What are your daily delights? That cup of coffee? A favorite mug? Filling the bird feeders? Think of the things that give you child like glee.
I was never a child-like child. My mother accused me of acting like I was 40 when I was 10. She did not mean it in a good way. Despite my inner curmudgeon there are things I take regular delight it. I love rubbing my cat’s belly. She hates it. Our daily wrestling match so I can steal a .0001 sec rub of that loose abdomen fur, her belly wattle if you will, is a daily hit with me. She bites. I laugh. Am I a bad person? I always pay her back with some ear rubs.
I also like saying hello to Olive the dog when I return home. Olive bounces up and down and I can’t encourage her too much or she’ll jump all over me but I love seeing her happy dance. Elvis always moans like we tortured him so he’s not as much fun to greet.
When I had a home without wheels I had some material belongings that I loved using every day. A special bowl. A well shaped mug. Trailer life isn’t as amenable to aesthetic beauty. I really like my hair things. Those stretchy tubes that keep my hair off my face. I have about 8. Those are comfy and make traveling hair care easier.
The birds on my feeder delight me. Yesterday I delighted myself by building a new feeding station from a cardon cactus log. I suspended it on our fence with a pair of antlers. Snazzy. So now my feeder delights me.
Breakfast in bed is pretty delightful but it feels like adult delight. Ny inner kid is ambivalent. Same feeling for chocolate. The inner kid prefers pie.
Lastly, getting into bed at the end of a day always delights me. I love bedtime. My cocoon, my nest, my safe place. I hate waking up and leaving it. I guess that might be why I torture Mimi.
Art Journaling is the first thing I do on waking. I don’t even get out of bed. I reach over and grab my phone and check the prompt. I sit and think. I open my journal bag and grab the book and pen and draw a picture. Then I write. Today’s prompt: What is you most outrageous dream? Two things about this prompt caught my attention. There’s some synchronicity out there. Firstly, I woke up from a very odd musical dream where Burt and I as the Gypsy Carpenters were playing a stadium sized gig with a back up band. The odd part was that I was singing on a ladder from back stage. We can analyze that some other time. Secondly, last night at dinner with my dad and Sara Gay we confessed our next big dream. Stage two of dream achievement plan accomplished. The confession came about because they asked if we were planning to get a new cat when Mimi eventually goes. No, we are not. We are planning on burying Mimi and Elvis when the times come and doing something else. More here down below.
So life dreams, the big ones, are hard to quantify. It’s a tricky thing dreaming. I could say I want to visit the moon. I do want to visit the moon. I wish I could be a universe explorer. But that’s not going to happen so I don’t spend much though on it. It’s a waste of energy. I could also say I wish I was thirty pounds lighter and super-fit. Just not going to happen. There’s all kinds of reasons why but mainly I’d rather not be that kind of person that worries about those kinds of things. I like to focus on dreams that I might be able to accomplish if I have the intention, resources, interest, and luck. Burt and I had a great conversation about how neither of us like to talk pie in the sky dreams but we are good at achieving things many people won’t dare to try. The phrase “if wishes were horses” does not apply to us. I hate those conversations about if I was rich, if I was in charge, or if I was blah blah blah. I’m a down to earth. I can solve a puzzle. I have enough resources.
Here’s what I concluded today, for me, about dreams. Find a dream where you have the drive, the itch, the passion. Then look for the skills, resources, and luck you’ll need to achieve it. I don’t want to be a super famous performer. I’m happy as a community musician. I like to help our kids but I don’t want to run a school. I do want to explore the world. I want to drive. I want to speak Spanish. I want to drive the entirety of South America.
Just as the seeds of quitting work and hitting the road took root a few months before we did it eight years ago this South America idea has been sitting in the soil of our hearts and minds for a while. There are logistical problems with our current outfit. Then there are the elderly pets. There are money concerns, too. Safety, health, age…But recently we saw our window. Mimi and Elvis appear on convergent tracks of expiration. Two years at the most for either or both or them. First step towards down scaling the living arrangements: No new pets.
Last the idea saw life outside the gNash. Burt and I dared tell others we hope to drive to South America. Like all bold ideas it was met with questions and fears for our safety but also with support and excitement. It sounds like we are on teh right path.
So I insist, go find that first step to your dreams.
Below are the 5k race results. I was super pleased to see I had managed under 20 minute miles. Maybe that super-fit goal isn’t as far fetched as I thought.
As I sit here at the El Centro Walmart parking lot as I have for the last three years I am filled with gratitude and relief to find us ready to cross into Mexico for another winter. The year has been hectic and the last week was filled with non-stop activity. A flat tire, broken furnace, Mimi transfer, and pre-Mexico provisioning has consumed our minds and bodies. Burt and I exited the Northern Jaguar Project reserve to find it 26F in Portal. That means it’s time to head south without delay.
All the details of crossing are the same every year but the means of accomplishing our tasks vary. Vehicle insurance – check, health insurance – check (Thanks, Obama), clothes for Vikki – check, visas – check, special foods (chocolate, parmesan cheese)- check. This year we purchased our insurance and visas early due to the NJP reserve excursion. We’ve also learned to do this without joining the Baja traveler’s group that demands a pretty surcharge for the supposed convenience of them getting us our visa. We do self-service at the border. Saves us a trip to San Diego or chasing mail. It’s very easy. If you’re thinking of coming down by car let me know and I’ll tell you how to do it.
I have a nice pile of clothes from my neighbors that were donated by a variety of friends. Thanks, Pat, Jack, Jack’s wife, Eskild, Susan, and Peg. Today I supplemented these hand-me-downs with a spree at the dollar store and Target. Last spring we had a benefit concert and the proceeds of that go to my girls. With the money I bought hair ties, nail polish, socks, tees, tights, markers, and note pads for 14. The Target cashier got a little misty when she heard why I was buying such a volume of children’s clothes in a wide variety of sizes. I am so grateful to my dad and our fans for generously helping us make these gifts.
After all our preparatory work was done we found ourselves with time to spare in a not so attractive town. We did a short bird walk in a city park. The new eBird phone app uses GPS to map and time each bird sighting. I wanted to play with it before we got to Mexico. That worked so add another check to the list of to-dos. On the technology front I also managed to add WhatsApp? to my iPhone. This is a texting app favored by all our Latin American friends from Mexico to Ecuador. I finally got on board and started texting our buddies in their preferred manner. Another check on the to-do list.
The bird walk was quick so then we headed over to the bowling alley. Normally when were siting about in a towny area we’d go to the movies but nothing showing appealed to us and the bowling alley was shiny and new. Burt and I last bowled in Helena, Montana in 2007 when my parents came to visit. It was a cool and rainy day. Bowling seemed like a good idea. It was fun for a few minutes but mom couldn’t really remember how to hold the ball. She was in the midst of her Alzheimer’s. Mom was still active but the activity had to be something she was hardwired for. Bowling wasn’t high on the list of her hobbies. Golfing was okay. So we bailed after one set of ten frames.
Today Burt and I showed signs of untapped bowling talent. Our first ten frames were a disaster. The score was 90 to 38. The next set saw such dramatic improvements you’d think we had been trying to lure in some marks the first round. That was 238 to 141. We quit mid-way through the third round because my wrist was too tired. I started dropping the ball instead of rolling it. Burt thought we could go pro by next week if we applied ourselves. I figure I’d have a psychological breakdown and should get out now.
Now we are snuggled in the gNash and ready to drive. Mimi is already back into her old routines of begging food and walking on me all night long.
Today is Laura and Barry’s wedding day. We’ve been hanging around Portal waiting for this day since the bridge was finished. An event well worth waiting for but, my, there’s not much going on when we’re not working or super hiking. I practiced some of my new Irish tunes this week. I read a book. Burt and I visited centenarian Bob again. A bear attacked the gNash. I saw a couple more tarantulas. We took a hike. A mouse landed on my shoulder.
Yesterday Mimi was dropped off at Dodie’s for her extended kitty B&B stay. I left Dodie with Mimi’s bed, food, snacks, bowls, litter box, litter, blankie, and more food. Mimi’s luggage weighs more than mine. We also left Dodie with our minds at ease because we know she won’t mind having an elderly stink ball as a companion. Mimi isn’t so sure what to do with all the floor space. When I left she was completing her 53rd circumnavigation of the living area. The gNash is soulless without our feline companion.
Two nights ago was the incident of the bear under the gNash. Just after 11:00 I was woken by two quick Olive barks. Olive has a sophisticated system of barks. These two barks were ‘I hear something’ and ‘GoAwayBear!’ I woke up and, with Ollie ears in tune new we were under assault. Olive was quiet and there was a dragging/grating sound emanating from just outside the window on Burt’s side of the bed. I leaned over and peered out blindly but thought I saw a very large and dark hump moving. I said, “There’s a bear” as I shook Burt. Like all husbands roused from sleep he yelled, “There is NO bear.” Insert murderer, robber, thief, rapist for bear and you have all men waking up to wife saying: There’s a …. Is this in their DNA or are they taught by their fathers or is it learned after millions of false alarms?
Clearly Burt hadn’t fully assessed the situation. Nor was he awake. Still I thought, maybe he’s right. It’s probably a mouse. Suddenly more dragging noises and I hit Burt again and I said, “There’s a bear.” This time he bolted straight up and yelled, “There’s A bear.” This was the first time in history that I feel Burt actually met or exceeded my level of concern for our physical safety. Wide awake he knew instantly what I did not. Burt knew the bear had found a stash of food under our trailer (Hellooo, Hell, no…) and now the bear knew our trailer was a flimsy tin can of filled with delightful food. Burt closed his window and the window over the dinette. I left mine open. Menopause, bear or no bear. Our noise making scared the bear enough so that noises stopped and we couldn’t see it. Not much sleep was had as we both envisioned the bear ripping off our grey water tank or stretching a paw in to find the dog food. The next morning the bear was still on the pile of dry beans (my zombie apocalypse supply) when Burt went out to check the damages. He chased bruno away. Our storage cooler had sustained minor bite damages and the rice and beans were spread all around. I presume that bear got a mean tummy ache from eating dry beans. Burt cleaned up the mess as best he could. We seal up the windows whenever we leave now but if a bear wants into a trailer it can make it happen. Today we are moving to a new location. Hopefully the bear doesn’t follow.
Also this week we played music for Bob. It was a kind of practice session. Whiel visiting Burt asked Bob if he had any of his instruments still. Bob still had his fiddle which he had inherited from his father. He showed it to us. I got it in tune and played some tunes on it that Bob’s dad might have played. Bob practically seized the thing from me and gave it a go himself. Despite his torn rotator cuff, deafness, long finger nails, and lack of practice the phrase of a tune came out. Bob commented that he liked my bow. You can see the video on Facebook. This private session was further rewarded when Bob left his house and came to our concert the next day. He doesn’t get around like he used to. He and his gal friend Gloria were all the audience we needed to make our day special. We made plans to have another jam session between our Mexico and Galapagos trips.
Another recent wildlife encounter happened when I decided to clean out a bird nesting box on the old adobe stage building where we are parked. I lifted the front of the box and it was packed full of bedding. Fearing biting bugs and the mites I’ve found in other nests I grabbed a stick to clean the place out. As I dug in a very alarmed mouse jumped out and landed on my shoulder. I screamed. She screamed. Then she ran down my chest, jumped to my knee, and then the ground. I stopped cleaning for fear of finding babies. The birds will have to battle it out come spring.
We’re living with a tyrant. She demands a sample of all food stuff, walks all over us and our belongings, bosses the dogs, and shows not one bit of appreciation. I’m talking Mimi. Recent near death experiences for her were met by hand feeding by us. Now, despite appearing fine, she demands food be brought to her. And not just any food. She’ll have what we’re having. Just yesterday she swatted a filet of rock fish out of Burt’s hand as he dredged it in egg. Fresh fish. Now. No please or thank you. She’s taken on a more thuggish appearance, too. Scraggly unkempt hair, jutting bones, cigarette hanging from her lips. Last week she had a seizure and ripped out a claw from the root. She never noticed the blood on her foot and she hasn’t cleaned it up. Add a bloody stump to her ensemble and you can see why we give her whatever she demands.
I saw my doctor today. Blood was drawn for the hemochromatosis check and we scheduled a barium upper GI lookey loo for Friday. Meanwhile I am to continue taking prilosec. No news to report. I did re-throw out my back again this morning playing tennis. What a nuisance.
Mimi, after a few days of hand feeding chicken and canned cat food in bed, has rallied again. She even got a little feisty this morning. We had a tummy rub wrestling match. As usual, Mimi was victorious.
Our agenda for the remainder of the building season is quite diverse both geographically and project type. After the family, friend, medical visits here we will head back to Alpine, OR for the eclipse and some more decking. Then to Templeton, CA for a house remodel. Eventually we head to Portal, Mexico, and the Galapagos. Time is flying.
It’s been three weeks and I am still not caught up on this blog. The European trip takes so much time for just a little bit of research. Meanwhile my knee hurts and so does my hip. We averaged more than 8 miles a day for two weeks. I’ve been trying to rest the legs and, still, I cannot catch up to present life.
We already worked in Alpine, OR. Currently we are working for Baja friends in Seattle. Burt is working. I am typing. I help some. Seattle is nice and cool. We’ve played some Bridge and some music. My mandolin went in for much needed maintenance and it is way more fun to play. The dogs have a good yard to visit. There is also a dog park 10 minutes away. Elvis thinks he is the doorman. Nobody can enter without a thorough nose frisking.
Mimi wasn’t eating when we got back from Europe. It was also in the high 90s. She has resumed eating but is noticeably odd and smelly. I wonder how many years she can hang on as odd and smelly. I remember that tune from the TV show Friends, Smelly Cat. It might be time to learn it. HERE it is. According to the song it’s all my fault.
When we finish this artist’s studio here we will return to Oregon. We have more work in Alpine and Oakridge.
I’ll admit it I got a little tipsy last night. It wasn’t on purpose. We went out for a pizza and a movie and the margartita was enormous and strong. I don’t normally enjoy the sensation of intoxication but it felt right in the moment and I’m fine today. A little tired and still sad but okay. Mimi had a seizure this morning on top of it all. She started having seizures about three years ago. They were rare until this month. So rare that we only observed three in three years. But this month we’ve seen three in a bout 5 weeks. There’s no telling how many we are missing when we are away. After a few minutes of convulsions and drooling she regains her composure and appears normal. La-di-dah, I guess I’ll go eat, I feel fine now that’s over. At 18 years of age it’s hard to take these as a crisis. I presume one day she might give it up mid seizure. She’s had a long and pampered life. She has been a bonny road warrior. It would be a fine and dramatic end to the creature I’ve spent more years living with than any other in the world. But also an enormously sad end. Of course I was relieved she came out of it today. It’s not that I’m ready, it’s that she’s so old I’m trying to accept it as imminent. Yesterday when I was messily bawling she rolled over and over and rubbed on me trying to cheer me up. The dogs ignored me. People that say cats aren’t connected are idiots.
No promises. We’re taking it one day at a time here. I wanted to convey to you something from yesterday’s music/English class. I took a video. The video can be seen on Facebook. It’s public so any one can watch it. You do not have to join Facebook to watch it.
I remember boys from my childhood as terrorizing. So powerful and uninhibited. They were constantly pulverizing things (me, included). My brother had a never ending supply of hitting, kicking, running, jumping, climbing. This movement was occasionally directed at inappropriate targets. Frogs, furniture, sister, little brother. Occasionally might be too nice a word. My husband has a bit of the Bam Bam in him, too. He’s pretty constructively aimed at nails, tennis balls, waves, food. I keep him busy. He keeps himself busy.
The four of us that teach at the music/english class were commenting on the stark difference between our two sections. The classes were unintentionally split by gender. Boys had started sooner and had a head start. All my neighborhood girls got to start fresh at their own level when I brought them over. The boys were studying about three months before the girls. It just happened. The profound difference between teaching the girls group and the boys group is messing with my head. I’m all for gender equality and mixing it up and not stereotyping based on traditional gender roles, but as Burt says, “These boys need a job.” They cannot hold still. But hold still is an understatement. They are very dynamic molecules throwing off electrons of energy everywhere they go. Static electricity needing to discharge. They are a danger to themselves and me.
Yesterday I had the brilliant idea of reining them in with a dance contest on video while singing in English. The dancing allows energy to dissipate. The video corrals them into a limited space and fluffs their egos. They each get a star turn. As the dance progressed one boy found a boulder attached to a string and dragged it through the dancers. Back and forth he went with a twenty pound rock on a piece of twine through the boy’s feet. One boy was barefoot. No matter. They all kept dancing. After growing up with my brother I think this is normal. Suddenly, while I’m directing singers and star turns, I shout out, “no more rock!” My inner mother finally noticed the string has become a tripping hazard. I keep filming. The rock dragger starts pulling on the other end of the string. The dancers weave in and out as I am calling them to dance solo one by one. Then I see the string is attached to a cinder block above their heads. The rock dragger is now nearly pulling a cinder block off a wall over all their heads. The guitar continues. You can see my hand waving in fear in front of the camera. No no no no is heard in the background. I am still filming. With a last desperate shout of, “Peligro!” the camera goes black. I nearly have a heart attack. The boys pause for a moment. They survey the situation. They agree that the situation was dangerous. In a breath they start back with some new mass chaos as if it never happened.
Meanwhile the girls class goes something like this: What shall we do today? Ok, that’s a nice idea, let’s do that. We all calmly and politely sing a song. We take turns. Nobody hits anyone. No screaming, no dancing unless I cajole them. It’s sweet. They are all so earnest and really want to do well. Sometimes I have to get Burt to pay attention. He is the main disrupter.
How can I bring some of each type of energy from one to the other? Should I? Go check out my Facebook page and see Carlos’s dance moves.
Today marks one week since our arrival in El Pescadero. Things are going well. Our tarp blew out on day two. I can’t overstate how important the shade tarp on the trailer is to our general comfort. Shading the trailer on all sides makes it livable and it allows the propane fridge to keep working. We were using a massive but sun-degraded tarp left behind by Robin and Jen. It lacked integrity. The first mild breeze ripped the grommets and brought it down onto the trailer. Instead of shade we had a blanket. So we decided to run to Cabo ASAP to find a replacement. While we were at it, why not buy a bed? Our mattress was 11 years old. The peso is weak. WEAK. Really, really weak. 17.5 pesos to the dollar. It was 11.5 five years ago. In the last five years more luxury goods are also available. I presume it’s a post-crash investments by beach hungry gringos.
So, we decided to look for a bed. A run to Cabo, while much easier than it was a couple of years ago due to improved roads, requires many calls to neighbors to see if they need anything. In ten minutes I had a list of cat food, asiago cheese, and toilet paper added to our mattress and tarps. Three out of four calls yielded results. Our first stop was the bed shop. Mattress dealers the world over are notorious for the obscurity of their pricing. Mexico outdid the US. No mattress in the store had a price. When I asked how much a particular bed was I got a fleet of answers: Mexican Queen? U.S. Queen? Cama Matrimonial? Every number had a better number than the first number. This was the standard response: This bed is 17,000 pesos. Pause. But really it is 13,000 pesos. Pause.
This kind of haggling makes me crazy. Burt and I finally found a rather firm Simmons Beautyrest we liked. Have you shopped for mattresses recently? They are really thick. In a trailer every inch counts. We pondered the extra height. Would Burt hit his head during certain maneuvers? Could Mimi the cat make the leap with the added altitude? Having no alternative to the super padded slabs we decided we’d just have to take a chance. We settled on a price of $730 US. My mattress from 11 years ago was $1200. I felt like we’d made a good deal.
Humans are notoriously ill prepared to make decisions in the short term and understand the long term ramifications. I like to pretend I am exempt from this general flaw in humanity. I can defer short term enjoyment for long term benefits pretty well. Clearly mattress buying is my Achilles’s tendon. Burt and I told the guy we’d be back in an hour and a half to pick up our new American Queen sized mattress. Adding to our human nature for short term gratification is a thing called decision fatigue. Watch what happens. We left the mattress store and headed to Home Depot.
This excursion took place during a Mexican national holiday. The Home Depot was jammed. Una carambola. People everywhere. We just wanted a tarp. What is the word for tarp? It’s not what my handy phone dictionary gave me. SpanishDict dicked me over and gave me the word for tent. We persevered and found the tarps. We had to buy three tarps to match the size of the previously installed shade. Done. Now to Costco.
Costco was also overrun. We picked up asiago cheese and some groceries and dog food for us. We left to pick up our mattress. As we arrived at the mattress store we realized we failed to buy toilet paper and cat food. At the mattress store the salesperson said. I have your Queen ready but it’s 84″ long. Burt asked me what I though. I (will regret these words for a long time) said,”I guess that’s the standard length. What else could it be?” We paid for the mattress and packed it on top of the truck. We headed to Home Depot (oops, I forgot more rope) and Costco. Tequila was added to the toilet paper and cat food. Isn’t that a shopping cart for the ages? 36 rolls of toilet paper, 40 pounds of cat food, and a supersized bottle of tequila.
We made it home before dark feeling pretty good with our accomplishments. The next morning I went to yoga. Burt repaired the shade system. I walked up the hill from Prissy’s house ready to help Burt wrangle the new mattress into the gNash. I recalled the original mattress went it with much difficulty. Burt was 10 years younger and we had a big young guy helping (John Dendy). It was the proverbial hog wrastle. Burt and I are 10 years smarter if not as strong as we once were. And we have spent many years moving heavy things together. I was optimistic we could do this. I was right. The old mattress slipped out. The smart move was key. We screwed down the pneumatic lid to the under mattress storage area. Without the lid in the way everything was manageable. Barely, but we succeeded.
The old mattress was carried to the rumpus room for our daring, amiable, flexible, guests to use. The new mattress was hauled in. I took the low end and pushed while Burt steered and pulled. Mimi ignored the entire thing from her bedside nook. It all went so easily. And then we realized our great mistake. The altitude of the mattress was going to take some adjustment but the big problem we had just lost 4″ of our 22′ of living space. Gnashing of teeth in the gNash. There’s a mattress as big as a life raft in our tiny home. OMG. The sales guy tried to warn us and we didn’t get the hint. Ack ack ack.
My original motto for happiness on the road was, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Once again we quickly looked on the bright side. Mimi has a shorter jump!!! Olive’s bed is nearly invisible under the massive overhang!!! The shoes are well hidden, too!!! I LIVE in the bed. I have more space!!!
Through massive effort and my carpentry skills I was able to force a deep-pocketed regular queen onto this boat of a bed. I got on Amazon and ordered two new fitted sheets and sent them to friends coming in two weeks. We will adapt. The height thing has proven to be more annoying than the length. Instruments stored besides the bed are very hard to reach. Mimi’s nook requires her to belly crawl for access. Burt’s positional needs require his head to be in the window recess. I took bearings so I know where to be so his head has clearance to do what we both want him to do.
Last night we slept pretty well. The bed is more comfortable. Mimi was oddly restless and she walked all over us all night long. We think she was just getting the lay of the land.