2016 in Review

I was reflecting about 2016 this morning as I made breakfast and danced in the kitchen.  (There might be video evidence of said dancing.)  Where was I last year at this time?

Last year, January 2016, I was on my way back from Big Sky Resort with Mom and Dad after the weekend’s Montana Pharmacy Conference was over.  Dad, after (still going) a lifetime of Community Pharmacy (including not playing football so he could run his parents’ pharmacy and not going to veterinary school so he could run their pharmacy), was awarded Montana’s highest honor, the Cup of Hygeia.  It was very cool to be there to see his surprise (Mom successfully corralled him into driving down, JUST for the conference – wink, wink).

But, it was the beginning of a tough year for me.

I had had to put Samantha to sleep in December, just before Christmas.  I stayed busy with the holidays but then, mid-January, Mom and Dad were headed back to Kalispell and I wasn’t busy anymore.  And it was just Summit, Jackjack and me.  And all three of us sat on the couch for a week.  I drank wine and watched movies. Summit slept a lot.  Haley resurrected me for a CrossFit competition where all of that wine I had drank, made it feel like gravity had doubled instantaneously.

School started mid-January and it was the hardest semester yet.  I ground myself into the dirt physically and mentally but I didn’t know it.  I was just grinding away, doing my best, thinking I was doing pretty well.  And maybe I was?

February, March, April, May: I continued to do my best which often did not feel very best at all.  Structures, Environmental Controls, Studio, working at Intrinsik, working out at Altitude, wine, movies, books, Summit.  It is sort of a blur.  I know that could talk about Samantha without crying at some point in there, which somehow felt like progress was being made.

I tried to date.  Someone hooked me up on a blind date of sorts so I tried to successfully date him.  That didn’t work.  I tried Match.  Miserable fail.  I tried to be ready for love.  That did not work, not even a little.  It made for some very entertaining e-mail rants to my friend, Amy about ‘rock men.’  I gave up trying to find love, and online wastes of time and energy.

Ultimately, grade-wise, the semester ended well and I wondered why I was so hard on myself.   Like I have wondered a million times before…..

Mid-May: Summer school started and I thought was ready for the challenge. But it turns out, I had had enough of trying to find a place to buy here in Bozeman (at New Jersey prices) and decided that I wanted to build something.  I was tired of just learning and not doing.  I made a decision that seems obvious now – that there were more options for me than renting or buying.  I decided to build my own Tiny House.  All of the frustrations in trying to find a house to buy transferred instead to making easy progress in planning to build a Tiny House.  But it was a diversion from summer school….

June, July, August: I did my best in summer school and spent the rest of the time out at Todd’s redoing the wood on the trailer I had bought (he sandblasted it and Jimmy painted it) and doing Tiny House research.  Looking back now, How the heck did I do all of that?

I met some great people through this year including Todd (Sandblaster extra-ordinaire), Lindsay Schack and Patrick of Artisan Tiny Houses and I certainly freaked my mom out with the Tiny House idea.  But I knew she would come around (and she has).  Now, I am excited to build this house up in Kalispell starting in May – I think it will be a life changing summer.

Susan Travis, who I met the year before in Alaska, came to visit me and kick started my reorganization of life with laughter and dancing!  Now, my books are in topic order on their shelves!  And boxes of things that I hadn’t sorted in almost 10 years were conquered!

July: I started talking to John in Alaska from Habitat from Humanity about SIPs panels for my Tiny House and ended up talking about much more.  We called them our marathon phone calls.  Almost 6 hours is our longest with 5 hours, 4, 3 and average of 2 hours being normal, to date.

September: School started again.  I didn’t have much of  break, if any.  And I started out the semester just pissed off at life as I knew it and I wasn’t sure why.  I did not know it at the time, but I can recognize it now, I was utterly burnt-out.

I know what physical fatigue feels like – after two Ironmen and other physical endeavors, like the all-night ruck during boot camp.  I know how to recognize it, what causes it, and how to fix it.  I had ZERO idea what mental fatigue felt like.  I did not think that could ever happen to me and I did nothing to prevent it really.  I knew nothing about  mental self-care.  I just beat myself up for being lazy, stupid or not being able to focus.  I know now, it feels like brain freeze, brain cement, fog or mud; everything that requires any kind of mental energy almost hurts.  For me, that just translated to a complete lack of tolerance and patience for any level of mental challenge.  That did not mesh well with my first semester of graduate school.  I had to drop a Tiny House community class because I just could not do the course load – and that pissed me off.  I still worked at Intrinsik – and that pissed me off, too.

Looking back now on the semester (that still hasn’t quite finished yet for me as I took an incomplete in Studio), I can see that my issues started in January and just kept piling on through August.  I tried to make changes, I tried to adjust but once the ball is rolling, sometimes doing nothing doesn’t feel like the right thing to do.  And most times, you just can’t do nothing.  Or at least, that is what you tell yourself, what I told myself.  I tried to fake being happy with being in school.  That didn’t work.  I suck at faking anything.  So I just became sullen and tried to plough through it, while also resting.  It was just weird.

December, January:  And now, here we are.  So, here is my year 2016 in review:

  1. I know what burn out feels like.  It feels a lot like depression but it isn’t.  I hope I have a better plan for burn out going forward.  I am still having a hard time NOT wanting to do it all.  Life is so short!  I can say no to most things.  To other things, I suck at saying no.
  2. Biggest surprise of the year!  I have fallen in love with John!  He came to see me in December.  It was and still is amazing!  Now, we continue to talk marathon talks and have added chess and recently ‘Guess what I am drawing’ to our repertoire of things we do together but from a far.  Thank goodness for texting and other ways to make a long-distance relationship not feel so long distance.  Like a watched pot, love won’t happen if you are expecting it to boil. (Thank you to all of you that orchestrated this…Susan, Rachael, Maire and the Universe.)
  3. I have a new dog, Maggie, who is a lot like Samantha’s soul-sister.  I still miss my first furry daughter, and am sure I always will.  I sold my coffee maker to a wonderful couple that had a baby and who’s neighbor is building a Tiny House in his backyard.  I came home with new friends, $40 and a new dog.  Maggie is a 2-year old Aussie/Blue Heeler pocket-rocket. Super smart and sneaky!  She tries to herd everything, including me, Summit but Jackjack most of all.
  4. I learned to watch the auction and pawn shops for good deals on almost anything.
  5. I have learned there are at least 5 love languages and the one my dad speaks is Acts of Service.  I have tried to understand that he loves us very much because he works very hard.  The one I speak is Words of Encouragement.  We just don’t speak the same language, is all.  Like Chinese and French.  (Thank you, Elise.)
  6. I have learned how to skate for hockey.  I think.  We will see when I start the Greenhorn league next week.
  7. I spend more time outside.  See #3.  She is yipping at me now to go out.  Maggie is not subtle.
  8. I confess that I am not great at maintaining a blog.  I may never be better at it.  Lots of other people are good at it – so I don’t have to be.  See #1.  See?  I don’t have to do it all.
  9. I have read amazing books, like H for Hawk.  Fun books like the Throne of Glass.  I have watched a lot of good movies, listened to a lot of good music.  I have started to play my guitar again, after a year of being in its case.
  10. Jackjack did not knock over the Christmas tree, not even once. I was sort of disappointed.  I can only say that I didn’t put ornaments on, NOT out of laziness, no no….I was worried he WOULD knock them over.  Truth is, I just thought the lights were enough.
  11. I drink less wine.  I meditate more.  I am not lazy for doing nothing. (Mantra.)
  12. I have switched gyms and am having fun working out again.  I might even coach again!
  13. I have met some amazing people.  Writers, athletes, architects, business owners, Tiny House people, old truck people, construction people, animal people.
  14. I have a subwoofer in my kitchen (yes, doesn’t everyone?) and I am not afraid to use it.  Sorry (not sorry), upstairs neighbors, but this is payback for being elephants on my head every night.
  15. I don’t think I am mentally burned out anymore but I am cautious about digging myself so deep again that it happens again.  I am trying to remember how to play, how to have fun.  How is it that I forgot how to do that in the first place?
  16. I am not good not knowing what I will be doing or where I will be living this time next year.  I suck at not planning – because I can’t plan.  Lindsay told me that it isn’t my job to plan, it is my job to do the work and the plan will unfold as it will.  She is right and I am trying to just do the work.  Trusting in the Universe is part of the work.

I didn’t expect to write a year in review.  Sometimes things just happen.  Here is to another set of days, meaninglessly defined as a year, in the future.  Because all that really matters is what is happening now, right now. Now.

Shanti, my friends.  J

Before and After


Cooper – after sandblasting and refinishing the wood panels.  More to come!

So the trailer that I bought to build my Tiny House on has undergone quite a transformation.  She (named Cooper) has been sandblasted (or microdermabrasion).  She has been repainted the beautiful light blue that had rusted away.  And the original boards were refinished and have been reinstalled.  I still have boards to do up top  but here is a quick before and after shot.

Next post will be on the product decisions I have made so far and why.


Old Cooper – before makeover began

So Why Tiny?

Self portrait when I was 7 years old

I have found through trial and error, really, and lots of self-reflection that I am happiest without a lot of stuff.  I have been living in smaller spaces for about the last 10 years, for a variety of reasons.  Not all of them planned, necessarily.

But it has given me a chance to reflect and discover, I am happiest with more freedom than debt and with more time than obligations.

I have done the big house with the big yard and had the big salary along with it.  And after I had it, I felt the weight of it all.  Instead of being able to go camping, I had the lawn to mow and rooms to clean.  Instead of being free to choose a different career, I had a mortgage to pay.  And none of that was necessarily bad, I didn’t know there was any other way at that point.

And then I bought a small house in New Jersey, with a small yard and a big garage.  My boyfriend at the time, was very skeptical of the neighborhood, the house, the whole decision.  I told him, it isn’t the house, it is what happens inside.  You make the place you live in by your attitude and I was happy.  I had two big golden retrievers and I really bought the place for them.  I was able to buy a house for $1,000 less than I would have paid for rent with the dogs, without a yard.  The dogs were happy.  And it was my house and I could fix it up.  So I did.  I was able to afford refinishing the old hardwood floors (because the square footage was small).  I was able to repaint and update the wiring.  The lawn took 20 minutes to mow.  The house took 20 minutes to clean.  It was still New Jersey so the mortgage was not cheap.  It was less than 1,000 square feet but that was never an issue.  The size did not even make the issue list.  My boyfriend was convinced.  We both remember the time in that house fondly.

I came back to Montana; to come home to my family and the mountains.  I decided that I needed to go back to school.   Architecture seemed like a good fit.

Over the last few years, I have watched the ‘tiny house movement’ grow.  But I was still searching for a house here, albeit a small house.  And that was not working.  One roadblock or obstacle after another.  One day, I just had enough and decided, out of spite, actually,that I was just going to build myself a Tiny House.

I sleep on what felt like a radical, renegade idea and woke up the next morning really excited.  I did some checking and found that I could cash in my retirement, almost without penalty to build a house.

Since then, I have moved smoothly forward towards building my Tiny House.  I am enjoying the research, the creativity of designing.  I enjoy the community of tiny house people that I am interacting with.  I am very much looking forward to not having a house payment that would not be paid off until I was 75 years old.  The biggest obstacle is finding a place to live in it but I am not overly worried about that right now.  I am trusting, that like the other things that have needed to fall into place and have, that will fall also into place, once I know where I will be landing.

So for me, it took me awhile to realize there was a different option available to me now.  But now that I have seen the answer that was under my nose the whole time, 296 square feet doesn’t feel small – it feels like a world of freedom, instead.



Progress on panels

Hiya!  So I have another post that I intended to write up today and I will do that asap but I ended up working on the wood panel sides for Betty and Cooper…mostly, Cooper but I made some progress on Betty, as well.

I stopped by to see Dan and brought my newly purchased black pipe from Pacific Steel.  I am going to cut it, drill it and then have Dan or someone weld the rebar on it so Betty matches Cooper.  I measured the depth the pipes need to be cut.  Dan said he ordered the rear brakes for Betty; they should be in next week.  He ordered spark plugs and distributor and said might need a fuel pump.  We talked about adding a muffler to her – she should purr, not roar, I think, and the exhaust pipe is currently a little janky looking.  So we are rolling there.  Dan left the extension cord out for me so I will go over tomorrow and said the decking on the bed down and maybe the back edge of the bed.

So today, I sanded all of the panels for Cooper and then got one coat (on half of them) of clear coat – exterior grade, semi-gloss.  The varnish just brings out the color of the wood that is hard to capture in photos, I think.  But I tried to – so here are some before and after shots from today’s work.  I do love a project!

The two pictures below on the left are after planing and after sanding but before the clear coat varnish.  The picture on the right is before I took the panels off of Cooper.


Naked Cooper.

So that is all for tonight.  I will figure out how to do a direct before and after picture tomorrow.

Trailers, galore!

A lot has happened since I posted last.  Here is the rundown:

I was going to build my Tiny House on my little trailer (above) but found out the axle weight wouldn’t handle the weight of the tiny house.

So, I was going to sell the trailer.  I called Wayne, who I bought the truck and trailer from to tell him the bad news.  But somehow, after that call, I just couldn’t.  Wayne said quietly, “I always thought those two belonged together.”  Call me silly and sentimental but now the trailer is named Cooper and is about to get a makeover.

After finding out that Cooper was not the right trailer for the Tiny House I had in mind for myself, I still had to make a decision about what trailer I WAS going to use for my Tiny House.  I did some research and considered learning to weld to build my own trailer, but finally I decided to buy another trailer from Artisan Tiny House in Vancouver, Washington.  Patrick and I have had many conversations that have been extremely helpful and I think this trailer will make a great foundation.  It will be a 32′ gooseneck (8′ above and 24′ feet below) allowing for 256 spacious (no sarcasm) square feet of living space.

I have already had need for a trailer to gather materials.  So Cooper will be used to go around Montana and gather reclaimed wood, etc., for the Tiny House.  And she needs to look good doing so.  For Cooper’s makeover, I have taken off all of the wiring and wood panels on the sides to get it ready for sandblasting and painting. It will be a purty light blue again, with a super-tough black deck paint.  Then, the guys at Valley Trailer are going to rewire her.  I am going to plane the wood sides and varnish them.  Add matching wood to the sides of the Chevy.  It will be the nicest materials transport trailer around!

I have told myself that if I do not use Cooper after the Tiny House is built, then she gets sold.  We will see.  I have bigger plans for the future but for now, I am having fun fixing something again.

So back to the progress…trailer decisions made.

Siding decisions made.  Sue and I visited Rustic Wood Hub in Bozeman and found a delightful old yellow wood.  Come to find out it is from the Manely Barn in Bozeman.  So now, the Tiny House is officially named Mini Manley. (More details to come on that.)

Since the Chevy is Blue Betty, I did a little research.  Elizabeth BETTY Cooper was the primary character in Betty and Veronica with Archie, comics.  These characters were created by Bob MONTANA!  So now I have a whole fleet of named vehicles.  The old Ford is Moose (thanks to John for bringing idea forward!), the nice and a bit snooty Tundra is Veronica, the Chevy is Betty and the trailer above is Cooper.

The next post will be more about Mini Manley!

And so, it begins…

I wonder how many blog posts begin with the same words, and so, it begins.  There is something very vulnerable about typing words on a page and knowing they might be read out there in the great beyond by someone you don’t know.  Maybe you are sitting in their pajamas drinking coffee with their dog at their feet like I am.  Maybe you are sitting quietly in the wee hours of the morning because you couldn’t sleep.  Maybe you are procrastinating from work or school work or house work.

At any rate, welcome to my thoughts.  Largely this blog is about freedom.  Freedom of thought and a free lifestyle.  Connecting to nature, animals and people are important to me as are learning.  The blog will reflect those values.  And I am about to embark on building a house in Montana, a very small house, often called a Tiny House and it will likely be a Tiny House not unlike others.

And so, it begins.