Monday, October 3, 2011

Last Post...Here

Since the loss of El Valor, we have toyed with the idea of renaming this blog.  We needed a name for our redesigned tiny-home-on-wheels, and until recently, nothing really "stuck."  Seabean makes sense and is easily recalled.  So renaming our adventure-blog to Seabean or Bluebonnet + Seabean, or something easy to remember, seemed logical.  Well...since one of the guiding principles of this odyssey is simplicity, we have opted to streamline our blogs and make all future posts to  Sustainable landscaping and living, adventure travel, and business happenings all seem to overlap now.  This odyssey is no longer merely an experiment; it is the way we  Thank you for joining us this past year.  We hope you will continue to travel with us over on the nativerave blog.  Green blessings, y'all.
Truck-camped at a safety rest area last night surrounded by big rigs. Slept well...great test for winter sojourn!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Reading over our journals from the past yr, I am encouraged by the volume of experiences we have to share. Pics to make them feel personal to ea. reader, too.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Inspired this morning watching the silhouettes of trees emerging from the blackness; morning has come. Good night, moon. Good morning, Great Blue Heron.

Friday, September 23, 2011

One of the lofty goals of this odyssey was the pursuit of freedom. Today, I celebrate my freedom from the office. I am taking Sage to a playgroup at Chuck E. Cheese. In my previous life, getting away from work, home, garden, everything was nearly impossible. Still pursuing financial freedom but I will accept any victory, however small.
Testing post-by-text feature

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So long...

After two months of kicking around north Dallas, we left around the first of August for a beach adventure.  So long, Dallas.  We're going home...When we moved from Plano to Corpus Christi (N. Padre Island, specifically) in 2008, our plan was to live at the beach and work in DFW.  After all, we had built a solid clientele who eagerly referred us, and we had enough of a workload to support our family year-round.  Then the recession or contraction or whatever you want to call it that bombarded the global economy that fall spoiled our plans a bit.  Design work was scarce but we still found enough to eke out a very modest existence.  2009 was even worse, then 2010 showed signs of recovering.  Already we were preparing to become 100% mobile, so when 2011 began with a kaboom of business activity, we were thrilled that our original plan to be beachside most of the time with brief business trips to DFW was getting back on track.

Then came The Crash.  But also a windfall of design projects.  We were implanted into the vortex of a DFW landscape maelstrom for five months.  FIVE MONTHS.  That's almost 1/2 a year without seeing, even smelling, the beach.  To say that we "missed" it is an understatement.  As we drove over the JFK Causeway that first time in such a very long time I broke down.  Yes, blubbered.  It wasn't just because I yearned for the beach, our beach.  It was an emotional release of all the pent-up tension I had stored for nearly half a year...the crash...rebuilding our trailer...chronic downsizing...a lot of changes professionally and personally...reconnecting with loved ones...losing touch with much I can't even begin to describe here.  That first look in a very long time of a place I once loved stirred many emotions and allowed me to let go, finally.

We picked up mail and dinner, and then hurried out to Padre Balli Park to set up camp.  Within moments I kicked what felt like a rock and felt a sudden explosion of pain in my foot.  I continued with our set-up procedures until I noticed moisture on my toes.  Blood.  A huge gash on my big toe.  When I looked more closely I noticed that about half of the top of my toe had been cut deeply and peeled back, the layers underneath pushed up and over the gash.  Twisted, bloody, packed with sand: yep, it was disgusting.  And throbbing.  I thought I might need stitches...I cleaned my wound and wrapped my foot, then returned to the spot where I had unfortunately collided with the rock.  I found wasn't a rock at all.  It was a huge glob of molten glass.  Some fools had thrown a bunch of beer bottles on their campfire...I was furious because this kind of thing happens much too often.  Immediately I began questioning why I even come to this stupid place, this lovely beach that a bunch of idiots camp on and melt glass and drive like maniacs, "cutting doughnuts" and plowing through fragile dune ecosystems.  This lovely, wild place that is being ruined by people who just don't get it.  My pain subsided, eventually, and my mind calmed.  Waves whispered my name.  Pelicans, oystercatchers, willets: so many bird species welcomed me back I forgot my frustration...and pain.  That's part of why I love North Padre Island.  It is always an odd culmination of pristine nature and reckless humans.  Somehow nature always prevails so I probably should not fret so much.  Just enjoy the beauty...

A few days went by and we were enjoying all the best that beach has to offer.  Birds, fish, calm and clear water.  Campfires and "study tank".  Our last day there, little girl and doggie went inside the trailer to cool off in the generator-powered air conditioning.  They even napped!  David and I hung out in the sun and waded into the water now and then to cool off.  But of course it being our last day on the beach, we must have been feeling a little invincible because neither of us applied sunblock.  Nice move.  By the end of the day, we both had a nasty sunburn.  Awesome ending to our beach adventure.  The beach mishaps behind us, we looked ahead to refreshing cold showers and shade trees in Goose Island State Park.

Well, we did get a break from the sun underneath all those trees.  But the water was HOT HOT HOT.  All day, anytime of day.  Our sunburns blistered and bubbled, and itched and peeled.  Sage, fortunately, had escaped the wrath of the mid-day sun on the beach.  David and I were miserable!  Argh!  We did have fun visiting the Big Tree and playing in the park, though, which erased any trace of misery brought on by the 'burn.  After about a week we moved on to our next location: Copano Bay.

Recently I've started calling it our Rockport Retreat.  There we set up camp under a canopy of windswept Live Oaks underplanted with American Beautyberry, Turk's Cap, Red Bay, and more native plant species.  Hummingbirds and butterflies hung around the vegetation like ornaments on a Christmas tree.  Mockingbirds, cardinals and some other smaller birds I have yet to identify tweeted and flitted about all day and much of the evening.  Other wildlife stopped by, too.  Raccoons rummaged through our trash, snakes slithered past, deer leaped and frolicked.  Any time of day, Nature's soundtrack played on and on...Dolphins greeted us every morning and evening.  Nature dazzled us at sunset with vibrant colors splattered in random patterns across the sky.  I love that place; I can't wait to go back.

Just before we left the Texas Coast -- we are back in DFW now for a presentation to the Dallas Organic Garden Club -- we visited our storage room on North Padre Island.  Talk about peering into a time capsule!  It seems so long ago that we were packing our belongings into bins and placing them into that room.  In a couple of weeks, we will have been on this mobile odyssey for a full year.  Incredible.  I remember moving, and I remember the excitement we all felt about the adventures we would share.  But I don't remember much of what is in that room.  David pulled down an unmarked bin (at first we were meticulous packers and labelers but by the end of the moving process we were just slinging stuff around) and popped off the lid.  Inside were some of Sage's stuffed animals.  She just stared, vaguely recognizing them.  The faraway look in her eyes rocked me.  In one short year she has changed dramatically: she began the journey in diapers and Mommy feeding and dressing her.  Now, she is fully potty-trained, feeds herself with utensils (even knows what a spork is!) and dresses/undresses herself effortlessly.  I watched her as she picked through the bin of forgotten toys.  Memories rushed back, punctuated with Ohs and Look-at-this,-Mommys.  The past year has been filled to the point of overflowing with moments, profound moments.  Adventures.  Chapters in this mobile odyssey.  For David and me, over-40-somethings, the life we have packed into that storage room on North Padre Island seems so long ago.  For Sage, that life disappeared a year ago, equal to one-third of her life.  None of us felt saddened by this experience; we were bewildered.  These are our things but strangely they seem to belong to someone else.  We have scaled back our day-to-day operations to favor simplicity over convenience, and the thought of returning to a life that would reincorporate those belongings causes me alarm.   That's right, alarm.  I still have much to do on this journey; I'm not ready to quit yet.  There will be an endpoint but I don't want to pin it on a map or write it on an agenda.  I don't want to know where or when it will arrive, exactly.  Part of the beauty of this journey is that, outside of meetings and presentations, we do not follow a structured schedule.  We do not wander aimlessly, pointlessly.  But we do allow for spontaneity to savor the varied textures and flavors of life's feast.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wheat the People

Just gonna jump right into the middle of this topic...

OK, so I've had a rash on my cheeks for 5-6 years.  Yes, YEARS.  I have refused to see a dermatologist because I suspected he/she would prescribe medicine to treat it.  I don't take pills, as a rule, unless as a last resort.  Like when I had a c-section delivery...and even then I only took one of the pain meds.  I'm not a martyr, I just don't like chemicals of any kind in or near my body except in grave situations.  A rash on my cheeks -- a chronic one, at that -- tarnishes my vanity a little, sure.  But it's not debilitating or life-threatening, and I keep experimenting with natural treatments hoping to find "the cure."

In the beginning I tried treating the skin.  I had some success with scrubbing with baking soda, applying tea tree oil to the individual red spots, and moisturizing with vegetable glycerine.  But it never went away, and over time I began to understand that the cause(s) must be something internal.  I considered food allergies and began eliminating the foods/drinks/ingredients I thought most culpable: alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and processed sugar.  I would avoid these edibles for weeks and months at a time but would eventually reintroduce them because without them my rash did not improve much.  Perhaps this is hormonal, I thought.  The rash did not improve during my pregnancy or when I was breastfeeding.

After years of researching and experimentation, I think now I might be closer to a solution.  Someone suggested I look into wheat allergy symptoms.  I did (see the Mayo Clinic's website), and immediately I started reducing my consumption of wheat.  I think I have more of a mild intolerance to wheat rather than a full-blown allergy.  Awesome.  Already I have noticed an improvement in my skin.  There still might be a hormonal imbalance, too, but I will address that after completing my food "trials."  Again, if I eat more raw food and fewer processed foods (which often contain wheat, a cheap filler ingredient), I should be doing the right things for my skin and, more importantly, holistic well-being.

PS I have also looked at photos of rosacea and those images do not seem to match up to my rash.

Running with the Devil

Running with the Devil

Finally I have laced up my running shoes again.  David, too.  We do not run together -- Sage could never keep up and her BOB jogger was demolished in The Crash -- so we take turns.  Scheduling around work and packing (and this month, Le Tour de France) makes getting a little running time in difficult.  Mid-day seems to be the only time I can get to myself, and you can probably guess what running at that time of day is like.  Brutal, right.  Like running with the devil in hell itself.

Believe me, it's miserable sometimes but when I finish my daily 5K -- despite the heat, gallons of sweat pouring from every pore -- I feel almost invincible.  One tough chick: yep, that's me.  And spiritually I'm connected to Nature and its creator.  It is always a beautiful experience and there is no such thing as a 'bad run.'

I love music.  Growing up in a family of well-seasoned as well as aspiring musicians introduced me to all sorts of genres, artists, and songs.  My grandmother wrote poetry and music and was a talented guitarist and singer.  Her favorites were Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, but she also loved Eric Clapton.  She requested that "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas be played at her funeral...and it was, along with an old country tune "The Face of Jesus", or something like that.  My grandma was the coolest...My grandfather sang gospel and was music director at his church in more recent years.  Whenever I listen to Elvis' recording of "Peace in the Valley", I hear my Papaw's voice.  He does not perform any longer but he still has an ear for all things music.  My dad and many of my uncles play guitar and sing.  Everybody would come to our house to jam Rick Derringer, Grand Funk Railroad, the Eagles, Vanilla Fudge, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and others.  My mom was really into the Motown sound, the Beatles and, of course, Elvis, so I spent a lot of time learning the lyrics to her favorite songs.  My brother is a very gifted musician, too.  He can sing, play drums, pluck around on a piano, and get along on a bass, but his true talent is playing guitar.  As kids we listened to all the music our parents and grandparents shared with us, but we also discovered our own stuff.  Together we rocked out to Kiss and Van Halen.  Then disco took over my brain and we went our separate ways.  He found old school hip-hop and rap, then Ozzy and Judas Priest, and bunch of other speedy-metally stuff that I didn't really 'get'.  In high school we reconnected by way of Guns 'n Roses, The Cult, a bunch of poppy hair-swinging glam bands.  Then he left home to tour with an up-and-coming hair-swinging band...Over the years we swapped suggestions about grunge, alternative, new alternative, soul, R&B, rap, hip-hop, blues, Americana, Texana and, most recently, Texas Country Blues.  At least that's what I'm calling's storytelling like country but without the Nashville twang, bluesy but with more than 3 chords, and all about Texas or Texans. 

So when I run, I like to listen to music.  Deciding WHAT to listen to is the hard part.  Black Crowes is one of my favorite soundtracks because their music is mellow enough that I feel relaxed despite the stress I'm putting on my body.  It also has great lyrics, so my mind has something better to do than think about work or family or whatever else is wearing on me that day.  And Chris' voice is so bluesy, so passionate and eery and sexy, I forget that my brand new trail shoes are making my heels bleed.

No matter the brilliance of the lyrics, driving bassline or drum beat, haunting vocals or 'danceability' of my running soundtrack, my mind still tries to solve the world's problems.  Not really.  Just my own, but sometimes my little worries seem large enough to affect the entire world.  We as a family have endured some huge life stresses this year.  Business was fabulously frenetic, so we had very little time to resolve our personal issues.  Now that spring has concluded and we are running again, we have clarity and time to agree on some solutions.  Our world changed in an instant, and it has taken us four months to reach a point where we could regroup to continue our odyssey.  If you or someone you know has ever entertained the fantasy of leading a more simple life, I'm your go-to girl for information.

David Lee Roth was spot-on when he crooned that he found the simple life "ain't so simple."  It can be, with a lot of experimentation, patience, and perseverance.  You have to know going into this transition that it takes a while to get used to certain things, like using bathhouses at state parks.  Only a handful of your fellow campers are long-termers like you, which means most of the people camping around you are weekend warriors.  This is their vacation, not their way of life.  Often they are loud, they trash the place, and somehow they miss the toilet.  Dodging poop-mines stinks...literally.  They drop their kids' dirty diapers everywhere, they get scared of snakes and spiders and scream or, worse, frantically bludgeon the poor creatures to death.  When you live among Nature full-time you become absorbed back into the natural order and processes of life; you respect it and all the creatures because they are your neighbors.  But when you interact with Nature only a few times per year, you forget that you do not have dominion over it.  You do not always respect your creature-neighbors. 

Moving your stuff around also takes some getting used to.  Most of our stuff is stored in bins and is shuffled in and out of the truck.  At first, it's frustrating when you are looking for a lighter to start the fire or the sole surviving dish towel.  Eventually, though, you choreograph this dance to coincide with your normal daily rituals and organize your belongings accordingly.  If you will be in one place for longer than a night, you can use the bins to create extra seating or a privacy wall between you and the critter-killers.  You won't have to shuffle bins around all the time, but you still have to remember what's in which bin.  It takes some time, and when you finally figure it all out, circumstances seem to change.  Patience.

Probably the two greatest lessons I've learned are that size does matter and privacy issues abound.  I still espouse the values of the tiny house movement, but our needs with regard to space have changed.  Sage is growing like a weed, and she would like to have her own area to sleep and play.  Maybe even have a friend over!  Impossible in our current tiny-home-on-wheels.  We can make modifications and are currently looking into the feasibility of adding a rooftop tent to the trailer or to the truck camper.  Not necessarily the monetary feasibility...what we need to know is, will it really improve our living conditions?  Or do we need to start looking for or planning to build another tiny-home-on-wheels?  For the moment, we are choosing to use a tent in addition to our trailer.  Making drastic changes in our living quarters will need to wait until winter when business activity will go into hibernation.

Privacy is a HUGE concern now.  David and I have no time together alone.  Anytime of day, there are at least two sets of eyes watching us and two sets of ears listening to our conversations.  Private discussions about work, money, US, or other topics unsuitable for tiny ears rarely happen.  Consequently, our dates consist of putting the kiddos to bed and spending about an hour star-gazing and sipping a few beers.  Any longer than an hour and we are worthless the next day.  Fortunately we are both committed to stealing moments whenever we can, even if it's just a quick "I miss you."  We acknowledge the burden this odyssey is putting on our marriage and are working hard to find a solution that both allows us to continue our journey and nurture our relationship.  From the beginning, we agreed that if at any point any of us became uncomfortable or felt unsafe, the journey would stop immediately.  So far, we are all still all-in.  We must reconfigure, that's all, before we jump out on that road and continue living at a pace that kills.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Austin, Texas...Y'all.

If you listened to radio station KLBJ in Austin in the mid-90s, you might recall one of the station's promotional ads.  Pure simple brilliance: call letters and numeric location on the dial, followed by "Austin...Texas...Y'all."  Whether you are a native Texan or a longtime resident-graduated-to-transplant, these simple words can evoke stirring sentiments.  An identity that only a Texan (even a "naturalized" species like myself) can fully understand and that nobody can really explain.  I mean, most natives I know consider themselves Texans first, Americans second.  Adding the "y'all" suffix seems to say, "Yep, we invented that word.  And are DAMN PROUD OF IT, y'all."  You Texans know what I'm talking about.  You who know Texans probably also know what I'm talking about.  And if you do not fall within either category...then I'm fixin' to feel sorry for y'all.

And PS, no self-respecting Texan would use the term "coined".  The right way to say it in Texas is "invented", especially when you're talking to "Yankees" (aka anyone from north of the Red River.)  Amongst ourselves we speak properly, sometimes even with a British accent.  But when conversing with, I mean, Y'ALL...we definitely play into every single stereotype you believe about us.  That's just part of our charm.

Yes I am on a pro-Texas campaign after spending a few days in our state's capitol (which, FYI, is taller than our nation's capitol.)  Finally we paid a long-overdue visit to our friends Dusty and Melanie.  Initially they were clients and eventually became friends with whom we could muse about native plants and restoring Texas and all that sustainable landscaping stuff we blah-blah-blah about.  This visit, we were also able to share with them our vision for living in a more sustainable manner.  We also had the pleasure of getting to know some of their neighbors in one of the finest examples of New Urbanism in Texas.  (Something we know a little about, having lived and worked in the Seaside, Florida, area, the showpiece of the New Urbanism movement.)  Several of their fellow Mueller residents stopped by for one of two informal discussions about our business, mission, services, etc.  Love the place, and we are so grateful for meeting new friends.

The original event that brought us to Austin last week was the Keep Texas Beautiful conference.  One of our other clients-now-friends, Aimee Bissett of Keep Denton Beautiful, invited me to co-present with her about using native plants in community beautification efforts.  This was a perfect partnership, because Aimee speaks from a programming and coordinating perspective -- very useful for affiliates in attendance since most of them serve in these roles.  My part of the presentation addresses the importance of the community projects in our overall mission to restore Texas.  I revealed the processes within the designers' minds -- where we find inspiration, why we select specific plant species and elements, and what motivates us to do what we do.  While Aimee explained step-by-step how to implement and maintain these types of projects, I layed out in some detail why -- the ecological and economical justification -- using native plants instead of traditional landscape plants is always preferred.  I won't get into that here but our mission is guided by a deeply held philosophy that embodies our beliefs regarding Nature, human resources and behaviors, and of course identity.  Other topics, too, but all of this is too heavy for this post.

Anyway, Aimee and I have very different speaking styles but share much in terms of environmental convictions, recreational activities, even superb taste in music.  (hee hee.)  Based on the responses from our audience, I'd say we did a pretty darn good job rousing the troops.  And we really had a tough task, because we followed Chet Garner of PBS' The Daytripper.  He presented his travel exploits in a humorous way while capturing the essence of being a Texan.  As he said, each episode addresses the culture, nature and food of various places around Texas.  Every city or town is toured within a single day trip.  He is entertaining, no doubt, but Chet is also doing a lot for restoring pride in Texas' sometimes overlooked or forgotten gems.  It's a big state with a lot of interesting places and people to see...come for a visit.  Y'all.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Giving More than Thanks

For six weeks after The Crash, we squatted with family in their new home.  Unless you have experienced an event that completely wipes out your home, vehicle, office and most of your personal belongings, you probably cannot comprehend all that we dealt with those first six weeks.  Most of the damaged items were just stuff to me -- things to which I had no real emotional ties.  In fact, I only lamented the loss of Sage's BOB stroller and the trailer.  Fortunately we were able to salvage the trailer, at least.  Sentimental piece.

But the rest of the stuff didn't bother me.  Losing the truck and El Valor were not that stressful, really, except that we found ourselves without a vehicle and home and no time to replace them.  Most of the time we maintained a positive attitude and counted our blessings that nobody was hurt nor was our livelihood destroyed.  Still, there were days when we were uncertain about our future.  Not just as a mobile family and business, but a family in general.  There were times we considered ending our odyssey and renting a place temporarily while we reconfigured our life.  We shopped online for truck and camper combos, then motorhomes, then vans.  Nothing within our budget seemed to improve upon our previous rig.  Eventually we decided to take our old beach truck out of storage and rebuild the tattered trailer.  These would hold us over until summer.  Well, summer is here, and still we have no time to upgrade our rig.  Upgrade is now officially tabled until fall, or winter.  Or perhaps indefinitely!  At the moment it doesn't seem as important.

When the trailer was finally ready to roll we moved it to Cedar Hill State Park.  After six weeks there, we feel part of the park family.  New friends.  Duck Pond hiking tour.  Full moon tour of the Penn family farm.  Hiking to the remnant prairie to shoot perennials and grasses dancing in the setting sun.  Innumerable sightings of Eastern Bluebird, Painted Bunting and an array of butterfly species.  Treacherous storms.  Rain, rain; mud everywhere and inside everything.  Sunsets that remind us we are alive!  Nature reminding us why we do what we do.  Yes, our six-week camping trip healed our hearts after our catastrophic moment.

Looking back over the past three months, I feel proud.  Despite losing nearly everything, despite scary moments worrying about my dad's health, my computer crashing, more truck problems, changes to business, and downsizing our home, again; we managed to survive.  Maybe not at first, but with each setback we found opportunities to streamline or otherwise improve our lifestyle or livelihood.  To be sure, these three months took an emotional toll on all of us.  Sage ramped up the tantrums (because she is three AND picking up on our soaring stress levels.)  David and I couldn't be in the same room without erupting into an argument.  I called my mom on more than one occasion just to cry and have somebody reassure me that everything would be just fine.  Oh, and these are just the highlights.  Ha ha ha.  While in the throes of this life-changing event, I could not speak or write about my feelings.  Too heavy.  Now, though, I am able to put the pain in its proper the past.  I've moved on...we all have.

So, moving on...we left Cedar Hill to stay with family again.  This time, to express our gratitude, to give more than thanks.  This time, we are working hard to landscape their backyard that was a gigantic blank slate.  Bermuda turf has been eliminated and replaced with sweeping, curvaceous beds brimming with perennials, such as Beebalm, Four Nerve Daisy, Blackfoot Daisy, Purple Skullcap, Snake Herb, and Mealy Cup Sage; Gamagrass, Indiangrass and Buffalograss turf; and trees, such as Cedar Elm, Possumhaw, Mexican Plum, and Roughleaf Dogwood.  And more.  No matter the heat, and the fact that I haven't installed a landscape in many years: this project is fun and truly rewarding.  When it is finished, we will leave once again.  Time to continue our journey...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Real Mutha

Let me start with an apology to anybody who might have read my post written some time ago about becoming a better mother because of this mobile odyssey.  In that gem, I muse about the importance of patience with our children, of not raising our voices or spanking them except as a last-result.  I wave my self-congratulatory flag to celebrate my super-parental ability to rationalize with my daughter's young, irrational mind.  Puffed up with my own achievements, I might have come off a bit preachy.

Well, if I made you feel that way, I apologize.  And here is your moment to feel OK as a parent again.

I have screamed not just yelled at my daughter in the months following our lovely accident.

I have sent her to time out.

I have spanked her.

I have nearly pulled out all my hair in total frustration over these TEMPER TANTRUMS.

I have fantasized about ear plugs and cocktails to drown out the noise.

And today...I had to carry my kicking-punching-screaming darling daughter away from a neighbor's house, the entire family staring at me in horror.  The neighbors had come over to invite us to come tomorrow for a playdate and their little girl led Sage inside to see some of her toys.  A preview of the goods, if you will.  The parents and I followed the girls inside.  They were just about to start dinner so I asked her to come with me now and we would see them tomorrow.  NO, she screamed.  I pleaded with her, I asked politely.  NO NO NO, I told you, I will come IN A MINUTE.  Embarrassed glances at the other Mommy, then the Daddy.  A nervous smile.  Sage, come on, honey.  Let's go home now so WE can have dinner and then go to that surprise fun place we were talking about earlier.  NOOOOOOOO.  OK, then.  I will count to 3 and THEN we need to go.  One, two, three...NOOOOOOO.  A lot of screaming ensued.  A lot of kicking-punching-screaming...and humiliation.  The other little girl even looked at me like, "Awesome job, lady!"

The truth is, she's 3.  Three-year-olds throw temper-tantrums.  Heavy on the TEMPER, apparently.  She needs to be allowed to express her a healthy and appropriate way.  She can't know HOW to do that, at 3.  But she's going to learn.  Today.

At the moment, she is sitting in the guest room in Time Out and I'm trying to figure out the best way to deal with this.  I want to go up and hug her and tell her I love her.  Or scream and yell that THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN, IS THAT CLEAR!!!!  Maybe I leave her up there for the rest of the night.  I don't know!  I do NOT want to be too hard on her but I absolutely do NOT want her to grow up to be a mess of a person.  I want her to behave properly, be respectful of others (including me!)  Feel good about herself but not at the expense of others.  To be sweet, smart, silly and strong, like I've always taught her.  I'm not perfect, I'm a parent (just like the Parents Connect commercials on Nick Jr.!)  I guess I'm a real mother: simultaneously loving and screwing up my child every day.  One second, so sure I know what I'm doing, the next feeling like a gigantic failure.  Laughing through tears...and beers, perhaps?

What's in a name?

I started this blog to document our adventures along this mobile odyssey.  I named it "4x4elvalor" because a) it rhymes and might be easy to remember and b) our vehicle-of-choice could take us to remote places (hence the "4x4" part) and with bravery (umm, yes.  That's where "el valor" comes in.)  Sadly, neither the 4-wheel-drive diesel truck we thought was (almost) invincible nor the slide-in truck camper, aka El Valor, survived our frightening crash in Austin this past March.  Our trailer -- that rolled and looked the worst post-accident -- actually was salvageable and has become our tiny-home-on-wheels.  Digressing here...surprising, eh?  (Insert sounds of dripping sarcasm.)

Our blog no longer represents our current means of living.working.traveling together.  It is now a tribute to our fallen friends, Daisy the Diesel 4x4 and El Valor the camper.  Our odyssey will continue, and our story will remain here, under 4x4elvalor, despite losing this blog's namesake.

Besides, where's the sexiness in a blog dubbed "truckwagon" or, simply, "trailer"?  Or any of the other names we have attempted to bestow on our beloved tiny home?  A rose is a rose is a rose...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Write for me

Lately I've been unable to write.  I'm still inspired and I still have so much to share about our mobile odyssey.  But my time has been splintered into a thousand directions.  Filling out forms for the insurance companies, researching costs to replace my "lost personal property", uploading pics of my broken stuff, responding to new client inquiries, managing the business while David is in Rockport, sorting and cleaning our salvaged belongings.  And all my normal activities, like feeding, bathing, playing with and celebrating life with Sage.  I have not had the time to devote to writing.
On top of the time issue, I have been holding back a lot.  Keeping more of my thoughts to myself.  I'm not sure why but I think it's because I sense that I've lost my audience.  My posts are not interesting enough because I'm holding back, or maybe I'm holding back because I think I've lost my audience?  I don't know.

Really, it doesn't matter if anyone is reading this.  I mean, I would like to think that millions of screaming fans wait by their computers to knock back whatever word-concoction I've blended up today.  Come on.  We both know my blender's broken, and the only drink I'm serving up lately is tepid water.  Maybe that's how it should be.  Maybe this forum is just a place where I write for me, where I jack around with concepts.  The real writing -- the spicy, smoking hot stuff -- will be in print...for sale...and for an extra 5 bucks I'll even sign it for you.  Sounds about right to me.  ;-)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Two weeks; change in an instant

I have no idea how long it's been since I last posted.  Probably only a couple of weeks, but a lot has happened in that time.  Feels much longer.  Feels different now. 

Two weeks ago we were preparing for the biggest spring on record.  Two weeks ago, we were transitioning from a heavenly week on the beach, camping with new friends made during our Florida adventure.  Two weeks ago, we had finally purged most of the unessentials.  Everything changed two weeks ago, though, on our commute to Dallas.

We left Lockhart early that Saturday morning after an early barbecue nosh at Smitty's.  By 10am we would be at Joss Growers in Georgetown photographing plants for our Rockport project.  As we approached the entrance ramp onto 130 tollway on the eastside of Austin, a woman travelling east on Maha Loop Road failed to stop at her stop sign.  She broadsided us.  Rear axle and driveshaft shot from the undercarriage of Daisy (our white F250) and landed in the field.  We began to skid...the trailer started to roll...we went up on two wheels...and were being dragged into a culvert.  The trailer popped off and the truck tipped to land upright, halfway into the ditch alongside the feeder road to 130 tollway.  Nobody appeared to be injured.

The other driver's vehicle was totalled but, thankfully, she was fine.  Shaken up, apologetic, sure.  But uninjured.  Our truck was inoperable but the camper appeared to be ok.  When I looked back at the trailer...oh my...I thought it must be in a thousand pieces.  Debris littered the roadside.  I climbed out of the truck to take a closer look.  When the trailer rolled, the rear doors shattered, and everything inside and that was stored on top, sprayed the tall-grass field.  It took a couple of hours, but we found even the tiniest of Barbie shoes and attachments to the socket wrench.  Most likely, we found all of our belongings.  I haven't noticed anything missing...yet.  Most of our things were destroyed: BOB stroller, Sage's bicycle trailer, Mr. Heater Big Buddy propane heater, rooftop cargo storage, and so much more.  Oddly, Sage's toys seem to be intact but covered in mud and grass.  I think I can salvage most of them.  Even her dress-up clothes, dragged across the pavement and tossed into the muddy field, might be cleaned up.  We'll find out today when I start going through more of our salvaged items.

The next day, we took a rented Uhaul trailer to the wrecker yard to retrieve the remainder of our belongings.  Instantly we knew the truck and trailer would be rendered a total loss but we weren't so sure about El Valor.  Its door was hanging on by a bungee cord (our redneck lock) but from the outside it appeared to be structurally intact.  And maybe it is, but as we approached the doorway, the unmistakable stench of hot urine was overwhelming.  I peeked inside to find Sage's training potty had exploded all over the bedding, the walls, the floor.  Everywhere.  Gawd!  Awful.  I was able to rescue and clean our clothes and shoes and some of the bedding, but really everything is ruined.  Walls are probably rotted by now.

In an instant, our mobile journey skidded and screeched to a halt.  Instantly, we were without a vehicle, a mobile office, a home, a playhouse, an adventure rig.  In an instant, we downsized to little more than our clothes and shoes, a few personal items, and our laptops.  A few months ago I had joked that ultimately we would downsize to backpacks and tennis shoes.  Shame on me.

So...I will spare all the messy details of working with insurance companies and affiliated businesses.  I will keep to myself my opinions about that industry and the government entities that supposely govern them.  Instead, I will give an up-to-the-minute synopsis of where we are, what we are doing, and what's next for the NativeDave clan...

At the moment, Sage, Folsom and I are staying with family in the Dallas area.  Our clothes and shoes, books and toys, pots and pans and cooking paraphernalia are with us.  We have taken over a portion of the garage with bedding materials that we have attempted to clean.  Cushions, pillows, padding, blankets and sleeping bags...ruined.  Sage's carseat had to be replaced, and the old one sits along with all the other broken and "lost personal property" items awaiting disposal.  (I'm not discarding anything until everything is settled.)  We have no vehicle, but we are uber-fortunate to have a few willing chauffeurs.  Everybody is safe and comfortable.  David made it to Corpus Christi to pick up our other truck, after a series of frustrating and maddening events.  Again, I won't bore you with insurance crap.  He drove that truck to Rockport, taking with him a few camping items that DID survive the accident, and a borrowed tent.  He will be at the jobsite for a few days, then will start the trek back toward Dallas.

Our other truck is older, smaller and does not have 4-wheel drive.  But everything works on it; it starts everytime.  It isn't a long-term option for our mobile lifestyle, but it should at least get us around through spring.  When David returns, we will make a few repairs and modifications to make it more comfortable.  On his way back he will pick up the trailer in Austin.  Surprisingly, we feel we can repair the wall supports that cracked and raise the roof so that we can stand up.  The new hardwood flooring we had just finished appear unscathed...this makes me happy.  Since this ordeal began, I have grieved most for the trailer.  Now it's coming home!  It will take some time to make it road-ready...

The mobile part of our journey might be on hold at the moment while we reconfigure our rig but the adventure has never ended.  Neither has our mission to preserve, conserve, restore and celebrate natural beauty.  Despite all the turmoil, we continue to work.  We have given a presentation for the City of Allen and have met with several new clients.  We have worked on designs, turned in designs, and finished some revisions.  Still have a few more...Anyway, I'm rambling.  Sage is awake and ready to eat breakfast.  Folsom needs to go outside, and I still haven't had my coffee.  It's a different but beautiful start to today.

Friday, January 28, 2011

We did it

In 30 days, we canvassed the Gulf Coast from South Padre Island, TX, to Key West, FL.  Some of our favorite stops include Waveland/Bay St. Louis, MS; Indian Pass, FL; Homosassa Springs, FL; Collier-Seminole State Park, FL; and Florida City, FL.  In MS, we love camping in Buccaneer State Park, sandwiches and coffee at Mockingbird Cafe, beignets at Da Little Cafe, and cold Lazy Magnolia drafts.  Indian Pass Raw Bar and Indian Pass Campground in the Florida Panhandle are remote and one of the few remaining flashpoints for old Florida.  The wildlife park and butterfly museum in Homosassa Springs showcase iconic species, like the American Bald Eagle, Florida Panther, Black Bear, Whooping Crane, and American Crocodile.  Collier-Seminole State Park, originally set up as a panther preserve, is located near Naples.  During our stay, we heard black bears rummaging around our campsite.  We also cycled a trail through the panther preserve -- but did not see any of the large cats.  Only alligators and deer.  Royal Palm Hammock Trail inside the camping area winds through stands of these ancient looking palms; the boardwalk areas shake and rattle a little but are still functional.  Park staff request that everybody leave the trails by 4pm because that seems to be when the really big wildlife wake up to eat.  Unless you want to be "invited" over for dinner, comply.

The real highlight of this Deep South sojourn, however, is Florida City.  Most travelers stop off here at the gateway to the keys intending to stay a night or two.  Some are looking for unique adventures in the Everglades.  This is THE place for both...and more.  Rates are very reasonable, even in high season.  Tours of the Everglades -- smaller groups and more thrilling than park-sanctioned tours -- leave from the hostel.  Some are during the day, some at night, depending on the time of month.  If you can get there during a full moon, take the late night canoe and hike tour.  David went on this one guided by Graham.  The pics of the cypress dome under the full moon light are simply awesome.  Another day, we went as a family to walk along a small trail near Flamingo, also inside Everglades National Park.  Here and no place else on the planet you can see American Alligators and American Crocodiles living together.  What an experience!  Key West is only about 3 hours south.  We were able to complete our "border of blue" tour by reaching southernmost point by late afternoon and returning to the hostel that evening.  Communal dinners at the hostel are first-rate, and the garden and waterfall-pool rejuvenate weary travelers.  Public transportation from the Miami airport is available.  If you drive, there is plenty of parking.  You may prefer car camping in your vehicle to dorm accommodations; the fee is only $15 per person compared to $28.  Perfect for those of us with small campers willing to boondock.

The best part of Everglades Hostel, though, is the people.  Whether resident volunteers or transients like us, there we discovered a new group of friends, an extension of our family, and a community where we want to return again and again.  They welcomed us into their enclave as part of them, and almost every person treated Sage as if she were her own.  No wonder none of us wanted to leave...

But we did, having completed our journey (at least one direction of it) and are now backtracking toward Texas.  The day after Christmas we left South Padre eager to see as much of the Gulf Coast as possible.  One month later, we touched southernmost point in Key West.  So many experiences, places and people enriched the memories of this odyssey-of-a-lifetime.  We will carry them with us as we ramble we left Naples in silence (except for Sage's piercing shrieks during a temper-tantrum.)  Nobody seems happy to leave, yet we are all excited about the new projects and presentations that begin next week.  Back to Dallas, back to work.  And on to the next adventure.  Safe travels.  May you always float, sea beans.  :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How we roll...

I think I've mentioned before that every square inch of our 'rig' -- the collective configuration of truck, camper and trailer -- must be used efficiently.  Everything must have a specific place to maximize our limited space.  That does not mean, however, that we are 'roughing it', as some of you may think.  OK, so we do not have a private bath or running water.  But when we camp in parks we pick sites adjacent to or across from the bathrooms and showers, and with access to potable water.  When we boondock or drycamp in remote areas (e.g., Padre Island National Seashore) we use a portapotty and haul in enough water for a 3-day stay.  For us, that equates to about 15 gallons.  Our truck and trailer are durable enough to haul more than that but we do not have adequate storage space.  Limited space means that each day we are faced with decisions about what stays, what goes to the storage room, what goes to charity, and what goes to recycling or trash bins.

We prepared thoroughly for this odyssey but since we actually put our journey in motion, we have found we still carry too much stuff.  The first three months we spent a lot of time sorting, organizing and purging unessential items.  Most of that phase is over...yet, I still find odds and ends in drawers and cabinets that we do not need.  Each time I do, I wonder how all of that fit into the various compartments of our rig?  Folks, we must be some pretty clever packers.  Purging will continue, probably, as long as we are travelling.

Along the way I have discovered that there is a hierarchy of organization.  The truck must be the most organized and comfortable, followed by El Valor (the camper) and finally, Truckwagon (the trailer.)  From memory I can probably list everything we keep inside the cab of the truck and where.  Sage's carseat holds the middle seat-position in the backseat.  Behind the driver's seat is her "travel bin", a pink-and-brown tote from her old bedroom that houses about 30 books, a purple pumpkin-shaped bag filled with miniature Doras and Bootses and their accessories, Rosemary the doll, and a few other smallish toys and games.  She has plenty of things to educate and entertain herself during our travels.  On the floorboard behind the driver's seat is David's book bag and under that section of the seat are a couple of bags of clothing he intends to put into storage.  Under Sage's seat is the laminator we use for our design products.  In the floorboard is a cooler that holds about 10 cans but we have not used it in a while, so it will probably end up in storage, too.  Behind the passenger seat on the floorboard is my book bag.  Under the seat are Folsom's food and water bowls.  In the seat, is the printer covered with three layers of pillows; this is Folsom's perch.  He prefers a blurred view of the world outside to a stagnant one of the backside of the passenger seat.  Unquestionably, he is our dog.

In the front seat, between driver and passenger, are journals and laptops (and an adaptor), phones and phone chargers, mail just picked up or en route to drop off, and notes about blogposts.  Cameras and corresponding data transfer cables are there, too.  Floorboards are cleared out so that we may ride comfortably.  The area of the floorboard between driver and passenger (where a console organizer might be) holds an assortment of flashlights and a hammer, in case one of the latches on the camper sticks.  Ha ha, this has happened often enough to dedicate that space for a hammer!  Might be a good weapon, too, if anyone tries to truck-jack us.  But why would they want to...?  Ha.  The dash and cupholders are organized, too.  In front of the passenger are stored more flashlights and an extra phone charger, extra data transfer cable, and sometimes leftover snacks.  Folsom's leash sits in the middle of the dash but is pushed aside to balance one of the laptops there when we stop briefly for fuel, snacks or potty breaks.  In front of the driver is one lone object: a compass that doesn't point north.  Perhaps it points toward the thing we desire most?  Between the cupholders is an ashtray, but since none of us smoke, we use that space to store extra fuses, the mobile broadband card and pennies.  Glovebox holds another backup data transfer cable, pens, a tire gauge, and mayhem.  I try to ignore the mayhem because I'm not really sure what it is.  Printed photos of landscapes from long ago?  Receipts from whoknowswhen?  Might even be an assortment of screws and nails from recently purged items that had to be disassembled.  Seems like the last time I reached in there something pricked my finger, and it was dark, so I decided whatever is in there can stay in there for now.

Oh, if you are a truck-jacker, I have disappointing news.  Most of these items are just passengers in the truck, not permanent fixtures.  In other words, we take them with us when we exit the truck.  And this truck is haunted, so it will probably break down moments after you commandeer it.  But if you are a petty thief...take what you need.  I'm tired of purging...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Better Mom

Like Odysseus, I must confront dragons each day.  Some are work-related, some family-related, but all are pertinent to my world.  New day, new dragon.  And after each battle I feel stronger and wiser and braver.  Like the SuperMe.  Recently I discovered that I am becoming a better parent.  More effective parent, especially.  Living in a small space forces you to resolve conflicts immediately.  Temper-tantrums, too.  My tactics dealing with them have changed and Sage seems to be responding well.  Before, I tried talking in a soothing voice and reasoning with her.  That worked when she was younger.  As she has grown, so has the intensity of her fits.  I still try to calmly reason with her first, then I opt for the firmer tone with less explanation.  That usually stops the insanity, but not always.  Oh yes, I have had to raise my voice but in a controlled manner.  In a way that says, "I'm the parent and if you could not hear me before, let me turn up the volume a notch."  I don't scream or resort to meanness or name-calling.  Not only is it inappropriate, but it reveals my patience threshhold.  Once a child knows that point she may try to push you past it in order to get what she wants.  Only a couple of times has she been spanked, and it was totally ineffective.  I don't like it, she doesn't like it, and it doesn't work anyway.  Plus, why would you hit a child to punish her for hitting?  Seems a little hypocritical to me.  I'm sure our game plan will adapt again as Sage continues to grow and her independence becomes fortified.  I'm ready for the challenges.  Bring on the dragons!  SuperMe is armed with patience and love; and I'm wielding knowledge.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Border of Blue

The day after Christmas we began the border of blue leg of our odyssey.  We are not on a trip nor journey, not even an adventure.  No--this is an odyssey, a long series of travels filled with sometimes excruciating, sometimes empowering but always enlightening experiences.  Inspired by Frederick Turner's A Border of Blue: Along the Gulf Coast from the Keys to the Yucatan, we left South Padre Island, TX, the day after Christmas and have visited Follett's Island, Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, TX.  At High Island we turned north to pick up I-10 East.  In Gonzales, LA, we stopped for the night at Cabela's.  Next morning we returned the broken Generac generator then continued on to New Orleans.  For a couple of hours we drove around looking for a parking space large enough to accommodate our rig.  Only one would permit us to park...for $150!  A bust, so we travelled on to East New Orleans where we stopped to play on a city playground.  About an hour later we were marching toward Waveland and Bay St. Louis, MS.  Sage was disappointed about missing out on the beignets at Cafe du Monde -- really, she was a screaming wreck.  Some of this I've already written after Mississippi we whizzed through Alabama and left I-10 in Pensacola to follow the coastal route all the way to Santa Rosa Beach.  There we spent five days (was supposed to be three) with our friends, Angie and Steve.  We rang in the new year with them exactly as we wanted: at home dancing and singing with the kids.  We also hiked Point Washington State Forest and ate and talked and imbibed.  The day before we were supposed to leave I noticed the truck trying to start itself again...

This happened once before during one of our stays in Rockport.  Then, the battery ran itself dead but suddenly sprang to life when David tried to start it a few hours later.  This time, it really was dead.  Wouldn't jumpstart.  David found a mobile mechanic who diagnosed that the solenoid and wiring were damaged.  He installed a new one with new wiring directly to the battery for $200.  Apparently we have other wiring issues, or at least potential ones, because water has been trickling inside the windshield, eventually dripping onto a bundle of wires, and shorting them out.  When it's dry, though, there are no problems.  So...we can seal the gap around the windshield ourselves and will replace wiring on an as-needed basis.  We need to conserve our money and time resources if we hope to continue this odyssey.

The repairs worked, and the next day we relieved Angie and Steve by heading south through Panama City and Mexico Beach to end our day at Indian Pass Raw Bar and ultimately the local campground.  David ate raw oysters, I had gumbo.  Sage took bites of my gumbo but focused her energy on a plain old hot dog.  Two days we spent in Indian Pass exploring the dunes and beach.  Glorious.  We continued on through Carrabelle to Apalachicola and eventually to Homosassa Springs.  In Apalachicola we stopped at Up the River restaurant and feasted on alligator.  From a roadside vendor we bought tupelo honey and mayhaw jelly.  We nibble on both a little each day.  The wildlife park and butterfly museum in Homosassa Springs were the focus of our two-day visit.  Florida panther, black bear, red fox, red wolf and several species of birds and reptiles, including flamingo and the endangered American Crocodile.  Butterflies such as buckeye, monarch, white peacock, julia, and zebra long-wings, flitted around the butterfly house.  Love this town; we will definitely return.

So many wonderful experiences here along the border of blue.  Although at the moment we are all stricken down with colds and probably some type of respiratory infection, the entire clan is happy and hoping for speedy recovery.  Special thanks to Angie and Steve for "Up"...there is not a more perfect animated film for us.  "Adventure is OUT THERE!"

Love to all...