My lovely, bitterly cold winter break has come to a close and I feel energized and rested all at once, which I believe is how a vacation should leave one feeling. The weather is North Idaho cold. Snow drifts are growing with every shovel, plow and windstorm that blows through. It’s beautiful outside with all the sparkly snow and sunshine and it entices me to enter into the scene outside my window. The icy reality sends me back indoors to my steaming mug of hot tea.
The gift of days and days of uninterrupted time was priceless. I’ve taken great pleasure in the ordinary; cooking, cleaning up the place, reading, continuing to downsize, and joining fellow winter travelers who are healing bodies bent from shoveling snow in the hot yoga room. There was leisurely time for meals with friends, long phone conversations, nights of rowdy music and dancing, board games and hanging with my boys. My dog is in heaven, he follows me through the house so happy I’m here and he learned how to share his space with a puppy. The school I work for has taken on a Golden Retriever pup who will become a therapy dog (I think she already is!) and I co-parented her for an energetic week.
This was an awesome opportunity to redesign the tiny house to better suit me and I dove headfirst into Google SketchUp, learning the program and having so much fun living virtually in my future home. The efforts reinforced to me again that a simple life is a very, very good life.
My unstructured days are coming to a close. School resumes and we jump right in to a busy 2nd trimester. My task will be to carry the energy and renewed focus into my open, bright, puppy filled office. Spring is slumbering under the frozen landscape, but the daffodils are there and will make their grand entry signaling a new season bringing a whole new trek.
Honor the Ending – The journey of a year is drawing to a close. Honor the lessons you’ve learned, and the people who helped you learn them. Honor the journey your soul mapped out for you. Trust all the places you’ve been.
Honor the Beginning – Beginnings hold the promise of new lessons to be learned, new territory to be explored, and old lessons to be recalled, practiced, and appreciated. Beginnings hold ambiguity, promise, fear, and hope.
Melody Beattie – Journey to the Heart
2016 has come to a close and 2017 has dawned with a full on blizzard. It feels good to be hunkered down with a cup of hot coffee in a quiet house with nowhere to be, the perfect opportunity to reflect and think, to honor the ending and the beginning.
The 2016 journey has never been boring, it was full of insight and brought a focused energy to the new year. Laughter, tears, hope and faith lived together in the perfect harmony they were meant to have. My family, friends, coworkers, students, furry companions, community and our nation taught me infinite lessons. Through the beauty of compassion, generosity, and forgiveness and through the uglier sides of anger, bitterness, and pride the lessons came and I am a better human for all of them.
I look forward to this up and coming year, the unfamiliar territory ahead contains both excitement and healthy fear.
Tiny House 2017
My tiny house model sits on a top bookshelf in direct view of my favorite seat. I look and look and look at that future life I wish to live and the model allows me to walk through the space whenever I desire. I had an electric moment this week when I realized that the floor plan is WRONG, that is not how I move through my life. I recognized this because I’ve been paying close attention to my rhythms and movement at home. By taking a moment to acknowledge the fact that I really only use a couple of feet of counter space to prepare the meals I love to cook, or that I appreciate a cozy place to nap, read or watch people build tiny houses on YouTube.
My current plans are beautiful, and the house has the vibe I like, but it is not my house. So I started all over, better prepared to incorporate design that is going to be perfect for me. I am breaking free of the “resale” mentality and embracing the process of creating the house that will truly house me. This will be one of many lessons in resiliency in taking a step back to make better forward progress.
The snow continues and the wind is strong, creating new blizzards with each gust. I am out in the storm, along with an old woman bundled and walking a dog and some kids squealing down the street. You either deeply resent this cold season or you love it … I love it. Many years ago I stood at the top of the Northwoods Express (elevation 11,500) on Vail Mountain. We had caught the last chair before they shut down the lift due to the wind and heavy snow. I happened to be perfectly dressed that day, my hands were warm, my feet were dry, my goggles were clear and my body felt good. It allowed me to revel in the power of the storm while whooping and hollering as we had the ski hill to ourselves with fresh Colorado powder falling fast.
On this first day of 2017 as the Idaho snow envelops me I feel that same awe and excitement of being in the storm … honoring the beginning.
It is the day after Christmas and I feel content. My family cooked together, watched Bob Ross paint a winter scene on Netflix (sounds boring but we laughed and laughed and were amazed) stood around a fire in the snow with the dogs, listened to music, attended a candlelit solstice yoga class at Sandpoint Hot Yoga , walked, worked a puzzle, shared meals with friends and enjoyed each others company. It was a simple and beautiful winter scene.
I am grateful to my friends and family that understood that both my kids and myself don’t need much. Gift cards, a paid month at the gym, a massage, books, Christmas money and music were some of the thoughtful gifts received. Nothing needs to be exchanged, and we do not need to find closet space to house a giant haul of gifts. With all the recent purging it feels exactly right.
Occasionally here in North Idaho we will experience earthquakes, nothing terribly devastating, just enough of the ground shaking to look at one another and say “Did you feel that?” It catches your attention, provokes some conversation and we move on with the day. This week while I was finishing another collection of items for the donations pile, I stopped and had that same earthquake sort of moment. Suddenly I thought, “I can feel it.”, the house actually FEELS lighter. The realization stopped my busyness and I thought … this is it …. this is what simplicity feels like. The house is gaining space, some of it hidden in drawers and behind closet doors, but the open space is there and I can sense it.
I am also noticing that since the house is already free of much clutter, keeping it that way takes very little of my time. It’s nice to come home and have a tidy space to greet me. This week my kitchen will receive some attention, digging into the corners of the cupboards, pantry and fridge. My guy has a habit of dating jar lids when he opens them, which at first I thought was rather OCD, but now I know exactly how long that favorite salad dressing has been sitting on the shelf and really should be tossed! Sounds like the perfect detox for the new year.
May your season also be filled with simplicity, the people you love, and the miracles that surround us every day.
With 2017 right around the corner, pour love and light into your world …
During the cold, dark, short days of winter the puzzles come out, it’s how I avoid the temptation to slip into sleep before 7 o’clock every night because it’s been dark for hours already. The title of the latest winter puzzle is “The Games We Play”, and it’s full of nostalgia as I have always loved board games. This however is not a particularly cozy, happy post.
As I searched for the spinner to High Ho Cheerio, I was listening to the television when a story about the White Helmets of Syria came on. These are volunteers who dig out survivors after a brutal bombing has occurred. They look for legs or fingers or any other visible body part and begin to frantically dig away at the rubble with bare hands, and time is of the essence to save victims from suffocation. My Hi Ho Cheerio search became irrelevant as I watched the images come across the screen of the horror that is Aleppo. I have no reference of suffering at that level and felt overwhelmed to be sitting in a safe and warm home lit softly by Christmas lights, with plenty of food, clean water and my family.
It is always a worthwhile exercise to connect with the suffering of others, it keeps our humanity in check. Life often hangs by a fragile thread and while I cannot change the reality of those living in Aleppo, I CAN be mindful of the energy I put out in to the world.
Today was my test. It was just ONE OF THOSE DAYS.
The kicker was dropping off a mass mailing of report cards (mass mailings tend to provoke tension from the onset), only to have the postal lady call as I was three blocks away that I needed to return because all the envelopes were 20 to 40 cents short on postage. If there hadn’t been half the population of the county waiting in line when I returned I might have had a memorable moment in the post office. I return to the school, reweigh the envelopes (which the majority were under the 1 ounce limit…thank you very much) and headed home. My sons friends were listening to their music that tends to set my teeth on edge and sitting at the puzzle. I looked at their impressive progress and said, “Whatever you do, DO NOT FINISH THE PUZZLE, that is the best part!” Realizing I need to get a grip I retreated to a quiet room.
I remind myself that my “bad” day is nothing, nothing other than an inconvenience. So I say a small simple prayer for those who are fighting … for Aleppo, for cancer, for loneliness and homelessness, and hunger … I make my family a delicious vegetable red curry and I feel so, so terribly blessed.
So the plan is that I will build much of my future tiny house myself, with help from my boys, friends and other skilled people who have offered their talents to the project. I know this is possible because I’ve seen other women in my stage of life successfully pull off their projects with great results. I do however, know my limits.
I do not love heights, and am not convinced it is a fear I wish to conquer, so the roof installation by a professional is probably money well spent. I would rather not burn the house down, so the expertise of an electrician friend will be much appreciated and I am sure there will be many other instances where I will not be too proud to ask for help or advice. In addition to books and online forums, YouTube has become a fantastic resource for every aspect of building a house on a trailer. A few of my favorite channels are Ana White, Life Inside A Box, and Tiny House, Giant Journey.
I also know my physical, emotional, and mental health need to be in tip top shape. So I am preparing myself for the rigors well in advance. I am working to get strong, primarily to avoid injury. There are a couple of local businesses I’d like to give a shout out to who are integral partners in creating greater strength and wellbeing and are a part of my tiny house journey.
My favorite place to get centered and sweat is at Sandpoint Hot Yoga. I decided in October of 2014 that I would actually start PRACTICING yoga and not just dabble in it when my body felt beat up. I had never done any hot yoga before, and to be honest, I truly hated it at first. Sometimes all I could focus on was how much longer will this last, or I’d think about what I had to do that day, or a breakfast burrito sure sounds good, or why does it have to be so hot, and dang … yoga is HARD.
I’ve learned to appreciate the different styles of several great teachers but one in particular has really changed my life. Nicole Murray who teaches Power Vinyasa classes has taken me farther than I believed I could go. She has taught me how to let go of my ego and more importantly how to breathe, or to remember to breathe, or to breathe in new ways. You would think that remembering to breathe wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but trust me, you forget and breathing makes all the difference.
Starting hot yoga was intimidating for me, I am not the typical lithe thin yoga body. I have boobs, and hips and a menopausal mid-section so stepping into the mirrored room with young bendy bodies didn’t exactly provoke overwhelming levels of confidence. But, I had made a commitment to keep showing up, so I did. Having a teacher that encouraged her class to try and fail and try again, gave me the encouragement to keep challenging my balance and my flexibility, and mental stamina. Nicole even appreciates the yogi that comes in and just lies on their mat in the heat for 65 minutes, because that is all they can give that day. I sweat, and I fall (sometimes in a spectacular manner with sound effects and all) and I keep on going. I listen and persevere with patience and acceptance and have made progress. Whether I actually achieve my desired poses, I now BELIEVE that I can, and that I can also build a house.
Knowing the materials for my house are HEAVY, I thought it couldn’t hurt to increase my strength so I started working with a trainer that I have known for many years. Missy Balison has me sweating buckets while I lift what feels like impossibly heavy weights and she asks for more burpees than can possibly be good for you (wink, wink!) Missy has a colorful studio, well equipped with a vast array of exercise equipment to keep things interesting. She is another instructor that creates an encouraging environment to explore your limits, not to mention the wealth of knowledge Missy possesses regarding all things nutrition and exercise science. I like the camaraderie of the other women who have also had to get dressed, tie their shoes and venture out into the still dark morning to tackle their own goals. If you are reading this from outside the Sandpoint area she also has an active online training program, you can check out her services here or on Facebook.
These teachers and the environments they create are one more building block for my future life that is forming and I want to say thank you with deep gratitude for the knowledge and passion for their craft that they share. Women empowering women is a beautiful thing.
Trekkin’ and Sweatin’ and appreciating the little things along the way …
Once I got past the sale of the family home, (which I managed without hiring a realtor) and disposed of all the leftover stuff, summer rolled in. Growing up in Colorado birthed a never-ending love of the mountains. The quiet, pristine scenery fills me in so many ways and I am surrounded by beauty at every turn here in the Northwest. I love my lightweight, 2 man tent and have found the RV scene a curious one whenever I am in a campground.
My son and I took a spectacular weeklong backpacking trip into the Eagle Cap Wilderness, and at the end of the trip I had rented a yurt in the state park. Walking out of the wilderness into the RV city was overwhelming, one family actually brought a U-Haul full of stuff deemed necessary for camping. People rolled out carpets, strung lights around their sites, hung their favorite football team flag and there was every toy imaginable on display. One campsite had a chalkboard menu of their planned gourmet dinner, which spiked our hiker hunger. We found humor in the campground after spending days of not seeing other people in places like this…
As the idea of building a tiny house was forming, I started to think that a small camper might actually be a great addition for the travel that the house was going to afford me. A tour of the National Parks is high on the list of wanderlust.
I don’t need anything to large or obnoxious, but a roof that would keep me dry for extended trips started to resonate. If you’ve ever camped in the rain you understand, and it rains in the Northwest …frequently. Instead of a yurt at the end of a backcountry adventure, there would be a small camper, (my son has voiced his concern about using a microwave on camping trips, I assure him that microwaves and TV are not on the camping agenda!)
I fell into a sweet deal on a sweet truck. A one owner 1997 Ford that was loved, garaged, fully loaded with a tow package and low miles …
Then my boss at the school decided to sell her family camper as she no longer had a truck to tow it with….the universe was aligning! I jumped on the opportunity and landed another great deal on the perfect little camper. At 16 feet it would be easy to tow and was just enough space to get out of the weather if needed.
My boss did honestly reveal that the back window had a small leak. I knew enough to know water & campers were not good friends. Upon further inspection I found this…
And so the restoration began and led to this …
Bill took on rebuilding the back end while I ripped up all the flooring, painted the interior, made new box cushions and curtains, butyl taped all the windows, and installed new J-rail. Needless to say the learning curve regarding travel trailers was substantial and as the deconstruction began I knew that this was great for camping but for full-time living I wanted the solid construction of a tiny home (so many staples hold these together!)
I spent a lot of time in this tight, cozy space and began to understand more of what living in a tiny house might feel like. At the end of a work day I would sit at the table and make notes and think about the first trip I would take in my little gem.
Bill and I set a deadline for the camper restoration with a trip to Lolo Hot Springs where his band was playing. Like most construction efforts the project was bigger and would take longer than we thought and after a long trying day to make it doable, we ended up in a tent for the trip. It was late September and the first night brought a hard frost and VERY cold sleeping conditions, making the travel trailer all the more attractive.
Come spring I hope to get the trailer project finished (we are close!) so that I can focus on the tiny house build and use the camper to get out of town and decompress when the build hits roadblocks or fatigue…and it will. The little camper will also serve as overflow space for those times when I may need to house more than 4 or 5 people I love, or the kids want to stay up late making noise.
Thanks for following The Trek to Tiny, and until next time Be Kind, Life Is Short …
People have asked, “How will you manage holidays with your family in a tiny house?” The question is easily answered as our holiday traditions have already begun to take on a new life. I grew up in a family where you knew how the holidays would behave. Easter brought colorful Easter baskets, egg hunts, honey baked ham and church. Halloween was costumes, carved pumpkins and hot spiced wine for the adults hauling kids door to door (those were the days!) Thanksgiving was all about grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins gathering for the traditional over consumption of turkey, potatoes and pie.
Christmas was my mother’s favorite. She loved decorating the house, the tree and hanging stockings. She made food gifts for friends, neighbors and co-workers. We had a family photo taken every year and stacks of handwritten holiday greetings would flood the mail. This holiday was made for shoppers and my mother did her part supporting the economy. Christmas Eve commenced with a noisy gathering of family, many of them who we only saw once a year. There was always food and we congregated around the piano to sing off key carols. The morning dawned with full stockings, the comforting smell of cinnamon rolls and eggs fantastic filling the house while we settled in around the tree to open gifts. The unwrapping of gifts would end with a family photo in our PJ’s holding our new loot, and a trip to church. The house would be cleaned and more food prepared for a family of close friends who would spend the evening with us. Husbands and grandchildren were added to the mix and the cycle repeated itself year after year.
Change is inevitable and forces the traditions to change as well. In her early 50’s my mother lost the hard fight against breast cancer. Cancer continues to be a contributing factor in the Trek to Tiny and will have an appropriate moment in time to be addressed. My mother’s death was the first major life event that disrupted everything. Nothing would be the same going forward, a new way of celebrating family and holidays was forced upon us.
Time does it’s thing and marches on. My dad remarried, my family made less frequent trips from Idaho to Colorado and my sister’s family took over much of the holiday duties with the extended family. I worked hard when my kids were small to create our family traditions, some of which were carryovers from my own childhood. The accumulation of stuff at Christmas was becoming a silent battle way back when the kids were little. We went without a constant glowing TV for 12 years, so my young kids were not bombarded with marketing regarding the latest/greatest thing they had to have, but they were still kids who loved toys and clothes and art supplies and Legos. I do remember the year my daughter asked for a ream of paper and her own roll of duct tape…a home schooled kid at her finest!
I started to realize early on in my parenting that I didn’t love everything about the holiday season, especially Christmas. It felt way too busy, the bank account took a hit, and the majority of the work to make it all happen fell upon me. The day the tree and decorations came down and the house was put back into order brought feelings of relief. You might be wondering where the “reason for the season” is in this scenario and just like Cancer, Jesus deserves his own spotlight in this blog.
The holidays look much different now.
A couple of years ago I asked my kids how they felt about a Christmas tree, and the surprise was NO ONE CARED if we had a tree or not. Honestly, that was music to my ears as putting up the tree sent me into a bad mood as I wrestled with lights and taking it down usually required an extra glass of wine. The last couple of years I’ve hung a string of lights on a potted Norfolk Pine, displayed some of the favorite ornaments and everyone is OK. Last year I watched a new neighbor haul out an alarming number of storage bins and erect every inflatable, spinning, lighted yard ornament ever created. It was amusing to watch and looked like my own personal worst nightmare.
I gave away all of our Halloween fodder at a garage sale last summer and much of the accumulated Christmas decorations are the next to go, except for the extra special items that have sentimental significance….although writing that I wonder. “Where will I store those?” I am closing in on that day when my kids will not be coming home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I will already be missing one of them this year.
So back to the question, “How will you manage holidays with your family in a tiny house?” I hope my children intrinsically know that just because I am drastically pairing down our things doesn’t change the fact that they are always welcome in my home, no matter what the square footage. That the sharing of meals, and celebrations, and family time will continue. I also don’t discount the reality that I will be able to travel to them and with them, and we will find new ways of making life meaningful not just on holidays but everyday.
I will relieve the people who love me with the task of finding the perfect gift as there won’t be anywhere to put it. Let’s strive for shared experiences and time together. They don’t have to be expensive or extravagant to be meaningful. A meal, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, sitting in a park, taking a hike, a great night of music or a fire in a beautiful campground are all experiences that will create memories that last much longer than the new sweater. I promise to be mindful of the gifts I give so that I am not covertly contributing to others overflowing closets which eventually have to be cleaned out as well. Don’t be afraid to tell me, “I don’t need anything.” I totally get it.
Hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and a stress free season.