2016 was probably the worst year of my life. We bought a bookstore that was failing, and we lived in total poverty out of a converted school bus that was incompletely remodeled. I was eating at a food bank, my son broke his femur inside of said bookstore at age two just before 2016 began (running laps while his dad counted the till and I prepared the steam cleaner in the back room – he ran into an art easel, apparently). He was in a spica cast that went from his ankle to his waist, and my early potty trainer had to go back into diapers. Because the store was failing, I was working side jobs, like collecting signatures on petitions door to door, pushing a double stroller with my baby in a half body cast and my toddler in tow. All the money I earned was handed to my ex to pay off bookstore debts. I was working harder than I ever had, and was living in the worst poverty I had ever experienced.
Our converted school bus didn’t have running water. It did not have a toilet. It had no AC, and was honestly a total wreck. We were living in actual squalor. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I worked, all my money went to debt, nothing to food or improving our lives….. Unless my ex wanted to eat out. Then he was willing to take from the bookstore till and buy tacos. I had no access to any of our money. No bank account, no savings, and no access to any community funds. I was 100% dependent on him and had to ask for every 30 dollars I spent to pump gas or buy food. One time I used all the quarters I had saved to get enough gas to drive and get our dog out of the pound. When I arrived and was told I had to pay the pound to get him out, and I burst into tears, I had spent my emergency money to get there and didn’t have access to anymore. They let me take my dog home, eventually.
So 2016 the kids and I are basically left for 5-6 days at a time in the bus, without access to a car, or groceries, etc….. When he would come home he would rage at us in anger and honestly we preferred him gone. We spent all September of 2015 separated, and I LOVED being away from his explosive anger. At the begining of the year our Skoolie was parked at a campground in Lockhart. Actual tweakers lived there, and the whole thing felt very sketchy, but it was only $300 a month and we needed a place as low rent as possible. Then we got evicted. Again. You see, I would only figure out in hindsight that we were actually evicted from every place we lived together, and that is something that never happened to me before or after that relatonship.
Our first house we were asked to leave after complaining about maintenance issues. The guy decided to sell the house instead of fixing them. The apartment we moved into next, we were evicted for not paying rent (and I had no clue we were behind at the time). The first place we took our Skoolie to was the home of my ex’s convicted felon Uncle (heroin kingpin), and his thug girlfriend ran us out of there by physical force. Then we were asked to leave our friend’s property after living there without the landlords knowledge or consent. Then we were evicted from the campground in Lockhart for non payment (again, didn’t know we were behind). Then again from the ranch where we stayed with friends due to late rent. Finally the last place we stayed together, we got kicked out again due to late rent with the addition of interpersonal drama. 6/6 evictions.
in Feb of 2016 I got bit by a brown recluse at the Lockhart campground. It made me very sick. I will tell that story another time, but please understand the timing is right after my Sun got his spica cast off, I’m working my ass off in the cold to bring in money to bail out the bookstore, and I’m living in total financial and physical neglect, with the added layer of my ex’s explosive anger. The spider bit was devastating and I had to stop everything and focus on actual survival. My two and three year olds were taking care of me, and their dad would come home and throw things, slam things, and scream in my face for not doing the dishes. I thought for a 48 hour period I was going to die and my kids wouldn’t know how to call for help and their dad could be days before he even returned.
Once evicted from the campground, we moved to a friend’s ranch, and the kids and I spent our days playing outside and trying to make our home a better space. I was detoxing the spider venom and doing everything I could to hold it together physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but I was about to break. I had no running water. No car. No toilet. My situation was degrading and humiliating. A friend of mine found out the conditions of our home, and planned a caravan of people to come help. And they did. They remodeled the entire thing. They installed an AC, and flooring and a kitchen sink/counter and a composting toilet. My friend saved my life.
The way I paid for the supplies was to plan a tour in our bus. That meant when the remodel was done in July, we hit the road and took off for the west coast. Sponsors of our tour paid for the remodel and the tour itself.f we actually ate. Good food. We had money flowing through. And yet despite having been the one to lan the while trip, the Bitcoin all went through my ex’s fingers, never mine. We stayed on tour for almost a month, returning in August. There was an incident at a Kansas City gas station where the cops were called because John screamed so loud at our son, and hit the couch so hard that people though our son was being beat. The anger part was obvious, but the neglect I couldn’t quite see….. I remember stopping to boondock (camp off grid), and my ex working on the propane attachment for our stove. I didn’t think much of it and we kept driving. We had several stops on our tour, and the propane would be turned off when we travelled, so I didn’t notice anything was wrong….
Flashforward to November. The children had started throwing up at night, no explanation. I had what looked like a second brown recluse bite errupt on a scar on my shoulder. Something was really off, but we could not figure out what! I was researching my wound, and even made an appointment to be checked for cancer. What were the odds I had been bit a second time? Then the weather changed. It got cold. I started keeping the windows up during the day and that’s when I smelled it. Propane. I texted my then husband who basically lived at our bookstore, and his response was “oh yeah that’s been leaking since the trip last August”.
I was devastated. I was furious. He knowing let us live, work and sleep in a home with a KNOWN PROPANE LEAK. We were separated all September a second year in a row, so I literally didn’t seee him that month, and was left to breath in toxic fumes with our babies. My body already had such a high toxic load from the spider venom, that the new toxic load of propane caused a venomous wound to appear in a weak spot in my skin as my body tried to push out both substances. I hadn’t been bit again, I had been poisoned. WE had been poisoned. The children and I had the windows open during the day, but at night we slept on a king bed in the back of the bus. Thank God it was on risers, because I think we all would have died if the bed had been lower to the ground.
I knew then I had to get out, but I had no idea how. I was too ashamed to tell people, or ask for help, and he told me my parents wouldn’t let me come home (something they denied emphatically when I asked years later). He controlled my money, our car, my time, my energy, I did finally have a cell phone again but for 4 years I did not. I was isolated. I had PTSD and my fight or flight would go off when he simply made an appearance in the room. I was weak and exhausted and sick and felt… TRAPPED. And in effect, I was…,.