Monday, August 30, 2010

The Gratitude Bracelet

I've been reading "I Feel Bad About My Neck", by Nora Ephron. I like Nora, but you know... I feel bad about this book. So far, it comes from such a negative perspective on aging, it's making me feel bad about things I hadn't even thought of before. I might finish it, because she's funny, and I don't have anything else waiting in the book stack at the moment, or I might give it back to Mitzi, so she can take it back to the used book store she got it from, and get something else.

I was able to make beads in the daytime today, for the first time in weeks. It's chilly and rainy, which is perfect beadmaking weather. And while I'm in no way ready for summer to be over, I do appreciate being able to get my work done before it gets dark outside. I was thinking about Nora Ephron while I worked today, trying to decide whether to keep reading or throw the book out the window, and then I had a great idea for a bracelet. Jewelry ideas come from some odd places sometimes. I like that about ideas. You never know when to expect them, so it's always good to be in a welcoming sort of mood. I finished up the beads I was making, and then hopped over to the jewelry table to string up a sample bracelet for myself. I call it the Gratitude Bracelet.

It's simple, as it should be, given the theme. I pulled 30 nice beads from my box of Strays, and strung them up on elastic cord with one big sterling silver bead. I've heard it said that there are only two prayers we need to know - Help me, Help me, Help me, and Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. I happen to think it's more important to say "Thank You" for what we have than "Please" for what we think we're lacking. And so, in the tradition of prayer beads, the idea here is to say a specific Thank You on each glass bead, and only after doing that do you get to say Please for something on the silver bead. It's a simple exercise that focuses the mind on the abundance that's all around us, making the things we want to ask for seem less important by comparison. Thirty Thank Yous to one Please. I like it. I'm going to wear it for a few days and see how my own focus shifts. Maybe I'll send one to Nora Ephron too, because I am really quite thankful for my neck. It holds up my head, and gives me a nice place to hang necklaces. I'd like to help Nora feel better about her neck too.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Moon River - Take 1

I got my new harmonica yesterday, and I don't want to do anything but play it now. I am head-over-heels in love with this dear little instrument, and I think I might actually have a chance of breaking the I'm Not Musical curse. The internet has been a big help. I researched different types of harmonicas, read the reviews on various brands and models, and then ordered a Lee Oskar in the key of C. Today I also ordered Harmonica For Dummies, because I don't want to always have to use my computer for a lesson. There's a lot of good free info online, but I wanted a book too.

Last night I wandered around the web a while, and found JP Allen's page, which I really like, but can't afford the almost $300 for his DVDs just now. I'm gratefully making use of the free videos he has to offer, and we'll see how I do. Next I stumbled across Jack's Harmonica Page, which offers a lot of easy songs for beginners to practice on and gain confidence. I clicked to Moon River, and have been obsessed with it for almost 24 hours now. I will get good at this. For now, I can at least hit most of the notes, most of the time, and Rick could actually tell what I was trying to play. That's a lot more success than I had trying to teach myself to play the violin!

If you are feeling very tolerant or very bored, you can play this video of me playing Moon River. Warning: It is awful.
But it's a marker of where I'm starting, and if I ever get better, it will be fun to look back at. For now, I offer myself for public humiliation. I hope you'll be inspired to get yourself a harmonica and join me.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Yes Day

We had the most amazing Yes Day yesterday. The kind of day where everything goes right, which seems odd enough in these chaotic times. But to make it even weirder, we were in Medford. Not Paris, or Bora Bora, or Disneyland. Medford, Oregon. Just goes to show, the magic can happen anywhere.

We were in search of a solution to a cracked shower floor problem. We'd originally thought we'd just replace the tub, faucet, and shower walls, but quickly found out they want twice as much for miniature, poorly made RV parts as they do for regular bathroom stuff. We were looking at over $500 to fix our tiny Barbie-sized bathroom, so we decided to get creative. I'll do a "before and after" set of photos when we actually get around to getting this done. The real magic of yesterday was how many people we ran across who really wanted to help us. We hopped from RV repair places to boat repair places to Lowe's and Home Depot, and in every single place, we found someone helpful. Astonishing! We became almost giddy driving through hot Medford traffic, like we were on some kind of treasure hunt. Yes! Got the next clue! Let's go! And for a whopping $41, we came home with what should be an easy fix for our cracked tub. Glory Be! And like I said, I will show you how we do this, because do-it-yourself RV repairs can be quite daunting, and I want to be helpful too.

In between all those stops, we also bopped in to Kohl's for a terrific grill pan to cook veggies on, Barnes & Nobel for some crochet magazines and a new notebook (I never leave home without my notebook, and I fill 'em fast), Craft Warehouse for yarn (I also never leave home without sticks and string), and Dutch Bros. Coffee for a drive thru "lunch" of a couple of iced soy lattes. The dogs were along for the ride too, and they were a good part of keep us moving. We had to be quick with all our stops, because we didn't want to leave them in the truck for too long. Good little travelers, our dogs. A day of ride, treat, drink, ride, treat, drink, ride, treat, drink makes them very happy.

We got ourselves home in time for the Friday afternoon camper arrivals. We had a lot of reservations this week for some reason, more than we have for Labor Day next week. The 8 sites closest to us were reserved by one group, and we were kind of nervous about that. Big groups can be trouble, so we watched as they began rolling in. It looked like families and kids. No big deal. And when Rick went to check with one of the dads, he found out they're here for some kind of Cheer Camp. Yep. Cheerleaders. Half a campground of perky, mini-cheerleaders, averaging about 10 years old I'd say. I was really hoping they'd do some cheering for us, but they mostly ran around yelling and laughing and being cute. Both of our girls were cheerleaders in high school, which I found quite dismaying at the time. My own personal teenage self was very much "anti-cheerleader", and I was certain my daughters took up the sport just to make me crazy, which it did. All that clapping and hopping and yelling in the house. Ack. I'm better now. More accepting. My apologies to all the cheerleaders I've shunned over the years.

Our Cheer Campers got quiet pretty quickly after 10PM, and then the only ones to watch out for were their beer-drinkin' daddies, who all seemed to have some kind of male thing to prove, and all built the biggest, sparkiest campfires they could, right next to the bone-dry grassy oak slope. Disregarding the wind and our requests to turn the heat down a bit, they just kept cracking beers and tossing wood on those fires. And another camper up the hill left her fire going and either went for a walk or went to bed. We couldn't find her anywhere, so we went back with a bucket and put her fire out for her. I'm sure she really appreciated the help. We left water buckets and fire extinguishers in the driveway before going to bed, so we could grab them easily if we needed to. What is it with white people and their campfires? This picture is borrowed from the Elliot Lake Fire Department. I'll have to start sneaking up on people and taking some Ninja Camp Host photos of my own.

Luckily, we made it through the night un-charred, so this morning I'll put all my fire fighting gear away, and will wave happily as all the cheerleaders (and their dumb bubba dads), drive away, leaving the campground half empty again. Seems like a lot of effort for them to stay only one night, but I'm OK with this. We never know who will wander in on a Saturday afternoon and fill those spots, but I just have a feeling the Yes Day will continue into today. It's cool and cloudy, which makes people behave differently, more calmly. And if we can squeeze a little rain out of these clouds, we might just have a most wonderful, quiet Saturday night. And even if we fill up, some water on all this dry grass will sure make it easier to sleep. Amen and Yes to that, my friends.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Biggest Difference

There isn't a lot of difference between living in a house and living in an RV, except for the obvious restriction in space. We see that as an asset most of the time. There's little room to collect unnecessary stuff, it's easy to keep clean, and there's none of that exhausting running from room to room and up and down stairs. The other night I was standing in the kitchen, and Rick handed me something to put in the "office". I simply pivoted on my heel, set it on the table, and swung back to stir our dinner. To slightly modify Buckaroo Banzai's famous line -- When you live in an RV, no matter where you want to go, you're already there.

The biggest difference between the way we live and the way you probably live is that we have to empty our sewer once a week. By "we", I mean Rick. This is the one thing I find horrible enough that I might have to give up and rent a house if Rick were to suddenly abandon me. Today and tomorrow are Rick's days off as park ranger, and also our days off as camp hosts. We started the morning with a lovely breakfast that I almost couldn't cook, because the "swamp", as Rick so delicately puts it, was full, full, full, and the smell was anything but appetizing. I whined and grumbled, and Rick went outside to get away from me, because, of course, there's no place to get away in here. I shut the bathroom door, opened all the windows, breathed as shallowly as I could, and just made the darn food. I knew he wouldn't drain the swamp until I'd fed him. RV life has it's trade-offs.

Think about this, all you wannabe RV Road Warriors. When the "shitter's full" (Thank you Randy Quaid for that one), somebody has to empty it.

I think I might need this shirt, so I can sweetly remind Rick to take care of business... maybe before breakfast...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yell Fire

The Oak Knoll neighborhood in Ashland snuggles up to the golf course. I imagine a person might buy a house in such a high end locale, over, say the elegant surrounding hillsides, because it feels safe and secure and protected from the wildfires that rage through the area all too frequently. What could happen in a lovely place like that, right? Well, factor in a homeless man who starts a fire in a dry, grassy ravine next to the freeway. Add wind on a hot August afternoon, and then watch that fire rip through the grass in seconds, gather strength and speed, and leap across four lanes of traffic. Suddenly, there is no such thing as security.

Yesterday afternoon, Rick called me from town, where he was on his way home from a quick grocery run, and was watching in amazement as the first small bit of fire he spotted went out of control almost instantly. He watched a barn burst into flames, with burning debris exploding off in all directions. And while he watched and told me what he was seeing, we started talking about how long it would take us to load up our stuff and clear out of here if we had to. I dashed up to the top of the hill on foot, to get an idea of just how close the fire was to us. Fortunately, it was several miles away, but the wind was blowing in our direction, and ash was already falling all around me. This is not the view we want to see from our little lakeside camp.

We were lucky. It turned out not to be a disaster for us. Fire trucks and 2 helicopters put the flames out over the course of several hours. But it was quite disastrous for a lot of people in Oak Knoll. Aside from the barn, 11 homes were destroyed and 3 were damaged. I haven't heard of anyone being hurt, which is a blessing, but I can barely imagine what it would feel like to lose everything so suddenly. Of course I feel awful for those people, and also grateful to still be parked here in relative safety. I see this as a wake-up call. I'm reminded that there truly is no such thing as security. Things can change course in a heartbeat, and the best we can do is appreciate the calm moments, and try to prepare, at least a little bit, for the chaos. Rick and I got right to work moving the firewood pile we had under the front of our trailer. It was protected from rain there, and easy to get to, but it also blocked us from moving in a hurry if we had to. We're beginning to prep for our trip to Taos anyway, so now is a good time to start organizing things and getting rid of some accumulated stuff we don't intend to take with us. The lesson here for me is, don't get too comfortable, too relaxed. And keep the load light. That way we can move it quickly if necessary, and in a really tight spot, there just isn't that much to lose.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


It's official. We've agreed to stay in Ashland through September, which makes our stay about two weeks longer than we'd planned. Make plans, and plan to change them, right? We can't help being responsible and conscientious. It would be easier to be selfish slackers. As it is now, we'll blast out of here on October first, and get to Taos as fast as our little wheels will carry us. We have business to take care of, a house to sell, and maybe most important of all, friends to see. After a year away, I notice how much I miss our friends. We know so many people in Taos, and while only a handful -- ok, a large handful -- are actual close friends, there are so many lovely people to enjoy bumping into in town, or chatting with at parties. It's occurred to me that what I miss as much as my friends, is just knowing people. I miss knowing people in my town, and being recognized when I walk down the street or into the grocery store. We are invisible here, and it's making me sad.

I know it takes time to gather a group of friends and friendlies, and the fact that we're living out here in the park doesn't help. We haven't given up though. We have Mitzi & Ron and Serena. We have Sandra, who knew me through my beads and contacted me. Wonderful of her to do that. And now we've met Laurel and Eric because of my blog, and are going to have dinner with them this week. There is hope! If we come back here, which we will if Rick gets a permanent job with the county, we'll make the effort to get ourselves out there more and make some friends. I'm a little nervous because we never managed to do that in Seattle, even after 8 years of being very much out there running our pizza shop. Aside from a few very good friends made over time, Seattle was really hard to bust into. I hope Ashland isn't the same way, or we'll be tempted to go back to Taos.

Well, we are going back. The question is, for how long? When I'm not hyperventilating, I'm really entertained by all the little mysteries that are forming our life right now. Just have to keep smiling, keep trusting, and keep a paper bag handy. No matter what, remember to breathe.

(Thank you

Monday, August 23, 2010


Fall arrived here yesterday on a gust of cool wind. It whispered, Summer's over folks. Time to break camp and go back to school... I tried to ignore it for a day, but there's no denying the change in the slant of the sunlight, the smell of the breeze, and the sudden, merciful coolness. Sure, it's supposed to hit 100 here again in a day or so, but there's no going back now. It might get hot again, but it won't feel like summer again, not until next year.

Fall freaks me out a little bit, because like a gateway drug, it leads directly to winter, which scares the crap out of me. In a "normal" year, I dread the relentless cold and wet of winter. Summer is so short, and winter so long. It really seems unfair to me. This year is a little worse because I don't even know where I'll be for the cold months. All this uncertainty is unsettling. I'm off balance, and overcompensating by eating too many potato chips and drinking too much wine. But I'm usually the first to know when my head is stuck someplace it doesn't belong. Enough whining already! I need to suck it up, get a grip, snap out of it--whatever it takes to remember to Trust and move forward as fearlessly as possible. It's back-to-school time. Maybe I should venture out and learn something new.

Two things come to mind. I've been meaning to learn to type for years now. I refused in high school, when my mom insisted, saying it would be something to "fall back on". I thought, I'd rather wait tables. And so I did, for years, along with a lot of other weirder jobs, like bagging alfalfa sprouts, running a printing press, and impersonating a dental assistant. (It wasn't illegal, but my heart certainly was not in it.) I never learned to type, and never needed to, at least not until I decided to run a business online and write a blog. Now I could really use some good typing skills. I spend more time correcting than writing. Not kidding.

The other thing is sort of silly, and you know how I embrace silliness. I've noticed a regrettable lack of human-made music in the campground. There have been one or two guitars all summer, and that's it. Booming car radios and cell phone ringtones don't count. Where are the campfire sing-alongs, the gypsy violins, the melancholy strains of distant harmonicas? I took guitar lessons as a kid, but it didn't take. I can't sing. Bleh. And I attempted the violin a couple of years ago, with embarrassingly bad results. So now my attention is turned to the harmonica. I imagine myself softly playing old cowboy melodies by the campfire, or out in my kayak on a summer evening. I'm probably being silly in the way that means "wasting my time", but as I seem to say a lot these days, so what? I'll let you know how it goes. And if I never say another peep about it, well, my silly self will come up with something else. She always does. The point is to keep learning, keep moving forward, and to do what it takes to keep our balance in these crazy times. It's fall, that's all. Nothing to worry about. And it's a good excuse to buy a new notebook, and maybe some knee socks.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

People (and Eggless Salad)

I have a hard time keeping track of the days, but I know today is Sunday, because last night we had some people to deal with. We're getting to that part of the season where everyone who works in the park - any park, from what I gather - starts muttering, people, about every other word. It's like in the suffragette song in Mary Poppins, where Mrs. Banks belts out, "Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they're raaaaather stuuuuupid....". Substitute "them" for "men" here, and you've got the start of a great new campfire song.

I can relate to Mary's style. Be nice, take no crap, and bring out people's better natures, even if you have to trick them. It's a good way to operate, and it's actually working pretty well here. The people last night were not as bad as some we've had this summer, and we've really been noticing that since we put those friendly little signs on the picnic tables, most folks just shush themselves at 10PM and toddle off to bed. It's a bit of a miracle, and we'll jolly well take it, spit-spot and all that.

So with another successful weekend under our belts, a nice little picnic on our own table was in order at lunchtime today. Most of the time I warm up leftovers from the previous night's dinner, but I know how much Ranger Rick likes a nice messy sandwich now and then. Feeling kind of festive, I whipped up a batch of our favorite "eggless salad", which is the perfect thing to make in these times of tainted eggs because it has no eggs in it at all!

Get yourself a hunk of firm tofu (always use organic soy products!), wrap it in a dish towel, and squeeze out some of the moisture. This leaves room to add flavorful moisture back in without making it too soggy. I use half the package of tofu to get 3 or 4 sandwiches worth of filling. Crumble the tofu into a bowl, and stir in whatever you normally mix in with your egg salad. I like Vegenaise, because there are no eggs in it, a good squirt of mustard, some dill pickle relish, chopped black olives if we have them, salt, pepper, and paprika. No big deal. It's easy and tasty and good for you. I like to spread hummus on the bread instead of more mayo, and lettuce and tomato are important too. Gotta eat your veggies!

I wonder... If I were to make a nice tray full of dainty sandwiches, and served them up to the campers at bedtime, maybe some tricky, sleepy Mary Poppins magic would quiet the rowdy ones and make them think they needed to get some sleep. Ya think? Awww, people... gotta love 'em.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Here We Are

I read somewhere that Alice Walker spent a summer by a river, making a quilt, and writing "The Color Purple". That image has sparked envy in me for years, just imagining the luxury of that one summer in another woman's life. I feel similarly about "Eat, Pray, Love", glowing a "Wicked" shade of green when I think of Elizabeth Gilbert's year in Italy, India, and Bali. How does this happen? How can I get in on it?

I loved the book, "Eat, Pray, Love", and also loved the movie, which Rick and I went to see yesterday. I'm not a book reviewer, or a film critic, so I'll just say, Read it. See it. I hope you love it too. I think I'll go see it again, for the visual numminess of it, as well as the encouragement it gives a regular girl like me to dig deeper in myself, and find the real goods. It would be (and is) really easy to sit here wishing I had a summer by a river, or an extended trip across the world. Then I could do some real writing, creating, soul searching... Yeah. Right. And that's about the time God would let out a giggle and say something eloquent like, HA! It doesn't happen for most of us that way. Sure, sometimes the magic happens, but most often we have to work within our regular lives.

After the movie yesterday, we went over to the Elk's Lodge for a tasty beverage, and then across the street for a slice of pizza. Caught up in movie magic, I broke my vegan rules for a few minutes and savored everything about that pizza. Soft white dough and melty, gooey cheese are not normally on my plate, and I believe in what I normally eat and why I eat it. But in this case, Life won out over lifestyle convictions, and that one slice of pizza was like a prayer in itself. Looking out across the valley, the dry summer hills reminded me of Italy, as they often do, and I started thinking some martini fueled, cheese laced Deep Thoughts...

Do you think, I asked me, it's possible for a regular person to do good creative work, to help other people, to find balance and inner peace and all those things we think we need to go "out there" to find, right in our own back yards? Well thanks for asking. Yes I do think it's possible. Dorothy thought so too. There's no place like home. And if Home is in each of us, and God is in each of us, then where else is there to go? 

Sure, traveling and sitting by rivers can free our minds of the mundane things that dull us into a collective creative coma. It might be easier Out There, to step out of normal and do something life-changingly wonderful, but the truth is, we have everything we need Right Here, wherever that may be. It takes more effort and planning, and a fiercely guarded dedication to our own needs and goals. But so what? My own personal reality now includes a "morning meditation" that doubles as a dog walk, complete with barking, yanking, frustration, and poop bags. So what? It includes dirt and flies and a tent to work in and a husband with a raging case of poison oak. So what? It also includes that same husband who is my best friend ever in this world, and good food and clear skies and shooting stars and visiting owls and a lake to float on. So that is what keeps my head above water and sends me flapping out the door in rubber shoes with a notebook and pencil. This is my summer by the river. This is my trip across the world. Those things might actually happen one day, with funding and comfort and freedom from having to "make a living", at least for a little while, but waiting for them would be foolish and lazy. It would just be an excuse. Here we are, and here we are, and here we are. Everything we need. No excuses. 

What am I doing with this time? I don't know... First I'm acknowledging its existence. Then maybe I'll get on my knees and pray for some good clear Further Instructions. I'll weave in some food and love and see what happens. My recipe will not be the same as Alice Walker's or Elizabeth Gilbert's, but again, so what? And a summer or a season or a year are measurements that mean little. It takes as long as it takes, whatever it is that wants to be done. Italy, India, Bali, Africa, Ashland, Taos... wherever I go, I know I'll have what I need. Now have some wine and spaghetti with me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Uncle David

My Uncle David came to visit this week. If you've been here a while, you've kept up with the cast of characters. Mitzi is my cousin who lives here in Ashland, and David is her dad, my dad's baby brother. I've always adored my Uncle David. He was wild and cool and funny and rebellious when I was a kid, and I just wanted him to think I was cool too. I guess I still do. He's a bit less wild and rebellious these days, but still one of the coolest, funniest guys I know, and it was so much fun to have him camped here with us, and to spend more one-to-one time with him than I ever have before. Most of the time families get together for birthdays and weddings and holidays, and even though it's nice to have everyone together, I usually come away feeling like I didn't actually talk to anyone. This visit was nice because we were next door neighbors, and had time to walk the dogs together and just hang out and visit. We went up to one of the mountain lakes yesterday to pick up a load of firewood for the park, and had the nicest time afterward, sitting in one of the shady, cool campsites up there, watching the lake and Mt. McLoughlin. We turned the camera on each other, not interested in getting everybody in one shot. No family portraits. No silly endless posing. Just a couple of snapshots to remember the day.

Here's Uncle David and Ranger Rick. Cute, aren't they?

And Rick and me, strolling on the shore.
Click to enlarge. It's a beautiful view.

The biggest our group got this week was 5 of us, when Mitzi and Ron came out to the lake for a swim, or we all went to dinner last night. It was perfect. We're a lively group, to say the least. OK, we're loud, and we all talk at once and laugh and tell jokes. We can clear a restaurant full of timid people in nothin' flat, but the ones who stay always wind up listening in and participating. We can't help it. We are jovial. But we all got to talk and visit and enjoy each other over a small table and some good Chinese food. I recommend the small family get-together. Give it a try. You'll get to know some of your favorite people better, and the planning and coordinating take practically nothing. 

Waving good-bye to Uncle David this morning, I started a mental list of other relatives I'd like to visit and spend some smaller, quieter time with. This lifestyle will let us do that, which is a real gift, along with so many other gifts that come with living small and simply and portably. Here we come, folks. I know most of you don't read this, but here's fair warning. Expect us in your driveway sometime soon.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sweet Potato Salad

When I cook for a party, I always make too much food. Always. Rick tries to stop me, but I can't help it. I am my mother's daughter. I like to feed people, and I'm pretty good at it. I have 2 favorite vegan cookbooks of the moment, that I flip through often for ideas, but some days I just want to wing it. Reading directions and flipping pages in hot weather with favorite people in the kitchen with me is just too much to ask. But if you need some menu planning guidance, want to add some healthy new dishes to your diet, or want to know why in the world anybody would want to be a vegan anyway, check these books: "The Kind Diet", by Alicia Silverstone, and "The Urban Vegan", by Dynise Balcavage. I love them both.

There were 6 of us for dinner last night, so I decided on 3 hearty salads, telling the meat eaters to bring their own (and keep it out of my kitchen). I was serving up enough protein, fiber, vitamins, and all things good for you to feed the entire campground. Meat was not required, but still, a store bought roasted chicken appeared. I know, it's hard to believe a meal is "real" if there isn't a carcass of some sort involved. But I just keep calmly offering my beautiful, healthy, weird food, and most of the time, everyone is happy.

After the shopping, I got going on the chopping. This was no small feat, as my counter space is only about 2x2 feet. I manage though, and usually make one thing at a time, cleaning up in between and then starting the next one. Most of our meals are of the one dish variety, so it was really extravagant for me to make three big dishes, which then had to be stored in our little fridge in plastic bags, and poured into serving bowls later. I made a Greek salad that was pretty traditional, with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, kalamata olives, pepperoncini, artichoke hearts, and a tangy oil and vinegar dressing with lots of pepperoncini juice and oregano. I went with my daughter Lauren's "recipe", and made sure there was as much "stuff" as lettuce. Nobody missed the feta.

Then I made a version of a favorite rice salad I often take to parties. This time I used quinoa, which I cooked in orange juice and chili power, then added black and pinto beans, black olives, red onion, fresh organic corn, red bell pepper, and a cumin spiked vinaigrette. Yum.

The most unusual dish of the bunch was the sweet potato salad. I used white sweet potatoes, which are a nice change from regular potatoes, and not as sweet and sticky as yams. I added baby peas, celery, green onion, parsley, and red bell pepper. The dressing was a little Vegenaise with olive oil, vinegar, fresh lime juice, and curry powder. I forgot to add fresh ginger, which I think would be great, so I'll mix some in with the leftovers when I serve it all again tonight...

Yes, I made too much food. It's OK. Everything was good, and my prep time tonight will be almost zero. Maybe I'll pull some Smart Dogs out of the freezer and see if I can pass them off as "real" hot dogs. I don't know, you tell me - what's more real? Soybeans and spices, or floor scrapings and spices? Hee hee... I can be devious when it comes to getting people to eat, and love, what's good for them.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Kissed an Owl

I think we've fallen into a Harry Potter movie tonight. It was a hot day. Hot. Like 103º at our place, according to our fancy digital weather doo-dah. We spent almost 3 hours in the kayak after Rick got off work, watching uncommitted little thunder clouds turn from white to yellow to pink while the hills went softly pink and green, the sky beamed shades of turquoise to rival tropical waters, and the lake reflected all of it in rolling swells from the ski boats. The air was heavy and wet and hard to breathe. All day I was questioning my love for Ashland, like a fickle girlfriend who has just discovered that her boyfriend has ugly feet or a goofy laugh or some other trivial thing that can break an early relationship in pieces. We only dragged ourselves back to camp after the sun had gone down, and whipped up a quick stir fry to eat outside by the light of the Tiki Torch.

The buzz of the campground seemed to keep time with the quickly changing weather, and before long the clouds had gotten organized and there was lightening and thunder in the distance. Lucy quivered under the picnic table. Poor old dear is terrified of thunder. Heidi napped in the trailer. We took in all the sounds and images as we ate our grains and greens, listening to the Mexican oom-pah music playing in the picnic area by the lake.

Then there was a frantic greeting from a teenage boy in the camp, and I jumped up thinking he wanted to buy some firewood. Instead, he held out a dark little handful of fluff, and said, "I think I've found your owl". I went sort of dizzy for a moment, wondering how he had read my blog post from several weeks ago, and known about the little owl I'd had such an amazing encounter with. He couldn't know, but it still threw me off balance. He must have meant it in a more you run the campground, so this must be your owl sort of way. I reached my hands out, feeling that it really was my owl, and was dismayed to see that the poor thing looked almost dead. But only almost. And not dead is still alive.

Rick and I sat with it under the awning of the trailer, as fat raindrops began to fall. Lightening and thunder crashed all around us. Campers scampered into tents and cars. Lucy whimpered under the picnic table until I remembered she was there and let her inside. The owl just lay there in Rick's hands, quiet one minute, flapping feebly the next. We decided to do what bird rescue places have told us numerous times, and put him in a small box in a quiet dark place. This is not our first bird rescue, not by means.

I checked on Owl a few minutes ago. The rain has stopped and the air is cooler. Owl is in a shoe box with the lid offset and weighted. It bumps around a little every so often, but generally looks and acts really stunned. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I'll go out and check on it. I really hope it recovers and lives to fly free in the morning. Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I kissed the owl before I left it. Just a soft little kiss on the cheek. It seemed to need the reassurance. And how many opportunities do we get to kiss an owl in this life? Not many. It was so soft, I couldn't even feel it.

I won't be a bit surprised if it's fully recovered in the morning and ready to fly off in search of breakfast. I also won't be surprised if it's dead. Either way, I'll be honored that it came to us. And I'll try to find that young man who brought it here and tell him how it all worked out. He didn't look like Harry Potter, but he did have something sort of magical and knowing and special about him. I don't know what it means when an evening lines up the way this one did, but I'll bet it means something.

Update - Next Morning:

Sadly, the owl died while I slept. I feel bad, but there was nothing more to be done. I think it was pretty badly damaged, poor thing. At least he died in my studio, and not in the glare of the campground bathrooms. Have to look at the positive in things, and remember that death is part of life. It's OK.

Kind of quiet here this morning, inside and out. On with the day...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Buy Our House

Isn't it funny how the things that make us feel secure one minute, make us feel imprisoned the next? After  year away from our pretty little adobe house in Taos, it's clearly time to free ourselves of it. Yes, we needed to keep it this long, to give us an anchor to the planet. Too much freedom all at once can be terrifying. Knowing the house was there all these months has given me/us the time to understand that the stuff in our lives is what rules our worlds. The power of Stuff is unmistakable right now, as we prepare to break camp in a few weeks, and haul ourselves, our dogs, and our trailer back to Taos, for the sole purpose of dealing with the house. Maybe it's a "soul" purpose too. I mean, isn't everything?

I've already mentioned that we've lost our renters as of the end of September. We didn't see it coming, but we can handle it. I'm working night and day to keep enough money coming in to pay the mortgage now on a house we don't live in. I can do it for a while, but really what we want to do is sell the place, because now, rather than giving us a cozy feeling of security, it feels like a huge mud weight we have to carry on our shoulders. Nothing cozy about that. It's time to peel away another layer of the stuff we thought we needed. Time to sell the house.

So I'm posting a few pictures here. We'll list it officially when we get back to Taos. For now, drop me a note if you're interested and I'll send more info and hook you up with our realtor. It's a real adobe house, with 18 inch thick mud walls, three bedrooms, 1 and 1/2 baths, big studio/workshop, passive solar/wood/electric heat, vigas, 2 kiva fireplaces, one acre, partially fenced, shady side porch, patio with fireplace and oven, stone labyrinth, guest casita, beautiful views... and on and on. We should want to live there, but maybe you do. Here are a few more pictures...

The shady porch (portal)

Studio entrance and sunflower-lined driveway.

The "Pi Gate" to the labyrinth.

A winter view.

Come on in...

My studio take up only half the shop space.

OK. You get the idea. I have a whole Picasa album of pictures. Let me know if you want it and I'll email it to you. And please feel free to pass this along to anyone who might be looking for a home in Taos. I wish we could keep it and be free of it too... It's kind of like cake. You can't have it both ways.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Night Shift

Way back when, in another life, I worked the swing and graveyard shifts as a cocktail waitress at Harrah's Tahoe. Almost everything has changed since then (thank God!), including my ability to squeeze into that little velvet-and-rhinestone dress and walk in four inch heels with a 20 pound tray of drinks on my arm. But lately I'm finding it necessary to adjust my days, and my sleep, in order to get my beadmaking job done. Camp host duties are time consuming, thoughtful blogging takes a big bite out of the day, and it's been so darn hot here, the Bead Tent is an oven in daylight hours. I'm committed to everything I'm doing, so I just keep trying new ways of fitting it all in. I tried getting up early, and that didn't work. It's much easier to stay up late. So for now, at least until we pack up and go to Taos in September, it looks like I'm back on the swing shift.

I sat out there in the Bead Tent the other night and cranked out over 150 beads. Granted, they're small and relatively simple beads, but that's still a pretty good day's work. I call these Zen Beads, because of their lovely simplicity, and because they're how I "chop wood and carry water" these days. I thought you might enjoy a little photo essay on just what it takes to get all those beauties from the tent to the customers. Here we go...

Here I am in the Bead Tent. It's a 10x10 EZ Up, set in the dirt behind our trailer. As long as the wind doesn't blow too much, it works great. The moths at night are kind of distracting, but not as bad as the flies in the daytime!

All the late-night beads are left in the kiln to anneal over night. This cools them very slowly and removes the stress from the glass, so the beads will be strong and beautiful for years and years. This is what 150 beads look like when they come out of the kiln. I make them 5 to a mandrel, and at this point they still need to be cleaned... not my favorite job.

Here's the Bead Cleaning Station - a bucket of water, a dish tub, pliers, a wire strainer, and a Dremel. It's a sloppy, splashy job that requires water, so I like to do it outside under the trees.

Once the beads are wiggled off the mandrels, each one is individually cleaned with the Dremel and a diamond burr. The chalky looking stuff on the mandrels is called Bead Release, and that's exactly what it does, releases the glass from the steel mandrels. Quite a bit of it sticks to the insides of the bead holes, and has to be cleaned out, bead by bead, one at a time.

Cleaned beads catch the light and toss it around like a beach ball. They look so much more beautiful once they're clean. Compare beads like this with a cheap bunch of imported beads. There's a world of difference in the look of them, as well as in durability. Cheap imports, often made in Chinese sweat shops, are rarely annealed or cleaned. The result is an inferior bead that's likely to crack at some point. Don't waste your money!

After cleaning the beads, I lay them all out in the sun where I sort them by size and color, and stringthem into sets. When making 5 to a mandrel, there are usually a few that get too cold in the process, and break in half when shocked by the heat of the kiln, which is set at 970º. So now, out of 150 beads, I have 120 to use in sets, and a handful to toss in my box of Strays.

Next stop is the Photo Station. I change the way I do this, depending on the light and the weather. When I can shoot outside in the sun, I let Supermodel Veronica help prop up a piece of sheer grey mylar, stuck to her back with a bit of blue poster goo. A swatch of off-white knitting makes a nice backdrop texture under the mylar. I have an older, fairly simple 7.2 megapixel Sony Cyber-shot. I use the macro setting, and often use the flash when I'm in the sun. Bead photography has never been an exact science for me. Different beads, depending on the color, transparency, reflectivity, and texture, will need different things. I do wish it were simpler.

Here's how they look after a small amount of editing. I usually have to adjust the brightness and contrast, and sometimes the color, to make the photos as accurate as possible. No matter what I do though, the actual beads in your hand are much prettier than any picture.

After all the pictures are edited, I post the new listings in the BeadShop. With simple beads like these, I can do a lot of copy-and-paste for the descriptions. Larger, fancier, more expensive beads all get their own unique blurb. Sometimes it takes longer to list a bead than to make it!

Once the beads are posted, I send out a note to my mailing list, and sometimes pop something on Facebook. Then I wait. Sales are not what they used to be, for me, or for anyone else I know. But beadmaking is still a better gig than I could find in town, and at least I have control over my schedule and productivity. Sometimes I worry that I'll have to go out and get a real job, and everything in me says no, no, no to that. One thing I'm pretty sure of, I won't ever have to go back to being a cocktail waitress. I'm too old, too fat, and too cranky to take what goes along with that job ever again. 
Moving forward. Always moving forward, even though it's sometimes in the dark.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Two Fun Things

I've been interviewed by Levonne Gaddy, of A Camp Host Housewife's Meanderings: An RV Adventure. It isn't often that someone actually asks me about myself. Most of the time I'm just spouting off here without adult supervision. I enjoyed the process of coming up with what I hope are intelligent, thoughtful answers to questions other RVers, or potential RVers, might have on their minds. Camp host to camp host, reaching across cyberspace, I hope I've been helpful! Be sure to visit Levonne's other blog too, Levonne's Pretty Pics. She's a heckuva good photographer, and we have some eerie "parallel universe" kind of similarities in our lives.

Fun Thing #2... I WON! Don't you love it when you win? I sure do. It doesn't matter what the prize is. Every win is like a little pat on the head from the Universe, saying, Good work! You go girl! In this case, it's a good prize, and that makes it even better. Zoe Nelson, of Zoe Nelson -- Artwear, put together a sort of "priming the pump" giveaway, in hopes of getting some prosperity flow going. Times are tough for many of us, and I can particularly empathize with Zoe, a fellow jewelry maker who's finding it hard to make a living in this stinkin' economy. I've always told my kids, if you need something, the first thing to do is to give something. Sometimes it gets the flow going, sometimes not, but it always makes you feel better. In Zoe's case, it seems to have worked. The prize is a lovely little necklace of the sort I'd never have the patience to make. It will come to me in a surprise color, and the best part is, Zoe got a nice fat order for some of these from a store she's been hoping would come through for her. We all win! Wonderful!

Coming up soon, like maybe tomorrow, I'll show you what it's like to work the night shift in a bead tent, and what I have to show for it... Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sharing The Pond

Emigrant Lake is low, and getting lower every day, by about 1-2 feet. It's a manmade lake, created for the local irrigation district many years ago. Later the county came along and got permission to build the park around it, with the condition that the water remain in the control of the irrigation folks for all time. So in a good spring the water level rises to a lovely juicy fullness, up to the edges and pouring over the spillway next to the RV park. Then, as the summer goes on, surrounding fields grow greener while the lake level drops to a discouraging level.

I can see how wars have been fought over water. If there was any question as to who controls the water here, I imagine there would be constant arguments over its use. But a balance of sorts seems to have been reached, and as the lake disappears before my eyes, and valley sprinklers run day and night, the fishermen, speed boats, jet skis, kayakers, and swimmers appear to peacefully co-exist.

The Ashland Rowing Club also operates here, with a big building just outside the park, and dozens of long skinny crew boats out row, row, rowing every morning. I watch them as I walk the dogs along the top of the dam, and for the longest time I thought I should want to give this sport a try... but for some reason, I didn't. It's mostly women out there, mostly over 50, mostly quite fit and affluent looking. They're always friendly when I pass them on the road, as they carry their boats from the boat house, down the increasingly steep beach to the dock. I couldn't find anything wrong with them, until it finally hit me the other day when I was paddling along in my cheap inflatable kayak. They're all going backward! That's what had been bugging me. I hate going backward, in life, in cars, and in boats too I guess. They also have to have someone along in a motorboat, bellowing instructions through a bullhorn, which looks way too controlled to me, not to mention noisy and non-tranquil.

The rowers don't care for me much. I get in the way. I appear to have no purpose... I hear the bullhorn warning its backward-rowing charges to "steer clear of that blue kayak that's wandering all over the lake".  But it's my lake too, and as long as there's still enough water for all of us, I prefer to keep paddling along in my little blue boat, mostly in a forward direction, sometimes in circles, sometimes just drifting. Kind of like life, I guess, if we're taking our time and doing it well.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Playing Dress-Up

One of my favorite things about camping - or not camping, as we're doing - is the lack of mirrors and good light. I can go for days without taking a close look at myself, and the older I get, the better that suits me. Out here I rarely wear makeup, my wild hair is allowed to roam free, and I sometimes wear the same thing several days in a row. Unheard of, I know! But I also know nobody's looking, so if the clothes don't stink, might as well save on some laundry. I went swimming in my only pair of "shorts" yesterday, which are knee length and not at all cute. They're good for camping though, being a  stylish dirt-green shade of dark khaki. I dislike swimsuits to something of an extreme, so decided to go ahead and jump in in my standard uniform of shorts and strappy black camisole. The lake is a bit on the muddy side right now, and today my swimming costume was not suitable for another wearing. I poked through my meager closet this morning, and decided, what-the-heck, go crazy and put on something colorful for a change. I pulled out a never-worn pink dress and black leggings, and pulled it all together with some favorite jewelry. Seeing myself in all that color was sort of shocking. It's not just pink. It's a deep vibrant shade of magenta, and I have no idea why I bought it.

Look at my closet. See how dark it is in there? Most of my clothes are black. It's less confusing to me that way. The Pooh jewelry box was my daughter's when she was little. I took it, intending to decoupage all over it and make it Very Beautiful. Socks and undies are in the little plastic drawer-thingy. Sweaters and scarves are in the baskets on top of the closet. I have more winter clothes stashed under one of the dinette seats, and that's it. Not much of a wardrobe to work with.

I keep opening Rick's closet, which is half the size of mine, and checking my look in the mirror on the inside of the door. I want to like it. I really do. But I feel so weird in something so bright. It makes me want to go jump in the muddy lake and show it who's boss. And the outfit has only gotten better as the day has gone on... After making my rounds around the campground after lunch, I was way overheated from all the hill climbing in the hot sun, so I peeled off the clingy leggings and replaced them with my pink bunnies-and-cake pajama bottoms. They're cute, sort of cropped, with little ruffles at the bottom, like bloomers. Well, I think they're cute. Rick stopped by a few minutes ago to drop off some firewood, and when I stepped outside to say hi, he took one look at my ensemble and said, I guess you won't be going into to town with me, huh?

OK, so maybe my fashion sense has slipped a bit over the years. And a year in a trailer hasn't helped. I've never had to "dress" for work, and I find fashion magazines do nothing more than make me feel ugly and inadequate, so I avoid them. As a result, my clothes are weird. But does it really matter? If I have to, I can clean up and put myself together quite nicely. Thankfully, I don't have to most of the time. These days, I think the way I see the world is much more important that how I look to it.

So maybe a loony outfit escapes the closet now and then. So what? Now that I'm cooled off and comfortable in my summer dress and pajama pants, my entire outlook has changed. I'm not as shaken by the colorful image I see in that almost full length mirror. So now I think I'll just close the closet door again, and go on ignoring the mirrors. There's nothing stuck in my teeth, my hair is as good as it ever gets, my odd clothes are clean... I think I'll go into town with Rick.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Is it possible to shift the energy of an entire campground? I don't know, but I think maybe so. Last night was the quietest, most peaceful Saturday night we've had here all summer. We were nearly full, but every single group was calm and respectful and wonderful to have here. I just want to kiss them all. I'm so proud of them. I don't know how it happened, but I hope it happens again.

This morning is violins and an extra cup of tea. It's Lucy not barking at people as they walk by. It's two dogs coordinating their morning potty time so I only have to use one poop bag... Are you getting my drift? I feel as if magic fairies have dropped in to help me, and life is as sweet as a bag of jelly beans. I have hope for humanity again. I'm going to go enjoy this day, before it changes its mind.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ninja Camp Host

(Thank-you PaxArcana, for the photo)

When a campsite is noisy at 10:00, odds are it's going to be noisier at 11:00.  The mild mannered, nerdy guy and his little dog, seemed like ideal neighbors to have just two sites above us last night. But by the time I was heading for bed, that little duo had added a couple of pretty ladies and another guy to the fireside. Quiet chitchat got louder and louder, the language more profane, and the laughter more booming, and I wasn't in bed for 5 minutes before I realized I was going to have to go back out there.

Luckily, I was wearing my black kimono robe over my pj's, and I crept up on them like a Middle Aged Mutant Ninja Camp Host. They looked up, startled, and after a couple of rounds of Huh?, Huh?, they finally heard me holler, Turn the music off please! Once I had their attention, I introduced myself as the Camp Host, and like magic, I slipped into Warrior mode, deftly flinging my demands, one by one, while they could only stare and nod in compliance. I think perhaps they feared for their safety, which was wise of them, considering how tired and cranky I was...

You are right outside my trailer window.
You are much too loud.
Quiet Hour is at 10:00, which I know you know. (Punctuated by my large flashlight beamed at the lovingly laminated sign on their picnic table.)
This is not negotiable.
(Nerdy Guy nods and mumbles, "Not negotiable")
The next time I come out here, the sheriff comes with me.

I slipped back into the shadows, crawled back into bed, and never heard another peep. Take that.

I'm reminded of last summer, when I was on the other end of the shushing. We were on the beach in Monterey, celebrating my Dad's birthday. We had a big campfire, and were all sitting around talking and laughing. We'd been drinking a little, but no one was out of control. Dad was a little silly, but it was his birthday, and he was entitled. He had decided to take up residence on that beach, and was lounging under the stars, going on and on about how, This is what life should be like. The ranger who came up to us a few minutes later was of a different opinion. He reminded us that we should have been off the beach an hour ago, and that he would be happy to call - guess who? - the sheriff! - if we didn't skedaddle our selves out of there pronto. Gosh, we thought, this guy has no sense of humor. Why does he have to be do darn mean, anyway?

Well, now I know.

If he had been friendly, we would have mistaken him as our friend, which would have allowed us to feel like we needn't respect his authority. Now I get it. Not everyone who's too loud is going to be a Big Jerk, but I still have to be tough with them from the very start. If I ask nicely, that leaves room for negotiation, and to quote my Ninja Self, "This is not negotiable".

Nerdy Guy left early this morning, making it easy for me to slip back into my Happy Camp Mom hat. I'm nice, nice, nice... until I'm not. So I'm keeping that black bathrobe handy, and the big flash light, and the Ninja Attitude. Presentation is very important. I doubt if I'd get the same response in my pink bunnies-and-cake jammies...

OK. Saturday night coming right up. I'm ready for 'em...
After a nap.