Daily Life

Cat Life Jackets

Baxsters water life vest just arrived in the mail today. I decided to go with a design from Ruff Wear. I liked that their design used actually flotation material rather simply air inflation and also that it had a handle to haul him out of the water if he ever got into trouble.

Em trying to ease the poor little guy into it slowly. Baxster was showing signs of stress as it went on, so for his first wearing, it stayed on just long enough for me to grab a quick photo with my iPhone and for him to receive some encouraging cuddling and a treat for suffering through such indignity.

I think I’m going to have to get him to start associating wearing the vest with getting to do cool things like I had to do with his halter.

I promise more pictures once he starts to get a little more comfortable in it. Clearly, I need to adjust some of the straps so it fits a little better on him. But I think it should work with a couple of tweaks.

Daily Life

Thinking but Not Saying

What would happen if we started being honest with ourselves about what we really want?

What if we started being ruthlessly real? What if we actually said the things that we think about, but are afraid to say?

Our egos may shrink and squirm, afraid to face reality as it is; afraid to bypass all the pretense; afraid to confront the shear nakedness of authenticity.

But maybe if we could evade the grip of our ego-based fears, we could embrace unfiltered, unmediated reality.

Maybe, just then, we’d start to come alive.

This quotes comes from Jonathon most recent contribution and it really resonated with me today. You can read the rest of Jonathons article here.

Probably the biggest benefit Ive noticed from my week-long media fast is that it made it impossible NOT to have to come to terms with some things which haven’t been working in my life. (Plus it freed up a heck of a lot of time to actually address those areas.)

More on this particular subject later. However, heres something to consider in the meantime what, in your own life, aren’t you telling the truth about? What do you think but not say to others? And what are you afraid to say even to yourself?

If you really give it some thought, I bet you come up with some interesting answers.

Daily Life

Taking a Media Fast

One of the first things I did upon moving up to the city was to join a Artists group.

It is a program of artistic recovery and involves a twelve-week structure of exercises. I first did the program roughly a decade ago when the book first became popular in writing circles. I find it useful to repeat the exercises every couple of years. Moreover, I really enjoy being part of a group because they tend to attract a fascinating mix of people I enjoy getting to know and spend time with.

The one thing I dread in the program is Week #4 because one of the exercises for that week is a week-long media fast. That means: no books, magazines, NPR, TV, movies, music with lyrics, email that is not work-related, frantic reading of the back of cereal boxes, etc. The point of the exercise is to disconnect from the constant stream of information our modern brains are constantly bombarded with so that one can more easily listen to ones own internal voice.

Now, I don’t own a TV and I can fairly easily go a week without that or movies. Music is slightly more difficult as I really enjoy it, but Ive got plenty of music without lyrics. However, I love NPR. And I’m thoroughly addicted to the written word. I am a voracious reader. Books are my sustenance and connection to the outside world. The thought of going without them, my news feeds, or non-work-related email for a week sends me into fits of anticipatory withdrawal.

Which, I’m afraid, also means its likely Ill learn something worthwhile from the exercise. Its hard to say, though, as Ive never actually made it the full week before when Ive completed the program. I’m going to give it my best shot this time, though.

Because I received a decent amount of email related to this website, I will be checking my personal email twice daily.

The good news is that this exercise should free up some time to both work on my house and also to do more actual writing (rather than my obsessively following every bit of news related to the small home movement). Ill keep you posted on how things progress.

Daily Life

Friends Came to Visit

So, I’m afraid I’m a little behind on my personal updates again. My day-job has been seriously kicking my butt lately. Probably in part due to this being our busiest time of the year. Im going to be really glad when July rolls around and things start to slow down.

Two of the other writers who are part of the blog, Jessica and Kelly, came out to visit last week. Both Jessica and Kelly spent a night with me each, and all three of us got together for a long lunch at th Bakery.

Jessica arrived in town first, and I’m afraid she got the worst of the weather the first day she came out and the night she stayed with me. She was a remarkably good sport about it, however. We spent a good portion of the day and evening just chatting. And the next morning as the weather began to clear, Jessica ran around the marina in her pjs like a madwoman snapping a bunch of lovely photos. She also took several of Boxster swilling beer. You can see both sets of pictures here here.

Jessica is just as upbeat, energetic, and sweet-natured as you would expect from the writing on her blog. She had Boxster completely charmed in under a minute flat. She even got him hamming it up for a camera which is a complete first. I had to keep a close eye on him when she was getting ready to leave. Otherwise, I suspect he might have tried to hitchhike along in her suitcase.

As already mentioned, Jessica is a bundle of energy. Thankfully, the weather cleared up from there and the rest of the weekend was gorgeous. She spent the next few days of her mini-vacation running over every corner of the city, managing to cover more ground than I have since moving here.

Kelly rolled in late the following night. Her flight didn’t get in until close to eleven and by the time she found the marina it was approaching midnight. I was exhausted from a long week at work (and staying up well past my regular, wussy bedtime). Kelly was exhausted from being in the final stretch of her graduate degree program. Somehow, though, we ended up both being wired and yakking for a good two hours until I finally had to call it a night and get some sleep.

This would be all well and good except I then proceeded to wake up around my regular time – 5 AM since I’m used to dealing with clients on the east coast for work. Kelly, on the other hand, had no such aspirations to be up so early.

If my guestroom had been finished, Kelly might have had a fighting chance at catching a few more hours sleep. But she was stuck in my living room. And, to only make matters worse, Boxster was totally into the whole house-guest thing by this point. After having spent the previous morning with Jessica cooing over him at great lengths, he couldn’t wait for Kelly to wake up and do likewise. So I’m afraid he kind of tried to help things along.

Kelly is a down-to-earth, extremely approachable, wickedly funny Texan. Although shes managed to lose a good portion of her accent from her time outside of Texas. Meeting her in-person helped me to understand how she manages to take such wonderfully candid photos of the people in the small home movement that are part of her thesis project. I can’t imagine there are many people who, in under a half-hour of meeting her, would hesitate to tell her pretty much anything about themselves.

I worked for the first half of the day while Kelly slowly stirred to life. Then the two of us met up with Jessica at the Bakery, where we had the most divine lunch of roasted eggplant panninis on fresh-baked bread.

Lunch with all three of us was great fun. We gabbed at length about the small home movement and various ideas we each had. Jessica was too well-mannered, but I pumped Kelly at length about her experiences interviewing various people in the movement as part of her thesis project. Kelly is a fantastic storyteller, which made listening to her all that much more interesting. And we chatted about all sorts of other things going on in each of our lives.

Naturally, I lobbied hard for both of them to move to the city and help me start our own little small home outpost outside of California. (With both of them bringing their other halves in tow.)

It was with some regret that I finally had to wrap-up lunch and get back to the marina (and the rest of my work day). Before heading on to the rest of her trip, Kelly interviewed me and also took some pics of both me and my floating home for her project. I haven’t seen any of the pics yet. But just based on some of the ideas she came up with, I’m really interested to see how they turned out.

Daily Life

Finance Related Spring Cleaning Activities

Spring is a time of rebirth and growth. It is also traditionally the time of year when people throw open the windows and tackle their spring cleaning. This year, after months of bleak financial news, make sure you include your finances on your spring cleaning to-do list. For people who have suffered the loss of employment or watched their savings dwindle this is a great opportunity to regroup and make adjustments to ensure your finances are in order.

Here are a few items that should be on your financial to-do list:

Take Inventory

When the economy takes a turn for the worse it is a common reaction to deny the reality of your financial situation. Unfortunately you cannot wish the financial crisis away, instead you must take action by taking inventory of your finances. This may include learning how your income and expense needs have changed. Re-visit your budget to learn where you can make adjustments by cutting costs and reducing expenses. This may require examining your lifestyle and eliminating money spent on things you want versus things you need.

Live Below Your Means

People who wish to get their financial house in order must learn the importance of living below your means. To put it simply in order
to find true financial security you must spend less money than you make. This has become a foreign concept in our society as more and more people use borrowed money to live beyond their means.

Ditch Your Debt

There is no better time than the present to develop a plan to eliminate your debt. High interest credit card debt will rob you of money that would have been better spent in other areas. Address your high interest debt by picking a strategy that will work for your situation. The snowball method is a popular way of paying off debt. In short you tackle one account at a time and apply as much money as you can afford (see cutting costs and living below your means) while paying the minimum payment on other accounts. Once you pay off the first account you then apply the same amount of money you were paying to your next account and continue this process until all accounts have been paid. This method requires a bit of sacrifice and discipline on your part but getting rid of that high interest debt is worth the effort.

Examine Your Priorities and Goals

It is very easy to become overwhelmed by trying to do too many things at once. This commonly occurs when people decide to take a hard look at their financial situation. If you try to take on too much at one time you may find yourself spinning in many directions without really going anywhere. In an ideal world it would be possible to eliminate debt, build your savings and increase your income all at the same time. In reality most of us have only so much money to work with. For this reason it is important to take a serious look at where you are and where you want to be in the future. By setting short and long term goals and developing a strategy to achieve these goals you are more likely to be successful in your endeavors.

Daily Life

Nothing is easy

I’m afraid to say my first day in my floating home was a little less magical than my arrival.

To begin with, my Open 24 Hours a Day! 7 Days a Week! store room facility decided to be closed for Easter without sending any sort of notice to their tenants. So, when I blithely showed up, keyed in my security code at the gate, and went inside, I ended up being greeted by a very flustered property manager who came barreling out of her RV, followed quickly by her husband/S.O. armed with a shotgun.

None of this was really disastrous other than the fact that all the bedding I planned to use for the night was behind lock and key and they weren’t about to let me in long enough to retrieve it. I think what irked me the most is how nasty the manager was. I just about got accused of breaking and entering. She kept insisting that there was no way my security code should have been able to open the gate and that they told everyone when they signed up for a facility that they were closed on major holidays. (Of which, Easter apparently qualifies in her world.)

I made my apologies and left. I’ve got a bad feeling, though, that there’s going to be an ongoing series of issues between me and this women as I ended up getting the Death Look the whole time I was there yesterday to retrieve a few things.

It annoyed me that I forced to go buy a cheapo comforter to get me through the night until I could retrieve my bedding. Odds are Ill end up donating it to one of the local shelters.

The real excitement on Sunday, however, involved my tiny houses plumbing. I was able to reach Lukas about midday and he showed me how to turn out the main water main to my house. Lukas hung around for about fifteen minutes helping me make sure all the appropriate valves were opened and that everything appeared to be in working order. I wished him a Happy Easter and he went off to spend the day with his parents and sister.

An hour later all hell began to break loose. My hot water heater made a noise that could only be described as a death rattle and then stubbornly refused to produce anything that could even be generously described as lukewarm water. The hot water spigot produced water the same temperature as the river.

Next, the shower turned on by itself and no matter how I adjusted the handle, I couldn’t get it to less than a light, ongoing trickle.

This was followed by the kitchen sink sprouting a leak from the main pipe. Having no pots or pans yet in the house, I resorted to putting my rice cooker under the drip to capture the water. I then made a hasty trip to Wal-Mart to grab a few containers to catch water in until I could reach a plumber Monday morning who would charge less-than-extortionate rates because it was a holiday.

The coup de gras, however, was that, just as I was coming back through the front door from Wal-Mart, I heard a weird, cracking explosion from the bathroom, which made no sense whatsover. I opened the bathroom door cautiously to discover that the lid of my toilet tank had shot off with enough force to hit the far wall and break into pieces. I kid you not.

Now, Ive seen my handful of weird toilet malfunctions before. I had also been warned by the contractor who had rebuilt my float that re-balancing the level of the house could result in some minor drips in the plumbing. But there was no way a toilet canon could be described as minor in anyones book as far as I was concerned.

The subsequent conversation with Lukas went roughly like this:

Me: Uh, Lukas, there seems to be a problem with my toilet.

Lukas: What? Is it not flushing?

Me: No. It exploded.

Lukas: Exploded? What do you mean by exploded? Did you get backflow from the honeypot or something?

Me, trying to keep my tone somewhere below the pitch of a mouse whose just been sodomized: No. I mean, the lid just shot off, slammed into the far wall, and broke in half. That kind of exploded.

This pronouncement was greeted by a moments silence worth of its moment.

Lukas: Ill be there first thing tomorrow morning with my plumber.

Lukas was slightly more pragmatic on the subject of what I should use for a toilet until then, though. He suggested I could probably still use it and just flush with a bucket until the cavalry arrived But I might want to be a little careful just to be safe. Alternately, there was always the gym locker room down the street. Id mentioned I was planning to get a membership, hadnt I?

I ended up making the minimal possible number of hasty trips to the bathroom during the night, keeping a watchful eye on the tank the entire time I was in the room.

Monday morning, his brother appeared as my salvation. Apparently what happened is the squeegee-ma-bob(Hey, Im not a plumber and they just pointed at the thing)had shot up with enough force to rip itself free of the tubing in the tank and send the lid flying.

Why exactly this happened, no one knows. Not even the plumbers. It could have been air or some sort of debris in the line. But that’s pure speculation. Upon further determined probing by me, both temporarily lost a few Man Points by admitting they’d never seen anything like it. It was the damnedest thing.

The initial plan had been to simply replace the innards of the toilet and see if that fixed the issue. However, then it was discovered that there was a crack running the length of the bowl on the far side. Whether the crack happened as part of the explosion or sometime during the winter they don’t know.

Final verdict: my hot water heater could be saved with a new heating element. Shower was magically shut off. Leak under the kitchen was resolved. The toilet, however, has been declared D.O.A. Looks like I may be getting the spiffy new, dual-flush toilet I had been planning a little earlier than planned. (And praying I don’t see similar canon-like activity from that.)

So that was my Sunday and Monday this week. (Can anyone recommend a good sacrificial offering to the local water gods?)

Daily Life

The Long Drive

My apologies for personal updates being a little thin over the last few weeks. My mom being out to visit in New Mexico and getting ready to relocate full-time and took up most of my spare time. However, I am happy to report that I am now moved in (relatively speaking) to my lovely little floating home!

The journey began by packing most of the limited possessions I’ve lived with for the last year into my car. Its interesting to realize that with the exceptions of a few books, my cello, my Bose headphones, and a couple of good bottles of red wine, I really didn’t find myself missing anything I had in storage. I think that probably indicates I should do another round of downsizing my possessions before moving everything into my house.

I drove a route through Utah and Idaho to reach home and the drive was gorgeous. A good portion of it featured snow-covered mountains and rivers running alongside the highway. I was so jazzed about the surroundings all around me that I drove a little over 800 miles the second day before realizing it was probably time to stop for the night.

Mojave, UT was just a groovy small town. But let me just say Ive never seen so many BATs (Big-assed Trucks) in my life! I swear I drove through town looking at nothing but mudflaps. Definitely need to go back there sometime with Charlie and check things out. Mojave strikes me as the bastard child of Sedona, AZ and Madrid, NM.

The final stretch of the drive was along the River. I’d always wondered what things looked like east of where my house is. The answer is some phenomenally gorgeous landscape. It was late enough Saturday night and pretty enough along the river that I decided to stay in a hotel about an hour from my place and finish up in the morning.

I woke up just before sunrise Sunday morning, and made the final drive to my new home as the sun was rising over the river. I reached the front door of my house to a fanfare of Canadian geese who had followed me down the dock.

It was a good homecoming.

Daily Life

Traveling Once Again

Well, the time has finally come to head up to Portland. Tomorrow, me and obscene amount of computer equipment head out. I plan to spread the 1,400 mile drive across three days so it shouldn’t be too bad. Especially since my iPhone is loaded up with audiobooks I havent had time to get to.

The current plan is to be up north until the end of April working on the kitchen, repairing/installing drywall, and painting. I’ll return to Albuquerque the beginning of May to visit with Markus and bring the family back up with me.

Unfortunately, my cat finds painting walls fascinating and he likes to help. So he gets to stay safely tucked in New Mexico until the painting is done and I also have sonic fences installed over both doors to the outside.

Ive both excited to finally be able to live in my tiny place full time and a little bit nervous.

Theres been a lot of renovations done to my place already. However, until now I simply threw money at the problem and had other people do the work. Now that balance is shifting more toward do-it-yourself. And with his work schedule this summer I’m not sure how much I’m going to be able to enlist his help.

Expect a lot of entries this summer on things like stripping wallpaper, laying wood floors, and trying to figure out how to install a new shower. I’m just crossing my fingers and praying that I have my mother and brothers aptitude for power tools.

Daily Life

Scotch brite pads, again

Ladies, forget about sea-salt scrubs and other expensive spa treatments for your skin. Have I got the cutting edge thing for you in skin care Scotch-Brite pads!

Actually, that’s just my goofy way of introducing the story of how I came to find myself in the shower last Sunday night trying to take off the top couple of layers of my skin with a Scotch-Brite pad. Let me try to explain

The stratagems to keep me from moving into my place in Portland seem to have reached a full-court press. I first clued in to this fact when Charlies friend Ben showed up on our doorstep to visit this weekend and the first words out of his mouth were that he had a friend in Portland who would like to buy my house. I tend to be a little slow on the touchy-feely, intuitive stuff but I get the feeling that means Ben has decided itd be okay if I kept hanging out with his buddy for the time being.

It gets better, though. When I first came to crash at his house until the work on my house is complete, I set up a temporary office in his guest room. Every time someone has come to visit, I’ve ended up moving my little electronic shop to either the dining room table or the master bedroom bed.

By way of background, he is enormously house-proud and quite particular about his house, as only a male who hasn’t owned his own place until his mid-thirties can be. He and I have very different preferences when it comes to interior colors. He favors strong colors in cool hues. For example, the his bedroom is a dark burgundy. I tend to steer towards lots of earthtones and warmer blues and greens.

So, needless to say, I was surprised when he came to me a few weeks back and offered to give me the now empty Room for Wayward Boys to use for my office space and told me, with a minimal number of facial ticks, that I could paint and decorate it however I wished.

The Room for Wayward Boys, as I have affectionately dubbed it, is where a revolving progression of his male friends have stayed for various intervals of time when they’ve found themselves in need of a place to live and no funds. It is one of two remaining rooms in the house that have received nothing in the way of TLC since Charlie moved in. It still had 1970s popcorn on the ceilings and walls yellowed with years of bachelor men chain-smoking and doing god knows what else in the room.

Since I first came to crash this past May, the door to The Room has remained firmly shut at all times except when the random male of the moment was entering or leaving at some strange hour. There have been friends of his who’ve stayed in it for weeks at a time who I’ve never actually seen but, rather, merely heard due to the creak of the door sometime after midnight.

He has either tired of being thought of as the flophouse for his social circle or hes grown serious about me thinking of his place as my home, because he offered me The Room as my own personal space in his house. And I’m allowed to have complete artistic control. Now granted, this may because hes already used to having the door shut at all times to hide the disaster on the other side. I’m not sure he emotionally acknowledges that The Room is actually part of his house.

Whatever the truth may be, a weekend ago, we ended up spraying down the ceiling and scraping off the popcorn. I had been dreading the task but it ended up being quite a bit of fun. There was something quite satisfying about running a scraper across the ceiling and having the offensive popcorn drop off in large, gooey blobs. Moreover, we had the whole ceiling clean in under an hour.

As a result, I was totally unprepared for how miserable a task the painting was going to be.

He asked if I could keep the ceilings a flat, hard white so that it matched the rest of the house, and, after plastering 17-some-odd paint samples on the wall, I selected a warm Caribbean blue for the remainder of the room.

Anyway, he was attending an event this weekend and I was impatient to make some progress on painting. He had brocaded the ceiling right after we removed the popcorn, so the first order of business was to put two coats of primer over the brocading and then to paint it.

I’ve never painted a room before on my own. The closest Ive ever come is when my friend moved into a rental house that was in need of some serious fixing up. A group of friends banded together to help him paint. After assessing my relative painting skills, the group unanimously decided to put me in charge of painting the inside of all the closets. Sniff.

Aware of my status as a relative painting virgin, he verbally walked me through the basics before heading out for the day. He neglected to mention one key point, however roll directly over your head when painting a ceiling.

Now, in my defense, I was smart enough to borrow one of Charlies motorcycle bandannas and I braided my hair back so it wouldn’t drift tendrils into the paint tray. I also wore pants and a T-shirt I didn’t mind sacrificing to the decorative cause. But I didn’t really grok the whole don’t standard directly under the roller concept until I seriously splattered myself more than once. And painting tends to be messy work no matter how cleverly you may approach it.

By the end of the day, I was freckled head-to-toe in little spots of blue and white paint. I had paint flecks in my eyelashes. I had paint between my toes. I’m trying to avoid graphic detail, here just trust me when I say paint ended up everywhere. Don’t ask me how. It just did. And repeated scrubbing with soap and water just weren’t doing the trick to take the paint off. Which brings me to the Scotch-Brite pads

He returned home to find me in a steaming hot shower using a Scotch-Brite pad to scour my skin raw. To his credit, after he finished laughing his ass off, he joined me in the shower and helped me scrub the spots I couldn’t see or reach. Which, considering hes my favorite hunky Brit, was not a bad way to end the day.

After hearing from more details of my painting debacle than I would have preferred, his friend, who has worked as a professional painter, informed me he was taking over the remaining coats of paint. So while I’m typing up my saga of the Scotch-Brite pad, hes busy making my den-to-be a cheerful, even blue.

And, strangely enough, even though I keep skeptically peeking into The Room, he’s not covered head-to-toe in paint. Go fig.

Daily Life Small Homes

Tiny house Building Workshops

I just figured out what I’m giving to myself as a Christmas gift this year Ive been longingly looking at the schedule of Tiny House building and design workshops all summer. Tiny home experts drove right through Portland a few months back towing an a small home (top picture) and I wasn’t there to see them or attend their workshops, dang it.

Well, low and behold, I just discovered I’m going to be pretty close to Orlando for work when the workshops arrive there next month. I’m cashing in some air miles and shamelessly using my company’s corporate hotel rate to travel on the cheap. And, by God, I’m going to attend the two workshops.

Now, admittedly, I already have my own small home project that I’m in up to my eyeballs right now. But Ive been enamored by tiny home designs for a couple of years, now. I would love an excuse to build one of his little homes someday. Moreover, his design workshop is of quite a bit of interest to me because I’m at the point in (re)constructing my own place where I need to figure out maximize the internal use of space to best meet my needs. Even if I don’t ever build by own Tumbleweed home, they have several clever features I think I may be able to adapt for my own floating cottage.

I also think Id really enjoy meeting some other people who are passionate about small housing in person.

So, all in all, I’m pretty excited that Ive found a way to attend.