Riding the storm out

I finally made it to Saturday. I has been a rough week. Here in Tennessee we are currently in the lower bowels of winder storm Pandora, nearing it’s slushy sphincter. The view out my window as I write this is that of a frozen wasteland. It was raining ice a few minutes ago, but now it has changed to a light snow. The temperature is rising, however. By the end of the day we should be in the forties,

20150216_164211The worst of the weather was on Monday. As you can see from my truck, we had one hell of an ice storm. The old girl was encased in a quarter-inch thick shell of solid ice. It took me a while to chisel my way into her. The photo was taken at my work. I was able to make it in thanks to the relentless efforts of the snowplow drivers who worked through the night and morning. Over all we haven’t missed much of a beat through this bad weather. We did lose electricity for a few hours on Monday night, but we were prepared for that; not well prepared, but prepared.

It’s times like this that make me think about what we would do if we lost services for a much longer span of time. Our preparedness level is very minimal. We have several flashlights, spare batteries, warm clothes, and a couple of cold-weather sleeping bags. We definitely need to upgrade/enhance our ‘prepper’ gear. Here are a few things that I am planning to do to make us more battle-ready for the next wintry sucker-punch from mother nature…

  • We need a backup heat source that is not dependent on electricity! The cold-weather bags are nice to have, but if the heat goes out for an extended period of time – we are screwed. The temperature was in the single digits here this week. Without heat our plumbing would have exploded for sure. Not to mention doing simple day to day tasks would be massively uncomfortable. I’m thinking about getting a couple of propane space heaters for this problem.
  • I’m going to upgrade our car ice scrapper from the little hand held one to the big version that is attached to a long pole. During an ice storm, your car will become completely encased in ice. Don’t even think about driving it until you knock every chunk of ice off, including the hard to reach ice on the very top.
  • I’m seriously going to look into getting snow chains for our vehicles, especially the truck. My truck is so light that one good gust of wind would send it sliding across the highway like a hokey puck.
  • Two words: thermal underwear.

A few thoughts on Valentine’s day and relationships

It’s Valentines day, and I have had the honor and pleasure of spending it with my best friend and soul mate, Denice. Our relationship has grown stronger and sweeter with each passing year. She is so special to me, and I am beyond thankful for her.

We had a very simple celebration. I was at work until noon, but when I got home we went out to Chipotle, and then came home to cuddle on the couch. I got her a dozen roses and a card, and she wrote me a very touching and heart-felt letter. It has been a very enjoyable day.

Out of all of the couples I know, and I’m not saying this to boast, we have the best relationship. In a moment I will attempt to explain why I think this is.

Denice and I don’t fight. I couldn’t imagine raising my voice to her. We make it a point to put each others needs ahead of our own. We love with passion, and fall asleep in each others arms every night. When I’m with her everything is right in the world. However, from what I’ve seen, this is not the norm. Why?

I think the secret ingredient in our relationship that seems to be missing from so many is simple equality and respect.

I don’t view Denice as subservient in any way. I don’t call her my “helper”  or “other half.” I don’t call her my “ball and chain” or “old lady.” I esteem her as a coequal partner who chooses every day to love me and make a life with me. I believe this mutual respect and love is the foundation of our relationship.

Here are a few simple things that we do (or don’t do) that may help you if you have tension with your loved one…

  • Don’t point out your mate’s weaknesses, mistakes, and short comings. They know their problems, and really don’t need/want you to shine a spotlight on them.
  • Never raise your voice in anger. This has always been common sense to me. You don’t yell at people you love.
  • Just because you are in a close relationship with someone doesn’t mean you have a right to disrespect their privacy. Don’t read their private things without permission. Don’t break into their email, text messages, or social accounts. If you want someone to be open with you they must trust you.
  • Tell them you love them, often. This should go with out saying. Denice and I never part company without a kiss and expressing our love for one another.
  • Don’t get mad if they find someone else attractive. If you don’t have enough security in your relationship to express your natural attraction for another person without someone flying off the handle – you have issues.
  • Respect their time. It is a privilege when your mate shares their time with you, not an entitlement. Don’t interrupt them when you know they’re busy. Don’t bug them to get off the phone when you want them to pay attention to you. If you want more of their time and attention, then just readily share more of your time with them. Human beings naturally reciprocate, especially with those they love.

That’s all for now. Stay thirsty my friends.

A week in the life, because I’m too lazy for DITL

Hi friends.

It’s been a busy week. I haven’t had a lot of down to time to do some relaxing blogging, so I thought I would do a quick recap of the whole week. Hope I don’t bore you to death.

Let’s start with last weekend. We spent almost all day Saturday trying a new business/side hustle idea I found on the Internet. The idea was buying and selling used cell phones. It was pretty straight forward. We browsed Craigslist for several hours Saturday morning until we found what we thought was a good deal on an iPhone 5. The phone was in great shape, was unlocked, and had a clean ESN. So, I met with the owner who was a nice lady. We bought the phone, and then immediately began testing and cleaning it up for the eBay auction that was the end game of our little transaction. To make a long story longer… we lost thirty-five dollars on the deal. I was a little disheartening. But I’m not going to let it get me down. It was our first time and neither of us knew what we were doing. We did learn some things in the process, and plan to give it another whirl soon.

Denice was finally able to get the test she needed to figure out what is going on with her back. She has been having sever pain in her lower back. It’s probably due to a flare-up from the car accident injuries that she suffered several years ago. We won’t get the results until Monday, so for now there isn’t much she can do accept try and hang in there.

I found out Tuesday that Marshall Rosenberg passed away. Marshall was a psychologist who created a method of communication called Nonviolent Communication, or NVC for short. The NVC method has been one of the most helpful tools that I have picked up over the years. I felt truly sad when I heard that he was gone. Marshall was like a Gandalf or Yoda to me, a mentor. He was one of those old and deeply wise persons that you just took solace in knowing that they were out there. He may be gone, but his knowledge and wisdom lives on in me and all of those who learned from him.

Today I rediscovered a podcast that I had forgotten about when my podcast manager crash months ago and I lost all my podcast feeds. I thought I had them all back, but I had forgotten one: The Tim Ferriss Show. Tim is the author of The Four Hour Work Week, a book which I have yet to read. His podcast is loaded with some of the best interviews out there. I’m very happy to have rediscovered it.

Well, that about wraps it up for this WITL. Thanks for reading, and If I don’t post before then… have a happy Valentines day. Make love hard and often, for life is short!

The snowball is rolling

It’s day three of my vacation. Yesterday I was on the tiny house kick, and I still am. But, since we’re broke (actually below broke, seeing that we are in debt), I think the first step would be climbing out of this hole.

This week will  be the first time that we have used a technique commonly called the ‘Debt Snowball.’ It’s really quiet simple. You find some extra money, not a lot, but enough to speed things up a little. Then you throw it at your smallest debt. You do this every chance you get until it is paid off. Then you take the extra money plus the amount you were paying on your smallest debt, and throw it all at the next largest debt. You repeat this over and over, and move up the ladder from smallest to largest. The process creates a cascade effect that in theory should enable us to pay off all of our debt except the house inside of five years (if my calculations are correct).

The hardest part of this is actually applying that extra money to our debt instead of blowing every cent of it, which is what we usually do. So far though, we are doing pretty good. This is the first time in a long time that we have made a budget and actually stuck to it. I’m very optimistic about this now. I’m not sure what’s changed, but we are beginning the be more, well… disciplined. It’s a change.

Tiny Houses and the yearning for community

Hi friends.

I have been on vacation this week. Surprise, I’m actually posting on this blog now that I have tons of free time. I’ve noticed that about on day two or three of a vacation, I start to pick up all the things that a busy work life has forced to the back burners. One day I will learn the skill of consistency.

Today I have spent a good deal of time watch videos on Youtube about tiny houses; building them, living in them, and all the fun minimalist concepts that go along. Denice and I have both taken up an interest in minimalist living, and that’s huge. There aren’t many things that we have a common interest in, so when we find something that we are both into, it’s only a matter of time before we dive in.

Our current house is already (relatively) small, at seven hundred square feet. So the thought of downsizing is pretty scary. It’s one of those things that you know will take sacrifice and dedication, but you also know will add more to your life that it requires.

I really like the idea of using a tiny house/minimalist living to help get us out of debt. I also like the idea of being “off the grid” and more sustainable and self-reliant. But, what I really love is the idea of being able to share this with like-minded others – to build a community.

Community, over the years, has become largely lost to the consumer capitalist culture. We don’t need each other like we used to. Before, neighbors would share things to keep from having to buy every little thing that you need to live. If I had a drill or a lawn mower, the whole community had it. Before, you wouldn’t pay for child care because there were plenty of others with children in your circle who would be more than happy to share the responsibility. We used to take care of each other, but now we just pay. We pay strangers and corporations to do everything for us. We don’t have to know them, we don’t have to like them, and we certainly don’t have to be vulnerable and true with them. This arrangement sucks. It’s too impersonal.

What I yearn for is true community. Deep down inside me there is a part that wants and needs community. I think what I would like to do some day is build a tiny house community – a true village. One where resources could be pooled and raw freedom could be wrenched from the cold hands of the corporate beast that most of us are prisoners of.

So, where to start? Well, the logical place to start would be with our own dwelling. This would be a big challenge for us, seeing that the only thing that we have every built together is a dog house, and we really botched it. However, Denice and I are fairly intelligent and resourceful people, and I believe in our ability to figure things out and get them done.

We are so easily scammed

Pregnant BeggarAn old friend of mine from the Word-of-Faith/Full-Gospel church I used to go to posted a news story on Facebook about a (supposed) homeless, pregnant woman who was seen panhandling on the side of the road with a young child. The kicker to this story is that the woman was caught sneaking away to her waiting Mercedes Benz after collecting her daily hand-outs. The lady who noticed this took it upon herself to follow this crook to her $2,500 a month, upscale apartment. Shocking, huh.

The irony that I picked up on was that the friend who posted this story, along with condemning comments about the scammer, is currently still mixed up in the cult that I used to be in. The church, which shall remain nameless, is one that is led by a charismatic, slick-talking, power-hungry, leader. I don’t know how things are now, but when I was attending it was taught heavily that as a member I should “give till it hurts” to exercise my faith. They would use gimmicks like ‘sowing and reaping,’ where they promised that if I was faithful in sowing (money), that the Lord would return it back to me, “30, 60, and 100 fold.”  I saw many friends give to the point where they couldn’t pay their bills. Now, if this were for a good cause, I wouldn’t have a problem with mutual sacrifice with my peers. But it wasn’t a good cause.

One of my jobs while I was in the cult was ‘parking and security.’ Basically I would throw on a reflective vest, help people get parked, and then patrol the grounds during the service. More than once we had homeless people come panhandling. Every time they were rudely and sometimes forcefully turned away. When I questioned this I was told that, “they are probably just going to buy drugs or alcohol with whatever they get,” and I knew that was probably true. What got to me was the way that we treated them… like they were subhuman, pests to be shooed away. The church (at the time) didn’t really do anything for the poor. When I would bring this up, the standard response was, “It is not our mission. Our mission is to spread the gospel around the globe, and to do this the Lord is sending us wealthy people to pry the money from the hands of the Devil.” What a crock of shit. No doubt, the church was full of wealthy people, and among the most was the pastor.

Now-a-days I’m a little more keen in spotting scam artists. For sure, the pregnant lady in the story is one of them, but she pails in comparison with the high caliber charlatan that ran the cult/church I used to belong to. The man was an expert at manipulation. He was our prophet, the guy who has a direct line to God Almighty, and we believed it. I believed it, and I gave and gave. This fellow would often tell us that as the ‘anointed of the Lord,’ giving to him directly would ensure a bigger return from God. He would use bible quotes, like “the less is blessed of the better,” and “when you give to the poor, the Lord shall repay.” He would say this, and explain that when you help the poor God will only replay – dollar for dollar, but when you “give up” God will return it to you, “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.”

I remember one time during a service, our mighty prophet was a little ticked because too many “junky cars” had parked in the front row, facing the street. What he said was something along the lines of, “please don’t park those junky cars next to the road. We need for the community to see our best face, so we can attract the right kind of people.” Well, my car wasn’t all that great, and this kind of got to me. Looking back, I think this was one of the biggest revelations that pushed me into becoming more skeptical with the way things worked around there.

We live in a world that is so wonderful and mysterious. I don’t pretend to have the answers anymore. If anything, I’ve only gained a multitude of new questions, and that’s ok. It’s the unanswered questions and the frighteningly mysterious nature of the Universe that makes life worth living. I think this is why i get so disgusted with the charlatans and weasels out there. They get in the way, and murk up the waters. This isn’t really worth fretting over though. They are not going away, so the best we can do is try to become more adept at spotting them and avoiding them.

Not every ragged person on the side of the road had a Benz waiting in the wings, but some do. It’s a shame too, because the ones that don’t really, really need our help.

No, you’re not seeing double

Hello friends.

If you have managed to stumble upon this blog after following my old blog, then you are probably thinking, wtf? Well, don’t be alarmed. I have started this new blog of the same name here, hosted on WordPress.com. Basically, it’s still Erick’s Odyssey, just more relevant to my life and interests, and with less technical fuck-ups.

Currently, I am still locked out of my old blog, which is self-hosted. If you’re not familiar with WordPress, let me explain a little. WordPress is open source software. Basically that means that it was developed by a community of open source enthusiasts, and it is free to use and modify any way you see fit, which is awesome. However, if it breaks, then it is on you to fix it. Normally I love tinkering with things and figuring our errors, but the current problem has left me hopelessly locked out of my own blog for months now. Of course, I do have the backup files, and could just wipe the whole thing, re-install WordPress, and raise my blog from the dead, but there’s no guarantee that I won’t just run into the same problem again in the future. I just want to type my thoughts onto the Internet, and I really don’t have time for issues like this.

So, what I have decided to do, instead of replicating everything onto WordPress.com, I have decided to start afresh! In the old blog, I don’t think I was being my authentic self anyway. Most of my posts were wrote with the need for the approval of others in the back of my mind. Well, forget that. I am who I am. From now on I don’t care who does and doesn’t read my blog. This is just an outlet for me, and nothing more. I am not looking for fans or likes, and I will no longer give a thought to who may or may not be offended or disappointed by me.

With that said, I am glad you are here, whoever you are. If you like reading about my weird, eclectic life, then great. If not… there’s nothing forcing you to stay.