Sunday, August 14, 2016

New chapter: Living tiny with the Mountain Man in Eastern Oregon's high desert

Last week I took a doozy of a leap toward my next chapter. I gave my two-weeks' notice at The Columbian, the newspaper where I've been a reporter for 4 1/2 years. Leaving Vancouver and Clark County is bittersweet. It's been my home for three decades, but it's time to begin again in a new home.

In the past five years, I've gained a reputation as the diva of downsizing. With each move, I've cut my footprint in half: 2,400 square feet to 1,100 square feet to my current 600 square feet. Now I'm doing it again. I'll be living in 323 square feet and will fulfill my dream of living in a tiny house.

I'm moving 300 miles to the high desert of Eastern Oregon. I'll be living in a 34-foot fifth wheel RV with a view of the Elkhorn Mountains (sometimes called Little Alps) to the west, the Wallowa Mountains to the east and a reservoir just below us. It's about 22 miles south of La Grande and 22 miles north of Baker City.

Here's the very best part of my new life: the Mountain Man and I finally will be together. Every day! I'm giddy thinking about our future together and the many adventures awaiting us. We can be kayaking on the reservoir in minutes. Hiking, backpacking and fishing are close by in the Elkhorns. Skiing at Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort is only 45 minutes away. We'll go Western swing dancing, camping in the tipi and playing music around the campfire. How fortunate that we found each other after age 50!

Two weeks ago, I emptied my storage unit, had a yard sale and took yet another a carload of stuff to the Goodwill. Now everything I own fits into my little apartment, my sweet home at the edge of the woods. It's crunch time. I'm editing my belongings one more time and getting rid of stuff that's no longer essential.

I'll find work in either La Grande or Baker after I arrive. I can supplement my income with freelance writing gigs and consulting contracts. I've reinvented my career before. I can do it again. I've started a book marketing business and worked for a Random House imprint, created and hosted events for an independent bookstore and became a newspaper reporter at age 52.

The hardest part is leaving my young adult children. But I'll be back to visit them, other family and friends. My roots are deep here.

Here is what will remain the same in my life. I will always be a Mighty Woman. I will keep paddling my own canoe. I am not afraid to try new things. I will continue writing stories. I am excited to start a new life with the Mountain Man, my best friend. Who knows what adventures and opportunities await just around the bend in the river?

This morning, I walked along a trail at the edge of the woods, picked blackberries for my breakfast and expressed gratitude for my sweet time in this home. I've been serenaded by owls and coyotes and have broken bread with my dear housemates, Michael and Kathleen, many times. Even after a series of unfortunate events, I've been incredibly fortunate.

Three weeks from today, I'll step into my new life. I'll gaze at the breathtaking mountains and high desert while holding the hand of the man I love. Who knew life could be this sweet?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

When life gives you lemons...

Usually when life gives me lemons, I make lemonade. I'm generally an optimistic glass-half-full kind of woman.

This week I've had my share of lemons, but I didn't have the fortitude to make lemonade. Instead, I puckered at the sourness.

I'm glad today is over. I'm relieved that tomorrow is Friday. One more day of work--and the possibility of more lemons. 

Every morning for several weeks I've been waking up with a stiff, painful left wrist and hand. I've developed arthritis as a result of breaking my wrists in a four-wheeler accident last fall. Stiffness and pain are my new normal. Guess I'd better learn to deal with that recurring lemon.

After soothing my wrist with heat, I drove to work. As I was walking across the street to enter our building, a car barreled up the street, and instead of slowing down when she saw me, the driver just kept going and narrowly missed hitting me. Apparently, I'd irked her. She screeched to a halt, rolled down her window, shouted obscenities and shook her fist at me.

At work I received a voicemail from a confused woman who asked me about an unspecified story published on an uncertain date. When I returned her call, she went on and on about this story (which it turns out, I didn't write). I asked her when the story was published. She said, "I can't get to it right now. I'm on the toilet." Ew! Why did she answer her phone when she was on the toilet? I said I'd call back later and hung up.

Every afternoon at work lately, I've developed a serious headache. It's tough to write stories under deadline pressure when my head is throbbing and my eyeballs feel as if they'll pop out of the sockets. One night this week, I had to cover an evening event and had a short timeline to write a story for the next day's newspaper. My head throbbed so badly I thought I'd throw up. Somehow, I finished my story, moved it into edit, and went to lie down on the couch in the women's lounge while my editor read my story.

My headache has returned today. No painkiller seems to work. But I'm tucked into bed and am applying heat to my stiff wrist.

Thankfully, tomorrow is a new day. I'll try harder to make lemonade from the lemons. I'll write in my gratitude journal and look for the silver lining. 

But sometimes, when life is sour, you just have to pucker.