

But behind the scenes, we've had some troubles with the RV - as is pretty typical with new RVs, so they say.  I don't think that should be the "industry standard," but apparently it is.

You may remember we started out with troubles with our leveling system right off. On our maiden vogage - our return with the brand new RV from Elkhart, Indiana to Santa Fe, New Mexico, we had to detour to an RV service shop in Oklahama City to see if they could determine why the alarm that says your levelers are down was going off - when the levelers weren't down. This is a good safety feature that prevents you from driving off with them down, but as I say, they weren't down, and the beep beep beep all the way from St. Louis to Oklahoma City was ... nerve-racking to say the least.

The nice folks at Motley RV Repair diagnosed the problem, but couldn't fix it because it required a new part. So we continued on to Santa Fe, and got set up for our second detour - To Myer RV in Albuquerque. They replaced the cylinder that was supposedly at fault, and at the start of May, we headed out on our adventure.

Things seemed to be working okay until we left Fort Pickens, Florida, when, yup, you guessed it, the leveler alarm started up again. I had told Quadra that if anything else happened with the levelers, we'd want the whole system replaced. So, they found us Camper's Inn up in Merrimack, NH for an appointment in mid-June. We continued up the east coast, enjoying our stops along the way, seeing new places, family and friends.

In the meantime, our slide-out - which expands the living space in the RV by 20 square feet, stopped working. You can get around in our RV with the slide in, but it definitely makes the living space tight. Our RV manufacturer tried to set us up with service repair shops. But they had trouble finding us one, so they asked Camper's Inn, where we'd be going for the levelers, to help us out.

On schedule, we detoured for our appointment to have the levelers replaced, but I have to say the folks at Campers' Inn did not treat us nicely at all. They acted like they were doing us a big favor, even though we'd had our appointment for over a month. They replaced the leveler system, but couldn't fit us in for the slide.

So, another detour, this time into Lebanon, Maine. We went to State Line Profile RV, where they seemed like nice folks. We went over the problem with them, left the RV and went off to tour the Anheuser Busch factory across the way. Five hours later we checked back, only to have them say that they decided not to work on the slide because they didn't feel they were familiar enough with it. Another several hundred miles out of our way, with several hundred dollars in campground fees and gas wasted.

In the meantime, the levelers seemed to be working. Until they weren't. They started lurching and groaning and some would go down and some wouldn't. So we said, enough already! This is disrupting our adventure and stressing us out. We are just going to forget about the levelers and slide for now, head up into Acadia in Maine and then on to Nova Scotia and Quebec. We have a trip to England coming up soon, so our plan was that when we returned from that, we'd drive the RV back to Elkhart, Indiana and have all the problems large and small fixed.

Well, in Quebec, we had a few more small things happen, so we decided to leave Quebec a week early. Another detour. We drove back to Elkhart, where we are now. The levelers were replaced yesterday, and they'll look at the slide today. We'll leave the RV with them while we go to England, and then come back for it when we return. Makes sense.

During some of the early problems, I got pretty upset and had a few melt-downs when things were going wrong and it seemed like no one could help us. But since the problems didn't prevent us from moving on down the road, once we decided to stop detouring to try (and fail) to have things fixed, it was a relief. We said, "Let's just go have fun," and that's what we did.

Tomorrow ... a different take on DETOURS ...

Friday, August 10, 2012


It's raining, it's pouring ....

We've had SUCH an incredible stretch of beautiful weather on our roadtrip, but I know that our many (unexpected) days of sunshine came at the expense of much-needed rain. Well, today in Quebec it is POURING! The farmers here on L'ile D'Oreans will be thrilled - you can see how dry things have gotten.

So to celebrate the rain, I'm having a RAINY DAY SALE!: 

Today through 8/12/12, my book, The Christmas Village will be available from Smashwords in all digital forms (eBook for Kindle, Nook, etc; download to PC) for just 99 CENTS! That's $2 off the regular price. It's a great chance to read the book if you've been meaning to, and to check it out for the kids in your life.

I'd love it if you would share the information about this two-day RAINY DAY SALE of The Christmas Village.

You'll need to use this coupon code when ordering: DN97B
And here's the link to my book page on Smashwords: The Christmas Village on Smashwords 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I've been quoted/featured along with seven other writers about successful book marketing strategies in an article on the Women on Writing website. You can read the article HERE, and hopefully some of our ideas will be helpful to you!

Yesterday, RVPainter and I strolled around the upper city of Quebec, through Jean d'Arc Parc, along the Grande Allee and down Rue Cartier, where we found this cafe:

That looks like this inside:

And where we had this to eat and drink:

Add caption

That's a very pleased RVPainter, eager to dig in ...

It's so much fun to find a NEW place to love!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Our Love Affair with Quebec City

When RVPainter and I lived in Maine, we tried to find ways to make the long, cold winters more enjoyable, so we took up cross-country skiing. But even with cold Maine winters, we couldn't actually be guaranteed that there would be a good enough snow base for cross country.

So we decided to try cross-country skiing at Mont St. Anne, just a half hour or so east of Quebec City. We figured they'd have plenty of snow - and they did! That's how we first discovered Quebec - in the heart of winter. We'd go up in February - not during Carnival but after. The amazing ice sculptures were still all around the city, but there wasn't all the craziness that goes with Carnival. It was beautiful and we loved it, but boy was it COLD!

We instantly fell in love with Quebec. It's old and charming and beautiful, with shops and galleries and wonderful restaurants. We've been here seven or eight times, several in winter, twice in October and now twice in summer. And every time we go into the city, I feel excited to be there again. I can't wait to see the lower city, with its cobblestone streets and lovely shops, the Chateau Frontenac, which towers above, and the Grand Allee. Every time we leave, I feel sad, because I'm afraid that I'll never see it again.

People who haven't been to Quebec City generally ask me these two questions:

1. Will you have trouble communicating if you don't speak French?
2. I've heard that the French people are rude. Are they?

My answers are No and No. We have always been either in old Quebec City, out here on L'ile d'Orleans, near Mont St. Anne, or in the Charlvoix region. These areas all cater to tourists and usually speak both French and English. All the rest of Canada is English-speaking, so it's not just Americans coming to Quebec who may speak only English. Here on L'ile d'Orleans, where there are many old farms, the people may only speak French. But if you are stopping to buy their raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, apples, cheese or wine, you don't really need to speak a lot of French, and they don't need to speak much English, to consummate your transaction.

I had seven years of French in school, but they didn't teach us to converse. So I can read French enough to understand it more or less; I can understand many spoken words, and I can say some stuff - but I can't really have a conversation. Still, it helps to know a little. If you say Bonjour, au Revoir and Merci, they will appreciate it! We were downtown today, and most of the tourists were English speaking folks, so if you go, you won't feel like the only one.

And no, we have never encountered French people being rude to us. I know other people who have experienced this, but it has not been our experience.

We are here until August 19th, and look forward to every minute that we can spend in this beautiful city that we call "Our Paris."

Here are some more pictures from this city of my heart:

Along Rue St. Paul

In all the times we've come here, I've always wanted to buy something in this store, and this time I did!

Inside the cathedral in the center of the square

When we first came in winter, there were guys up on the roof shoveling snow off it! This is my favorite building.

I got these shoes for $24! And that's NOT my cigarette butt!

This is "Artist's Alley"

Another of our favorite restaurants - wood-fired pizzas  -we haven't been there yet!

Horse-drawn carriages are a great way to see the city

This lady was booking down the sidewalk in her electric wheelchair, holding her flowers and talking on her cell phone!!

These street performers put on quite a show on the promenade outside the Frontenac

Friday, August 3, 2012

Some Bouquets for You

One thing I love about Farmer's Markets is that there are so many different kinds of bouquets to be found there - not just the floral ones, but also bouquets of fruits and vegetables and even beautifully arranged bottles. These photos are from the permanent Farmer's Market in Quebec City, down along Boulevard Charest on the waterfront.

I think we will drive out to Malbaie today. This drive will be along the Route du Fleuve (River Route), which takes you the Charlvoix region where there are lovely little villages and incredible scenic overlooks.

Malbaie was named by Richelieu, because when he was ready to sail out of port, he couldn't because the river is tidal and the tide was out! So he called it "Bad Bay." There is a hotel and casino there - the Chateau Richelieu. It is a "sister" to the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City (see previous post). There will be pictures for sure!

In the meantime, enjoy these bouquets, from me to you with love.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Je T'aime Quebec

Well, we're in Quebec now - staying on Ile d'Orleans - a small island in the St. Lawrence river. It was a three day drive from Nova Scotia (in the RV, we only drive 4 or 5 hours a day).  Our first stop was fun - we "boondocked" at the Moncton casino - they let RVs stay overnight in the parking lot for free. There were three other campers staying that night. I played $5 in the one cent slots and won $24 - so I promptly cashed out! High roller -that's me!

I'll have lots of pictures from our time here, for sure, but we'll start with some from old Quebec city, which RVPainter and I call "Our Paris."


From the lower city, looking up at the Chateau Frontenac

On the curve, lower city

So creative ...

Lower city

Le Lapin Saute - our sentimental favorite

RvPainter in his Dreamcatchers t-shirt at the Frontenac

Looking down to the lower city from the promenade at the Frontenac

 A Bien Tot!!