Four Seasons in One Day.

“By yourself? You’re going to drive all that way by yourself?”

I sure as heck am. I drove well over 3,000 miles by myself in a forty year old rickety camper. It was six months ago, and I can already tell some of the memories are a bit fuzzy. It wasn’t all easy or good, but I loved it.

I don’t know if you’ve ever done anything totally insane, risking life, limb, and money. If you don’t get hurt, hurt anyone, or totally loose your shirt in the process, it is a ton of fun.

I picked up the camper in east Tennessee. The mechanics who worked on her (and yes, she is her), got her in what I would call workable, but not perfect shape. Even they had their doubts about her making it back to California, but I’m going to set the record straight here. She did great. I regularly got her up to 70/75 MPH (WHERE LEGAL!), and she only had two real problems. The suspension and steering need work, so she was very susceptible (which autocorrected to rustable when I first typed it, hahaha) to being blown all over the road in gusty conditions. There were a couple of very windy spots in north Texas and southern New Mexico, where I found myself yelling into the wind, “Stop it! Just stop!”. Very effective tactic, which worked like a charm. I also needed new brake pads by the time I got to Sweetwater, TX. The brake pads are sized for a tiny truck, not a heavy camper, so they wear through quickly.

I think to avoid a monolithic post, I will need to brake it down into sections. The whole trip was, according to roadtrippers.com, about 3,700 miles. In the big scheme of road trips it was very fast, so I didn’t get much time for stopping to enjoy the sites. That was the only real “failure” of the trip. I still saw many a beautiful things and had a great adventure. This ended up being the route:

Chattanooga Trip Roadtrip - Roadtrippers

The silencing domino effect.

Apologies for the long absence. The week after the road trip ended a series of emotional events began. I wanted to finish writing about the trip, but the longer I waited, the guiltier I felt. The emotional events kept occurring, and I ended up in a sleepy, defensive silence. This happens sometimes when I feel overwhelmed.

Now…on with the show.

Very incomplete advice to a 17 year old girl.

When I was seventeen, eleven days after graduating from high-school, I started my first semester of college. I had chosen to attend Colorado College in Colorado Springs, because I had good memories of the Rockies from traveling there once as a child, and I thought I would do well in a program that used the “block system” (one class at a time for three and a half weeks.). I arrived at CC a painfully shy, painfully self-conscious young woman. I didn’t drink, smoke, use any drugs, didn’t have a clue that things like NOLS existed, kept my (perfectly lovely) body covered, and was far from well read.

I visited the campus recently, and it made me wonder what advice the current me, would have given the seventeen year old me. Should you, or any young woman, find themselves in a similar position, this is the very incomplete advice I can offer you:

  1. Stop calling yourself a girl. You have just entered the adult world, and the sooner you start acting like it, take the responsibility that comes with it, and demand the respect that it commands, the better.
  2. That guy/girl that says “I’m really going to miss you, I wish you weren’t going.” versus “You’re going to have such an amazing time, I’ll be here when you get back.” is not the one. Go ahead and let him/her go. (S)He doesn’t have your best interests at heart, and you won’t grow with him/her they way you need to.
  3. That thing you’re so passionate about in the world, the one that occupies your mind, and sets you to problem solving at all hours of the day and night? That isn’t likely to go away. Research that. Make connections in the field. Find out what problems haven’t been solved yet, and start talking to others about it. Give up some of your “free time” to it. If someone says you won’t make any money working on it, tell them you will find a way.
  4. Work a crappy retail job, even if you don’t have to. Serving others will teach you patience, compassion, how to talk to anyone, how to resolve conflict, how to let the small things go quickly, and just how important it is to look someone in the eye and REALLY see them.
  5. Be bold backed with smarts. You do NOT have to be great at everything, or anything for that matter, but you do have to try things and put yourself out there. Climb a mountain, sing in front of others, get naked in front of others, let down your guard, wear crazy clothes, and do it all responsibly. Test your mettle, so that when someone asks you if you like/want to try something, you can say yes or no with confidence.
  6. You do not have to use intoxicants of any kind, read, listen, or watch certain things, or play or do any certain activities in order to fit in. Just be you. The people who don’t like you for who you are, aren’t worth your time.
  7. Learn to comfortably eat by yourself, at very nice restaurants, and in people’s homes. You will need to be able to do all these things in your future.
  8. Don’t let anyone, not your parents, your boy(girl)friend, teachers, friends, heads of state, and especially your own mind, tell you that you can’t have or don’t deserve the life you want. It is all up to you, and if you want it, you can find a way to build it.
  9. Be flexible. It isn’t all about you. Others will have needs greater than yours and you will find serving them holds the greatest joy and most satisfaction, even if it means sacrificing some of your own desires. Just make sure you aren’t loosing yourself in the process of serving.
  10. Stay in touch with the people who build you up now. They will most likely always do so, and will know you like no one else will the rest of your life.
  11. Love your body. I don’t care what shape, color, size, or disorders it may be or have. It is the vessel that will carry you through life, that will allow you to extend your love into the physical realm with others, and that will be the filter and framework for all of your experiences. Exercise it, feed it well, learn what it likes and doesn’t like, stop fighting it, and protect it with sunscreen, seatbelts, helmets (NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR HAIR), and condoms.

There is much, much more, but that should get you started. I left CC after my first semester. I wonder, had I had the above advice, if I might have stayed.

Are you happy?

A few days ago someone asked me if I was happy. I paused before answering. That pause came from two sources. First, I’m normally the person asking others that question, so it was a bit surprising and refreshing to be asked. The second source of the pause came from a desire for my answer to be the truth. It is so easy to give a quick response when asked such things. “How are you?” “Good.” “Are you happy?” “Yes.”

I want the answers to these questions to be truthful, thoughtful, and considered. The last couple of years have had some really hard times. I wanted a minute to think about what being happy means, and if I really am.

My definition of happy has changed over the last few years. Happy used to fell like all things were good, there was no pain or tension, no sense of urgency. Happy has grown into something different. Now happy is knowing many things are hard and always will be, and that I can pour my blood, sweat, and tears into making them better. Happy is knowing that things don’t last forever, and that a sense of urgency can help you to savor everything you are experiencing. Happy is working through pain, being patient with yourself, and gleaning knowledge from the process. Happy is accepting imperfection and inconsistency in myself and others.

Am I happy? You bet I am. A more complete happy than ever.

In other news…

In five days I will be hurtling through the air on my way to pick up ChinChin and the first long road trip in too many years. This week is slated to be a very busy one, but the bubbles of joy and excitement are beginning to form along the inside of my soul, the way bubbles form along the bottom of a pan right before it boils. I can’t wait to be hot, sing out loud to unending playlists, see lightening bugs, eat all the food, hug the ones I love, evangelize for open source, and feel the deep, still peace that comes when you see so much of the world in a few short weeks. My wandering heart craves this like few other things.

Dad has been an excellent project manager, and we’ve put our faith in the mechanic’s ability to get ChinChin’s guts ready for the road.

This song keeps running through my head:

If I can just get packed, finish up my work projects, and get beyond the annoying crush I currently have, it is going to be one heck of a great summer.

Making Room: The Heart Edition

This morning I was packing my backpack for work. I was wearing my workout gear, and packing my normal clothes, shoes, etc. It is a tiny backpack, and it was crammed full. I put my knee brace in at the top, and realized the pack would never close with it there. I spied a little empty place down the side where it fit, so I moved it to that spot, closed my pack, and was on my way. In that moment, some cloudy thoughts I’ve had lately came into focus.

I’ve always liked to arrange things so they fit and are functional. When I was in preschool I loved the little dolls that taught you how to tie laces, button up buttons, and zip up zips. learnhowdollI like spreading out everything that needs to be packed in a suitcase or trunk and making everything fit, just so. I love taking tiny spaces and figuring out how everything works, fits in, feels good, and is functional…hence RVs and tiny houses. By simply putting things in a different arrangement, you can make it all fit.

I think what clicked this morning, is how I do the same thing with my heart.

I’m going to tell you a story about rearranging my heart so everything fits.

Three years ago, I met a man. It was kind of funny how it happened. I had met him once in person, and hadn’t noticed him. I had been given the task of sussing out whether a friend of his was trouble or not, and I was pretty focused on the task at hand. (The friend was not trouble, by the way.) Then we were in the position of having to email each other about some business, and again, other than noting he was polite and humble, he didn’t really register. A few weeks later, before even being properly introduced, in front of a room full of people, he expressed his admiration for what we will call my gumption, and for the group keeping me and my gumption around. That caught my attention.

For the next two years we became what felt like very close friends. It is actually impossible in a blog post to explain the insanity, both personal and professional, that both of us went through during that time. For me, they were two of the best and worst years of my life. I suspect he feels the same way. I am an emotional creature and that time was a kaleidoscope of emotions, ever changing and dizzying. Even before those two years started I feel safe now in saying that I had lost myself. I had become jaded and bitter, I was suffering lots of health problems, I had lost my confidence, and felt directionless in my career. I had lost much of my kindness, thoughtfulness, and tenderness. I was playing other people’s games, and following their rules. It was not much better when we met.

One of the things I appreciated most about this man was his ability to make me feel more rooted. Our backgrounds were not the same, but they were similar enough that he felt like home. Like no one ever before, he could calm me down. His own kindness and thoughtfulness was such a shock to my system, I felt shame about how far I had drifted from myself. When I was really low, he reminded me that laugher is the best medicine. He brought me peace when I was a hot mess.

I wanted to give him anything and everything in the world he wanted or needed. Did you see how I said that? “I wanted to give him” versus “I wanted him to have”.

A love grew in my heart for this human, but it has been a two sided love. One side is so true and strong, it is like nothing I’ve ever felt. It feels like the pure essence of joy and the selfless hope that another person finds love and their complete path as a human being. Like it doesn’t matter if I never see him again, and all that matters is that he has what he needs. It is so strong some days it almost knocks me down, smiles across my face, thinking his life might be like this.

The other side has been a selfish side. A side that made me want more from him than he had to give. A side that was pouty and childish when it didn’t get what it wanted. A side that pushed away and pulled back. A side that stubbornly wouldn’t let go. A side that feels very rooted in the physical world and in ego.

For two years I asked a lot of him.

I wanted him to be very vulnerable. A level of vulnerable I couldn’t bring myself to be.

He loved me. Of that, I have no doubt. Not in the same way though. So there was pain. A pain of the ego. A pain of an inequitable exchange. A pain rooted in a selfishness I couldn’t seem to give up. A pain that grew larger with every interaction, until it got so big there wasn’t room for it any more.

So I kicked him out of my life. I walked away. When you love something, set it free. I couldn’t expect him to keep being my friend around all that pain. It was in the way. I couldn’t find a place to put it where it fit, so I had to rearrange.

Eleven months later, I feel like I made room for the pain. I found it a place to be while it got smaller. More importantly though, I made room for the love. It is still there, hasn’t waned one iota, and actually feels bigger. Perhaps because the pain got smaller, there was more room for the love.

I hope someday, if you don’t already, you all get a chance to feel this first kind of love. It is wonderful, and it is a privilege to love someone this way.

I don’t know if he will ever speak to me again. I was a real spur under his saddle, I know. I hope he does though. I want to see his big smile, hear his hearty laugh, watch the light dance in his eyes, and witness that all is well in his world. Someday.

Downtime.

It has been a few weeks since I posted. I got pretty busy with life.

As I have mentioned previously, I live in a teeny, tiny apartment. My landlords are very nice, but have been unwilling to do much updating themselves, so I took things into my own hands. I shouldn’t say “I” though, because, as always, I wouldn’t get a thing done by myself. My family shows up, puts up with my ratty attitude, ignores the messes I make, and just gets on with the work. They really are the best.

Twelve years ago when I moved in, I thought it was temporary. I didn’t want a huge house, but I wanted spare bedrooms for guests, a big kitchen for hostessing, and lots of wall space for art. Now, I want things to be tiny and mobile. I still fantasize about a beautiful straw bale house full of art, sunshine, and delicious meals, but I recognize it isn’t the best fit for the life I believe I really want. So, the tiny apartment is good practice for a tiny house, and camper life.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to be brutal about shedding some of the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. I’m doing OK, but I’ve got a ways to go. Thankfully my Mama is willing to come hang out with me while I go through boxes of stuff. I know some people are really good at that, but it takes an emotional toll on me. Either I mentally wrestle with myself thinking things might be useful, or I struggle to let go of things that IMG_20150411_081144have emotional attachments.

We did have a HUGE win, thanks to Mom, Dad, and my sister. In the “bedroom” half of the apartment we pulled up all the old carpet and laid down wall-to-wall Flor carpet squares. I purchased the Flor two years ago, when it was on sale, and I thought we’d complete it quickly. The boxes became my bedside table for quite awhile, and I’ve never been happier to get rid of a piece of “furniture”.

I hemmed and hawed over flooring in the apartment for a long time. The apartment was added to the building at the back of the garage. The concrete floor was never leveled, so the flooring had to go with the flow (to the old drain). I wanted to be able to do the installation without paying a pro, and I IMG_20150412_145015wanted something easy to maintain.  I’ll admit, it is a little weird to have all the seams in a carpeted room, but the easy install and ability to replace a tile if I spill a whole pot of coffee on it, is worth the seams. I left the Pythagorean theorem up to Dad and my sister, and after we figured out our square lines, the only hard part was making edge cuts that worked. It never would have happened without the family!

It will be awhile before I get to ChinChin’s interior, but I would consider Flor, and all their fun color options, for potential flooring.

Other things that happened over the last few weeks of note:

  • I was cleaning out the closet so hard, I whacked my head on the door frame and gave myself a mild concussion.
  • I went up to Lake Tahoe for a work trip with my team. They are insane and lovely, and I’m so lucky to work with such caring, productive people.
  • I got the first mechanic’s estimate for ChinChin. It is a whopper, but should leave the transmission and brakes in great shape. Work has gotten super busy, so Dad has kindly taken over as head communicator and researcher for the project.

Finally, I’m feeling tired these days. Life is very busy, but I don’t think that is it. My role at work, and the things I care about, put me face to face with some of the bigotry and sexism in the world. The news is full of senseless violence. Sometimes I’m just not as resilient to the pains of the world. I’ll be fine though. As my Grandma used to say, “A change is a good as a rest.” I can’t wait to get my hands on ChinChin, and seek out an ever changing landscape.

Interior Design of the 1970s

I have been thinking about how I might, in the long run, treat the interior of ChinChin.

These campers were built in the 1970s, and the interior design clues you right into that. Bold orange, yellow, or green, mixed with browns. Faux wood paneling, shag carpet, and loud plaid on the cushions. As much as I appreciate the idea of keeping a snap shot of time intact, I know ChinChin will need some new bits. That means I have a blank canvas to work with.

Budget is always an issue, so I’m unlikely to make many changes at first, but I’m having fun thinking through some possible themes. One possibility is certainly era-appropriate, if not original. ChinChin is two years younger than I am. Harkening back to the days of my childhood is an interesting emotional exercise. I tend to put 70s interior design into three categories: I love it, I can appreciate it, and WHO COULD EVER LIVE THAT WAY.

The aspects I love are almost always either a 70s take on a 50s original, or a 70s take on “the future”. The things I appreciate are usually the boldness of pattern and color, or examples of thoroughly embracing disco culture. The examples that I just can’t wrap my head around usually involve taking any of these elements too far. Filling a room with one pattern, or leaving no room for light or air. Ick.

I love color, but the small space may dictate keeping things more simple. Maybe I’ll go all white, bed-in style.

Bed-in

Carpe Diem – Ben Harper

My degree is in environmental studies. I thought I would save the earth. I thought I would have saved it by now. That’s a story for another post though. Back to the 90s…

In an attempt to get some experience in my field, and simultaneously see my sister more often, I applied for a summer internship with the Student Conservation Association. On the application, I had to put down four places I wanted to go. I put down Chaco Canyon, and three parks in California (my sister was in the Bay Area by then). I ended up at Bodie State Historic Park. Near the end of my summer, I met some folks that worked nearby at the Mono Lake Committee. They were awesome, adventurous, and cared about the environment. I bonded pretty strongly with one of the guys, and we’ve remained friends all these years.

Classic eco nerds, dressed as a riparian ecosystem. He's the water.

Classic eco nerds, dressed as a riparian ecosystem. He’s the water.

Not long after we met, he made me a mixed CD. It was full of musical treasures, most of which I’d never heard before, and most of which I still love deeply. This CD contained the first Ben Harper song I ever listened to. I was in my early 20s, but I’d had to break up with my first love by then. Hearing Walk Away for the first time made something inside me resonate so strongly that it has been echoing there for almost twenty years. I bought more albums, I listened to them obsessively, I made others listen to them, but I’d never gotten to see Ben Harper play live until last night.

If you ever find yourself debating if you should spend the money or take the time to go see one of your musical heroes, the answer will always be, OF COURSE YOU SHOULD! Carpe diem! Make it happen. For eons cultures have used music to tell stories, to call up the spirits, to heal. If music touches your soul coming out of a speaker, it will lay you open, release you, and heal you seeing it live.

Ben Harper has been giving me his gifts for years, but seeing him live was the biggest gift of all. He is vulnerable, real, angry, tender, funky, has an amazing crew of musicians he works with, can sing like nobody’s business, and the man man loves tots. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it felt like I was being allowed to kneel and pray with someone through all their pain and joy. Thanks Ben!

Buying ChinChin feels very much like a carpe diem moment. Those moments are part of what I think this blog will be about, so I’ll keep reporting them as I come across them.

Vintage Camper Supplies

I came across this website tonight: http://www.vintagetrailersupply.com

The are largely geared for the Airstream crowd, but they have everything from aluminum propane tanks to camper-themed duct tape. Prices seem a bit high, but it is nice to see vintage camper specific items all in one spot. They also have some fun looking kids books if you are trying to convince your little ones that camper life is fun.

Camper Tape