Saturday, January 25, 2014

Our Year with Other Couples

*Disclaimer: In no way am I singling out anyone or speaking condescendingly toward any of our family or friends. This is simply an observation of human communication, or a lack thereof. (Myself included.)

During a bedtime conversation the other night (while visiting overnight at another couple's home), we realized that as a couple, in one form or another, we have been living in close proximity to other couples for over a year (I, myself, have lived with/near other couples for 2.5 years). Whether house mates, or kind friends / family who have generously allowed us to park the moHo on their land and communally use their laundry and/or shower, etc. It's been extremely eye-opening.

Including the couples that we visited briefly with on our two-month road trip, we counted roughly 15 couples that we have shared some sort of living arrangement with over the course of approx. 18 months.  Some for just a night, and others for several months. 

My number one generalized conclusion: most couples don't communicate well enough. It's an epidemic. It's a disaster. It's teaching our offspring how to non-communicate so they can perpetuate the madness! It's also extremely uncomfortable to be a witness to on a regular basis.

I'm not saying WE are perfect communicators. At all. We do both put in a whole lot of effort on a daily basis to get better at it. Together. We have established a partnership code of communication. It has been a commitment since day one. We are continually tweaking and improving the skills we have built upon over many months. 

Some days are better than others. Here's why.

1.  Wake up with a smile. 
Tell your partner how happy you are to wake up next to them each morning. If that would be an untruth, then this may be an indicator that the relationship is no longer serving you. (Just a thought.)

2. Go to sleep with a smile. 
Take 5 minutes (or more) in bed to alternately name things that you are grateful for today. It can be as general as the fact that the sun was shining today.  Or it could be that your partner did the dishes. Anything at all. 

3. Learn your Love Language. Then learn your partner's. 
There is a monumentally important book called The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

Read it. Together.

Or get the audiobook and listen as a couple (or family) on your next road trip. It's only a couple of hours and it will change your life, if you choose to be more aware of both of your needs.

Take the Love Language Quiz:

4. Show some gratitude. 
(You can not O.D. on gratitude. I repeat: there is no such thing as over-communicating your appreciation to others.)

Never ever assume that someone knows that you are appreciative for their kind words or actions!!!

Try any combo of these bold statements:

Thanks for doing the laundry.
Thanks for working hard all day to help support us.
Thanks for making that delicious meal!
Thanks for making that phone call. 
Thanks for opening the door for me. 
Thanks for putting the kids to bed.
Thanks for being you!

Or, if that's all too much, you can never fail with a simple "Thank You." No need to be specific.

Far too often we love to point out our perceived flaws in our partners to other people. Try replacing that habit by sharing something wonderful about him or her. What a crazy concept!

5. Resolve issues while they are fresh and tiny. 
You know when your windshield gets that first rock chip? Aw, man! My windshield was flawless! I just got it last week! Eventually, that tiny chip can become a ginormous crack that divides the whole window. It can never be undone. Only replaced. Yeah. Think about that one for a minute...Any cracks forming/ formed in your windshield? Do something about it before it's too late. 

If your partner does anything that feels uncomfortable for you, be gentle, direct, and honest and use kind words. Swearing, blaming, name-calling, belittling, guilt-tripping, threatening, ignoring or avoiding each other's giant Gladiator egos isn't going to end up on a positive note. EVER. No exceptions. 

No one is perfect. That doesn't mean you should stop trying to improve your consciousness. 

6. Laugh together. 
Stop taking yourselves and each other (and life) so seriously. 

7. Listen. Without interrupting. At all. Just listen. Even when you want to finish that sentence for them. No distractions. Put that phone away. 

If you don't currently practice any of these skills on a regular basis, don't be alarmed when your love boat eventually springs a leak an begins to sink. Solid relationships take work!!!

"We talk. We communicate. It's one thing to make a commitment to someone else. It's another thing to make a commitment to working on your own sh*t. Then you help your partner work on their sh*t." - a quote from my partner when I asked him why we get along so well. So there you have it.

On your mark. Get set. Communicate!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

For Sale: Tiny Home on Wheels

It's true. We have listed the old girl for sale. She's been a wonderfully fun and cozy home. We are being called to new frontiers and we feel she would be better off with a new owner who can keep giving her the TLC she deserves. Any takers?

We recently decided on "settling" (take that with a grain of salt) in a small town in central Vancouver Island. It was a 6-week-long decision...

It started when we went to an awesome vegetarian cafe for lunch with a friend. A woman in the building was offering free mini-massages. We happily accepted and soon had appointments for the real deal. At our massage appointment, she proceeded to pass on a brochure to us. It was for a lovely property that was available for a work-trade position. A retired fellow, John, with two old hounds, was seeking a caretaker for his land and animals while he travels to do some humanitarian work. 

We called up John and went to have a visit. A beautiful forested property with numerous fruit trees and berry patches of all kinds was nestled around a little cabin and a workshop with a small studio loft apartment above (about triple the size of our moHo). We really clicked and had a lot of great conversations. We discovered that he's a former social worker, a vegetarian and practices yoga and meditation. We told him we would consider the position and do some more exploring. We had been applying for numerous work positions, but nothing had panned out so far. We felt less and less hopeful about how to make an income there.

As the weeks went on, we strongly considered moving to Victoria. We had been offered a cute apartment there by some kind friends and the city work force seemed to be flourishing. We emailed John and told him we were sorry but the city seemed like a better option. He had been kindly and persistently emailing us for several weeks, sending us job listings and community info to boost his "sales pitch" for living at his retreat in the woods. He said he understood and wished us well. Then he proceeded to keep emailing us local job postings, as if he knew something we didn't...

It wasn't until we went into the mountains of interior BC last weekend to fetch our old pickup truck that we realized what we truly wanted. Our friends had driven our truck full of various sports gear, spare tires and a rototiller from northern Alberta to central BC. They also piled in the bounty of food that they had grown and worked for on a completely off-grid farm all last season. So it was a win-win. 

We hopped on the ferry on foot, rented a small car on the mainland and drove up, up, up into the wintery mountains to a lovely ranch with several log cabins and outhouses. Sheep, goats, horses, donkeys and chickens roamed the property. We stayed for the night in a cozy wood-heated cabin. We shared some great conversation with our friends and they told us how much they love living on farms, helping out and learning valuable skills. They asked what our plans were and we explained our options and our reservation to accepting the work-exchange because of the shortage of work opportunities in the rural areas. After all, we are certain that we aren't the only young couple to flee the harsh Alberta winter to seek greener (literally) pastures. The job market is very tight on the island (which we had been warned about many times). Our friends laughed and said something like "you'd be crazy to not embrace this opportunity! You could learn so much!".  Suddenly we realized how awesome of an opportunity this was. We emailed John from the ferry on our way back to the island. He was thrilled to hear that we reconsidered and would take the position of helpers / property-sitters. 

We came to the conclusion that if we don't take these little leaps of faith in life, we may never have what we truly desire. Envision the situation you want to be in, follow the signs, and the rest will fall into place. We plan to move in next week. Hopefully the moHo finds a new home soon. We will miss her but we know that she served her purpose and will lead others to great adventures. Now, I need to tweak the title of this more wheels...for now

Stickers we picked up on our USA tour special for the moHo

Saturday, January 11, 2014

From the Inside, Out.

2014 is off to a leisurely start for the two of us. Lots of trail hikes through the lush forests of Vancouver Island, playing with friends' kiddos and lots and lots of time for reflection and contemplation. 

After our two-month "road food" road trip we ordered a liver cleanse kit for us to clean out our systems. They finally arrived last weekend. We noted our completely blank schedules and decided there was no time like the present to start a new year off with a clean slate!

Let's step back to July for a moment... I had a great phone call with my mother-in-law (she's really more like a dear friend) and she had just completed the first of three of these liver cleanses. She had such good things to say about it. I was feeling a little "off", so I did one then too. It was a stretch for me, as I had never done any cleanse for 6 days before. Afterward, I felt amazing. I felt lighter and happier and more like myself. Not to mention, my liver was probably pretty happy. Bonus: my jeans fit better

So, back to the present. We just completed the 6th, and final, day of the cleanse and this time around I felt compelled to document the experiences I / we had through the process. 

In addition to the liver tonic and supplements, this cleanse involves eating only certain fruits for breakfast, and a salad or simple veggie soup for lunch and dinner. This was all fine for us, since we eat a very clean vegan diet. The hard part was no snacking.  We were both a bit on the grumpy side later the first day. When we realized it, we had a good laugh. What a great opportunity to observe our habits. How many of us snack because we are stressed or pressured or anxious? It happens to the best of us. 

Interestingly enough, the weather was extremely rainy all week, so we spent most of the cleanse cooped up in the moHo reading and resting. We didn't feel like we were missing out on chances to hike.

By day 3 we were both feeling a bit of muscular weakness and we were also on the tired side. A big change from how we were feeling on our daily hikes down forest trails that we enjoyed for the last few weeks. We both found that we were restless in the middle of the night several nights. The massive down pours of rain on the moHo roof didn't help us to rest. 

Something about cleansing and having the discipline to be hungry and not botch the cleanse by snacking, creates a state of raised consciousness and body awareness that clears the mind and spirit. We both had moments that we described as "out of body". Moments where we rose beyond physical discomfort and remembered that we are not our bodies. We just reside in our bodies. Since I only get one body in this lifetime, I choose to nourish it daily. 

On the afternoon of day 5, I got a humongous headache. It was the worst headache I have had in years. I must have accumulated a fair amount of toxins throughout our travels. Certain smells made it much worse and sounds and movements were painful. I took a nap for a while and was thrilled to find that it disappeared when I awoke. I was so glad because the night of the 5th day was a crucial time to finish taking the final ingredients to complete the liver flush. I didn't want to get this far and then not complete the cleanse. 

Both times I have done this cleanse, I had the same physical symptoms on the final night. A bit like a flu. But just a one-hour flu. I barely slept much. My abdomen was grumbly and the rain was so loud that it sounded like we were parked under a waterfall. 

However, I woke this morning (day 6) feeling wonderful. My mind and body feel clearer. I feel refreshed. Once again, my jeans fit better. 

We are both so glad that we took the week to cleanse our bodies...and minds and spirits.

Another positive side-effect: 

We both agreed that after a week-long coffee detox, we are better off without the black magic in a mug. Sure, it's tasty, and everyone's doing it. It is one of the most widely traded commodities in the world. We just don't want to wake up and rely on coffee to give us a jump start every morning. Our love for life is enough to get us out of bed each day. Coffee can be for special occasions.

If you are interested in reading more about the cleanse itself, here is a link.  It describes the products, the cleanse process and much more: