Don’t get hit by a Car

When I first moved to Oregon I had to transfer my drivers license to the new State. In doing so I read the Motor Vehicle Drivers Manual which is pretty much the same as any other State across the nation with a few differences. The one difference which totally blew me away was the fact that if a pedestrian stopped out into the road anywhere a driver must stop and let him/her cross. This seemed to make sense at first although  in most the State’s the pedestrian would be considered breaking the law by J-walking. In other words pedestrians are supposed to cross roads where designated at crosswalks.

I heard it from the horses mouth one day as I watched someone step out into the road and say to his friend, “See, we can cross anywhere here. The cars have to stop it’s the law.” Meanwhile cars are breaking hard and swerving to avoid hitting the young man and the cars in front of them. This law creates a false illusion in many minds that it is “Safe” to cross the road anywhere. Since living here for more than 3 years I have seen countless people, sometimes at the rate of a few each day, getting hit by cars. Since I read this law back in 2012 I believe it has changed to the point where it only describes driver’s responsibilities when approaching a crosswalk but people are still walking out into traffic and getting hit by cars.

This is what I learned as a child about crossing the street.

-If you are going to cross where there is no crosswalk (which you shouldn’t do) make sure to look both ways at least 3 times before stepping out into the road. Don’t cross half the road and stand in the middle waiting for the other lane to clear.

-At a crosswalk make sure you lock eyes with the driver so you know that he/she knows you are crossing. Driver’s are naturally distracted at times by many things and you really don’t know what they are paying attention to unless both you and the driver acknowledge each other. Never assume that the driver simply see’s you.

-If you are walking at night try to wear bright clothing. The headlights on a car illuminate bright colors like yellow.

-If you walk out into the road where there is no crosswalk and you get hit by a car, it is your fault, not the driver.

-Don’t be distracted. Put the cellphone away, take the headphones off and really pay attention to what you are doing when crossing the road. Your life depends on it.

As a driver here in Oregon I always assume that most pedestrians are stupid and do not understand these things I just laid out. The Portland area of Oregon has one of the worst traffic problems in the country, yet we also have an incredible amount of pedestrians and cyclists. In a perfect world all three would have separate routes of travel where they do not cross each other, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. (Jetsons). So until such time while the driver assumes the responsibility of watching for pedestrians, the pedestrian also needs to assume the responsibility of avoiding getting hit by a car.

Posted in emergency, family, health, hiking, life, mindfulness, minimalist, simple living, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fall gives way to thoughts of new ways of Community Gardening

Healthy broccoli plants growing in raised beds in a vegetable garden.

Healthy broccoli plants growing in raised beds in a vegetable garden.

As the vegetables growing in my raised bed gardens are giving way to fall I am slowly cutting things down to start preparing for next years plans. This seasons yield of crop wasn’t as good as last years as we had many grey mornings throughout the summer and the fact that I planted three weeks later due to an extended trip to Florida, yet I still managed to produce enough food to enjoy throughout the season but didn’t quite produce enough to can to make it throughout the winter. The Pacific Northwest can have some pretty tricky seasons given the differences in sunshine and rainfall.

This time of year brings about different emotions as I am sad that the gardens are ending yet happy to not have to worry so much about tending to their needs each morning before work. To every season turn, turn, turn.

2df8195246ae24bfa11607c287d53f50I have learned some valuable lessons this year like the fact that plants like squash and cucumbers need more space to thrive and I will be looking at building crawl screens next year to allow them more room to grow up. Last year I developed an automatic sprinkler system where one single sprinkler head rotates to cover all of the gardens. The problem is that in doing this my lawn was getting the brunt of the H2O and stayed wet most of the time and grew to a point where at times I needed to cut it twice a week. I will tweak this system for next season by installing small sprinkler heads right into the raised bed gardens to create more of drip type system.

My thoughts on building a neighborhood network of raised bed gardening is still fresh in my mind and over the winter I will build on the idea to try to bring people in to a small organization where each member will have two 4’x4′ gardens where they will grow just one type of vegetable, or maybe two depending on how many members join. I love this idea because it gives each member the opportunity to become an expert at growing just one or two specific species of plants. We will all work together to assist each other in the construction of these raised beds along with putting together self watering systems. We can also pool our money together to get better prices on things like organic fertilizer, soil, peat moss, vermiculite and canning equipment and books. I figure that we could all meet at a specific location each Saturday to share our vegetables and stories.

gardening-for-kidsI believe that this form of community gardening allows for each member to learn at a comfortable pace those specific vegetable they will growing and takes away the pressure of gathering at a specific location of a large garden somewhere in the neighborhood which has always been the traditional model of community gardening. Many times the older model leaves people behind as several members seem to want to take complete control. With this new model Allen can become the Tomato King and Sandra can become the Queen of Lettuce. It builds both pride and a personal respect for nature and community as each member thrives in ways of caring for their own back yard garden. And what better way is there of teaching our children the values of both nature and community? Not only will we share gardening stories but also sharing recipe’s, meals and experiences.

With the simple fact that we all live in a city where large yards are rare this idea also solves the problem of needed space for larger gardens. Rather than moving out to the country where larger lots are available it is much easier to simply utilize the little bit of land we have and share the products. Most of us who live in Cities live here for reasons of convenience. We are closer to work, closer to neighbors should we need help and closer to the stores we shop at.

This will be one of my projects over the winter and I will share more thoughts and progress each step of the way. Happy Fall Season to everyone!

Posted in diet, family, flowers, food, fun, gardening, growing up, health, life, mindfulness, minimalist, nature, Oregon, paleo, permaculture, primal, simple living, stress, vegan, vegetarian, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Rollercoaster of Life and Minimalism

rollercoaster01-770x395I could probably talk about minimalism all day long with all the physical mechanics involved in reducing life down to just the basic necessities the same way that many posts and articles are written on the subject. I could talk about getting out of debt, getting rid of stuff and living in a smaller house. There are so many aspects of this lifestyle with so many physical steps we can take to reach a point where we believe our life is more manageable and we learn to lead a life with less stress. I am not going to discuss any of these today although I do feel they are important elements in this thing we call Minimalism.

Today I am going to discuss the real reasons behind making such a decision that sparks us into a life of less. It’s all about being human. Our basic needs like water, food and shelter seem to be what most believe are the necessities in life but the truth is that there are a few more that make us whole. These needs being that of finding ways to be creative, socializing with our fellow humans, exercising, and of course the most important is to love and feeling loved are all a part of what makes up the human experience. We have the need of being accepted into a particular group as we need to feel that we fit in somewhere in this world we live in. There is also the basic needs of spending time in nature, exploration and discovery.

We have built great empires across this world and developed a system that requires us to sacrifice much of the time we have to guarantee us those basic needs are met,  but learn over time while we are fulfilling our needs for the basics we are left with little time for the others. We find ourselves on this vicious roller coaster where we look out into a world where we know there are things we are missing in our lives. Whether it is spending more time with loved one’s, or just a little quiet time to learn to play a guitar, dance, paint or write it always seems that those passions are always and arms length away but we just cannot reach them.

Year after year we do our part to ensure that the engine that drives this rollercoaster keeps working and revolving as this machine needs constant attention. But what about the attention we need as humans. What about the needs of our very souls that cry out in the middle of the night and urge us to get off this machine and break free of those things that keep us from our human needs and desires. Life must be more than just this position in a factory that keeps those cogs moving.

Many find security in living in a world that promises survival and false promises of happiness and may live their whole lives in this manner only to look back at those things that have been lost and long gone. But there are also those that are reaching out in desperation to find certain hacks in life that allow for time away from the machine by slowing things down a bit and there are also those who have discovered ways of getting off this rollercoaster altogether to live off the grids of corporate entities that bind them.

There are driving forces behind those who seek to discover a simpler life many people are finding ways to simply reduce the amount of time they need to spend on the machine and increase the amount of time they need to fulfill those other needs that we have been taught to forget about. These driving forces combined with our will and creativity have sparked this new revolution we call Minimalism. Even those who have not yet made any moves in their lives to discover a simpler life are still thinking about it. Always thinking about it.

Posted in adventures, art, blogging, debt, family, finances, food, growing up, health, life, meditation, mindfulness, minimalist, nature, simple living, stress, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Like Debt, Not One Bit

debt-ball-chainSigning a legal contract and promissory note to borrow a specific amount of money at a specific interest rate over periods of time happen each day. It is what makes banks and investors wealthy and what affords us the opportunity to purchase things like homes, cars and other things that we simply don’t have enough money to purchase outright.

I have done it, you have done it as it seems the world revolves around this industry of banking. I really don’t like it much as I always feel that the amount of hard earned money I pay out each month in the form of interest is money that is simply being thrown away. But what can I do about it? I certainly don’t have a few hundred thousand dollars sitting in my bank account to purchase a home.

This my personal belief when it comes to borrowing money and I know that it is not the same belief of most. I believe that once I enter into any type of contract where I must pay back money in which I have borrowed, it is important that I do it as quickly as possible. I could take out a 5 year loan to buy a new car and be quite comfortable with the small payment each month but living with the fact that I am still in debt absolutely drives me crazy. So instead I figure ways to add as much money to my monthly payment as possible. I do this each and every month until the debt is paid in full. I do the same with my mortgage each month.

Over the years the act of borrowing money has become less personal and more business like, but for me it is still very personal. It’s like borrowing a few hundred dollars from a friend and I have been in this situation a few times in my life. When a friend out of the kindness of his heart has enough trust in me to know that the same amount of money they lent me will be returned as promised then I call this a very personal act. It is my obligation to do the right thing by paying back that money as quickly as possible. This is the same way I feel about borrowing money from a bank. I don’t like being in debt… Ever.

What about credit cards? I have one that I use for many things. A bill comes at the end of the month and I pay it in full. It is a convenience as a throughway of moving money from my bank account to whatever it is I am purchasing. Unfortunately these days not all things are easily paid in cash so tools like credit cards become the norm. The secret to having a credit card is to make sure that you never make any purchases that you can not pay off in full when the bill arrives. It is too easy for some folks to make a purchase they cannot afford and then pay the credit card off a little bit each month at a painstakingly high interest rate. Wasted money. With a little patience in putting away enough money each month to reach a point where you have enough money to purchase that item is the way to go. Credit card companies depend on the belief that you want it and want it now and are willing to pay the interest to get it. I don’t like debt, not one bit.

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Looking Ahead at Right Now

wpid-leaves-7883As I turned 50 years old I really started embracing the minimalist lifestyle for many reasons. One of those reasons is that of self preservation. I started to realize that I have but a short 15 years to try to set things right. What I mean by this is that I see too many people move into the age of social security with nothing but a monthly social security check to live on. Meanwhile they are still living with a monthly mortgage payment, credit card bills and car payments they are obligated to pay each month. I quickly realized that I had to make certain changes and I had to make them quickly. The vision I see and I am sure most folks see in retirement is that of a less stressful life, quiet days spent doing things of pleasure, not pain.

Making a choice to retire should be a choice but I see too many working way past an age that is comfortable to work. There are many who simply love their jobs and are just not ready to retire at 65 and usually push for the age of 70, but there are far too many others who simply do not have that choice and have to continue to work to make ends meet.

There are other’s who have done all of the right things to prepare, but have had some type of life changing event that caused them to lose everything or just about everything like an expensive medical procedure or the lose of employment. My heart goes out to them as I do understand that there really is no guarantee’s in life. But for the majority who find themselves in a situation where retirement is just not possible because of certain life choices that they have made like overspending, living a life of thrift or gambling I am less sympathetic to them but more sympathetic to their children who will have to bear the expense of these circumstances.

At the average age of just around 45 most families are setting there children out into the world, trying to pay for college and thinking about downsizing there homes. It can be an exciting time of life while at the same time their parents are reaching or have reached the age of retirement. Many complain of having there children living at home too long after they should be ready to move out into the world, but there are also too many who are having their parents move in with them because of the heart felt obligation of caring for them. Personally, as a parent I never want to be in a situation that would add this type of burden on my children.

At 55 years old I have made a significant amount of changes in my life through the adoption of minimalism and/or living a simply life. Financially life has turned around in just 5 short years and I am heading in a positive direction towards a life of retirement. Many of the sacrifices that I have made turned out to not be sacrifices at all. I concentrate of paying off debt while putting away enough money for the future. I shop very little and only do it to obtain things that I really need rather than things that I want. Cooking at home over going out to eat has increased my level of appreciation for the foods I eat, while gardening and providing fresh foods for my home has given way to an appreciation for nature. Most of the time the food I eat at lunchtime is leftovers from the night before.

Every single dollar I earn and spend has a certain value to it now that it didn’t have before. I no longer collect things and find greater value in collecting dollars that I know will help me out greatly later in life.

As I set out to make changes in my life for reasons of self preservation I discovered these same changes truly enhanced my life right now. Without many of the stresses like trying to put on a show for the Jones’s I have learned that living a simpler life also brings about a greater sense of happiness and joy. Besides, it won’t be long before the Jones’s find themselves in bankruptcy court. I have found that one of the greatest benefits I have discovered is that of lost time. While I was spinning my wheels to try to keep up with the latest fashions and trends it seemed that time was getting away from me. There never seemed to be any time to really do the things in life that I really enjoy doing. Today I have time to read, time to relax and time to spend in nature. Rather than an expensive outing I now prefer a quiet day at the beach or in the mountains. Even a quiet day at home is not a burden.

live-small-to-live-big_final_72At the age of 50 discovering the simple life was the greatest thing to ever happen to me later in life. I wish I had known more about this at a younger age, but life is what it is and we are where we are for whatever reasons. I am now a minimalist for life and these lessons I have learned will also give way to a lifestyle I will lead in retirement. Peace.

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Positive Changes

mantra-om-1292602It has been some time since I have been committed to any type of routine exercise as I have been busy with trying to find balance in my diet. I suppose you could say that I found many problems with trying to do both as hunger increases with the increased amount of burning calories that happen during exercise. After many weeks of trying different approaches I believe the answer is starting to come to life as I notice my blood sugar continue to drop for the last 5 days. This morning was the first time I noticed numbers under 100 as I felt great joy after reading it.

I am finding more success by reducing my meat intake, increasing my vegetable intake and also reducing the total amount of calories I put in my body each day. A small bowl of muesli type cereal with my favorite berries and coconut milk for breakfast, a small lunch of most of the things I like to eat for lunch and about half the amount I normally eat for dinner seems to be leading to more energy and lower blood sugar. Because I am not exercising I do not get those hunger pangs during the day. This combination seems to be working well for me and my body weight has stayed steady without any substantial increases or decreases.

Knowing that exercise is an important part of a healthy life I will soon be introducing it back into my schedule but will keep a strict limit on the amount I do. Although I love lifting weights I know that it can progressively lead to the bodies demand for more protein and foods that convert to sugars. Walking is healthy, but too much can also lead to the same. These two things I must learn to keep at a minimum while rediscovering other types of exercise that are also beneficial to health. The one that I have been trying to wrap my brain around is yoga.

As I am already practicing meditation and mindfulness it seems almost natural to include yoga into my daily practices. So I am thinking about a 1 hour class on the weekend and full practice of the movements I learn throughout the week. I understand that yoga is less about exercise and more about opening up different parts of the body to allow healing and also introducing a form of natural energy to the body and mind. I will be searching locally for a yoga practice that I can make a weekly part of my life and will try to discover and practice all it has to offer. This has been on my mind for a long time and I believe that I am finally ready to accept it into my life for both reasons of personal health, personal balance and personal energy.

Posted in adventures, body building, diet, fitness, food, health, life, meditation, mindfulness, minimalist, nature, primal, simple living, stress, type II diabetes, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

I am simply not writing

blank-005There was a time not so long ago where I was excited about getting up early in the morning and writing a post to this blog each and every morning. It seems something has changed to the point where I have become so comfortable in this life that I’ve created that it seems unnecessary to to write. In my heart I know that this is not true as I always have something to say, but many times feel that I have already written about the same subject.

I suppose that for an author writing a book the challenge of writing has finality in that once the book is completed an end is reached, where as a blog can go on forever. So I have to ask myself, “Why do I continue to write”?

Well, it is actually the posts that I have written over time that allow me the opportunity to express my thoughts and feelings about the whole idea of living a simpler life. There are so many aspects of minimalism and the life I lead is certainly different than other’s I know or just read about. I am always seeking out new ways to make small changes that can blend into the things I have already accomplished to further enhance simplicity in my life. This is one of the reasons I love to read other’s blogs and websites that offer fresh idea’s and insights about the subject that can offer just a little more thought and inspiration around the simple life.

While I maintain a healthy garden each year, I am certainly not a homesteader as I continue to enjoy life in the city but am planning on doing some serious canning next season. I don’t live in a tiny house as I enjoy the freedom of space in my moderate home. I am not a buddhist monk, but still enjoy the practice of mindfulness in my daily life.

I have reached a point of what I call the “blank slate”, where I simply do not know what more to write about. I am sure that this will soon change as it seems that I always pick up a spark of excitement about something. For now I have an empty mind and am simply enjoying the moments of each day of my life.

It seems strange to write about reasons for not writing but even these thoughts and actions make up what I am and what is going on in my life. I am certainly not going to stop writing as I find simple joy in putting words to paper, but for now I will continue on this hiatus and simply accept the feelings I feel deep inside.

Posted in blogging, family, finances, gardening, health, life, marriage, meditation, mindfulness, minimalist, simple living, stress, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Walking in a dream of reality

monarchI took a walk at lunchtime yesterday with a completely open mind. I set my goal to a specific point then returned back to my place of employment to where I knew I would not be late. In doing so I removed the pressure of time and allowed my mind to completely open up to the things around me. I turned off my patterns of typical thought and just allowed my mind to be free.

Along the way I took notice of many things I have never noticed before although I have walked this same path many times. I didn’t think too much on any of what I observed, I simply observed. Walking past the parking lot of a market place I heard the voices of those talking about this and talking about that but cannot remember the words they spoke. Those words flowed through me but never landing within me because I gave no meaning to what I heard. I was simply being on this path I walked and although connected to ground I walked on my senses were busy with the small flowers growing through the ground, the pattern of the clouds in the sky and the artful growth of natures bounty in the form of tree’s, bushes and even the grass below. I noticed the beauty in the patterns of a butterfly sitting upon a branch of a tree and breathed in the beauty if felt for this simple display of the natural world that surrounds us.

Is I returned from this little walk I felt the urge to wake up out of this so called dream of true reality and return to tasks at hand in the field of a workday. I felt refreshed and new inside like a child returning home after a day of playing in the sands of time.

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Thoughts on Unplugging from the System

DSCN3055Many believe that living a “Simpler Life” means unplugging from this crazy web of madness we call modern life. In many ways it does, but not to the degree of total disconnection. Going completely off grid in some remote location of the world can be liberating, but is also a hard life to live. The responsibility of self reliance on things like energy, clean water and food production can become not only a challenge but yet another source of stress.

The current system we live in is a system of conveniences that allow us to live our lives in such a way that we rarely think about things like how we must deal with things like getting rid of human waste, finding fresh water or providing warmth to our homes. When was the last time you had to chop firewood? I know that at 55 years old I don’t even want to think about the task anymore.

While making the decision to make our lives a little simpler it is easy to buy into certain idea’s that are a bit extreme as they carry a certain romantic theme of a life of living off the land like those of the Little House on the Prairie. The key is in balance between both the modern day world and world of the past. I don’t believe that anyone sitting in an outhouse in a Montana winter wouldn’t agree with obtaining a flush toilet system that works right in the warmth of their homes back in the 1850’s.

I do agree that living the modern life of dealing each day with many of the stresses that we have to deal with to find our place in this world can certainly send us to a place where all we want is to find a little peace. Feeling this way day in and day out can put us over the edge to the point where we start thinking that life was much easier back when. The truth is that the peace we seek is already inside of us and all we have to do is search for it. It’s not too difficult to find a tall tree somewhere next to a lake or river to sit at for a while to gain a different perspective of the world we live in.

So if unplugging isn’t the answer then what is? Is it possible to start making tiny changes to our own lives that would provide us with more joy and less stress? Absolutely! Sometimes the small things are really big things hidden in happy masks that surround us in the cloud of overload. Things like clutter, or simply having too much or too many things that don’t really bring us joy. Then there are social pressures or beliefs that we have to attain certain material things to make us feel that we are a part of a certain social group. With both of these there is the concept of space. Not space up in the sky, but the space we live in each day. There is nothing that can make us feel more free than being in the open spaces of nature and it only makes sense to create this same open space in our own homes.

Our very own system of belief in which we created ourselves through the help of those around us may just be the source of our unhappiness. Once we turn off the buying machine we feel we must keep active, we find that our little pot of gold slowly increases with value. Long standing debt starts getting paid off and we have less bills to deal with each month. Over time we find that we really can find a place in this modern world where we start to lose that overwhelmed feeling and find more moments of peace and joy.

Unplugging from certain parts of the system is healthy while unplugging from other parts can wind up to be simply foolish. Before making any radical decision to pull out completely it would be my advice to take baby steps and really think about what it is that keeps you overwhelmed with stress each day. I used to be stressed out driving to work each morning. Now I leave 10 minutes earlier and relax as I listen to my favorite music and arrive at work feeling calm instead of stressed. What things in your life need a little attention?

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What do you do? The Teacher and the Student

A-teacher-is-never-a-giver-of-truth-he-is-a-guide-a-pointer-to-the-truth-that-each-student-must-find-for-himself.It’s a been a tough week and I haven’t much felt like writing. I have been training an employee from another department how to do my job as he will be doing it for several months. He is on light duty with nothing to do in his department while in my department we are all totally overwhelmed with a workload that we simply cannot catch up with. Having this person to help out for a few months will free up more time for me to do other things in need of attention and also the opportunity for me to learn new job responsibilities.

As good as all this sounds the process of training someone one on one can be a daunting task. There are so many different functions that have to be played out in the proper sequences that can only be taught through one on one instruction. My hopes are that we may be able to wrap up all of this training by the end of today but I suspect that it may require another week.

As I deal specifically with parking issues in the role of Code Enforcement Officer most of my day is working in the field. The situation right now is me sitting in the back seat of my own rig and acting as a coach as my student performs the job.

This all makes me think about the question that is asked many times in social settings: “What do you do?” This question is always about one inquiring about what another does to earn money each day. As I go through actually teaching someone else to do my job I realize that I am truly answering that question in full detail.

The most difficult aspect of training another is that we are all different and not only think about things differently but also physically perform things differently based on past experience. While in a vehicle we must work with a laptop computer. As I perform certain tasks each day my fingers create their own memories of going through specific sequences of keyboard commands and mouse pad actions to get through the menu systems of several different computer programs. After repeating these actions over and over again they seem to become second nature. Watching someone else perform the same tasks seems both daunting and slow. I have to really think about understanding that I was in the same situation not long ago as I was learning to perform this job. It literally took months to develop the patterns I use today. While in the role of trainer or teacher I have to be constantly mindful of this understanding and try to encourage my student to develop their own patterns to accomplish the job each day.

It is too easy to think that just because someone else does things different than we do while performing the same function they are wrong and we are right. The teacher needs great patience with the student to be successful and as I am pretty much working in a hurry up to keep up type of job sometimes having patience can be difficult. The test falls into the teachers lap just as much as the student.

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