Friday, June 28, 2013

The sun will come out tomorrow

Someone in the neighborhood found a firework stand and started celebrating a week early. Or maybe they were just celebrating the end of all the rain.

As predicted, summer has come to the mountains a week late. We like to live in extremes out here. This place is full of super athletes, professional athletes, and extreme sports junkies. So it's only natural that we like to do summer to the extreme as well. Next week's low temps are slated to be higher than last weeks highs. If that makes any sense to you.

I love the sun, so this makes me very happy. I began preparing by drinking extra water to stay hydrated. I intend to celebrate to official arrival of summer to this mountain town by spending every available spare minute outdoors. What do you have planned this weekend? 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Introducing "Mother of Rain"

So I am a Cycle Pub driver, which y'all know if you've been reading my recent posts. But I bet you didn't guess that it's not my only job. (Obviously, I'm joking.) I actually have a couple of other jobs. 

One job I don't talk about a whole lot is that I'm an editor. I mostly edit books. Anyone who knows that my mama is an author, knows I've grown up watching the publishing business. So it may come as no surprise that with degrees in English, I'd find a way to work in publishing. And while reading in this country may be going by the wayside and I get the reading books isn't everyone favorite pastime, I actually enjoy it. And I enjoy seeing a book take shape. 

As a reader, you don't see all the work an author puts in to create that book you hold in your hands (or in most cases these day, on your screen). The often years of writing. The rewriting. The research. The rewriting. The rewriting. And did I mention rewriting? 

Well, I get an up close look at the entire process. It's a fun place to be. Especially when it comes to Mama's books. Because I pretty much get to see them in all forms. 

I'm kind of excited about her next book. And I just can't wait to share it with you. I got to contribute a little bit of work to it. Especially back in its early stages before Mercer University Press took over and polished it to its final form. 

I'm very proud of Mama for working so hard on her first novel. Crossing over from one genre to the next isn't something many authors do or do well. But Mama has and I for one can't wait until you all can get your hands on a copy of this book.

In the meantime, you can watch the book trailer and start to get excited for the fall 2013 release of "Mother of Rain."  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Trailer for sale or rent

Vintage Airstream Caravan Trailer by Karen Arnold

I'm cruising right along in my little gypsy life. All the rain is helping me keep the plants and the yard alive.

Today was garbage day again. In a week's time, I barely produced one bag of garbage. For some reason, mostly because I've generally had communal garbage receptacles, I had no idea how little waste I created on a week-by-week basis. Now I know. And it makes me happy that I'm being so green. At least this week. 

Now that I'm full-swing into gypsy life, I have this thing where I tell people I live in a car. Like, "I don't need presents for my birthday. I live in a car!" Or "I don't have to deal with landlords. I live in a car!" I am pretty sure they all just roll their eyes at me. Especially anyone who has seen the house I'm living in currently. It's a great place. And I love it. And it's not like living in a car at all. The comfy bed I get to sleep in each night is nothing like sleeping in a car, which I have done more times than I can count. You know, because I'm a gypsy, and I live in a car! 

But the other parts of those statements are true. Very true. The last time I was a gypsy living in other people's homes, I was gifted with a painting for my birthday. Like a painting you hang on a wall. Only I didn't have a wall to hang it on. It's a beautiful painting by a very talented artist, who I had the pleasure of staying with and watching paint (go check out Miss Stacy Howell. I'm serious when I say she is wonderful). I love that birthday painting. My entire apartment was decorated with consideration to that painting. So don't take this the wrong way, but paintings are an impractical sort of gift for anyone who lives in their car. 

The cherished painting is currently on loan to the person who bought it for me while I lead my gypsy life. On the one hand, I can't wait to have a house with a big comfy bed to sleep in each night and a wall on which to hang my birthday painting. But on the other hand, the longer I live this gypsy life, the more I dream of getting a trailer and making this life permanent. Then I could tell people, "I live in a car." And it'd be true. And they couldn't argue with me. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fueled by Picky Bars

ShelbyDee driving the Cycle Pub
I am not a picky eater. I may have been as a child. I don't remember. But I have come to a point where I will eat almost anything. (I say almost because I was not interested in the least in the fried frogs and tarantulas I saw street vendors selling on the streets of Cambodia. But I have tried eel, if that says something about me.)
My motto is generally, you've got to try everything at least once.

So if we're headed out, don't bother asking me where I want to eat, because eating to me is filling a basic need. I like food. I really like good food. But I'm more than happy to go along with the flow and to try new things. I like to stay away from chains when possible. To find the local favorites. And I especially love to scout out the dives. 

Just know that I must be fed at regular intervals. There is something to be said for those Snickers commercials. I am not me when I am hungry. But there are certain times in life when I don't have time to remember to eat. It's a paradox for sure.

A friend in college used to worry about me. She knew I had a habit of skipping breakfast before my 7 a.m. shift in the computer lab. She also knew that my schedule didn't allow time for a proper lunch between classes and work and track practice. A mother herself, she grew concerned about my eating routine or lack thereof. Her backyard garden was full of tomatoes and eggplant, and she worried about anyone going hungry. So she took to bringing extra Luna bars to class to share with me on days when she knew I hadn't properly eaten. 

I hated those Luna bars. I'd try to eat them. To be polite and to satisfy my hunger. I remember distinctly trying one thinking, "It can't be so bad. It's peanut butter. I like peanut butter." And then I took a bite, and it did not taste a thing like peanut butter. For some reason it tasted like bananas to me. And I actually like bananas, and with peanut butter I like them that much better. But this bar had lied to me. I was ready for peanut butter, I was not interested in a banana bar. Finally, my friend saw my struggle to eat and like the bars and she gave me permission not to finish it. "You don't have to eat anything you don't like," she said. 

That stuck with me, and I try to remember it when I find myself eating something I don't like. I never have been a fan of any power bar, energy bar, nutritional bar. I've tried other kinds of bars. They just aren't my thing. I feel they usually are full of false advertising like the peanut butter/banana bar, and don't taste a thing like what they claim to be. I've gotten better about making sure I eat proper meals. But sometimes life just gets in the way. 

Like when I sleep in on Saturday morning and don't want to eat too much before I head to the boxing gym. Or on days when I'm running back-to-back tours on the Cycle Pub and just don't have time to grab lunch. But thanks to Cycle Pub, I've learned about a different kind of energy bar. 

Cycle Pub shares a location with a company called Picky Bars. Have you heard of them? They are such a cool company. Check out their website if you need convincing. And they have a seriously amazing story that involves some pretty awesome athletes trying to find a gluten and dairy free energy bar that not only tastes good but is good for you. They nailed it. 

Best of all, their bars taste like food. Real food. Not like chocolate covered cardboard. These bars are just good. There is no weird aftertaste of bananas. No chalky texture. The list of ingredients in their bars are actually recognizable. And they are the perfect size. Not a giant bar that leaves you feeling full after two bites.  I've tried every single one of their bars (even the not yet available Runner's High) and I can't even tell you which one is my favorite. I love them all! 

Picky Bars has won over this non-picky, picky eater. And they are keeping me fueled, so I don't go all Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde on you guys. It's a win-win if you ask me. 

Dude, go check them out already. You won't be disappointed!     

****Disclaimer: Picky Bars does not know that I am recommending their product. I've met a few of the employees and founders and think they are seriously cool people and I'd love to get to know them better. And if they ever go looking for a writer/editor, I'd offer up my services in a heartbeat. But I'm pretty sure they don't have a clue what my name is. I'm just one of the Cycle Pub drivers they see pop in the office once or twice a week. They did not pay me or compensate me in any way for this endorsement. All opinions expressed are my own. But seriously, Picky Bars, you guys are rad!*****  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mountain Blues, er Junes

I hope you all were able to enjoy the first few days of summer. I have learned since moving to this mountain town that June is always wet. It doesn't matter of May is sunny and dry. June will always bring rain and hail. I've also learned that true summer-like weather is always a week late around here. 

This June has been true to form. We were hitting 90s a few weeks ago. And it's been hit and miss with clear weather ever since. Plenty of rain. Plenty of June hail. With just a few spots of sunshine. Saturday provided a brief break from the rain and cold. But the rain returned all day Sunday. 

My red boots are getting some use. Which may be the only silver lining for me. 

All I really want to do when it rains day after day is curl up with a blanket and nap until the sun returns. When I do nap, I dream of sunshine and sandy beaches. 

I'm crossing my fingers that the last weekend in June pulls through once again and produces clear skies and summer weather. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

gypsy life: on books

You'd think being a semi-gypsy, I'd be all about convenient devices like Kindles and iPads and the like for reading books. But you'd be wrong. When I packed up my little Mill Studio to go and live the gypsy life, I packed up twelve boxes of books. Just books. I love books.

This may surprise some who know me, but I was late to learning how to read. But when I finally got the hang of stringing letters together to make words and words to sentences, I took off. I was reading full-length novels within a couple of years. I distinctly remember reading under the covers late at night when I should have been sleeping, and waking up early to read before school. I read multiple books at one time. Dog-earing the pages or memorizing the page number, especially for library books I didn't want to damage. Yes, library books.

We lived a short walk from the public library. A Carnegie Library with windows reaching way up to the ceiling at the end of each row of books. It's a building some people say is haunted. And it's no wonder, housing all those stories inside. Those books were bound to come to life and share their secrets as soon as the lights were out and the doors were locked.

I have seen evidence of books of my parents that my siblings and I added our own artwork to as children, but I have never been one to highlight and write in the margins of my books. Even in college. It didn't matter if it was a textbook or a first edition book of poetry. I don't write in my books. I don't like stickers on my books, and hate it when I have to remove stubborn scanner or price tag stickers from the cover. I also don't get rid of books.

I have every textbook, every book for every class I ever bought a book for in college. (I can't say every class, because well, some classes I didn't bother buying the book -- like anthropology, I borrowed a friend's book right before the tests, the rest was common sense.)

The result of my hording of books is the twelve boxes of books I had to pack up and haul out of my little place. I come by it honestly though. My parents have never had enough shelves to house all of their books either. Boxes and boxes of books. They are both scholars. Readers. It  must be a genetic thing. Because my one solitary bookshelf was always overflowing with books lined and stacked and jammed together by color.

There is just something about holding a book in your hands. Something real about it. I am an editor. I have learned to adapt. Learned to read books on a screen. It does streamline the whole book publishing process. I spend the majority of my day in front of a computer screen, so when I am not working, I choose the real deal. I choose to hear the crack of an unopened spine. To risk paper cuts with each page turn. Even though an electronic library would be easier to carry around with me, I choose the old fashioned system.

The sad part about this gypsy life is that I don't have easy access to my books. For some girls it's shoes or handbags. But me? It's all about the books. I dream of having a room full of floor-to-ceiling bookcases one day. One day when I give up the gypsy life. Until then, tell me, are you a book reader or an e-reader? What item or items do you have trouble parting with?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gypsy Life: Get out and Do something

If any of you are new to gypsy living or house crashing or have found yourself as a long-term guest (willingly or not) in someone else's home, I thought I'd share a few more strategies that are helpful as you navigate the process.

I had already been living a gypsy life for a while before I moved in with the Mountain Folks for the first time. That was back when my gypsy living was a necessity due to unemployment/underemployment. After about a year of living out of suitcases at that point, I was finally catching onto some gypsy living coping techniques. I knew by this time that I needed some sort of routine in my life. Even if I didn't have anywhere to go on a given day. One way I did this is through exercise.

Early on in my time with them, I decided to make running part of my life again. I had been a runner throughout college, but I hadn't had any sort of regular workout routine in a long time. But now I had all the time in the world to train. I knew going into it I wouldn't likely be breaking any personal records. But I decided to do this as a way to build a healthy lifestyle, not to compete and be a start athlete (not that I ever was a star athlete, I wasn't). I came up with a strategy to get back into running. I first made a date with the park three times a week. And I gave myself a limit. I had to run or walk for at least 30 minutes, roughly the park's 3 mile loop. Just this one decision set the plan in motion.

When I heard everyone else getting ready for the day, I knew I had to get up too. It didn't matter that I didn't "have" to be anywhere. I had an appointment to meet. At first I just stuck to three days a week. I didn't beat myself up too bad if I walked the majority of the time. I'd sometimes get a phone call in the middle of my run and spend the rest of the time walking and talking to whoever had called. The important thing was not the running. The important thing was that I was getting out of the house and I was exercising and getting fresh air. Before I knew it, I was going to the park 5, 6 and 7 days a week. And I was able to run the entire loop, and probably further. Before I knew it I was racing again. I ran a half marathon before the year was up, and had a long-term goal and deadline to run a marathon (which I completed before the deadline was up a year ago).

Running isn't the only thing I did. I signed up to volunteer at the public library and with some other organizations. After my morning run, I would have somewhere to be at least a couple of days out of the week. Volunteering not only helped me make connections in a town that was new to me, but it helped create a routine that got me out of the house.

Have you ever found yourself adrift in gypsy life and unsure what to do with all the time on your hands? What did you do to create routine and structure for your days?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

taking care of business

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There have been a few updates around here the last couple of weeks. I'm sure my one loyal reader (Aunt Gloria, I'm looking at you) has noticed. Although I don't expect the rest of you to.

I updated the domain name in hopes that it's a bit easier to remember in case your computer crashes and you lose all your bookmarks. is the new blog handle. Although the old one should bring you here just as easily.

I'm not trying to confuse you with the name. Miz Shelby is what Mama calls me. And was already snagged by someone I don't know.

In an effort to keep up-to-date with the blogs I follow, I've joined Bloglovin, and I'm adding my site so any of you who organize your reading list that way can following along there too. I hope these updates make things a bit simpler for all of us.

Follow on Bloglovin

I know in the past people have commented that they couldn't leave comments on my blog, and I've tried to address that with a few changes there as well. I'm always open to comments and improvements, so let me know if you're having trouble with anything.

being a drifter

This gypsy is swiftly settling into her temporary location. And I am realizing how much I enjoy living alone. That is not to say I don't like and appreciate the people who have invited me into their homes. I do. I really, really do. But there is something to be said for solitude.

It's no wonder my last roommate situation was an apartment full of closed doors and note-card conversations. It's hard to tell if that experience is what now drives the desire to live alone, or if that experience was born out of the preference for living alone. It's kind of the chicken or the egg thing. I know that some people don't understand this need to be alone. And I do mean need. It's not a selfish thing (not always). Extroverts may not understand that, but fellow introverts get it. (If you want to learn more about introverts go watch Susan Cain's Ted Talk.)

Don't take this the wrong way. When I say, I have come to enjoy living alone, that does not exclude a desire to live in community. The two don't go hand-in-hand. I very much desire to live in community with others. And I strive to do just that in my neighborhood. I have come to know myself, and when I need to be surrounded by others, when to seek the company of others, and when to simply be alone. It's a learning process. And moments of solitude play an important role.

The first time I really thought about solitude was in college, when all the counselors at summer camp had to read Henri Nouwen's "The Way of the Heart." We were instructed to go find a place around camp and be alone and quiet and listen. I don't remember where I spent that time. By the lake? Or near the trees? Or even if it lasted 30 minutes or an hour. But I haven't forgotten the lesson of being alone and sitting in nature.

Just because I didn't realize solitude was a thing until my 20s, doesn't mean I didn't seek it out at a younger age. I used to hide in the lilac hedge next to the backyard playhouse. At least until we moved across town. That new house had cavernous closets that were the ideal place to sit and think when there was no where else to be alone in a family of six. Seeking solitude is just part of my nature.

Like that Drifter's song, is there a place you escape to?

There is a place I go a short drive from town. It's close enough for an impromptu Sunday picnic, or a sit after work. But it's far enough away that there are only minimal signs of civilization. It's not a secret place. But it feels that way. It is not among the popular places to hike in the area. And therein lies its appeal. Don't bother asking where it's at, because I won't tell you. That'd ruin it. It's just a place I go to see the view and sit and listen and be still.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

danger . . . or false alarm

Have you ever had a normal boring day turn upside down? Where one thing,  one choice, one action changes everything? Turns the day from dull to high-alert? Let me tell you how a whole neighborhood spent 20 minutes looking for me last weekend.

The day started off simply enough. I went to the boxing gym like I do nearly every Saturday morning. I got home around 11 and thought I'd whip up some pancakes before getting cleaned up. I had a couple of cakes on the griddle when my phone rang at around 11:20. It was my little sis. I'd forgotten that I told her I'd go dress shopping with her. 

She told me which store she wanted to go to. I told her I wouldn't be ready for another hour. We hung up without any further plans. Just that we were going dress shopping after I got ready in about an hour. At least that's how I remember it. 

I finished my pancakes. Sat on the back patio and ate them in the sunshine. I cleaned up the kitchen. And headed upstairs to get myself cleaned up around noon. I took my computer upstairs with me blasting Motown tunes. I left my phone on the docking station in the kitchen. After showering, blowing out my hair, etc., I emerged from upstairs at around 12:38. I know, because I looked at the clock. 

Back in the kitchen, with the music still playing, I realized I had 5 missed text messages, and numerous missed calls.  I was slightly confused as I began to read the messages. 

At 12:13 a message from Sis: Am outside are you here

A few minutes later: Hellloooooo

Then: K am leaving tried knocking, texting, calling don't want to be the creepy gal on the porch

Finally: R u alive

Then Mama starts texting: Shelby where r u? 

Oh dear. I didn't know Little Sis was coming to get me. I thought she was going to wait to hear from me when I finished getting ready. I call her number. 

"What's going on? I'm fine. I was in the shower," I say. 

"Your neighbor is up a ladder trying to break into the house.You need to call Mama and let her know you're alive." 

Now, please try to understand, I had no idea anyone was looking for me. I had no idea any of this was going on. 

First thing Mama says to me is, "You had us all worried." 

Correction: I had no one worried. Little sister had EVERYONE worried. 

As I opened the front door, my sister's husband was pulling onto the street. I even had to call Mountain Ma and tell her to turn around, I was alive and perfectly fine. I really half expected to see a fire truck come barreling up the road the way they were all carrying on. 

I asked Little sis what got her all worked up. And I guess the only reason in her mind that I wouldn't answer my phone or her knocking on the door and the window and shouting through the mail slot was that I must have passed out. 

I have no history of passing out people. I am basically a picture of health.

"At least you'll have something to blog about," she said. 

I hate that so many people were worried about me. I really don't enjoy being the center of attention in any situation, but especially not when they all think I have come to some sort of harm. But that's the danger of being a gypsy. People worry an extra lot about me. Especially people with active imaginations. They create all sorts of scenarios. Maybe they've spent too much time watching true crime shows. 

I'm not sure how we all got by before cell phones. I wonder if there was a higher rate of requests for welfare checks . . .Or maybe people just worried less and trusted more. 

In the meantime, I will try to be more diligent about keeping my phone nearby in case you need me. But the next time I don't answer your calls or texts, try to trust that there is a logical explanation. Wait an hour or two. And if I still haven't gotten back to you, then you can hit the panic button. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

this weekend

 This sign greeted me at my new location: 

This is what I made on the grill: 
Grilled Chicken with tomato-olive relish
 This is how I refueled after the gym:

This guy entertained me while I ate on the patio:

What did your weekend look like?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

gypsy living: don't act like a guest

Before I started living with Mountain Ma and Pa about 7 weeks ago, they invited me to move in with them. Did you hear that? They asked me to come back. I think I mentioned before that I had lived with them for six months a number of years ago. Six months. That's no overnight house guest. And yet, here they were opening up their doors wide open, AGAIN.

Mountain Ma and I on a road trip to California in 2011
"Why?" You might ask. Maybe you think they are crazy or gluttons for punishment. And maybe they are. I don't really know the true answer to why they asked me to come back, although I have a few theories.

A little background here. The Mountain folks have known me since I was about 8 years old. They got to know me even better throughout my high school years, as I became friends with their boys. Our families became friends, and we've all kept in touch. So basically: we are friends, and they love me. I am at times referred to as the "adopted daughter," as we attempt to explain our longstanding relationship to others. But we all know that even when we love someone, we don't necessarily want them living in our homes. Am I right? 

Something I learned in my first round of gypsy living, the one driven by unemployment, is that even if you're a guest in someone's home, don't act like one. Pitch in. 

Keep your stuff and your space clean.  Volunteer for household chores. Help with dishes after meals. Volunteer to cook dinner one night a week. If there are children living in the house, help them with the daily routine. Offer to babysit younger kids. Tutor the older ones. Learn to anticipate the needs of others and fill the need when you can. Are Wednesday a busy day for the family? Offer to make dinner that night. Likewise, if you see something that needs to get done, don't ask -- do it. Was the garbage can left at the curb after garbage day? Roll it to the garage. Is the dog's water bowl empty? Fill it. 

Make yourself useful. Not only that, but you want to make yourself invaluable to them. You want them to wonder what they did before you came. Sometimes by doing the little everyday things that no one seems to notice, you end up being the most helpful. 

I'm not great at doing all these things. But I have done everything mentioned above at one point or another. It might not have been the reason I was asked back, but it probably didn't hurt. The last 7 weeks with the Mountain folks, I've been busier than ever and probably not as helpful of a house guest as I was the last time I lived here. If you know Mountain Ma and Pa, maybe you can ask them the real reasons why they invited me back. Or find out if they'd do it again! 

Have you ever found yourself as an extended house guest? Were there things you did to help out and pitch in during that time? 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

mama's little baby loves rhubarb rhubarb

And the trunk pantry comes through again:

A neighbor gave me rhubarb last week. So Little Sis and I made a gluten free rhubarb strawberry cobbler from a recipe found online. It was actually my first time cooking with rhubarb. And turned out not to be as scary or complicated as it looks.

I am going to have access to a garden full of rhubarb soon. Do you have any favorite rhubarb recipes or tips? 

And because rhubarb always reminds me of that Prairie Home Companion Jingle. I'll leave you with this: 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Learn to Lean: It's Only Temporary

Sometimes gypsies must rely on the generosity of others. If they don't want to sleep in their car or on street corners, house crashing is often the best solution if it's available to a gypsy. I kind of like a soft bed and warm shower, but I am fiercely independent.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm stubborn, or as Mama has always said "mule-headed."  I don't like asking for or accepting help. I like to know, and for others to know, that I can do it myself. Kind of like a toddler at mealtime. Unfortunately, both situations can be messy. (Ask me about the time I dropped a giant couch on my foot.) 

My first experience with gypsy life a number of years ago was a little different than my current gypsy life. Now I am a gypsy by choice, then it was necessity. I simply couldn't find a job. It was 2007, and people who know things were just beginning to debate whether the country was headed into a recession. If they'd asked me, I would have said, "you betcha." But they didn't.

Without a way to pay for a roof over my own head, I had to humbly accept the generosity of others. And let me tell you, it was not easy. My pride got crushed. It was an emotional time for a lot of reasons. I mean, not only was I being rejected left and right, but I couldn't even take care of myself. It was rough. Rough.

There are many roads that lead to house crashing. Lack of job is one. Saving money another. This time around, my house crashing is a choice I made for a number of logical reasons. This time I have a good job and plenty of resources. But it is still at times an emotionally taxing and humbling experience. Receiving gifts or generosity has never been an easy thing for me. 

I remember once in school someone offered to give me a candy or a coke or something.  I declined, saying "no thanks." Mama must have been there, because later she told me that sometimes I need to just smile and say thank you can accept the gift offered whether I want it or not. I am still not very good at this (case in point, refusing the help offered by the gentleman who saw me struggling to carry the paddle board last weekend.) 

I also remember Mama telling my sister and I once that we need to be more outwardly appreciative and thankful when we are given a gift. Apparently some people took our little sisters more exuberant displays of emotion as being more thankful than our more reserved and quiet approach.

Accepting gifts or help can be uncomfortable. There are a couple of ways to cope with it, even if it never becomes easy.

First, remind yourself that it’s only temporary. I’ve found a lot of things I’d like to complain about become more bearable when I remind myself that it’s only for a short time. Even if I don’t know how long or short the time is. Knowing something is temporary makes it a little easier to handle.

The second thing to do is to remind yourself that one day you too will be on the giving end. Someone is going to need help, and you are going to be able to fill the need. Sing  a little “Lean on Me” chorus if you have to.

Monday, June 10, 2013

lessons from gypsy life: letting go

Photo by Konnie, aka Little Sis 
So little sis and I did make it paddle boarding this weekend after all. Nice weather for it too. It was so nice, we went twice.

Sunday I used a different board. One that is also a kayak. We attached the seat, and I set out for what I hoped would be a more leisurely ride on the river.

Wearing my swimsuit and knowing I’d get wet, I took my tank top off and placed it between my back and the seat, where I assumed it’d be safe.  It was a nice ride with a little background music from the nearby amphitheater. Although I did learn that without upper body muscles, it doesn’t matter if you’re standup paddle boarding or sit down paddling, rowing is hard work no matter what. 

As we came back to our launch site, I concentrated on not running into the two Bernese Mountain dogs and their owner who were blocking the river’s edge. I put my flip flops back on, and attempted to avoid a majority of the goose droppings fertilizing the muddy bank, as I hauled the heavy board out of the water. I packed the board all the way up to the car by myself, even declining the help offered by a kind stranger so I could do it myself.

And then I looked down and realized I wasn’t wearing my tank top. And it wasn’t on the board anymore, of course. I walked down to the bank. Nope. Not there either.

You guys! I lost my shirt in the Deschutes River. It’s not every day you can say you lost your shirt and mean it literally. And I don’t even know when it happened. My sis didn’t see it drop off the board either.

That blue tank top has been on regular rotation for a number of years now.  It wasn’t new. But it was one of my favorites for summer wear and winter layers. Thankfully, and this is where gypsy life comes in, I’m not too bothered by the loss of the soft blue cotton.
Making strawberry jam & wearing my blue tank in '09
Over the last six weeks of gypsy life, I have realized how few of the clothes I carefully packed into organized duffle bags I wear. Maybe one-third of what I own is worn on any regular basis. It’s a troubling reality for someone trying to keep her belongings to a minimum so she can haul them across town or pack them in her car at a moment’s notice. Especially when she thought she had done plenty of letting go and purging of unnecessary stuff. 

I walked away from the river with mixed feelings. I loved that tank. But losing it to a watery grave at the bottom of the Deschutes means there is one less article of clothing I need to pack up the next time I move. And my grip on material stuff just got a little bit looser.   

Friday, June 7, 2013

friday funday

Temps in the mountains have reached up to the 80s this week. It's beginning to feel like summertime! My younger sister has been taking me stand up paddle boarding whenever we get a chance to go. (Thanks, sis!) Last weekend it was to one of the high mountain lakes that I hadn't yet been to. The water was so clear across most of the lake that it was hard to tell just how deep it was.

I've now been paddle boarding a grand total of three times, but can boast that I haven't fallen in yet.  Although, with the way the wind was blowing over that lake last weekend, I came mighty close. No thanks to my sister for laughing and making fun of me. I'm not sure yet if we'll find time to load up the boards and go this weekend. But the sun is supposed to be shining, so there should be plenty of great opportunities for it.

What summer activities are y'all up to lately? Have you tried paddle boarding?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

more gypsy life

One avenue down gypsy life is "House Sitting Way." It allows the gypsy to not hold a lease or (typically) pay rent, while at the same time maintain a roof over her head.

My first foray into house/pet sitting began with that month I watched a dog named Butterbean and the unfortunate incident with a groundhog. My latest was a a short week-long stint with two cats, named: Griffin and Kitten, also known as Psycho Kitten.

Kitten is really a deceptive name for this cat. Even with the qualifier of Psycho. There is very little that is kitten-like about this cat. Oh yes, she purrs when you stroke her head or scratch behind her ears. She'll purr louder if you grab her brush and run it under her chin. But the moment you stop petting, scratching, brushing, she'll reach her claws out faster than you can blink and strike you before you know what happened. Psycho doesn't cut it. She is will draw blood. And she will have no remorse.

I avoided her at all costs, but it still took all week for my reflexes to outwit her.

Needless to say, I slept with my door closed at night.

In bed before 10 on my final night on the job, I was sound asleep, when a strange sensation woke me. I opened my eyes to a deep black darkness. Feeling for sure that it had to be after 1 or 2 a.m. My eyes scanned in the direction of the doorway, where the expanse of blackness gave way to a slightly lighter shade of black about a foot wide.

Disbelieving what I saw. I blinked and looked again. I knew that I knew that I knew that I had shut that door before I drifted off to sleep. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness there was no mistaking that the door was indeed opened.

Still lying in bed and without moving, I shifted my gaze to the opposite wall where floor to ceiling curtains covered the large window. Just enough light from the moon or stars or street lights revealed the silhouette of a cat perched on the window sill, a sentry watching my slumber.

Groggy and disoriented, I lay still for a moment trying to figure out how the cat had managed to open the bedroom door without opposable thumbs. I leaned over to turn on the bedside lamp, and in an instant Griffin bounded down from his station and back out the bedroom door. I dragged myself out of bed and firmly shut the door. Making sure the latch held. Knelling down I made sure Kitten wasn't lurking under the bed, before I crawled back in and turned off the light.

I looked at my cell phone on the side table, 11:30 p.m. I lay awake for countless minutes knowing I needed more than an hour of sleep, but not trusting the cats that surely prowled right outside my bedroom door.

The internet may be teeming with "cute" kittens, but y'all, these were not those kinds of cats.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

trunk show: gypsy style

Image from Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division
Living the life of a gypsy creates some awkward situations.

Like trying to explain to the bank teller why you have a P.O. Box but no physical address. Because surely, everyone lives somewhere, right? Well, yes AND no.

She insists she needs an actual address for a backup. I give her the only address I know off-hand. That of my parents in the desert way on the eastern side of the state. When I receive my next statement in the mail, my signature eye-roll commences. The envelope is addressed as follows:

Address of parents in the desert here all on one line
P.O. Box
In the Mountains

I'm not sure how the postal service found me, since they often can't figure out how to deliver mail with one off or illegible house number. But somehow it ended up in the correct box, and as long as it does, I'm not going back to the bank to try to find a better solution.

I don't advertise my lack of a permanent residence. I am currently living with dear friends who are more like second parents since they've known me longer than anyone else in this mountain town, with the exception of my younger sister. We've done this gypsy thing before, as they housed me for six months when I first moved to the mountains before I found that little mill studio. (There is a trick to gypsy life that leaves people opening their doors to you again and again, but that's a topic for another day.)

This stint with my Mountain Ma and Pa will most assuredly be much shorter than my last stay. (Having a firm end date is one of those tricks I just mentioned.) We begin and end our days sharing a meal usually in front of the news. Breakfast is most often a fend-for-yourself deal as we each wake at varying times each day. But dinner, if we're home, is usually eaten together, after preparation by one of the three of us.

Sunday night, I came home from a day of running and paddle boarding, to find Mountain Pa grilling chicken. Mountain Ma and I sat out under the pergola chatting about how the day went. Pa went inside and came out with honey.

"Out of barbecue sauce," he said. "We'll have to get by with honey."

"I'll add it to my list," Ma said, referring to the list she was compiling to take the grocers Monday morning.

"Wait," I said. "I know where some barbecue sauce is." I hopped up. Ran inside. I twirled the revolving pantry shelf not seeing what I was looking for, and then I remembered just where I'd seen the bottle of sauce.

I ran upstairs. Grabbed the keys to my car. Ran back downstairs and out the door to my trunk, where I retrieved an unopened bottled of Sweet Baby Rays. I ran back inside and out to the back patio where I presented Pa with the bottle of sauce.

They both looked at me befuddled.

Ma laughed and asked, "Are you hoarding barbecue sauce upstairs in your bedroom?"

"No," I said. Then admitted, "I have a box of kitchen staples I never took out of my car when I unpacked. I just didn't know where to put it." Then I added, "If you run out of anything else, ask me first, and I'll be sure to check my trunk store." Laughter ensued.

As for Ma and Pa, they were just glad I had the "good stuff."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

my inner gypsy

Image from Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division
Mama used to tell me we were gypsies. At least that's what I remember her telling us in the middle of one of our moves. She grew up an Army brat. Moving every few years was normal for her. To this day, she doesn't stay still for long, even if her home address hasn't changed in a decade.

Mama said gypsy was in our blood. Some ancestors were palm readers.

I hated moving as a child. I still have a bit of a nostalgic side. Clinging to the things a want to remember. The people. The experiences. 

Somewhere along the way though I retained some of those gypsy tendencies. After leaving home and off to college, I developed a habit of moving at least every two years. Before I moved to the mountains, I spent the better part of 15 months living out of suitcases, hopping from town to city to airplane to car. 

When I finally landed in these mountains, I found a place with just enough room for my very own closet and called it my own. Friends thought I was crazy for living in such tiny quarters. I declared the four walls and a closet of the tiny mill studio perfect. And I was happy.

It started gradually. As I hit the two-year mark, I was still settled in. Then short months before the three-year mark, a rustle started stirring from somewhere deep within. Somewhere unexpected. I argued with the voices that told me it was time. 

"But this is perfect. It's ideal. It's just right for me." I'd try to convince my inner gypsy to settle down. To be happy. 

Her voice only grew stronger. Louder.

As the four-year anniversary of my occupation of the mill house crept up, so did the realization that I hadn't lived somewhere that long since I graduated from high school. And the gypsy began to scream. 

"it's time. It's time. It's TIME. IT'S TIME." Came her cries, like a train approaching from the outskirts of town. 

I could ignore her no longer. Her voice, a siren, I couldn't resist. I gave my notice. I packed my bags. I made arrangements. And loaded up my car. And finally I said "goodbye" to the little mill studio that had been my home for 4 years and two months. 

I linked arms with the gypsy and am waiting to see where she takes me next. I'm back to where I was before my move to the mountains -- living out of boxes and suitcases and cars and the kindness of others.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

reading and running

I finally got my hands on a book I've been meaning to read for years. Yes. Years. 

Have you read it? I loved Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit, so why it has taken me so long to sit down and read Unbroken is sort of beyond me. But I am finally reading and and loving it as well. Maybe it has something to do with being a bit of a runner myself. 

Speaking of running, I ran my first race in a year and a half this weekend. A 5k. Not my best race ever, but I did it. 

Younger sis and I after the race

Nothing like the marathon I ran back in 2011. How is it that I managed to go through all of 2012 without a single race? Again, I have no excuse for myself. 

But back to books. I was just recommending a book to the owner of a shop I frequent on my lunch breaks and after work. The book I was suggesting is hands-down one of, if not, the best book I've ever read. Have you read Jeanette Walls' The Glass Castle? I loaned my copy out to someone over a year ago and still need to hunt it down. 

Thinking about Walls' book, I came across a recent article about her in the NY Times. You should read that too. I just love when Walls says, “We all have our baggage, and I think the trick is not resisting it but accepting it, understanding that the worst experience has a valuable gift wrapped inside if you’re willing to receive it . . . So, O.K., Mom kept the chocolate bar. But she gave me a lot of good material.”

Her words speak across a variety of life experiences. 

I work in family law where people lives are turned upside down. When I first meet clients, their lives are typically in flux as all their hopes and dreams have crumbled around them. But by the time they cease being clients, it's easy to tell those who are going to accept their baggage and experiences and those who will continue to resist it all. 

We all have those life experiences, whether it's something as serious as a neglected childhood or divorce, or something as simple as the every day bumps in the road that keep us from reading good books and signing up for races.