Thursday, October 31, 2013

Countdown to race day

I only have two days until the 1/2 marathon. Two days. 

I have been a slacker. I managed to get in all my long runs, but with a trip across the country and being generally busy with other things and house hunting, training has been virtually nonexistent. I did run a 5k last weekend with my friends. 

Running in costume is a whole different kind of experience. You remember how I told you that when I run, I morph into a Mean Girl? Well, when I run in a mask, I apparently can't stop smiling. I mentioned that about halfway through the race, because I felt myself smiling. I don't even know how that happened, but I've considered masking up every time. That wouldn't be weird, would it? 

So the half is on Saturday and I realize it's sort of pointless to worry too much about my lack of training. I might fit an easy run into my schedule before Saturday morning, but no promises. 

No matter how this goes, I am already looking ahead to some future racing. Setting some goals for a couple more 1/2s in the next year, and maybe just maybe one more longer race. I ran a marathon two years ago, and swore up and down that I'd never do it again. But I flew home with some Marine Corps Marathon finishers on Sunday and might maybe have caught a bug. I'll keep you posted. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On gypsy life and living with others

I mentioned the other day that I came home from my trip to snow, and I wasn't happy about it. I'm still not happy about it. But this gypsy life is teaching me something about myself.

I am basically cold 90% of the time. I can sometimes be found in the office still wearing my coat and scarf. My bosses poke fun at the space heater I keep under my desk year round. I have mastered the art of typing while wearing gloves. I do not enjoy being cold. I do not enjoy winter. Especially in this mountain town when it starts in October, apparently, and lasts until June.

When I lived alone, my dissatisfaction with winter wasn't so much of a problem for others. I could go home from work and pout about the weather all night long if I wanted to. And I would. I'd snuggle up in my favorite corner of the couch like Sheldon Cooper, crank up the gas stove, and drink hot water. No one cared what I did. There was no one around to see me mope about the fact that it was dark at 6:30, or that the sun never did find its way around the clouds that day.

But now I'm a gypsy, and at least currently, this gypsy is living with other people. Those other people notice when I'm being cranky about the cold temperatures and short days. They are beginning to wonder where I am when I come home from work and head straight to my room to curl up under the blankets in a desperate attempt to get warm.

When I live with other people, they insist I crawl out of my hole and join them for dinner. When I live with other people, they wonder why I don't light a fire in the wood stove if I'm cold. They don't know about my knack for catching my thumbnail on fire when I lite a match, or that my idea of a heat source contains an on/off switch.

In case you can't tell, that's a forced smile on my face.
I need to work on this. My dislike for winter and cold. As I head into my fifth winter in this mountain town, I'm going to make an effort. I am not going to go all Buddy the Elf excited about winter either though. But at least while I'm living with others in this gypsy life, I need to make a concerted effort to buck up and not loath the cold as much as I do.

It'd probably help if I could figure out where I packed my staples of winter survival, my wool pants and sweaters and puffy down coat and warm boots.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Let 'er Buck!

You know you're from Pendleton, Oregon when:

a) You fly a red-eye across the country to attend a barn dance.

b) You gift your hosts Pendleton Woolen Mills products.

c) You are immediately selected to be one of the contra dance leaders.

d) You teach the dance caller how and when to say "Let 'er buck!"

e) All of the above.

Oh, yes. You better believe I did. What do they say? You can take the girl out of the country . . .

Monday, October 28, 2013

Post Trip Blues

There were snow flakes and ice on my windshield this morning and the clouds are so thick I am not even sure if the sun is actually behind them and it's 10:00 a.m. But let's not talk about how NOT awesome Monday mornings are. Especially Monday mornings that follow epic weekends.

My weekend started Wednesday night when I hopped a plane and flew across the country. I got one more state checked off my list.

I finally made it to Connecticut!

I spent four lovely days with some of the greatest people I know. You know you've met some wonderful people when less than two months after meeting on the World Vision Blogger trip, we were ready to gather for a reunion. Roo and her adorable family were gracious hosts. They showed me around and took me to the boardwalk and got me feeling right at home at a barn dance. Complete with chocolate on my pillow and the most incredible baked goods made daily by her husband! (I don't even want to know how much weight I gained.)

Caleb and his family drove up super early Saturday for a Halloween themed 5k. The caped crusaders rocked the race. And Zack and his lovely wife joined us for dinner and pie that night.

More photographic evidence from the trip is sure to come. I wouldn't say I'm suffering from jet lag, because that just doesn't happen for me between East and West coast. But I would say, I do have the post vacation blues exacerbated by extreme change (for the worse) in temperatures.

Don't worry though. I'm working through it by nibbling on chocolate, avoiding looking out the window at the winter weather, and scheming up ways I can add more reunions with friends in the 11 states I have yet to visit (technically I've been to an airport in Michigan, but airports don't really count).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

No green thumb

The growing season is short in this mountain town. I tried to grow my own tomatoes once. 

I watched and waited. And I waited. And I waited. And only one tiny tomato started to grow on my plant. And I watched and waited. And waited. And waited for it to turn yellow, then orange, and it was almost red. One more day. Tomorrow it'll be ready to pick, I thought. When tomorrow came, my tomato was gone. 

The pant was there, but someone had come onto my back porch and swiped my one and only tiny tomato. It had to have been a someone, because no other part of the plant was disturbed. No leaf. No stem. To keep from being angry, I decided that whoever had done must have been really hungry and that one red tomato too tempting. 

I never did grow tomatoes again after that. And after my entire potted lavender plant was stolen off that same back porch, it was hard to extend grace. 

But house sitting has brought new opportunities to benefit from other people's garden, even if I no longer have a back porch of my own to fail at growing my own bounty. This summer I've enjoyed rhubarb, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and more. Most recently it was a crop of late tomatoes that never did ripen before the frost hit. But thanks to my southern ancestry, I knew just what to do with a bushel of green tomatoes. 

Fried green tomatoes. Well, a knock-off anyway. I chose to skip the grease and bake mine instead, but served with hot sauce, it was hard to tell the difference. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Worst Punk Rocker Ever

I am terrible at Halloween. 

It's supposed to be a fun holiday. I get that. You're supposed to get creative with it. I know that. But I just can't. I am just really bad at doing Halloween. 

Last year was the first year I even bought a bag of candy so I could stay home and pass it out to the kiddos. Of course, I totally underestimated the number of costumed munchkins who'd show up at my door. I had to shut the lights out early and call it a night. 

I don't even remember the last time I carved a pumpkin. The gunk and seeds on the inside of pumpkins completely gross me out. It is such a mess! 

To further prove to you my lack of Halloween celebration, I can not find a single Halloween type photo to add to this post for you. Not even one. 

I wasn't always terrible at celebrating Halloween. There was one of our first Halloweens when Mama made my twin sister and I matching chocolate chip cookie sandwich boards, so our older brother could dress as the Cookie Monster and pull us around in a red wagon. 

But then there was the year that Mama made us into Punk Rockers. She claims that's what we wanted to be. But I have a hard time believing a 3-year-old in the mid-80's was begging her mama to be a Punk Rocker for Halloween. 

Did I mention Mama was a DJ at the local radio? So I'm pretty sure it went down like this: 

Mama: "Hey girlies! Do you want to be Punk Rockers for Halloween?" 

Twin Sister and Me: (Look at each other then at Mama) "What's a Punk Rocker, Mama?"

Mama: "Someone who sings songs. It'll be fun!" 

Twins: "OK, Mama. We'll be Punk Rockers." 

It was probably fun for Mama. She dyed our hair purple and painted our faces. And we took one look at each other and started screaming bloody murder. Mama did such a good job that Halloween that we scared ourselves! I think that was the year our brother won the costume contest for his vampire costume. Mama painted his face too. Only he didn't spend the rest of the night in tears. 

Of course what did she expect of the girls who cried when they got their hand stamped at their uncle's high school basketball game. Cried so hard that Grandma had to take them both home. 

The worst punk rocker crying even before her hair gets teased and dyed.
We stuck to much tamer costumes after that. Little Red Riding Hood. Rainbow Bright. Then a few years later, Mama and Daddy decided we weren't going to "celebrate" Halloween any more. It was against our religion or something. We didn't want to be devil worshipers. 

So we got to leave school early and watch movies in the basement while all the other kids dressed up in costumes and celebrated the devil with candy at school and knocking on stranger's doors. Because nothing says evil like strangers handing out chocolate to children. 

By the time we were in junior high and high school, my parents didn't feel as strongly as they once did about the day. So we stayed in school and dressed up like "old ladies" in long dresses and wigs. Apparently Halloween wasn't devil worship unless you dressed up like scary monsters. 

Last weekend, I finally met someone else with the same handicap that I have when it comes to Halloween. She used to hide in the basement with her family on October 31, too. It's kind of a relief as an adult knowing I'm not the only one who faces this hurdle every year. But that doesn't solve the problem of learning how to dress up for a holiday you spent the better half of your life avoiding. 

I will be running a road race this weekend where costumes are encouraged. I'll let you know how it goes. And I'll try to get a picture or two. In the meantime, I'm agonizing over what I'm going to wear. No face paint or hair dye, please!

Monday, October 21, 2013

No rest for the weekend

I don't know about you all, but I'm not sure how it's Monday already. My weekend was full. 

After my usual Saturday morning gym time, I spend the rest of the day driving tours on this guy:

The photo is from last year, but this is one of the Cycle Pub bikes. It's the only one were the driver also pedals. I figured five hours of biking more than made up for the three mile run I didn't end up doing. 

Sunday was church and then a long run. In preparation for that 1/2 marathon I'm going to be running in two weeks, I wanted to get a 10 miler in. Little sister joined me on her mountain bike again. 

It was a beautiful day on the trail. Miles 5 and 10 were the most difficult. But it helped to have my own personal cheerleader motivating me. Too bad she can't ride beside me in the actual race. 

The rest of the day was spent packing and preparing to move yet again. The homeowners return today, so it's back to crashing at the sister's house until the next opportunity presents itself, or I find permanent housing, whichever comes first. 

Needless to say, when I finally did sit down last night, my body refused to move for a very long time. This morning, I'm wishing we could hit reset on the weekend and start all over again with the beautiful weather and more time to relax and enjoy it. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Twist & Shout

Today's a day worth dancing about. It's this guy's birthday. 

Happy Birthday, Dad! Hope you celebrate all day long.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Remember last August when I discovered some unwanted house guests of the rodent variety? You can read about it here, here and here if you like. I never fully recovered from that incident. And my silverware lived on the counter for the next eight months I lived in that little house. It can be traumatizing to find out that someone has been living in your house without your knowledge.

Last night, I went over to Leslie and Shawna's house for a little Monday night dinner. Afterward, Leslie began decorating their apartment for Halloween. We started discussing costume idea for a 5k I plan on running in a couple of weeks. Leslie ran into her room to find nunchukus (I know right? Who has nunchukus laying around?) Shawna and I were chatting on the couch sharing a heated blanket when we heard a shrill scream from Leslie's room.

Leslie comes tearing out of the door through the dining room, screaming, "MOUSE!!!" Shawna and I naturally let out our own high pitched screams and promptly jump up on the couch in a crouched position as if the mouse were in fact chasing after Leslie.

When of course it didn't, we briefly calmed down long enough to concoct a plan which included calling all the men we know who might be willing to come take care of the mouse situation, as well as the landlord, because Oregon tenant laws dictate that they deal with these sorts of problems in a timely fashion. But then we realized that we actually had to do something ourselves when it became apparent that we are no longer young girls and can't scream for Dad every time we see a spider so he can come exterminate the pests.

The first order of business was for Shawna and I to head to the store to purchase mousetraps and chocolate. Because chocolate makes everything better.

Purchases made, we set about putting the rest of the plan into action.

No one else would dare enter Leslie room. But as a result of my past experience with the creatures, I felt I had no other choice but to offer up my services. So Leslie and I set about clearing everything off the floors and setting mouse traps.

Three hours later and a few loads to the garbage bin, we found plenty of evidence of the mouse. But no mouse. If you weren't sure if mice really do squeak, let me assure you that Leslie and I would both swear in a court of law that they do in fact squeak. We heard them.

We also found the potential point of entrance in an outlet, which had mysteriously stopped working a month ago, and whose cover was cracked and gnawed on and laying on the floor behind her bed. EWWW! We pulled the bed out from the wall. Set the traps and shut the door. 

Leslie's co-worker's preteen son loves to trap mice and dissect them. We called him. He thinks the mouse is pregnant. We're hoping the traps catch the mouse before she has those babies. In the meantime, Leslie has taken to sleeping on the couch. And is hoping the appraisal on the units goes well today, the girls are slated to move out at the end of the month on account of the fact that the almost new owner wants to turn them into vacation rentals. They were lamenting the forced move, but now it can't come soon enough. 

Some people hunt deer. Me? I'm brushing up on my mouse hunting skills. If nothing else, I'm working on earning a friend of the year award. It's a true friend who'll crawl under the bed where a mouse ran over your hand to help you hunt that mouse down. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Trail Buddy

You can find a recipe for just about anything online these days. Nobody uses cookbooks and recipe cards anymore. They just pin it to their Pinterest board. So here's one more recipe for you:

A Good Sunday Run:

First, lace up your new trail shoes.

Then add the following:

1 sister biking alongside you + 1 gorgeous fall trail. 

It's that easy. I know we look too happy there on the right for that to be the end of the run, but it was. Pinky promise. But how could we not be happy with those views? We even saw a few mountains peeking behind the clouds. 

But it wasn't the views that made the run a good one. I've run that same trail countless times over the years, as it is only a half mile from my former home. My trail buddy is what made all the difference. I've never run with someone biking beside be before. Unless you count my coach in college, but he was keeping track of about 30 runners, so I'm gonna say that doesn't count. Until yesterday, I've never had my own personal cheerleader riding with me. So I felt pretty special to have someone out there with me on the trail. She talked and kept me company and help motivate me to keep going. Mostly having a buddy kept my mind off all the aches and pains and kept me focused on moving forward. 

I should give some credit to the new gear. I abuse my running shoes something terrible. I usually don't retire them until they are so worn they are held together by mere threads. So the new footwear does help with the running. New gear is a good motivator to get out and use it anyway. I always say you gotta dress the part. If you want to feel like a runner, you've gotta look like one. 

Eight miles later, I'm feeling much better about the half marathon coming up. Now if I could only convince the sister to come along for every run!  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Educate the Girl: Hold tight to what you value

Did you hear what today is? It's International Day of the Girl, so declares the United Nations. I didn't hear about it until yesterday. I had never heard of the day before. It's only been in existence since 2011. According to a Huffington Post article about it, the day was created to raise awareness about the inequalities faced by females every day. And so today is a day for the girl.

I can't as a middle class female, born in the United States, with a college education, tell you all the ways I have been treated unequally from my male peers, although it has happened. It would be disingenuous of me to try to convince you of the ways I have struggled. I have not. Not in comparison to all the other girls in the world who struggle daily.  

What I can tell you is that I have been to Cambodia and I have met girls who were sold into sexual slavery at a time in their lives when they should have been playing with dolls and singing playground rhymes. These were girls who were robbed the opportunity to dream of finishing grammar school, much less of going to college. Often it was their own families who sold their innocence. I met young women there who left work in the fields for jobs in the city, but the only job they could find was waiting tables at bars, and they'd never make a living wage unless they were willing to sell themselves along with the alcohol they served. 

And I have been to Guatemala, where I heard stories of women who wanted to give their daughters an education because when they were young, going to school meant hiding it from their own fathers or risk punishment. Because school was only for boy children. And I have heard stories about husband who cast their wives aside when they could no longer bear children. Like a rundown vehicle left to rot when men decide to find a newer, younger model to give them heirs.

The young women I met in Guatemala with World Vision knew the value of their education. As they headed to their job each day teaching music, they thought of their peers who became pregnant teens, never finishing school or pursing a career of their own.

I have meet children on the streets of both these countries selling pencils and bracelets and pamphlets. Children who should have been in school, but were on the streets begging, likely not of their volition. Because school there is only offered to those who can foot the bill, and when you can barely feed your child, you can't pay for school either.   

But you don't have to get a stamp in your passport to see women struggling to get by. Here, and wherever it is that you live, they are on the streets, or living in tent cities in the woods, or working dead-end jobs and barely getting by. They are being paid less than their male peers at whatever job it is they do. They are raising children alone. They are furloughed because of the government shutdown. Wondering if they'll get back to work, this week, this month, or even this year.   

Today is the Day of the Girl.

Have you seen the video of Jon Stewart's interview with Malala Yousafzai? Ms. Yousafzai is the youngest person to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She has important things to say about education.

"It's part of our human nature that we don't learn the importance of anything until it's snatched from our hands." - Malala Yousafzai

Watch this video if you haven't seen it yet.

Ms. Yousafzai is an inspiration. But we don't have to stand up to the Taliban to find inspiring women. They are our neighbors. Our friends. Our mothers. Our aunts. Our grandmothers.

My grandmother, Shelby Mayes Spears, had only a 9th grade education when she became a war widow at 28, with three children. She went on to get her GED and nursing degree.

She raised my mother, Karen Spears Zacharias, who not only graduated from high school, but college too, and went back to school while raising four children. I remember when she started her first journalism job at 40. Since then, and it hasn't been long, she has written half a dozen books, and her work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, CNN, the Huffington Post, USA Today, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and the list goes on.

And it was my mother who raised me. Some of my earliest memories are of my mama saying, "Promise me you will go to school, Shelby Dee. Promise me, you will get an education." I promise, Mama. That's what I'd say. And I did.

Education is important. Especially for girls. Education is a powerful tool. It changes lives.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if every person, including every girl, could go to school and get an education? It can happen. And it starts with us. Each one of us. Valuing what we have before it's snatched from our hands.
Today is International Day of the Girl. What are you going to do about it?

Sponsor a Child in Guatemala

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wonder Bread

Some people have weekly sushi night. For others it's pizza night. Or movie night. Last winter I started my own tradition. Focaccia night. 

There's something about the smell of yeast and watching dough rise when it's cold outside and cozy inside. It's not a quick process. Making bread. It requires time and patience and planning.  

But when it's finally in the oven and the aroma starts to permeate the air, it's nearly impossible to let it bake for the full 20 minutes.

I don't even wait for it to cool before tearing into it. And in interest of full disclosure, some days, I don't even pretend to have self control. I demolish the entire pan and call it dinner.

I use Sister Schubert's cookbook, Cast your Bread upon the Waters, if you're looking for some good bread recipes. The nice thing about focaccia is that I always have the main ingredients on hand, and the rest can vary depending on what I'm stocked up on or how adventurous I want to be. Sea salt and rosemary. Onions and olives. Parmesan. The possibilities are only as limited as my imagination.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

E-Readers and a PSA

I finally finished that book I was reading on the borrowed Nook. I officially haven't been converted to e-Reader enthusiast. I liked it for the treadmill, but it might just be because I hate running on the treadmill more than just about anything else.

In order to finish reading that book so that I could return the e-reader, at least a week late because I am a very slow reader, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning the other day. And let me just give you a tip you if you live alone or with a couple of dogs that are not your own or in someone else's house, there are a couple of things you should not do. Because television shows and novels don't come with public service announcements warning you of their dangers.

1) Don't watch true crime investigations until midnight. I have been known to do this. Even when I know what it'll do to me. I can't help myself when I want the good guys to catch the murderer and then the jury to bring down the conviction. It sucks me in like a black hole and I can't look away.


2) Don't read novels where the cold-blooded murderer, who got off on a technicality, is in the &woods hunting down the only witnesses to this crime, the two young children of the woman he killed. Especially when the book never resolves and the reader just has to hope that bad guy is gone for good.

If you refuse to listen to this warning and do either of the above (or choose to watch a thriller or horror movie before bed), I guarantee your night is going to go something like this:

And any noise you hear, be it the house creaking, or the wind through the trees, is gonna turn you into a scaredy cat, much like this: 

After dreaming someone is hunting you down in the woods like Bambi all night, you're gonna wake up relieved you're still alive. But you're gonna need a big cup of coffee (or if like me you aren't a coffee fan, make that Irish Breakfast tea) to get you started the next day. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A ghost in my hip and other running woes

Half marathon time is now less than 4 weeks away. And surprise, surprise, I am way behind in training. Even after I found a plan to get me there. 

I can't remember all the excuses that have kept me from running much the last couple of weeks. I have run some, but I'm not where I need to be. 

First it was raining. And then it was too cold. And for about a week, I did something to injure my back. It was not good. I was uncomfortable. And apparently looked miserable too, because the little sister and I went to dinner one night and she kept saying how awful I looked! 

So I had to rest my back a bit and be careful. And while my back was still hurting, I moved. It took a few days to establish a new routine in a new place. And that half marathon in the distance just keeps creeping closer. 

I am trying to catch up and stick with my training plan as closely as I can. And it hasn't been going well. The actual running that is. A college hip injury keeps reminding me that it's there. Don't ask what the injury was. Not even the doctors could figure that out. They just called it my "phantom" injury. Nice, right? 

But just because they couldn't determine the cause, doesn't mean it wasn't a real injury. It still gives me trouble from time to time. I'm trying my best to show the ghost in my hip the respect it demands while at the same time showing it who's boss.

I try not to run with music all the time. I can become dependent on it to run, and I don't like that. I like using running to process thoughts and even to have uninterrupted prayer time. Crazy right? But I dug out my headphones last night, and found my old marathon playlist. And you know what? It was the best run I've had in a few weeks. 

I was surprised that the power songs I'd listened to two years ago still motivate me now. I ended up running half a mile further than I'd intended. It's not much, but it's something. And get this, I realized I was smiling as I ran the trail. Anyone who has seen me run, knows that I am not a happy looking runner.

I wave to be friendly. But I'm probably thinking, "Get that camera out of my face, wise-guy. Can't you see I'm trying to run a race here?" (P.S. Nike, I know you took this picture and I wasn't thinking any of this about you. I am sure I simply couldn't muster a smile.) 

It's not that I'm not happy while I run. It's just that I'm usually so focused on breathing and moving forward that smiling isn't even on my radar for what needs to be done. Plus, you know, when I'm not smiling, it doesn't mean I'm angry. It's just my face. 

I am making an effort. An effort to catch up on my training plan so I can run a half marathon in less than a month. And to smile in the process. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Destination Unknown

What are you going to do next? 

That's the question people keep asking me. The current gig will be up in two weeks. As of today, my answer to that question is, "I don't know." 

I don't know what's next. I don't know where I'll be living. I don't know if it'll be another house sitting gig. Something temporary. Or something permanent. I simply don't know yet. 

I do know this: I am not worried. This entire process of living a gypsy life has required a whole lot of trust and letting go. And for someone who likes to be in control of a situation, that kind of trust doesn't normally come easily. I haven't been perfect at this. It has been a challenge in all sorts of ways. I have grown and continue to do so. I am learning. Learning to accept the unknown. 

I have never been good with unknowns. I like to know the why and the how of anything I do. I hate blindly doing things that make no sense whatsoever. And that's what almost kept me from embarking on this gypsy life in the first place. It was hard to see how leaving my little home that I loved made any sense at all. You may still be thinking that. 

Gypsy life has been like taking a giant trust fall with my entire life. 

When it has come to this gypsy life, I have learned that I just have to trust everything will work out. And so far, every aspect has. I'm not going to push the big red panic button now. And if you're worried about it, you shouldn't panic either. 

I am waiting. I am exploring my options. And I am trusting the next step will be clear at just the right moment. 

And if you need more proof that I'm just fine, here's a word from my Dove dark chocolate today:   

You are exactly where you are supposed to be. 

Affirmation may have come from Dove today, but I trust in the One who created me and gave me this crazy, gypsy life. And that's who I'm trusting through this process. I am confident that the one who can walk on water isn't going to jump out of the boat the moment I start to fall. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Everyday, Ordinary Kindness

Yesterday a client walked in with chocolate. 

Today another brought a latte. 

Random acts of kindness. 

In nearly half a decade at this job, working in family law, with people whose lives are turned upside down, this is not common. And by not common, I mean it never happens, especially not two days in a row. Usually it's my job to calm tears and coax smiles. 

Answering phones. Copying documents. It's not a glamorous job. The days can blur into each other.

The chocolate surprised me. It put a smile on my face. The latte humbled me. 

These were gifts brought by people in the midst of some of life's biggest turmoils. Yet they both went out of their way to thank me for the simple job I do every day. Knowing what I know about what they are dealing with, I can't hardly express what their gifts mean. 

The news may be dominated by tragedy and natural disasters and uncooperative politicians. But right here in this ordinary, everyday life, live people of kindness. 

Have you seen the Science of Happiness video yet? 


Have you thanked someone recently with a letter or a small gift? Has someone shown you unexpected gratitude? 

I am a send-a-note kind of person. I love fancy letterpress cards and handwritten words. Before any of this, the chocolate and the latte, I'd written a note to send to someone who I get to work with on occasion, thanking her for the job she does. It's sitting on my desk waiting for me to put a stamp on it. I'd love to hear your stories.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Test Driving an e-Reader

Remember how way back when I told you all that I don't use an e-reader? I prefer to hold a book in my hand when I read. Well, for the last week or so, I have been using an e-reader on loan from a friend who converted a few years ago. She had a hard copy book she wanted to read, and she had already read a book on her e-reader that I needed to read for book club. 

Sadly for her, I am a very slow reader. Really, it's true. I have never mastered the art of speed reading. I am slow. I take my time. I sometimes read sentences two or three times. When I try to read fast, my mind wanders, and I have to go back a page and figure out what I just read. So I read slowly and eventually I get it done. I am not done reading the book on the e-reader. But thought I'd give you my thoughts so far. 

The first day I used it, I remembered the password to turn it on. No sweat. I was reading along. And it took me a few pages to realize that for every page on the page count, I have to read two pages on the e-reader. Not a problem. But then I was done and I had to go, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to turn the thing off. I pushed buttons and looked at settings. But no dice. I even texted my friend. But before I heard back from her, I had to turn to my friend Google to figure out where the power switch was. That's not a problem anyone would face with the old fashioned kind of book. Close the cover. Done. 

The other thing you only encounter with these newfangled books is the battery issue. The little icon turns read when it's low on juice and a window pops up warning you that you're gonna lose power if you don't do anything about it. So you better have your power cord with you if you're worried about running out of battery life before you finish reading. I have never had to plug in a book before, so that was weird. 

There are a couple of perks. I know you're supposed to read with light. Whatever. I was the kid who read with a flashlight under the covers and by the early light coming through the window in the morning. I'm not worried about my eyesight even to the day. So it's nice to have the back light at night, so I can turn off the lights in the room and read until I'm ready to fall asleep and not have to get out of bed to turn the lights off. 

The other thing I found that is useful is the larger print. I have never been able to read anything while on a treadmill. I hate treadmills for a number of reasons, one being the lack of change of scenery and I just get plain bored. But yesterday, I hoped on the treadmill with the e-reader. I was still bouncing around and had to reread words and sentences. With some practice I got better at it, and it did make running on a treadmill that faces a blank wall a million times more bearable. I would never be able to read a bound book and run. I'd have to keep at least one hand on the book to keep it open. Turning pages would require more than just a simple swipe of a finger. And unless I bought all my books in extra large print, I'd never be able to train my eyes to focus. 

Don't you go worrying about me. I have not been converted to the wonders of the e-reader. It has it's downfalls, but it has a couple of useful perks. But at the point the only one that would be enough to convince me is the treadmill entertainment, but I run on a treadmill so seldom, it's still not worth it at this point for me. 

Have you all converted to an e-reader yet? What do you like/dislike about them? 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Living out of a Suitcase

Disclosure: My life is not this tidy

This whole gypsy living thing is starting to remind me of the time my parents sold their old house before we could move into their new house. So for a month or two we lived in a basement apartment. My sisters and I were the same size and shared a wardrobe. During that time our clothes were stored in a giant cardboard box that we'd dive into every day to figure out what we were going to wear. Imagine a few preteen girls leaning into that box every morning, and then imagine what that box looked like after a month. Sides bent, bowed, and torn, clothes spilling out of it. That's sort of what my life looks like right now.  

I found my checkbook this morning. I had been wondering were it was for a few days. I used it recently. I knew it had to be somewhere. The where was the difficult part. You see I moved again last week. This gypsy is house and dog sitting again and my life is feeling a little bit cluttered and chaotic at the moment. 

The checkbook wasn't the only thing I lost in this move. On Saturday, I couldn't figure out where I put my purse. My checkbook wasn't in my purse, but my driver's license and everything else was. I couldn't find my purse and I was late for a community service project. It was raining and cold. But I couldn't find my purse, so I couldn't stop for a hot drink even though I wanted it. 

I had already checked my current location, my car, and my sister's house, when on my way home that check engine light came on. And when it did, I prayed and prayed I'd make it the few blocks home before the car gave out because I had no idea what I would do on the side of the road with a car that wouldn't go and not so much as a dollar in my pocket. 

But as you know I made it home, and I eventually found my purse and my wallet (they had been there all along) before I headed out to get the car running again. 

That's the thing about gypsy living though. It's hard to keep track of everything when it's spread out in different locations. And maybe it's a sign that I just have too much stuff, which is probably true too. I have clothes and a few books and my computer and some shoes and my rain boots and coats with me. But I left other things, summer clothes and my sewing machine and important paperwork at my sister's house. I have some nice dresses that I never wear but have just in case I ever get the chance to wear them hanging up in a friend's closet. 

And soon, because it was 27 degrees Fahrenheit in this mountain town when I woke up this morning, I am going to have to head to the shed that is home to my boxes and boxes of books and furniture and figure out where I put my puffy down coat and my snow boots, because it's cold, and I need warmer clothes. Leggings can only do so much to transition my summer wear to winter wear. It's only the second day of October and already leggings aren't cutting it. 

I am still figuring out this gypsy living thing. Organization is important. But it's hard to stay organized after moving something around 10 times in five months. The next thing on my "to find list" is a notebook where I keep my lists of things to do. I seem to have misplaced it in the last week. It's around somewhere I'm sure. It's the where that's the difficult part.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Invisible Warriors

A girl child's sandal.

A day planner.

A year-old calendar, math final X'd out.

Insulin needle.

Shards of glass bottles.

An upended electric stove.

Empty plastic bags.

Broken tent poles.

Bicycle wheels.

Clothes strewn about.

Mismatched shoes.


Deflated soccer balls.

A photograph of a young girl, maybe age 4.

As the rain falls, I pick each item up. One by one. Toss them in a black plastic trash bag.

Even the homeless have an excess of possessions. These things that make up a life.

Everything we consume comes wrapped in plastic. So much plastic.

Days later, it's the photograph I remember. Who is that girl? Who left her photo behind? How have I lived here for five years and not know about this camp? How many have passed through here in that time?

I may be a gypsy, but I have never been homeless. Never known this kind of need. Never seen it anywhere. Not in this country. Not in others.

The people I meet are clean cut. Not like the homeless I see downtown with cardboard signs. The ones who shout and yell and make a fuss. These are the invisible homeless. Hard times they say landed them here. They hope to get back on their feet.

In the meantime, they wave flags outside their tents. The stars and stripes. College football flags. These are their homes. This is their neighborhood.

Together, we pick up items left abandoned by others who have gone on. Side by side, we dig up the trash of their neighbors who simply don't bother. Because even here there are the neighbors who just don't care. But we haul it away in bags and wheelbarrows and truck beds. We clean up their front yard. At the end of the day, two trailer loads later, we've barely made a dent in the need. But we did something.

And I can't help but think of the Modoc Indians and Captain Jack. Warriors who lived in lava caves, rebelling against the authorities that sought to banish them to life with their adversaries. But that was 1873. And here it's 2013, and warriors still live on land formed by lava flows, hiding from authorities or risk being thrown out. Out of this camp. Their home.