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Master Plan June 6, 2016

Fourteen month ago (aka: April 2015, about two months into my recovery from death) I contrived a ‘master plan’ with a multi-prong purpose. Aside from the obvious of getting my affairs in order, I set my sights on recreating my life; making my surroundings most amenable to me; doing things I always wanted (but never had time) to do.

Thus the necessity to ‘clear the decks’, take stock, and renegotiate (with myself) what is ‘important’ to me… and what is not. Which, as I have pursued various means of ‘downsizing’, has provoked me to ponder the proverbial question: “What’s it all about?”

Why do we ‘do’ whatever we do? What makes one thing more interesting or important or worthwhile than another? And what it all comes down to for me is that once you have the comfort of a decent place to live and the security of knowing that you may reside there for as long as you wish and will always have sufficient nourishment, the only thing that makes anything truly worthwhile is feeling the warm-fuzzies that flow from convivial companionship.

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Front entrance to the artisan workshop and gallery that my daughter and I put together so we could ‘yard sale’ our trash & treasure .

And for these last many months I have had the joy of working with my youngest daughter on a (HUGE) project: to de-clutter, reorganize and convert my backyard garage (pictured above) into the artisan workshop and gallery I’ve dreamed of since the day we moved to this household a decade ago.

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Our yard sales have become popular with our neighbors who often consign clothing, books, and housewares to our yard sale.

We closed the shop over the winter, but reopened this past Sunday (June 5, 2016).

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Our newly reorganized yard sale shop.

Though I know it may not look like it, the way we now have things set up, the left side of the above area now rather easily converts to 8′ x 12′ artisan workshop with workbench including table saw (not pictured) which are along the left wall, behind the hanging clothes.

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Fancy dishware, athletic bags, home furnishings, hair curlers, school desks and gift baskets are among the ever-changing processional of oddities, goodies, and collectibles that parade through our gallery.

My daughter has dubbed the shop “Shaundeli” — and you can see more of the stuff we offer on our Facebook Page. We are planning now for the 4th of July weekend and invite you to come by for a visit and maybe to join us in a game of horsehoes…!!!

Because, like I said, it’s really all and only about the warm-fuzzies… <smile>

Anyway, the following pic is of the completed dinette-booth I created in the mid-cabin of my RV, which I initially set-up about 3 weeks ago save for the detailing, ie: since then I have fabricated and installed a ‘trim & support’ edge for the clear plastic tabletop, covered the (ugly green) cooler with a fabric skirt (which you cannot see in the pic), added a decorative (but durable) cover to the seat cushion, and topped it all off with a nifty decorative pillow.

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My mid-cabin dinette.

So… it looks like I am ready for lunch on the road…!!! Now, to figure out just where I want to go…

Anyway, my Japan Chronicles shall continue next time with our visit to Hasedera Temple..(((hugs))) ~Christine

 

 

 

 

 

Japan Chronicles: The Great Buddha May 28, 2016

Filed under: EDITORIAL,EN ROUTE,GOD,JAPAN CHRONICLES — gozarks @ 2:57 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I took over a hundred pics of the gardens, statuary and structures that are the Hasedera Temple and the Great Buddha Kotoku-in Temple, both of which are in the port town of Kamakura, population 175,000, which is about 6 miles (as the crow flies) north west of Yokosuka, where we stayed with my youngest son.

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Kamakura, home to many Buddhist temples and gardens, is (as best I remember) about an hour’s commuter train-ride from Yokosuka.

Our day touring the temples started with a walk along Blue Street to the train station, about which I must say that Japan’s public transportation system is highly efficient, clean, modern and provided my introduction to ‘heated toilet seats’…!!!

It also provided very easy access to all the places we visited, fairly inexpensively.

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One of the few times on public transport that we were able to sit together… and as you can see, we were all elated with the experience <lol>!!!

The down side, however, is that the physical capacity (ie: available seating) on trains and busses is routinely filled beyond the max, thus making for (shoulder-to-shoulder) standing room only… which is especially challenging when ‘trying’ to stay together as a group –and/or- carrying several bags of groceries or luggage.

Thus to a Michigan girl like me, born and raised in the land of FoMoCo, there will never be anything quite as comfortable and convenient as my own private automobile… Unless <ahem> it is my own private RV… <smile>… but I digress.

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The Great Buddha is nearly 40 ft. tall and weighs roughly 121 tons.

The courtyard surrounding The Great Buddha – a national treasure cast in copper by priestly fundraising efforts and anonymous artisan hands back in 1252 – is open for visitors to stroll at their leisure. Formally known as ‘The Seated Buddha Amida Noyorai’ and also by the familiar name Daibutusu, The Great Buddha is the principle deity of the Kotoku-in Temple.

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The child standing at the base of The Great Buddha gives you some idea of the grand scale of this magnificent work of art.

As much now (if not more?) a cultural (tourist) attraction as a pilgrimage and worship site, visitors of various denominations bask in the sublime poise of ancient arte-factual antiquity, dappled like a stone-hewn canvas with colorful bursts of fragrant blossoms and lush greenery.

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Beauty, simplicity, endurance hewn of stone.

When first built, The Great Buddha was enshrined in a hall, but over the course of a few hundred years the building was damaged and ultimately destroyed by two typhoons and an earthquake. Since 1498 The Great Buddha sits in the open-air Kotoku-in Temple, visited by vast numbers of Buddhists of all sects from around the world and all over Japan who come to pay their respects and invoke the wisdom taught by the Jodo Sect of the Kotoku-in Temple: “To liberate all beings.”

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The courtyard is awash with glorious blossoms.

According to Jodo teaching, one only needs to chant the phrase “Namu Amida Butsu” (I take refuge in Amitabha Buddha) to be liberated from the karmic wheel of ‘good vs evil’ and reborn in the ‘pure’ land, aka: Nirvana. Aka: Happiness.

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Tucked back in a side-pocket of the courtyard: this old well with a bamboo cover, strung together (I imagine) much as such would have been ‘way back when.’

All of which (and the following several photos) I’ll leave you with this time around, noting that of the hundred pics initially mentioned, today I managed to go through about a third of them, selected those that I wanted to use, set-up and photographed the last image you’ll see below, then cropped, resized, color- and contrast-corrected, resolution-optimized, uploaded and published the batch…

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Have you ever seen a tree-crutch quite like this…???

Also noting that, obviously, I have yet to travelogue the photos from Hasedera Temple (which shall be forthcoming next time around) and all the while reflecting on the ‘sacred truth’ of Buddhism as nicely articulated by Debra Maxwell in a comment posted to this Youtube of the Buddhist “Heart Sutra” Chant

“To know the truth of life, to make your life a meditation, you don’t need to shave your head, go to a cave or chant.”

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Many who entered the temple washed their hands with water dipped from a ceremonial cleansing station.

As I would say, just think of every breath, thought and action of your life as ‘sacred’ <smile>… Mainly because you are and thus it is… (((hugs))) ~Christine

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The ornate dragon cast in the stately work of art speaks to the Mystic Law and Celestial Magic of Enlightened Devas in Nirvana.

 

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The pronounced circle in the center of The Great Buddha’s forehead is representative of an enlightened being’s ‘third eye’ which sees through the superficiality of matter to the heart of the invisible from which pure love, sublime peace and blissful pleasure emanate.

 

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I got this key-chain with the tiny bell on it (symbol of Buddha’s voice which sustains the order of the universe by powers that come from within the devotee’s own life) at the gift shop on the grounds of The Great Buddha Kotoku-in Temple. Also got the ‘smudge stick’ there and, of course, the admission ticket. The sweet elephant change-purse came from a shop along the way from one temple to another in Kamakura.

 

 

Japan Chronicles: Where, What, How. May 9, 2016

Where did you go? What did you eat? And, how was the weather? The top three questions folks ask when we chat about my trip. Thus I start with a couple of maps…

Where in the world is Japan...

Where in the world is Japan…??? Roughly 6000 miles from our home in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, which is well beyond the right horizon of this globe… somewhere south of Canada.

The red-circled region of Japan, on the map above, is shown in close-up, below:

what??

Yokosuka, a thriving cosmopolitan city of about 400,000 residents, is in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan.

While we were there, we went mainly to a lot of places that regular folks who live in Yokosuka would go…

"Blue Street" so named because of the bright blue pebbles embedded in the blacktop paving and the decorative brick-work of the sidewalks that border it.

The shops along “Blue Street,” so named because of the bright blue pebbles embedded in the blacktop paving.

We walked along Blue Street every day, going to the local malls and window-shopping along the way.

Another pic with Blue Street in the background.

Another pic with Blue Street in the background.

I love the above pic (which shows a snippet of the beautiful sidewalks that border Blue Street) because of the impish and whimsical looks on the faces of both my young men <smile>. which reminded me so greatly of when they were little kids… as did the girls… radiant and smiling as always.

Foods at the mall.

Foods at the mall.

One mall we shopped at had 9 floors of shops. One floor was like a large grocery store, one floor was filled with various bakeries.

Baked treats.

Baked treats.

Everywhere, people were friendly (though we did our best to be respectful and NOT take photos of ‘strangers’ as this is considered rude and offensive in Japan) and the service was super-polite and professional.

Josh, making a purchase at one of the bakery shops in the mall.

Josh, making a purchase at one of the bakery shops in the mall.

And with appreciation and respect to the folks who happened to be in this photo of Josh, as you may note, we were often the only non-Japanese in the room.

We also dined at the mall, which had several floors devoted to eateries. In the pics below, we are enjoying the fun of an ‘all you can eat’ hibachi buffet.

Me (aka: Christine Louise Beems) and Shawna.

Me (aka: Christine Louise Beems) and Shawna.

Simmering below are thinly-sliced strips of beef and pork tongue (in the foreground) and marinated chicken (in the background)

Grill-your-own is the way this buffet works.

Grill-your-own is the way this buffet works.

The way this ‘all you can eat’ (about $20 per person) buffet worked, you got to order ‘more food’ (from your selected buffet menu) as many times as you could cook it and eat it in 90-minutes.  And there were side-dishes, too… we got some kimchi and some rice and some really creamy ‘mashed potato salad’… which is really big in Japan and served rather routinely, the way we serve coleslaw, in Arkansas.

Lizard awaiting adoption from the mall's pet store.

Lizard awaiting adoption from the mall’s pet store.

On another floor of the mall, we visited a pet store, which had pretty-much all the same kinds of puppies, lizards, and hedgehogs that you might find in just about any pet store today. One exception, however, was the tiny frog pictured ‘larger than life’ below, which was barely as big as a quarter and perhaps a distant cousin of the teeny tree-frog that lived for a while in my atrium and whose pic has been my FB icon for nearly a decade.

Tiny frog in pet store.

Tiny frog in pet store.

And on yet another floor of the mall, we strolled through a haberdashery, brimming with things to satisfy the most discriminating tastes of the most elegant and charming men…

Looking kewl...

Looking kewl…

About the weather, the overcast gray sky in the photo below is what we saw most of the time. And it was chilly, except during those joyful moments when the sun peeked out and it would get warm really quick.

Grey skies were our steady companion.

Grey skies were our steady companion.

Pruned trees, like the one above, line the sides of Blue Street, somewhat aesthetically bridging the gap between the high-rise cosmopolitan character of the city and neighborhood street shops of Yokosuka. I bet the trees look spectacular at the peak of summer.

Until next time (and our tour of two Buddhist Temples)… (((hugs))) ~Christine

 

Japan Chronicles: Homecoming May 2, 2016

Some of the best advice I ever got was “Start with the End in Mind.” It came, as I recall, from a management training program I attended back in the 1970’s. And, truth be told, to fully appreciate the reality of my present moment, we would have to go back that far and stroll through what all I’ve experienced since (and even prior to) then… and you would also have to be sitting next to me right now, in my bedroom, ensconced through big-window glory by a lush variegation of sun-dappled forest green with the lighthearted hymn of my tiny brook babbling in the background.

ASIDE: Did you know that, as new historians (an oxymoron?) now tell it, the first published author and also the first known person to utilize the phrase “I am” in print – which was a total linguistic anomaly at that time – was a woman. A high priestess, to be exact, who wielded more political clout in her day than did Karl Rove during GW’s administration. But don’t take my word for it… have a gander at “The Ascent of Woman” the next time you Netflix.

Back to the moment, at least for me (as I write), this space/time of here-in-now is pretty-damn perfect: I sit in my grandmother’s old rocking chair (that I reupholstered a few months back), tiny laptop (atop an old – 1930’s? – folding table) at my fingertips, immersed in the stunning beauty of nature, surrounded by an array of (what to me are) interesting, comfortable and somewhat unique accouterments of daily life, sipping fresh coffee (laced with just a touch of Irish Cream <smile>), fresh off a two week sojourn in Japan.

RANDOM NOTE: Add imaginary echo here, in a child-like girlish voice to replicate the lilt of my youngest daughter, Shawna, who is nearing 23, repeating the word as a cadenced mantra — “Japan… Japan, Japan, Japan… J-a-p-a-n” – which grew with daily intensity as we packed and prepared for the trip.

Adam (29), Josh (24), Shalom (27) and Shawna (22), siblings together in our 'trip of a lifetime' family vacation in Japan.

Adam (29), Josh (24), Shalom (27) and Shawna (22), siblings together on our family vacation in Japan.

And the two glorious weeks that we were together there, on a family-outing ‘trip of a lifetime’ were by even my most self-indulgent standards, saturated with decadent luxuries that gave great gobs of simple-pleasures to all involved. Truly amazing on so many levels, rippling through every dimension of life, and for which I am deeply thankful and tremendously appreciative of the good will and generosity of my children, without whom I would not have been able to make this trip… and who (for the most part <smile>) treated me like a queen and endured my persnickety ways with loving good grace and aplomb…

Thank you Adam, Shalom, Josh and Shawna for everything that each of you did to make our time together in Japan so phenomenally enjoyable. And thank you Patty (my eldest)… though you could not join us in Japan, we know you were with us in spirit…

Breakfast, prepared by my darling daughters and served al fresco to me on the back porch of my youngest son's apartment.

Breakfast — scrambled eggs with two kinds of tiny mushrooms and cheese and garnished with fresh (celery-like) greens, accompanied by pan-fried potatoes and onions and a warm buttered roll — prepared by my darling daughters and served al fresco to me on the back porch of my youngest son’s apartment as I did my morning computering.

Tales about all of which – from the nightmare of our flight getting there, to our day touring Buddhist temples and including the gastronomical and shopping delights we encountered along our way, I shall relate in dazzling detail  with more splendid photos in coming weeks… <grin>.

Posters are everywhere in the city. These were in a 9-story shopping and food mall on in Yokosuka.

Posters are everywhere in the city. These were just a few of those that bedecked the hallways of a 9-story shopping and food mall in Yokosuka.

Right now, however, carrying forward the present moment and having elucidated the background harmony which carries the happy tune of my life, perhaps and hopefully you have sensed a glimmer of the awes and wonders that resonate in my little universe… the place where I live… the space where I make my home. And the profound joy that I feel just sitting here, absorbing the moment… super-saturated with the activity of simply being alive. Feeling so tremendously gratified to have — oh, so many years ago — started raising my family with the their successful adulthood clearly in mind.

Anyway, in the scope of my continuing present moments, I see some yard-work in my immediate future.

NOTE: It is phenomenally good to be home.

My youngest son, Josh, with some of his shipmates and friends, who assembled in Josh's honor at a local park (in the background is the retired Japanese battleship Mikasa, now a tourist attraction) for his Honorable Discharge and Reenlistment Ceremony, which he was totally secretive about and came as a complete surprise to the rest of us...!!! More about this as my Japan Chronicles unfold...!!! His superiors were VERY complimentary of Josh and also very appreciative that we (his family members) were present for the ceremony because it is such a rarity to have a sailor's kin present for such events. We each were given an official Certificate of Appreciation from the Navy, signed by the Captain of his ship, to thank us for our support of Josh's service to the Navy. And the officers, senior enlisted crew members and his peers were all HUGELY complimentary of Josh... saying to me personally what an outstanding person he is, how great he is to work with and how appreciative they are of having him around.

My youngest son, Josh (front row, 4th from the right), with some of his shipmates and friends, who assembled in Josh’s honor at a local park (in the background is the retired Japanese battleship Mikasa, now a tourist attraction) for his Honorable Discharge and Reenlistment Ceremony, which he was totally secretive about and came as a complete surprise to the rest of us…!!! More about this and lots more good news next time, as my Japan Chronicles unfold…!!!

(((hugs))) ~Christine

 

Sunshine March 15, 2016

So-o-o-o… landscaping skies returned today <smile>… and greeted my freshly manicured front entry…

The sidewalk to my front door.

The sidewalk to my front door.

Next on my list here, I’d like to paint the front steps. At one time they were covered with indoor/outdoor carpeting, but it was old and ugly and a couple of years ago I pulled it up and have been wanting to do something with the steps ever since, but just didn’t know what. Now that we have decided to get a new roof, I have decided that I will match the color of the front steps to it — after it is installed.

This is my 'utility yard'... it's to the west of my house.

This is my ‘utility yard’… it’s to the west of my house.

My ‘utility yard’ — so named because the door to my laundry room (around the corner) opens onto it, there is a clothes line strung above central green patch, and it is where we will eventually have a propane tank installed when we replace the electric range with gas — is a good example of how my wildflower gardens and meandering paths come together to create less maintenance work. The leaf-mulched areas in the  foreground and background the of the pic are flowerbeds and take advantage of seasonal leaf-fall (of which there is a lot) by using it in the area where it naturally occurs as mulch for beds within that area… thus eliminating the need to transport it someplace else… and reducing the area to be raked and mowed by 75%.

The ground around this downspout was low.

The ground around this downspout was low.

As you can see in the pic above, the area where water runs-off from this downspout had eroded, leaving a low spot. Not good. Water must flow AWAY from the foundation <grin>… And so my ‘big’ project today was to build-up the ground and reinstall the run-off stones.

Same area after a bit of TLC.

Same area after a bit of TLC. No more low spot. Happy run-off…!!!

Also, though I have no pics of it, my darling daughter Shawna and I were, over the weekend, able to get the potable water system in “Louise” de-winterized and working fine. Ah-h-h-h-h… a few more small steps toward being ready for road-tripping this summer…!!! (((hugs))) ~Christine

 

 

Rain, rain, rain… March 11, 2016

And more rain has brought a halt to landscaping fun for the moment. However, before everything turned wet, my youngest darling daughter and I managed to clear out all the scrubby-brush that was clogging this front corner of our yard, right where our driveway meets the lane.

Front corner of my front yard, overgrown with scrubby brush.

BEFORE: Front corner of my front yard, overgrown with scrubby brush.

AFTER: Same corner... much better looking.

AFTER: Same corner… much more tidy -and- you can see my house…!!!!

But back to the rain…. my heart goes out to all those who have been touched by flooding. My warmest good wishes and fondest hopes are for your expedient recovery.

One good thing about the rain for me is that I was able to confirm that the caulking I did around an old antenna cable that runs through my RV’s roof is still keeping things inside dry. And now that the weather has warmed, next on my ‘prepare for travel’ agenda is to fill the potable water tank and get that system de-winterized, ready for use.

Beyond that, headway is being made with getting all my other little projects (like doing the layout for the next publication  of Help YourSelf ) tied-up neat and tidy so that I am footloose and fancy free to pursue wherever my bliss leads me <grin>.

And lastly, but certainly not leastly <grin> I wanted to say a belated but super-big THANK YOU to my sweet child Shawna who, for my birthday, gifted me with a complete set of bed-linens for “Louise” (’02 Great West Van 20′) all matching the lovely comforter and shammed pillow shown in the pic of my aft berth, below…

I love the spacious look the mirrors give the cabin.

I love the spacious look the mirrors give the cabin.

 

(((hugs))) ~Christine

 

Daffodils & Orchids… March 5, 2016

Orchids (from Walmart) and Daffodils (from my garden).

Orchids (from Walmart) and Daffodils (from my garden).

…seems a fitting name for this mixed-medley pictorial of what I’ve been up to, am doing, and look to accomplish in the sweet by and by <grin>.  The inspiration for this namesake, pictured at right, greeted me every morning at breakfast for nearly a week. And even now, the Orchids still bloom.

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Pretty blossoms dapple a flowering shrub in my backyard.

Lots of stuff is starting to blossom here in the Ozarks. Springtime and Autumn are my most favorite times of year. Daytime temps are in the 60s & 70s, nights are in the 40s, and sunny blue skies are common.

What more could anyone ask…???

Part of the enjoyment for me is being able to get outside and play in the yard.

Pictured below is the view of my yard, looking north from my house.  There is a circle drive around island of trees in the center. My RV, “Louise” (’02 GWV 20′) is on the left and the yellow trapezoid-thingy marks the spot where I would like to put a permanent RV pad.

Area where I would like to install an RV pad..

Area where I would like to install an RV pad..

Closer look at where I'd like to put an RV pad.

Closer look at where I’d like to put an RV pad.

Composted mulch

Composted mulch

Right now, in the area where I want the RV-pad, there is  HUGE pile of composted wood-chip mulch which I am now trucking by wagon-loads to top-off various flower beds such as the one (below, right) alongside the driveway to  my garage.

One flowerbed done... and a zillion to go .

One flowerbed done… and a zillion to go .

Note for the record that I LOVE my little wagon. It has proven itself as an amazingly useful utility not only for landscaping chores and but also for getting a trunk-load of groceries into the kitchen in one fell swoop…!!!

Anyway, the lovely rock planter has now had winter debris removed, a nice thick layer of composted mulch added, and Zinnia seeds planted. Also, I’m thinking that the oak pallet (in the background) might make a good base for a nice broad entry step to an RV when I get the new pad installed.

And behind that, if you look real close, you’ll see the right rear quarter-panel of my Tib… and the rear of my son Adam’s motorcycle.

Coldframe on deck.

Coldframe on deck.

The coldframe, at left, was constructed with an old bathtub, some plywood and a storm door, all of which came to me free at one time or another and — thanks to me being a ‘collector of things that have value’ — ultimately came together as this fun place to grow stuff.

Dill and Basil seeds planted in the freshly mulched coldframe.

Dill and Basil seeds planted in the freshly mulched coldframe.

This year, as you can see on the right, I’ve planted some dill and some basil. Now all there is to do, at least with this bed, is keep it watered and watch it grow.

Still, my yard is (to quote Bernie) YUGE…!!! Way more than I really want to handle by myself… which is why I am so thankful for the assistance of my darling daughter Shawna who is a big help with all sorts of household stuff.

And now, with the weather so appealing, the outdoors to-do list is long. In addition to moving all the aforementioned mulch, I have a bunch of flower seeds to plant and some maintenance work to do…

Anybody wanna come help…???

Seeds, seeds, and more seeds.

Seeds, seeds, and more seeds.

FYI: All the seeds in the ‘kitty litter’ bucket were harvested from last year’s plantings -and- various roadside patches that caught my eye. The boxes-and-boxes of wildflower, zinnia, and other blooming seeds were purchased at the end of the season last year for 1/2 off… so the whole batch only cost about $5.

Unhinged gate.

Unhinged gate.

Other little projects to be tended in the not-too-distant future: The gate — leaning oddly to the left in the pic at left — has come loose from its hinges. Not a big project… just  one of many that takes time.

Anyway, enough about work… even though it mostly feels like play. As a closing note for this time around I’ll share a pic  of the two beautiful designer-art pillows my son Adam gave me for my 67th Birthday…!!! He said he thought they would look good in my RV… and I think that, as usual, he’s right…!!!!

Twin Turtles

Twin Turtles

(((hugs))) ~Christine

 

Workamper Rendezvous October 27, 2015

The Workamper* Rendezvous in Heber Springs, Arkansas, last week (10/20-22/15) was amazing… They – being head honcho Steve Anderson and his awesome crew of family and friends — fed, entertained and educated us with a smorgasbord of creative wisdom and delicious expertise…!!!

Education, education, education filled the halls and meeting rooms of the Heber Springs Community Center while the 2015 Workamper Rendezvous was in town.
Education, education, education filled the halls and meeting rooms of the Heber Springs Community Center while the 2015 Workamper Rendezvous was in town.

FYI: This event is NOT just for those who are (or would like to be) earning an income while living full-time on the road. Even though all the info is geared to assist those who choose to explore this dream, anyone who enjoys camping in any kind of RV could definitely learn a lot.

I, for example, learned much more than I already knew about the 30amp electric system in my RV. Excellent info that will save me tons of $$$ on needless repairs precluded by a few ounces of preventative wisdom.

I also learned the legal difference between a domicile and a residence… Do you know…??? <smile> Because if you don’t and you happen to fit a particular demographic profile, you could be wasting big money paying taxes that you are not legally obliged to pay…. thus proving that sometimes, ignorance is not bliss…!!!

And the social environment of the whole event was wonderfully convivial. Attendees were mostly in the 40s-to-70s age range; retired (or soon to be), or already ‘living the dream’ of freewheeling independence, earning their keep through various means as they wander scenic byways, tour national landmarks and mosey through life at a pace uniquely their own.

The convivial crowd of workampers and wannabes gathered at the Rendezvous.

The convivial crowd of workampers and wannabes gathered at the Rendezvous.

Which sorta-kinda describes almost perfectly the overview of ‘living life’ that I envision and am enacting for myself as my transition from full-time mom and head-of-household-working-professional ebbs away from the sacrificial duties of titles and tasks, flowing into the realm of ‘whatever I choose to do next’.

As anyone who has already made this passage knows, it could be likened to navigating the Straits of Magellan, tossed about by shifting gusty winds, feisty currents, the narrowness of the channel through towering rock cliffs and the deceptively beautiful wailing of emotional sirens.

Me and my darling brood (left to right): Adam, Patty, mom (aka: me), Shawna, Shalom, Josh.

Me and my darling brood (left to right): Adam, Patty, mom (aka: me), Shawna, Shalom, Josh.

My personal crossing from the ocean of family responsibility to the sea of doing for myself began just over 4 years ago when my youngest darling daughter turned 18. And in fact, that day of emancipation had been envisioned from the birth of my eldest child… at least from the standpoint that I as a mother had one very important job to do: to prepare my darlings for adulthood; to make sure they were as equipped and as ready as I could coach them to be to take on the joys, challenges and responsibilities incumbent of adult life… on their own.

And now, with all of my darlings living their own dreams (and happily thriving), I am in what long-ago colleague Alan Lakein would call ‘the end game’ of my transformational journey and I am ‘trying on for size’ the doing of things that I have for (lo, these many years) imagined I would be doing ‘after’ my kids were grown.

Thus as my Maiden Voyage was (to me) all about proving to myself that I and my rig were up to the challenges of solo RVing… attending this conference was (for me) all about finding out how easy (or difficult) it is to attend and participate in such events given my mode of transportation. And under this heading, I really learned a lot.

These full-timers live in style and tow their 'garage' (which houses their auto and an office) with them.

These full-timers live in style and tow their ‘garage’ (which houses their auto and an office) with them.

Mainly, that having a very mobile (20′) van-type RV does give me easy access to convenient parking at an event. However, with the RV being my only transportation -and- my home, it is neither easy nor convenient to get involved with ancillary activities that take place away from the main event.

For example, there was a solo RVers meet-and-greet held at a park pavilion one evening which I would have much liked to attend. Yet the fact that the gathering was (for me) too far from my campsite to walk, and that driving there meant I would have had to back-into my campsite when it was pitch-dark decided my fate.

On the other side of the coin, I loved the camping experience. In contrast to other sections of the park which were full nearly to capacity, the section I chose for my 3-night stay was empty, save for Louise and me <smile>. Thus things were blissfully quiet -and- I felt no compunction about turning up the volume on my radio when the spirit so moved me <grin>.

The dwelling inside the stately bus is truly glamorous... Thus the term coined to describe this lifestyle:

The dwelling inside the stately bus (pictured above) is truly glamorous… Thus the term coined to describe this lifestyle: “Glamping”.

This area of the Dam Site State Park campground was bustling with big rigs.

This area of the Dam Site State Park campground was bustling with big rigs.

Back to the downside, I learned very quickly that the duties of being a solo RVer take precedent over and may interfere with the desires of an event attendee. Thus a couple of times – mainly because I am ‘old’ and simply cannot cram as much action into an hour as I once did – I found myself doing necessary routine RVer chores instead of attending a conference presentation.

And it also became self-evident that in order for me to pursue my envisioned ‘home ranger’ lifestyle in a long-haul manner, that I will have to allot time not only for travel, routine maintenance, sleep, general housekeeping, provisioning, cooking & eating, etc. -and- time to ‘do stuff’ (like visiting places and enjoying events), but that I must also factor in ‘time to write’… because, of course, this is the gold nugget of my personal work-camper plan… to supplement my retirement income by peddling my wordcrafting charms… <grin>

The 'empty' area of the park that I had to myself for my 3-day stay.

The ’empty’ area of the park that I had to myself for my 3-day stay. And yes, that is the lake in the background… which gave me a great view from my bedroom/living-room window…!!!

So, that is my current story <smile>, except to note with great glee that my eldest son, Adam, has now officially moved to Austin, Texas, where he has (as of yesterday) commenced employment as Field Services Engineer with Crushing Tigers, Inc. Wow… not too shabby for a homeschooled boy with a post-grad degree from the hands-on school of hard knocks…

Yes… I am very (very, very, very) proud…

Until next time, (((hugs))) and happy travels… ~Christine

*The term “Workamper” is a registered tradename of Workamper News.

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Maiden Voyage: Suzy October 17, 2015

Suzy and I have been friends for nearly 15 years. We met when gozarks.com was in its heyday and she contacted me (as editor) with some questions about the region of the Ozarks where I lived as she had a hankerin’ to move.

Suzy's hand-laid cobblestone paver-brick floor, tougue-and-groove planked walls, handcrafted mini-4-poster bed.

Today, Suzy’s reclusive residence in Izard County sports a hand-laid cobblestone paver-brick floor, tougue-and-groove planked walls, handcrafted mini-4-poster bed. Hard to believe this was once a dirt-floored pole barn.

Which she did, to a small (neglected) house on the Middle Fork of the Little Red River that she (amazingly) hand-crafted into a sprightly manifestation of elegant utility, homespun charm and humble grace. Replete with simple touches of user-convenience and common sense, every necessity of living life comfortably was delightfully woven together as an accommodating home.

We lunched there several times over the course of many months, in her charming kitchen, next to the massive stone hearth in her ‘open floor plan’ living room, over which she had hand-carved a mantle to read: “This is my rest forever. Here I will dwell because I desire it.”

The email from Suzy that came with this pic: "This photo shows a gaillardia in bloom. These are domesticated wildflowers, and they grow in even poor soil, resist droughts, and really require no care at all. The foliage just looks weed like,  but butterflies do enjoy hovering around the flowers. I'd never seen these, until I grew some. I'll save seeds, if you want some."

The email from Suzy, about a month ago, that came with this pic: “This photo shows a gaillardia in bloom. These are domesticated wildflowers, and they grow in even poor soil, resist droughts, and really require no care at all. The foliage just looks weed like, but butterflies do enjoy hovering around the flowers. I’d never seen these, until I grew some. I’ll save seeds, if you want some.”

Lunch with Suzy was always a delicious treat for me, still being immersed in the parenting and homeschooling of children, the duties of caring for my disabled husbnd, and the breadwinner agenda of a professional work-a-day-world.

To just sit and relax in the company of another intelligent woman, swapping stories of times past and hopes yet to come, was like going on a picnic in a different universe.

Then it came to pass that she was literally flooded out. The river rose terribly high, twice in one season. Her household was decimated both times. And after recovering from the first intrusion, when the second deluge came barely a heartbeat later, she knew it was time to move.

For a while then, she relocated quite near me in the city of Fairfield Bay. But during this time we were both rather busy with other stuff in our respective lives – me, with navigating through a divorce and moving my brood to the abode where I and two of my five adult children continue to reside, and she with similar though different lifestyle evolutions.

We kept in-touch with email and when she announced plans to relocate to a remote chunk of land in Izard County where she would realize her dream to be a self-sufficient homesteader, I celebrated for and with her.

I visited her remote hide-way once, soon after she’d settled in to her bare-bones L-shaped polebarn with a dirt floor. Completely off-grid, water was pulled by the bucket from an ancient hand-dug well, the single working remains of a farmstead that had thrived here, an hundred years ago.

She planned to camp inside the polebarn, which she’d designed, had constructed by a local contractor and equipped with a wood stove, over her first winter while she figured out the parameters of her envisioned home. And now, on my homeward-bound travels, I would be getting a chance to see more than photos of what she had accomplished.

We had, however, determined that it would not be feasible to take Louise up the driveway to Suzy’s abode as it is passable only by vehicles with a lot of undercarriage clearance and quick maneuverability, like the 4-wheel drive pick-up truck she drives. Thus we chose to meet at the local Post Office, which closes at noon and seemed a good spot to park Louise while Suzy ferried me to her home for our visit.

Yes, Suzy does (finally) have 'running water' -- a la the 'gravity flow' system she installed, which she fills from a large reserve cistern filled by rain.

Yes, Suzy’s mountain hideaway does now finally have ‘running water’ — a la the ‘gravity flow’ system she installed, which she fills from a large reserve cistern filled by rain.

This was a good plan, except for the overhead wires… which I almost (but not quite) learned more than I care to know about, the hard way.

That is, when I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed that there were some electrical and phone lines high overhead, draped from the top of a tall pole at the front corner of the parking lot, near the street, running diagonally across the parkong lot to the back-rear corner of the building… but factually, I didn’t really give them much thought.

At least not until I got out of Louise, preparing to get in the pick-up with Suzy, and noticed that the low end of the lines were now resting on the upper-front fiberglass roof of my mobile abode.

Thus my next move was to calculate how I might-could backup to be clear of the lines without inadvertently taking them down…

Which I was, ultimately, able to do <smile>… but not without some very careful maneuvering.

And me chastising myself for being so stupid as to having gotten myself into such a fix to begin with – and at the same time congratulating myself for having recognized a potentially bad situation and having figured-out a ‘no harm done’ solution.

Ah-h-h-h… the challenges of RVing….!!!

The short ride back into Suzy’s dominion was every bit as rugged as promised. Had she intentionally constructed some sort of modern gauntlet to keep unwelcome visitors at bay, she could not have done better than Mother Nature’s protruding ‘wash board’ of tree-roots, gaping gullies, dry washes, and jagged terrain.

The 'volunteer' butternut squash vine sprouted of its own accord from ground enriched with Suzy's vegetable-scrap compost and produced a good harvest.

The ‘volunteer’ butternut squash vine sprouted of its own accord from ground enriched with Suzy’s vegetable-scrap compost.

But then, like a mirage in the wilderness, the gentle harmonious homestead she’s sculpted comes into view; unassuming; a simple modern metal-sheathed structure with a pleasant screen porch, surrounded by a patchwork of garden spots, blooming flowers, and running vines.

Step through the unpretentious doorway of this handsome polebarn and enter a custom tailored wonderland of clean lines, well organized structure and methodical fancy.

The walls and towering ceiling of the large L-shaped living area are precisely fitted tongue-and-groove, the masterwork of which one cannot truly tally without knowing that each board was sawed by hand and patiently installed over months of diligent physical pursuit, as was each stone-paver in the hand-laid floor, each plank in the raised woodfloor section areas, and the design of each piece of handcrafted furniture, such as her mini-4-poster bed.

Truly, a testament to what one person can accomplish, alone, with creativity, intelligence and diligence… while living on a fixed (frugal) income, with no electricity, no central heat, no air conditioning and no running water… A living work of art in perpetual motion, beautifully intertwined with the elements of Suzy’s nature.

We spoke of many things, as we always do, and noshed on bagels with cream cheese. We compared notes about how new chapters were opening in our respective lives, enticing and encouraging each of us to explore new horizons, and thus she was doing some deep-seated thinking about what she wanted to do ‘next’.

With many chapters of that conversation yet to come, Suzy delivered me back to Louise and I again headed south with plans to overnight in Mountain View as the last stop on my way home. But when I got there, things changed. And that is where my Maiden Voyage saga shall continue and conclude <smile>, next time we chat… Until then, (((hugs))) and happy traveling… ~Christine

Addendum: Subsequent to our visit, Suzy decided to sell her minimalist-mansion on 40 forested acres with natural spring-fed pond. If you’d like to know more, lemme know and I’ll get y’all in touch…!!!

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Intermezzo October 12, 2015

My Maiden Voyage lasted six days. I have now been home for twelve and wow… what a lot has happened during this time. Thus, though there are still a couple of episodes of my debut adventure yet to be posted, I thought it would be good to chronicle what’s been happening on my homefront.

Starting with the here and now, eldest son Adam posted something on Facebook this morning:  How sound (resonance, frequency, amplitude) levitates a droplet of water.

Of course the fact that sound-waves have a direct and observable influence on matter is really old news, ie: singing notes of a certain pitch and volume shatter glass. But I mean, wow… some of the scientists among us learned how to LEVITATE one form of matter (water) with sound. And the implications are tremendous… especially when considering that the human body is about 55% H2O…

Anyway, a lot of the last twelve days has gone to catching-up on all the stuff that didn’t get done for several weeks, respective the sudden and long-awaited opportunity to take my Maiden Voyage. Yesterday, I began autumn clean-up in the back yard.

My backyard, mid-summer 2015.

My backyard, April 2015.

This is what ALL of my several raised-beds looked like as of  yesterday.

This is what ALL of my several raised-beds looked like as of yesterday.

By yesterday, the scene was not so bucolic as above.

For one thing, my recovery from death last January definitely put a hitch in my slow but steady giddy-up. For another, the whole death experience provoked me to reflect and introspect on what I (me, myself) really and truly want to do (see, experience, enjoy) with the here-in-now moments of my life, now that all five of my darling grown-up children are charting courses of their own.
And I realized that, while gardening and landscaping has always been a passion of mine, it has also been a family (many hands make light work) activity. And now, as more and more of the physical labor is mine alone to do, no matter how much I enjoy the doing of it, I do not wish to do it ALL of the time.
Eldest son Adam and me at the airport the day he flew-out for orientation with his new employer.

Eldest son Adam and me at the airport the day he flew-out for orientation with his new employer.

Which brings us to what has taken up much of my time these past twelve days… That my darling eldest son Adam has accepted employment out of state… In Austin, Texas, to be exact.
About which we are all elated, thrilled and overjoyed for him to be exploring this tremendous opportunity… and have been busy sorting out how things are going to work around here after he moves.
One bed (of many) weeded, planted with bulb-sets, mulched and watered.

One bed (of many) weeded, planted with bulb-sets, mulched and watered.

All of which and many other details of daily life have filled all of my days so far this month… but I gotta tell you, it sure did feel good to get my work-gloves dirty yesterday. (((hugs))) ’til next time…  ~Christine