Christmas in the Camper

There are different kinds of RV full timers. Some travel constantly, never staying in one place more than a month or so, others just decide that they like the RV lifestyle and the relatively inexpensive cost of living and decide to make an RV their permanent home.  Those who travel full time are usually either retired or have figured out how to make their living from a non-location dependent source. Some do so off grid and others stay in parks or in the yards of friends or family.

We land somewhere in the middle of these… We live in an RV park in a somewhat permanent way, although we have no lease agreement and could theoretically leave whenever we want to.  We travel frequently for work and pleasure and we are working on creating our non location dependent income.

We took a few short trips over the past year and a couple of bigger trips too.

In July we took a two week trip to Northern Wisconsin to visit family and friends in between doing short jaunts around Texas for work.  In the Fall we did a big trip, about a month, to Florida for a combination of work and visiting family.  We even managed to get a little bit of beach time in too!

So, what do “trailerites” do over the Holidays?  We decided to take a quick trip to a historic German town in Texas called Fredericksburg.  We had a ton of fun.  This town goes all out decorating for Christmas!  It was really wonderful to be able to enjoy all of the lights and decorations without having to put them up or take them down ourselves.  We kept it simple in our tiny dwelling. Our camper decorations consisted of two strands of lights inside, our stockings, a decorative throw blanket, a bathroom hand towel and one strand of lights outside.  Decorating took about ten to fifteen minutes at most.

What to do with all of that extra time???  Well, we wrote this new Christmas song, Christmas in the Camper, and made this video while on our Holiday in Fredericksburg.  It is our Christmas gift for friends, family, fellow full timers and those interested in the lifestyle. We had a ton of fun recording the song and making the video in the camper… We had to do something to keep ourselves busy after all!

I hope you enjoy it!

Rob had been working on this melody that he came up with for a few weeks and I said, “that sounds like a Christmas song.”   We finished the lyrics and recorded it on Christmas day with the spirit of the season in our hearts.  We were able to finish filming the video and Rob had it edited by Christmas night.  It was a really fun project.  May the spirit of Christmas be with you and yours throughout the whole year!

Tiny Vintage Airstream

One of our favorite pastimes is walking around RV Parks and campgrounds to check out the other rigs.  Some are pretty standard RVs, others have unique or useful features that intrigue us, sometimes people have crazy looking converted box trucks and in some cases there are some super sweet restored vintage finds.

On our last day in Malibu, we were doing one final walk around the park, taking in the beauty and lamenting the fact that we had to leave, when we came across this adorable restored vintage Airstream.  When we walked by, the occupants, a couple, were sitting outside enjoying the view.  I complimented their rig.  They asked if I wanted to see the inside? Of course I did!  I asked if I could take some pictures for my blog… “Sure”, they said.  They were super nice people.  He was a photographer and she seemed like she was possibly a model.  I don’t know.  We mostly talked about their sweet Airstream.

In any case, here are some pictures of this tiny beauty of a trailer and the vintage pickup truck they pull it with.  I love the colors and relaxed decorating choices they made.  It is sort of “shabby chic”/retro/ island/ boho… Enjoy!

Tiny – The Movie

Tiny Houses and their construction have been an obsession of mine for several years now.  The concept of maximizing the minimum has been a theme that I have returned to throughout my life.  I love creating and seeing how others create unique storage solutions as well as simultaneously striving for minimalism.

This world of tremendous excess, with a focus on more and bigger being synonymous with better, the overt commercialization and perversion of the American Dream as well as the glorification of busy has created a bubble that is bursting at the seams.   Personally I am having a visceral reaction that rejects this paradigm.  I want less stuff in my life and more meaning.  I don’t pretend to be unique, so I imagine that others feel this way as well.  Thanks to the internet, I know at least a few do.  Many of these people make up what is quickly becoming known as The Tiny House Movement.

In general these people live in homes that are under 300 square feet and some even under 90 square feet.  They are vibrant people who live deliberately with a tremendous sense of purpose and dedication to living within their means.

A couple of years ago, Rob and I decided that when we own our first house, we truly want to own it.  No banks, no mortgage, no real estate bubble.  We can’t think of a better way to truly own our house than to build it with our own hands.  We plan to build our very own Tiny House!

To those ends we have sold or gotten rid of the majority of our stuff and moved into our travel trailer for two distinct purposes. 1. To practice living tiny and immerse ourselves in what that means before we take the plunge, buy our land and build our house.  2. To save money so that we can shed the shackles of debt, buy our land and build our house without loans.

There are quite a few blogs and books dedicated to this topic.  I have done my research and learned who is who in the Tiny House World…. But I got really excited when I learned that there was a documentary called Tiny being made on the subject.  I wanted to see it immediately!  “Can I download it? Can I stream it?  Can I buy the DVD?”  No, I had to wait. It was still being made. (I found out about the film in the time between when their Kickstarter had ended and the editing was being done.)

I have some experience with Independent Film.  I know that these projects often are forgotten about and left unfinished. People run out of steam, and money and move on to other projects et cetera. Thinking that this could happen with this particular film, Tiny, made me tremendously sad.  I had to stop myself from constantly checking on their progress and ignore its existence for some time as not to “worry” about someone else’s project.  It was kind of ridiculous.

I am happy to report that Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith finished Tiny and I had the great fortune to find out that it was premiering right here in Austin at SXSW (when I discovered this information, I was as excited and hopeful as a six year old with the prospect of going to Disney World being dangled in front of them.) Even more fortunate, I was able to meet Merete and Christopher and they graciously gave me a pair of their filmmaker tickets!

I have met my fair share of celebrities and honestly I was more excited to meet these down to earth tiny house builders than any celebrity I have encountered with the obvious exception of Patrick Stewart, of course.  Clearly, I do not think like a blogger yet, because if I did, I would have taken a picture with Merete and Christopher.  Suffice to say that in the limited time I interacted with them I found that they are really sweet, humble and kind people who were very willing to interact and answer our burning questions, like, “What do you do with your grey water?”

The film, Tiny, is even more beautiful than I had imagined, both visually and in narrative content.  It is extremely inspiring and informative too, which I think is the point.  It is a timely and relevant film that asks questions that are important not just today but questions that have been and always will be important to humanity, like, “What is home? And how do we find it?”  Once you start to think about it, the answer is not as obvious as  it may seem.

I love that they were able to interview other Tiny House dwellers from around the country and get their insight too. This particular aspect of the film contributed greatly toward educating people not just about their own building process but about Tiny House culture in America today.  It is both diverse and growing!

This film also successfully answered one of my biggest questions, “can a couple with no prior building experience successfully build a home, a livable structure with four walls and a roof?”  The answer is yes, which is exciting, particularly the electricity bit…

Throughout Tiny there were several questions and themes that drew me in as a viewer, 1. would Christopher Smith finish this huge project that he started and what would it look like if/when he did?  2. How would Merete and Christopher’s different ideas, about what and where home is, play out?  Could/would they stay together?  3. What materials would they use?  Would they use any salvaged or reclaimed materials and if so where would they get them? 4. How would their sewer and plumbing work?

The Cinematography and use of the Western light of the Colorado sky is mesmerizing like a meditation.  The musical score sets the tone for the film perfectly somehow interweaving the sound with the color palette so that these two aspects become one.  The editing is great too.  The film is subtle, subdued and informative while simultaneously containing a fascinating narrative. It truly seems to represent the personalities and aesthetic of the filmmakers, which I very much liked.

To get a taste, check out the website and trailer for Tiny http://tiny-themovie.com/

The only disappointment I had was in learning that Christopher and Merete don’t actually live in the tiny house that they built as the subject of their documentary.  When I learned this, there was a moment where I felt as though Santa’s beard had been ripped off right in front of me.  I realize that this has more to do with my fantasies of Tiny House Living than their dwelling choices.  When I asked Christopher how much continuous time they have spent in the tiny house, he said, “just a few days”, though he says he does plan to live in it at some point.

Honestly I felt a little betrayed.  I had been looking up to them from afar and jealous because not only had they successfully bought their land and built the house but they made a documentary about the process as well.  I was already in love with every aspect of their project and I had formed an attachment to the idea that they lived in it.  Though we don’t have our land and we have not built our tiny house yet, we have been living the tiny lifestyle in our camper for six months now.  Do I need new heroes?

No. This actually made me realize that every Tiny House enthusiast has their own path, their own back story and their own plans for the future.  We may have some similar goals but we are all different and our processes and sequences of action in our “tiny” evolution are all different too.  There is no one way or right way to live the “tiny life” and the way we go about getting to our “tiny” destinations will look different every time.  In the Q and A that followed the showing of their film, Merete revealed that she has moved to New York to pursue writing.  I can only imagine that she is living the tiny life in a New York apartment.

I have such a deep respect and admiration for Christopher and Merete for building their tiny house and for making their stunningly beautiful documentary as well as submitting it to film festivals.  I am keenly aware that all of these tasks require a tremendous amount of time, effort and dedication.  Also their land is remote and their tiny house is completely off grid which is pretty hardcore.

I am so glad that we were able to see Tiny premiere at SXSW!  We have more knowledge and confidence now going into the building process of our own tiny house.  They have helped demystify the process for us a little bit and very likely many others. Christopher and Merete learned so much in the process of building and I am very much looking forward to learning those things as well.

Rob and I have been wanting to make a documentary for sometime now too.  Having the opportunity to meet Christopher and Merete and watch their documentary has inspired us to finally move forward with that!  Perhaps they could write another documentary about making a documentary to demystify that process for us too.

I will let you know more about that soon.  In the meantime definitely go see Tiny at a film festival near you.  I highly recommend it!!!  Demand wide-spread distribution and order a DVD when they become available!

The Corner Pieces – Part III – Living in Malibu

When Rob and I were asked to sing in our longtime friends wedding in Malibu, CA, we jumped at the chance to take our RV on a trip out West and park it in Malibu for a week.

Staying there for a full week really gave us the sense of living there and if I had the cash, I would move there in a heartbeat. You know what is expensive in Malibu?  Pretty much everything. Except, liquor.  For some reason, liquor is ridiculously cheap there.

The RV park we stayed at overlooked the Pacific and we could hear the waves crashing on the shore as we drifted off to sleep at night. You could also hear all of the action down on the PCH, it didn’t bother us though.  Looking out at the view, our morning coffee never tasted so good!  Sunny loved Malibu too.

 

We hiked at Leo Carillo State Park. We took surfing lessons and strolled along the beach in Santa Monica.  We hung out with some of the greatest people and friends a person could ever have or even hope to have and laughed until our faces were in pain.  It was glorious!  We also saw David Duchovny in the parking lot of CVS in Malibu, though I think he was probably coming from the Sushi restaurant next door.  I even got a chance to take a mixed aerial class atHollywood Aerial Arts with a dear friend,Sarah, from high school. All of this awesomeness and excitement and the wedding was still yet to come!

Rob and I even had the chance to entertain guests at our campsite twice! My filmmaker cousins April and Jordan came over one night for dinner and film project swapping entertainment.  A few nights later, we grilled fresh fish from the Pacific that we bought at the fish market that was just down the hill from the RV Park while taking in the scenery of the expansive Pacific Coast horizon with a great girlhood friend of mine from summer campSharon, and her husband, Brian.

One day I made the drive through Topanga Canyon to Burbank to have lunch with girlfriends from college, Mandi and Jen.  Jen is a very talented costume designer and stylist who took me to L.A.’s fashion district. Bolts of fabric as far as the eye can see!  

 

Rob stayed back at the camper.  He did everyday stuff like take pictures of a few items he had brought along to sell on Ebay and a load of laundry at the RV laundry facilities. He relaxed and made like The Dude, hanging out in Malibu.  That night we walked down the hill to the fish market next to our RV park. The fresh fish sandwiches were delicious and satiating!  The experience was most definitely a version of perfection.

                                                ^^^^^ Malibu Seafood^^^^^

At the end of our weeklong stay in Malibu, on our way out of town, we even met up with more friends for dinner, got a tour of Glendale and had a music related business meeting!

Now that I have actually typed out everything that we did on this trip I realize that we did a lot.  Interestingly, the one argument we had while on the trip was because I freaked out and panicked that we weren’t “doing enough” and “seeing enough people”.  It is true, I would have had to spend at least a month out there to have quality time with everyone that I wanted to see, hug and have a laugh with.  After all, they were working and we were on vacation. I did my very best to cram it all into a week.  I was saddest to miss out on invitation to go Rock Climbing atMalibu Creek State Park with my friend Sarah and her husband, Brandon.

Did I even mention the wedding???  We went to the best wedding rehearsal and dinner I have ever been to followed the next day by a beautiful wedding in Temescal Gateway Park. Rob and I sang, “Grow Old With Me” by John Lennon, in the ceremony, requested by the Bride and Groom, and made everyone weep. Then we partied and danced the night away with some of our dearest college buds.  The next morning we all went out for brunch in Santa Monica.  It felt like a dream that I didn’t want to wake up from.

Getting into a daily groove while far away from “home”, this was a turning point.  We realized that we were not missing any of the comforts of the 1800 sqft house that was back in Austin. We became aware that we were spending more time outside and that we were both happy and comfortable, this really made us realize that indeed, “we can totally live in this thing!!!”  “Also, moving into it will drastically reduce our monthly bills which will give us more opportunities do amazing trips like this one!”

AND a view of the water is really good for the mind, body and soul!

One of the reasons we moved to Austin is because it has a fine mixture of art, culture, music and outdoor pursuits readily available in addition to being a vibrant yet laid-back and friendly city.  You know what?  When we made that decision, we had never been to any cities in California, ever!  They have all of that, plus beaches with great surfing, plus mountains and snow skiing and multiple National Parks!  This pretty much describes paradise to me.

I know L.A. isn’t laid-back and many people don’t consider it friendly… But Malibu, in my experience, is.  And since the time I have spent in L.A. has been with friends, it seems very friendly.  Also, I am a grounded person without distortions surrounding fame and fortune, I see no reason that I can’t find a sense of peace in any city.  Fame and wealth don’t impress me.  A generous and kind heart does.  Those who make helping others a priority, those who know who they are and “work for their luck” impress me.  All of the people I am close to in L.A. have those qualities.

 We have wanted to spend more time on the West Coast for some time now.  We have played shows out there with our band, Before Dawn, spent time with our friends and family and always had nothing short of an honest to goodness amazing time.  I can truly, honestly, and completely free from sarcasm say that, I LOVE L.A.!  A big piece of my heart is there.  No joke. Rob reminds me that I feel this way because of all of the loving, artistically supportive, fans and side splittingly hilarious people we call friends out there.  He cautions, “trust me, the city is not what you love.”

In any case our most recent trip to L.A., the one where we lived in Malibu for a week in our RV overlooking the Pacific was a significant catalyst in our realization that it would be both possible and fulfilling to transition to full-time RV living.  I mean, what if we could even figure out a way to travel and work at the same time???  Fast-forward three months and we happily, though not without tremendous trials and tribulations, moved into our travel trailer.  We are getting closer everyday to cutting this tether of single location living.  You see, L.A. is already making our dreams come true!  Viva Malibu!

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Changing and Evolving

When I was in high school I always thought it was so strange that there were kids my age who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their life…  I have always placed the utmost importance on decision making, sometimes to the point that it paralyzes my process. I am constantly evaluating and reevaluating. I have had to continually grow and establish that which is important to me and actively bring it into my life.  I endeavor to cultivate skills, values, experiences and relationships that are meaningful. I also really like to help others.  I have found that I have a deep need to learn and try new things and eventually become bored if I don’t change things up every now and again.

This quote that I recently read from Mahatma Gandhi really speaks to me,

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Maybe I thought it was strange that my peers already “knew” that they wanted to be a lawyer and a mom or some such things because my soul was reaching and searching for something radically different.  I didn’t know exactly what I wanted and found the prospect of deciding that sort of thing with such little life experience somewhat overwhelming. The one thing I have always known is that I want to lead a fully conscious, meaningful and purpose driven life.  It just hasn’t always been easy for me to determine what that purpose is.  I have never had a lack of goals, the problem is that I tend towards having an unreasonable number goals.

It has been four months now since we have moved into our tiny space, our 21ft. travel trailer.  We have approximately 162 square feet of living space.  So far we don’t mind a bit.  We had the heat on almost every day last month and our electric bill was only $60!

In this blog I am going to talk about how our lives have changed since going from an 1800 square foot house to an 162 square foot travel trailer.  I am going to talk about what our life is like now and how and why this is working for us.

I have to say that while there was some adjusting that had to be done, and still does, the vast majority of change that has taken place is positive. We even enjoy coming up with creative solutions to new situations in our tiny abode; whether they are storage related, heating and cooling related, moisture related or ant related….  We are figuring this out one step at a time and this would probably be a good topic for a future blog post.

I do think that we were absolutely mentally prepared to do this.  It is truly what we both wanted and we can finally see the reasons for our move really coming to fruition.  This would and could not work if we were not BOTH on board. We have goals and we are actively involved with them.  It is difficult to forget about your goals and how serious you are about them when you live in a small space.  Your daily life is a constant reminder of why you are there and what you plan to accomplish.  Sometimes Rob finds himself surprised by what a big deal this isn’t.  RV living suits us well.  Our fantasies about where we will live next never include a “Mansion” or “Large Single Family Home”, it is always about our next RV or the Tiny efficient house we plan to build with our own hands.

The Goals and Values we are committed to:

  • Save Money – to have an emergency fund, be debt free, taking care of our medical issues and concerns, travel more, spend more time with friends and family, buy land in cash and build a small home without a mortgage, dance more, play more music, continue learning and education.
  • Leave a smaller footprint by wasting less, buying less and embracing minimalism.
  • Establish a deeper connection with Each Other, God, Nature, the Universe and ultimately our Health and Quality of life by focusing on that which is truly important to us, our core beliefs and values.

(Notice that none of our values and goals includes having more stuff or material goods. I am not saying this as a bragging point.  I think most people have similar goals and values, but they get distracted by status items and mistakenly begin to believe they are important. Living the tiny lifestyle helps us stay focused on that which is most deeply important to us and helps us avoid both distraction and the distortion that the meaning of life lies in material goods and status symbols.)

The Lifestyle / What it is like?

  • We are finally saving money!  It took 4 months for this to actually happen.  The cost of moving in combination with several very large unexpected expenses such as Sunny the cat being hospitalized made it hard to notice our reduced costs initially.
  • We don’t spend money on stuff we don’t need because we have absolutely no place to put it.
  • Even though we are both working, living in an RV campground environment is  relaxing and when we go on walks there is a very vacation-like atmosphere. We all wave to each other.  It is very friendly.
  • While we do have a small shower in our camper, we typically go to a shower room at the RV park.  It is nice.  There are four separate bathroom/shower rooms, each has two shower heads, hot water and good water pressure.  They have key code entry and deadbolts. Walking to the shower rooms in our bathrobes with our shower caddy in hand very much reminds me of summer camp.  We like it.  Showering is more of a ritual now instead of a daily inconvenience.
  • We have both a propane heater that is standard with most RV’s today and a small electric space heater.  Either do a fine job heating our tiny space.
  • We cook with propane as well.  We have to go on a short rural drive every once in a while to get our propane tanks filled at Direct Propane.
  • Coin Laundry, it has its advantages and disadvantages

Change Breeds More Change:

  • Short hair – I cut my hair really short.  It is more manageable and less hair for the drain  and my comb…
  • Off of Facebook – I took a 2 month break from Facebook and have recently resumed with less interaction and spaced-out, zombie-like scrolling. This could probably be an entire blog in and of itself.
  • Cutting other expenses – We have pretty much stopped going out and we have given ourselves a weekly grocery budget.  It is fine by us for now.  We love eating out, but we know how to have a good time with our grill at home for much less money.  Baking and cooking new recipes is also a cheap form of entertainment. We are willing to give up some instant gratification in order to achieve our long term goals.
  • Reading about finance – A really great book to kick your butt into gear is, How to Manage your Money when you Don’t Have Any.  I highly recommend it!
  • For entertainment we play music, sing, dance, play with our cat, go to the gym, watch movies, documentaries and TV series at home (basic cable is free at the RV park). One of our favorite activities is walking around the RV park and looking at the new coaches, trailers and rigs that roll in for the weekend.  
  • Work – our work keeps us pretty busy and stimulated as well.  We work on a variety of projects.  In the future I will write a post about what we, “do”.  I am sure some people are wondering by now….

By all accounts, we live a very fun and full life in our tiny trailer.

My sister asked, “so are you driving each other crazy being in such a close space together all of the time.”  The answer is no.  Maybe we are just lucky, but this aspect is not hard for us.  And honestly when one of us is gone for more than a couple of hours, we start to miss each other. We enjoy being together, working together, traveling together and truly these are the things that bring us the most satisfaction in life.  Like any couple we argue and get our feelings hurt every now and again, but the good most definitely outweighs the bad.

The Most Exhaustive Minimalist Gift Guide Ever!

I was inspired to write this post because of the recent Black Friday madness and general holiday mania I have been witnessing.  It is that time of year where consumerism sky rockets to levels even more outrageous than normal and people feel compelled to buy gifts for each other, even if they can’t think of something meaningful, useful or in many cases can’t afford them.  I understand the frenzy.  I have been in it.

The truth is that unless a person really uses and or cherishes a gift, it was a waste of money.  I don’t have money to waste!   Most people don’t. I just had a Birthday and Rob’s is coming up shortly. Parents, in-laws, siblings etcetera often ask, “What do you want for your Birthday or Christmas.”  I typically have a hard time answering this question, but even more so now.  I compiled this list partially for that reason.

We have worked really hard to get rid of most of our “stuff”.  We still have stuff to get rid of.  Every time we take something new in, we have to get rid of something we have. That is the rule.

So, what kind of gift does one give someone who is attempting downsize or become more minimalist?

More and more people are realizing the benefits of minimalism.  Do you have someone in your life that fits this description? What does one give someone who is a full time RVr, tiny house dweller or even a van dweller?

Here is an exhaustive guide I have compiled. I think it could be helpful for for everyone on your list, not just minimalists!  I also would love to hear if you have any additional ideas! While we are happily living in an RV Park, far from “off the grid”, we are in search of a more independent, self-sufficient and simple lifestyle.

We are taking baby steps and we have downsized because we value freedom over debt, making memories over amassing material things and living consciously over mechanically.  Most people who embrace this lifestyle tend to embrace experiences over material things.  Here are some literally “outside of the box” gift giving ideas for your consideration.

Tickets to Entertainment…

  • Concerts – Find out a loved ones favorite bands or venues and then get them tickets.
  • Plays – It is always fun to go see a local or touring show!

Shows from Cirque Du SoleilRingling Brothers, a local ballet, aerial or circus troupe.

  • Comedy shows – Laughter is a really great gift and there are comedy clubs, touring comics and comedy festivals in most cities!
  • Sporting events – Do you know their favorite team or the hometown college?
  • Movie Passes – Date night!  Who doesn’t like to go to the movies? My sister gave us this as a gift one year, I thought it was the greatest!
  • Museums – There are so many museums I have been meaning to and wanting to go to, having a pass would give me just the reason to go!
  • Events and Festivals – Austin and many other cities have many annual events and festivals ranging from super cheap to outrageously expensive. From food and wine to film, to marathons or music…
  • Activities – Rock Gym, Zip Lining, Paddle Boarding, Surfing, Boat Rental, Yoga, local bowling ally, the list goes on.  Most people love the opportunity to act like a tourist in their own town and get out of their regular routine!
  • Theme Parks – In many cases this will end up being a great day trip filled with fun memories. When Rob lived in Orlando, his mom used to get him an annual pass to Disney which provided many days of fun all year long!

The internet makes it super easy to find out what types of activities, destinations and entertainment are in a reasonable proximity to your loved ones, giving them a good time and memories to be cherished will most certainly be appreciated!  Make sure you know the person well enough to select something that they would love to do or try and you can’t go wrong!

Restaurant Gift Certificates:  Who doesn’t like a dinner date?  When people start cutting their expenses, one of the first things to get cut is always dinning out.  Dinning out can be such a tremendous joy!  It is something that I know Rob and I always look forward to and most definitely bond over.  Like many people these days, we are always looking for places with fresh, farm to table ingredients.  Most people seeking minimalism are doing it as a way of living a more conscious and sustainable lifestyle and food and nutrition are most definitely core values in that picture. If finding a restaurant for people like us seems like an intimidating task, try these Google terms,  “Farm to table”, “local ingredients” or “locavore”, “seasonal menu”.

There are many such restaurants in Austin and in most major cities.  I want to give a shout out to some of the great local Austin favorites!

Hillside Farmacy

Contigo

Restaurant Jezebel

Olivia

Wink

Cipollina

Is there a place you have been wanting to try in your city?

Wine Bars:   This can be an inexpensive yet very classy gift.  A date with a wine and cheese flight (an offering of several wines to taste and discuss) is always a good time!  Most wine flights are usually in the neighborhood of $15, sometimes less, rarely more.  Google a city and “wine bar” and at least a handful will pop up.  Some locations have beer flights as well for those who prefer beer to wine.  Check out what kinds of flights an establishment offers and make your decision from there….

One of our local favorites is House Wine, and we have been wanting to try Vino Vino, we have heard great things!

Coffee Shops:   Austin is known for having really great independent coffee shops that often have offerings such as yoga, live music and great little menues as well.  I like promoting the local, independent businesses I know about, so I am going to give a shout out to:

Bouldin Creek Cafe

Bennu Coffee

Cherrywood Coffeehouse

Houndstooth Coffee

There are of course tons more.  Just do a search for Austin and Coffeehouse and you see what I mean!

Speaking of food, grocery stores are great!

Whole FoodsTrader Joe’sSprouts and even some local farmers markets all offer gift cards.  Our grocery bill is our single highest bill every month by a significant margin.  In talking to friends, I have realized that we are not alone.  I think others would agree that it would be great gift to have that offset with a grocery gift card!

Money Saving Memberships:  No, I am not talking about a “Jelly of the Month Club” membership. Or a membership that in anyway will send more “stuff” to a person.  In general it is a good rule of thumb not to send someone any kind of subscription to anything they have not specifically asked for. People are bombarded by excess mail, lets all try to avoid contributing to that. Here are some ideas that might be useful to local adventurers and travelers! Many of the suggestions are specific to Austin because that is where I am and what I know, but it should still give you a good idea of what to look for. There are similar types of foundations and associations in many towns and cities.

For Locavores and Foodies

Go Local

Texas Wine and Food Foundation

For Artsy Types

Austin Film Society

Or a

Museum Memebership

For Outdoorsy Types

State Parks – This link is for Texas, but most states have State Park passes available.

National Parks

For RV Traveling Types

These are the clubs that save campers money on RV parks and other RV related things while they are on the road.

Woodalls

Good Sams Club

Passport America

KOA

Learning and Enrichment:

I don’t know about you, but I love learning new things!  I love it I love it I love it!  What do you want to learn more about?  What hobbies do you have? I love pretty much anything dance, aerial apparatus and circus related.  In Austin there are quite a few resources for such things; from my favorite, Blue Lapis Light, to the ever popular Sky Candy to the high flying, Trapeze Austin.  For dance there is of course Ballet Austin and Tapestry Dance Company among many others.  What great classes exist in your city that you or someone you love would love to take?  This really is the gift that keeps on giving.  Maybe you and your partner want to take Salsa or Tango lessons together?  You learn new skills and create memories together instead of collecting “stuff.”

Yoga, everyone needs it!  Even yoga teachers like myself love to take more yoga classes.  Did you know that Meditation is more effective for pain management than Morphine?  Yoga soothes and improves the body, mind and soul.  Who wouldn’t need that?  Yoga can help people learn techniques for stress management that will forever change and improve their lives.  What the world needs now is more Yoga!  With all of the many styles of Yoga that exist, there is literally something for everyone! Check out my friends Aerial Yoga Studio, Four Elements!

Races – is there a running or marathon enthusiast in your life?  Races usually have an entry fee and that fee very often goes to a charity.  You can kill two birds with one stone by entering your friend or loved one in a local race that they can participate in.

My other passion and obsession is building and architecture.  This is one of those things that I have only fantasized about. I would like to actually get my hands dirty and learn to do some real building beyond what I have learned in stagecraft!  I am particularly focused on the Tiny HouseMovement, building materials and how to reclaim and repurpose materials for extreme sustainability, affordability and functionality.  One of the main reasons my husband and I decided to move into our RV is to save money so that we can buy a piece of land, loan free and build our own small house with our own hands, mortgage free.  There are workshops for this sort of thing. Here are some resources, if you are interested. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving, helping someone learn to build their home is a big deal!  Do you have anyone in your life that would appreciate a gift like this?

Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshops

Tiny Texas Houses

Yestermorrow Design Build School

House Alive

Eco Nest Building Workshops

Portland Alternative Dwellings 

Relax Shacks

Services:   Massage, Haircut, Dry Cleaning, Automotive upkeep, Firestone etc. – When you think about it, these are all luxury services, not necessities. But they are also everyday services that many Americans incorporate into their weekly or monthly routine. They are services that we enjoy or appreciate which is what makes them good gifts!  Do you have a favorite Spa, Dry Cleaner, stylist or Mechanic? Honestly all I really want for Christmas is a massage!

Goods and Supplies Gift Cards:  It is true, we still need some stuff.  Most of it is rather practical, like a ladder and a rake.

Home Depot– We are forever going to Home Depot whether for Diatematious Earth to ward off ants or for a piece of outdoor carpet or exterior illumination.  If you know of a local mom and pop hardware store where your tiny dwelling loved one resides, this might be a better choice.  However if your people travel often, you know that a big box store like Home Depot or Lowes can usually be found.

Ebay – I actually buy a lot of my medical supplies on Ebay from sellers who have surplus. The situation of their insurance companies doling out extras and me not being able to get health insurance somehow becomes a symbiotic relationship where I can get inexpensive supplies that help keep me alive. You can never go wrong with an Ebay Gift Card.  I think most people tend to price compare almost everything they buy with Ebay or…—————————————————–>

Amazon – Honestly, Amazon has everything except for probably a soul.  I know, I know it is far from “local” or good for small businesses.  It is in fact the antithesis of my general philosophy and has put many small book stores out of business.  BUT, I live in a small space and I LOVE my Kindle.   Any books, magazines or reading material I receive needs to be in this format and I suspect that many tiny dwellers feel the same way.  Though I parted ways for good with Wal-Mart more than three years ago, I just can’t give up Amazon yet.

Sears – Tools, Automotive, Outdoor Living.

“Evil Chains” that are helpful when traveling: When you are a traveler and you are on the road chains simplify life because they are abundant and close to the interstate and you know exactly what to expect. Sometimes it is a nearly necessary evil. Though we try to avoid them as much as possible, here are some of the chains we tend to frequent when on the interstate.

Starbucks – Rob and I once made a $15 gift card to Starbucks last 3.2 trips by splitting a coffee and a breakfast sandwich each time.

Pet Smart – Sunny is on file at Banfield Hospital which is located in Pet Smart.  No matter what city we are in we can get the right food and meds for her.  This is such a relief.

Dollar General – Dollar General has more retail locations than any other retailer in America!  I bet you didn’t know that.  Many of them are somewhat rural which can be hella convenient when you are far from cities and towns.  Convenient and cheap. They are not overwhelmingly monstrously enormous and you can get septic safe toilet paper, laundry soap, panty liners and all the GMO trail mix you want there.

Target – Unforeseen miscellaneous needs.  Need I say more?

Gas Cards and Truck Stops:  It is no secret that people who travel generally need gas to get to where they are going.  Some super ambitious and conscientious people have converted to bio-diesel. I wish we were that cool! These gas stations are very friendly to large rigs and are generally easy to pull in and out of.  They are most definitely our preference when traveling.Loves and Pilot/Flying J

Camping and Tripping Supplies:

Camping World – There is ALWAYS something that we need from Camping World.  Right now I want these shoe holders.

Academy – If I was only allowed to shop at one store for the rest of my life, it would probably be Academy.

CampmorL.L. BeanREI = GEAR, GEAR, GEAR!!!

La Musica: Remember when getting someone a new CD was a great gift? itunes gift cards are the new music gift. And if you know someone who actually plays music, getting them a gift card to their local music store or Guitar Center is wonderful.  String players always need more strings!

Oh So Medical Oh So Awesomely Practical:  Eye Exams and Dental Cleanings– Many people don’t have vision and dental care.  What a lovely gift an eye exam or dental cleaning would be!  My mother-in law often gives us the gift of a teeth cleaning with their family dentist.  We couldn’t be more appreciative! – That was Robs gift this year and honestly, it is all he really wanted!

WalgreensCVS or other pharmacy Gift Cards – Medicine is expensive!  Insulin is outrageous!  These are major burdens to much of the population.  This would be an awesome, jump for joy gift!

Donations:   Make a donation in the name of a loved one to a charity that is close to their heart.  Perhaps you have a person in your life that is far more generous than they are rich.  Or perhaps you have someone in your life that can have anything they want at any time… This is an incredibly special, personal and perfect gift.  What are your favorite charities? What charities are important to those you plan to buy gifts for this year? Here are a few of my favorites!

*Is the person you are shopping for an artist, film maker, musician or generally having creative projects in the works?  As a gift, find out if they need support for their next project.  Most of the creative people I know would give up “gifts” forever and be eternally grateful if they could just get their project funded.  Even small amounts are very helpful!*

Things to avoid…..

Clothes and Accessories:  Scarfs, gloves, hats, sweaters, pajamas, really clothes of any kind.  For all you know, this person may already have 18 scarfs and sets of pajamas that they already don’t wear or know what to do with.  Having said that, one of my favorite gifts ever was a jersey knit scarf that a friend gave me; it is just the perfect weight for Texas and Florida cold!

Bath stuff:   Lotion, soap, bath salts etc.  People are very particular about what kinds of body products they use.  It is never a good idea to impose your product tastes on someone else unless you are absolutely positive that it will be a hit.  This is very personal territory!

Knick Knacks and Novelty Anything:   It isn’t the “thought that counts”, it is the “function” that counts. People have their own tastes and again, it is usually pretty specific.  Don’t get someone an item that is just going to take up space in their closet.  Like I said before unless someone truly uses or cherishes an item, it was a waste of money.  If you see an item that you think would be “funny” to give someone, don’t waste your money, just take a picture of the item with your phone and send it to the person.  You can still have the LOL, no one has to waste their money and no one has to store useless “novelty” crap.

Please comment!  I want to hear your suggestions.  Is there a place you would like a gift card for that I didn’t mention?  What is your favorite independent restaurant in your hometown?  What is your go-to travel stop? Is there a class you would like to take or a new skill you would like to learn?  What is your favorite charity?  Tell me!!! I want to know.  Give shout outs to your favorites!

Here is a really lovely blog post on Becoming Minimalist about giving your children gifts they will remember.  This blog post really speaks to me.  Enjoy!!!

Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate!

By the way, HUGS make great gifts!!!

New blog, old recipes.

I made these video recipe blogs a few years ago.  I thought I would share them with my current readers.  I have to modify most recipes to suit my diet and I love experimenting with alternative ingredient baking. I enjoy cooking and entertaining, particualrly around the holidays. I hope to make more recipe videos soon!

Spicy Turkey Meatloaf

Auntie Fritzie’s Spinach Balls

Chef Raymond’s Cauliflower Mash

Garlic Lemon Green Bean with Almonds

Enjoy!

The Corner Pieces – Part II: “Quit Hogging the Vortex!” (Sedona)

The Yoga Therapy training program that I did was full of amazing ladies from all over the country. Toward the end of my training program, I was really looking forward to Rob and my trip out to California for our friends wedding.  I started asking people in my training program, where to stop on our way West.  Kathy, from Arizona told me about Sedona.  I put it at the top of our list.

Now, if you read my blog, you know what a harrowing drive it was to get to Sedona.  In this blog, finally, Part II of “The Corner Pieces”, I will tell you why it was so worth it!

The first and most obvious thing to say about Sedona is that it is beautiful, gorgeous, picturesque and breath taking in fact!  Those words all feel trite and plain as I attempt to describe the spectacular majesty of this place.

Sedona sits in the Verde Valley between the Mingus Mountains to the Southwest and the Colorado Plateau to the northeast.  These formations and the geology there are really old, ancient in fact.  If you are a geology buff, you probably already know about Sedona, if you want more information, you might enjoy this site: http://www.arizonaruins.com/sedona/sedona_geology.html

The obvious activity to do here is go hiking!  We were still exhausted from our hellacious drive, but we were determined to power through and enjoy all that Sedona had to offer (for free) to its fullest.  YEAH!  We were going to hike the shit out of that place!!!  Only, secretly, neither one of us was really up for it.  We pressed on because we didn’t want to disappoint each other or regret having not done it.  Our day of hiking was starting to resemble our previous day of driving. 

Despite getting explicit instructions from the front office on how to walk to the five mile hike trailhead from the RV park, we couldn’t find it.  We were wandering in circles, retracing our steps and becoming frustrated and cranky.  Again we began to doubt the existence of said hiking trail.  After walking around for about an hour in the hot sun and never finding the trail, we gave up.

It was the right thing to do.  Sometimes, you just have to surrender your plans to actually have an enjoyable time.  Forcing your agenda rarely turns out to be pleasurable. Later we decided to drive to the trailhead just to see if we could find it.  It turned out we had been been milling about and searching approximately one hundred yards away from it.  Oh well, next time.

We decided that instead of the long hike, we would go check out one of the vortices or rather “vortexes” (that is how they say it there) that Sedona is so well known for.  When people say that Sedona is magical, they are being quite literal.  What is an “energy vortex?”  My short definition is that it is a subtle swirling of spiritual energy that can be detected in the physical world; as it does leave a small, though measurable residual magnetism in the places where it is the strongest. It is a geo-physiological anomaly. – I just made that up, but is sounds right doesn’t it?

Though I tend to be sensitive to subtle spiritual energy, I am also skeptical and struggle with trusting myself. Rob is sensitive too, but he trusts himself more.  Like many people who live in Sedona, we could definitely feel the energy of it all over town. Somehow this swirling energy brings a sense of clarity and wellbeing. If you are interested in learning more about these Energy Vortexes in Sedona, there are a ton of web sites about them.  I think this site does a great job of getting into some of the specifics: http://www.lovesedona.com/01.htm

Many people swear by the healing properties of these vortexes.  They have been in use for healing and spiritual purposes for centuries and very specifically by the early Native American populations.

Somewhat blindly and uninformed we drove to the Airport Vortex trailhead and started hiking around… We were there for the views and the vortex – though we still were not really sure what that meant. We climbed to the highest peak and we were in awe! You can see a spectacular 360 panorama of truly awesome vistas from this vantage point.

 

Eventually, we respectfully made our way to the Vortex to meditate (the juniper trees in the area are spiraled and twisted, they say, from the energy of the vortex). – You don’t want to disturb others who are there to meditate.   This is what our bodies and brains really needed after our long days of intense driving!  We sat there and soaked it all in.  We felt the the vibrations of the earth, we felt the history of the ancient people who knew that this was a holy, healing and magical place. It was magnetic and we could have stayed there for many hours!  We were kind of hogging the vortex. This is when we hilariously came up with, “Quit hogging the vortex!”  We respectfully stepped away from the vortex to give others the opportunity to experience it.

Following that bit of recharging, we went to a grocery store to get items for dinner – this is really a great way to save some money while traveling.  The rest of the day unfolded beautifully.  We strolled around Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village stopped and had an appetizer and margaritas at a little cafe, walked back to our RV, put our bathing suits on and went swimming in the gorgeous little creek behind our RV park. It was cold and refreshing.  There was even a rope swing! 

On our jaunt to the creek, we met one of our neighbors, Pat, who would prove to be crucial to the rest of our journey!  He was a fellow RVr who was staying at Rancho Sedona with his family for a few days.  He was very familiar with the drive between L.A. and Sedona, both on I10 and I40.  He also happened to be a fire and rescue worker in the L.A. area (read, he has scraped a lot of bodies off of the freeway).  He gave us some invaluable tips on how to drive a camper through L.A. without killing ourselves.  We traded some stories about I40. He also gave us his contact info incase we needed anything.  What a great person to meet!

The weather was so beautiful we decided to cook dinner and eat outside at the campground.  We took Sunny outside on her leash as well.  We were finally relaxing!  “Lets not leave here, ever!”  In all seriousness, Sedona is now at the top of our list places to buy property and build a sustainable tiny house.  

Cocktails in hand we talked and reminisced about the day.  Met a few more campground neighbors strolling by and talked about what we were going to do the next day before we left for our final destination, Malibu.  Our playlist for the evening was Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream, Led Zeppelin, IV, and Pink Floyd, Momentary Lapse of Reason.

Earlier in the day, when we were at the top of the Airport Vortex Trail, we remarked that it looked like something from a yoga video.  I had been wanting to make some RV traveler yoga videos, so we decided to go film one the next morning before embarking on what would be a 13 hour drive to Malibu.

We went to bed early and woke up early.  We woke ourselves up by going for a swim in the chilly creek.  We then headed back to the Airport Vortex Trail for some yoga on top of a mountain!   It was interesting and quite challenging doing balancing poses on top of a mountain with no immediate or close points of visual focus.  – So if you decide to do my yoga video, bear with me through that part… :)(Coming soon)

When we got back to the campground we had some breakfast and took our time packing up the camper.  Our strategy, as per Pat’s instructions, was to hit L.A. after 9pm and just avoid the traffic altogether.  This proved to be a pretty good strategy.  Don’t get me wrong, the drive was still long and exhausting and driving the trailer at night comes with its own set of challenges, but at least we avoided the heavy traffic.

It was really HOT in the Mojave and really windy in Hot Springs.  At one point, up hill in a head wind with the pedal to the metal we couldn’t go faster than 45.  There were dust storms and dust tornados everywhere!  At this point however, we were so much more seasoned and experienced from our day on I40, that we were ready for this difficult day of travel.  We were mentally prepared for a long day on the road after our lovely break in Sedona.

Driving through downtown L.A. towing a travel trailer in the dark was insanity.  We felt like we were in a spaceship.  It felt like we were flying at light speed.  We eventually reached Malibuat about 10:30pm. I finally unclenched my jaw, took a breath and released my fingernails from the upholstery.  We set up in the dark again and looked forward waking up on the Pacific where we would spend the next beautiful week of our lives!  

Here are some driving tips from Rob:   

– Don’t use overdrive when towing

– Speed up before you hit hills

– Make sure your vehicle and trailer tires are inflated to the reccomended PSI listed on the tire sidewall, you will waste a lot of gas if they are not!

– Don’t drive faster than 55 unless you want to burn through tons of fuel. You are allowed to drive 55, legally, so don’t feel bad about going slow, if people have a problem, they can go around you.  Don’t let other drivers bully you.

– In general, your trip is going to be much longer than you think.  When towing, driving more than 6 to 8 hours a day is just too much, plan accordingly.  If Google Maps says it will take you 8 hours to reach your destination, it could take you 12 to 13.

– If you are going into unfamiliar territory, especially out West, check out the elevations on your route before you leave.  What may seem like a faster route could actually take you up and down very steep grades.  You want to avoid that if at all possible.

– When getting gas or in other situations when you may be close to objects, get out and check your distance if you have any doubts about your clearance.  It is so much easier to check and make sure you have clearance than it is to go through the hassle and cost of a repair.

Stay tuned for Part III of The Corner Pieces (our decision to become full-timers), The Houles go to Malibu!  We are only very slightly more sophisticated than the Beverly Hillbilly’s.  The Beverly Houlebilly’s!

Moving in: Blessings in Complicated and Expensive Packages

It is official! We live in our RV!  It has not been easy getting here. And really, nothing important or worthwhile usually is. There is always a barrage of resistance when one sets about to make some kind of significant change.

I might be in shock. Maybe a little bit.  Not really. I don’t know.

There is this saying, and I don’t know who to attribute it to, but, It has been speaking to me lately:  “If you want something you have never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”

Here is how I feel:
I am glad not to be in a big house anymore, it did not suit me and I was counting down the days to a more minimalist lifestyle.  I was tired of living in the location we were in.  I have a sense of relief that the actual move is over and that we have parked in our new living space!  Also, so far, I really like the RV park we are in.  It is sort of rural, but only 8 miles from downtown.  We are bike riding distance to a lake.  There is a pool, hot tub and gym on the premises.  And we are paying half of the rent we were paying before.  I feel grateful to be here.

Getting here and the craziness that consumed our lives leading up to our big move was beyond overwhelming. It was numbing.  It was numbing because we have learned that panic solves nothing. I am not going to lie, I had an emotional breakdown and then resolved to be stoic and get shit done.  I am learning to recognize the blessings in certain hardships.

We knew the month of September would be intense.  After all we were making a major life change.  It didn’t end there though.  It got kicked up by about 5 notches. And as we all know, when it rains, it pours!

The Month and Days Leading up to our Big Move:
If you have been following my blog, you know that I was cast in a dance show at the last minute.  I had about 6 rehearsals before opening night.  The show in and of itself was intense. It was a lovely, beautiful, profound and fulfilling experience, that confirmed my inner need to dance more, but intense nonetheless. I was zip lining off the roof of a 82’ high building, The Long Center.

Additionally, we had a trip to Northern Wisconsin planned for my father’s 60th Birthday.  The plan was to take Sunny (the cat) with us.  Now that I think about it, even purchasing the plane tickets was a difficult affair that resulted in me getting charged three times!

Eventually that all got sorted out.  And when I got cast in the show, we figured out the logistics of changing my ticket, Rob leaving two days earlier than me with Sunny and then me flying up before the crack of dawn the day after closing night of the show.  Best laid plans! Right?

In the midst of all of this I would say that we were about 65-70% moved out of the house.  Most of the big furniture was gone.  We were sleeping on our mattress on the floor.  We had given away, sold or stored most of our worldly belongings to the best of our ability.  We still had stuff that fell into the category, “I have no idea what to do with this!”

The day before Rob was to fly out to Wisconsin, we took Sunny to the vet to get her certificate to fly.  This is when things started to go from “stressful in an exciting way” to “stressful in a bad, sad and scary way”.   Sunny’s skin was a yellowish tint, which indicated that her liver was not functioning properly.  She was sick.  The vet said that it could become very serious and that she recommended that she not fly.  Rob had to cancel his flight.

We still did not quite understand what was happening and still had hope perhaps I could go see my dad for his Birthday.  After several more trips to the vet and various tests, Sunny was diagnosed with Hepatic Lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome.  This was very serious.  She was not eating and her body was breaking down her stored fat and her liver could not process it.  I had to cancel my trip too.  Our baby, Sunny’s life was now in clear and present danger!

Why wasn’t Sunny eating? According to the vets, she was stressed out, probably from a combination of things.  1.) We had been trying to switch her to wet food from dry food and she was not into it.  She wanted her damn carbs!  But we thought she had been coming around and maybe starting to like the wet food.  Not so much.  2.) We were moving.  Apparently this is a major source of stress for cats when they see boxes, of stuff and furniture being moved around and disappearing, especially favorite chairs etc. 3.) With the move, the show and Rob getting some work in Tulsa, OK. our lives and schedules had changed drastically.  Sunny was used to being the center of our universe and suddenly she wasn’t.   4.) AND the icing on proverbial perfect storm was that she had killed and eaten the head off of a coral snake in the garage one night while we were  at one of my performances (I know, very disturbing).  While apparently cats have no issue with digesting and breaking down snake toxins, it might have upset her stomach enough to make her not want to eat for a couple of days despite the obvious pride that she had in her kill.

By the end of the week in spite of multiple techniques to jumpstart Sunny’s appetite, including begging, pleading and praying for her to eat, she was not having it!  She had to go to the emergency 24 hour vet and have feeding tube inserted and spend 4 days in intensive care with all food and 9 different prescriptions being administered every 4 hours via e-tube.  We were very concerned kitty parents to say the least!

Then, there was our vehicle.  The ever important Toyota 4Runner that was just shy of 200,000 miles and entrusted with the task of towing our RV, to it’s new location at the end of the month.  It was acting weird and we had just put $1500 into it at the beginning of the summer.  It seemed like it was about to fail and we did not want to put anymore money into it.   Now amidst everything going on, we had to go truck shopping with less than a week until our move out and with our beloved Sunny in the hospital.

I am just going to go ahead and give a shout out to Champion Toyota here in Austin.  This is the second vehicle we have purchased through them.  While Sunny was in the hospital, we traded our 2000 4Runner for a 2009 GMC Sierra.  We found the vehicle we wanted online, we went and bought it.  It was relatively painless as far as these things go.  This is my tip here – Always find the vehicle you want online before you go to the dealership, it is usually about $1000 cheaper.  Also it is always better to go to the dealership already knowing what you want.

After that we had to make an appointment to have the hitch and brake controller installed on the new vehicle, we are now at t-minus 4 days till move out.  Sunny had to go back and forth to the hospital in North Austin for check ups and bandage changing, we lived in South Austin and the brake controller had to be installed in Kyle.  For those of you who are not familiar with Austin, that is a lot of driving.   AND those are a lot of new bills, so we were trying to work as much as possible as well… Oh yeah and move!  Also, feed Sunny gruel through a tube every four hours around the clock in addition to managing her overwhelming schedule of medications.  There was no time to freak out, panic or complain.  Head down, missions accomplished, one thing at a time, reflect later.

When we brought Sunny home from the hospital, in the interest of not stressing her out we decided to move her into the RV immediately instead of the house which was in a state of moving disarray. We obviously moved ourselves into the camper as well.  We didn’t have water or sewer hooked up, so we had to go into the house to use the restroom, shower and do dishes, but for the last 6 days we stayed in our RV in the yard while we moved out.  This was one of the hidden blessings.  I think staying in the RV made the rest of the packing and moving quicker and less painful.  We were able to visually and physically separate our “living situation” from our “moving situation.”

Anxiety runs in my family.  I have tons of crazy anxiety that seems ready to strike at any moment.  Yoga has helped me with this tremendously!  I also have chronic autoimmune diseases which are exacerbated by anxiety and viceversa.  My life and most certainly my quality of life has depended on finding solutions to this anxiety.  Yoga, meditation, breath, and self talk are all part of the equation.  I know how to “trigger my relaxation response” ie. take myself from my sympathetic nervous system to my parasympathetic nervous system.  This has been invaluable over the past couple of weeks and really helped me find the value in some of our difficulties or rather how to take advantage of negative situations for positive outcomes.

So, here we are in our camper, one week after our big move.  Sunny still has a tube in her esophagus, but she is eating on her own now and doing normal Sunny things like grooming herself, playing and rolling over on her back to get belly rubs.  We have encountered some new RV related challenges…  We had a war with some black ants that decided to invade our camper the second night here, we have siliconed the edges of the shower, bought some damp rid and had a heroic fight with the sewer this morning.   We have also gone to the hot tub for a soak every night before bed and I have done some baking to make things feel homey.  Mostly, we have not stopped working since we arrived.

Life is a constant series of tests and challenges.  I have found that how I react in times of difficulty is ultimately what determines my happiness. After all being happy in the easy times is, well, easy.  The challenges are what make a person grow.  Holy man!  We are growing!

Living and Moving Through the Heart

I think linearly. I like to be organized. I like it when things make sense, most of the time. Typically I like to blog so that things go in order and I am not jumping around too much.  That is why it is hard for me to write this particular blog.  It is not Part II of my last blog, The Corner Pieces as originally intended, and I apologize for making you wait on that installment.

Right now, I have the need to blog in the present and stray from the narrative that is supposed to catch you up to the present.  After all, I am only one person and there is only so much time in the day… And I need to seize this day before it too becomes the past.  We are living and moving through the heart right NOW and that is exactly what this blog is about!

Lately, life has been quite glorious.  Intense and busy for sure, but my time is consumed with doing and working towards all of the things that I love. I am living and moving through the heart, doing my heart’s work and that is a beautiful thing. I want to share with my readers what that means to me and find out what that means to them.  I also want to share with you how it all relates to Tiny Living, moving into our RV and the unburdening of that which is extraneous.

Right now

We have been in the middle of packing and moving for about two months now.  For those of you who missed it, Rob and I are moving into our travel trailer. We are distilling life down to what is actually, truly and deeply important to us. We are striving to save money, get out of debt and refuse to get a mortgage.  We are experimenting with minimalism. We want to travel and we want to work!  We want to do meaningful work of our choosing that will move and inspire.  We have realized that for us, our quality of life is not measured by the amount of STUFF we own, but in the joy that we derive from the work that we do and the time we spend together.  What an important realization!

Even though we are still living in an 1800sq ft. rented house for the next few weeks, we are in a different mind set and truly amazing things are happening.  Since we have made the decision to shed the fluff so to speak, the clarity and focus have been sharper than ever.  We are making a concerted effort to seek out that which is meaningful to us. We live in a world that is full of distractions, we are blocking them out. The effect that it is having on our lives is that we are actually drawing in that which we are most passionate about.

I was recently cast in a beautiful work of dance art by Blue Lapis Light, Site Specific Aerial Dance Company called Heaven-Earth-One. In many ways this is a dream come true for me. It most definitely called for its own individual blog post.

The performance is on the iconic Long Center for the Performing arts in Austin, TX.  I say, performing “on” instead of “at” or “in” because it is a work of site specific aerial dance that is literally being performed on the exterior architecture of the building.

The mission of Blue Lapis Light is to “create transcendent works of beauty that are offered without religious denomination, as prayers for the planet.  Using aerial techniques informed by classical, interpretive and modern dance, Blue Lapis Light is committed to challenging physical limitations and inspiring our audiences with a sense of wonder.”

The show that we are currently doing, Heaven-Earth-One “is a journey personal and collective. Our experiences connect us to one another and to the greater whole.  An eternity of possibility is held within each moment, thought and action. To embrace peace in our hearts, act compassionately toward one another and treasure this planet and all species, is to live in the light of conscious change for all.”   The main idea of the show is that within the knowledge of all, both light and dark exist.  Humanity has the responsibility of bringing the dark into the light. When you live and move through the heart, heaven and earth become one.

Within the context of the show, my character and my fellow zip liner, Tara are etherial beings that represent and bring the hope of living through the heart.  How cool is that?  This show came into my life at exactly the right time.  It speaks to me!  I speak through it.  My body speaks through movement.  It is my deepest wish to bring the hope of living through the heart to those I come in contact with.

It is amazing that I have the opportunity to do so in Heaven-Earth-One!

When Rob and I made the decision to move into our RV it was a decision to live and move through the heart. When I decided to blog about our transition into this new life and the pursuit of our dreams, it was a decision to provide inspiration, guidance and hope to others who may have similar desires or who are seeking a path to living through their heart.  It is about intention.  Everything you do with clear intensions is a little prayer, spell and offering to fulfilling a life of living through your heart. Art is a powerful medium for prayer and intention. Being in this show right now is like the artistic personification of our dedication to living through the heart!

What does living through the heart mean?  What does it mean to you? I am not totally comfortable explaining this for everyone, because our experiences are all different and living through the heart is going to look very different on every individual.  In not so many words, this is a question that I have pondered for years. I had my first existential crisis at age 4 and have continued to have them throughout my life, often they are brought on by my health issues… Also, when I was in high school and people would say things like, “these are the best years of your life”, it really made me panic.  Age really is a beautiful thing, it provides some much needed perspective.

I have realized that living through the heart is not something that can be fully understood intellectually (which is hard for me, because I want to understand everything intellectually and in a linear and organized way), it is something that must be felt in the depths of your being.  And it requires a certain amount of stillness, quiet and searching to find.

In my opinion, being in nature and away from the influence of social expectations helps sort out what is actually important versus what we are told should be of importance to us.  Examining what your comfort zone is and then realizing that you are probably going to have to jump out of it to experience the joy of living through your heart, and then preparing yourself to do exactly that.  Being ok with not knowing all of the answers, continuing to search and having faith that you will discover them when the time is right. I find that I am often more comfortable outside of my comfort zone these days.

Talking about what it means for you to live through your heart with a good friend or partner is a great first step.  It is never too late to learn more about yourself!  I have learned that helping others find a way to live through the heart, in turn helps me live through the heart.

Here is some inspiration!  Take some time to absorb these words, deconstruct them and what they mean to you.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the Heart.”

-Helen Keller

“I just want to make beautiful things even if nobody cares.”

-Saul Bass

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

-Neale Donald Walsch

“Great effort from great motives is the best definition of a happy life.”

-William Ellery Channing

“Finding is reserved for those that search”

-Jim Rohn

“The Excitement of learning separates youth from old age.  As long as you’re learning, you’re not old.”

-Rosalyn S. Yalow

Now ask yourself again, what would it mean to you, to live through your heart? What distractions could you rid yourself of to help discover your true self? How could you downsize your life so that it is truly full? Maybe you are you already doing it?

Please comment.  I would love to know your thoughts, dreams, and inspiration!  What does living through the heart mean to you?  What is your prayer for the planet?

Also, if you are interested in attending one of the remaining performances of Heaven-Earth-One, you can get tickets through the Long Center. 

I am not going to tell you what my next blog post will be about, because I could change my mind; changing my mind is part of living through my heart.