two zero one six

thirty-four things to do before I die:

1. hitchhiking across the United States, and all of the wonders therein.hitchhike2. seeing Thoth & Lila Angelique in person (after a decade of anticipation).thoth3. attending a mewithoutYou show, at very long last.mwy4. taking the exquisitely scenic train across Canada.canada5. visiting Australia (new country, new continent).australia

bonus items:

I. surprise trip to Florida to see some of my very favorite humans. (and The Top!!)gainesvilleII. revisiting the ever charming Astoria (and its seals!) with Jeremiah.
astoriaIII. roadtripping New England/visiting Vermont: land of Vil, with Sunita.vermont-ii
IV. spontaneous Port Townsend/couchsurfing-with-new-friends trip.ptii
V. taking on the northwestern northwest for Kate’s birthday adventures.nwnw
VI. attending the Pemberton music festival (as a VIP!) with Corey and Stazzie.pemberton
VII. finally making it to the Bahamas (new country) with Corey and Stazzie.bahamasVIII. eventually completing the Mosa Lina road trip via reuniting in long lost Boston.boston

I, for one, have had a stellar year.

sharkbite winter

So, returning home from holidays on the east coast wasn’t the most welcoming experience.

My house was 20° (twenty degrees!), my water was completely frozen, my car was covered in a sheet of ice and the door was frozen shut, and, ironically, my freezer was broken (my ice cube tray merely held exceptionally-cold-puddles). Day two my usual thawing-of-the-garden-hose (how my house gets water) proved the water situation was worse than the usual issue. Day three I learned it wasn’t due to the indoor pipes, either. Day four I finally got water flowing, but it came with a cascading leak.

I can’t shower.
I can’t wash my hands.
I can’t wash dishes.
I have to remember to bring home jars of water so I can make tea.

But, but I’m not bothered. There were a few hours of being frustrated and having the beginning flutters of feeling anxious. But it quickly dissipated. You figure it out, you make it work. I feel like….I want to be able to handle anything this world throws at me. I can. I have. This life is so much easier once you realize you have made it beyond every single tumultuous situation you have encountered. It happened, it’s in the past, you’re okay. So, while my life has been a whole lot less convenient (and decidedly less clean) lately, it’s fine. It’s…life experiences. It’s new skills. It’s stretching and adaptation, pushing past your comfort zone, expanding your capacity to exist. And, let’s be honest, running water is a luxury.IMG_4271

the precursor or the recovery?

Sometimes I think working in grocery isn’t very glamorous: stocking shelves and scanning barcodes. But today one of my favorite customers shared with me that his wife had died in November. He hesitated to say it, and I could tell it wasn’t something that he brings up easily. But he did. He invited me into that very personal, and very tender part of his life. He did so because we have a relationship. There’s a significant value in our simple interactions as a grocery-store-employee and a grocery-store-customer.

There is something magnificent about showing up every day and just attending to a small aspect of people’s lives. We became friends because I showed him pictures of the house I was building, and he showed me pictures of the greenhouse he was constructing. Ever since we check in to see how the other person is and what they are up to. It’s such an unspectacular thing, but that doesn’t make it unimportant. I carried that weight of his tragedy for a good few hours through my day, and it makes me appreciate these small and strong connections we make with the people whom we encounter. Working in grocery might not be glamorous, but showing up for people – wherever that is, and whatever that entails – is a mighty thing. Sometimes [along with your immensely insufficient, but deeply heartfelt “I’m sorry”] a person just needs you to provide them with some carrot juice and vodka.

varekai: my little life plans

Yet again, a huge part of my life can be attributed to this seemingly unimportant, passing conversation I had with my brother some years ago. The last was my Wwoofing experience. Which turned out to be one of the most amazing, life changing three months of my life. This time around I’m jumping into the rabbit hole of the tiny house world. My brother got really excited about tiny houses and alternative structures a few years back and, as he is wont to do, sat me down and introduced me to his latest obsession. I didn’t think much of them again until this past year.

Since the commencement of my independent life (eighteen, moving away from home) my collection of things has been getting smaller and smaller, simpler and simpler. This, I think, can be attributed to multiple factors.
In part to moving almost yearly for the past six years. Anyone who has ever moved knows how much it sucks condensing all of your belongings into boxes and carrying them from a house to a truck, from a truck to a house, and then releasing them again from their boxes. And repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Each time I’ve gotten rid of a little more. Let go and freed myself from a few more possessions.
Another contributor to my minimizing has been traveling. When you live for six months carrying around the same forty pounds of things on your back, you start to realize just how much you really need. And how much you really don’t.
Here at the Indecisive Chocolate Factory I spend almost no time in my room. I sleep in there about three nights a week, and I store my clothes there. That’s about it. Otherwise I sleep on the couch, read on the couch, cook in the kitchen, dance on the porch, pack up and go on trips in the car. I began thinking it was really unnecessary to even have a room. I kept saying how I really don’t need much space, and all of a sudden tiny houses crept back into my mind. Then I saw Dee William’s TED talk. And then it was certain. And now it’s happening.

To be honest, a few months after deciding I was going to build my own tiny house, I had a small freakout session. Why was I building a house, when what I really wanted to do was go travel indefinitely? Buy a one way ticket to whoknowswhere in Asia and set out with no dates to keep and no return in sight. But I realized I do want a home. A small, nonintrusive, inexcessive home. A place that can be filled with my life when I am here, and be waiting for me when I return from elsewhere. When I arrived back from my first Wwoofing trip, I had no home. I spent a few weeks at each of my previous residences: my parents’ house, with ex-roommates in Orlando, with ex-roommates in Gainesville…and while that was fun, it felt strange to have no place that was mine. I always considered myself to be a woman of many homes; I have lots of loving friends who unhesitatingly let me crash with them when I want to see their faces. I have a lot of places where I can go and it feels like I’m with family. But there’s something that’s just not quite home about all of those places.
So I want a place where I don’t have to keep my clothes in my backpack, and where I can spend every second of the day reading if I want, where I can walk around in my now-elasticless tie-dye boxers (actually I do that pretty much anywhere), and only have a milkshake for dinner, where I can sing endlessly without being a nuisance.
And I want a place that can move. I am still not a settled person. Perhaps I never will be. So it’s important to me to also have a home with wheels, or a rudder, or wings, or whatever will take me to new places.
Not going into debt is also a lifetime goal of mine. I’ve never been in debt, but I know a lot of people who have an infinity of loans to pay off, and I don’t want any part of that. Not spending the next thirty years paying off a mortgage sounds great to me. But building a two hundredish square foot house, out of pocket, with my own hands? Now that I can go for.
A tiny house isn’t going to solve all of my problems and fulfill all of my dreams for the rest of my life. But it is a pretty darn good match for my style of living.

Which is why I’m going for it, full sails ahead. It just so happens that I’m staying in one place for a fairly decent amount of time (for me), and I have a consistent income, as well as a job that is flexible enough for me to take enough time off each week for construction purposes, and I have an awesome family who is willing to come out and help me, oh, and landlord/neighbor/friends who are supportive of the project.

Perhaps going with all of those Wwoof hosts who were building their dream houses in Ireland, rather than going with a goat farm would have given me more practical experience. But hey, I wouldn’t exchange my experience with those goats for anything. From what I’ve read, most tiny housers have no building experience. And additionally no connections to people who are willing/able to just pick up and go help them for however many months. Fortunately, I do. Perhaps the fact that my parents built their own house, a guest house, a playhouse, various skateboard ramps, mailboxes, a chicken coop, and who knows what other random things makes me a little (lot) more confident in actually being able to make this happen. I think if I didn’t have my parents on board with the project I would have given up and just moved on. But while it seems like an overwhelming endeavor to someone who doesn’t have much of the necessary experience, I do feel like it’ll all work out. Here’s to hoping.

All of that said, I’m taking a page out of Amanda Palmer’s book, (or TED talk, as it were.) The Art of Asking. I’ve done all sorts of research on tiny houses and construction and appliances, etc, I’m spending over an hour each day scouring craigslist for materials, and I’m saving my money up day by day. But this would be a sad, and less exciting adventure if I did it all by myself. Part of what I love about the tiny house community is the fact that while you have this small, independent structure, you also see all of this interaction with the community around them. So many people use big house showers, ovens, back yards, whatever. And I think that’s so cool. The world could use a better balance of independence versus dependence, an interdependence if you will. Tiny house communities are one way I see that concept thriving.

Anyways, I digress, my point is: I could definitely use a lot of help from the people around me. I have almost no experience with the majority of things I’ll be doing. Welders, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, builders, architects, painters, whatever. I would happily use an army or a circus of help.

Materials, too. For all of the simplicity and minimalism I claim, there are an awful lot of bits and bobs to this structure. Everyone I know (myself currently included) have things sitting around that they don’t use, and will likely never use. I’m happy to adopt all of that abandoned, unappreciated stuff in the world. Wood, nails, compact fridge, kitchen sink, windows, and you know any double axle eighteen foot trailers you have hanging out in your closet. The list of things I need for the house is literally longer than the list of things I own (and I do have a list). If you have things you want to sell, if you have things you want to give: contact me. I’m in the market for all the things.

Likewise, if you want to learn about building or tiny houses feel free to come join the process. Learn from my mistakes, or learn from my innovations (or more like my copying/adapting of other people’s innovations), if anything, learn from the experience of watching and/or doing.

hermit bottle

#iveworkedherefortwoyears

Yesterday I had a customer say to me “I am the customer, and I am right.”

I think this slogan for customer service arenas was a terrible invention. It somehow justifies a person (the customer) treating another person (the employee) condescendingly, insultingly, and rudely just because they have the money in the equation. I don’t think there should be any system, mantra, expectation, rule, etc. that condones treating another person as if they are inferior.

The fact that my customer was undeniably wrong (she was insisting we have a product which we absolutely do not have) does not bring me satisfaction. She had pointedly noted my name so she could come in Saturday and prove me wrong. And the fact that she is going to get home and realize her error, or worse actually come in Saturday and be shown her error does not make me happy. I think the way we treat each other sometimes is disgusting. And I don’t think my celebration of another person’s humiliation lends any improvement to the matter. Her vindictive attitude revealed her humanness, and a lack of understanding of that fact would tell mine. In fact, I was really frustrated after this encounter yesterday and I’ve been processing the interaction ever since (hence this).

So I guess my conclusion is this: I’m human, you’re human, everyone else is human. Let’s interact with love and grace and understanding and no pretension of superiority.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

perpetua

Sunita’s mother came to visit from the east coast. With a spare few days we scrounged up, we all piled into the car (‘the car’ being Sunita’s, since mine is the epitome of finicky) for a mini road trip. Our destination was Cape Perpetua, Oregon: home of so-called Thor’s Well. I say so-called, because apparently until recently no such title existed and that particular parcel of land was no more fantastic than any other. It gained recognition when a photographer named his photo of the seeming hole in the ocean ‘Thor’s Well’. And then flocks, droves, multitudes of people appeared at the visitor center in Cape Perpetua and asked where to find Thor’s Well (I suspect this popularity is widely due to Pinterest, but who knows?). Meanwhile the poor people of the visitor center had no idea what this ‘Thor’s Well’ business was about. Anyways, it’s now a thing, and while it isn’t listed on the maps of the area, it is pretty widely recognized.

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Sunita found a campground for us literally across the road. I am usually quite fond of camping. But this campground in particular is an exceptional place. One of the most charming settings ever. We had our own private walkway into our campsite, which was set just alongside a small stream. The other sites were just as spectacular. I could probably live in several of them quite happily.

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My dad’s thirty-year-old tent made a resurgence for the occasion. It is old and smelly and leaves your hands a powdery grey after set up or break down, but I am rather attached to it. It traveled painstakingly in pieces with my Birthright Backpacking crew whereby it was featured as our wet, but much appreciated home in the middle of Bruges, Belgium. And it sheltered us after one of two failed hitchhiking days on the trip, somewhere in the middle of Sweden. It also embarked on the Mosa Lina road trip, where it perched near the rim of the Grand Canyon. Someday I will spend actual money and buy a new tent with cool features (lightweightness!) and not a weird moldy smell and actual functional waterproofing. But for now, I am happy to lovingly use this one as my outdoor quarters. Well…except for when we use Sunita’s two-person tent….which we didn’t in this situation because we had three people and a dog. A large dog who is really keen on sleeping on top of people.

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After setting up camp, we did a short hike to see the view of the coast. The view was perhaps more spectacular than Thor’s Well itself. Which is proven, apparently, by the fact that I don’t have any actual pictures (at this time) of Thor’s Well. Umm…so…yeah. We arrived too late on our first day to see it properly, so we had to wait until high tide at noon on the following day. We spent a while watching and taking pictures, but it never really got as epic as I expected. It was cool. Just not as fancy as some pictures would lead you to believe. I assume some days are better than others. But, because of this, we were able to get much closer than we had expected. The three of us sat for ages just watching it fill and overflow with water and then just as quickly suck back down and release again into the ocean.

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A chunk of time was devoted to taking a successful jumping photo, of which this is the closest we came. With all of our giggling, and Sunita’s mother’s lack-of-being-impressedness, we deemed this an entirely appropriate and acceptable photo.

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On the way home we stopped in Astoria for dinner at St George Brewing Co, which I learned from one of my customers has truffle pizza. Unfortunately due to a series of tragic events, truffle pizza was not acquired. Next time, however, truffle pizza will be mine.

chip seeker(?!)

Upon relocation, transportation was my first order of business. I had already weighed out my options before arriving and decided upon investing in a scooter. Now, I know, I’m moving to Olympia, WA just before winter, and I’m going to buy a scooter? Well, I’m not known for making obvious and comfort-based decisions. I rummaged through craigslist in order to acquire said scooter. Always a sketchy potential there. But I had a surprisingly wonderful experience. Seth and Leslie said I set off all the grandfather bells in the seller. I think he was just a genuinely nice guy. Regardless, he knowingly charged me far less he should have and was really helpful as well. And with that, I am the proud owner of a bluekey Yamaha Zuma, also known as Tinga. Yes, I am in the habit of naming my vehicles. As well as various electronic devices. Unfortunately I was forced to buy a helmet at a store (what!? Not secondhand?!). Due to which, I now have a helmet which makes me appear far more badass than my scooter-riding-self deserves. But whatever. At least I’m covered if I get in a wreck. Or my head is anyways.

 

Next in the order of business was acquiring a job. If you’ll recall, I arranged this whole move-to-Olympia deal in the midst of my most recent European adventure. At which point, I utilized Google maps to see what exactly was in Olympia. The first thing I saw was Trader Joe’s, and I immediately decided that was where I wanted to work. So I spent the next few months with just that in mind. The day after Tinga and I joined forces I got out of the house and drove down to Trader Joe’s to drop of my application. A week later I had an interview, another week later I had another interview, and a day later I had a job. All I can say is: I never want to have to participate in the activity known as ‘job hunting’ ever again. Sheesh. I definitely prefer the ‘know the right people’ approach. And my experience wasn’t even that terrible, comparatively! My intuition about Trader Joe’s being a great place to work was entirely accurate. I am really grateful to have landed a job there. It’s an awesome place. My co-workers are fantastic, the customers are wonderful, the food is great. All around I am really happy working there. In the past week I’ve had three different people tell me that I smile excessively. I honestly cannot refrain. I am so happy.

TJs

My living situation, after having a lot of ripples in my mind, has shifted in reality. Olivia found alternative accommodations, and Seth and Leslie left for Panama in early November. Immediately after which, Thorne and I emptied the contents of the kitchen and bathroom into boxes, which we then expelled to the pod. That was a great feeling. And I’ve done some more here and there a bit at a time. But the real change is that I will be moving out. I didn’t expect to be leaving until March. But for many reasons I don’t feel comfortable living there. The most pressing of which involve Tinga. She’s been out of commission a few times, for a few days at a time. During which periods I have been forced to crash on Olivia’s couch, reside in the same clothing, MacGyver myself makeshift coconut oil deodorant, and brave the Olympia bus system. In other words, it’s been a huge nuisance. Fortunately I’ve been privy to the generosity of Olivia and her housemates. They’ve helped me hugely.

The first time, my scooter wouldn’t start at Olivia’s place (also known as Hays Ranch) just before I was due at work. Her housemate, Joelle, kindly gave me a lift. And a co-worker drove my pitiful self back after I finished at 11pm. I still ended up walking a mile in the rain. I attributed the failure-to-start to a lack of fuel. So, I walked another mile in the rain, this time with my scooter in tow. I made it, finally, to the nearest gas station and filled up the tank, certain it would fix my issues. It didn’t. I spent at least thirty minutes trying to make it start. No such luck. So I walked it the mile back to Olivia’s (still in the rain, and now well after midnight), and crashed there for the night. The Hays Ranch residents supplied me with tea and a really comfy couch next to the wood stove. Despite the general misery of the situation, it was a really pleasant night. The orange glow of fire lends a really lovely atmosphere for sleeping. Anyways, it took a few days to get my wheels back. The carburetor needed cleaned out, the spark plugs needed replaced, and it would cost me $208. I was not excited. But after relying on the bus system, I was more than willing to fork over the cash to get my means of transportation back.

The second scooter dilemma occurred at the close of a late night tea date at Sizizis with Thorne and Olivia. Thorne had long since gone home, and Olivia and I had just noticed that it was nearing midnight (why do these things always need dealt with at unreasonable hours?). This time I couldn’t get the key to turn. In fact, I could feel it becoming malleable like a hearty caramel – just bending away in the ignition. Hello, what happened to being metal, key? Again to my rescue, came another of Olivia’s housemates, Heidi (Joelle’s sister). She also happened to be at Sizizis studying with her friend Ian. They immediately jumped into problem solving, and after our first solution (a wrench to the key) failed, Ian offered his van. So we acquired his ghetto, uninsured van, and the four of us awkwardly maneuvered my locked-steering-wheel-and-soaking-wet scooter into the back. On the main street of Olympia, within sight of the police station. Nobody said anything, and we got not so much as one strange look. Doesn’t give me much confidence for not having my scooter stolen. Well done, Olympia citizens and police. Anyways, despite the inconvenience of the ordeal, we had a grand time ‘stealing’ my scooter. It really was quite humorous. Once again Tinga pulled a Jesus where she was out of commission for three days, and back in action on the final. And I spent those three days again based on the Hays Ranch couch. Only this time it got me thinking. And that’s when I decided that I needed to leave Seth and Leslie’s. I am not convinced that I’m going to avoid getting stuck five miles from anything in the middle of winter. And that really isn’t an option. As I said, there are other reasons, but that was the determining factor. In fact, I’ll be joining my fellow Defector, Olivia, at Hays Ranch. I’m super excited to move in. It already feels like home. I’ve acquired a couch, which, if you know me you are probably aware, is my much preferred surface for sleeping. It’s going to be good.

chanterelle

Other things that have occupied my time include: a spontaneous three day Lord of the Rings marathon with Olivia; mushrooming (for chanterelles, not magic mushrooms…) with Sunita, a co-worker; making a caramelized onion, feta, spinach, and mushroom quiche with said chanterelles; loads of reading and tea (which is really what I envisioned for this winter); night walks around Olympia; attending a show with co-workers; christmas tree decorating and homemade cider consumption with the Hays Ranch crew; and CS meetups. Just hanging out and living life.