Thursday, August 24, 2017

Preparing to Serve on AmeriCorps's Conservation Corps

Two Tuesdays ago, the 15th, I spent another evening job hunting. This time, I came across a really cool 3-month AmeriCorps position on to serve on ACE's Conservation Corps in Arizona. The position is based in Flagstaff, AZ, but corps members travel around the state and the southwest region in teams of eight for 8-9 consecutive days (camping) to complete conservation projects (trail construction/maintenance, invasive species removal, fencing, and habitat restoration).

This description got me really excited, so I spent most of the day last Wednesday putting together my resume and cover letter, plus getting a hold of three references. Then I sent in my application.

On Friday (18th) I received an email asking if I was available for a Skype interview the next day, Saturday. I was, and interviewed at 6 p.m. Then this Tuesday afternoon I got a call from ACE and was offered a spot to serve on the corps. (I accepted!)

It's been a whirlwind since then, because I start on August 31, which is ohsosoon and there's all sorts of gear to get (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, leather boots, work pants, rain pants) and things to take care of before then (health insurance, fingerprinting/background checks, etc.). A lot has happened in the past two days alone, so I'm going to keep updating here as the week goes on, to track my progress of preparing for this next adventure.

Tuesday, August 22

+ Receive call with offer in the afternoon. Accept!
+ Cancel October PT appointment since I won't be in the state.

Wednesday, August 23

4pm - Got hair cut; touched up quotes on my train (I'll be gone when it's auctioned off)
6pm - Received packing list and arrival details via email. During the evening I:
+ Booked flight from Chicago to Phoenix
+ Bought bus ticket (Madison - Chicago)
+ Bought shuttle ticket (Phoenix - Flagstaff)
+ Searched Craigslist for backpacks, sleeping bags, and other gear. Emailed two people about backpacks.
+ Ordered replacement social security card online

Thursday, August 24

+ Ordered a headlamp on Amazon
+ Was on hold for over 30 minutes; found out Badgercare will not cover me out-of-state, but also that serving on AmeriCorps does not count towards your income, so I can still stay on Badgercare while I'm gone.
+ Talked with social security rep and found out it can take up to 2 weeks for online requests to be completed; she said it would take 3-5 days if you apply in person.
+ Made plans to meet Craigslist backpack person tonight.
+ Got cash at bank.
+ Went to the Social Security Administration office in Madison to request a replacement card.
+ Bought insurance through Volunteer Card
+ Bought a 4L DromLite bag on Amazon for water
+ Met with woman from Craigslist for backpack, got it!
+ Emailed guy from Craigslist selling sleeping bag

Friday, August 25

+ Met sleeping bag Craigslist guy (from Arizona!) in Madison and buy the bag
+ Stopped by Farm and Fleet on the way home; no luck
+ Swung by Gander Mountain's store closing—bought leather work/hiking boots

Saturday, August 26

+ Went to Target and bought baby wipes, watch with alarm, lunchbox
+ Went to Cabela's and bought sleeping bag pad, 1 pair wool socks, sleeping bag liner, and rain pants
+ Drove to Duluth Trading Company in Mount Horeb to get work pants; no luck
+ Tried Menards; no luck
+ Check out St. Vinnies—luck! Find a pair of Duluth Trading Company work pants for $8
+ Stop by Goodwill on the way home—more luck! Find two pairs of Duluth Trading Company pants in my size for $8 each.

Monday, August 28

+ Print some necessary documents
+ Em helps me adjust my new backpack correctly, and gives me her old fleece, yoga pants, and sun hat—which will all come with me to AZ!

Tuesday, August 29

+ Social security card arrived in the mail
+ Email ACE because I haven't received fingerprinting docs in the mail yet...

Wednesday, August 30

+ Packed suitcase to the 50lb limit and Tom Bihn backpack as carry-on
+ Print boarding pass and shuttle confirmation
+ Fingerprinting info arrived in the mail around 2 p.m.
+ Got prints taken at local police department at 3 p.m.
+ Return library books
+ Set cell phone to autopay
+ Talked with ACE Coordinator and made appointment in Flagstaff, AZ to take digital fingerprints on Sept. 5, since there won't be time to do it here as I leave tomorrow !

Here we go!
• • •

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Making a Magazine Playground Art Journal

I fell down the YouTube rabbit hole Wednesday evening, learning of "junk journals" and "magazine playgrounds" along the way.

The idea for magazine playground art journals comes from Dede Willingham. From what I gather, it's a place to play around, explore your creativity, and have fun. Pages might never be "complete"—you can draw pictures or paint backgrounds and journal/write on top. There are no rules!

Personally, I love the messy, low-pressure aspect of it. I have a large, spiral art journal of watercolor paper, but I rarely find myself using it. Since it's nice watercolor paper, there's an ever so slight pressure not to "waste" it, but magazine pages seem to be the perfect place to experiment without hesitation.

So on Thursday, once my work and yoga were done, I made one myself!
• • •

Friday, August 4, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

[Before] Recording My Starting Point of Flexibility/Strength with Spinal Fusion

As you know, one of my resolutions this year is to develop a daily stretching/yoga/pilates habit. I'm excited to share an update which has propelled me a leap further this week, but first a quick recap of the situation if you're unaware.

I had a spinal fusion 12 years ago for scoliosis and have been living as everyone else since, with nothing more than a 6-month follow up at age 16. I want this hardware to last the rest of my life, so I'm making this my current focus as far as my physical health is concerned.
• • •

Friday, June 30, 2017

Monday, June 12, 2017

[Trains on Main] The Natural Thing to Do

If you're curious to see the behind-the-scenes process of how this art project was made (including the scribbles on paper that started it all), check out this post first.

If you're ready to see the final piece, carry on!

"The Natural Thing to Do"

Here is my finished train, titled "The Natural Thing to Do," accompanied by a walkthrough of the meaning it holds for me.

I chose the themes of humanity, connection, and unplugging because they've been on my mind most frequently this year, and seemed a worthy conversation for our Waunakee community.

• • •

[Trains on Main] Application and Creation Process

While in Madrid in April, I happened to see an article from the Waunakee Tribune which announced the deadline for their Trains on Main public art project had been extended to April 30. As I read more about the project and application requirements, I knew I had to apply. This was a perfect leap for me—doing something before you feel ready. I had just a pinch of impostor feelings, but knew fully that I was enough for this challenge and excitedly applied. (The bullet under "Artist Eligibility" which read "Previous public art experience is not necessary; all who are interested are encouraged to apply" very much played a role in giving myself the all-clear.)

Here's what each artist would have to work with—a steel train made by our local Endres Manufacturing Company:

Artists would be given a $200 grant for the project and were completely free to choose materials, style, theme—no limits there.

Application Process

Applicants had to write a proposal for their train, explaining what they would do and why, and how they would weatherproof it. Which meant that in order to apply, I had to have some sort of idea as to how I'd transform this train into a piece of art. (Hello creativity challenge! This is why I've been building that muscle all year...)

Since I'd been thinking more and more about human connection, unplugging, and humanity (the fact that we're all imperfect) the past three months—especially with all of my travel sketching and the memorable moments with locals that resulted from making art in public—I decided to propose something exploring those themes.

I pulled out what has since become my "brainstorming"/catch-all notebook, and sketched two different sides to a train.

• • •

Friday, June 2, 2017

Resolutions Checkpoint 2017: May

Resolutions Checkpoint 2017 - Rebe With a Clause

Welcome, June! Time to look back on the action items I gave myself for the month of May, and check in on what progress has been made:

May Progress

1. Leaps
  • (+) Act on Get Shit Rolling! brainstorm — Meg and I did come up with an idea that excites me (creating a community), so I've been letting it simmer this month as I search for a name (oh naming things!). I've been jotting down ideas of creations/projects/events for this community as they pop into my mind.

    The plus I'm giving myself comes because I've arranged to speak at my local library in July about my experiences walking the Camino de Santiago. During my coaching call, I'd said a good next step would be to give some sort of workshop or speak somewhere locally. Now it's all set to happen!
  • (-) 5-in-5 Connection Challenge — Didn't ask anyone this month. I even went into Madison early the night that Kim Dinan spoke at Barnes and Noble, and walked through the mall for this purpose... but didn't approach anyone. As tends to happen, it has fallen in priority, so I won't be including it this month.

2. Stretch/Pilates
  • (+/-) Morning meditation + pilates — I'm not at a week straight yet, but I have started working on this one. The final week of May, I started doing some pilates and stretching, and have four checks this week so far.

    I will add that one of the reasons I began stretching this past week was because I'm on a 40-day meditation streak! That feels more automatic now that I've been home over a month, so I felt I could begin to integrate another daily habit.
• • •

Sunday, May 7, 2017

How to Make a Personal Compass

After a year focusing on my values and tracking them through monthly resolution checkpoints, last fall I sat down and made a personal compass to guide this "personal sabbatical" period of my life.

If you're interested in making one too, go ahead and create! There's no right or wrong way. If you could use a little structure to get started, here's a printable zine (PDF) I just made, which you can fold into a cute mini-book.

(Here's a clear video which demonstrates the simple folding/cutting needed to form the booklet). Enjoy!
• • •

Friday, May 5, 2017

Plane Tales

A few months ago, I luckily stumbled upon Eva Liparova's Plane Tales, a project in which she invited fellow passengers to write in a notebook and pass it around during her 9-hour flight. Brilliant!

I knew that when I headed back to the states after these spring travels, I'd have to try it. While in Montpellier I bought a cheap notebook, and prepared the intro and instructions while in Madrid. I basically copied Eva's intro and instructions word for word, but chose a different theme and starter question.

Plane Tales - Rebecca Thering

• • •

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Resolutions Checkpoint 2017: March & April

2017 Resolutions Checkpoint - March April

If you recall, I didn't set any focus items for March, but here's a bit of what's gone down during the past two months:

March/April Progress

1. Leap
  • (+) Podcast — Agreed to be a guest on a podcast next month.
  • (+) Trains on Main — As you know from my newsletter, I submitted a proposal to take part in my town's public art project this summer, and it was accepted! That means I'll be spending the month of May transforming a metal train cut-out statue thingy into a piece of public art. Hello, leap!
  • (+) Plane Tales — On my long-haul flight from Europe to the United States, I passed around a Plane Tales book. The idea was not my own, it came from Eva Liparova. I'll be sharing it shortly on the blog.

2. Stretch/yoga/pilates
  • ( -) Off and on, haven't established regular routine yet.

3. Unplug/be outside

I had logged 97h 12m of computer time in February. Here's what March and April looked like on RescueTime: 

In the right column above, TextEdit is a basic Word program where I typed up some blog posts and emails during my wi-fi-less weeks in March. Time on Blogger and Medium (left column) were spent writing (hence the blue "positive" color, so I'm glad to see that).

(I switched to the browser Opera in early April, thus everything was logged as "Opera," which I only realized upon writing this post. I just found this handy article "How to Use RescueTime with Opera" and got everything set up, so next month's results should be more specific.)

  • (+) Read >30 min. daily — I read four books in my first week back home!

May Focus

Here are actions I can take in May towards my resolutions:

1. Leaps
  • Act on Get Shit Rolling! brainstorm — I'll be working with Meg Kissack next week to brainstorm ideas for how I can use my skills and life experience to leave a bigger mark on the world. I'll challenge myself to leap and act on an idea that arises during the session.
  • 5-in-5 Connection Challenge — Goal: Five challenges, ten rejections.

2. Stretch/Pilates
  • Morning meditation + pilates — A week straight of meditation + pilates first thing in the morning. By pairing the pilates with meditation, something I'm already doing right away in the morning, it should be easier to develop this habit.

3. Unplug/be outside
  • Plant vegetable garden in back yard
  • Fix brakes on bike!
  • Track biking / walking in bullet journal
  • Less than 90 hours online time this month
What about you? How was your April? What's one thing you'd like to do this coming month that'll move you closer to where you want to be?

• • •

Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

Settling Back in Saint-Jean-de-Védas

Although I didn't arrange the transportation until a week out, I knew while in Venice and Munich that I'd soon be headed back to Montpellier. And despite this prior knowledge, it still felt a bit surreal to arrive at Gare St. Roch and step out into the sunny, familiar streets—like I'd hacked time and jumped back to a prior chapter in life.

A fifteen-minute car ride later and we were back in Saint-Jean-de-Védas at the Rius residence, where I felt right at home.

French Eats

Damien's mom made paella on my second or third day—what luck!

That first weekend she also made beignets à la citrouille—her mom's recipe—with chocolat chaud:

• • •

Monday, April 10, 2017

Moment Catching in Montpellier

After an early morning train from Strasbourg, I arrived in Montpellier on Thursday, March 30, where Damien picked me up and took me to his parents' house in a nearby suburb. On Friday afternoon I took the tram into Montpellier to sketch at Parc du Peyrou for the weekend's Moment Sketchers challenge.

It was a special sketching session for me because it's here where I painted my very first on-location watercolor last September, dabbing at colors and not knowing what I was doing. Below are my watercolors and the painting:

Watercolors: September 2016

• • •

[Photos] Maxing* in Munich

*Maxing = Hanging out with Max

A few days before my train to Munich, my friend Max—with whom I'd be staying—found out he'd have to work in Frankfurt during the week, and thus would not be at home when I arrived. He gave me directions to his apartment, made sure a roommate would be home to let me in, and welcomed me warmly with this awesome spread:

Umbrella, apple, towel, warm socks, tram map, cloth bag, key, handwritten welcome note with info + tips, and snail mail sent to me via Max. Amazing!
He also made and shared with me a Google map where he'd marked over 30 places, with his comments on each. Incredible!

One of the places he recommended was a nearby cemetery, where locals often go for a stroll or to sit in peace on the benches:

• • •

Sunday, April 2, 2017

I asked 44 pilgrims what they learned from walking the Camino de Santiago. Here's what they wrote:

For a month in the fall of 2014 I walked the camino francés of the Camino de Santiago—a pilgrimage across Spain.

Partway through the journey, I began keeping a running list in my mind of small lessons I was learning, which made their way onto a page in my journal and eventually became this reflection.

At some point along the journey, I decided at the end I'd ask other pilgrims what they had learned as well. After finishing, I bought a little notebook from a souvenir shop, grabbed a pen, and headed to the line of pilgrims waiting to get their certificate of completion in Santiago de Compostela. 

(This is the short version of how it went down, by the way. Here's where you can read a behind-the-scenes look at what was running through my head, and how the project almost didn't happen!)

• • •

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I Puked, I Sketched, and Then One Man in Munich Changed My Day

Very early this morning, between the hours of midnight and one, I was kneeling over the toilet in my friend's apartment in Munich (he, out of town for work; his roommates, asleep), throwing up the day's consumptions. Another bug, something I ate, I have no idea.

Regardless of the cause, I spent most of today lounging in bed. I watched 500 Days of Summer on Netflix and a writing seminar which had been on my list for a while. I left the apartment briefly around noon, to buy ginger ale from the grocery store across the street, and picked up a pretzel from the bakery too—because goddamnit these are limited days in Munich!

Around 3 p.m. I decided to leave the apartment and walk around for a bit. My stomach didn't feel totally at ease, but I wasn't about to hurl either, and I couldn't bare to spend any more of this sunny day indoors. I walked to the center and through a food market, where I sat down on an open seat and pulled out my sketchbook.

• • •

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dining in Dozza

I had two Saturdays—my days off—while working on the farm near Dozza. I was also on my own for lunch, so both weeks I went into town to dine.

Dozza was very close to the farm—you really just walk up the grass hill, then five minutes down a straight road you enter the town through an archway. There are two parallel streets about two blocks long, with the castle at the other end, and that’s the old center.

The walls in Dozza are covered in over a hundred paintings by contemporary artists, the oldest date I saw was perhaps in the '70s.

Every two years there’s a festival in Dozza where artists are invited to paint in the town. So it's basically a free outdoor art museum!

• • •

Monday, March 20, 2017

Two-week HelpX Farm Stay in Dozza

Victoria picked me up from the small train station in Imola, and then we were off to the farm. Once I got settled in, my first task was to organize the tupperware drawer. "Do it however you want," she told me, "just as long as everything fits." Yes!

On the first evening, I asked Victoria what time I should get up in the morning.

“The girls are up eating breakfast at 6:45, 7” she said.

Seeing the look of horror on my face, she then added "but... you could get up… quarter past, or..., um, 7:30, yes, I think that would work if you’re up by 7:30.”
• • •

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Barfing in Bologna

On Wednesday, February 22 I arrived in Bologna, from Firenze.

Bologna Italy map


On my first evening I had an hour or two before dark, so I left to do some wander walking, map in hand. I took note of some markers along the way, so I could easily find my way back: "WIND" store under the arches. Got it.

Except when I took a few turns to come back a different way than I’d headed out, I quickly got turned around. Why? Because, as I quickly learned those first hours in Bologna, practically all the sidewalks are covered in arches! (Plus WIND is a chain store all over.) Oh, and also my map disappeared—that was the clincher. I really don’t know what happened to it.

I eventually found my way back before it was too dark, only stopping to ask someone the direction of the train station. I’d reasoned that worst case scenario, I go to the train station, because from there I could easily walk the 5 minutes to the hostel, as I’d done a few hours earlier. 

My direction intuition won again that evening, and I didn’t have to go all the way back to the train station! I got another map from a different hostel worker the next morning, and later in the trip painted this postcard for myself to remember Bologna and its covered walkways:

Bologna watercolor postcard
• • •

Moments in Firenze

I've only shown you photos of my time in Firenze, so here are some moments that took place during that week (February 15-22).

Followed on Arrival

After boarding the train to leave Roma, I double checked with the couple on my left—asking in my default Spanish thinking they were Italian—which direction the train would be leaving (to make sure I wasn’t sitting backwards the whole way, while I had a selection of seating).

They answered in Spanish, and it turns out they were from South America. We perhaps briefly chatted a bit more, but then it was a nice, quiet train ride to Firenze. When we were one stop from the last, called “Firenze [something or other],” I wasn’t sure if that was my stop or not, so I asked the same couple. They didn’t know, so I checked with an Italian woman in the next row who told me my stop was the next one, the last one.

When I returned to my seat, that couple asked me if I had lodging in Firenze. “Yes…” I said, and told them I’d booked a hostel. They asked the price, and I told them roughly how much per night for a shared dorm room. Then they told me they hadn’t booked anything yet, they were just showing up.

“Can you show us where it is?” asked the guy. I said yes before I realized what I’d agreed to. “It’s a 15-minute walk,” I told them, hoping they’d think it was too far. Then we didn’t talk for the remaining minutes of the ride. Hmm, maybe that’s not what I’d agreed to after all, I thought. The train stopped and I got off before them, then was like—dang, do I have to wait for them?
• • •

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Resolutions Checkpoint 2017: February

Wow, and here we are, halfway through March already. I was in Bologna the last week of February with limited Wi-Fi, then spent the past two weeks on a small farm near Dozza—which also had hardly any internet.

This was no problem, as it was great to unplug—though what really kept me from blogging was the time! I’ll be playing catch up soon, including my typical day on the farm, but first an overdue check-in with my resolutions and action items for February.

Spoiler alert: I nearly didn’t complete anything!

• • •

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

[Photos] Freezing in Firenze

I've spent the past week in Firenze (Florence), wander walking and observing per usual.

So I wasn't really freezing, but in the shade and in the mornings/evenings, it was quite chilly. Plus, two days there was this Argentine guy in my room who would always open the window because he "was hot"... but it was freezing in our room!

Anyway, I survived and I'll be looking to buy a hat here in Bologna. Meanwhile, here's some of what I saw in Firenze:

I really liked the designs on the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, and you'll see below that I used this section as inspiration for a painting one day.

• • •

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The 100 Day Project Ideas

What could you do with 100 days of making?

That's the question asked by Elle Luna and The Great Discontent over at #The100DayProject. (If this is the first you're hearing of The 100 Day Project, pop on over to The Great Discontent and check out this page first.)

The main takeaway is that you give yourself a short action to do every day for 100 days. Although there are now some very beautiful creations on Instagram, it's not at all about the result. This is the core of the project, which I cannot stress enough: It's all about the process—the making—not what's made.

Last fall when I wanted to do my own 100 Day Project, I was looking for a list of all the projects that have been done—but searching the hashtag on Instagram had me scrolling and scrolling, yet still only seeing the most recent projects. On The Great Discontent you have to read through old newsletters to see some featured past projects... so in the end I decided to make what I'd been looking for: a huge list of #The100DayProject projects.

I hope it helps to spark ideas for your very own project!

And if you know about a #The100DayProject project that's not on this list, I would be so grateful if you'd let me know via comment or on Instagram (@RebeccaThering) so I can add it. Thank you!

The 100 Day Project ideas #The100DayProject

#The100DayProject Projects (A-Z)

100 Days of Abandoned Bikes #The100DayProject

#100DaysofAnimatedPaperPack #The100DayProject

#100DaysofAwareness #The100DayProject

• • •

Wednesday, February 15, 2017