A Little More Time

The groundhog saw his shadow and we have 6 more weeks of Texas...

So we’ve had a small change of plans (a delay of plans, really) and extended our time here in Texas for a few more weeks. A combination of circumstances led us here- my Mom broke her foot and could use a hand, a lot of next assignments were coming up in dream locations that are still a little too cold for our camper (frozen, cracked water lines and tanks = zero fun, no matter how much I want to be in Whitefish, MT), and an extension offer from the hospital just all seemed to fall into place and we are not inclined to argue with the universe when she pulls things together for us like this!

We are just over three months into this journey (nine if you consider our “start” when we sold our house and moved into the camper last July…which feels more like the real beginning even if it was another six months before we actually left Maine) and if there is one thing that I’ve realized is absolutely key to staying remotely sane, it’s learning to be flexible. Every day includes the unexpected and rolling with it is pretty much non-negotiable. I certainly have my moments of frustration (oh, do I ever), but I’m learning that most of the time, that frustration is simply a waste of energy, energy that could be better spent creating a solution or recognizing the benefits of whatever the unplanned turn of events might be.

So we will be here through the end of April now. That leaves me a little more time with my Mom and my brother. A little more time to continue working my way into better running shape (and climbing shape, and fly-fishing shape, and all-around outdoor-fun shape). A little more time to soak in the Texas spring and the bounty of wildflowers that have so suddenly arrived to call in the season. To investigate the pockets of wild space that the Hill Country has to offer and reconnect with some old friends I haven’t seen in more than a decade. A little more time to work on our backpacking-with-Tessie dilemma and dream over an open atlas. Time to taste the local beers and eat fresh guacamole at the picnic table under string lights and enjoy the breeze as the sun sets in this big ol’ sky. 

So often over the course of our lives, we wish for just a little more time. Time to pause, time to linger, time to slow down just a bit. We weren’t expecting extra time here in Texas, but this is where we’ve been granted it, so we’ll take it with gratitude and say thank you and make the most of its gifts. We’ll bask in this sunshine and feel the spring sun on our faces and take a deep breath, then another, and then another after that. Because we can.

Because we have just a little more time. 

CindyGiovagnoli_Texas_Fredricksburg_EnchantedRock_HillCountry_StateParks_Tourism.jpg
CindyGiovagnoli_Fredricksburg_Texas_HillCountry_EnchantedRock_StateParks_tourism.jpg

The Last of Thirtysomething

This week I enter the final year of my thirties. It's oddly surprising to find myself here at the end of my fourth decade of life, to suddenly realize that my next birthday will begin a new decade and that I am firmly in the center of what is commonly referred to as "mid-life."

I am not dismayed by age or aging. Perhaps I would be more saddened by the lines around my eyes or the bits of sag here and there that seem to arrive overnight had cancer not strode so boldly into my life at an age when I still believed myself invincible and that time was something that stretched out luxuriously before me with no end in sight. Perhaps there are survivors out there that lament the grey at their temples or the softness that doesn't disappear with an extra run or two, but I've never met one. I am, inherently, deeply grateful for each trip around the sun I am granted, each year that I am given to work toward the potential I carry within me, to strive to grow and stretch just a little more and perhaps even put some small beauty back into this world that has given me so much.

Like so many others, I was deeply moved by Amy Krause Rosenthal's open letter published recently in the New York Times (if you haven't read it yet, grab some tissues and go read it now, I'll wait right here).  Her writing is that perfect combination of poignant, self-effacing, humorous, and brutally honest that every person who desires to put words on paper aspires to and this letter had me snot-crying by the halfway point. It struck me for the 875 millionth time that cancer is a fucking rat bastard thief and that, in this particular case, it stole not only this woman's future dreams and plans, this husband's partner, these children's mother, but it stole this amazing voice from the world. Fuck cancer.  I don't mean that in cutesy hashtag form, I mean FUCK cancer.  Fuck it.  

But I digress. In addition to being so very moved and in awe of this woman, her letter did what every story of someone stolen by cancer does, especially when it's ovarian cancer. It reminded me that I'm damn lucky to have survived, and that my body carries within it a lurking murderer who may, at any time, choose to steal my future and my husband's partner the way it stole my ability to be a mother. In his book Half Empty, David Rakoff says about remission, "The assurances are momentary, at best half comforting, like being told 'That's not a man in your room. It's just your clothes draped over the back of a chair casting a shadow, see? However, there IS, actually, an insane, knife wielding murderer loose in the neighborhood. G'night.'" Seriously. Did I mention fuck cancer?

So birthdays. Birthdays aren't lamented by me and neither is aging. I am so grateful to have made it nearly four decades and I am not beyond begging the universe for four more in any way that might get the message through. I love being alive and I love the incredible mess that being alive entails. 

I also feel the way I think most people feel as they get older, a bit surprised at how the time has passed, at the disparity between the self in my mind and the one in the mirror, to realize that if I'm lucky enough to get forty more years, I'm somehow already halfway through my precious time. And I find how others perceive my age utterly fascinating.  In a class I took in January, I was patronizingly asked by an early twenty-something if I knew what a smartphone was, and then ten minutes later, I was told by a dismissive sixty-something that I was too young to really "get it" yet. Apparently I am both too old AND too young to know anything worthwhile. Hilarious. 

All of this rambling to say what? To say that, holy crap...I made it to 39, y'all! I am here and I am breathing and I am, in this sweet moment, free from diseases that want to kill me. I will celebrate this gift of time and of years, of life and of lessons, of mistakes and of mess. I will bow my head in humble gratitude knowing that I did not earn them, that I was not more special or more deserving than those who did not make it this far. I will go forth in this final year of this whirlwind decade of my life and I will do everything I can to inch toward the exceptional human I know is inside of me (as is inside of us all). I will do my very best to bring more love and laughter and forgiveness and compassion and courage and beauty into this world that at times can feel broken. I will lift up others so that we might all rise together. I will reach and I will fail and I will get up and reach again.

And I will live. Loudly and without apology, I will live.

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We've been doing a bit of bouldering recently and have been loving Bull Creek Park along Austin's famed Greenbelt...

DIY Truck Bed Build-Out

I received a few emails after last week’s post asking about how we built out our truck bed for storage and sleeping, so I thought I would pass along the how-to and step-by-step that we followed!

We really began by simply scouring both our memories and the great interwebs for how other people have done it…we’re big believers in not re-inventing the wheel unnecessarily! My years working as an outdoor guide exposed me to the myriad of ways people can live out of their vehicles and I may or may not have begun with some lofty visions of custom welded exterior racks to go around the camper top (GEAR, you guys! I wanted more space for GEAR!). Reality (as well as time and budget limitations…pesky budgets…) set in and we settled on a copy of how the ever-fabulous Becca Skinner rigged out her truck, Happy.

So we gathered measurements and drew out an oh-so-high-tech plan (stop judging us…I hadn’t planned on sharing this publicly...) and materials list and headed down to Justin’s folks’ to borrow tools and expertise (remember how we sold all of our stuff…we maybe should have held onto our tools just a little longer…). We headed to the hardware store, made our purchases, and spent the entirety of a cold, rainy December weekend pulling the pieces together.

Iphone shots of our "plans"- side view and tailgate view on left, view from top on right...

Iphone shots of our "plans"- side view and tailgate view on left, view from top on right...

iPhone again...

iPhone again...

And more iphone...

And more iphone...

A few things to note:

  • We have a Toyota Tundra with a full 6’ bed
  • We already owned the bins we knew we wanted to use and built with their measurements in mind:
    • 4 medium-large clear Sterilite bins that we picked up at Target 
    • 2 smaller clear Sterilite bins that work in the wheel-well area 
    • 2 large Rubbermaid bins I’ve had since somewhere around 1998
    • 2 shallow clear Sterilite bins 
  • We wanted to have the flexibility to have a full sleeping platform across the entire space when both of us were utilizing it OR to remove the center piece in order to have more headroom if it were just one of us (also, it gives us some flexibility of we want to load in, say, bicycles or kayaks…)
  • Everything is freestanding, nothing is bolted to the truck bed itself in any way
  • We opted to NOT use pressure treated wood…the chemicals just seemed like a terrible idea. We did compromise and use Thompson’s water seal on the pieces that are sitting on the bottom of the truck bed itself as there is no way to make the bed perfectly watertight, but everything else is basic pine and plywood.

Our supply list with cost:

  • (1) 4x8 5.5mm plywood underlayment - $12.99
  • (2) 4x8 5.8" pine plywood - $49.74
  • (8) 2x3 pine stud (96”) - $16.56
  • (5) 2x4 pine stud (96”) - $13.05
  • (6) 1.5 x 12 piano hinge - $59.88
  • Thompson’s Water Seal - $11.48
  • 2 brushes - $2.96
  • screws (1” and 3”) (already had on hand)

Our total cost: $186.62

Total time spent (would definitely have been more without the help and expertise of Justin’s dad!): approximately 28 hours

What do you think? Have you guys done this? Would you have done anything differently?  

It Was Enough

We woke early and poured our steaming coffee into travel mugs to go. We loaded up food and the little bit of gear that doesn’t live in the truck and hit the blue backroads, eager to leave the highway and the press of people behind us.

We drove in the morning light, winding through the scrubby ranch land and feeling muscles we hadn’t realized were bunched tight begin to loosen and relax. We rode along in companionable silence, taking in the passing mesquite and herds of cattle chewing the rough grass. The land was rolling and golden and dotted with livestock and cactus under a wide bluebird sky.

We arrived and frowned at the crowded parking lot, hoping our quest for quiet wasn’t in vain and determined to make the most of what silence we could find. Veering away from the summit trail, we ambled with our slow-moving mutt until she’d clearly had enough and laughingly loaded her into our newest carrying contraption for a 35-pound dog. We relished the noticeable absence of road noise and smiled warmly at the few people we saw on the trail…it’s hard to stay mad at like-minded souls.

The going was easy but slow with our furry load. We didn’t mind. As we walked, we began to talk. Of nothing, of everything. Of this life we’ve chosen for ourselves and its ups and downs. Of our plans and our uncertainties. Of the work we do and the work we crave and the work we love. Of the work of love. Of fear and courage and honesty. Of space and wildness and how to cradle the feral in ourselves.

When we were through with the walking, we made our way to an open place to rest for the night. Justin chopped wood for our fire and I gathered words and light and the peace of silence again washed over us. As the night rose dark, we were staggered by the stars in their multitudes, jostling for place in the desert sky. The pond frogs and cicadas bellowed, drowning out all other sound, and we listened to their stories as we watched Orion and his constellation companions move across the night.

In the morning we woke to daybreak peering through the truck cap’s windows, nudging us out of our sleeping bag cocoons and into the shining, dew covered day. We snuggled deeper and smiled at one another, caffeinated with the simple joy of a night spent outside. Eventually we climbed out and our smiles spread to the sprawling live oak tree we’d camped beneath, the golden rim of the cactus patches, the cardinals fighting for attention in the straw-like grass. We waited for water to boil and then coffee to brew and there was pleasure in the waiting.

We refilled our travel mugs to go and wandered back the way we’d come, unloading what was left of the food and the gear that doesn’t live in the truck. We waved to our neighbors and let the distant roar of the highway move itself to the background as we resumed the duties of home. 

It wasn’t an epic adventure. There were no summits bagged, no miraculous vistas, no trials of man and nature. It was a simple outing- just a bit of walking and a bit of fire and a bit of quiet. But it was enough to unkink our necks and our shoulders and our weary souls and fill us with the everyday miracles of pond frogs and cicadas and the stars in their multitudes. It was enough to allow our laugh to come easier, our patience to last longer, our kindness to extend farther.

It wasn’t an epic adventure, but it was enough.

Homebody

Every day now I am redefining my idea of home, of what grounds me in this life and where I hide from the bigger world when I need quiet and solace and solitude. Is it this rolling tin can of a “house” with its four aluminum walls and painted fiberboard interior? Is it my little family of husband and dog and the choices we make together for our days? Is it something I carry within me, separate from structure and routine and external validation?

I don’t really know yet. I suppose that’s part of what we’re doing out here, part of why we shook things up in the first place. And this not knowing is both thrilling and liberating and deeply uncomfortable. I swing from feeling wholly rooted one moment to entirely rootless in the very next. 

I am a homebody in the truest sense of the word. I love to be at home, to tinker in the kitchen and fiddle in the garden and rearrange the furniture so that “cozy” is always the most applicable adjective to describe the space. But I am also very much at home snuggled deep into my own inner life, under the soft knit blankets of my ideas and plans and imagination, thinking and wondering and allowing my curiosity to roam freely. And when I’m strong and running through the woods, when I’m connected to every muscle and sinew, I inhabit each millimeter of my body and know that it is home as well. 

So I’m finding that as we alternatively move and stay, I must take time each day to think about “home” with real attention, to consider where I will find my sense of home in this moment. It’s no longer a static place on a map, but a fluid idea that must take the shape of whatever container I have on hand at any given time. I am learning how to do this. I am learning how to be a homebody with no fixed address, to relinquish all of my old ideas about how that must look. And as I do this rather uncomfortable learning, I’m reminded yet again that cultivating meaning and purpose in my life is about honest, no-getting-around-it hard work, the work of growing, the work of deepening my understanding of myself and my world and where I fit into it.

Where do you find home?

Featured: Susan Lager's BlogTalk Radio Podcast

I was so honored to be invited to talk with psychotherapist and relationship coach Susan Lager on her podcast on Wednesday evening. We talked about the idea of "noticing" and the difference it makes in the quality of our daily lives and I can't even begin to tell you how much fun I had...this might be my favorite subject! While I definitely overused the words literally, absolutely, and, of course, noticing, I just loved the opportunity to talk about some of my favorite tools for practicing greater awareness and I hope you'll check it out and let me know what you think!

If you missed the live broadcast, you can find it here or listen below!

I'd love to hear your thoughts- leave a comment below!