A Wrench

Tomorrow marks the end of Justin’s 13 week travel nurse contract here in Reno. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been spending a lot of time looking at maps with eager anticipation  and Justin has applied to nearly every opening that’s come up in Washington in hopes that we could call the PNW home for the fall months.

However. There was a wrench thrown into our plans.

At the recommendation of some other travel nurses, we reached out to Travel Tax, a tax firm that specializes in taxes for travel nurses (well, actually for anyone who travels in their job, but they really know their way around travel nursing- if you are thinking of traveling, reach out to them asap- they are seriously awesome). We simply wanted to make sure that we were doing everything right with plenty of time to course correct if necessary. We’re really glad we did as it turns out that there are some steps we need to take before the year’s end to be all squared away. Without diving into the tax code with you, suffice it to say that the most notable of the steps we need to take is that we must establish New Hampshire as our “tax home” by having Justin take a full 13-week travel nurse assignment there while we live at our permanent address there (i.e. at his parents’ house).

So. New Hampshire it is.

As you might guess, we were initially quite disappointed by this news. Not because we have a problem with New Hampshire or Justin’s folks- on the contrary, we adore them both! But heading home for three months before we were even a full year into our road life wasn’t exactly how we’d planned things, you know? So we let the “womp womp” of the news settle in for a few minutes and then we regrouped and started looking at our options for how to go about things. And here’s our rough plan…

The hospital here in Reno offered Justin an extension, so we will be here through September 30, another six weeks. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of all that we want to do here, so we thought we’d continue to enjoy this backyard access to the Sierras and Lake Tahoe for another few weeks. We also have a 10-day trip up to Washington planned so we can get at least a quick PNW fix! Once this contract finishes, we’ll winterize our sweet little camper and store it at a facility here in Nevada and begin to make our way east. While we haven’t decided on a route yet, we are thinking an epic month-long road trip is in order for the month of October! We’ve got our sights set on western Montana (maybe via Idaho?), Grand Teton, and Yellowstone just at first glance and I’ll be sure to update you as we firm up what plans we’re willing to commit to. So that leaves November-January in New Hampshire to fulfill our requirements and we are excited at the prospect of having plenty of time to catch up with our community of family and friends in New England and to get ourselves a little fix of winter before heading back west to grab our home on wheels and head to wherever will be next.

This is what adventure looks like sometimes. Plans that go awry and the necessity to adapt and be flexible and search out ways to create new and wonderful experiences that weren’t even on the radar until a wrench got thrown into what was planned. We didn’t exactly embark on this lifestyle looking for certainty or guarantees and we find ourselves once again confronted by the many reasons we have to be grateful, not the least of which is a welcoming place to call home (thanks, Ma & Pa Gio!) and a lifestyle that allows us the flexibility to course correct when necessary.

So friends in New England and along the route there, be ready- we are coming at you and we should warn you: we hug like we mean it!

Thoughts From My Run

With each step, more falls away…comparisons, anxieties, old stories that just don’t serve. There is just this next step, and then this one. Air pumps in and air pumps out and breathing becomes part of the work. There is nothing but the trail, the trees, the late evening light, and one foot following the other. This is what freedom looks like. 

As I travel the road, it can be difficult to feel grounded and connected to place, but the trails and the feel of my body in motion bring me home over and over again. Sometimes the trail is lined with magnificent trees and sometimes with feisty cactus, but whether it is snow or sand or stone underfoot, there is always a familiarity, a path I know. 

In this season in Maine, far away from where I stand now, the trees are without their “cover,” without the leaves that so often mark their beauty. As I run,  my own cover disappears, and I am laid bare before myself and there can be no secrets within me. I am free, but freedom comes with truth and truth comes with responsibility. Will I try to once again hide or will I find my courage, will I remain naked and feel the elements as they rake along my exposed self? I dig for that courage. I yearn to be brave. To embrace movement over stasis.

It is so often implied that to run is to run from. But what if I am running toward? It is toward that propels me on, that calls me to continue. It is toward that gives me the space to look back at from and see it as a friend. Hello, friend, it’s so good to see your sweet smile.

If you aren't following Terry Cockburn yet, be sure to check out what she's up to...runner, yogi, teacher, I assure you that she can inspire you in a million ways large and small! I routinely refer to her yin sequences to keep me running injury-free and her Running On Insight posts to keep me motivated. I have the coolest clients EVER.

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.

---

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?  

Yuletide Wishes

It’s snowing outside as I write this morning and I keep finding myself distracted by the falling whiteness, mesmerized by the veil of whirling flakes between me and the forest that lays beyond my window. There are few things I love more than a cozy, snowy morning…steaming coffee in hand, bright flickering candles to warm the dim grey light offered by overcast skies. I feel my heartbeat slow as I look out the window, as I watch the layer of frosty snow build up on each tiny bare branch, each quivering pine needle, a calmness comes over me.

Three weeks from today we will have packed our meager belongings back into our truck and camper, filled our beast truck with gas, and embarked on the first miles of our journey out of Maine and onto…well, I’m not precisely sure where yet. Likely central Texas to begin with, but the Lone Star state is nothing if not widely spread and it will be weeks yet before we know with any certainty which of the many hospitals will have an available travel assignment. 

Yesterday was the winter solstice and the traditional day to celebrate Yule. It’s a time of lightness and dreaming, of listening and allowing the whispers of our wishes for the year to come to be heard without attaching a to-do list to them yet. It’s a time of infinite possibility. I usually adore this time of year and look with eagerness on the tying up of the past year, the finishing of projects, the planning for the year to come.

But this year, I admit that I’m overwhelmed. Not horribly so- don’t be worried, friends. But overwhelmed nonetheless. 

There are the many projects and loose ends from another lovely wedding season over at Cuppa. There are a seemingly endless number of “oh! I forgot about…” moments, mostly of the phenomenally unglamorous sort that relate to leaving…notifying the state revenue service that I won’t be paying sales tax here after January, moving my business’s insurance, realizing that I need to change my driver’s license…see? Phenomenally unglamorous. 

There are the many items that are still very important to me that must be organized before being stored at Justin’s parents’ home while we are on the move…I am the keeper of my family’s history, the detritus of past and current generations, from my grandparents’ photographs to the old VHS tapes of my childhood home movies. Hardcore minimalists would say that these relics of past lives should be digitized, put online, and discarded, but I am not even remotely close to being okay with discarding the originals. Maybe it’s the historian in me, but I have a deep and unmovable love of original documents and I would discard the photograph of my grandmother at 20 years old onto which she penned the words “Hey there Sweetheart” before mailing it off to my grandfather at his outpost in the WWII Pacific just as soon as I’d chop off and discard my own thumbs. You know, like never. And so I’m faced with a pile of bins of photos and letters to be scanned and uploaded for safekeeping before entrusting them to the spare storage space of Justin’s childhood home. We aren’t storing much, but some things simply can’t be let go. Not by me.

And then, of course, there are goodbyes. To friends. To places. To this era of our lives. I know it’s sentimental, but I believe in turning points, in defining moments in life. And this drive away from Maine is one of them. When we sold our home this summer, I wrote about feeling that a home is a sort of parenthesis around an era in our lives, and I amend that now to include a place in general. I anticipate that one day we will return to New England and make our home once again in its snowy climes. But this time in this place is quickly drawing to a close and we will return as different people, marked by the experiences that we are so eagerly seeking as we embrace this uncertain future.

So I find myself overwhelmed. By a to-do list that I can’t fathom how to complete. By emotions that swing wildly from anticipation to grief to anxiety to exhilaration and everything in between. By remembering that the holiday season is tucked right in here with all of its fun and celebration and, admittedly, obligations as well. This overwhelm makes the lighthearted wishing and dreaming of Yule decidedly more difficult for me…what do I wish for when I can’t imagine what my life will look like in a month or three months or six? What do I plan for? What dreams can I have that won’t blind me to the opportunities that are impossible to know will arise?

And so I’m left with this Yuletide dream for myself: that I find within myself the courage and integrity and faith in possibility and hard work to suck the marrow from the experiences of the coming year, whatever form they may take.

And one more, I think, as I look once again at the falling snow outside: that I find the space over and over to pause and truly be here, to be actually and truly present…not to miss THIS, whatever this may be right now.

 

May your holidays be merry and filled with love and kindness and reverberating hope for a future that resounds with possibility and light, my friends.