Five Pillow Day!

Two of his pet hates are cushions and pillows.

Two of my favourite things are cushions and pillows.

I always thought of them as somewhat decorative but mostly functional. He thinks they’re just stupid.

Along with the first vague understandings of my health issues came the realisation that pillows and cushions do more than provide comfort for me. They prop me up and support me.

Then over the next couple of years I worked out that I only need one or two (in each place I sit) but on really bad days, I need up to five.

Today is one such day. One on the left, another on my right, two behind me, and one between my knees. Nothing is able to hold itself in position and even my left hand rests in a pillow as I alternately type and drink tea with my right. The tea cup is placed in exactly the right position so there’s no twisting. For refills I need to ask for help.

Yesterday we had a huge chat as we discussed the ins and outs of the unpacking processes and how much better it’s been made by having a slow, staggered help and this little flat to crash at through the process. The old me would’ve sent him off to ride or paddle or work… it’s “easier” to do it on my own. But I’m physically in worse shape than I’ve ever been, and we have no choice. We feel like a pair of naughty children sent to our room, not able to come out without the cooperation of the other.

Three hours a day (and three hours only), we drive the two minutes down the road to the apartment, park Molly in her garage underground, and together we attack a handful of boxes.

I can’t do it without him. I can unpack boxes he brings to my chair, and I can direct what goes where and which box to unpack. But he can’t do it without me either. He’s never done it before, it’s completely overwhelming for him and his anxiety skyrockets. And when his anxiety levels are high he doesn’t listen too well. So I have to be patient and kind and gentle and ask (not tell).

We’re both super happy with the progress and with ourselves and each other. We’re nailing this in more ways than one.

But as each day moves into the next, I’m becoming more and more exhausted. There was a time that I could unpack a hundred boxes on my own, move the piano into place, and get rid of all the rubbish by the time he got home from work… five days in a row.

But not any more. Now the three hours are all I can do, and it’s three painfully slow and frustrating hours at that. I can ride a recumbent bicycle for three hours straight, but sitting in a camping chair giving orders and bending over open boxes and opening packages within those boxes is a whole different ball game and the pain sets in quickly, …. followed right behind by the brain fog. Then I can’t string more than a few words together.

It’s difficult explain. I say door instead of window, left instead of right, clothes instead chair… and more often than not I can’t find the word at all…

It’s frustrating for both of us. We might need a day off tomorrow? Or maybe even two days?

Today is day five of the unpack. The kitchen arrived just as we were leaving…

I’m assuming it’ll be installed over the next few days. If I can’t string more than a few words together and my pain levels are through the roof, then it’s a five pillow day… and time for a rest.

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve signed on the easy, no-spam newsletters I send out no more often than monthly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those)!

Monthly update newsletter:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith

The Good News or the Bad News?

I’ll start with the bad news as it’s simpler.

We rented an apartment in Malta that wasn’t quite finished (literally just needs kitchen and curtains and insect screens installed) everything else is stunning and brand new and finished). But at least we could store our stuff while went for our six week Molly adventure, and if it wasn’t finished on our return we could cook in Molly but sleep in the apartment.

The bad news is it’s not ready, which is fine, but the adorable landlords have rented us another gorgeous, furnished apartment, and set us up with food, towels, beds …everything just a few blocks away.

Which is very kind. But we need to unpack and start getting things sorted ASAP as we have visitors and things we need, and things to unpack, and and and …. so it’s annoying.

But the good news list grows longer by the day:

  • They won’t let us pay rent on either place.. for the furnished apartment or the one without a kitchen. So we’re saving a few bucks which is a bonus as we still haven’t sold the house back in Joburg.
  • That in turn gives them incentive to get finished, we feel really bad for them, but it’s good knowing that we’re taken care of and it’s in their interest to get things finished soon. So it will happen, and we don’t need to nag them.
  • We are in the ground floor apartment right on the edge of town, so unlike our apartment where Molly will sleep in the basement garage, here we can park her right at our front door. And with a washing machine and dishwasher etc, we have been able to bring everything in, in just a few steps (including my Molly mattress and put it on top of the bed here… not quite the same but pretty good), clean her out, unpack the Sphinx… it’s turned out be such a blessing … sorting out Molly without feeling like we should be unpacking the boxes.

  • I’m not very good at sitting still so if we were surrounded by boxes I’d constantly chip away at them and totally overwork myself very quickly. Instead, each morning we head over, work for three hours, he does all the lifting, I do the sorting and directing (which doesn’t always go well), then we head home for lunch and don’t think about the unpacking again till the next day. An impossible feat if we were right there.
  • Sometimes it’s easier to plan things when you’re one step removed. The serenity of a tidy, well appointed apartment with a fabulous view is a much better place to plan, regroup, restore and refresh, than an overwhelming apartment with boxes to the ceilings! A couple of Netflix binges are helping to do that somewhat, hence the radio silence of the last few days. It’s been great!
  • Part of the move included unpackers. After nearly a dozen international moves I know the drill and I hate it. A swarm of men descend at the crack of dawn and by nightfall, everything you own, including the dust bunnies under your bed in the old house, and the junk drawer (usually now upturned), and all the half bottles of shampoo from five people (now a quarter filled with the rest smeared over the rest of the bathroom contents), are now unpacked. If you don’t know what that looks like, imagine upturning every drawer, box, wardrobe, cupboard, in your entire home and garage and garden shed, onto your floor, beds, stairs, kitchen counter, and even the bath. Believe it or not, there are not enough flat surfaces to hold everything you own. You can’t eat for the laden kitchen and you can’t reach the cupboards to start loading them. You can’t get to your bed under all the linen you didn’t know you owned and the washing machine doesn’t work because the power plug is still from the wrong country so you can’t wash all the shampoo out the towels. You’re hungry, so exhausted you can’t breathe…. and everyone expects you to fix it… right now. But because we don’t have a kitchen, yet we need our stuff, the removal company agreed to spread the load over a few days. I asked for the weekend in between two of them, and the last third only once we have a kitchen. It’s still a zoo, it’s still a third of our belongings spread over half the house (not a bad ratio considering!!), but with the weekend to sort out much of what was unpacked on Friday, we’re getting to do this a little slower. I can’t begin to tell you how much better that is.

So the non-kitchen is proving to be a bonus. He still thinks that if we’d rented a different apartment, moved to a different country, owned different things, … or we’d simply put a match under it all before we’d left, it wouldn’t be nearly this stressful. In reality, it’s not a patch on all the other moves I’ve done while he’s in the office making all his new friends… Five people’s stuff instead of two, all on my own instead of with his help, no spotless apartment to retire to in the evening, unpacked in one day instead of three, and no one to nag us to find things for school or work the very next morning… this is bliss!

But it still sucks. Moving sucks. And tomorrow morning (Monday) will be round two of the proper unpackers. Hopefully they’ll find the linen … but that’s a story for tomorrow or the next day!

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve signed on the easy, no-spam newsletters I send out no more often than monthly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those)!

Monthly update newsletter:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith

50 Nights!

Today we arrived in Malta. We never planned it this way, but we’ve travelled over eight thousand kilometers, which is the same as there and back from Johannesburg to the Tanzania border, Melbourne to Perth or Toronto to San Fransisco… We slept exactly fifty consecutive nights in Molly (and tonight was going to be fifty one). We crossed nine country borders, lost our solar panels at speed, had an attempted robbery, a very embarrassing police escort, drove through weather that killed six people in weather related incidents, and I very nearly ran out of petrol in the middle of nowhere on my own.

We also missed all the babies terribly and often wished we were with them through some truly tough trials of their own.

But we also met many brave and interesting people, ate weird and wonderful food, saw so many breathtaking views and vistas, slept in Molly on the edges of cliffs, on all kinds of farms including an apple orchard and behind some of Britain’s cutest pubs. I got to attend my first international EDS conference and we found me a very expensive but life-changing bicycle.

We fought, we bonded, we laughed and we cried. We found some new rhythms and routines, and learnt so many new lessons both great and small. But above all, we absolutely, categorically, no-holds-barred, haven’t looked back… this was so the right thing to do on so many levels. Working on becoming a human being instead of a human doing is hard work, and I’ve never been more proud of this man. Watching him learn to cook, clean, help, and collaborate has been hard, but also such a privilege, and so humbling for both of us.

And as the song went at our wedding… here we are again on a new journey on which:

“We’ve only just begun…”

I can’t wait for the next fifty sleeps as we unpack our container again in Malta. To see our belongings again after four months on the road, to build yet another little home together, however temporary, to do another round of culling and simplifying. Fifty more sleeps till we fly to Australia for Christmas with all the babies, and the arrival of the newest one.

In the meantime, there’s videos to edit, books to write, a bicycle to collect from Devon (where Molly was born), and an Israel trip for him… So watch this space as always …

Here’s our arrival into Malta on the ferry at 4:30pm… and the drive to Molly’s new home:

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve signed on the easy, no-spam newsletters I send out no more often than monthly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those)!

Monthly update newsletter:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith

Tip of Italy Base Camp!

It’s been a tough few days, and we’re ready for the next chapter of our second half. The weather and baby worries of the last few days have taken their toll. The entrance roof to our Agri Camp-ground blew off last night and six people died across the country in separate tree and roof weather incidents.

We’ve not had decent WiFi or phone reception through it all either, so we’re behind in everything!

We didn’t get as much sleep as we needed and while we woke to a sunny day, it was still quite windy and neither Pompeii nor the Amalfi Coast felt like good ideas.

So we tag teamed and drove down the rest of the Italian mainland, and found ourselves the most wonderful place to park Molly, high on the cliffs looking over the tiny seaside town of Scilla to the north and the island of Sicily on the west of us.

We’re the only people here other than the caretaker who doesn’t speak a word of English. But we paid our €20 and we’re all happy.

I think we’ll be sleeping here a lot in the future… an AMAZING base camp for coming through the bottom tip of Italy.

My view from bed as I type:

Pink Gin in writing hand…

Goodnight…

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve signed on the easy, no-spam newsletters I send out no more often than monthly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those)!

Monthly update newsletter:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith

Pompeii!

Coming to you tonight from a wild and woolly Pompeii!!! I can’t believe I’m saying that! As a young girl, the Pompeii exhibition came to town and it’s the first memory I have of being truly mesmerized. My teacher was an archeology guru of sorts and dragged us all along. This rich experience lies at the deep core of my love and compassion for tribes, humans, tragedies, and rich love stories. The imagine of a young Pompeiian couple cast in plaster, cuddling together forever, is as crisp in my mind’s eye as the day it captured my imagination all those years ago.

Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii… two words that I rarely hear or think about, but when they do, my heart skips a beat. It’s on the bucket list, …and not planned for this trip.

We planned to take a “short cut”; the twenty-one hour ferry from Livorno to Sicily this evening and last week booked ourselves, along with Molly, Hitch, and the Sphinx (of course) for tonight’s evening departure.

Right after a fabulous weekend in northern Tuscany with my very special cousin Kathryn, where we all ate waaaay too much food, and talked waaay too much. There was also much to be done around the farm, but the weather turned for the worse in a big way, so a cozy fire, a crazy kitty, and the odd G&T or red wine, and there went the weekend. We were determined not to let the weather dampen our spirits but news from home of desperately ill babies cast its long-distance shadow.

Super important meetings and speaking engagements were cancelled, Miss Four’s birthday party was cancelled, and poor Mama Bear spent the whole weekend in bed in such a big single-bed-ward with her precious and fragile Miss Two. It’s the third time in as many weeks this bubba’s been in hospital, from broken foot to serious gastro, but this time it’s a whole new ball game. I won’t go into details but it’s been terrifying … and while they still aren’t out the woods (or hospital) yet, things look like they are beginning to turn around. It’s things like this that tear at our hearts and remind us we can’t be away from them for too long.

Thanks to the amazing (free) Australian medical system for their incredible care of our babies! I know they aren’t perfect but they’re streaks ahead of any other medical system we’ve experienced over the years and believe me, we’ve tested them.

As the weekend came to a close and the weather changed from bad to worse, the ferry was cancelled and we set out this Monday morning to drive down the length of Italy instead of sail. It was by far my preference, as I’m not keen on the ferry idea at all, but wind which slows the traffic down to a standstill on the freeway is not my idea of fun either. Hours and hours of fallen trees, torrential rain, a few roofs blown off, and many of the cars pulled over to wait out the worst of it. Too many cars, in fact, which meant the slipways were over-full and cars stuck out into the road, hazard lights not really doing much.

By four in the afternoon it became so dark and dangerous we pulled into a service station and prepared ourselves to sleep the night if necessary. Then I noticed the Mercedes parked next to us with a shattered terra-cotta roof tile sprinkled across its bonnet and roof, with the windscreen smashed.

The police arrived, the service station was closed down, the rain subsided somewhat, and we decided we’d best venture back onto the roads again and find a proper camp site for the night.

Twenty minutes later we found a decent Agri Camper site on our app and wound our way through skinny streets (you know how much we love those!!), rain, puddles, wind, and even drove UNDER a fallen tree! It had landed across the road with its top on a very high, now broken wall.

So here we are, right in the middle of Pompeii. The weather forecast for tomorrow is clear and sunny skies, so we think we might just stop a moment and visit the only museum of the whole trip.

But I’m not holding my breath!

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve signed on the easy, no-spam newsletters I send out no more often than monthly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those)!

Monthly update newsletter:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith

Mountain Bike Ride!

Many of you will know how much he loves mountain bike riding and here in the Italian Alps there are mountains and trails all around us. It would be crazy for him to leave here tomorrow without a truly decent ride down one of these slopes, wouldn’t it?

So we drove to the top, high above the line where things don’t like growing and the air is thin…

Past beautiful mountain lakes….

And teeny towns that clung to the sides of cliffs…

Up we climbed in tight switch backs that had our ears popping…

It’s very hard to capture how steep it was, but this photo shows the road we’ve come to the bend on from the left as well as the road ahead to the right….

We climbed through the tall forests with their leaves changing colour for winter…

Above the trees where far in the distance the bare peaks already have their first dustings of snow…

We were supposed to mark on the map where our current home is so he could ride straight down for a few hours while I drove Molly back to camp… but he was a little bit frazzled and excited… so off he went (he’s in this photo somewhere along those winding paths)…

I waved him off taking the obligatory video, then Molly and I started the trek home again … just as the fuel light came on. The steep climb had chowed up so much diesel that there wasn’t much left and clearly driving down again wasn’t dissimilar. She had to be an automatic as with Frank I can’t push a clutch any more. So I watched the last of the fuel meter drop before my eyes.

I quickly realized we weren’t going to get far and an automatic car doesn’t roll so well on empty, so while there was still something left of the red I moved her into neutral and we coasted ever so slowly down most of the bends and eventually, as flattened out into the valley we rolled into the only petrol station around … with three litres (less than a gallon) left in the tank!

I wasn’t super in the mood for running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere without a word of Italian and unable to walk anywhere, and nor was I much in the mood for getting lost. But I’ve got a pretty good sense of direction and Molly and I followed our noses and I kept an eye out for the right mountains as seen from camp and we eventually made it home absolutely shattered!

Thankfully it was all worth it as he had an AMAZING ride, with barely any uphills as he dropped nearly six thousand feet of elevation as he rode about thirty five kilometers back to camp!

(His Strava is in meters…)

One very happy (and therefore somewhat less grumpy) husband this afternoon 😊😊😊

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve signed on the easy, no-spam newsletters I send out no more often than monthly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those)!

Monthly update newsletter:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith

The Pino Outcome:

I love this photo!! I look so normal! But here’s what it doesn’t show:

  • That I couldn’t walk at all! We’d ridden for over an hour. My leg muscles are amazingly strong considering how little work they get to do in real life. But it was lunch time so we stopped for a break, he helped me get off, and that was it… In the photo I’m sitting on the side of the bike because I couldn’t go any further. Yet I was able to get back on again (with help) and ride another hour!
  • The photo also hides my sore face. I smashed my face a few days ago and have a fat lip etc.
  • This is ALL I did yesterday. He let me sleep in as long as possible and got ready for the day without me. He woke me late morning in time to eat then we drove to the Pino, we rode, then I barely made it back to camp again for a shower and bed. I was in bed again by 4pm and didn’t even have the energy to read.

So…. don’t confuse my ability to ride with my ability to walk, and don’t forget this took all a day’s energy to do and there was nothing left.

Now we’re in the process of trying to buy one. This is a game changer for me and in a completely different way, a game changer for him. It’s my only option for keeping strong right now. It could take months to get one, but we’re praying hard for another Pino Miracle and that we’ll have one well before the end of the year! So watch this space!

(In the mean time, it’s back to a few short metres of heavy crutch walking a day and that’s it… it’s very difficult to be given such freedom then having it taken away!

Pino Pain!

This is going to be a long and interesting journey! It’s the bike for us for sure, and we love it. But it’s also a bit of a relationship tester. It’s like putting everything under the microscope and baring it all!

The littlest frustrations, the things that make us feel safe (or not), the communications, the listening, the understanding, the patience, the “assuming” or jumping to conclusions.

Let’s just say we stopped and spent a while sitting by the beach redefining the rules somewhat, ….and that Uber may or may not have been mentioned (or threatened) as alternative ways to get home. Other stuff may or may not have been said too.

Thankfully we’re grown ups and we were ultimately able to get our stuff together enough to have a great ride home. As always, when we’re in synch we rock! I’ll leave it at that…

On another note, I managed to get a couple of photos before we set our, of me actually sitting in the stoker seat of the Pino and a few other things:

I need to get some decent shoes and my own helmet and so on, but thankfully I don’t need those Lycra pants with a mattress sewn in the crotch! My seat, thankfully, isn’t anything like your average bicycle seat. I would not be able to manage a bike seat with Bertha at all!

I took all these this morning with the same Paola lemon 😊 (his bike seat at left and mine at right).

We rode nearly thirty km in four hours (less than two of them actually riding), climbed nearly 250m and went as fast as 42kmph !! (Not all of us were entirely happy with that speed on day two of my riding career… but now we’re home again to Molly for home made paella thanks to Lorna’s recipe, and what a success it was.

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Main email group:
Team Tortoise:
Team Hare:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith

Spain Photos

Some photos just don’t make a daily blog. Either I didn’t do one that day or there were too many things happening, or multiple stories which got lost in bigger or better stories. So now that we’ve left Spain behind, here are some of the “leftovers”…

Watch this space to see some fabulous videos and blogs about some of the fabulous people and food in Spain!!! (When I get the chance… I’m too busy living in the moment but they’ll come!)

#ASeatAtYourTable !

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Main email group:
Team Tortoise:
Team Hare:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith

Happiness Is….

Sleeping in the middle of nowhere, tucked deep under the lip of a huge dam wall, among the trees, chickens, donkeys and even the odd mountain goat. I’ll admit it was also a little creepy in a strange way, but it was also wonderful.

After a midnight snack of cheese & hams we found in the fridge, we slept like logs, woke late, cooked oats for breakfast, packed Molly up again, and climbed the steep embankment back up to the roaring freeway hundreds of feet above.

Happiness, for us, is also togetherness, the open road, brave life off the grid, olive trees as far as the eye can see, mountains, alpacas, chickens, and absolutely delightful people…

Go on, zoom in, can you see those olive trees?? I love “order” and I love “natural” and those rarely come together … yet here they do, in spades.

We’ve come on search of Memoirist Alan Parks, deep in the hottest part of Spain (which is a hot country) in the middle of nowhere. It’s also known as the “Frying Pan of Spain” and I’d forgotten that bit when we set out on this journey.

I first read his book, “Seriously Mum, what’s an Alpaca?” a couple of years ago around the same time we coincidently fell in love with alpacas ourselves. Alan does such a good job describing their adventures as Brits giving up the rat race, that I really wanted to come here to see it for myself. This was the same time that we were planning our Second Half, and it was really encouraging to know we weren’t the only crazy people around. So I’ve been following him for a while now and while there’s so much more to tell you, for now, we’re so thankful for a few hours this afternoon with Alan and his adorable partner Lorna. They’re even better in real life and their home is everything the books describes and more.

It’s a magnificent home, a stunning B&B, a true oasis, complete with a never ending running spring (you know, the actual water kind), fresh eggs for breakfast, great stories about real people, real lives, challenges, adventure, and yet more fabulous food!!

But most of it will have to wait till tomorrow!

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 17.04.59

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Hare & Tortoise

Main email group:
Team Tortoise:
Team Hare:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith