Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Big Tiny Plans

So, after much consideration, hours of admiration, scheming, dreaming, and self evaluation, I have a new goal in mind: I want to build a Tiny House.

I first came upon the Tiny House movement when I realized that I couldn't keep my marital house post divorce. To do so, would require me to earn $70K + a year, and I've learned that such jobs involve way too much time and stress. I gave up stress, so I tend to avoid putting myself in situations that cause my blood pressure to rise. I decided a while ago I want to live a simpler life, with less things. In that quest, I considered life in an airstream or similar situation. That option is still on the table. But, the idea of a tiny house on wheels is has captured my imagination and hope for possibilities.

Here's a few reasons why:  

1.  I like the idea of building my own home. It's a great project that will require a lot of new skills. I like the idea of expanding my knowledge as well as my capabilities.

2.  Although it will cost me a good amount of money, it's not cost prohibitive. Most Tiny House projects run at about the $25K range, but there are a lot of exceptions. Some homes were built for as little as $11K. I'm a master of doing things on a shoestring, and I'm pretty confident I can source a lot of what I need at a discount. Plus, once it's built, my housing costs will remain low, and I can take it with me where ever I go. 

3.  I'm already accustomed to Tiny living. I've actually lived Tiny several times in my life.  In the Army, I lived in a very small barracks space and much of my life fit in two duffle bags. More recently, while I going back and forth between California and Japan, and between California and Canada, I aspired to be able to fit my life into one check bag and a carry-on. It's a work in progress. 

4.  I have a place to live. When I return to California in 2015, I will move back into my childhood home with my sister, where I can stay indefinitely at a very low cost. This will allow me the freedom to save money for my build as well as provide the stability safety net I need to take on this project.

I know there are a lot of hurdles and challenges ahead. There's a lot to consider: where to build, where to place the sucker, other debt that needs to be paid down prior to building. I also accept that at some point I might decide it's just not feesable to build my own home, although I'm totally in love with the idea. For the moment what I have is the desire and the beginnings of a plan.  The most important thing for me is that I know what I want to do, and have a general direction I'm heading towards. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Ducks and Chickens

A New Year is coming, at least a new calendar year is. I like many other burners tend to mark my year by the moment the Man falls. Yes, Burning Man is still a very big part of my life. But so are a lot of other things:  my kids, my love, and my pets. 

I've recently come to the realization that moving to Canada on a permanent basis is a lot harder than I may have anticipated a year ago when I first tried. I'm currently here on a six month visitor visa, and will once again spend my summer and spring back in California. when I do come back to Canda next year though, it may not be for the full season. I still have debt to deal with, and other somewhat lofty goals that will require full time employment on my part. I still have a great many ducks to line up, so because of this, when I return to California, my stay won't be so transient. 

Creating a new life can be lots of fun. Oh the possibilities. I like having options. But right now, my options are somewhat limited by finances. So, my current goal is to change that. And by having that goal, I'm open to a few other possibilities, like maybe returning to a professional career, if the right opportunity comes along. I've had a couple cross my path lately.

The most important part of all of this is being open and flexible. I'm more ok with what life throws at me. Yes, I do have some goals, but they are not achievement based. They're lifestyle goals. I want to live simply. I'd love to build a tiny house. I'd like to raise chickens. And I'd like to be able to see my Man  as much as possible. 

Some of my ducks are lining up just right. It gives me hope that the rest will at least decide to swim in the same general direction. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Fear Not

Fear not! For I bring you good news!

It's a hopeful message. We could use some hope these days. It's getting hard not to fear what may be coming. But for now, I'll enjoy what I have: time with my boys, time with my love, and hope for the future.

Solstice came and went, and we now enjoy a minute or so more of light every day in the Great White North. The boys are here enjoying time with mom. We are mostly spending the time cooking and hibernating. We did make it out to ice skate yesterday. Luckily my boys are low maintenance and easy to please. They appreciate the cooking lessons, and I appreciate their indulgence of such things. 

It's a different kind of season for us. There are no longer toys to wrap, but we still maintain some traditions. There will be the viewing of "A Christmas Story" tonight as well as donuts in the morning. I think, I hope, we've reached the point where the holidays are less about things and more about being together. I'm thankful for the time we have, and hope that the boys are too. 

I've been putting a lot of thought into the future. I have some goals maybe. I've gotten kind of spooked with the idea of goals lately. Fear of failure is very real for me these days. It never was before. Regardless, I still spend a good amount of time visualizing a new life. Knowing I can be happy with less is a real breakthrough that leaves me feeling better about myself and life in general. 

I know I can be ok with a mellow job that pays less, but I'm beginning to entertain the possibility of a professional life again. But this time, if I go, I go in with my ambition in check and entirely different goals.

I'm starting to feel like I'm coming up on a tipping point, but instead of a crazy ride down the other side, I'm hoping for a long mellow coast. Maybe it's not as exciting, but it would allow me to enjoy the view and the feel of a breeze on my face. Contentment beats exhilaration every day. And I'm good with that. I really am. 

Monday, November 24, 2014


After a tenuous October, November finally made good on the promise of a snowy winter here in Seskatchewan. It started with pelting snow, that stings the face when blown by the wind, followed by light flakes that fell gracefully onto the first layer. 

I'm a romantic, I know that, but I can't get over the comfort that snow seems to bring here. It's just a much more natural state in the Great White North. Shouts and screams of playing children replace the birdsong of the abandoning migrants. The ground crunches with every step, and the air feels ultimately more real. 

Besides its beauty, snow requires a set of rituals. You have to zip up with a scarf, hat and mits. You bang your boots every time you enter the indoors. And, the scraping: mornings are filled with the "raspa, raspa" sound that gave snow cones their name in San Antonio, except this is the sound of ice scraped from windshields. In the afternoons the sound changes to shovels on sidewalks as homeowners and businesses clear the way or face a possible fine for not doing so. 

I feel better when it snows here. It's familiar, it's inviting, it's soothing and it's calm. Everything has to slow down. Everyone drives slower and you have to walk with care. Sudden movements in either case could cause injury.

Life just feels more deliberate in the winter in Saskatchewan. It's a good thing for both the mind and the soul.

When people hear that I spend my winter here and summer in California, I often get, "you're doing it wrong!" But for me, this slow down is the perfect respite from a fast paced life, and a good reminder of how I want to live. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Visualizing Goals

Visualization is a very big part of who I am. In my early twenties I had a guy friend who turned me on to the idea. Because of him, I started making lists, and imagining myself in a future I thought I wanted. And, an amazing thing happened.  Almost invariably, what I imagined came to be. I wanted to live in Europe, that happened. I wanted to be educated, that happened. I wanted to have a great relationship with my kids, that happened. I became a writer, a manager, a director. Almost everything I visualized in my twenties and thirties happened in one incarnation or another. Maybe I was lucky, who knows.

I've had pitfalls along the way too.  There were many things that didn't quite work out the way I hoped they would. As it turns out, for some of those things, I didn't really have a clear picture of how they would work. Maybe that's what went wrong. Some of them just wouldn't work, and understanding that took some time.

Have I learned from those experiences? Maybe. It's hard to say. A year or so ago, I realized that I'd achieved a lot of what I set out to do, but still wasn't happy. I was happy to have achieved those feats, but without new feats I found I was flailing again.

Without a general direction to go, I just didn't know what to do with myself. I need goals, but what I know now is that goals don't necessarily have to be oriented to career, money, property or status. My new goal is to just live a lovely life, and figuring out what I need to do to stay on that path is my current endeavor. I really hope it happens.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bad American: Living More With Less

Am I a bad American? It's an interesting question to ponder while living in what feels like a changeling existence. Canada's culture and values are similar to those I grew up with, but with a good bit more practicality and politeness. It's necessary I think when more than half of the year is below the freezing mark.

But that's not what this post is about. When I ponder this question, it's a quandary of my values. I'm not an avid consumer. I am abhorred by my own weakness for coveting things. It's a habit I'm trying to break. I work diligently towards being satisfied with what I have, making do, and repurposing as much as possible. 

I'm edging towards a lifestyle change: living more with less. It's an ongoing development that I hope will become a new philosophy for me. It involves purging of things, paring down my belongings to just the essentials, and even redefining what the essentials are. 

I want to consume less. Yes, it's green, and maybe serves social justice, but my true motive is economical. I don't want to live a life of overwork and stress just to keep up with the status quo.  I don't need all those things, and I don't want to pay for a large house to store them. I want to live simpler, quieter, and in peace. 

So, this brings me back to my original question. Am I a bad American for abandoning what to me is  reckless and destructing consumerism? I don't think I am. I've just decided to get off this Crazy Train and turn up the Cat Stevens instead. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Traveling Again

I'm thousands of feet above a mountain scape circling, late, into Denver International Airport. In spite of an immediate future of traversing 37 gates to make my connecting flight, I'm in a very Zen place right now. I have Dillon in my earbuds, have engaged with some seductive brilliance that is the New Yorker, and raised the eyebrows of a twenty-something when my internet browser opened to the last site I was on, Porn Hub. Add a decent bourbon with an appropriate number of rocks and well, here I am: relaxed, amused and ready to begin the next adventure. 

Driving to the airport with my sister, we talked of future plans, things we can do with combined resources. Sometimes, I'm amazed at how just the initiation of travel can remove me from myself and bring perspective. 

I have an idea for a new endeavor, something I haven't had in a good while. I'm intrigued and renewed with just the mere possibility. 

The "Fasten Seatbelt" sign is on, and we are descending into a lighted city, darkened by clouds that can't quite obscure the electric colors of a reluctant surrendering sun. 

In my mind I am that sun, leaving the day with a celebration of radiance and a promise to return again. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

In Transit

My days of working so hard are numbered, at least for a while. I've only had a few days off in the last six months, literally. I could probably count the number of days off on one hand. The work I've done this summer wasn't hard, but it was constant. It's the commuting time that's beginning to wear on me. Every work day I have includes a minimum two hours of travel.  I really can't complain too much about it,  most of the traveling I do is on the ferry, "the only civilized way to commute," a phrase I should seriously consider trademarking. But, the time spent in transit is still tiresome, so much so, that I actually consider time to cook a real meal or to do laundry as cause for celebration, and have started to think about finding a city room for next season. 

Spending so much time in transit leaves me a lot of time to think. I don't necessarily take advantage of the time that way, but it's there if I need it. I like almost everyone around me, spend a lot of that time looking at my cell phone, posting, commenting, sometimes reading. Esentially, I waste the time. But today was different. I decided to hold up in a local cafe with a cup of tea, and spent some time reading. Like the lox bagel I had, it was delicious. Which led me to this post, where I begin to wonder about my use of time.

In a lot of ways this summer has been a continuation of a self imposed time out. I guess I needed to decide what's next for me. I still don't know, but I m beginning to see that I should be doing a bit more than I am, maybe. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Summer's End

I've always liked the summers we get in the Bay Area. Growing up summer was always cold overcast mornings that burned off to sunny pleasant afternoons. Even with Global Warming, and drought, I still find NorCal summers to be the best, that is until they come to an end. 

Now, I realize that Fall actually started a coupla weeks ago, but here in the Bay Area we get Indian...er uh Native American Summer. Typically the last weeks of September and first weeks of October are retched.  And I'll admit that we are delicate little flowers here. We don't like heat. We bitch and moan about it as though it's the end of the world. It's not, at least not yet. It's just how our season ends. 

This year, the end of the season means something else to me. It will be my triumphant return to the Great White North to subject myself to what is promising to be an especially brutal winter. Yay Snow! I've been working hard at working enough to save enough money to get me through the winter up there. I'm still without a work visa but looking forward to some time off. 

I know I'm at a crossroad. I've been living a bit of a nomadic life for a number of years now. It took me off a typical track I had been on for a number of years. I feel that it may be time to decide if I want to return to that track, or start a new one. And if I start down a new road, how long will I want to be on it?  

I admit, that my current occupation is not bad. I float, I open beer, pour wine and make the occasional margarita. I work at festivals and get paid to camp with friends. But as I sit here, on a commuter boat, surrounded by people who go to a grown up job every day, I can't help but feel that maybe I should be doing the same. 

Summer's end can mean a lot of things: less time outdoors, cooler weather, sensible clothes. For me it will be a change of venue. I have everything set to return to these gigs in the spring. They don't pay a lot, but that's OK. I don't mind working hard.  But, I have to ask myself
if I'm working smart. It's a tough call.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Old Habits

I did something I haven't done in a while this morning: I listened to NPR. It's an old habit, let me explain.

I use to be a total news junkie. I could tell time by what was on my local affiliate. NPR was a constant companion to me for years, at work, at home, in the car. I enjoyed the constant influx of information. It was somehow comforting, something I could rely on pretty much 100% of the time. It was a perfect distraction.

But then, my life started to change, and I found that the extra noise was no longer necessary. So, I decided to take a break from depressing news of petty politics, third world strife and things entirely out of my control. And when that happened, I realized I was using the news service as a crutch. If I could hear about the problems of others, I could avoid thinking about my own, or at least push them to the back of my mind.

It was a defense mechanism. I needed the distraction to not become overwealmed. And now, I recognize how others in my life distract themselves from problems. Some do it with alcohol, others with drama, and others, myself included use an abundance of scheduling and activities.

I'm glad to be out of the habit of distraction. Part of the reason I was able to break the habit is that I was able to detract a number of stressors from my life. But, it's a process, that I'm learning takes time and patience. I'm continually trying to simplify my life as much as possible. 

This morning I found myself on the sidelines of tragedy, not knowing what to do or how to help. So, my first instinct was to put my distraction in place and let the back of my brain process the loss of a friend and another friend's loss.

Old habits. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Wannabe No more

I'm doing it. All of it. And it feels great.

What am I talking about? Well, this story starts many years ago, when I bought my first real computer. The internet was new then, and we all had an online alias for email and chat rooms. Mine was Bohemian Wannabe. At that time I was still in the Army, a young mother, and doing the best I could to make it all work. I didn't regret my choices, but I knew I wanted to do more, to travel, and have adventures. 

Life went by, my children grew I acquired education and a career. I did what I thought I should, and much of what I did was good. I volunteered, I dedicated my career to working in nonprofit, I attained goals, both lofty and realistic. At the time, it seemed like I was doing the right things. Again, I don't regret my choices. 

Somewhere in all of that I became a Burner. And then about 5 years back, I started working the event. From that point on, my life began to change. First and formost my kids were growing up fast. Second, when I joined the Gayte Crew, I acquired an unruly disfunctional family of people. Like all families we have our issues, but the comraderie I've found among them, rivals that of which I experienced in the Army. We are thick as thieves, and a loyal bunch. 

So now this is my life. I'm in California for the summer, to spend time with my kids and work as much as I can, raising money to fund the rest of my year and pay down my debt. I'm tantalizingly close to being out of debt. I hope to work at Burning Man for most of the season, about 6 weeks on playa. Come fall, I'll return to Canada for the deep freeze, and next year I'll probably do it all again. Opportunities for new adventures keep falling at my feet, and with some good planning and hard work, I think I'll get to make the most of a lot of them.  

Way back when, when I was the Bohemian Wannabe, I think this is the life I had in mind, and right now I feel lucky as heck to have it. I have good people in my life, and love, and a reasonable hope for good things to come. No need to stop the ride. I don't wanna get off. As for being a wannabe, well some times we have to be careful what we wish for. And other times, it pays to want something more. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Proletariat Life

Yes, it's an unusual life I lead. I travel a lot. I've done a lot. I've learned not nearly enough.

My latest in Nomadic endeavors brought me back to my home in the San Francisco Bay Area. With the help of ever faithful friends, work quickly materialized for me, and now I'm living a lifestyle that I never would have expected. Skills long ignored are suddenly the core of my occupation as I embrace re-entry to the service world.

I have two regular gigs. The first one is on the Ferry, as a concessionaire. I pour wine, open beer, enthuse tourists, and empathize with commuters. It's not a bad gig. I realize that views I see as part of my routine, represent life long dreams for some who board my vessel. It's not hard work. I like bringing a little relief to commuters and fulfilling expectation for tourists, and the tips aren't bad either.

My second job reaches way back to the very beginning of my work history when I worked for First Street Foods in Benicia. I'm working as a prep cook. Mostly I cut and store a lot of vegetables, but I also make sauces, dressings and marinades. It's good steady work that provides method into my routine. I work with a cast of characters out of an Anthony Bourdain book, but it works for me. I'm comfortable in a kitchen. 

When I get off work I'm often tired and maybe a little sore from being on my feet, but I'm not upset. I don't feel misused, or helpless. I just go home, get ready for another day, and go to bed. I like it. It's simple. 

And yes, I'm not making a ton of money, but I know now that I can do so much more with so much less. I drive less and I buy less, and I feel like I'm living so much more. 

I don't regret years spent pursuing education and a career, but I've gotta say, there's a lot to be said for being a proletariat. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Bunny Menace

I admit it. I got tired of it all. I got tired of polishing my resume, constant competition and the overwealming requirement to be awesome and amazing. Everywhere I worked in my career excelled, and I thrilled my employers with great feats. I've been called a force of nature and a miracle worker, but the problem with labels like these is it sets the bar too high at the get go. When going into a new situation with an extraordinary performance level, it tends to leave you know where to go. 

This is what I have learned: I love to work. I love to be efficient, and creative, and innovtive. But, I always wear myself out when I come in too hot, and then my employer is disappointed that that amazing level of high performance I am capable of is not sustainable for 100% of the time. 

It's hard to balance, but at the age and this stage in life I'm finally beginning to understand that slow and steady wins the race. No wonder I dislike rabbits so much.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


I started a new job today. It's not a fancy job, or one that has a lot of responsibility, but the views are pretty nice.  I've been back in California for a little more than a week and things are moving along at a brisk pace. With the help of friends, I have enough work to keep me busy and fed. It's different work, not professional, and I honestly don't mind a bit.

At present I have three jobs. Just few days after my return, I jumped into the festival season. I work for a small security company that specializes in festival culture. We go, we camp, we check wrist bands, work the gate, and watch for trouble. It's not a bad way to spend the weekend, and often there's good music too.

Today, I started my Ferry gig. Basically, I float about on one of the boats that goes to and fro, working at the concession on board. I open a lot of beer, and serve coffee mostly. It's mellow, the view is nice, I can totally get into it.

And a week from today, I will start my third job, as a prep cook at an east bay restaurant. This job is probably the one I'm most excited about. Though I haven't worked in a kitchen for many years, I know it's a place I'm comfortable, and I trust that I will find my rhythm once I'm there. 

In the Bay Area it's not uncommon for people to start a conversation with, "What do you do?" And often, the answer is something cool, or techie, or creative or awesome.  I don't think I can say any of my current occupations fall into those categories, but I'm OK with that. I'm good with what life is bringing me right now. I'm not exceptionally concerned about my future, because I know that at some point I'll end up in a good place. 

Hell, I'm in a good place right now. I'm getting paid to cruise the San Francisco Bay. It could be worse. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lost & Found

Yes, I believe I was lost. Somewhere a few years back, I took a wrong turn, and then another, and another, all the time thinking that I knew where I was going. And I did know, but I was maybe going to the wrong place. 

I've stopped trying to impress people. It's not easy, but it's worthwhile because if people are disappointed with who I am, it's their problem not mine. I've also stopped wanting things! tiny houses and chickens aside.  I've gotten to a point where I can really appreciate the things I do have and welcome the challenge to figure out a work around for the things I don't. 

My future is still rather uncertain. My work visa for Canada is delayed, so I'm back in the Bay Area. I have a bit of work unfolding here, and hen the Burning Man season later this summer. Plus I have a  number of loose ends to tie up, so that's my primary mission while I'm here. 

My first few days back have been good. I'm figuring out what has to be done, one step at a time. Slow and steady wins the race. It's time to be methodical and purposeful. I know that, and that's what I will be. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Living More With Less: Sewing

Remember sewing? If you came up in the seventies and eighties it may have been something they still taught in school.

I learned how to sew from my mother, who learned from her grandmother, who taught her to sew on a peddle powered machine. We always had the sewing machine set up and ready to go. My mother made us costumes and prom dresses, and we would do our own hems and peg leg our jeans before they were called "skinny."

As my mother told the story, Chula, who lived through the Mexican War, said, "you can always have work if you know how to sew." In her opinion, you could always set up a sewing machine under a tree and do some mending. It's not a bad idea. Thus, I grew up with the understanding the sewing is a good skill to have.

In fact, when I was in my early 20's and in the Army, my mother brought me a sewing machine and Chula's words rang true. Before I knew it, I had a line of people outside my barracks room door of fellow soldiers who needed mending done.

I've had a number of machines since then. I've found that the newer ones aren't very sturdy, and jam pretty easily. I was lucky enough to find an old Kenmore machine recently. It weighs almost 20 pounds, but I'm betting it can take four layers of denim no problem.

So now, once again, I sew. I enjoy the act of mending. I fix popped seams, pockets and belt loops all to make what I have last a little longer. Sewing is something that connects me to my past, but is done with the future in mind, and it reminds me that with a little know-how, worth can be restored. I take pride in being able to fix what others might throw away. And if it can't be fixed, then it can be repurposed. More on that later...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Drama and Trauma

I am here to talk about Trauma and Drama

When I was eight years old,
I saw a children's performance
And remember going straight to my mother
To say "I want to do that too."

I was impressed with how everyone
On stage was able to sing and dance
I just wanted to be part of the syncopation. 

And Thus began many years in performing arts
I was in multiple productions,
Took ballet and tap, and even did a little Shakespeare
All before I was 13
Simply because I loved being part of anything
That created movement and sound.

And despite personal traumas
I always had drama to take me away from it all

My performing days ended
In adulthood and thereafter
Very few in my grown life
Knew of these things

But in that world,
I watched of a different kind of drama
Of those who never
Had the same escape

Their trauma was acted out
In daily antics.

You see, it never occurred to me
That being up on a stage taught me to cope

I never realized that sweating through makeup
Under bright lights, would enable me
To to see the daily act so many put on,
Where comedy and tragedy are
wWoven into a daily play called life
I – was just performing

But from those performances
I learned to silo my emotions for
Easier access on stage
Because there I could sing, dance
And even cry on demand

I learned how see what was real
And what was contrived

Trauma, is a very real thing
It takes your soul, steals away pride
And robs you of personhood

It can be a sudden interruption
Of peace and calm,
That rips what you thought
A secure life was,

But it can also be a process
That wears you down, eroding will
With every concession you make
And every heart you break,
Even if it's your own

I feel lucky because
I can see the relationship between the two
From my perspective, trauma is what gives us pain
And drama is how we act it out

And if we have no other place to perform
No place to sing, to dance to
Recite truths in iambic pentameter,
We act it out in our lives
With no no stage no lights, no orchestra

Only makeup and costume changes

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Crisis or Apex?

Conventional wisdom tells us that when we reach our middle years, realizing that we're half way through our life journey, we go into crisis. The stereotype for men is a snazzy car and even snazzier arm candy. For women, I suppose it's plastic surgery. But, I think there's a lot of ways to react to the midlife apex. For me, midlife is less about being older and more about being wiser.

I'm beginning to understand things I've gotten wrong, like looking for happiness in the wrong places. As recently as two years ago in this blog, I wrote of endless ambition, of always wanting to achieve more. It was never for glory that I wanted to achieve things, but for happiness. I thought accomplishments would bring me happiness, and they did, albeit short lived. Every time I achieved something, as soon as the accomplishment was relished, I'd have to look for the next high. In a lot of ways I was an addict.

I don't regret my accomplishments, but maybe some of the time spent in pursuit of them. I'm lucky right now, because I've had a chance to really slow down and appreciate simpler things.

I like to think I'm growing. It's hard to rid myself of the goal orientation, so I'll try these words: my new path is seeking more life with less things; simplicity. By learning to relax some, I've learned it's ok to live a contented life. I still love adventure and doing extraordinary things, but included in that realm of extraordinary are simple pleasures.

So what's the difference between a crisis and an apex? Well if you're in crisis you may see the apex as down hill in all directions. But, from my perspective, the apex is where I get a much better view of everything around me. It's a start.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Less is More

Spring continues to elude us in the Great White North. I, with my naiveté, thought that after a few days of warmer weather and less snow that it would be over, that winter would fade gracefully into spring. I wasn't expecting a winter hangover where melted snow only reveals lifeless, brown grass and soggy lost mittens.

It's still cold most days. But there is a forecast for warmer weather by week's end, and for this I am grateful. Already, I've been able to go out wearing less. On a good day, I can wear a t-shirt and bunny hug. I've even dared to go out in clogs as opposed to boots. Either I've gotten a little more use to it, or I, like many, secretly believe I can coax the warm weather in simply with a wardrobe change.

In other news, I've been thinking about how I want to live the second half of my life. I spent a lot of time in the first half trying to achieve lofty goals, reaching for the American Dream, but at this point, I know I just want a simple but interesting life. I'm not interested in things. In fact I'm infatuated with the idea of getting by with much, much less.

Luckily, modern media devices make this possible. Movie collections can be replaced with Netflix and the library. I find I watch a lot less this way, and by not being submitted to advertisements it is easier to understand and seek out my own satisfactions. I also read a lot more, nothing heavy or even literary, but always interesting.

I think the more I let go of things, the closer I will get to a truer version of me. I don't need a lot, in fact I want to need less. I want to feel a little more freedom from requisite expectations. I want to be OK with who I am without the trappings of a "successful life."

Less is more. Let's hope so.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Neither Here Nor There

The first day of Spring was almost inspiring. The sky was blue with a few scattered clouds. I heard bird song when I opened the front door, and then got blasted with a nice gust of arctic air; -23 with the wind chill.

Early Spring is an enigma in Saskatchewan. Consecutive days above freezing spawn hopes of warmer weather. Snow melts and ice thins, leaving swamps of dirty slush everywhere. Roads that were once smooth layers of ice topped with snow become crumbled, pot holed obstacle courses. But despite all this, Saskatooners seem to take it in stride.

I've noticed more bikes on the road, teenagers wearing shorts, and a subtle change of wardrobe as many switch from snow boots to rubber galoshes. Early spring here I think, is about patience.

But I'm running short on patience. I was fine with winter and negative numbered temps, but this in between stage is driving me a bit batty. Clearly, the worst of winter is over. Sure, we still see the odd snow flury and have to scrape ice off the car windows in the morning. But the cold is different now. It's fueled by humidity from melting snow, creating a miserable, San Francisco in the summer, Angela's Ashes kind of cold. I'm not a fan.

As I wait for a more recognizable version of Spring to arrive I can't help but see the conditions as a metaphor for my current situation. I've applied for a work permit, as an Artisan Baker. I'm excited about the prospect. But, it will be several weeks until I know if I will be allowed to stay. As I wait for Canada's decision, my visitor's visa is quickly running out, so I'm forced to consider an immediate future back in the U.S.A. Like the season, I feel neither here nor there.

I am anxious to see nature's renaissance here.  I am equally anxious to find what my immediate future will entail. I'm ready for some growth and colour to fill my world. Here or there, I will make the best of it. I always do.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Are Ides Anyway?

It's well into March here in Saskatchewan, and suggestions of hints of spring are starting to materialize. Finally, the temperature is peaking above freezing almost daily. It's like a switch was flipped. Piles of dirty snow are quickly becoming pools of dirty slush. Ice sculptures are beginning to wain, and birds are beginning to reappear.

It's as though everything is coming out of stasis. My mind that was previously focused on the windchill and which socks to wear, feels as though it's been set free. My imagination considers shades of green, flowers and how soon I should start seeds for my deck top garden.

The promise of spring this year also brings anxiety. My current visa is set to run out in June. If I fail to obtain a work permit by then, I will have to leave the country. I have a few contingency plans in mind for the summer should that happen, but the multiple of variables is causing me unease, and making me feel like I'm losing focus on what I'm trying to accomplish here.

Within the Burning Man Community, March is when we celebrate the Burnal Eqinox. It's the midpoint of our year, and for a lot of Burners it's the point at which we start planning for the next Burn. Not unlike the ancient celebrations of Ides of March, it's a time to welcome the new season and whatever it may bring.

I don't know what this new season will bring for me right now. There are a lot of possibilities. All I do know is that I at least feel rested after this long winter's nap, and a little more ready to face whatever comes next.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Yesterday was Mardi Gras.  Without the motivation to find a local celebration, I opted to celebrate by making gumbo and listening to WWOZ. The gumbo turned out great, although I got a little over zealous with the rice. I had every intention of making beignets as well, but opted out since I had baked an apple pie just the night before.

As a recovering Catholic, there are still things I miss about the Church. the ritual of Lent is definitely one of them. I don't know why I enjoy celebrating meatless Fridays, and denying myself something for 40 days, but even now, it appeals to me.

Of course any celebration of the Lent season I partake in now is only sentimental at best, but I still spent a while thinking about what I would give up for 40 days, were I devout. The thought of forgiveness came to mind.  Not that I would give up forgiveness, but perhaps resentment. There are many things I have never forgiven, things that go back decades. At this point it seems silly to carry around a grudge for something that happened more than 20 years ago.

But how do I let go. How do I make it ok in my mind and heart to forgive an I reconciled wrong? It is this question I think I will explore for the next 40 days. I don't know that I will find an answer, but seeking it seems like a good idea.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Winter can be tough in Canada. Right now, as California celebrates more water falling from the sky, their patience is rewarded with an explosion of colors. Spring comes early there. Trees blossom, flowers bloom, and on a good year, hills turn electric shades of green. It's beautiful, albeit pretty hard on the allergies. But I'm not in California. I'm in Saskatchewan, and we still have several weeks of winter.

It's cold here. After multiple days of -20C and below (that's before the windchill folks), I'm beginning to understand why bears hibernate. Living in these temps can be exhausting. It's not just being cold,
 it's getting ready for the cold. Getting ready to go outside involves multiple layers, down overcoats that poke you with the ends of goose feathers through the lining, the right socks, the right boots, a hat scarf and mitts. Forget about gloves, your fingers stay warmer in mitts.

If properly attired, it's not so bad outside. The brisk air almost feels refreshing, and on most days, there's a good amount of sunshine too. It can be very odd to look outside on what is a seemingly beautiful day, only to step out into blasts of cold air that literally take your breath away.

There's more cold than snow here. We've had snow on the ground since October, but rarely get more than 5 to 10 centimeters in a single storm, which are few and far between. Most of the snow we see on a daily basis is in dirty piles on roads and in parking lots. Some of it is combined into the 3" layer of ice that covers residential roads. It makes winter driving interesting at best.

With so much cold weather this year, reportedly the coldest in 20 years, I've taken to indoor activities. I read, binge on Netflix, keep house, cook and bake. The latter is becoming more and more of a pastime. I've found I love the smell of yeast. Making bread is the very act of creation. You give it life, it grows, you foster it, kneed it, let it continue to grow, shape it for it's intended purpose and then fire it into an ideal stasis, ready for consumption. It's a full cycle, that it repeat a couple of times a week, reminding me that winter too is part of a cycle, and soon no doubt, we go onto the next step.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Transformation in Progress

Life is changing fast for me. I've acquired a new outlook, a new goal on how I want to live, and it's changing the way I look at a lot of things. I focus less on things and more on self reliance. I cook a lot and am quickly becoming a DIY enthusiast. Mostly, I enjoy looking for ways to improvise with what I have as opposed to throwing money at every day needs.

I like living like this. My new outlook challenges me, and brings excitement when I think about the possibilities.

I admit though, that it's not a total transformation. I still covet some things, like a beautiful long suede fleece lined coat I saw. It was just the right shade of deep teal with a lovely hood. I had to remind myself that I currently have three appropriate coats for Canadian winter, and no real need for this beautiful garment. So I let it go.

I also resolved to use my car until it dies. It's cheaper to repair something here and there than to have a car payment. And not having a car payment will ultimately allow me to put money back for when it is time to buy a new vehicle. So for now, and for the foreseeable future, it's gonna be me and Petey, which is what I named my 2004 VW Beetle. He got the name when I had to create a make shift headlamp lens that is now duck taped on. It makes him look like the dog from the Little Rascals.

As I think about it, a lot of this isn't really a change for me. It's simply more of a reflection of my inner most values. Maybe until now I was afraid to of this life style, or perhaps I was distracted from it. Whatever the delay, I'm glad to embrace it now. I'm looking forward to whatever comes next, and I am no longer scared of what I don't have.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


When I was a younger version of me, I worked in a series of restaurants. My first job was in a restaurant. It was First Street Foods in Benicia, California. I started out as kitchen help. I cleaned, made sandwiches, washed lettuce, peeled garlic and the like. But, most importantly, I paid attention. I watched vegetables in a sauté pan become soup with the addition of stock and wine. I saw dough become pasta through a hand cranked pasta roller. I watched chocolate pellets melted down to become the most delectable brownies in my memory. After a while, I was trusted to do more. I rolled the pasta, made salad mixes, and monitored the stock pot.  Although I only worked four days a week, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I never dreaded work, and always came away feeling like I had done something. 

There's something special about working in a good kitchen. There's a give and take between the staff, and everyone contributes in their own way. In a good kitchen failure to do so, means failure of service, failure of creating something that can ultimately change a person's day. 

I enjoy making good food because good food makes people happy. These thoughts have come back to me as I continue a personal renaissance. I very well may have the opportunity to do this kind of work again, and if I do, I will be sure to relish it. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Simpler Life

I blame it on Laura Ingles Wilder. As a kid, and again as a young adult, I poured over her books about    Prairie life based in subsistence living. Something deep inside of me longed to have that kind of existence, where one's belongings could be carted up in a quest for a new life.

At that age, I didn't understand the political implications of invading the land of others. My ignorance allowed for childish romanticism. I loved the idea of baking daily bread, visiting over sponge cake, and gingham dresses. Those notions were soon forgotten as I became part of the working world where I made a salary that provided me with the trappings of modern life: clothing, things, car loans and travel.

But now, almost ironically, here I am, living on the prairies of Saskatchewan, once again imagining a simpler life. It started with some purging. I had way too much stuff in my closet. So once a month, I filled a bag to take to Goodwill. This went on for months until I managed to get my essential wardrobe small enough to fit into one check bag and a carry-on. I still have too much, but I allowed myself an extra allowance for Burning Man clothes.

Then, as I realized my life would be changing, I accepted that I might have to give up the homeowner lifestyle. It forced me to consider what bare essentials I would need if that were the case. As I thought about this I concluded that I can do without a lot and still be reasonably happy. Even without having to fully implement my musings about such a life, the excersize led me to yet another avenue of thought.

Up until this point I only thought of a simpler life in terms of possessions, but having less possessions wouldn't necessarily take the clutter out of my life. To really enjoy a simpler life, I would need to take out unnecessary pressure and stress that usually comes with a well paid job. I think of it as modified subsistence living.

I'll admit, that giving up the quest for a success is hard, especially for someone like me. I am driven with ambition to do more and always achieve. But, I managed to turn that notion on it's head, making my simpler life the new goal.

I can't say that I'm all in with this plan yet. There are still times when I want things I can do without. But I don't miss the pursuit of things or success. I don't need them the way I use to. In fact, my bare essentials list is changing.  I can get by with so much less as long as I have love and respect from friends and those I care about most.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Serendipity Is My Friend

When I was in grad school, we did a lot of work with the Franfurt School realists. These were a group of Marxist philosophers that included the likes of Hanna Arendt, Kant and Walter Benjamin. IMHO, they were a mournful lot. I don't mean to dismiss the value of their work, I get it now. They were crushed by the failure of a utopian promise when the nature of man could not produce Marx's ideal. So, yes, they were sorrowful for that lost hope, and it is reflective in their writings where everything sucks, and the intent of man has little more to offer than a puss filled blister.

The realists seemed to lament their loss on epic levels, wallowing in a living stasis of regret for allowing hope to even enter their minds. These were the underlying themes I perceived when reading their works.

I've known people who embrace this sort of sorrow. It's a deep dark wound that defines who they are. I've seen the self loathing that comes from daring to believe in an ideal that is actually an abstract, something that is only real in theory. The mourning spawned from that kind of realization can be all-consuming, and thus ultimately defining of a persons perspective. Any other expectation in life becomes suspect, and hope seems but a fanciful illusion. For me, it's not a preferred way to live.

I like to hope. I like to dream. I like to visualize ideals even if they don't come true. I do these things because they provide me with a path, a general direction showing me where I ultimately want to go. And, it may sound touchy-feely, but I think that daring to hope, dream and visualize are the things that lead to serendipity, because subconsciously I am looking for those opportunities, and will be drawn to them even if I don't recognize them at the time.

I entitled this post, Serendipity Is My Friend, because I needed a reminder of  why hope is such a big part of who I am.  By working out the role of hope in my own life, I can see how it leads to my paths of fancy. I've often marveled at the serendipitous phenomena in my life. It would be wise to remember the notions that lead me to those events.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Daring To Hope

I had a sorrowful day. It was preceded by a fretful night of dreams that woke me up screaming in one incidence and jolting straight up in another. After several hours of restless sleep, I finally gave into wakening but not real consciousness. For several hours I felt trapped somewhere between the terrors of my mind and my current self.

When I was finally fully awake, I felt wretched, like I had just failed miserably at something that was really important. And, although I couldn't fully remember my dreams, I guess, I knew deep down that that's what the dreams were about: failure.

As someone who was has been led by ambition for most of my adult life, it seemed that my ultimate fear has always been failure. It's what I dread. But, somehow, even when my endeavors didn't entirely work out, or when they reached an expiration date, I was always able to reemerge, a little stronger, a little wiser, and a little further along a path I had only secretly set out upon. I say secretly because these were desires I all but kept from even myself. They were things I scarcely dared to wish for, but knew I truly wanted, and often, always to my surprise, these secret wishes would come true.

I spent most of my sorrowful day in my flannel pajamas, trying to make sense of what had shaken me so badly. Unanswered questions left me confused until finally they were replaced with unrelenting tears. I just couldn't stop them from coming. I cried in mourning for something I had lost. Even when I could compose myself, I could still feel the loss like a gaping hole in my chest. It was physically painful to hold in the sobs, so I let myself cry some more. I cried almost all the tears I had.

I slept that night, and woke up feeling refreshed the next morning. I guess the sorrow just had to escape so real thought could tell me the answers I was looking for. It was like hearing my inner voice for the first time in a very great while. It seemed what I really lost, was myself, and that was the failure that haunted me the most.

Sometimes it's easy to forget what we are about, especially when we concede to the judgement of others. It's easy to become lost in that perceived version of who We are. But being lost has a benefit too. It reminds us to appreciate the familiar ground that is closer to a truer self, the self that dares to hope for secret dreams.