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In an effort to re-start my personal blog, and to focus my mind for the coming year, I’ve joined the #Reverb10 project, in which bloggers write on a prompt for every day of December. I’m posting right before I go to bed at the end of my December 1, even though it’s past midnight and the calendar says December 2. I plan to write every night this month before bed—maybe earlier sometimes, but #Reverb10 is likely to be my bedtime musing most nights.

December first’s #Reverb 10 prompt is: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

2010: Testing

This was a year of trying things out. In 2010, I’d come to see that my plan of living from house sit to house sit, rent-free, living on very low income, had become more a form of hiding than a way of exploring what life had to offer. The fully nomadic, low-money-usage life may have had things to teach me, but it had outlived its purpose. It was time to try something new.

On the other hand, I knew I still didn’t want a conventional life. Near the end of 2009, I turned down a full-time ad-agency proofreading job (at the height of the recession!) because it didn’t offer to teach me anything I needed to learn—but also because, I realized, I really couldn’t imagine working a standard, 9 to 5, office job ever again. I wanted to expand my career(s) and be part of the economy, rather than avoiding needing or using money.

To that end, I spent 2010 trying things out. I found wonderful mentors in two of my major writing clients, and now I’ve learned corporate ghost blogging, taking my freelance writing career in an entirely new, constantly educational, far more lucrative direction.

I tried living in one place, sharing a cabin in Evergreen (a gorgeous small town in Colorado’s foothills) with the boyfriend I met in the second half of 2009. From that, I learned that Evergreen was too far from the hustle and bustle of Denver city life for my taste, and my romantic relationship worked better when we lived in separate homes.

I slowly tested my acting skills in new directions, too. The start of 2010 found me in Chicago auditioning for MFA acting programs . . . to no avail. I learned that my lack of formal theater education, and probably my age, make it extremely unlikely that I’ll ever be accepted into such a program. I’ll have to find other ways to take my acting to a higher level. Back home in Denver, I experimented: I acted in my first scripted stage show in three years. I became a regular in children’s murder mystery shows. (Yes, there are such things. Don’t worry—we murder fictional adults and let the kids solve the cases. No children are murdered.) Most amazingly, I learned how to help train police officers by playing realistic characters in crisis—mentally ill people, the developmentally disabled, and people who were very angry or severely traumatized.

I spent the 2010 trying new things in all kinds of directions, still not sure what was the right path to focus on.

2011 Direction

On New Year’s Day, 2011, I’ll already be at Shakespeare & Company, a Shakespeare festival theater company in the Berkshires, working my ass of in their month-long intensive training program for professional actors. I’ve known for three years now that this is what I most want to do with my acting career: perform live, on stage, in the classical and other brilliant plays done by Shakespeare festivals. Giving up on MFAs, I’ve chosen the most direct route I can find: the highly-respected, Shakespeare-specific training of Shakespeare & Company’s 40-year-old Month-Long Intensive program. I still don’t know exactly where my acting will go when I finish this “acting boot camp” and return to my regular life, but I’m confident that what I learn in the Berkshires will help me map my course.

Corporate blogging will continue to be my bread and butter from February on. I’ve already arranged with my best client to pre-write the blogs that will go live while I’m at business further as soon as I’m back home. I also plan to start writing fiction again—once my favorite art form, but one I’ve neglected since college. I haven’t felt I had the concentration to write my own stories these past . . . too many years. It’s time to find my focus again.

As for my home, when I finish my actor training, I will still have a home to come back to. I’ve been renting a room in the house of an old friend from high school, and I love it here. I’ve actually unpacked and set up furniture. I have a home base to help me focus on my next direction . . . or directions.

 

And my love life? That’s the one area of my life I don’t think I have the power, or good reason, to try to direct.

Marching (flying, dancing) with The Go Game in the 2009 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade

Marching (flying, dancing) with The Go Game in the 2009 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade

I haven’t blogged for three and a half months. I think I had a good reason: I put my entire life on hold to pursue a dream. I told my freelance and pet sitting clients I’d be away, I let my awesome roommate/landlady find a new renter, I put even more of my stuff in storage, loaned my car to my mom, said goodbye to my friends, and headed off to San Francisco for the summer. Why? Following my stated goal of kicking up my acting career, I applied for the 2009 Summer Training Congress, a seven-week professional actor training program through San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater. To my great surprise, I actually got in! I set off for two months in a huge, new city, to spend my days steeped in what I love most: acting. For me, it was a dream come true, and a life so different from my usual Colorado ramblings that it felt like a dream.

Knowing that, with nine-hour days of extremely active training, plus rehearsals, plus getting lost and overwhelmed in the biggest city I’ve ever lived in, I let the Nomad blog slide all summer. Instead, I kept those friends who were interested updated with Facebook and Twitter updates (I could handle 140 characters occasionally, but not a whole essay). As with my trip to Portland, this adventure brought out the paradox of blogging an unusual life: When life is at its most interesting, I’m too busy living to blog about it.

It was an amazing summer. I made wonderful new friends and impressive contacts, learned more about acting and Shakespeare and voice and speech and text and the power of movement to communicate than I ever thought I could cram into my being in two months, fell head over heels for a San Francisco novelist, lived in two fantastic apartments and one awful one, got to know San Francisco’s many neighborhoods, marched as Batgirl in America’s biggest Gay Pride Parade… and I may someday write about some or all of these adventures.

For now, though, I’d like to start processing my challenge of the moment: Having put one’s life on hold, how does one ever get it going again? After a summer of tuition and San Francisco prices, my non-retirement savings are nearly gone (and I’m still not touching my retirement funds, no way, no how!). My freelance and pet sitting clients have learned how to live without me for two months. I’m now sleeping in the storage-stuffed guest bedroom at my mother’s house. My car has been diagnosed with a terminal case of “Chevy Metros weren’t designed to last for more than 188,000 miles. It’s time to let it go.” I haven’t knitted in months (!) and I’ve lost my guitar callouses. I still don’t have a play to act in. Some of my Colorado friends know I’m back in their state, some don’t. My long-distance friends have fallen out of touch while I was overwhelmed with theatre thoughts. For the first time in years, I actually have a steady, fairly awesome love life, but it’s a long-distance one—as my mom likes to sing while giggling at me, “I left my heart in San Francisco.”

Still, life looks good to me, not just because I’m still high from my summer of acting and adventure, but because this life is full of possibilities. In the next few months, I will have to find new work, a new home (or rebuild my house sitting lifestyle), and a new (to me) car. I plan to jump start my art life: land some acting roles; publish more articles, stories, and knitting designs; and finally learn to jam on my guitar. I plan to reconnect with and better appreciate the people I hold dear, and keep in touch with all of the new friends and admired acquaintances I met in San Francisco. Oh, and I plan to convince one adorable novelist that, once he finishes his MFA in San Francisco this fall, what he really wants to do is move to Colorado. Hey, it can all be done, and given my list and my life so far, it’s sure to be an interesting ride.

Intrigued? Welcome back to the blog. I promise to post about updated on my life’s reconstruction, plus some related (or not so) great ideas from the rest of the world, with new posts coming at least once a week, and usually more often. Thanks for reading.

Courtesy of Stockvault.com

Courtesy of Stockvault.com

As I settle into my new, rent-paid, call-it-mine, honest to goodness long-term home, I’m reveling in something that most non-nomadic Americans take for granted. In fact, most folks with homes have the opportunity to do this many times every day, and they actively avoid it. We spend thousands of dollars every year trying to avoid it. Advertisements abound, on TV, radio, billboards, and in magazines, promising to eliminate it from our lives. Still, I have to say it now: I love cooking! Cooking is how my favorite past boyfriends won my heart. Cooking is why I love Thanksgiving Day: Growing up, it was the one day of the year when my typical 80s suburban, both-parents-working family cooked a meal from scratch, beginning to end.

And now, after three years of fast food, frozen dinners, and canned soup, I’m cooking again! After two weeks of getting used to my new home (This is my home! Mine! I really live here!), last Friday I finally felt comfortable enough to make an epic trip to the grocery store. Now I have only to saunter down to the kitchen to find butter spread, milk, yoghurt (plain and flavored), cottage cheese, pita chips, bread, peanut butter, three kinds of cheese, and oh, the vegetables! I have fresh potatoes, asparagus (on sale this week!), avocado (ditto), a bag of salad, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and my favorite staple, cabbage. Then there are the veggies in the freezer, next to all of those beautiful chicken breasts. I have a full box of Cheerios and one of Wheat Chex, and enough baking ingredients to whip up a batch of Toll House cookies on a moment’s notice.

This is a luxury I couldn’t have in my pure-nomad, house sitting days. When I knew I’d be changing houses in two weeks or two days, it didn’t make sense to buy a full package of any ingredient. I couldn’t stock up when something was on sale. I simple carried a small box of canned vegetables and soups from house to house, and if I was really settling in, I bought just enough Lean Cuisines to serve as dinner for each night before the next move. The only fresh milk, eggs, or vegetables I had were those that my clients begged me to eat before they spoiled. And while I was saving money on rent, I was spending quite a bit on Noodles & Company and Chipotle.

So now I’m cooking. I love the tightwaddery of making things from scratch. I love the creative process of putting food together. What I love most, though, is the freedom it gives me to make my meals exactly the way I want them. Today I brunched on a fried egg, overcooked so that the whites are all crispy, and sunny side up, which no diner will do these days, for fear I’ll get salmonella poisoning and sue them. With it, I had nearly, but not quite burned whole wheat toast, and 1/3 pound of asparagus, steam/sauteed in the special way my friend Rachel taught me years ago, flavored with a little olive oil and a little lemon juice. All of this was topped off with my beloved, not-available-in-any-restaurant-I’ve-ever-seen, caffiene-free Pepsi. And I ate it all while still wearing my pajamas.

I expect this glorious pleasure at eating exactly what I want, this satisfaction at opening the fridge and cabinets and seeing a wide array of fresh, nutritious foods, this glee at saving vegetable steaming water for making soup later on, will wear off to a degree. On days when I’m rushing to get somewhere, I will just grab a shaker bottle full of water and artificial protein drink powder. Still, I don’t thing I’ll ever fully get over this joy of simply, directly feeding myself.

sockAs I settle into my home, finally completely unpacking after years of dragging unexamined luggage from house to house, I’ve realized something: I have a lot of worn-out socks. There are the socks I’ve been wearing anyway, blissfully ignoring the holes in the heels, and there are many, many more socks that I’ve stored away because the holes were too big for comfort. Why didn’t I just throw them away? I was too busy moving around.

Now I’m pleased that I still have so many worn-through socks around. As I finally started to look at them, I was reminded of a former boyfriend who kept a bucket full of dead socks, cut down the back of the leg and through the sole to the toe, so they would lie flat. He used them as cleaning rags, and so saved money and landfill space, for he was an environmentalist as well as a cheapskate. (Ah, how I adored that boy!) He could dust, scrub, wipe down, and sop up any mess, then toss the rag into the washing machine to become clean and white and ready to use again. If a job was so gross that he couldn’t bear to wash the rag, (Toilet overflow, anyone?) it was no great tragedy to throw away a sock that otherwise would have been tossed months ago.

Remembering him, I was cutting open my holey old socks, dreaming of soft dusters and counter moppers, when I noticed how truly soft and cushy my socks are inside. I wear terry-lined, cotton-blend gym socks  most of the time, so my new rag pile is fuzzy, luxuriously soft—just what I want on my face when I’m washing mascara off of my eyes at bedtime. Forget cleaning rags. I now have a stack of incredibly comfortable, though odd-looking, washcloths. I keep them under my kitchen sink (lest my roommate walk by the open bathroom door and decide I’m a freak with a sock fetish) and use one fresh, clean, soft sock every night.

You may be more squeamish than I about rubbing your face with something that once absorbed a workout’s worth of foot sweat. I, for one, trust my washing machine to completely de-gross my socks, so I now see only odd-shaped bits of fabric. Even if the washcloth plan is too much for you, I still recommend socks as household cleaning rags. Rags are beautiful things, things we have far too few of in today’s American culture. They’re even sturdier than Brawny towels and more absorbant, they won’t tear or dissolve mid-cleanup, and best of all, they’re free!

The Eye of the Tiger

The Eye of the Tiger

I spent this weekend cat sitting again. No, I’m not on the move already. It’s just that I miss having cats around, since we have no pets here in my comfy home. My roommate/landlady tells me I can get a cat if I like, though she’s not a fan, herself, and so I’ve been thinking and reading web sites about getting a foster cat. That would mean taking in a kitty who lives at an animal shelter, but for some reason is not ready for adoption—she has an illness or injury to recover from, or he’s been in the shelter so long he’s forgotten how to play with people—and loving him or her until it’s time to go back and find a forever home. I’m also still open to sitting for local clients, especially those I know well. Besides, I could use some extra money, as well as the extra fur.

This weekend, I was in Longmont with two cats in a home I’ve stayed in for many weeks during my full-on-nomad days. It was refreshing to pack for just a three-day trip, easily finding everything I might need in my own closet, dresser, and shelves. It felt like a vacation instead of a total home move. In fact, I was surprised to see how calm and productive I was all weekend.

I was more surprised at how irritable I was when I got home last night. My roommate was out for the evening, but I twitched at every little thing that had changed while I was gone. How dare she run the dishwasher (Quite nice of her, actually.) and not unload it immediately? What was a clothes drying rack doing in the office (folded neatly, right next to the washer and dryer)? Why was the door to the unheated basement left open, sucking warmth from the rest of the house? Then I took a moment to be surprised at myself. My roommate is wonderful, actually. She’s easy going, rarely home, and charming and interesting when she is around. After knowing me for a week and a half, this woman baked me a cake for my birthday. I couldn’t ask for a better roommate, and I wouldn’t trade her in for another…well, maybe for Christian Bale or Kal Penn, but it would take quite a lot.

After giving it some thought, I realized that I was bothered only because I have a roommate, any roommate. I’m not used to living without cats, but more than that, I’m really, really unused to living with people. Even the sweetest roommate is a lot to get used to. I’m not used to doors being open when I haven’t opened them, trash being created by anyone but me, tiny spills on the kitchen counter that I don’t recognize. I’ve been far too isolated for too long, and I’m still not used to all this humanity. That’s why packing an overnight bag and running away for the weekend felt, more than anything, like going home.

2009It’s January 23, and I’ve already accomplished one of my New Year’s Resolutions, the one that I expect to have the greatest impact on my life: I am no longer homeless. I actually rented a room in a pleasant, new-ish townhouse, with a very nice roommate/landlady, a garage for my beloved Chevy Metro (and my bicycle, which has been in my mother’s storage shed for three years!), neighbors and neighbor dogs to meet, and a neighborhood to become part of.

Now I have an answer to the icebreaker question, “Where do you live?” I live in Lafayette, Colorado, a suburb of Boulder, a half-hour’s drive away from Denver. The post office where I’ve been receiving mail for the past three and a half years is a few blocks away. It’s a nice, comfortable spot, centrally located to all of the classes, theatre gigs, and contract jobs I’d like to take on. It’s a good spot to have a home office, to organize my stuff, to get to sleep on a steady schedule.

And, of course, to start with, it completely freaked me out. On first hearing about my lifestyle for these past few years, people comment that it must be hard, moving around all the time, never knowing where I’m going to live next month. To that, I say: It’s amazing what you can get used to. It’s also amazing how frightening normalcy can be once one is used to something else. I think I’m starting to get the hang of this place after two weeks here—I’ve started sleeping through the night, actually unpacked some (not nearly all of my stuff), and stopped trying quite so hard to find reasons to be out of the house when my roommate comes home in the evening. As I’ve said, she’s terribly nice, and smart, and interesting, but I have to admit I was extremely (still am, a bit) nervous around her, and nervous about this whole deal. Once one makes a commitment to live in one place for a long time (three to six months was the agreement here, but that’s a long, long time for me), many fears come up:

• What if my roommate hates me? What if I hate her?

• What if I never get used to the roar of traffic outside? What if I can’t sleep here?

• How am I going to keep paying rent month in and month out?

Ah, that’s the tough one. After not paying rent for years, I actually have a savings account that is just about the size of six months rent here, but I hate to see it shrink. I’ve been hustling harder than ever to find more freelance jobs of all sorts—writing, acting, knitting design, secretarial temp work, anything. Actually, that’s one of the side effects I’d been hoping for when I moved here: I was hoping the anxiety, combined with finally having a place to sit still and get some work done, would jump-start my career. Now I’m in the same boat as most of my more “normal,” once-employed and now laid-off friends: I’m worried about how to pay my rent, and I need to hustle to find a job (or in my case, lots of freelance gigs). Then again, unlike them, I know what will happen if I lose my home. I’ll house sit, or travel, or find some other creative way to make due. It is comforting to have lived on the other side. What if I lose my home? I’ll be back to normal, or what feels normal to me.

And no, I’m not changing my nickname or the name of this blog. I still have a nomadic spirit. However well this home works, I will not be here for any length of time that most people would expect for one’s home. I plan to be here a few months, and then I hope to go away for the summer to study theatre. After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll come back to Colorado and rent another actual home. Maybe I’ll go back to house sitting. In any case, my mind is still in an impermanent place, open to travel, creative housing, new growth and new ideas.

For now, though, I’ve got some unpacking to do.

2009Happy new year!

I’m not always a fan of New Year’s resolutions. We all tend to make cliche ones (“I’ll lose weight” or “I’ll be a nicer person”) and then immediately ignore them. Lately, though, I’ve been setting down some lofty, but exciting goals for myself, and now looks like the perfect time to share them with … well, whoever, if anyone, is reading this blog. Keep me honest, folks. Knowing that someone is out there watching me, ready to be disappointed in me if I should fail to meet my goals, will spur me on. If you’d like to share your goals with me in the comments here, I promise to cheer you on, too. Let’s make this the best year of our lives! All righty. Here’s what I have in mind for 2009:

  • Get my own home. This is part of the plan that I came back from Oregon with, and I still haven’t completed it. I’m tired of jumping from house sit to house sit, having nowhere to sit still, to organize my mind and my stuff. Still, I’ve been stalling because it’s hard to go from paying no rent to coming up with a check every month, and to go from total freedom of travel to, possibly, living with a lease. It’s time, though. What I’m doing now: Today I turned in applications for two possible rental homes—both rooms in houses with roommates. My recent employment and rental history (or more to the point, lack thereof) make me an unlikely choice, but I’m hopeful that one of the two landlords will be willing to take a chance on me. This should make a big impact on my effectiveness, my peace of mind, and the next resolution, which is:
  • Get rid of all of my extraneous material stuff. The room in my mother’s house that she kindly lets me use for storage is full of some pretty strange junk. There’s the usual knitting fanatic’s stash of yarns and needles just waiting to be made into something wonderful (and half-done somethings wonderful waiting to be finished), and there’s the layer upon layer of boxed-up life necessities that I haven’t needed in my nomadic days (dishes, bedsheets, and such) or haven’t used because I haven’t been able to find them in years. There’s clothing so out of date that even I would be ashamed to wear it. Weirdest of all: When I was a teenager, my mother dealt with the junk mail and miscellaneous papers that piled up on the kitchen table by shoveling it all into a grocery bag once a week or so, then dumping the grocery bags in my room. There’s a sea of them still in there: college application packets, homework that my brother or I had to do again because we couldn’t find it, catalogs from 1991. That room is an overwhelming place, altogether, but it’s time I cleared it out. I want to own very little, and to know where everything I own is, and why I own it. What I’m doing now: See above. My main excuse for not sorting through this stuff already is that I don’t have a space of my own to spread it out in, or to organize it back into. Once I have my own home, I’ll have no more excuse. I can use the process of unpacking and moving in to unpack everything, then get rid of all of the stuff I don’t want.
  • Become a much better guitarist. When I first took up guitar four years ago (!), I learned fast, practiced nearly every day, and had some great teachers. Now I haven’t taken lessons for nearly two years, and I’m thoroughly stuck in an embarrassing beginnerish state. I barely know how to play, and I haven’t gotten any better for a long, long time. I’ve started practicing more regularly, but I don’t even know what to practice anymore. This is made more painful by the fact that several of my friends are really amazing musicians. I want to be able to jam with them, to play out with pride, and to see myself growing again. What I’m doing now: So I just need to find a good teacher and take more lessons. I have a place in mind, Denver’s Swallow Hill Folk Music Association, and I promise to call them tomorrow.
  • Become a much better fiction writer. This doesn’t say much, as I haven’t written a fictional story in years. In high school and college, I always seemed to have a natural aptitude for fiction, just waiting to be honed with a lot of practice. It is just a matter of practice. I need to make a point of writing often, make fiction part of my life again. What I’m doing now: I’ve dug up my favorite books of writing exercises. Starting tomorrow, I’ll practice writing for at least a few minutes a day … most days … barring emergencies … okay. I promise I’ll write something today, before I go to bed.
  • Attend advanced professional actor training. This is an extension of the acting portion of my post-Oregon plan. I auditioned for lots of plays, and plan to continue auditioning, even though I haven’t been cast in a play yet (unless one counts the many murder mystery shows I did this holiday season, which, I suppose, I should). I took one acting class, which was okay, but I want more immersion and more challenge. My goal now is to get into and attend one of the many professional-level summer intensive actor trainings I know of around the country. There was one in Denver, but word is that it’s not happening this year. Now I’m looking at programs in San Francisco (my top choice so far), Chicago, and New York. What I’m doing now: A local teacher who I’ve worked with and grown to respect offers coaching in such things. I’m going to email her tomorrow and find out if she can advise me.
  • Pay better attention to friendships and potential friendships. In my little brainstorming notebook, where I first came up with these resolutions, this was a very specific  resolution regarding my treatment of one particular friend, but that’s too private a detail to post on a blog. Besides, I think the more general point is the best one to keep in mind. Here’s the crux of the story: Over the holidays, an acquaintance that I don’t see often (because he lives halfway across the country) blew into town for a few whirlwind days with all of his Colorado friends. When I saw him again in person, he acted like he was one of my best buddies in the world, and to my surprise, I realized that he was absolutely right. It turns out that the boy is a total nerd (a wonderful thing, in my book), much smarter than I ever gave him credit for (and I’d always thought he was pretty darned bright), and fun in the quirky, goofy way that I click with most. This just blew me away. I had a wonderful time, and even as he flew away to visit other folks in other places, I was excited to have discovered such a compatible, fun, brilliant friend—but why hadn’t I discovered him before? I’d hung out with this guy off and on for years. He’s a high-school buddy of one of my best friends on the planet. Why hadn’t I noticed the possibilities before? Who knows how much fun, brilliance, support, and inspiration I’m missing out on with everyone in my life? I promise to pay more attention to people this year, to appreciate them more. What I’m doing now: I’ll call my far-away friend in a day or two, when I’m sure he’s back home and settled in, (I can’t remember for sure how long his trip was. I’m not good at paying attention yet.) to remind him that I’m glad he’s my friend and ask how 2009 is treating him. I’ll also remind myself daily to pay more attention to all of the people in my life.
  • Complete the Body-for-LIFE Challenge. Really. This is a scary thing to say in a public place like cyberspace, because it’s a big commitment, but I really do want to do this. For those of you who haven’t seen the bestselling books or heard the hype, Body-for-LIFE (BFL) is a 12-week fitness program used, largely, to advertise EAS Myoplex brand nutritional supplements. I first heard about it six or seven years ago, when the boyfriend I was living with tried to get me to do the challenge with him. Our efforts fizzled, mostly because the relationship wasn’t going well and I didn’t want to spend that much time with the guy. Still, I learned a lot about the program, and I came to respect it. Yes, it pushes products, but the supplements are good and helpful ones, as far as I can tell, and they aren’t necessary to complete the program. The program, itself, is a simple, easy to follow (and easily available online and in library books) combination of exercise and nutrition. Body-for-LIFErs do short, moderate workouts six days a week, lifting weights (which I actually enjoy) and doing their choice of cardio exercises, starting at whatever level feels challenging to them and gently increasing intensity as they grow stronger. Taking classes or meeting with personal trainers to learn correct form is strongly encouraged. Eating is sensible, and involves real food in small, balanced meals including protein, carbohydrates, and lots of vegetables. Unlike the plan I tried last time I really thought about improving my body, (when I was about 20. Step one: Berate self for not looking like Kate Moss. Step two: Stop eating entirely for two weeks. Step three: Try eating. Get severe stomach pains. Throw up. Step four: Terrified, learn to eat again. Give up on dieting. Step five: Berate self for not looking like Kate Moss …) Body-for-LIFE could actually teach me to kick my junk food habit, while making me strong enough to do all of the adventurous things I’ve been wanting to do, if only I weren’t such a wimp. Some examples: Surf all day long. Rock climb. Snowboard. Cross-country ski. Spend a day snowshoeing with my super-tough buddy, Brian, and not once have to ask him to slow down for me. What I’m doing now: I have to do some preparation for this. Over the past few months, I’ve slowly trained myself to run for 20 minutes straight, (Yes, I was an incredible wuss to begin with.) as I’d like to use running as my main cardio exercise. Now I’m working on gently weaning myself off Pepsi, as it’s not on the BFL menu, and right now, I’m so thoroughly addicted that a day without caffeine is a day spent in bed with a withdrawal-triggered migraine. I’ve also checked out the latest BFL book, Champions Body-for-LIFE, from my local library. In about a week, I should be caffiene free, studied up, inspired, and ready to get started.
  • Start my own business. This one is scary to say out loud, too, as it will require a lot of learning and a good amount (for me) of financial risk. And yes, I realize that I have my own business already, sort of, by selling my time as a freelancer. What I have in mind here is my own business selling something besides myself. I’ve been reading about internet stores, marketing ideas for new gadgets, manufacturing, packaging and selling information (e-books, craft patterns, informative audio, etc.). I don’t know what I’ll sell yet, but this year I plan to give an online retail business a try. Whatever happens, I’m sure to learn a lot. What I’m doing now: I’m reading books on small business, and contemplating. Actually taking this huge step will wait until I’ve landed a regular home and settled into it. I intend to cherish the time and energy I save on packing, unpacking, and driving around, and use it to take this leap.

This post is exactly 2009 words long. Happy New Year!

cranberryWell, technically, it’s already the day after Thanksgiving. I’m still up from Thanksgiving Day, having stocked up on sleep with my afternoon, post-turkey nap. I’ve had a great holiday so far. In reverse chronological order, I’ve had: a fine evening watching TV with the cats I’m sitting for this weekend, dinner with my mom and brother, baking and gravy making (both of which I love to do) for said dinner, a Wednesday night jam session with the amazing guitarists (and patient ones, with the bumbling guitar student I still am) who are also some of my best friends, and donating blood on Wednesday afternoon.

Oddly, it was the blood donation that filled me most with the spirit of Thanksgiving. I’d been meaning to donate blood for many, many months—since the high school blood drive when I was first old enough to donate, I’ve always meant to donate blood as often as my local blood center allows me to, (That’s every two months, which is how long it takes to be sure the red blood cells I’ve given away have grown back.) but something always comes up—I may be coming down with the flu, I have a sword fighting test (or some other physical activity) coming up, I’m just too busy—so that, in fact, I give blood once or twice a year. It had been over a year since my last donation. Excuses aside, I don’t give blood more often because it feels scary, even the 24th time I do it, and so I have to stir up my courage before I go. We have a natural aversion to asking someone to poke a hole in us and drain out our blood, and I suppose that’s a good thing. Even though the phlebotomists who take blood donations are very, very good at their jobs (much better, I’ve found, than the lab techs who stab my arm several times whenever my doctor orders a blood test), the chances of infection or other adverse reactions are very slim, and I’m in great health and can certainly spare a pint of blood now and then, on a visceral level, giving blood kinda freaks me out.

In fact, that’s one of the main reasons why I still, eventually, do go give blood. It feels like an extreme sport. There is an adrenaline rush when the needle goes in, and I feel especially tough having volunteered to shed my own blood. Of course, there’s also the feeling of doing something good for society, helping some poor soul (several souls, actually, as each pint will most likely be divided into plasma, platelets (clotting factors), and red cells and sent to multiple patients) who is very sick or badly injured. It’s the quickest easiest way I know of to do something nice for the world around me, and so prove to myself that I’m a good person. In that way, giving blood is fun. I highly recommend the experience: Anyone out there who can give blood, I suggest you drop by your local blood center and give it a try.

If you can’t give blood, though, I don’t fault you for it. In fact, what really hit me this time was how rare I am, and how amazingly fortunate, that I am able to give blood at all. Before donating blood, each volunteer always has to answer a long list of questions and take a few physical tests that determine whether his or her blood is safe to share with other people, and whether he or she is healthy enough to spare a pint. So many things can eliminate you, from the obvious, like “Have you ever tested positive for HIV?” to the very subtle, like, “Are you feeling well today?” The latest edition of the questionnaire asked whether I had Chagas disease (an infection, carried most often by mosquitoes, which slowly destroys one’s heart), whether I had been exposed to malaria, and whether I had ever been treated for cancer. Have I needed a smallpox vaccination? Do I have diabetes? Is there any problem with my heart and lungs? No. I’m not anemic; in fact, I have more hemoglobin in my blood than the average healthy woman does. I’ve never been in such a desperate situation that I’d have sex for money. I’ve never shot up with drugs, recreational or otherwise. I’ve never had and STD (and yes, I get tested regularly, so I know for sure). I’ve never been exposed to Mad Cow Disease, nor have I been infected with the West Nile Virus. I’m not underweight. I don’t have a fever. I’ve never had jaundice, or any type of hepatitis … the list goes on and on.

I’ve filled out similar questionnaires before, of course, but this time it really hit me: None of these situations are unusual, or unlikely to happen to me. Many of my loved ones can’t donate blood: the diabetic, the cancer survivor, the toughest guy I know (who is free and healthy at last, having kicked his heroin addiction), the friend who loses blood regularly when the ulcers in his digestive tract act up, gay men (who are at a frighteningly high risk for AIDS and other dangerous diseases), the Air Force brat who lived on military bases in Europe (and is thus at risk for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of Mad Cow Disease), and probably several who have had STDs that they haven’t told me about. The world is a dangerous place, and the human body is a delicate thing. It’s amazing, actually, that I have managed to live nearly 35 years without falling victim to some serious problem, but I am, with very little effort on my own part, extremely healthy. I’m a lucky, lucky person, and I am thankful for that.

And now that I think of it, I feel lucky and grateful for all of those people in my life who, despite all of the troubles that beset them, are still in this world and in my life. People are fragile. I’m glad to know the ones I do. And finally, I’m thankful that I have such an easy, direct way to share my good fortune.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May we all be reminded of what’s good in our lives.

The Elizabethan Theater with set for "A Comedy of Errors"

The OSF's Elizabethan Theater

I’ve been back in Colorado for one week, and I’m already overwhelmed by everyday life … which is surprising, actually, as I went on my road trip primarily because there wasn’t much to my everyday life. The two plans I’ve been living on for the past three years, freelance editing and house sitting, had largely ground to a halt, my other life passions (acting, writing, and chasing men) had been largely forgotten, and I was feeling lost, stuck, and a little desperate.

The road trip helped immensely. A total change of pace, with plenty of time to ponder, plenty of new information, and a great lecture by Martha Beck on my iPod, actually did (as I’d naîvely thought it would) give me a much clearer view of what I really want in my life and what I think I can realistically acheive. The biggest boost for my plan, though, came from two lunches and a happy hour with Portland’s own wonderful Ted, who, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, seems to charm and delight everyone he meets. When I whined to Ted that I felt lost at sea, he told me he, too, was feeling stuck, and then proceeded to talk himself into a very exciting life plan. Bored with his day job and heartbroken that he gave up teaching music (and significantly cut back on performances—he’s a fantastic jazz pianist) to work there, Ted has decided to take night courses to improve his work skills, but only so he can quit his job and become a part-time consultant. Then he’ll have enough income, plus the flexibility to teach, perform, and fulfill his long-term dream of earning an MFA in music.

I didn’t have such a clear idea when I left Ted, but I had another whole week of rambling planned. By the time I returned to Colorado, I had a three-part vision for my new, improved life. Now comes the scary part: Since I’m in my home state and have all of my resources available again, it looks like I’ll have to actually do something to make my vision a reality. Scary stuff, indeed! So far, I’m running on leftover road-trip optimism, but like most things in the real world, my efforts are disturbingly slow in paying off. On top of that, I have only the slightest idea what I’m doing. Still, I’ve had some lovely rays of hope (more on the best on in my next post). I’ll be refining the practicalities of my plan as I go along, but here is what I want to achieve:

The Room
Constantly house sitting has its appeal because it make rent-free living possible, but it’s also exhausting. I’m tired of packing up all of the possessions I use day to day and moving every two weeks, or worse, every two days. I’m tired of knowing that I have a storage space (in my mom’s house, because she spoils me—I’m also tired of feeling that I’m taking advantage of my mother’s goodwill) full of possessions that I haven’t used for three years, because I can’t find them in the crammed-together mess. I’ve thought of getting rid of them, but I won’t be able to until I have some space of my own to spread my things out in, so I can, for the first time in years, get a good look at them. I’m tired of not being able to get to most of the useful things I own, tired of always worrying whether I’ll have a place to live next week … just plain tired of this plan. House sitting has overstayed its welcome in my life, for now, anyway. In these past three years, I haven’t accomplished as much as I’d hoped to in other areas of my life, either, and I think it’s largely because too much of my focus has been on hustling for house sits and moving around.

So, though I know it’s a novel idea, now I actually want a home. I’m looking for a room in a house, condo, or apartment, with interesting, quiet, and respectful roommate(s) who won’t mind that, though friendly when I do see them, I’m shy and I spend a lot of time in my room. In fact, I’m very, very shy, and need a very, very quiet space to recharge myself in, but I’m still charged up with road-trip optimism, so I truly believe I can find like-minded roommates with an open room at an affordable price. I’m even hopeful that I can find them before the house sit I’m on right now ends. The room-hunting process is on hold, though, because I think it would be best if another part of my plan were set in place first:

The Job
Yes, I said “job,” that hated word I’ve been avoiding for three years. I do want a job, within specific parameters: It must be part-time, ideally 24 to 30 hours a week. I hope to find one that uses some of my most salable skills, like copy editing, typing really fast, or understanding how MS Excel works, so that I can make the maximum income possible for my time. Also, I really do like to feel smart and useful. However, it could be almost any job … well, I’ve decided any job that pays $10 an hour or better.

The goal of The Job is to give me enough regular income so that, no matter what my freelance life does, I will easily be able to cover rent on The Room, yet The Job must stay part-time enough and emotionally comfortable enough not to eat more than 30 hours per week of my time. I need to save my time and energy, as I do not intend to give up on freelance writing, acting, knitting design, and chasing any other wild idea that occurs to me. The Job is there to stabilize my life, allowing me to focus more on each of my eccentricities. And the number-one area of focus will be:

Acting
I figured this part out when I attended two plays and a backstage tour at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, America’s largest and longest-running such festival. I was blown away by their productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler. (If you’re familiar at all with Ibsen’s original Hedda Gabler, you understand the problem with this title. Yes, it was a very surreal play—right up my alley!)

However, the festival left me rather depressed. I have been acting in plays, Shakespeare and modern, experimental and children’s, old standards and brand-new workshops, regularly for 14 years now, but I’ve never given it more than a half-assed effort. I majored in English and minored in anthropology, rather than theatre, because I was convinced that making a living doing what I loved most was too much for a dork like me to hope for, and I should really be responsible and choose a practical major. I took classes here and there, in college and after, but I never got any kind of solid, focused, long-term training. Lately, I’m convinced that the level of professionalism in Denver/Boulder theatre has outgrown me. I’ve done a little improv lately, and a few scavenger hunts and murder mystery dinners, but I haven’t been in a scripted play for nearly two years. Before my trip, I’d largely given up auditioning. I’d see an audition announcement, andsay, “What’s the use? Somebody better than me is bound to show up.”

Well, here’s my new acting plan: less of a half-assed effort. In fact, like Ted, I’d like to earn an MFA in my favorite art form. I’m not sure if I can convince any MFA program to take such an old lady, (I’ll be 35 by the time I get through anyone’s application process, and for an actress, that’s way over the hill, especially for one just getting her training.) and I’m not sure how I’ll pay for it if I can, but just the process of applying would do wonders for my skills. I’ll have to take more classes, and hopefully work on more plays, to get directors and teachers for letters of reference. I’ll have to work hard and get coached to build up two or three wonderful audition monologues. To audition, I might have to go on a few more road trips. (Hooray!)

So I’ve signed up for a two-month advanced acting class that starts in October. I’m considering another, shorter workshop, as well. (I sure hope I find The Job before I’ve emptied out my savings accounts!) I’m also auditioning for every play I can even remotely imagine myself fitting into. I’ve been back in Colorado for one week, and I’ve already auditioned twice. No dice on either one, but I’m just getting warmed up. My first audition, though it didn’t land me a part, convinced me that any joyous thing is possible. I’ll write about that in my next post.