The Corner Pieces – Part IV: Full Circle

I can’t believe that it has taken me almost two years to sit down and write this post.  It feels right and appropriate now, the idea of finishing it feels as if I am on the precipice of completing something major.  I am closing one book and opening another.  This post completes a major life journey that started out with a single road trip to California for a friends wedding in the summer of 2012. It is the how and the why of where we are right now at this exact moment.

Those of you keeping up with my blog know that my husband and I in addition to being musicians are full-timers (we live in our RV full-time).  “The Corner Pieces” are four posts about the very journey that resulted in our decision to pursue this lifestyle.  Here we are, the final installation.  What made us finally seal the deal?  And as always, where are we now?

If you need to get caught up, here are the other 3 Corner Pieces:

The Corner Pieces – Part I : “I had no idea!” (Austin – Clovis – Sedona)

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

The Corner Pieces – Part III – Living in Malibu

Driving West, is always inspirational but also usually somewhat harrowing and fraught with challenges.  We do it anyway and you should too!  It makes you pause and remember the Gold Rush and that people used to do this with horses and wagons and no actual roads…

After our Summer of 2012 Journey to Malibu two week Odyssey, we had the task of returning back to Texas.  If you remember my blog post, “No Idea”, you will have a clear picture of exactly why we had to choose a different route home from the West Coast.  Oh, we learned so much on that trip!  The original plan was to take I-40 home and stop at the Grand Canyon on the way.  We now know better than to attempt those mountainous and changing elevations with our vehicle/travel trailer combination (our rig).  I was sad to change our plans but I wanted to, you know, live.

Since I had spent many hours over many weeks painstakingly planning our trip, Rob said that he would re-plan the drive home for us to assuage my disappointment of missing out on the Grand Canyon.  His plan was for us to have a leisurely drive home without spending more than seven hours driving per day.  We would take I-10 this time as it is much flatter and more direct.  His method was to find the most interesting RV parks along the way with the best pool and hot tub situations.

People love the idea of going on vacation but tend to loathe the journey home.  For some reason this journey home was different. We loved it!  And There was magic in it… We relaxed, we fell even more in love with RVing, our super awesome, traveling fur child, Sunny the cat and most definitely each other. J1936x1936-03978This journey home marked an internal shift that would manifest itself into a much larger external shift and culminate in the definitive action of moving out of the house we were renting and into our RV.  We would become full-timers! We would be able to travel more frequently, spend more time in California and not be sad about leaving places. It would be our new way of life and we were both on board!

Something about what we had learned on the road, how we had dealt with adversity, and the unbounded joy we were experiencing made us realize that what we wanted was possible and that we were going to actually do it!  Where there was once fear, there was now excitement. Looking back, I know now that what we had discovered was our true selves and a way to live in the present moment. 

Los Angeles to Austin: The Drive “home”. 

Stop #1: July 3rd, Tempe, AZ – Apache Palms RV Resort – After leaving California, our first stop was near Mesa, AZ.  We parked our RV at a strange little RV park that Rob found using the Good Sam RV app. It had a great pool and hot tub and was walking distance from a very bizarre liquor store/head shop with some interesting, if not shady characters.  I’m not entirely sure that liquor was the only thing being sold there.

For some contrast, my great aunt and uncle who are in their 80’s and lived nearby came over and took us out to dinner at the local Applebee’s.  They definitely do not drink.  In fact, we all held hands and prayed before we ate, right there in the middle of the restaurant, in front of God and everyone!  To make things even more interesting, another uncle and his wife happened to be visiting at the same time.  This particular uncle is the sort with dirty jokes and uncanny inappropriate timing.  Rob and I had to do our best to steer this particular uncle away from telling everyone about his family trip to Thailand where he took the wife and kids to see a “ping-pong” show. It was genuinely nice to have some family time and we were very grateful to have had the opportunity to do so, but we were also kind of eager to get back to that pool at the RV park.

At the pool, with our now much needed cocktails in hand, we met a father and his tweenaged daughter who had just moved to the area and were in the process of moving the whole family from Colorado for work… They were temporary “full timers”, living in their RV until they found a house while still commuting back and forth to CO.  We enjoyed getting to know them. RV Parks are fun, because people interact, socialize and like to talk about traveling. We turned in early so that we could get an early start the next day.  We were New Mexico bound.J1936x1936-03917Stop # 2: July 4th, Deming, NM – Little Vinyard RV Park. – For the rest of our journey, we would be on our own, not knowing any friends, family or familiarity.  This is where it all really started to sink in. This part of the trip was really fun for me because I had let go of the planning and got to be surprised.  Rob had found a real hidden gem of an RV park in Deming too! It was vintage for sure, but immaculately clean and mostly empty, even though it was the 4th of July holiday.  Something tells me that Deming isn’t a booming travel destination. J1936x1936-03920 J1936x1936-03922 J1936x1936-03923The RV park had a really unique indoor pool and hot tub that we spent hours in.  That night we stood outside and watched fireworks in the distance from in front of our camper.  We didn’t know if we were going to be able to see any or not, so that was a nice surprise. It was chilly out too. We were, after all, in the desert at night.

After getting ready for bed we watched perhaps the greatest RVing movie of all time, The Long Long Trailer, staring Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz.  I should write a whole post just to review this classic movie.  Right now what you need to know is that the world of RVing has not changed much in the last 60 years.  If you tow a trailer, you will relate to this movie.  We laughed until we cried and had to rewind parts just to watch them again.

Stop #3: July 5th: Balmorhea, TX ? (Definitely No Website) – Between Deming and the Texas border there is a lot to see.  People will try to tell you that there isn’t. People complain about this drive. Geologically it is fascinating. You cross the Continental Divide. Also, you get to a point where you are right on the border of Mexico.  Sociologically it is fascinating.  To your left it looks like the suburbs, to the right it looks like a ramshackle border town. And when I have the chance to do it again, I would love to visit Las Cruces.  It looks like a pretty neat destination when you drive through…

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J1920x1920-03940This particular overnight was unplanned. It was weird, wild and wonderful. And it was really cheap, but just a little scary.  I had a spot booked at Balmorhea State Park, which is known to be a great state park in West Texas.  It boasts the worlds largest spring-fed swimming pool, right in the middle of the desert! Unfortunately when we changed our route, it changed the the date we would arrive. They were completely booked up on our new arrival date.

We kind of started to panic because we were indeed in the middle of nowhere at this point.  It was starting to get late and we were both tired and hungry.  There was no wireless service to look for a place to stay either.  All we had seen for miles was desert and there was no end in sight.  Eventually we came across a gas station, the kind that you don’t go to unless you have absolutely no other choice. I noticed a bunch of RVs parked behind it.  In spite of our reluctance, it would have to do.

The clerk inside seemed shocked or amused that we asked to stay there.  But she gave us a spot, $19 per night.  This was no Good Sams rated park,  there certainly was not a hot tub, no pool, and no showers. Rob had to dig the water hookup out with a spoon because it had been so long since anyone had used it. But it had an untamed beauty and we were just grateful to be somewhere, anywhere.  We bought some beer at the gas station and hiked around the area. We took in our surroundings and took some pictures. J1936x2592-03951

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J2592x1936-03957We were mostly out of food at this point and had not seen a grocery store in several days.  We combined the remaining staples we had and tried to make some kind of edible food patty.  They fell apart.  We ate food debris and were nourished.J1936x1936-03963J1936x1936-03964
A frightening storm rolled in while we were there and shook the whole camper.  I might have prayed a bit. It was a fast and windy storm with a lot of thunder and lightning. It rolled out just as fast as it had whipped in.  The storm left behind the kind of sky that artists dream of and a scent that perfumers fail to replicate.  Desert rain is a real fragrance and the laundry detergent doesn’t even come close. J1936x1936-03955

J1936x1936-03962This is why we do this!  This place is now very special to us. This was not planned around any kind of luxury and we absolutely had to just go with it. This rush of forced spontaneity led to us not wanting to land back on our home planet just yet.  We watched the sunset and we decided to take an extra day.  Instead of going straight back to Austin the next day, we would stop in the adorable German town of Fredericksburg, about two hours outside of Austin. One more night of freedom, of living this new dream we were curating.J1936x1936-03966J2592x1936-03972Stop #4: July 6th, Fredericksburg, TX – Oakwood RV Resort – For us, trips through the desert seem to do something to us spiritually or emotionally… Having time to gently return to “civilization” after being in the modern day Wild West really helped.  It softened the blow of the post vacation blues too.  Our first order of business upon arriving in Fredericksburg was to go to the grocery store for “treats” and snacks, otherwise known as wine and chocolate.  We took a dip in the pool and walked to dinner at a restaurant called The Cabernet Grill.  That night we pulled out the Atlas and excitedly talked and dreamed of all of the places we would go… And our next trip West.  I took this picture on that night. J1936x1936-03983

Full Circle:  On July 3rd, 2012 I did not want to leave Los Angeles.  I wanted to stay forever with all of our old friends, go surfing and hiking and explore the coast. What kept me from getting too bummed out about leaving was that we could go home and start planning. We would make preparations for a bigger,  much more extended return.  I was happy that Rob and I were on the same page.  I was happy that we were finally making this decision together.  I was happy that he wanted to come back to L.A. too. He wanted it as much as I did this time!

Pro tip:  This is my advice to myself and everyone else: if you know what you want, just go get it.  Don’t talk to any unnecessary, possible detractors about your plans. They will take it as an invitation to offer their two cents, with love, of course. Ultimately their two cents is a huge distraction and a major form of resistance because it encourages doubt. It makes you want to give up before you even start. Just do or get the thing that you know is right for you! You know more than you think you do!  Sometimes I feel like I have spent more of my life weighing the pros and cons of things instead of just doing the things.

We knew it would not be fast or easy.  We scaled down, moved into our RV, lived tiny, saved our pennies and made our dreams come true, one step at a time.  We didn’t talk about it much with other people because we didn’t want to jinx our intensions or deal with possibly negative input… Even while we were actually doing it, I didn’t blog about it out of some kind of fear of commitment. We knew what we wanted to do and we wanted to follow through without having to explain ourselves to anyone. We wanted to be doing the thing before telling people about the thing.

We have come full-circle. Here we are back in L.A., after two years.  Our arrival date was once again dictated by an epic wedding of dear friends. This time the wedding was in Paso Robles.  And this time we had the option to say, “let’s stay for a while.”  L.A. and the West Coast is our new adventure, and current journey.  There shall be many more.

Since our arrival we spent Thanksgiving with a big group of friends that we have known for well over a decade at this point; they are all of the people I am usually texting on Thanksgiving. I have been waterskiing almost weekly with the swivel ski coach I had when I was eleven years old who just happens to live 10 minutes away from us now. We have met up for happy hour with friends from my summer camp days and had dinner with one of my oldest friends, from preschool.  We know a lot of people out here and we are meeting so many more.  And this really doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. I am so grateful!  We stayed focused and made it happen, and I am so very grateful to be here.

We Are Doing it Now! That traveling thing…

My Summer Vacation. 

My New Life (so far) by Kate.

One of the many things I love about travel is how time seems to be manipulated.  On the road I feel like I am in another dimension where time stops or at least I have more ownership of my time.  Travel forces you out of old habits. I think that is a really good thing.  However, if you need to get actual work done while you are traveling, you must have some very strong work habits in place.

On June 1st, we uprooted ourselves from our cozy and comfortable RV Park in Austin TX, because we knew summer was coming… In Texas, that means EXTREME heat. We have done the heat many times before and we wanted out. In 2011 we had ninety days in a row with triple digit temperatures in Austin. That is when we first started plotting our summertime exit.

Fast forward to now. After living in our RV for a year and some change, we rationalized, our house is on wheels. This is why we live in a tiny travel trailer, so we can roll, so we can chase some good weather…

We did something that we knew how to do. We headed North.  Almost as far North as you can possibly go in the US.  We also played music.  Our band, Before Dawn, has always been a great reason to travel.

We had a great time playing shows at Steel Bridge Songfest in Sturgeon Bay, WI.  Then, we went even further North to my parents remote cabin in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, near Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We parked our tiny house on wheels in their yard and continued to live in it.  We were in the warm embrace of family and far from the scorching Texas heat.

One of the main reasons my parents got this cabin was to have fun, relaxing, “family times” together in the summer. We were going for it damn it!  All the way!  All family – all the time!!! What could possibly go wrong?  This was Clark Griswold and Chet Ripley’s biggest fantasy come true.  National Lampoons Vacation meets The Great Outdoors!

The Northwoods has a culture and lore that is all its own. Without getting too esoteric, it is something that cannot be explained, it has to be felt.  If you have been there, you know exactly what I mean. It is magical. It is densely populated with trees and wildlife, but not people. There are more stars than you know exist, and tons of lakes, both named and unnamed.  Sometimes the silence, peace and solitude are so intense that it feels almost violent. Eventually you get used to it and realize that it is exactly what your brain, your heart and your soul needed.  Your cellphone and internet are nearly useless. You are forced to be with yourself, with nature, and with your family. Without being distracted.  Perhaps it is disconcerting at first, but it is ultimately glorious.

I have to admit it took me about two and a half weeks to quit flipping out.  “What have we done???” I missed Whole Foods and Planet Fitness something fierce. City life in Austin was comfortable and familiar.  I had not spent this much time with my parents as an adult since I moved out when I was eighteen. How would this dynamic work? We are all living in the woods together! I felt very overwhelmed by this life change and feared the loss of my autonomy.

I fully expected my mother and I to possibly have some friction, after all when I was a young adult and a teenager, we fought. I was rebellious, she was strict. She is a Taurus and I am a Scorpio. Growing up, we pushed each others buttons, played devils advocate and often accidentally insulted each other in the name of love.  Now my husband and I were spending three months living in my parents yard!?!?  What was I thinking? Who came up with this insane plan? I did!

We got along the best we have since I was four years old. We had so much fun together.  We did crafts, we played games, cruised around the lake and took day trips to cute little nearby towns.We were totally on the same team. My mom even taught me how to hook. I went to weekly hooking parties with all of her hooker friends.  Trust me, this sounds far more scandalous and scintillating than it actually is.

My father and I have never really fought much. To my surprise we actually did have several spats this summer.  The thing is, in the woods, you really tend to want to work these things out quickly because 1.)there is fun to be had and 2.)slamming a door and leaving really isn’t that easy.

Our quarrels weren’t serious, but it caught me off guard.

I feel closer to my parents now than I ever have before.  We all took a risk immersing ourselves in each others lives and it really paid off in both fun and love!  Rob and I both think that this just may have been the best summer of our lives!

Despite being in the woods, we had goals this summer.  Some of them we attacked immediately, others took longer to get rolling. The first order of business was finding ways to make money. This was the perfect opportunity to tryout and hone our ability to have location independent income.

Rob got to work immediately by turning his ten year old computer repair business into something that can be done remotely.  As I mentioned before, decent internet access is not easy to come by in the Northwoods… Rob paid a premium to have the good stuff installed at the cabin which was still far from city internet speeds; but it was good enough to support his clients.  Rob also made sure he had a few associates in Austin that he could call on should a technician need to be physically present to assist a client.  This all worked out really well!  Survival income accomplished.

I kept teaching Yoga.  Prior to going “Up North”, a friend of a friend of my mom was interested in having Semi-Private Yoga Therapy sessions with her friend and her daughter twice weekly.  We set a weekly schedule as soon as I arrived.

Sometimes multiple family members of my Yoga clients would be visiting and I would teach “Family Yoga” to three different generations! It was beautiful to develop these different Yoga practices and through word of mouth I picked up several more clients.  This was not just survival income but something that I looked forward to and enjoyed thoroughly.  Helping others toward greater health and wellbeing has become my hearts work.

Our passion project is our band, Before Dawn. We love writing, recording and performing music together.  We had a mission to do all of theses things this summer. We were in a different environment, in the woods, far from Austin. We played at tiny Northwoods bars and open mic nights, and made recordings in our little travel trailer. A change in environment is always good for creativity.

This change of scenery was a wonderful adventure that created many unexpected outcomes, opportunities and new relationships.  Every time we played in front of people we were offered more opportunities to play. We seemed to play live shows minimally once a week in the various small towns up north like Minocqua, Land O’ Lakes and Iron River.

Sticking to a regimented writing and recording schedule was difficult, especially if the sun was out and the lake was calling. We were able to record our next single, “Light The Way“. It was a crowd favorite from our most recent tour.

We even got the chance to do a radio interview on WXPR.  The DJ, Jeremy Starz, played four of our songs and debuted our new single, before its official release on September 30th.  This was a first for us. The single is now available on Itunes.

Rob also made some summertime fun videos in the Northwoods. He also composed all of the music!

Amphibious Airplane from Rob Houle on Vimeo.

Whisker Cam from Rob Houle on Vimeo.

This is what we did this summer. This is what we did “Up North” with family, in our tiny house on wheels.  It was all possible because we live tiny.

Stay tuned! More blogs, more music and more videos soon!  By the way we are in Los Angeles now.  How did we get here?  Well, that is an interesting story.  Sign up for blog updates and find out soon!

Taking A Leap

We are excited! We are actually doing what we set out to do. We have been living full time in our travel trailer for the past two years and we have been working towards making the dream of full-time travel a reality.  For many, and admittedly us too, this is a scary but exciting prospect.  We are not retired, we still have bills, debts and obligations that most definitely make this endeavor more complicated.  But, what is life if not one giant experiment?  We have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the lives and gifts we have been given, it is time to trust, and boldly move forward.

Since we have been living in our RV for almost two years now, getting ready to “move” wasn’t really a big deal, and the idea of traveling in our RV is normal, we have done it many times for both work and pleasure. The main difference now is that we gave up our permanent spot at Oak Forest RV Park in Austin and plan to wander somewhat indefinitely.  We were ready and it was time to move on…  

Change of any kind can be stressful and takes some planning. We used this awesome app called Wunderlist to assign each other tasks and make lists of things that needed to get done prior to our departure from Austin.  It was really helpful.  Our lists were full of things you would do before going on a road trip, like vehicle, RV and tire maintenance.  We also had to make sure Sunny’s shots were up to date etc.  The item on the list that caused Rob the most stress was setting up our mail forwarding service.  It turned out to be relatively simple and now we can receive our mail anywhere in the world and keep our Texas residency.  Most full timers have some kind of mail forwarding service.

Before we moved into our camper in the fall of 2012 we eliminated the majority of our extraneous belongings. We have continued to purge our possessions every three months or so.  Everything we own is either with us or in the small 5×10 storage space we keep in Austin. We keep this space because we do plan to eventually buy land and build a tiny house…. But where? We must travel first!  For this “move”, we did not need to pack or unpack any boxes and that was refreshing.

“Where are you going?” I have heard this question a lot recently, and I have found it really difficult to give people satisfactory answers.  “When will you be back?”  Well, I’m not sure… Some people seem almost offended by this… “Are you coming back to Austin?”  Probably, but most likely not permanently. Again, “Where are you going?”  Hopefully, everywhere.  You know how people always say that, “life is about the journey, not the destination”, well we are taking that quite literally.  Exploring and being on the road makes us feel good, and it speaks to our souls, so we are listening.

“How are you going to make money and live?”  This is something that will continue to develop.  Here is what we are doing right now, in a nutshell… We both have multiple jobs. Rob repairs computers remotely and in person.  I teach Yoga and write both as a freelancer and for my own blogs.  Together we do commercial low voltage wire and hardware component installation.  Together we also play music in our band, Before Dawn. This is a labor of love and we are passionate about bringing our music to people everywhere we go.  We would love to make music our full time job… This is just a very general overview of what we do, I will write more about the things we do in another post.

This is what our past ten days consisted of, since leaving Austin:

Day 1. – Austin TX to Mesquite TX.

Day 2. – Work in Mesquite, installing low voltage wiring for internet, phones and sound system in a gym franchise.  Band rehearsal in camper in the evening.

Day 3. – Drive to Tulsa & visit with great friends!

Day 4. – Rob did remote computer work for some Austin clients from the RV park in Tulsa as we dodged some “severe weather”  before taking off for Kansas City.  We parked our house in a friend’s driveway.

Day 5. – Rob had more remote clients in the morning… We went on a walk, got some groceries and rehearsed in the afternoon. We played a show on the rooftop of Phosphor Studioin downtown KCMO with some really talented bands in the evening.  Shout out to The Dynamite Defense and Kodascope!

Day 6.- Did some laundry, rehearsed more and helped our hosts move some furniture in their house… Played a show at Coda in KCMO. It was a great time with great people and more fantastic music.  Check out Ren.

Day 7. – We got a late start because we had a late night.  We drove to Iowa City and stayed the night in an RV park along I80.  We watched Game Of Thrones on HBO Go with a really crappy internet connection and then fell asleep.  We were exhausted! 

Day 8. – Rob sent out a trusty friend/contractor/tech guy in Austin to do some computer work on his behalf. We drove to Illinois Beach State Park where we met up with family!  A big family dinner and campfire ensued.

Day 9. – It was overcast, cold and rainy. Rob had more remote computer clients and I had time to write.  In the afternoon we took a trip with my sister and parents into Kenosha, WI to Chester Electronics where Rob was able to find some parts for several projects and then to a huge and super authentic Italian Market called Tenuta’s.

Day 10 – We are headed to Sturgeon Bay, WI where we are playing a music festival called,Steel Bridge Songfest.  We are very much looking forward to this festival which runs June 12th to June 15th.  We are playing both on the 13th and 14th.  If you like my writing and love discovering new music, I will be blogging about the festival on our music site, for our band, Before Dawn.

Currently we are planning our lives in approximately three month chunks…Maybe?  That is what seems to be happening right now anyway… But this way of life is made for spontaneity, so nothing is written in stone.  For the summer we plan to be in and around Wisconsin playing music as much as possible, writing and recording new songs.  We may or may not head back to Texas before making our way out to California for a wedding in September/October.

This is an amazing and beautiful country, we want to see as much of it as possible; we love America, it would be a shame not to explore all of her nooks and crannies!  Every time we see more of this gorgeous country, we love her more.  Travel is an ideal vehicle for both personal and creative growth. If we can successfully navigate this lifestyle, then why wouldn’t we?

A non-traditional life most definitely takes a lot of work and preparation, but we think it is worth it. Every journey starts with a single step. This is a huge step but we are doing our best to do our due diligence and we are finding the bravery to trust the Universe!

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 – 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.”

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!

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.