Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Personal Victories, Past, Present, and Dreams

Newport Beach, CA the water I miss
I woke up early this morning from an amazing dream. Due to disability, I have not been able to swim or surf in the ocean in many years. It has been over a decade since I have been in the ocean. I plan to join a disabled surfers group in the near future to get back out there. But in the mean time, I occasionally have amazingly detailed dreams about the ocean, and woke this morning from one. It was beautiful, and I only hope my words do it justice:

 It was sunrise and I was walking on a beach from my childhood. Above and to the right the sandy cliffs rose high above our heads, below and to the left the ocean was starting to come into view as the waves lapped at the shore, and the sun started to bring a soft twilight view of the water. Salt and cold spray clung to my skin as I walked along talking with a dear friend, Regina about growing up in close proximity to the beach. Sand softly pushed through my toes with every step as I walked on the slightly firm, slightly soft area that was damp but not under water.  A light in the distance told us another friend, Antonia was walking the long way around to this private, secluded area which required a long hike down a cliff or the luck of the tides and a long walk. Either way, this beach is frequently in my dreams even tho in real life I can not physically get there. It is beautiful.

Sunrise Yoga
Soon the rays of the sun bathed the beach and us in a radiant sunrise (despite the fact that the sun actually sets in the west not rises) and the sand looked yellowish brown like toasty polenta. I knelt where the waves were lightly lapping at me and told my friends stories about being a child and lifting hands full of wet sand to fall around me back into the ocean. Probably a memory of the first time my mother told me it's not nice to throw sand. Antonia knelt and joined me in grabbing hand fulls of sand as the light shifted colors and brightened and the sand and water colors shifted in response. I basked in the experience joyfully letting wet sand fall around us. We were filthy but filled with joy. I fell back into the water and let it push me around gently and lap over me. Being a dream it was just nicely cool, not freezing as it would be in reality this time of year. It felt like a summer day, and as the sun rose and others started arriving to enjoy the beach I was beaming with joy and woke feeling love, strength and human dignity.

 In the dream I also told Regina about something that happened in reality. I think in many ways, dreams can help us heal from and process our lives. I have been missing the beach, missing my friends who live in CA, and was emotionally really torn and exhausted from a hard day.

Rainbow YES pin and rainbow ribbon
Yesterday, February 26, 2013, I went and stood in line then went through a security area where I was made to wait for 6 journalists to enter before me while I stood in pain, then made to walk through a metal detector where I  had to take off my belt and anything metal and then be scanned by a wand because who knows what set off the detector, maybe a metal button on my jeans, and then walked around the Orpheum theatre including a long trip down the aisle to the microphone to speak, and then back up afterwards. All without my wheelchair, PHEW! I, with what I guess was hundreds of other residents of Phoenix, AZ was there to speak to our representatives about changes to the Human Relations anti-discrimination ordinance which would include people with disabilities and people from the LGBTQIA rainbow. Specifically the language included gender identity and expression, which was 22 years in coming, and I am grateful for so many people showing up to speak their minds. Personally, it was one of the most physically and emotionally draining things I have done in a while.

We had left my wheelchair at home, not realizing there would be a long line since we arrived an hour early, nor did we realize how huge an area we would need to navigate. And although I have done this sort of thing before, and had to listen to the bile and hatred expressed by some who would use their religious beliefs to try and define other people's human rights and protections and try to strip us of human dignity, it is never easy. There were so many on both sides of the issue that it was a challenge even for someone like myself who has decades of experience standing up for human rights. One friend had people clap loudly in his ears at anything against the changes to the ordinance and kick his chair.We had annoying people near us, but nothing as bad as what he dealt with, and were fortunate to sit with people who support us in being who we are.  And it's always shocking and hurtful to us how people who call themselves Christians seem to forget the whole country is NOT made up of ONLY their religion. Patch reminded me to point out that we are not nor should we be here to discuss religion, but human rights and protections under the law. Not all of us identify as religious, or Christian why should SOME people's religion dictate ALL people's lives. I did not mention that in my speech tho.

It was a huge personal victory for me simply to not use my wheelchair and only a walking stick at this event, even tho I had to stop and sit and rest several times along the way. My diabetes acted up also because it had been so long since I ate. So many people testified and they let everyone have a minute (some people went over slightly) so I'm told there were 5 hours of testimony.

I spoke several hours after arriving. And I had eaten an hour before arriving. By the time I spoke, I was shaking and had a severe headache and my face was a bit numb on the right side, which sometimes happens when I have migraines. It wasn't nerves by the way, although I was nervous and emotional, it was a blood sugar crash. Fuzzy headed and emotional from hearing hours of testimony, plus with 1/2 the time usually allotted, I only hit 2 of my 5 points, but I am told I was well spoken, and I was glad to hear it. I shared from the heart and shared 2 personal experiences of discrimination based on gender, perceived sexual orientation, and disability. I could have shared so much more, but I was tired and felt drained before even trying to walk down that aisle and stand in front of that microphone.

The walk back up felt victorious but strenuous. Like a huge hike up a mountain even tho it was just a sloped aisle. I am grateful for everyone who spoke, and that they gave us ALL the opportunity to be heard. Afterwards, Patch took me out to dinner. I downed some sugar, gave and got some hugs, and headed out to dinner where we spent a wonderful time reviving our bodies with delicious healthy foods. Then we went home and I took my medicine and lay down with the animals and Carlie in the dark for an hour to recoup. Still exhausted, I went to bed and slept from 9PM to 3AM. I'll go back to sleep in a bit for another few hours, but I wanted to write down what the dream and the real life experience were both like for me, because both were powerful.

I know this is a very different topic than I usually cover on this blog, but I felt it was important that both be shared as they are, quite simply, both personal victories that define who I am. What do you dream and what do you experience that go into the whole of your human existence and feel like core pieces that simply can't be left out of the whole? For me both the dream of the beach and the experience speaking about discrimination I have experienced represent love and human dignity.

Early Morning Joy on Hearing We Won
I am proud of who I am, and how far I have come. And I dream of a future when people do not have to fight for basic rights and protections, but simply are themselves, and free to be. No matter how you feel about such things, I have and will continue to stand (or sit as needed) for your right to free speech and equal accommodations and protections under the law. I didn't ask for any special rights tonight, just for the basic equal rights I was raised to believe all humans should already be afforded in this world. I'm glad today Phoenix took this small and much needed step. And I am grateful for the healing of my beach dream, and the knowledge that there are ways for me to experience the ocean once again through disAbled activity groups. So some day soon, I will get back into the water just as today I faced and tackled some major obstacles physically and legally. May you have love, and thrive in your life wherever and whomever you are.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Starting Small is a Big Thing

Tiny Sad Face Statue (part of a larger piece)
This week I was feeling stressed as my health was not tip top.  I know that it is only a temporary downward trend and that I will continue to get better over time. However, I found myself worrying about many things. I started to feel a bit frustrated with myself and my recent planning about a future tiny home/mobile gallery. A couple of times I reminded myself about my personal commitments that I made last week, and a recent addition of eliminating beef from my diet. I have been doing pretty good, and it has forced me to be more mindful of what I eat. In my case what I eat is a big part of becoming more healthy.

Sometimes this week I have seriously wondered, is having a tiny home really simplifying my life if my whole family doesn't agree to the prospect? I won't go into that in more depth here. I don't see any point in worrying about the future when so much is unsure. No decisions have been or need to be made right now about any of that. For now, my personal commitments are about things I can change in THIS present moment. Not a year down the road, not a decade from now, but right now.

Tiny Clay Statue of Rock Pile
One of the commitments I made to myself last week was that I would blog here every Sunday.  I almost forgot today, but thinking about how I can simplify my life right now brought it back to mind, so here I am. Sunday is the day I take off from filling orders for Peace Full Creations, my home business in the making. So I like to do things on Sunday with Carlie, the animals, and still be creative but in more light hearted fun ways. After making some tiny statues out of a clay I can bake in the oven, I decided to make some time to read You Can Buy Happiness and It's Cheap by Tammy Strobel and then write in this blog while watching frivolous TV shows through the internet in an effort to decide if we are willing as a family to get rid of cable. Later I will take time in my hammock to read the last of the books my Aunt sent me (she sent me the whole Game of Thrones series) and then I will be choosing 6 things to give away since I recently acquired 3 new things. Which leads me to what I have been reading this afternoon, Tammy's book.

Meditation  Rock Monster
I have been reading this book in small chunks as I am trying to not just take it in intellectually, but to apply what I get out of it to my life. The current chapter I'm reading has so many gems in it, that I have only been reading one section of the chapter at a time. Today I read the part of chapter 5 which included Project 333. I have been considering taking this challenge on as I read about it elsewhere, and it seems like a good step in my journey as I simplify my life and reduce my possessions to a level where I feel I am not living in excess. I do think taking on Project 333 and simplifying what I wear down to 33 items for 3 months is a good next step. for me, it's all about taking things one step at a time. I believe that I would love living in a tiny home, but right now I am not. And worrying about how to do this or that for my tiny home is less productive than learning to live small where I am.

One thing I am making time for today is reading this article: about 10 simple lessons from Buddha, and one in particular seems very appropriate at this moment:

"Its Okay to Start Small

“A jug fills drop by drop.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every artist was once an amateur.”
We all start small, do not despise small beginnings. If you’re consistent, and if you’re patient, you will succeed! No one succeeds over night; success belongs to those who are willing to start small and patiently work until their jug is filled."
A Tiny Love Story (in process)

Thank you for the reminder Mr Self Development! I will focus on each tiny step. And in the spirit of starting small and simple, I posted some photos all through this blog entry of some tiny art which I made today as part of my fun time with clay. Because it's important to let my inner artist out on a regular basis with no limits, just fun creativity. Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my week of bare simplicity, and the snapshots of today's tiny art. I really had fun making it. I am looking forward to seeing what comes of the various tiny pieces when I make tiny installation pieces out of them.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

One in, Two Out (and other simplifying decisions)

"The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly." -- Buddha

If you have read my blog before, you know that I am reading and enjoying a book by Tammy Strobel, "You Can Buy Happiness, And It's Cheap" Previous to reading this book I got involved with my local community through volunteering and helping to run facebook groups specific to Laveen, AZ. I also got myself an electric push motor and a recumbent trike in an effort to improve my health and independent mobility, got solar panels on our home, and moved into a smaller room to do a test run  for eventual tiny home living. I also have started learning aquaponics, built my first aquaponics system, and started eating healthier and learning where to get affordable healthy food in my area. More recently I started loom knitting, making green smoothies which I love, and working out to continue towards my goals of health, simplicity and peace full living.

I often think that the next step is tiny living, but really, there are still so many things I can do to improve my life and the way I interact with the world around me right now, in this place, in this moment. As I continue to read Tammy Strobel's book, I am inspired to take further steps in my current situation to make small, or sometimes more sweeping larger steps to change my current situation, and not just dream of living more sustainably some day. What are you doing today to live simply?

So I wrote down a list of commitments to myself. Some of these are new things I have already started, and some are brand new. Most are due to suggestions of "micro actions" in Tammy's book, which I am reading bit by bit, because I am applying the things that I take away from it, and sometimes need more time to work on something before I can move on in the book.

The list of commitments to myself boils down to this:
Make time in my schedule for things that bring me health, peace and joy
Eat healthy, whole foods
Use the one in, two out rule
Organize, Organize, Organize!
Change Consumption Practices

On that last one, I listed several questions to ask myself, which I feel will help me become less consumption oriented, and happier with my life. Here are the questions I plan to ask myself when I am wanting to buy something, and hopefully my loved ones will help me stick to my desire to simplify:
Is this a need, or a want? (sometimes fulfilling a desire is just as important as needs, but not usually)
Do I already have one that works? If so, do we really need to replace it?
Is buying this thing worth getting rid of 2 other things?
Is there another, cheaper, better, more sustainable way to fulfill this need or want?
Can I wait/put off buying this and add it to a gift list instead?
When people ask what I want for a gift, tell them useful things and/or experiential things such as concerts, shows I want to see, classes I want or need to take, gift subscriptions to food delivery clubs, and the like.

There are also things I am considering committing to such as giving myself a certain amount of time from the first impulse to buy something until I make a decision. (like 30 days, 2 weeks, or whatever) This would help me eliminate impulse buying, which I believe is a bit of a problem in my life. I have taken steps in the past to move away from impulse buying, but I still find it happening. For now, the above list of commitments is my definite plan, and as time moves on I am sure I will refine it.

Have you made similar commitments to yourself? If so, I would love to hear which ones have worked for you.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Organizing and Reducing Clutter

Today I attended a meeting online about tiny home organization. I got some great ideas about how to get my life simplified by organizing and reducing my stuff. Others also found it helpful to reduce clothing first. I did this already, but need to reduce even further. Somehow some of the clothes I gave to someone else in the house crept back into my room. They look the same, they're just several sizes too big for me. Plus I have noticed there are clothes I almost never wear, so I think I am going to use the hanger method. This means I will turn all the hangers around facing one way, then when I wear clothes, they will go back onto the hangers facing the other way. At the end of February I will have an idea of the clothes I don't wear. I will still keep some of the dress clothes I only wear for certain occasions, but I suspect there are shoes, hats, and other shirts I can get rid of. Plus I obviously have too many shorts so I'll be going through that drawer.

Another thought that was shared which I really liked was that there are lots of reasons we hang onto stuff. Sometimes it is because of an emotional attachment we give to that item, other times it is because of something we do not want to let go of which that stuff is somehow tied to. I do tend to associate memories and emotions with things. It made me realize that there are some things which I have no use for but have not gotten rid of. I have been working on being present and focusing on the moment, but some of the stuff I've held onto has memories attached to it. Maybe some of it has emotions which I have avoided facing by holding onto the stuff. So letting the things go, may help me deal with things I've avoided. We will see, but I thought it was a thought worth looking into. As people talked, I recommitted to my goal to do a practice run on tiny living by using my 10 x 13 room as a dry run for my tiny home of the future.

Carlie and I talked about how my hammock could be used as a hammock chair during the day. Great idea! Might try creating something similar in my room in the mean time. Definitely will have to plan the build correctly for my hammock to have supports to hang from. We also discussed the feasibility of building a tiny home with storage below it and a guest bed under a trap door in the floor. Looks like I'll need to find someone with know how to talk to about this build before it's done.

I will be sure to post the event page before the next time there is a Tiny House Chat instead of just writing my thoughts up afterwards, as it is definitely an event I'd recommend you "attend" by listening in and/or watching the chat room.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Finding my Joy, Simplifying my Life

Micro Action Happiness Brain Storm
For the last  several years I have put extra emphasis on my health,  and for the last year I have  had  the goal in  mind that I would  be more independent and self  sustaining. One way in which I have been doing this is learning to cook healthy foods, and more recently to garden. I'm getting pretty good with my composting and recently moved into Aquaponics and now worm farming. Also, I taught myself to knit on looms, and started making all sorts of knit Peace Full Creations along with my paintings, tiny sculptures, and the like. My art brings me joy.

In recent reading I took a couple micro actions proposed by Tammy Strobel in her book "You Can Buy Happiness and it's Cheaper than You Think."
Detail of Happiness Brain Storm/Rough Sketches

First she asked how I define happiness and that resulted in a brain storming session and some rough sketching of tiny home plans. as  you can see above and to the right.  During my brain storm session I broke it down into several main areas that bring me joy:
- Being as Healthy As Possible (Eating Healthy, Exercise, DeStress)
- Being Creative (Photography, Painting, Sculpture, Knitting, Cooking, Gardening, Trying New Things)
- Community (Friends, Family, Knitting it Forward, Animals/Fur Family, Workshops)
- Living Within My Means (Sustainability, Not over committing, not creating debt, learning useful skills)
- Time For Myself (Hammock Time, Reading, Meditation, Manifestation Journaling)
- Travel (Getting Out of the House, Seeing New Places/ Things, Meeting People)

Side and Top View Sketches

In some ways I am already doing these things such as focusing on my health, family, and becoming self sustaining, and then there are others I have been neglecting such as travel. All in all, the brain storm session was very empowering and I recommend anyone try it. I also noticed that every time I sketch a tiny home, my vision of my Tiny Home/Gallery/Art Studio/Community Center/Camera Obscura aka ObscurAbode becomes more clear and I feel that much closer to my dream.

Another micro action I completed recently was to write down how I can simplify my life. At first  it seemed a lot like my previous  brain storm, and  things I'm already working on like be healthy, spend time with loved ones, but then I started getting down to some specifics and things started falling into place:

ObscurAbode Sketch 03 Layout Plans

- Organize my stuff (Bedroom, Loom Knitting Supplies, Art, Books)
- Get my Peace Full Creations in order
- Clarify/Organize my Calendar (Simplify Schedule for Knitting Groups, Specific work days/times, One day off with Patch, one day off with Carlie, Specific morning routine)
- Plan trip to CA
- Make a specific tiny home plan (Finances, Supplies, Time Frame, IndieGogo or Kickstart Plan, etc.)

I got started on each of these to some extent. The loom and knitting supplies are better organized, Carlie and I decided that the profit from Peace Full Creations will go to the Tiny Home Fund, I decided which days/times will be work and which aren't, worked on my calendar, and worked on another more specific floor plan for ObscurAbode (Sketch 03, above left) so it already feels like I am heading towards my goals. More work is needed, but things are really coming together!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fears and Challenges I Plan to Overcome

Frank Lloyd Self Built Tiny Home
Note: At the end of this entry I do ask a series of questions and I would appreciate your input.

I have long put off actually taking steps towards building a tiny home due to fear. One of the first micro actions suggested in Tammy's book is to write down your fears, yet for some reason I did not stop and do so. Instead, I told myself that I no longer had any fears about building a tiny home, as I have already started taking steps towards doing so. Then I moved right along and read the next section of her book.

When I came to the next micro actions, I did those. Why did I skip the one on fear? Since I have been blogging about my whole process not just in building a tiny home, but in getting up the courage and simplifying to the point where I feel I am ready to move into one, I decided that this would be a good blog post. Besides, Tammy suggests having a support network, and I believe writing these things in my blog is a good way to hold myself accountable and possibly find others who support my dream. I am sure this will mean that sometimes I write in this blog more frequently than other times, but I do plan to write in here at least once a week for the time being while I sort through my thoughts and organize my current stuff, etc. We will see where this all takes me, and those who read my blog will be along for the ride. I thank you ahead of time for reading my rambling thoughts and for any comments you may make. I hope this blog can be a bit of a support network as I continue moving towards a simpler, space to call home.

This Art is Not My Intellectual Property
So fears and challenges. Here is a quick list in no particular order, a brain storm of fears and challenges as it were: My loved ones will feel I am abandoning them and won't get or support my dream, people will think I'm nuts, my mom will think I am ungrateful for the house she rents to us. My loved ones will not buy into the dream and me moving forward with it will cause division between us, I will miss my animals. People will harsh on my dream because I'm taking such tiny steps and moving so slowly. It is a bigger project than I can accomplish by myself, I will start building and find it is too difficult to complete due to my health issues and be left unable to see my dream through, I will build something that doesn't match my needs and later have to sell it and start all over. (Which I do not want to do but have seen others do) If it won't be completely accessible, what if my disability gets worse again? How will I afford/find spaces to park it when I move from place to place? How can I build a house that is able to tolerate huge shifts in climate? What if I design it with a certain aesthetic but then want to change it over time, will that limit me? Should I leave my pets behind when I travel and not allow animals into ObscurAbode because other people have allergies and it will be a gallery as well as a home? If I tried to take Pixie (my Chiweenie) with me she would fit well in a tiny home but would bark at all the strange noises and probably pee inside. If I took my cats with me, they would be unhappy because they are used to going out into the big backyard and chasing bugs. If I took all the animals with me but not my loved ones, they would miss their pets. If I left the pets behind I would miss my pets, but my cats do not do well with hanging things, and I would build a house that cats would inhabit totally different than I would a tiny house with no cats. Screened in porch versus open porch, fun hiding spaces and up high ramps for them to run on, hammock versus no hammock, etc.

It feels like too many what ifs and potential obstacles to get started, I feel like I have to figure so much out before I can even design my home let alone move forward to building it. On the one hand, I would like to have an accessible tiny home/gallery and on the other hand, I love the idea of having a bed that tucks away under the rest of the house, is it really possible to do both? Stairs are a challenge for me, should I build a home without any stairs, or should I go ahead and incorporate a few? (other than those which might be outdoors. Even if the indoors is completely accessible, a bed that is built under a single level floor with a section of floor which slides over or lifts off to reveal it might work, but then how does one go about building a ramp to get into the house? Build it as part of the "wrap around porch idea?"

So many questions, and I would like to get moving forward on the project, but really do not feel I can until I answer these questions and any others that come up along the way. Fortunately, despite the many challenges of building a home that is at once perfectly homey and welcoming to me, and welcoming and accessible to the public for gallery shows, I do feel that it is completely doable, and that a completely functional and wonderful space could be and will be built. Also, I have a lot of funds to raise, parts to get, and plans to make before I can make my dream a reality. For example my garage is not large enough to build the tiny home in and the HOA we currently live in does not allow long term parking of RV's let alone building things in the drive ways, so I will need to find a space where I can build my tiny home before I can actually start the building process.

Some of these fears have already been resolved. I know that those I currently live with fully support my dream, and understand it does not mean I am trying to run away from them, abandon them, etc. In fact Carlie has started helping me prepare and set aside for our tiny home, and has taken up the challenge to get rid of 2 things for every one thing we bring into the home. But I'll leave that for a future blog post.

For those who are reading this who have already build their tiny home, how did you overcome your own fears and any obstacles along the way? Did you have all the answers before you started to build or did you dive right in and get going? Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for me? Thank you ahead of time for your input, any advice you are willing to offer, and your support. Since this blog is in a way an extension of my very personal dream and making it a reality, I do ask that we try to be respectful and positive in comments and discussion with each other here. As I have been warned by others that some will lash out or call me crazy for wanting a tiny home on wheels, I do want to make it clear, I will not bother approving those comments to be posted, so you may as well not waste your breath. Instead, think of it as if you had been invited into my home. For really, that is what this is, an internet version of my future home. I am your gracious host, you are an honored guest. I would not expect a guest I invite into my home to be rude and neither would you expect it of me, your host. I think that's a pretty simple request :) Constructive criticism is welcome, bullying is not.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Induction Stovetop Has Arrived

I have been dreaming of a tiny home for years, and more recently began planning how that could become a reality when they sent me a kitty in a box! That's one of my kittens of course, Squeakers aka the Princess.  She seems to believe they shipped the boxes merely for her enjoyment.

Of course it was actually a box of Nuwave induction stoves and the free items which came with it. Included in the box were 2 NuWave Induction Cooktops, an induction cookbook/instruction manual, 2 nonstick metal pans, 1 multi-piece cookware which can be used in a variety of ways including as a steamer, and 1 cast iron skillet. Basically, my tiny home's kitchen in a box! Or at least, the items in the box set me in the right direction.Eventually I will also get a Blendtec blender and an induction oven.
So this weekend was exciting when planning turned into doing as our first small piece of our tiny home arrived. Although two actually came together because it was a buy one get one free deal, I will probably only be using one in my tiny home/galllery. Normally I would simply buy one if I only need one, but in this case Carlie and I decided to buy one that we are using now and one which we have set aside for my tiny home. It is exciting and I feel like the dream is finally becoming a reality even tho it is only one small piece of the puzzle.

We spent most of the weekend at the annual Front Yard Art Bazaar that Laurie Provost puts on, but tonight Carlie cooked up some of the veggies we got at Market on the Move and some sausage we needed to use up on one of the induction stove tops. She loved it, and especially enjoyed showing me how much less heat is wasted in using it, and how much safer it is to cook on. I will try using it this week myself.

I had set today aside to rest up after the busy weekend, so I finished reading the 2nd chapter of Tammy's book about simplifying. I am working through some of the micro actions, and will write about those in a future blog post, so stay tuned!