Friday, January 2, 2015

Why housesitting is fabulous :)

When I first arrived out here to my housesitting station, the owner’s were nervous and apologetic that I’d get bored out here in isolation. I tried to assure them there would be no chance of that, but Bridget (the super sweet wife) still left me the phone numbers of all her friends out here, just in case I needed some human interaction;). 

After 4 weeks, ‘bored’ was indeed the farthest thing from reality. That word really just doesn’t exist in my world :). I’m (as always) amazed with how fast time flies and in truth could have used another few months out there! ha

The cabin was a gem. It’s out in Glenwood, Washington, a town of approx 450 people, with a total of 68 kids in the entire K-12 school! There’s a long sweeping driveway off a mostly isolated country road that leads down to the timber-frame home. It’s a darling little floor plan, wood everything, a nice open loft and a giant masonry russian fireplace that keeps the whole place warm. It’s surrounded by a pine forest in all directions, except for a sliver cut through to allow a peak view of the amazing Mt. Adams.  There are a number of out-buildings, including the firewood shed that I gathered from every day (2 top-down fires a day to keep it warm), the chicken coop (housing 11 hens), and the log-cabin storage building, on top of which the two turkeys chose to sleep every night. Interesting choice :)  

Home sweet (temporary) home! 

Mt. Adams heading into Glenwood. Wowza! 

There’s no cell service, but we have wi-fi.  This has been my least favorite part... still being so in-touch with society while delighting in the seclusion. Of course it was great to have wifi, allowing me much valuable research/coordination and prep for my upcoming plans (stay tuned!!!!!) but it also allowed me access to the pitless hole that can be social media. Uggh! I actually bought and downloaded the software “Anti-Social” which allows you to parent yourself, but my actual use of it was sparing.  When I build my own cabin I’ve decided to not have internet in it. The community building of the Bloom Woods can have it, and if I need it, I have to walk there! Done deal! 

So, why was is cabin sitting so awesome?  It reminded me of all the reasons why I'm so ready to settle down!!! Here’s my top ten reasons... in no real order :) 

10. Desire to nest: I LOVE not living out of a backpack. Period. Travel is rad and will always be part of my life... but I like being ‘home’.  My first day there I unpacked every single thing, rearranged the furniture to my liking, set up my yoga/meditation zone, made a makeshift closet, an office, and moved all the lamps. Ahhh to be settled ... for a month’s worth anyways :). 
9. Home planning:  As an architect, the prospect of designing my own house is just as exciting as Christmas morning to a 5-yr old :).  It’s extremely helpful to live in other people’s homes, because of the opportunity to both approve and nit-pick those things I would want in my own place. For instance: more LIGHT! I need masses of light, especially when the sun goes down at 4:30pm.  Also, having an indoor hammock = BRILLIANT!  I’ve made an entire list :) 

Indoor hammock on Wild Pants Wednesday :) How awesome is that cow art?!?

8. ‘Being home’: I am a homebody for sure. For me, Day= activity, Night= home.  I don’t even like to drive after dark.  It’s wonderful to ‘go home’ and know I’m not leaving for days at a time.

7. Seclusion:  I loved not worrying about curtains.  Being in the city, or anywhere with neighbors, typically requires closing the curtains every night. Ewww no. I loved being in the middle of nowhere and not worrying that the deer could see my every move :). 

6. Being outside everyday:  Get wood, feed the chickens, play with Nelly, dump the compost, empty the fire ashes, get more wood, lock the chickens in, etc.   I was outside at least 4-5 times a day, which is not only wonderful but easily fulfilling a daily goal of mine: to just be outside everyday.  Contrary to what some people think, It’s quite easy for me to stay in all day. I get totally caught up in writing, reading, crafting, whatever.  BJ and PJ’s are close buddies :).

5. Love of projects:  The truly lovely family that lives here consists of the parents, their 9 and 11 year olds, and, surprise! an 8 month old baby! I had asked if there was any home projects they wanted me to work on, and they mostly (politely) dismissed the idea, but passively mentioned the pantry!  Bingo!!  My specialty :). It was a total pleasure to deep clean and organize their cabinets as my daily entertainment :).   AND, it just reminded me so much of why I want my own place: I love to fix and organize and craft and update and revamp and Pinterest EVERYTHING!!! Having my own place means I’ll be in project heaven :). 

4. Love of schedule and structure. Spontaneity is excellent for sure,  but when there are certain things I want to do everyday (meditate, exercise, stretch/yoga, go outside, eat healthy) having a routine makes it soooo much easier! Of course at times it is still hard to do even when settled, but it’s a heck of a lot easier than when on the road. The grass is always greener people!

3. Discovering audiobooks!!!  I found Wayne Dyer’s “Secrets of Manifesting” audiobook there, and decided to listen while driving down to town. It’s just short of an hour to Hood River, and 2 to Portland.  Radio gets annoying... Audiobooks are not!!!!! This is an amazing discovery for me! Any you recommend? Or old ones you want to get rid of??? Send me, send me please!!!! 

And the top #2 most awesome reasons housesitting is awesome?? These two are so great they get to have their own blogs: 

Before saying adieu to this blog though, I just want to point out how it was I got to even do a month of most-fabulous cabin-sitting.   I put out some feelers :). This is usually my stilo when I'm figuring out what's next. I sent a random email to people I knew around this area, asking about RV parks; Jay wrote back that he didn’t know about anything RV, but was I interested in this?! YES!

People often ask me how I manage to have so many awesome experiences, and it pretty much boils down to putting myself out there. I talk to strangers. I join random groups. I test the waters. I go places alone with a curious attitude. I am OPEN! That was my word for 2014 and I’m using it again for 2015 because it’s been so great for me :).  You never know what might come up or who you might meet that becomes a significant part of your life if you keep your eyes, heart and options open. In fact, the only reason I know Jay, is because I was introduced to him by someone I met selling my trailer on Craigslist!  (Which is also where I met the local commissioner buying some snowshoes!)  And I now have an architecture gig because I met their neighbors! And I met the shop teacher at the gym and will commission some projects to their students! And I randomly ran into another Life Coach who I’m excited to see what we might come up with!!! 

Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb... that’s exactly where the fruit is :) 

Going "Food-is-my-Medicine"

(this blog is self-sufficient, but can be read as part 2 of the housesitting blog.  Here's part 1 and part 3)

Noooo animal products!!! Yippee!! I suppose you could call me a vegan, but you know, i really don’t enjoy the label of this.  It’s too loaded, and it seems to automatically create an idea in some people’s heads. Plus I’m learning there are lots of ‘vegan‘ products that still really aren’t that great for you. Really, what I am is just someone eating what feels GREAT in my body, right in my mind, and happy in my heart and belly!!! I’ve become a 'food-is-my-medicine’ eater :).  But for ease of this conversation, we’ll just say I’ve gone vegan :). 

That happened unintentionally, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve been a vegetarian for 3+ months now, although I have been toying with it for years. The no-meat seed was planted during my worldwide travels where many places vegetarianism was the norm, and it was especially highlighted by my I-want-to-try-snake experience in Vietnam (but couldn’t- read here!) ;). After that, I wussed out on going full bore, finding that for convenience I would still eat meat but rarely bought it. 

Interestingly enough, I think I’m a natural born vegetarian. My whole life I’ve had a hard time eating food that actually looked like an animal (hence the snake story). I can clearly identify that our culture is good at disassociating where our food actually comes from before it lands on our plates.  I once returned a lobster at a fancy restaurant that came in it’s shell, too grossed out to peel it (but of course devoured it when the waiter brought it back just as a chunk of meat).  For as long as I can remember, the only way i could eat chicken was in breast form... if it was a drumstick I got grossed out by the ability to see veins and tendons and such, and I wouldn’t touch a wing with a pole.  And the most telling contradiction? Pigs! Them being my favorite animal, I thought full-pork roasts were horrid, yet I’d eat bacon! Talk about double standard! 

Obviously there was something off there.  SO then, something super interesting happened.  I was happily going along with my vegetarianism, but was still having issues with my tummy (that's going on years now).  I decided to totally detox and see what was up, even went to a food allergy specialist. I ate nothing but veggies, nuts and seeds for over two weeks... and the only times I had issues I had eaten milk or eggs! Then I saw the food specialist and he informed me that chicken eggs are one of the top 8 allergenic foods??? Did you know that?? Whoa!!! 

That makes sooooo much sense!! In my flirting w/ vegetarianism over the years, I’ve devoured eggs, utilizing them as my main source of protein (a whole nother issue up for debate).  But here’s the most interesting part:  More and more recently, I was having to put up a mental block in order to eat eggs.  I’d starting thinking about the fact that this is a fetus, and getting grossed out!  I’d think about that little white connection piece as the umbilical cord and visualize a sweet little baby chick!  So, in order to bypass that thought, I'd started buying the cartons of egg beaters instead!   Now how ridiculous is that?? More separation from where our food actually comes from!!!  

SOOO, when the doc said I should give up eggs for a test, I was THRILLED at the prospect, the excuse, the opportunity!!! I was already without milk, and figured I might as well go vegan... .and it’s been fabulous!!!! Plus no refined sugar and no white grains means= I’m superrrr skinny!  Bonus side effect! I was at 174lbs at my highest in September (after the summer of gluttony), and now I’m right around 154! Yay! 

For me going “plant-based and whole” was a combo of multiple things: 

1) Learning more and more about the connections between our diet and our diseases (watch Forks over Knives and Hungry for Change-- life changing documentaries!). Finally listening to the philosophy that keeps popping into my life: that food is our medicine and almost everything that ails us can be fixed by our diet and exercise.   
2) Making a stand against animal cruelty in factory farms, as well as believing we take on bits of what that animal felt, the chemicals they are fed, and the caged life they led.  If I was ever to eat meat again (which i don't plan to), it would have to be humanely-raised (and that personally verified).
3) I’m tired of my stomach hurting. I don't want chemicals in my body anymore, and I’ve been feeling sooo much better since going this route! I was talking to a neighbor who is a big agriculture guy. He told me a horror story, that back before they switched to organic it was the norm to put harsh chemicals on the crops. He said a cow accidentally licked the pesticides they put on the crops one time, and it dropped over dead in a few minutes!! Ackkkk!!! No thanks! 
4) It’s DELICIOUS!  There are sooo many great recipes online (another reason I couldn’t turn off the wifi).  Here's some of my favs: Spinach Soup, roasted califlower, and zucchini pasta with avocado-cucumber sauce! YUM!  
5.) Eating fresh produce is like a game for me (and i love games): What can last the longest? Anything going bad soon? What can I make from these last few things? What can I make extra of and freeze for to-go lunches? How can I not waste one thing :)??! 
6.)  Your tastebuds change.  I made a sweet pumpkin recipe for christmas that called for maple syrup AND medjool dates.  I simply eliminated the syrup and it was still delicious!! They say it takes 3 weeks to break a habit. I am PUMPED to feel like I've passed the hump of my usually insatiable sweet teeth :).
7.) Playing with spices and foods I’d never heard about or knew what to do with. This was another bonus of housesitting... they had all sorts of spices to play with :). I even started getting experimental, adding this or that and playing with ingredients. That is sooooo satisfying for someone who is just getting their legs in the kitchen! Fun! 
8.) I went through FIVE gallon size canisters of compost in the 4 weeks I was cabin-sitting. That feels great: Less garbage, more fertilizer :)
9.) It can seem more expensive, especially going organic as well, but I’ve tracked my spending just to see. I spent $289 on groceries in December, which included a lot of staples like oils and spices and such. For one person, that’s about $10/day. Not too bad! I’d much rather spend more on good food than thousands on doctors and disease and prescription drugs! 

We didn't cook in our house growing up, and I've nearly always felt incompetent in the kitchen.  Food came from a box and was ready in 5 minutes or less. Just cooking in general seemed overwhelming through most of my 20's. But just like anything, it's about practice and confidence!! The more I get in there, the more i enjoy it and feel more comfy!! In the last few years, I've learned a lot about nutrition, and have been exposed to plant-based eating at all the ashrams I've stayed at.  THIS was the trick for me: exposure. The simplicity and lip-smacking goodness of vegetables was a revelation!!  

My favorite added bonus of eating well? I feel like my physical body is on it’s way to catching up with my super thriving mental body :).  Yes!  Every single time I've settled down for a bit, I've started eating well. And then every time I've gone back to traveling, it's back to bad habits. It's no wonder I'm craving some structure! I'm so ready to have full-body synchronicity :).  

In conclusion,  I am not a diehard advocate, and feel no desire to condemn meat-eaters. I'm far from an expert and am not immune to a relapse to junk (although will fight it tooth and nail).  I'm simply a promoter of listening to your body, and mine was talking to me!!  I think the root of so many of our bad eating habits comes from lack of knowledge and experience… at least mine did! If you, like me, have felt like you can’t control your cravings and what you put in your mouth, be weary of the addictive ingredients of processed foods!!  

Here's a "Plant-strong" resource that seems excellent :) 

A lil' food humor for you. I do love mushrooms :) 

(Click here to go to part 3 of the housesitting blog:  "Lessons learned from a puppy Dog")

Lessons Learned from a Puppy Dog!!

(this blog is self-sufficient, but can be read as part 3 of the housesitting blog.  Here's part 1 and part 2)

When I was just about six, my family stopped for a ho-hum nothing-special trip into an eclectic sell-all store called Big Bird’s. I went off exploring with my pocket of savings (we were taught confidence very young), and when my family reconvened, I was giddily explaining that my purchase was only $5; I was holding a dog! Yup, a live dog! hahah!! I can just imagine my chubby cheeks and giant grin;  I named him Spot.  :).

I wish I could say I remember Spot.. but I don’t, nor making such a brazen purchase. Too bad, because i'd enjoy this boldly brilliant memory!  That story comes straight from my mom’s mouth, and truthfully I’m a bit surprised to hear that we did bring him home.  He lasted almost a year she says, until I came home from school one day and he was gone, given to a fellow parishioner (who tried to give him back a week later!).  No one in my family is a dog person ;) 

As long as I can remember, I feel like I’ve been saying, “I can’t wait to get a dog one day.”  But...not in college.. no way. Then after college, I was so busy. Then I was working so much, and the last three years of course I was traveling so much... I couldn’t have a dog. 

I’d began to debate if I really AM a dog person or not. Did I just get in the pattern of saying I want one? Let me actually think about this... I mean, surely I like the idea, but I’ve never actually had one and the responsibilities that come with it! (sorry Spot, I can’t count you if I can’t even remember you. No offense ;). Was being a dog-lover just something I’ve wanted to be? Thought I’d be? Got used to saying? There have been plenty of friend’s dogs I’ve liked... but also plenty I thought were just a plain nuisance. All those times people had to decline invitations, because they had to take care of the dog/couldn’t leave the dog/ didn’t have anyone to watch the dog.... I was far from jealous of that! Money on vets, food, dog hair, dog poo... hmmm?? 

What if I get a dog and I’m really not so into it??!?!  How do you know for sure??! 

AHHH, in comes housesitting-dogsitting!!!  This has been SUCHHHH an amazing chance to put that question to the real test! The four weeks I spent with Nelly was a complete and total education for me (as everything always is), and a firm confirmation: YES, I do want a dog (eventually)!!! 

Let me tell you about Nelly :). Sweet sweet crazy Nelly! She’s a yellow lab, 2 years old. In dog speak, that means she is a GIANT ball of chaotic energy!! That’s an amusing correlation between us; most people see me as a giant ball of chaotic energy. It’s all coming together now, that look of, “How are you so hyper?” Ha ;)

Spazo-fun :) 

She is suchhhhhh a sweetheart. She’s been sleeping up on the bed with me since night #2, every evening getting closer and closer. At the end, she was usually half up on me! As soon as I moved an inch in the morning she’d come in for snuggles ;). She was there with me just about everywhere I moved, at the toilet, and most certainly there staring me down every time I ate!  When I left she jumped up and wimpered at the door, and without fail when I’d pull in the drive her head would pop up in the window :).   I’d come to both love and slightly loath opening the door when I’d been gone a while it was a jumping, licking, loving, spasmaticly wonderful welcome :).  Ahhhh, I think I understand why they call it ‘puppy love’ now :).  I also understand why people have dog hair everywhere. It’s nearly impossible to do so much laundry, and who has time to lint roll?! ;) 

Snuggle buddies :) 

Meditating w/ Nelly= laundry day :) 

Aside from being my sidekick, she’s also an amazing guard dog. She really did make it feel safe out there in the country.  Early on, we had a good bit of snow which showed some random car tracks down our long, not-a-chance-accidental driveway.  No note, no package... umm yeah, that was a bit odd. But, since Nelly perks up and protects at every sounds and movement that only she can notice, I didn’t give it much concern. She chased a fox (or a cat maybe) away from the chickens once and although somewhat terrorizes the turkeys, I saw one of them following her around the other day so I think they have an understanding :). She’s hilariously obsesso with the frisbee: she runs 4x as far as she needs to, and then insists on tug-o-war for like 5 minutes before giving it back to me ;).   I find myself laughing so much with her. She’s just too cute! 

She’s my little buddy, and I also like that she she motivates me.  When it’s super cold or I’m not feeling well, it’s easy to forgo the playtime... but then she gives those puppy dog eyes and wimpers at the door, it’s like okkkaaayyyy, okay, lets go. Put on the boots and the rain jacket and let’s go! :). 

The few times I’d yelled at her in the first 3 weeks, I’d instantly seen those puppy eyes, felt bad and realized she wasn’t really doing anything wrong or that she knew to be bad, in fact I’d even set her up for failure but putting food in her reach or allowing her to jump on me most of the time (but not wanting her to in that outfit).   I started paying attention to how often I said ‘No’ to Nelly... and it was too often! As a follower of Osho,  it’s interesting to see how easy that word comes out of my mouth. (He emphasizes that the word ‘no’ need not be used very often, if at all. He believes mostly it’s said to conform to a societal rule or trying to look like a perfect parent/partner, but it's rarely necessary)., this is parenting practice for sure!! A dog is an absolute stepping stone to children (and I am sooo not ready for that yet)!  I’ve always winced a little bit when people called themselves “mom” or “dad” when referring to their animal. But I get it now...  the comparison is real! And sooooo intriguing to me. Props for another example of how experiencing the other side makes all the difference :). 

Then, I made the extremely asinine choice to take her on a run. An organized, city streets Christmas run in Portland (A hash for those of you in the know). I thought, ‘She loves to run, what a great Idea’.  MISTAKE!!! Well not, because gosh I learned a lot, but it was NOT a fun class!!! With only a boat strap for a leash, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that Nelly, run-full-sprint-4x-the-distance-to-fetch-a-frisbee Nelly, would be pulling me.  

The problem was, i WAS surprised. I didn’t even ponder that she wouldn’t just run next to me. Doh! That's evidence of no experience with dogs right there. She was draggggging me. I tried to sprint along with her the first few minutes. I tried to keep her back by stopping and walking. I tried pleading begging and looking in her eyes to convey my pain. And eventually, I just resorted to jerking her back, thinking the unpleasantry of that would stop her, but really it just resulted in me feeling horrible, and getting more cranky by the minute.

Dogs, or at least this young one, don’t have the capacity for reason. For the next 60+ minutes of that run I jerked her back until I was in tears and just wanting to find the end of the run (it was supposed to be a scavenger hunt run). I didn’t want to be jerking her. I wanted her to understand how much easier and pleasant it would be for both of us if we could just run together. I actually even had that eye to eye conversation with her a few times out of desperation. She didn’t listen ;).  A few other runner’s took her for a bit, only to return her a few mins later. Towards the end, one guy wrapped the leash around her hind legs to help restrain her... it helped but she still powered on. By the end not only were my eyes puffy, my arms tired, and my hands raw from the strap wrap, but my feet were sore and tender from digging into the pavement so hard trying to keep some leverage.  That, plus full-on mental exhaustion.

It’s my pattern to tirelessly try to explain and communicate my way thru things. I write, i call, i talk talk talk, and I think think think...sometimes in that order ;). Hence my inability to write a short blog ;). Either I get my point across or we need to communication until I understand yours. But this scenario? Hellllooooooo, no conversation to be had: she’s a dog :). She’s just doing her thing and I’m pissed off about it. 

So then we were finally home and I was wanting to still be angry with Nelly and she’s just happy-go-lucky like nothing’s wrong. WTF... is wrong with me!?!  It’s like I’m wanting her to apologize... when clearly, we know that’s not going to happen. 

Did she actually do something wrong?? Or is it becoming quite clear that she was just being her wonderful self and I’m the one with the problem? Whoa, deep

Early on, I’d already learned there was no explaining to Nelly how we’d be better off if she would just give me a few seconds to change my black pants before she attacked me, or if she would stay on the bedspread and not touch the sheets while I’m trying to get in. Or if she would please let me clean her paws with some cooperation! ( Of course i realize a dog can be trained, but that's besides the point here, and out of our 4 week timeframe).  There’s no changing that she sheds and drools and licks her own butt (which so grosses me out).  But these things are menial, and her endearing qualities were easily able to average out above all the imperfectly perfect things about her that I just simply wasn’t used to.  

And then the horrid run,  which felt like I’d been abused. Physically, mentally... and she didnt even care! haha! I'm being facetious here, but the lesson was real: 

STOP waiting for an apology that isn’t coming, that isn’t necessary, and is really nothing more than an illusion in my head. The deed is done. She was being her wonderful, exciting, energetic, curious self. For all I know she'd never been on a leash before! I can stay cranky or move on. 

All of this correlates to my human relationships. I realized how much emphasis I’ve put on apologies over the years.  Have you read “The Five Languages of Apology”?? (it’s fantasitic, same author as “Five Love Language”... I recommend both for relationship peacemaking!).  I learned a lot from that book, and as I think back, I’ve waited for apologies that (in this same manner) were really groundless, ego-driven and self-serving. No one (almost) hurts you on purpose. There are definitely times for apologies, and authentic ones will stay important to me, but obviously I’ve got some work to do with blame and forgiveness considering here I was withholding it from a dog ;). 

So I forgave her, just like that, and we were besties again :). YAY! 

Nelly and I... it really was like the formation of any relationship!  It’s honeymoon in the beginning, you‘re learning each other’s quirks, annoying things are cute, but you start to really care for each other.  You have your first little tift and get through it and it’s so exciting! The selfishness starts to subside! Early on there were a number of times I was down in town and time got away from me. The easiest thing would have been to just couch-crash down there (it’s an hour drive), accept the dinner invite, finish my errands or what-not.... but I had to suck it up and go back up. The first few times it was it felt like a thorn in my side... and then, every day as we spent more time together I felt like I actually cared more.. we were bonding, we were buds, and I didn’t want her to be there all alone and getting hungry! Awwww,  I was starting to love Nelly!!!   

Dogs are the epitome of 'unconditional love'.  Thanks Nelly :) 
So, the question was: I am a dog-person?  Yes! Confirmed! It was a wonderfully brief but impactful experience. My long-time excuses were legit, and still are. I'm a bit too busy, too unsettled, and too selfish for a dog still... those responsibilities are real!!! And as much as I was adoring Nelly, I wouldn’t want such a loyal side-kick for life.  It's too much attachment for me. When I really had a lot to do and she just followed me around with those sad eyes alllll day, it was like ‘STOP already, you’re making me feel guilty!'  I like to be wanted, but not needed. She actually reminded me of one particularly fabulous (yet extraordinarily complicated) ex-boyfriend of mine who treated me like a princess, but in the end smothered me and I couldn’t stay with him.  It’s nice to be doted on, but at least in my case it can be overwhelming. Solitude is my fountainhead of energy/ideas/peace everything really.  With huge plans on the horizon,  I find myself avoiding relationships for that exact scenario: when you start to care for someone, you automatically and happily give up some autonomy... but this girl is on a mission and I don’t want to share my invaluable time just yet :).

In the same way I’ve always said I am a dog person, I’ve equally as much said I wasn’t  a cat person.  Ahhh, the cat, I have grown so much respect for the cat! So wonderfully independent, so smart. She has her own life, she comes for what she wants, she gives when she’s needed. I’ve had boyfriends with love like a cat’s... always doing their own thing. At those points in my life my ego was bruised and I wondered how they could be 'so insensitive to my feelings.'  My then inclination was like a puppies: I just wanted to be together every second! But as I mature, I actually see a lot more merit in the cat-type love. Ahhh how I love getting older and wiser :). Relationship-wise, the cat-dog mix sounds wonderful: Excitement and snuggles and cheesy stuff along with maturity and self-sufficiency. Balance is always the key :).

In conclusion, after my wonderful foray into being a dog-owner, I see that I do want a dog and maybe even a cat! I can hardly believe I’m saying that!  Oh oh oh, I'm making plans to get settled in... AND IT'S SO EXCITINGGGG!! 

...and of course there's still plans for one of these adorable little things!!!!