December 14, 2020
I’m 5 weeks into my Workaway stay at a Buddhist retreat center in northern California.
The days are calm and spacious, my basic needs are beautifully met, and there’s a lifetime of learning on these 460 acres in the coastal hills. Sounds idyllic—and there is much to be grateful for—yet the days/moments don’t feel like the fantasy they might seem.
I’m digging into some mucky muck I can no longer ignore, with help.
Processing the summer/fall… the ongoing now-2-year grief journey too.
Observing, noticing—both internally and externally. Unlearning defenses in a non-judgmental environment. Learning about my spirit, body, & my ego, the Earth, its creatures, & the universe in an enchanted forest environment. Using the people around me as mirrors. Practicing ceremony, prayers, stating intentions to the universe.
Making when I’m pulled to create. Appreciating the laughs and joys in a great accidental pun. Teaching myself to Look at the plants and life around me. Sending love in letter form: snail mailing. Watching for clues. Surrendering into ease.
Enjoying the construction projects I get to help with, and the maintenance skills I’m learning from them.
I’m newly obsessed with the podcast Two Girls One Crossword, and I don’t even do crosswords! It’s funny, smart, interesting, has a good pace, and has been an enjoyable listen.
I’ve also discovered podcasts by Tara Brach, Hay House Publications, You Can Heal Your Life, Sandra Ingerman (The Shaman’s Cave), Marianne Williamson, Amanda Palmer, & Michelle Obama — and have enough listening for ages. Am patiently awaiting the arrival of my Dormi headphones, so I can fall asleep more comfortably to Tara Brach in my ears, or silently do Yoga with Adriene videos in a shared house (bluetooth!).
Tea: Have now tasted my first yellow tea, and have several new blacks and greens coming from China (via TeaVivre. A friend here bought me “The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook,” so I’m slowly dipping my toe further into this realm. Holding tea ceremonies weekly, and sharing with the people around me.
“The Anatomy of the Spirit” by Caroline Myss,
“Wild Mind” by Natalie Goldberg,
“Griffin & Sabine” by Nick Bantock, and
“The Book of Ceremony” by Sandra Ingerman.
On deck: “The Earth Path” by Starhawk
August 28, 2020
At work we’ve been building an ADA trail, which involves cutting 8′ logs so the edges match up smoothly, drilling holes for rebar, and pounding in rebar with a double jack. We’ll also need to fill between the logs with 2″ gravel, and then a top layer of finer gravel, and tamp it down.
This area is very pumice-y/dusty, so when the Canycoms (machinery) drive past, it kicks up the pumice which is damaging to lungs (contains silica). We wear respirators when driving machinery, but not when building.
Reading: Pete Holms’s memoir “Comedy Sex God,” “The Invention of Wings” (Sue Monk Kidd). A friend’s recent self-given spiritual/creative retreat inspired me to start reading Natalie Goldberg’s “Wild Mind.” She’s a favorite author of mine, so when I see a book of hers in a thrift shop that I know I’ll want to reread, I buy it. This one has been with me since last fall, but it’s a first-time read! The joy. Still reading a page or so of Marianne Williamson’s “A Return to Love” in the mornings to center myself before work.
Shamanic Healing: This week I’m starting a 7-week Energy Body class (by Last Mask Center), which I’m excited for. Most looking forward to some structure / accountability (taking this learning pursuit more seriously) and meeting fellow classmates (would love to meet more people interested in this field!)
Songwriting: There’s a Mary Oliver poem (“Anne”) that I’m putting to music, and it’s been stuck in my head all week! (That’s a good sign, right?) The feeling surrounding this is mostly fun/excitement to play around, experiment, and try recording — seeing what I can make at this moment in time.
Back-of-mind thinking: about where to go/live/work/not-work when my season ends here at Crater Lake. Our end dates are listed as November 7, but if snow comes early—as it did last year, at the end of September—the trail season will end early.
April 6, 2020
I’m on the path of exploring my Inner Universe, and it’s quite fulfilling. This journey has mostly been undocumented, unwitnessed. I’ve been keeping the moments to myself, sacred and not pinned down to words. This month I’ve been feeling the pull to share and create; it’s been exciting to really feel that change in energy—so perhaps I’ll begin to share about this journey. Perhaps not.
I’m in the final month of my trails internship, now living without a housemate in Zion National Park. The park closed on Friday, so it’s peaceful as ever. The days home are exactly like my regular weekends: unplanned, spacious. I see how I feel each day, ask myself what I need, and usually end up doing some combination of the following: writing, reading, listening to a podcast, cooking, baking, painting, making snail mail, walking to post office, hiking, sitting by the river. I’m grateful to be in my bubble of calm—without internet—during this time.
January 10, 2020
This past month I’ve really enjoyed settling into my housing in the park. I love having a full kitchen where I can bake and cook, a shelf to display my books, a bedroom I’ve decorated with my colors and inspiring words, deer in my yard each day, etc.
I also am hugely appreciative of my coworkers and living situation. Each day I see people I know, smile and wave at familiar faces: fellow interns, fellow trail crew, maintenance yard workers, librarians, the post office ladies. From home I can walk 30 seconds and be in the presence of a coworker/friend—ask to borrow ingredients or a pan, share fresh-baked cookies or a cup of tea, etc. This is a joy that I haven’t experienced in a long while, having not “settled” in a place since my time in Flagstaff fall 2017 to spring 2018.
Last weekend I attended Nicole Antoinette’s Real Talk Retreat in Arizona and I’m still processing the transformational experience, milking the boost in energy/confidence I’ve been feeling the last few days while it’s here. More on this in my year-end write up for sure.
I’ve had several varied experiences with grief in the past month, all necessary processing. Cathleen’s “death-versary” (is that a thing with a name?) is coming up next month.
After finishing my zine in December, I’m turning my attention to USAjobs resumes and exploring my inner universe.
I’m currently reading Terry Tempest Williams’s latest book, “Erosion: Essays of Undoing.” Once I finish that and return it to the library, I’m going to start a “February Freeze,” where in addition to eating out of my freezer/pantry and not spending on non-necessities, I’m going to read from my bookshelf instead of checking out more books from the library. (Anyone care to join me?) More on this in February.
November 6, 2019
I’ve been in southern Utah for almost three weeks now, car camping out of my SUV. My trail work internship is scheduled to start in a week and a half. I’m excited to start working again, and hope to find housing next week such that I can get settled (and take a shower! hah) before that starts.
I’m trying to nurture myself such that I’ll be in a good place to work 10-hr days. It’s been over a year since I’ve done any trail work, half a year since thru-hiking the AZT, and I didn’t have energy during my Sept/Oct grief wave. So I’m trying to rebuild so that I can start strong.
Perhaps I’m most worried about getting enough sleep, as sleep is perhaps the #1 influence on my mental health. I’ve been rising with the sun and going to bed soon after dark, so getting 10+ hrs of sleep has been easy and normal. I’ll have to wake up earlier than I have been for this job, and I’m a little worried about being able to wind down when I’m in an apartment (I sleep much better outside), but I know I’ll do my best to get the sleep my body needs.
Books: I’ve been reading a boatload lately. I’m currently reading “Twilight” (first time), which I’ll likely finish this evening, and Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth,” which is resonating so so much with me. I’m trying to go through that one slower, and with a pen, to soak it up. Already feels like one I’ll want to reread.
A book from last month that’s stuck with me is “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” I don’t usually read fiction, and it’s longer than what I typically read, but it was nice to stay with the characters and get drawn into that world. Earlier last month I treated myself to “Small Fry,” the memoir written by Steve Jobs’s daughter, and loved it.
October 6, 2019:
Almost two weeks ago now I left Wisconsin in my SUV and headed west. I attended Prairie Festival at The Land Institute and then headed to Colorado. I’m still waiting to hear back on an internship I’d applied for last month, which will dictate where I go for the winter. Nights are getting chilly though, so I will probably go further west soon.
Books: Taking advantage of being in a town where I have a library card this weekend, I checked out “I Miss You When I Blink: Essays” yesterday and finished it this morning. It’s excellent. Then I checked out “The Need,” and will see if I can finish it before I leave town tomorrow. I’m about halfway through “On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes,” which I’ve been reading on the road—but since I own it there’s no rush to finish while I’m here.
Grieving: I’ve been amid another wave of grief and rather unpleasant feelings since leaving home, plus loneliness, and so much that I can’t put to words. So I’m taking care of myself, making it a priority to write in my journal each day and move (walk or stretch) each day. I’m in bed when the sun is down at 7 p.m. and sleep until I wake up. I’m trying to just allow myself to feel whatever I feel, to cry when I start crying, without knowing why—but it’s hard.
I want to analyze: I’m not actively thinking about Cathleen each time I start to cry, so how much of this is grief? How much of this is from being untethered all year? How much is because I wasn’t really allowing the grief in when I was in my parents’ home all summer? Or have I been processing it just fine all along, and this is just part of the journey? How much is because I feel so distant from anyone, and I just want that feeling of connection with a friend—to be deeply known, to be understood, to have someone to recount my days to. I had that with Cathleen, and she’s not here anymore, so it’s likely all connected, right?
But as the days go on I’m getting a little more familiar with not knowing, with just telling myself this is a strange chapter covered with a new grey scrim, a chapter I’m proud of myself for going through, one word at a time. I don’t have to name it or know what exactly created it; just allow it, sit with the pain, and spend time among the trees, the plants, and the creatures living here with us.
September 6, 2019:
Element: On August 24 I bought a Honda Element! I’ve since been learning to drive manual, building a bed platform, and now figuring out where/how to store things — and what things.
The first thing I made were window coverings, for nighttime:
Then I got to work on a platform, and here’s what it looks like:
I’m waiting for the foam pad to get delivered (maybe next week?) so I can cut it to size, make the bed, and start loading things in. Am still waiting for license plates to come in the mail, and I’m taking it in to get serviced on Monday (goodbye $$$!).
“The Map of Enough”: I most recently read “The Map of Enough” by Molly May, and I really, really enjoyed it. It will be on my top 5 reads of the year for sure. I tried not to blow through it, and made it last six days. If you like memoirs, have thought about self-identity (what are we even? what is “I”?), and enjoy spending time in nature, you might like this book. Bonus: If you’ve lived in many different places, you might resonate with it at an even deeper level. (Fun fact: I learned of the book via an old issue of Orion Magazine that a friend is lending me.)
I searched the internet for more writing by May, and was delighted to read her essay “I Am Different Now from the Person I Wrote in My Memoir,” as this is a topic that has been at the front of my mind for a while (how fluid identity is, that no one is something they wrote/said, etc.). As always it’s a great feeling to see some of your thoughts captured in someone else’s beautiful writing.
I have May’s second memoir on hold at the library, and am still reading “Sacred Contracts,” a book on Paganism, and have been doing morning and nightly readings from the “Celtic Devotional.”
TV: Still doing “Grey’s Anatomy” Thursday nights. Finished “Orange Is the New Black.” Still enjoying “Queer Eye” episodes as weekend bonuses, and the Korean “Hello My Twenties” is my Sunday night show.
Tomatoes: The free tomato plants I got earlier this summer now have green tomatoes, and every few days one or two start turning red. Tomato plants might just be the best smell out there.
Deck building: The spindles are on the deck, and the spindles are half up on the stairs!
August 2, 2019:
Books: Of the books I read last month, here are the ones I recommend:
- “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer
- “Formation: A Woman’s Memoir of Stepping Out of Line” by Ryan Leigh Dostie
- “Tell the Wolves I’m Home” by Carol Rifka Brunt (fiction!)
- “The Dark Side of Light Chasers” by Debbie Ford
TV: I’ve made Thursday evenings my “Grey’s Anatomy” nights, one episode, which gives me something to look forward to each week. I started a Korean series “Hello My Twenties” because I missed watching a non-US show, and I recently learned of “Queer Eye” and am blowing through season 1. The episodes make me feel so good and refill my optimism!
Podcasts: I finally gave Beautiful Anonymous a listen, which my younger brother has recommended to me since 2016, and I’m enjoying it! I was also excited to learn of Mothers of Invention, a podcast which believes climate change has a feminist solution. It’s hosted by the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson and comedian Maeve Higgins, and they make quite the duo. Finally, am two episodes into ologies, another neat find. Real Talk Radio returns this month, and I can’t wait!
2020: I’ve been really captivated and blown away by Marianne Williamson—how she speaks (calmly, wisely, authentically, compassionately, intelligently, with so many concrete examples), her patience, and best of all the content of her words / her message / her vision is phenomenal (love! moral consciousness! helping one another!). Here’s a small taste if you’re curious.
SUV hunt: I’m anxious to buy an SUV, both so I can go places nearby and get the vehicle ready to be an RV-SUV when I go out west.
Scrapbook mania: Inspired by a cousin I saw two weekends ago—who scrapbooked 5 years of photos this summer—I ordered 350+ photos to be printed at Walgreens. I hadn’t touched my scrapbook in years—the most recent page I’d done was college graduation in 2011. So I spent 3-4 days in scrapbook mania, and finished two full years of the last decade!
Deck building: We’ve finished the last three floor boards and put up the top rail, but the staircase is unattached and needs creative fixing up—plus the railings and everything else that have yet to be cut and installed. And then painting/sealing? We’ll see how far we get in August!
July 3, 2019
After an emotionally draining, low-energy, grief-stricken June, these last two days I’ve felt more like myself than I have in over a month!
Van. I’m feeling like I can start to tackle my scary desire of buying a used cargo van, so I’m slowly making tiny moves in that direction—like opening up Craigslist again.
Tarot. I’m continuing to learn tarot using two books from the library, and it feels good to feed the intuitive/creative part of myself.
Books. I’ve started to learn about shadow work via the book “Dark Side of the Light Chasers,” and it’s been incredibly interesting so far. The shadow is an unconscious part of one’s personality/identity, which the ego consciously does not identify in itself. That definition cobbled together with Wikipedia’s help may sounds like jargon, but Debbie Ford’s writing on the topic has been very accessible—which is probably why I’m enjoying dipping my toe in so much.
I finished “Tell the Wolves I’m Home” last night after ripping through it. If you’re looking for a novel to get sucked into, look no further.
And yesterday at the library I picked up “Wicca for Beginners.” The first few pages have been exciting; it feels so in alignment to be exploring Wicca at this point in my life.
Plants. I’m enjoying fresh salads from the garden, plus now have cilantro, green onion, mint, chives, and basil on hand as well.
Spanish. I’m teaching two face-to-face Spanish classes a week, both to young learners. It’s been fun to apply my ESL-teaching techniques to Spanish, and a healthy challenge to plan/teach hour-long classes with a five-year-old. Whole new ball game!
Writing. My #1 priority is to finish AZT informational posts this month. Then I have a slew of other things I’m excited to create. Hope I can keep the projects alive!
The Encouraging Times. I have yet to receive a single submission, and if that’s still the case by the end of the month maybe I’ll adjust it to an ongoing project where I share stories on the blog instead of a printed zine. That said, I’ve enjoyed going from idea to action so quickly, and putting up the flyers has been memorable too. I sent several flyers out last month via snail mail to different friends and contacts. I had an amazing encounter with a woman behind the counter when I hung a flyer in her shop, and the other week I met someone via email who had seen one of my flyers in a bookshop! So, the process is enjoyable, which is important.
I’ll close by taking a breath for here and now. Thanks for reading!
May 31, 2019
Arriving back at my parents’ house in Wisconsin after thru-hiking the AZT was a transition for sure, requiring much patience. I’m feeling more grounded each day, though, and excited to work on my projects and continue to learn and transform this summer.
I’ve been accepted to teach English online with VIP Kids, and at the moment need to finish making a profile (intro video for parents) before I can open any teaching slots, but if I like it and can wake up early (to align with China’s timezones), this could become my income source for the summer!
My first Saturday home I made a planter bed with some wood scraps, and now have lettuce and a few herbs starting to grow.
I’ve been checking out too many books from the library; I should probably slow down my intake speed, but I was so excited to read books after two months without. Right now I’m in the middle of “Mating in Captivity” (Esther Perel) and “The Art of Living” (Thich Nhat Hanh), have “Deep Work” (Cal Newport) waiting to be cracked open, briefly started and paused “The Anthropology of Turquoise”(Ellen Maloy), and just picked up a Richard Brautigan novel yesterday, which I’d had on hold.
I gifted myself a punch needle beginner’s kit on etsy for my birthday, and have been having fun with that. Here’s where I’m at:
I’ll probably finish it up this coming week. Then I want to get my hands on some weaver’s cloth so I can start making my own designs.
I started season 6 of “Orange Is the New Black” when I came back, and finished up season 5 of New Girl. My brother showed me “Oh Hello Broadway” on Netflix, and I really enjoyed it.
I was able to see all of my siblings last weekend, and tomorrow I’m having a celebration with close friends!
April 26, 2019
I’m currently thru-hiking the Arizona Trail! I’m writing today from Flagstaff, mile 575 of 800. If all goes well, I should finish the hike mid-May.
Today I’m sharing an idea that came to me on trail: The Encouraging Times. I look forward to working on this project during the summer, and hearing from you!
March 2, 2019
My very good friend passed away last week, nine days ago.
Five days ago I was still in Pornic, France, lying in the grass under the sun.
Yesterday I cut off most of my hair.
Today I’m in snow-covered Wisconsin, still procrastinating from some essential AZT planning/preparations/logistics. I’d rather keep reading “Ongoingness” (which, let’s be honest, I will probably finish today anyway) and bake the best chocolate chip cookies ever.
In a week’s time I’ll be on a bus and a train headed to Arizona, where I plan to thru-hike the 800-mile Arizona Trail. Apparently the first few sections are quite snow-covered at the moment, which I was not expecting.
If all goes well, I will be hiking this trail for 6-8 weeks.
January 23, 2019
I’ve been in France for just over a week, and that’s about how long it takes for my body to more or less adjust to the time change. I’m still not starting my day (nor ending it) as early as I’d like, but at least I’m sleeping through the night now, rather than lying awake and then reading for hours before finally getting tired around 6am. (Right now I’m reading “Priestdaddy,” by the way, and oh my gosh am I enjoying it! As in, holy crap what a work of art, and what a gift—I’ve chuckled so many times and highlighted passage after passage with glee.)
The days this week have been calm (and I imagine they’ll continue to be so); I cook, read, write, and have been working on a beginner embroidery kit I got on etsy. Today when I walked to the supermarket and boulangerie I picked up a few (French) magazines. I’d forgotten how huge the selection of magazines is here—even at the local grocery store. I’m going to take pictures the next time I go. It’s really incredible how many stands there are, the wide range of topics (and # of publications within each genre), and knowing that each of these hundreds of magazines has an office and a team and writers and printers, etc. I feel like we have ten magazines in the US: O, People, Reader’s Digest, Woman’s Day, Vogue, Elle, Seventeen, etc. Well, at least that’s what magazine racks at grocery stores have me believing. Why are there so many smaller companies here in France? Is it because of the size of the country? The laws? Will U.S. towns always boast the same ten magazines, the same five shops, and the same ten food chains?
December 11, 2018
After my RMYC term ended post-mid October, I took a loooong Greyhound to Washington, where I met a friend to begin a month-long road trip. We slowly worked our way south, visiting friends along the way, ending in Flagstaff, AZ for the week of Thanksgiving. After that calm homecoming, we parted ways and I took a bus to Texas, where I stayed with an old friend for about a week. Then I took a (loooong) bus back to Madison at the start of December.
That two-day travel affair left me with a cold, so I’ve watched a gross amount of “Gilmore Girls” over the past week, drunk ridiculous amounts of hot water with lemon and honey, yet also somehow managed to deep clean my bedroom. As in, take everything out of every drawer and off every shelf, and fill four+ boxes of stuff to donate to St. Vinny’s. I also hung a bunch of artwork and pictures on the wall, to try and give the space a fresh feel.
I’ll see my first WI friends tomorrow; so far I’ve only seen family since returning to my parents’ house (took grandpa grocery shopping last week and cleaned at grandma’s on Saturday). I’m working on my holiday letter, family portraits (I’m painting my immediate family as part of my 100 Portraits project and also as a holiday surprise), and also a watercolor of a friend’s dog—my second commission. I’m also trying to do yoga every day, practice guitar/uke, read (currently: “Expecting Adam” by Martha Beck and “The Monkey Wrench Gang”), write, update this site, blog, art journal, plan my spring AZT thru-hike, and so forth. !
May 4, 2018
It’s Friday evening and in less than two days’ time I’ll be in Denver! That’ll mark the start of six months of conservation work with RMYC—without my computer (sorry, no new blog posts until October!)—so I’ve been finishing projects, preparing my analog entertainment, and pairing down what to bring.
Earlier this week I finished and mailed in my deck of cards for the International Card Deck Swap, so that was another big item checked off the list. A deck will get mailed to me (in Wisconsin) perhaps in June, so that’ll be a fun surprise to open in October.
I’ve also made a few cards to prepare for upcoming birthdays/Mother’s Day. The card below was inspired by this tutorial at The Postman’s Knock:
Preparing analog entertainment:
My ukulele is all boxed up and I’m taking it to the post office tomorrow to send to myself in Colorado.
My snail mail kit is loaded up with blank cards, tons of new stamps, paper, and envelopes. (Not bringing any washi tape with me this time, though.)
I wish I could show how they’re bound, but I forgot to take pictures before I put covers on!
I also prepared some digital entertainment:
I bought about $30 worth of French songs on iTunes earlier this week and loaded them onto my phone, because hearing those songs makes me happy! (After music-listening lost a spot in my daily routine for so many years, I’d been thinking about doing some sort of music-focused project to get me listening on the regular. Then I decided fuck it, I’ll just buy the French songs I love on iTunes so that I can listen to them on my phone (instead of needing to be at a computer on wifi for YouTube or Chante France). Here’s a favorite. Here’s another great one. Here’s one that’ll get you dancing. And this one!
I converted my yoga-for-spinal-fusion videos into mp3s and put them on my phone as well, so that I can make yoga even more accessible while camping.
I checked out e-books from our digital library and bought one as well, then loaded them up on the kindle. I also saved lots of songs with ukulele chords as PDFs, as well as some French song lyrics as PDFs, and put them on the kindle as well.
Pairing down what to bring:
Last night I went to a clothing swap hosted by my friend Emily, and it was awesome! (Friends, have a clothing swap with your friends—it’s great!)
I went with the intention to just get rid of stuff, but what I hadn’t realized is that many of her friends work at an outdoor shop in town, and thus get nice gear (i.e. Patagonia, PrAna, etc.) at discount a few times a year—meaning there were lots of nice outdoor clothing items up for grabs!
So I got several great items which I wouldn’t have bought otherwise at this point in time, but which will get lots of use in my outdoors life.
The floor in my bedroom currently looks like this:
And our living room has my two bags:
I really don’t need many clothes at all: two pairs of work pants (they’ll give us two work shirts when we arrive), rain gear (rain pants and rain coat), some layers (wool undershirt, fleece, pullover, light down jacket), underwear and tall wool hiking socks, and basically one off-day outfit for the weekends (yoga pants and a quick-dry shirt).
While packing today I discovered the podcast “Where Should We Begin?” and ohmygosh I think I’m hooked. Live couple’s therapy with Esther Pereal.
Aside from all of that, I saw family and friends this month as I was able. News from friends seemed to go like this: cancer, baby, cancer, baby—so lots of ups and downs.
And with that, I’m off! See y’all in the fall.
March 29, 2018
I spent the last two hitches working on an equestrian trail in Arnett Creek, AZ, outside of Superior. This past week I was building a staircase on the trail with three fellow crew members. It required moving huge rocks with a grip hoist and lots of crushing!
This morning I had my exit interview at ACE, as my 6-month term has come to an end. In a few days I’ll be taking the Amtrak from Flagstaff, AZ to Chicago, IL, and then bussing home to Wisconsin.
I’ll be there for around a month before taking off for my next adventure: a summer and fall season as an Assistant Crew Leader with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps! We’ll be staying in tents the whole term, driving from one project to the next on the weekends (also to laundromats, gyms for showers, and grocery stores), so that will be new.
In the meantime, I’m still chipping away at my first quarter’s IBS e-book project and reading a poem (or more) a day.
February 4, 2018
I recently got back from my first hitch post-furlough in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We were removing invasive Buffelgrass with picks each day. It was a fantastic crew and fabulous weather—an all-around great hitch.
Right before this last hitch I’d applied for a farming internship in Oregon. I had several interview the day before hitch and returned home this week to two offers. Hitch gives you time to reflect, and those eight days led me to actually turn down both offers and pull my application from the program. So I still don’t know what I’m doing late-March when my ACE term ends, but that’s no surprise.
In other news, I dyed my hair blue—with the help of two friends—in January while I was still in Wisconsin.
It faded some in the days since, and wasn’t quite the bright color I was going for. Then two nights ago in Flagstaff I saw a girl with bright blue hair, exactly the color I’d wanted. I asked her how she did it, and she told me a different brand of hair dye to use. I got it last night and re-dyed the hair without re-bleaching it. I really love the result! The brand is “‘N Rage” and the color is “Twisted Teal” (although the color looks vibrant blue, not teal, which is what I wanted).
I’ve quickly fallen in love with my new day markers art journal. It’s so fun to look back on the days, and equally fun to quickly make each page. Yesterday I went bowling with some friends, so I kept my receipt and also asked the man behind the counter if they had any business cards. He reached into his wallet and handed me his business card as the General Manager of the bowling alley. I glued both into yesterday’s day marker page!
And finally, my most recent news is that I just got put on a monthlong hitch which leaves tomorrow at 6 a.m. This means I’ll be spending the month in Texas near the gulf, working on a 4-3 schedule (4 days on, 3 days off).
December 23, 2017
I packed up everything in Flagstaff two weeks ago and left it all there—save my Tom Bihn backpack, which accompanied me on the shuttle + flight + airport “sleep” + bus home. My first few days back were full of holiday letter creation, copying, envelope addressing, stuffing, and mailing. Can’t wait to share my letter here (once it’s received by all international friends)—it was really fun to make.
Then this week I slithered into several days of Netflix (Mad Men, Orange Is the New Black – Season 5, Grey’s Anatomy), coupled with trouble sleeping at night (or simply staying up too late) and thus sleeping in. I’m not too worried, though, everything ebbs and flows.
I’ve also been baking/cooking quite a bit from the Minimalist Baker’s cookbook (checked out from the library). So much good stuff in here—definitely a cookbook to own. My favorite recipe might be the buttery biscuits, whose description says they’re the vegan version of Red Lobster biscuits. So good!
Everything in the cookbook is vegan, by the way. I’ve also made two batches of their chocolate chip cookies, peppermint patties, and almond joy cookies for the holidays. I took some to a Fab Five dinner on Wednesday night, and made more today for Christmas/New Year’s (froze half). We’ll be having lasagna on Christmas, so I’ll be using that recipe for the first time on Monday so that I can eat the same meal as everyone else.
Yesterday I finished a mini-project which involved choosing a poem for each member of my family then writing it out and putting it in a watercolor frame. Aka a homemade Christmas gift! This is another project I’ll share on the blog once it’s gifted.
I’m exploring who I want to become in 2018 and what my guiding directions will be. Two friends and I worked on some “18 things to do in 2018” lists last weekend, complete with fun tarot card readings (using these goddess cards).
I’m not sure if a list of 18 things is the right format for me to follow… I did some year-end reflecting this week and there are lots of things I’m pulled towards, but a singular focus isn’t clear yet. Looking in the past, I seem to only make notable progress when I focus on ONE thing (i.e. French, my two months of PT/yoga first, the months of meditation when that was the only daily checkmark I needed to get). Is it realistic to have three must-do’s each day (meditate, write, stretch/yoga) plus all of the would-like-to-do’s (sketch/art journal, ukulele/guitar, read, walk, write poetry)? I’ll continue to explore and listen to my hut (heart + gut), but I’ll probably learn the most by choosing a direction and walking towards it. Learn by doing, adjust as necessary, continue.
Full year-end reflection to come, on the blog!
November 24, 2017
I’ve been working in the Grand Canyon this month, and am scheduled to return there on Tuesday for my final hitch of 2017.
We’ve been working on Hermit’s Trail, a backcountry trail on the south rim. The first hitch I was front country, meaning we (4-person crew) camped up on the rim and drove 20 minutes to the trail head each day, where we then hiked down just over an hour to our work site.
This past hitch I was with the backcountry half of the crew, meaning we camped on a ridge halfway down the canyon and worked farther down the trail. It was warmer in the evenings down there, but a few of the nights were insanely windy, preventing me from sleeping and also snapping my tent poles. (!!)
My off days have been few since October, due to a number of factors. This all means I’ve hardly spent anytime online—which is excellent for the most part, though I’d like to be blogging and sending email updates to family/friends. For now the plan is to write a bunch when I’m home over furlough, the period we have off from December 9 – January 6.
I’m looking forward to next month’s Moment Sketchers challenge, and am planning to do a “10 portraits in 10 days” over furlough to make greater progress on my 100 Portraits project. Other plans for furlough include getting back into yoga, reading, writing, keeping up with my vegan diet, and seeing friends/family.
I’m still just as happy to be serving in ACE as I was last month, thankful for my housemates and the welcoming community of people this organization attracts.
September 27, 2017
I just got back from my second “hitch”—this time I was working with herbicide to remove invasive Buffelgrass outside of Tuscon. At our campsite in Catalina State Park there were five black widows living under our picnic table, tarantulas that ran around at night, Gunnison’s prairie dogs, and a scorpion that kept haunting me in the bathroom.
We were spraying from a rocky mountain in the desert, so climbing up that twice each day was a great leg workout and reminder that life is finite. We all survived—no avalanche incidents, animal bits, or injuries beyond getting stuck with cholla, a nasty prickly cactus which easily gets stuck in your skin and stings much worse than you’d imagine.
My first hitch was so awesome that I’ve since extended my AmeriCorps term to 900 hours: six months instead of three in Flagstaff. On my first set of off days I went to a meetup with the local “Upper 20s and 30s Social Group,” a “Globetrotters” meetup at a cool cafe, had an art day with a friend, and went to an evening of lindy hop lessons/social dancing.
I now have six days off before my next hitch, which will be a longer one (2.5 weeks) in Havasu, AZ. It’s an interesting schedule—to try and keep up all my regular hobbies (snail mail, painting, writing, blogging), update friends/family (phone calls, emails), hang out with ACE friends, make new friends (Meetups, lindy hop), explore Flagstaff, and take advantage of the location for nearby travel/outdoor adventures—all in six days, but I’ll make it work.
August 27, 2017
Five days ago I was offered a position to serve on AmeriCorps in Arizona. I accepted, and on August 31 I fly to Flagstaff, AZ for three months of volunteering on ACE Arizona’s Conservation Corps. We’ll be working on conservation projects in the southwest region, out camping on-site for 8-9 days at a time.
I’m trying to eat or give away the rest of my garden’s goods before I leave. She’s still abound with kale, cucumbers, carrots, beets, squash, and tomatoes.
I’ve acquired most of the hiking/camping gear I’ll need for this next adventure—with much good luck. When I met a woman on Craigslist to check out her Lowe Alpine backpack, she insisted on gifting it to me and wouldn’t accept a penny. I got leather boots for 70% off at the Gander Mountain store closing. Yesterday I drove to Mount Horeb to look for women’s work pants at Duluth Trading Company. The only work pant didn’t come in my size, so I left empty handed and feeling a little defeated. (Earlier I’d already looked for them at Farm and Fleet, Cabela’s, and Menards). My aunt suggested Goodwill/Savers, so I stop by the closest St. Vinnies and happen to find Duluth Trading Company thick work pants in my size, just a little short on length. Success! Next I stop by Goodwill and find: two more pairs of Duluth Trading Company pants, this time the right length and size. !!!
Earlier this month I worked on finishing a quilt with my grandma, which was made by my other grandma. I bought a used sheet for the back and her neighbor helped us pin it with the batting so I could tie the quilt. My grandma hand-sewed the edges, and now it’s finished!
August 5, 2017
At the end of July I returned home from two weeks away. I spent the first week volunteering as a counselor at Camp Quest, which was as intense as it was fun and rewarding. Then I spent a weekend with my aunt, uncle, and cousin who live nearby before taking the bus over to La Crosse for a week hanging out with my younger brother.
That week was filled with many jazz orchestra concerts, multiple library visits, several watercolor sketches, and a sweaty night of dancing to the live music of Appleton’s funk band Porky’s Groove Machine. (If you ever get the chance to see these guys live, go to a show!!)
Now I’m adjusting back to life at my parents’ home, with a fresh stack of library books and a project I’m hoping to complete by the end of the month. That and stretching/yoga are my priorities each day. I feel a bit in-between so far this month, as I’m looking for opportunities/jobs/etc. in other states starting any time…
The garden got a little overgrown while I was gone, and now we’re enjoying lots of green beans, more kale, and tomatoes are getting red. (I made a vegan kale pesto this week, plus these amazing cookies (no white sugar! no flour! no butter!). I pulled a carrot out of the ground this week, curious to see if they’d grown, and surprisingly had something nice to eat. So carrots, beets, and cucumbers will be plentiful in the next couple of weeks.
June 15, 2017
On June 1 I turned in my finished train for the “Trains on Main” public art project here in Waunakee. You can see the finished train here and read about the creation process—start to finish—here.
I’ve been taking my grandpa grocery shopping weekly, and last week we also went to a casino because he likes to go (that was my first time). It’ll likely be my only time in a casino—I don’t think they should be legal—but it was nice to get him out. I only got carded twice during our short visit!
At the end of May I asked Twitter friends for poetry recommendations, as I wanted to give poetry another chance, post-school. I have a nice list to start from now! I just finished a collection by Sylvia Plath (“Ariel”) yet didn’t warm up to them, but am currently enjoying Mary Oliver’s “Dog Songs,” poems about her four-legged loves.
Garden updates: I thinned out my carrots and beets earlier this week—which was way overdue, and did some beet transplants in the process. Not all of the beets have perked up yet, though we did have some heavy rain this week. I learned what flowering is when some of my lettuce flowered the other week. But I still have other lettuce and lots of kale that’s growing great, so I ate my first salad from the garden this week!
The biggest change in my routine this month is that I’ve started a daily “writing sit” practice, where I must sit for 30 minutes in my desk each day—phone in airplane mode and wifi off (I’ve been typing in TextEdit). My journal and pen are out on the desk in case I don’t feel like typing, and I can write in there instead. I can even just sit in the chair and wait for time to pass (though haven’t had a day like that yet), but the point of this month-long experiment is to get in the habit of daily writing. That’s the only way I’ll create more worthy stuff—you’ve gotta give yourself space and time to get out all the shit first! Anyway, the first week went really well, seven days in a row and I brought a piece to life because of it. Then I missed a Friday – Sunday weekend, but am on a four-day streak now.
I’ve been biking/walking anywhere I need to go in town, and have gotten out to a number of local parks. I’m happy with my outside time! I’m reading lots, picking up the guitar again, painting in an art journal, making watercolor postcards, sending regular snail mail, doing some explorative art classes on Skillshare during my free two-month trial (Get two free months of Premium here if you want to give it a try, too!)
Oh, and lastly, I’ve been selling things on Craigslist for my parents/brother. To date I’ve sold a futon, four chairs, my old cello, my brother’s drum set, and one of my mom’s scrapbooking tools. Still listed are a 15” viola and 3/4-size violin.
April 20, 2017
It’s my final day in Madrid, where I’ve been for just over a week, not doing too much (as tends to happen here). I came here from Montpellier, where I spent a very relaxing 12 days or so moment catching, soaking up sun, eating French favorites, watching France’s “Super Nanny” and “The Voice,” walking Damien’s grandpa’s dog, and generally hanging out.
Last week in Madrid I saw and submitted a proposal for Trains on Main, my home town’s third annual public art project. It was accepted, so I’ll be spending the month of May decorating a metal train that will be on display for three months, then auctioned off! I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m really excited for the challenge, learning, and playing to come.
I also have a ton of books on hold, waiting for me to pick up from my local library (not to mention Kim Dinan’s “The Yellow Envelope” in my room), so I plan to kick my reading into high gear as well. I’ll turn 28 on April 24, and am looking forward to dinner plans that night with a group of friends.
I’ll be interviewed for a podcast early May (hello, leap!), and also have hired an online friend & role model for a “Get Shit Rolling” brainstorming session—which I’m really excited for. Lots to look forward to as I start developing routines for these next three months living with my parents again.
March 21, 2017
After my week in Bologna at the end of February, I spent two weeks working on a small farm in Dozza. I was unplugged and working satisfying days outside, exhausted for bed at 10 or 10:30, and up with the sun at 7.
Mid-March I said goodbye to the wonderful HelpX family which hosted me, and hours later I arrived in Venezia. I made several sketches during my stay, befriended my hostel owner and her big fluffy dog, and got reconnected to the internet on my final day.
A few days ago I gave some testimony for Candace Rose Rardon (which is now live on her site—scroll down) as a member of the Moment Catchers community, and she pulled some advice from my “joy of being an adult beginner” post to share in her tips for getting started as a sketch artist post! It’s been so fun to connect with the Moment Catchers community, and to see how sketching has been shaping my travels these past two months.
The Creative Rebel Academy began last week, so I’m playing catch up on lessons as I get reconnected with the online world. Besides that, today is Day 56 on my 100 days of writing in my journal. I’ll actually need to get a new journal soon, perhaps I’ll look for one here in Múnchen.
Which, yes, last night I arrived on a train from Venezia to Múnchen, Germany. I’m staying at my friend Max’s place with his roommates—but he’s working in Frankfurt all week. It’s great to be in this beautiful apartment. I just did my first load of laundry in an actual washer after two months on the road. Yay!
I’ll probably be heading to Montpellier next, but no travel plans have been made. I do have a return flight bought for April 21, though—Madrid to Chicago (via two fun new transfer points).
February 22, 2017
I flew from Chicago to Madrid near the end of January, where I stayed for about a week getting over jetlag and sleeping a lot.
My next stop ended up being Roma (Rome), where I spent several days sick with a cold + had a hostel night of hell—but still got to roam around, see a friend from my French class in 2015, and painted during the week.
Then I spent a week in Firenze (Florence), where I just left this morning. While there I finally got back to working on my list of #The100DayProject projects, and ended up going to town and finishing two days later.
Now I’ve just arrived to Bologna, where I’ll be for six nights. I’m writing in my journal every day and painting in my watercolor journal each city I go to. This morning I secured a HelpX gig on this farm after my Bologna visit, where I’ll work in exchange for food and accommodation for about two weeks. And after that… we’ll see!
January 16, 2017
After finishing my 100 Days of Mind Mapping project on January 9, I started another just a few days later—but haven’t said anything about it publicly yet. Until now: Today is Day 4 of 100 Days of Three Morning Pages! (Morning pages are written in stream-of-consciousness style every morning—more here).
What began as a coloring night at our public library turned into an almost weekly “art night” with new girlfriends in town. Last week I did a small self portrait with watercolors, and tomorrow night we’ll meet for my final time before I leave.
Throughout the past month I’ve done several small DIY projects that I wanted to finish before I take off traveling (a week from today):
Oh, and I did my taxes too!
Tomorrow will be the last day of the English class that Hannah and I have been putting on this winter. Last Friday she came over and we recorded this ESL tutor training video—our first time doing anything of the sort!
December 13, 2016
Today is day 77 of my #100DaysofMindMapping project—over three quarters of the way done! (And I’ll be the first to tell you how very glad I’ll be once it is done…)
Last week I finished the second part of my holiday letters: writing the actual letter, making photocopies, stuffing all 70 or so envelopes, and putting on the stamps.
It was quite the project!
I’m really enjoying the weekly adult English classes that Hannah and I are teaching. These past two weeks we’ve had small groups—three students each time—but it makes it all the more personal.
This is my final week of work at FluentU, which I’m certain is the right move—though all endings involve goodbyes and giving up something. But I’m making room for something greater!
Aside from that, I’m working bit by bit on blog posts for English With Rebe (and telling you about it here so you can see something in-progress, and not a finished product), playing with my watercolors down in the cozy basement, figuring out health care for next year (because unemployed, I don’t make enough for Obamacare), and trying to make the most of my final half-month subscription of Progress with Lawless French.
November 2, 2016
Today marks Day 40 of my #100DaysofMindMapping project. And it’s been three weeks since I got back to Wisconsin, and I’ve been keeping busy calmly, as I recently started saying: a calm busy. The time fills up, but not with rushed, stressing things.
With what, then?
I’m meditating, reading, painting, writing, mind mapping, volunteering with English learners, going to French conversation tables, seeing family (most recently I visited my younger brother in La Crosse last week, then chopped wood with my dad at grandma’s on Sunday), seeing friends, cleaning, cooking, writing letters, and working very minimal hours (0-10/week).
I started a bullet journal a few days ago. No, not a fancy one with cutesy decorations on each page, just a regular one with mostly black pen. This month I’m tracking:
- Mind map (1/day)
- Meditation (10 min/day)
- Gratitude (1 sentence/day)
- Progress with Lawless French
- FluentU (French)
- Calligraphy (20 min, 2x/week)
September 17, 2016
I’m down to 10 full days left in Montpellier. I spent the past week in Rodez, which was my first full week post-employment (I left my job earlier this month—big life change!). I spent a good chunk of the week reading, and finished the fourth Harry Potter book (in French).
Damien turned 27 on the 14th, so he had friends over for a pizza dinner the night before, and we went to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner the day-of. I also took care of some regular check-ups during the week, with a free eye exam (have a new prescription) and a teeth cleaning at the dentist.
At the start of the month I bought myself a compact 12-color set of watercolors, and it’s been so fun to use them! (Why didn’t I do this earlier?) I’ve realized it’s so simple to create—you just pick up a pen or brush and move it around on a surface. The process is quite relaxing, in addition to rewarding.
Finally, just three days ago I started a 100-day project: #100DaysofMindMapping.
August 15, 2016
It’s sinking in that I’m almost down to a month left in Montpellier, so I’m trying to take advantage of my remaining days—meaning I buy a French pastry each time I go to the supermarket.
I spent five days in Rodez the other week, as Damien is on summer vacation. We rode Segways, went canoeing with friends and played petanque.
I finished reading Harry Potter à l’école des sorcies over the weekend, and then watched the first film in French the next day. It’s been awesome to get so sucked into a book written in French. The audio book has been fantastic, too.
I’m developing a personal compass to guide the next chapter of my life. The first direction I’ve decided to include on said compass is act > think.
July 16, 2016
I’m just getting back to my routine after nearly a month away from it (was sick for over a week, then my sister came to visit for two weeks—June 21 to July 5—and then I spent last weekend (Thurs. – Mon.) in Rodez.
So I’m now trying to get caught up on some letter writing, reading, blogging, French studying, calligraphy, etc.
The big happenings over here lately were the Euros (soccer tournament), where France beat Germany in the semifinals to play against Portugal in the finals (but lost); the Tour de France, which is still going on, butpassed through Montpellier on July 13 and 14; and most recently Bastille Day on July 14, which you’ve probably heard about because of the ISIS attack in Nice late that night.
On my sister’s last full day here, I bought the current issue of the French magazine “Psychologie Positsive”(Positive Psychology) in a shop, and have since ordered online (and received) three different back issues. So that’s given me some fresh French reading animation. Each should take at least a month to work through (and dig apart; not just read. Oh, and there are also writing/creative activities too!), so I’m stocked up. (Am still working on the first issue I bought.)
After a small search, I finally found non-grid-covered notecards earlier this week, so I’ve begun my first commonplace book.
And I’m about to begin working through The Connection Effect (previously: RYPL)‘s free “Find Your Purpose” workbook, sparked by several weeks of internal reflection. No plans have been made, but I’ll just say that there could be many big changes coming up in the second half of this year.
May 21, 2016
I’m getting settled in Montpellier, attending several Meetup and Couchsurfing events weekly. They mostly involve playing ultimate frisbee or having conversation in various languages. Sometimes I host these events too.
- French — I recently finished watching all of “Marseille” on Netflix, and finished reading “Le Journal de Bridget Jones.” My grammar study has taken quite a break this month, so I just made a new blog“Améliorer mon français” so I can bring more focus to my learning journey.
- Calligraphy — I’m working through The Postman’s Knock‘s Amy Style calligraphy workbook and video course. I’m almost finished with the faux calligraphy pages, so I’ll soon be pulling out my dip pen and ink.
I’m working on:
- My Korean food guide — My sister arrives in France on June 21, so I’ve given myself a month deadline to finish the final product. Lots of research and writing left to do before I start laying it out and finding pics, etc., but it’s time I put this 2+ year project to a close!
- English with Rebe — A new site to offer editing and online lessons to English learners. I need to start pumping out some blog posts, and make flyers to advertise editing services to local students.
Each day I try to:
- Meditate for 10 minutes
- Go for a walk outside
- Practice calligraphy for at least 10 minutes
- Write in my journal
I usually do at least two of the four; I’m tracking these in a month chart.