Determining wants and needs through my tiny house/living fascination

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If this house looks familiar, that’s because it belonged to Dee Williams!   Photo taken by Tammy Strobel.  Attribution:  By Tammy – Weekend with Dee, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11211685

 

I’ve been obsessed with the idea of living simply and living in a tiny house for many years now, way before it became trendy. Thinking about living in a tiny home helps me to stop myself from buying things I “want” but don’t necessarily need. Kind of like when I was getting ready to move cross country.  The way I made decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of was to ask myself, “was there room for both this thing and my animals in the car?”  The animals were definitely going – that was not even a question.  It was more a question of whether there was room for this additional thing.

So now I sit and think to myself – is this object I’m perusing, be it a second-hand shirt or pillowcase, or whatever, something that I would definitely want to move into a tiny house when I finally achieve that dream?  Or when I move into a small bachelor-type apartment? If I can’t picture it, I don’t buy it.  Do I already have something at home that can fill the “need” it would otherwise cover?  Usually, the answer is yes.

When I first got out of law school, I should have done what I advise all students to do now.  When you get out of school, don’t live any differently.  Continue to live like a student while you pay off your debts and get started with your life.  Just because you’re no longer in school doesn’t mean your home needs to look like it just walked off the pages of Dwell magazine.

So these days, I live frugally.  Like a student.  I have a roommate and it’s a one bedroom apartment, so my bed is in the living room and I’m totally fine with that.  Every morning when I wake up, I look at the Sandia Mountains to the east of Albuquerque.  It’s a beautiful view, especially when the clouds are so low they obscure the tops of the peaks. I have a large picture window that lets in lots of light.

Speaking of beds, mine is on a platform of milk crates. Guess what?  It’s pretty supportive on my back.  It’s also a good way of creating some built-in storage in a very inexpensive way.  My mattress cost me all of $129 from Walmart, and I bought it online so didn’t have to deal with transporting it in my small car.  It came in a box and once it was opened, my roommate rolled it open, and voila, in an hour or so, it was ready to go up on top of said milk crates.  And instead of buying heavy, hard to move bookcases, I have, guess what?  Milk crates!  When you have to move, you just turn them, your stuff is in them, and voila, no need to get lots of extra boxes to pack your stuff in, because it’s already packed!

You  know those plastic white bin type of drawers you can get at Walmart or Target? I bought those to organize my stuff in the fifth wheel I owned in Utah.  Still got ’em.  The old me of several years ago would have gotten rid of them as soon as I could afford a nice “dresser.”  But you know what?  It’s hard to move heavy furniture on your own and when you have a small hatchback type car.  Plus, these white drawers can be configured in a multitude of ways.  I can see everything I have in them.  When they’re too full of crap, it’s time to downsize.  Looking at them now, I see that yes,  it’s time for me to get rid of stuff again.  You really do only wear 20% of your stuff, 80% of the time.

I’ve been thinking of what I would want in a tiny house.  I honestly don’t need much, aside from room for me and my animals. I think about whether I would want a flush toilet or a composting toilet.  To not have to deal with a black tank would be awesome, so I’d likely go with the composting toilet. I’d like to do solar and have as  much of my energy needs filled off the grid.

Would I want my tiny house to be on wheels?  I sometimes think so, but then realize a shed that could be insulated, etc., might be a more economical way to go.  Just have to find a place to put it (and oh yeah, be able to afford that place/land.)  So I have begun to save.  It’s a small amount right now, but that online savings account is named “Tiny Home.”

You might wonder how all of my animals will fit into a tiny home.  If my roommate and I go our separate ways, Morgan will likely stay with him.  She does very well with training – her brain likes to be challenged, and she helps him in a great therapy-type way.  He has PTSD and a few other problems from having been in the army and Iraq.  Also, since Snuggles is so possessive/obsessive of me, he has become “her human.”  (It is a trait of weiner-dogs to be super possessive.)  Morgan adores him to the moon!   Yes, I’m her momma and the one who feeds her, but he’s the one who takes her on lots of walks, and snuggles with her and plays with her in the yard during the day when I’m at work.  When he is feeling down, she stays close to him.  Every time she hugs him, I see the bond that has formed between them.  It makes my heart feel good.

So in closing, if you started reading my blog because of my tiny house posts, never fear, I’m still very interested in them!  I still watch tons of YouTube videos about simple living and tiny houses.  Yes, I used to live in an RV and that one didn’t work out for me, but I feel like a tiny home is different and can be made much stronger and much better insulated than that fifth wheel was!  I haven’t given up on the tiny living dream, so don’t give up on me!

And yes, in case you’re wondering, I don’t like that they’ve become trendy and that the prices have increased so drastically over the past few years.  I think they can still be built economically, and I’m willing to put in the elbow grease on mine, if someone is willing to help me figure out what the hell I’m doing!

Are you interested in living more minimally?  In a tiny home?  Or an RV?  Let me know what you think, what you would prioritize, if you’d want it to be on wheels, etc., in a comment below!  And if you’ve liked the post but prefer not to comment, please hit that like button or share it! 

And as always, thank you for reading!

 

Moments of Beauty

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I love this photo of Morgan because she looks like she is smiling.  Luckily, I get to see her do this every day.  As humans, we should strive to smile more and live in the moment like her.

 

One thing I’ve known about in the past but which has really hit home as I pursue the program in humane education is that people react much better to something positive, or something beautiful, something small and simple that they can relate to, rather than an abstract whole world problem, something they have trouble picturing.

So below are my ideas of what are truly moments of beauty:

  1. Reading a facebook post of a friend who has recently become a mom via adoption, after years of trying to become pregnant.  She broke down in tears when in a store with her child strapped to her chest, seeing all the Christmas decorations and realizing that this year, she wouldn’t face the holidays with sadness in her heart, but with a feeling of fullness and pure joy.
  2. The turning of the leaves from green to gold and bright red and orange.  Realizing that New England doesn’t have a monopoly on beautiful fall foliage, after all.
  3. The amazement you feel at seeing one or two wild sunflowers still finding the courage to grow, weeks after the rest have died.
  4. The warmth of the sun on your face while you lie on your back and look up through the trees at the blue sky above you.
  5. The sound of children playing together at a party in the park, cheering for one little girl who *almost* makes that one perfect hit to the piñata that will grant all of them a good deal of candy.
  6. Seeing your dog literally smiling because she has found a home with people who really love her.
  7. Writing to further my dreams and listening to one of The Herd (Snuggles, to be exact), barking while he’s deep into a dream, nestled at my feet.
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My phone’s camera doesn’t do the redness of the leaves justice.  It was amazing!

 

What are some moments of beauty that you’ve recently observed or felt in your life?  Please feel free to share them in the comments.  And if you’ve liked this post, or know someone who might benefit from reading it, please hit “Like” and then share it!

And as always, thank you for reading.

Another Year

trees with path.jpgYesterday was my birthday.  My 45th, to be exact.  In her card, my mom reminded me that it’s only another 5 years until I hit the big 5-0.  Thanks, Mom.  Just what I wanted to hear.  My sister (who is 47) and I have made a pact to not really talk about the numbers anymore at this stage of our lives.  Too depressing.  We try to not think about the fact that our two older brothers are 56 and 57 this year. And our baby brother is 43.

At the risk of sounding like a walking cliche, I really don’t feel my age.  Maybe it’s because I never had kids and therefore didn’t deal with that kind of stress and exhaustion.  (I know having a family is not all bad.  It just wasn’t for me.)  Maybe it’s because I still have vivid memories of my teenage years, my twenties (when I was an idiot like so many of us were), and of course, my thirties, when I really started to wake up and see who I was as a person.  When I started listening to my heart and made big, life-changing decisions.

The boyfriend and I talked the other night and I mentioned how, presently, my outlook on life is to not try to stress out so much over things like overpaying for something by $5-6, because really, it’s not going to matter a year from now.  And I’m certainly not taking my money to the grave with me when I die.  True, I try to be smart about financial decisions, but I don’t let one mistake ruin my day, or try not to, anyway.   I told him, people make decisions based on the information they have available to them at the time, so don’t beat yourself up over what hindsight presently shows you about the past.  Best to just learn from it and move on.

Recently, some people whose opinion I really value have told me that what they admire about me is my ability to express myself and be honest about things. (Hope I’m paraphrasing accurately, Pauline and Josh.)  They’re from two very different parts of my life, yet they see something in common.  So here’s the honest truth about what’s on my mind these days.

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Am I happy with my life?  Yes, and no. Do I wonder if I made the right decision two years ago to just leave everything and everyone I was familiar with to move thousands of miles away? Yes, quite often.  Do I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the past two years in understanding more of what my core values are? A resounding yes. Do I wish I made more money?  Yes! (I’m beginning to think there is some truth to the research that says once you make about $50-55K, any increases over that don’t increase your level of happiness as much as they might have done when increasing your income from say $25K-30K and then to 35K.)

Am I enjoying the academic program I’m taking part in with the Institute for Humane Education?  Yes, because it’s making me think critically about issues that are important to me.  It’s making me look inward and helping me to figure out what direction to take my life in from here.

Notice I said, “what direction to take my life in.”  I am not content to let life happen to me.  It’s a somewhat uncomfortable place to be in, trying to figure out that direction, and knowing that I may never get it right, but that the real value is in the interim, that space in time and location when I’m trying to figure it all out.

Where do I want to be?  Where do I want to end up?  In the mountains or near the coast?  Do I miss being able to educate others and inspire them to expand on their learning or research skills? Do I miss the change of seasons?  Do I like the warmer winters?  Do I miss seeing big bodies of water? YES! Am I grateful for having met so many new people over the past two years? YES!  Do I still think about doing the nomadic thing at one point in my life? Yes! Do I want a tiny house or the stability of being in one place and being able to create beauty there through my words and a garden? Yes!

Do I want to spend more of my days writing? YESSS!!!!  Do I think eventually I can do that?  Yes, I WILL make it happen.  But how? Do I try to find work through the content mills or do I start pitching ideas to editors or just sit down and force that book or books out of me that I’ve been trying to get out of my head and onto paper?

Lots of contradictions and questions to sort out, to be sure.  And I may never get it all truly sorted out.  Accepting that thought as a possibility is difficult.  I may never do so.

Outside, the sky is gray today (very unlike yesterday, when I took the pictures you see in this post, which are from the Bosque.)   I realize I like both types of days, which makes me wonder, maybe parts of me still want to be in the Pacific Northwest (or does it mean I miss the change of seasons, and in effect, my family, or the Northeast?)  So many questions to sort out.

This post has been much longer than normal, so if you have read this far, I appreciate it.  I truly do appreciate all the comments that you leave me here on this blog, and on my facebook pages when I post them.  I learn from each and every one of them. And if I see someone hit the “like” button, I feel grateful for having touched that person in some way. I write for myself, and to help create a community.

Thanks for joining me on this journey. And as always, thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

Writer’s Frustration

 

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photo by congerdesign, via pixabay.com

Some days the words just flow onto the page.  Other times, you sit there and want to beat the crap out of that blinking cursor. Why is it that you can have so many awesome ideas in your head and then when you try to get them out onto paper, they just come out sounding, so – what’s the word I’m looking for? Bad? Crappy? Awful? Cringe-worthy??  Making you pissed off that you even set the alarm an hour earlier, thinking you could get up and actually get something done?

 

On those days, do you turn to mindless activities like surfing the web, scrolling through your facebook or instagram feed, or other such time wasters?  (Maybe I should just delete the Candy Crush app on my phone now before it gets any worse.  Yes, I know I’m a few years late to that game.  Never said I was fashionable.)

On those days, I’m torn between wanting to read something like Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, and my latest fiction obsession, The Girl on the  Train.  Anne’s book appears to speak directly to me – she gets it, the frustrations, the self-doubt, the condemnation of one’s own mind.  And she even turns those thoughts into humor.

My fiction obsession – I read it for the entertainment, but also to study the writer’s technique.  And I wonder, did they know what direction their story was going in when they started writing it? Or did they just let the words flow onto the page as they flitted in and out of their mind, hoping against hope that at one point, it all might make some coherent sense? Because that’s what my writing is like right now.  A bunch of jumbled thoughts.  Some thoughts are of fictional content, others just musings of a distracted mind …. hey, look, SQUIRREL!??

One of my favorite authors is John Connolly.   When I first started reading his work, many years ago, I believe it was because he usually sets his stories in the northeast.  Maine, in particular.  A state located so close to Massachusetts but so different in every way.  John’s writing is quite dark but also spell-binding.  I don’t want to read about all the horrible things that can happen to the characters in his books, but I also can’t tear myself away sometimes.  His Charlie Parker novels have spanned the years, and I wonder, “did he know all of this was going to happen to Charlie when he first started out?  Did he storyboard or mindmap his ideas? HOW does he do it?”

For those of you out there who like to write, what helps you on the days where you’re just not feeling it?  Where everything you write down makes you want to just give up and remember to not quit your day job?  Do you work with writing prompts?  Pull out your journal and let the words flow via your pen and not the computer?

A good friend of mine said to me that writing can be like running.  Some days you just have really shitty runs but you persevere and push through them because you know that, not long from now, you’ll have that one run where you feel euphoric like that’s what it is all about, where you could just keep running and running and running. (No, not like Forrest Gump.)   This friend should know – she trained for a marathon with me, and God, did I feel sorry for her having to put up with me on many of those days.  There were some days that if I had been her, I would have said “Screw you!” and just run on without me.

But she stuck with me. As I hope many of you out there will stick with me. Thanks for reading my drivel today. And enjoy the earlier than normal morning sunshine, if you’re already up, like me.

As always, thanks for reading. Please share this post if you think there’s someone out there who can commiserate or benefit from reading it.  And please drop me a line if you have a suggestion or comment!

 

You only see the ugly up close. Or do you?

IMG_20170929_132853.jpgYou only see the ugly up close. Or do you? 

Makeup.  It hides a lot.  It makes things look prettier than they are.  it hides flaws.  The too-large pores or the blackheads, pooled areas of trapped dirt in the skin.  The zits, sometimes white on top and sometimes so pink and red it’s painful to just look at them. Makeup hides the truth while creating this image of perfection.  

You might have a crush on someone at work.  You fantasize about what your life might be like with them.  And in your daydreams, they never disappoint.  Of course not.  Because it’s all in your mind. It’s a world you create to get yourself away from this world you now find yourself in. If you started dating them in real life, you might see that they have flaws just like yourself.  Maybe they forget to shower some days or leave the toilet seat up, or leave too many dirty dishes in the sink.  Maybe they take too long in the bathroom every morning, leaving you with cold, or, at best, lukewarm water when it comes time for you to take a shower.  

A novel that you just can’t put down.  Every line, every word, seems so perfectly chosen. You wonder how these words could have come out of the author’s mind.  Is he or she a genius, that much better and smarter than you, who could never come up with something so clever? It looks so “perfect.”  Of course it does.  It’s been edited over and over, possibly over the course of several months or even years.  

What you don’t see is the ugly behind it.  The hours of frustration the author spent staring at a blank computer screen, the blinking cursor taunting them over and over with every second that ticked by and the page not coming any closer to being filled up. And before the advent of computers (shock, gasp! was there such a time?) the mounds of rolled up paper thrown into or around a wastebasket, thrown in a moment of sheer dramatic agony of the author, convinced that they couldn’t form a single thought in a coherent manner.  

Ever read through a company’s annual report or documents sent to their shareholders about how the company is doing?  Be honest.  From beginning to end? Of course not.  If you’re not one of the document’s drafters or one of the company’s lawyers, or a student reading through it for a class assignment (yep, that was me), then you would likely fall asleep by page 3. The document looks nice and pretty from afar.  Perfectly formatted paragraphs and logos and strategically placed phrases in italics, or perhaps other various uses of formatting techniques such as bold and larger fonts, hiding the ugly truth that a company is going down the tubes.  

But what if you only wanted to see the beauty up close?  Is that possible?  

Yes.  

On a run, you see wild sunflowers up ahead.  From far away, they’re like a sea of yellow and black swaying gracefully in the breeze.  As you get closer, their individual shapes begin to emerge, and some beckon to you as would a grandmother to a child.  You raise your hand out to give them a very slight touch with your fingertips.  They look as if they are smiling in return. You whisper “thank you” to them as you run by and can’t help having a smile crawl over your face as a result.  A runner then passes you in the other direction, and the smile is contagious.  

The feel of a lover’s kiss for the first time after a long period of separation and anticipation.  

The feel of a cat’s paw on your face, urging you to wake up in the morning.  

The first sip of a hot cup of coffee on a brisk morning, sitting outside your tent, gazing at the mountains in the distance. 

The tentative steps forward of an animal that was formerly abused, now daring to feel a human touch that doesn’t cause pain. Your falling asleep while sitting near them, in companionship, waking up to see them next to you, looking at you with what appears to be hope in their eyes.  Hope that you will now become their family, their protector.  Their love.  Their life. And they will become yours.  

Seeing the ugly or the beauty up close is a choice.  A choice only you can make. I choose beauty.  To choose otherwise just isn’t possible.  For me.   

Which do you choose?  

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 As always, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy these photos, shot at Elk Island National Park, just north of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 

If you have liked this post and would like to read more like it, please hit the like button below or drop me a line, or even just share it with someone who you feel would also enjoy it.  I’ve been starting to write more and I’m definitely feeling the creativity expand within me.

 

 

 

 

Reconnecting to Nature: Take (another) field trip

IMG_20171001_145040.jpgToward the end of last month, I took a trip up to Edmonton, Alberta, where I spent some time with my now boyfriend! (Yes, it finally happened.  I met someone and am happy in that part of my life.)  The area around there reminds me of parts of western Massachusetts as well as upstate NY.

One day, he had to work, so I decided to take another field trip for my Environmental Ethics class.  Being so much further north, the leaves were starting to turn already and there was a definite nip in the air. Only the end of September, the air felt as cold as I remember it used to feel in November while growing up in central NY.  I guess that’s the difference a few hundred miles of latitude will get you.

You’ll notice the post below is much shorter than the first. Sometimes there is peace in brevity.

Mill Creek Ravine, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 9/30/17

Cold and very windy, the ravine flows below me. The wind whips through the tops of the aspens and evergreen trees towering above me as I sit on the cold, black metal bench.  The leaves that have fallen to the ground then crunching beneath my feet as I walk to warm myself.  At some places, the water in the ravine flows quickly; in others, not.  The flowing water is peaceful, not turbulent.  The still water smells sour, almost a bit like sewage, so I move away.

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The earth is moist and damp.  Who knows how long some of these leaves may have lain here?  The sky is grey above me.  I wonder – will it rain? Or even snow?

I see trees uprooted, yet with golden and red leaves still on their branches.  Fallen trees create natural bridges over the narrow parts of the ravine.  I hear the occasional voice or see bounding feet of a dog who stops and lays down before me for a belly rub, sharing his joy after taking a dip in the stream.  Grateful for this little slice of nature in the midst of a city.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please let me know by dropping a comment below or sharing it with someone you think might benefit from it. And as always, thanks for reading.

 

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Thought it was interesting that this almost completely uprooted tree, hanging on by seemingly just a thread, had fall covered leaves on it.

 

Thank you letters, Take Two!

thank u card butterflyI was running on Thursday morning and listening to another favorite podcast of mine, Martinis and Your Money.  The host’s name is Shannon McLay and she was talking about how her choices in life led her to creating the Financial Gym.  She used to work for Merrill Lynch where the financial advisors wouldn’t take you on as a client unless you had something like $250,000 in savings. Um, I’m 44, and I STILL don’t have that in savings, and I know I’m ahead of a lot of other folks my age! (Sad, isn’t it? But that’s a story or a post for another day.)

Anyway, she said that after she spent an hour with a young couple who had over $1,000,000 saved and who each made six figures, and they were complaining about their portfolio being down by 3%, she just felt like she had sold her soul, and she knew she couldn’t get that hour of her life back.  And a few weeks later, she was working with one of her pro bono clients, and at the end of their session together, the lady said to her, “You know you’re saving my life, right?”

This made me think of the person who took me and my former husband on as clients when we didn’t have much in savings (he had a little, and I had pretty much nothing), but we had a lot of debt (mainly, my student loans).  So today, my thank you letter is written for Jessica C., or “Jess” as I sometimes called her.

Dear Jess,

I think what I’m most grateful for is that you never laughed at me and my dreams, no matter how silly or ludicrous they must have sounded to you.  So many people tried to instill fear in me (or was it their projection of their own fears?) but you never did. Instead, you said, “Let’s make a plan.”  And you’d put all of my figures in your spreadsheets so I could see how things might be possible, at least financially-speaking. 

You’d meet with me as often as I asked just so I could have someone to be accountable to, and you were like a cheerleader of sorts, encouraging me, and reminding me of how I had turned my life around in a few years since my divorce.  How I’d gone from having to take a loan out on my 403(b) to pay off my credit cards, and having zero in savings to having a good nest egg to buffer my fall when I made a life-changing move. 

There are two other things for which I need to thank you.  After my divorce, you didn’t just drop me as a client.  I’d already been “dropped” suddenly by so many people, I just kind of assumed that might be the case with you too, as you moved on to bigger and better clients who had way more in assets than me.  One of the scariest things when considering a divorce is how much your life will change after.  How people may just drop you from their lives (and they do, as they did.) 

The final thing for which I say thanks is for your helping me when you knew eventually I wouldn’t be able to afford your services. You were basically working your way out of a job with me as a client.  You knew I’d be taking such a huge pay cut I wouldn’t be able to keep working with you.  But you kept cheering me on. 

Yet, you still answer my emails, even when it’s to mention I need to change my address (again), and I know you still monitor the funds I transferred over to you. I know you will say you’re just doing your job and you have a duty to do so, and maybe you do.  But it doesn’t mean I can’t thank you for helping me to ensure I have a nest egg and won’t have to work until the day I die.  

Thank you for giving me that small peace of mind. And thank you for being a decent human being.  

Terri

So that’s my thank you letter for today.  If you’d like to thank someone and write up a guest post, please let me know. I’d be extremely happy to spread that positive feeling around. You never know what life will bring you, so don’t wait to thank someone who’s made a positive influence on you or your life.

Thanks for reading. And if you want Jess’ contact info, just drop me a comment below and I’ll gladly send it to you.