The Book Decor Workout

Kitchen with book decor

Last weekend I stumbled upon a new workout. It’s all the rage with the A-listers in Hollywood. (Not really.)

Here’s what you need to get sweatin’…

  • Tall ceilings with a daring, unreachable shelf.
  • Sturdy ladder that will keep you from eating shit.
  • Insanely heavy boxes of books (lots of them!)
  • Grippy shoes or bare feet, because socks on the kitchen counter are a safety no-no.
  • Stretchy pants that won’t split in the private area.
  • Balance, endurance, and a touch of insanity.

So, anyway.

We finally got around to some more unpacking after a two-week stalemate. Although our new Portland apartment and our old Milwaukee apartment are comparable in square footage, they are night and day in all other aspects.

Our 1930s gem we used to live in came with cute built-ins to solve all of our book storage woes. I showed them off last summer in the Show Us Your Shelves challenge that was going around the bloggerhood.

This sleek building we now inhabit is a different creature entirely.

Every bit of space counts when you’re living in modestly sized digs. Lining entire walls with bookshelves can destroy your chances of having anywhere to sit, eat, sleep, etc.. And while my books are the loves of my life, a little practical furniture goes a long way.

Luckily for us, we happen to have 12-foot ceilings and a solid shelf soaring into our kitchen heavens. Problem solved!

Side of the fridge…

books with guitar

Top of the fridge… (For funsies, I stacked a Hitler biography right above “Poems That Touch the Heart”.)

books above fridge

The very random corner nook with absolutely no rhyme or reason to the book placement…

corner bookshelf

The Yoga friends breathing deeply to remain calm hanging in their dangerous neighborhood…

yoga books

The Ken Follett region with my dad’s old guitar… (Fun fact, Ken plays the bass guitar in a blues band.)

ken follett books with guitar

And finally the glue holding this whole operation together, the champion coffee table books masquerading as a bookend…

coffee table bookend

It’s been a few days and even with my shoddy architectural design, we have not had any catastrophic domino effect. My comfy chair happens to be right below that cabinet cliff.

Just keep your fingers crossed for me.

When I woke up the next morning and, with the exception of my back and legs, had long forgotten the Book Decor Workout, I had a foolishly happy moment when I walked into the kitchen.

There were all of my friends. Perched high, their lives in peril but smiling back at me nonetheless.

Any of you book lovers can feel me on this. Until those book friends were freed from their boxy confines, I still wasn’t at home here.

It’s funny how many times we’ve moved and always looked accusingly at the books. The choice to give some up arises, and then we veto it and keep them all. Even the ones that were gifted and we still haven’t read. Even the ones that aren’t our faves.

Because the books make our home. Sure they’re heavy bastards, but they’re simply lovely.

Later that day I unpacked one of the last remaining boxes and guess what I freaking found? Ten more damn books.

Time to grab the ladder and get my book fitness on!

Have you ever tackled a home decor project that turned into a surprise butt-busting workout?

On a completely different note, I was absolutely tickled this weekend when my sweet friend Jessica from Notes of Nomads included one of my recent posts in her “5 Best Blog Posts of the Month” roundup. If you haven’t check it out yet, please be sure to take a looksy!

 

Home Is Where the Writing Is

Yes, those holes in the Yoga mat were caused by a no-good cat.

Yes, those holes in the Yoga mat were caused by a no-good cat.

Home Is Where the Writing Is.

Silly spin on a cheesy saying? Alright, maybe a little bit.

When I woke up today and looked at my tattered (fourth?, fifth?, sixth?) draft of The Bra Game, I didn’t feel overwhelmed. A goofy grin spread across my sheet-wrinkled face.

Since uprooting my life two weeks ago, writing has seemed like another planet to me. I thought I would be able to manhandle my creative drive and keep the momentum. But already I knew that I wasn’t the same gal I was before The Accidental Spirit Quest.

It’s not that I haven’t been inspired, it just seemed so impossible to become still enough to handle it. To give my writing the attention it deserved.

This week I began editing again. And, it feels really awesome.

The end of this crazy novel project I started a year and a half ago is in sight. Through a full-time job, a 200-hour Yoga teacher training, my mom’s breast cancer, and a cross-country move I am proud to say that I somehow persevered.

Writing was my constant through all of the change, as it always has been and always will be. 

I want to take a moment to thank the blogging/writing/reading community. After a few days of getting settled here, I hung out on my pretty new patio and opened my laptop with uncertainty.

Was my blog even still there?

Had it been hijacked or had it run away?

Or, did somebody finally realize all of the monumental gibberish I’ve been spouting in cyber public and hook my neck with a cane to yank me off the stage like a cartoon?

But, there sat my little blog. There you all were. Like a sweet place to come home to.

Getting back into the swing of things has been challenging. Thank you all for sticking it out with me.

I love the way we support each other, laugh our asses off, and share pieces of our lives. And to think…we are from all walks of life, from all corners of the map.

I mean, how cool is that?

This Place is “Hideous”

Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge

Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge (aka The Looker)

As soon as we passed the Oregon border after our three-day jaunt across the country, cats in tow, our jaws dropped open. The final hours of our drive were alarmingly beautiful.

We kept oohing and aahing over every damn thing.

  • Look at the colorful train across the amazing river! Wow!
  • Look at the incredible rams chillin’ on the hillside! Bitchin’!
  • Look at the snowy Cascades way the hell over there! Cool!
  • Look at how freaking gorgeous everything is! Neato!

So being the smart asses that we are, we said enough with all of the goofy, pretty talk. To change it up, we now joke about how ugly everything is.

(To avoid this sick humor being lost in translation, I will bold and italicize all sarcastic adjectives going forward.)

IMG_20140406_121444

Vista House Married Couple Selfies

Last Sunday we took a repellent scenic drive near the Columbia River with Multnomah Falls as the endpoint. The bridges were blah, the hills were drab, and there were revolting waterfalls everywhere.

And bonus, all of this vile nature is a short 30-minute drive from the city for us.

Eventually our road game shouting “Waterfall!” every time we spotted one fizzled out. After the tenth unsightly waterfall, we no longer acknowledged their sleazy presence.

They are disgusting after all.

You can easily spend an entire day on this offensive road, stopping at perverse waterfalls and hiking your ass off. Even though we were like kids in a candy shop, we reined in our enthusiasm and chose to stop at two.

As you can see here, the Latourell Falls are absolutely foul. But, I’m into those legs.

IMG_20140406_122610071

Mr. H’s Legs and Latourell Falls

Two adventurers were frolicking around the top of the yucky waterfall. They’re a little hard to see, but they’re up there being batshit crazy.

Hikers on top of Latourell Falls

Hikers on top of Latourell Falls

Being the party poopers we are, we stayed safely on dry land. We meandered along the homely road, passing one grody waterfall after another.

We arrived at Multnomah Falls and joined the masses to marvel at this nauseating sight.

Multnomah Falls

(I have no idea who this family is, but I thought they were as cute as can be.) Multnomah Falls

After we fetched our chai tea lattes and fresh chocolate fudge from the little hut in front of the falls, we hopped in the car and headed home.

Overall, our day was very plain and uninspiring.

And, while we’re at it…these two really gross me out!

Aphrodite and Hazel Doing Their Usual

Aphrodite and Hazel Doing Their Usual

 Your turn! What’s the most “hideous” place you’ve ever been to?

The Accidental Spirit Quest

 

Wyoming

Wyoming

It was 3am and my eyes flew wide open. The silence echoed vivaciously through my empty apartment. I extended my toes over to the right, touched my husband’s warm ankle and found the brief comfort I craved.

The additional two hours of sleep I so badly needed for our journey that day were unreachable, so I surrendered to my restlessness.

Ungracefully I slid off the air mattress, tiptoed across the creaking floors, and turned on our crappy little coffeemaker. The cats rubbed my legs with uncertainty, and though I did my best to soothe them, they were not fooled by my rickety affection.

For the last time I drank a cup of coffee by my favorite window with the beautiful tree, one that I had seen touched by all four seasons for a handful of years. I sat in that bright orange camping chair and scanned the barren room, my eyes full of wonder and trepidation.

So much life had happened there. We laughed, we cried, we loved, we feared.

This place where we had lived for five years had become a ghost, its white walls exuding melancholy, scarred by the furniture that once rested against them.

After Mr. H took the two panic-stricken cats down to the truck, I had to be brave and say goodbye to our teeny home. I turned off the light in the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom and finally, the hallway. I locked the door and took one last look at the faded bronze apartment number.

I slipped the envelope with our keys into the manager’s mail slot and walked out the back door…forever.

uhaul iowa

Then, it hit me. We were homeless.

Mr. H, Aphrodite and Hazel, Ken Follett the cow, and I were about to drive for 32 freaking hours hauling a trailer. Everything we cherished was being thrust into the unknown, into the elements for three epic days.

And, it wasn’t exactly a piece of cake.

We had memorable weather on that first never-ending day. Snow and rain turned into endless grey skies and fierce 40 mph wind gusts. Golden flat fields lined the highway offering an eternity of boredom.

Nebraska

Nebraska

How we wished for that boredom once we arrived in the Nebraska Panhandle. We had three more hours to go, drawing close to midnight, and we took one more pit stop at a gas station.

It was pitch black and we were exhausted. But, this wasn’t the place to spend the night.

Above the gas station entrance, there was a sign: YOU ARE NOWHERE.

A man with long, filthy fingernails took my cash for my grape Gatorade, then called one of his goons on his crusty cell phone. I stood there, debating over whether or not my 87 cents was really worth it.

He was on something. Scratch that…a lot of things.

Eventually I got my change and we hightailed it out of there.

Soon after the tweaker gas station in Nowhere, Mr. H narrowly avoided a family of deer. Now I truly understand where that “deer in the headlights” expression comes from. I made direct eye contact with the mother as we missed her by a hair.

Though shaky we trucked on, visions of the hotel bed in Wyoming dancing through our fatigued minds, encouraging us to man up and continue.

Then, of course, the blizzard came. It was the worst snow you can imagine, the kind that blows right towards you and creates a psychedelic tunnel.

We were alone on a swerving road on some sort of wintry acid trip, our little home clutched in the hands of Nowhere. Sleeping on the side of the road wasn’t an option. Even in the darkness a generous drop-off was visible.

Those last hours, listening to the squeaking windshield wipers in the front and the grueling cat chorus in the back, were slow torture.

Every mile marker that came up lifted our spirits, little by little. And finally, we made it to the damn hotel in Wyoming.

Thankfully, the next two days were not as dramatic. We had sunshine and awe-inspiring nature to console us the rest of the way.

Oregon

Oregon

Naturally, the cats never settled into our movable home.

Aphrodite managed to cut her pink nose, because she kept pressing her face against the door of the carrier while crying out in deafening protest. Even outside of the truck I heard their incessant meows and wondered if I had completely lost it.

When we made it to Oregon, her lush green landscapes looked nothing short of heaven to us. And, I took a necessary moment to laugh at myself.

I had repeated one of those classic human mistakes. I was so focused on the move, the before and after, that I forgot about the middle.

As a writer, I should seriously slap myself around for this.

Though the first and last chapters are important to every story, the pages in between are crucial. That is where the reader is fully immersed, enraptured by the thoughts, feelings, and happenings of the fabricated world.

The idea that life is a journey and not a destination has been spouted off by many people, from Henry David Thoreau to Aerosmith.

When they thought up that brilliance, I bet they were hauling all of their shit across the country with pets.

Oregon

Oregon

 

 

 

The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Kate

What would life even be without the wild? The beautifully real wild. Animals are a big part of my life as they are for many of you out there. These creatures are something for us to marvel at and to learn from. They teach us how to be humble, how to care deeply, and how to coexist. Every time I see an animal, I think…wow. How amazing is it for us all to live together in one place? Pretty damn amazing.

Last month blogger buddy Chris Stocking delivered a deeply enthusiastic message. Often what makes us excited is not a priority in the world, but the vitality of our happiness is rooted in our personal enthusiasm. In my series, The Life Enthusiast Chronicles, fine humans from across the map unveil what makes them passionate about life.

Today I’m overjoyed to show off the always lovely, Kate Johnston of 4am Writer. I hardly know where to begin when it comes to gushing about this gal. We’ve been writer friends for some time, always there for each other through thick and thin. What astounds me about Kate’s writing is her quiet grace. Her intellect, humor, and heart are finely woven throughout her work. I never miss one of her posts, because they are guaranteed to make me feel inspired in some way. She’s quite the Life Enthusiast.

Connect with Kate on Twitter and Facebook.

Without further ado, here is the lovely Kate…

A wolf howling in the wild

belongs there

and he ain’t leaving

without a fight.

I thought I wanted to be a vet when I grew up. I used to rescue all sorts – snakes, squirrels, frogs, turtles, birds, chipmunks, rabbits, groundhogs, bats, opossums. I even helped a fox once. Oh, and an eel.

But, I’m kind of squeamish. I can’t handle blood, any kind of bodily fluids actually. Knowing part of my job would require me to put animals to sleep, even though I knew it would help them feel better, was beyond my tolerance. I’m great at comforting the sick, calming the traumatized, but setting a broken bone or plunging a needle into flesh or easing the spirit into the next world? Not so much.

So, I dropped the idea of being a vet.

As I turned to my other passion, writing, I wrote about animals instead. Some of my favorite stories I wrote were about wolves. I made the wolf the good guy, unheard of when human beings were on the verge of killing off the entire population of wolves in the United States.

In 1926, the last wolf pack had been killed in Yellowstone (though there were ongoing reports of lone wolves). In 1974, the grey wolf had been listed as an endangered species, and in 1975 recovery was mandated under the Endangered Species Act.

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995—20 years after they were first listed as endangered. They have had a hell of a roller coaster ride overcoming the odds.

As a kid, I didn’t know what the wolves were going through. I just knew that they always got a bad rap in books.

I wanted to change that.

As I grew older, I followed their story of revival, their comeback, cringing with every obstacle they faced. I joined a national organization, Defenders of Wildlife, to help their recovery. That outreach stimulates and energizes me. It’s like cheering on my favorite “underdog” team from the sidelines.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every single person on this planet fought for something wild? Imagine how much we would save. I don’t care if it’s a wolf, a river, a flower, or a mollusk. If we all chose one wild thing that mattered to us and fought for it, this world would be a healthier, happier place.

There are some amazing people who have given their lives to wildlife. One such woman lives a couple of hours from me, in Maine, and she runs a wolf rescue and education center. For my birthday, my mother took me to meet this woman and her wolves and to get my photo taken professionally inside the pens.

Denali, a pure gray wolf

Denali, a pure gray wolf

These wolves had been kept as pets, mismanaged and abused, and then abandoned. After being kept as pets, wolves cannot be returned to the wild. They are too familiar with people and can’t survive on their own.

Brenda’s place is the end of the line for these wolves. They are penned for their protection, and given the closest experience as possible to living wild again. Make no mistake – this isn’t the ideal solution, but it’s all they have.

Tazlina “Taz”, a pure gray wolf

Tazlina “Taz”, a pure gray wolf

Now that I’m a busy mom, I don’t get to do as much legwork for Defenders or local organizations like Brenda’s as I used to. Contributing money, supplies, volunteer time is mostly what I do.

And I talk about them, write about them. As much as I can (without annoying people). Every time I talk or write about the wolves and educate someone about the realities, I feel like I’m helping a wolf, somewhere.

Giving them a fighting chance is one of the best feelings, ever.

Kate with Wolves-2008 003

Timber, a pure gray wolf