Monthly Archives: March 2018

Little Free Library in Mesa, AZ

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Sometimes I go looking for Little Free Libraries, and sometimes they surprise me. The Little Free Library Nolagirl and I found one Sunday afternoon in Mesa, AZ was a complete surprise.

We were in town for the Spark! event at the Mesa Arts Center. We weren’t surprised to find all the parking spots close to the Arts Center taken, so we had to venture farther to find a place to put the car. Nolagirl settled on the free lot behind the Milano Music Center.

This piano was on the Main Street edge of the pocket park last time I was there.

We can walk through the park with the blocks, she said as we gathered our things and locked the car doors.

I didn’t know what she was talking about until we walked up to the pocket park in the narrow area between two buildings.

Oh, I’ve been here! I said. There was a Play Me, I’m Yours piano the last time I was here.

The piano was gone (all of the Play Me, I’m Yours pianos seem to be gone from Mesa), but the artificial turf and the large, colorful blocks were still there.

Is this grass fake? I asked. Nolagirl said it was, and we both laughed. Why put down fake grass in a pocket park in an alley? Oh, the mysteries of Mesa.

Little Free Library in a pocket park off Main Street in downtown Mesa

I don’t remember who spotted the Little Free Library first, but we were both happy to see it. We’ve gone Little Free Library hunting together; we both think the gift economy of books they facilitate is great.

This Little Free Library in Taos, NM is made from an old newspaper vending machine.

Nolagirl was especially pleased to see this Little Free Library was repurposed from a container that once housed free reading material one often finds in cities. She and her husband are both in the newspaper business, and she said they’ve discussed repurposing discarded metal newspaper boxes into Little Free Libraries. I told her about the Little Free Libraries I’d seen in Taos, NM made from old metal newspaper boxes. Her idea is being implemented!

The Little Free Library in the Mesa pocket park was a renegade. It didn’t have an an official charter sign or charter number. Someone had come up with the the old dispenser and painted “Little Free Library” and “Take a Book or Leave a Book” on it, but hadn’t registered with the Little Free Library organization or paid for a charter sign. I do appreciate the Little Free Library organization, but I also love grassroots efforts done on the cheap, so I love renegadae Little Free Libraries too. It’s not necessary to be registered to get books to the people!

There were several magazines and a few books in this Little Free Library.

(However, registrations does bring benefits, including the option to add the library to the Little Free Library world map which makes it easier for patrons to find and visit the library.)

There were a few book in the library, as well as some back issues of Sports Illustrated. (What a great way to pass on magazines after reading them!) I didn’t need any of the reading material, so I didn’t take anything. I wished I had some books to donate to the library, but all of the books I was ready to part with were in my van. This time my only contribution would be documentation.

I hope the Little Free Library stays in that pocket park for a good long time. I hope folks who find it continue to take books and leave books too.

I took all the photos in this post.

10 Tips for Getting House and Pet Sitting Jobs

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I cared for these two sweeties while staying in their house for free.

During my life as a nomad, I’ve often used house and pet sitting as a way to get all of the amenities of living in a home without all the expenses. I’ve had gigs as short as a couple of days to as long as three weeks, and I’ve sat for friends and friends of friends and strangers.

People often want to know how I get my house and pet sitting jobs, and folks with no house and pet sitting experience want to know how they can get started. Today I’ll share ten steps you can take to get house and pet sitting gigs. Some of the tips will apply mostly to absolute beginners, but others will be helpful to people who have sat a time or two but want to expand their businesses.

#1 Tell your friends and family that you are available to house and pet sit. Let them help spread the word. Most of the gigs I’ve done have been for my friends or for close friends of my friends.

#2 Get access to ads from people looking for house and pet sitters and/or post your own ad. I’ve had success with House Sitters America. (I wrote a previous blog post all about my experience using the website.) Rover is a website where house and pet sitters can post ads for their services, including their daily fee. I’ve heard about, but never used The Caretaker Gazette which bills itself as the “only publication in the world dedicated to the property caretaking field.”

#3 Get yourself a business card. I use Vistaprint because I find their prices reasonable and their design tools easy to use. On your cards, include your name, the name of your business, your phone number, an email address, and the website or Facebook page of your business. (It’s easy to set up a Facebook page for your business, which allows you to keep your personal profile private. Do you really want potential customers looking at pictures from your childhood or your best friend’s bachelorette party in Vegas?) Include “pet and house sitting” right there on the card so people will know why they’re saving it. Hand the cards out! They won’t do you any good sitting in the bottom of your bag.

#4 Write a great ad you can use on Craigslist or as your profile on House Sitters America or Rover. You can use

I’ve mostly sat for dog, but I did spend three weeks caring for this kitty cutie.

some of the text to make an eye-catching flyer to hang on bulletin boards around whatever town you’re in. Stress your strengths. Have you owned dogs or cats before? Do you have the Pet First Aid by the American Red Cross app on your phone? Have you ever gone through positive dog training with a pup? Have you volunteered at an animal shelter walking dogs or playing with kittens? Are you a neat freak? Include all that info in your ads.

When I write or answer an ad, I point out that I’m a middle-age woman who doesn’t drink, smoke, or party. I say I may be boring but I’m able to focus my sober attention on the pets and home under my care.

#5 Make a list of references and have it available for potential clients. If you haven’t had a house or pet sitting gig, use friends, co-workers, and employers who can vouch for your honesty and trustworthiness. Be sure you let folks know you are going to use them as references so they can have a plan of nice things to say about you if they get a call. As you sit for people, add them to your list of references. Include phone numbers and email addresses so potential customers can make contact.

#6 Talk to pet professionals. Introduce yourself to pet groomers, receptionists at veterinary clinics, the clerks at pet supply stores. Maybe you can hang your flyer at one or more of these places. Maybe you can leave your card. Maybe these folks will refer you when one of their clients mentions needing a pet sitter. Check in with the professionals periodically to let them know you’re still accepting clients.

#7 Take your dog to the dog park. If you don’t have a dog, offer to take a friend’s dog to the dog park. You want dog owners to see you interacting with a dog in a responsible, loving way. (Do not try this with a poorly-behaved dog that will make you look incompetent.) While you’re at the dog park, talk to dog owners and tell them you’re a pet sitter. Hand out your card.

#8 Patronize other dog friendly places. Lots of restaurants, coffee shops, and bars have outdoor seating areas where dogs are welcome. Bring your dog (or your friend’s dog) and hang out. Talk to people. Hand out your card. If you’re able to frequent dog friendly places, your face will become familiar, and people will be more likely to trust you with their homes and pets.

#9 Consider house and pet sitting at no charge. If you’re living on the road, it might be worth it to you to pet sit for free if you can stay in a house for free and use the electricity, water, and WiFi for free. At times I didn’t get paid for house and pet sitting, I considered it an exchange between me and the home owner.

#10 Don’t be afraid to ask for payment if you’re doing something special. I got paid when I had to give an

I got $10 a day to care for this elderly dog.

incontinent spaniel a pill hidden in peanut butter. I earned $20 a day when I cared for four Rottweilers with a complicated feeing routine. Recently when I agreed at the last minute to sit for an elderly Chihuahua with no teeth who ate wet food, I asked for (and received with no hassle) $10 a day. If you’re doing extra work, you deserve to be compensated for it.

I hope these tips help you find great gigs house and pet sitting so you can get out of your rig when you need to and maybe put some money in your pockets as well.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Blaize Sun has been house and pet sitting since 2012. She’s mostly sat with dogs, but has had an occasional cat client. She appreciates all the people who have allowed her to exchange her time and energy for a stay in their home.

A Day of Miracles and Wonder

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Postbox, British, Red, Monday, Post, LetterIt was Monday morning. I left my friend’s house at 7:30, when she left to drop her kid off at school. I ate breakfast at Taco Bell and drank a cup of coffee while I wrote in my notebook. I left when I needed to so I’d get to my tire rotation appointment right on time, even with delays for traffic and road construction, but the Discount Tire wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I drove in circles for a while, but couldn’t locate the tire shop.

I was in one of those cities where the main street turns numbered avenues into numbered streets, and east or west in an address is important,. I hadn’t paid attention to east and west, and now I was screwed. I was going to miss my appointment.

I know there’s one around here somewhere, I muttered to myself, and there it was up ahead. I was on the right street but at the wrong number. I parked and went into the customer service area anyway.

I think I’m in the wrong place, I said apologetically to the guy behind the counter. He checked his computer. I was definitely in the wrong place.

He told me not to worry about it. It happens all the time, he said. People go there looking for us–people come here looking for them. He could take care of me right where I was. He’d text the other store and let them know what had happened., I should be out of there in about an hour.

Not only did I get my tires rotated even though I ended up in the wrong place, I didn’t receive any bad news. I wasn’t told I neeed new tires or an alignment. There was no talk of tires wearing unevenly or unusually fast. Nothing was amiss, and I got out of there in 45 minutes.

The second miracle involved money. I’d been super stressed about money the past few days. I’d received the lastCoins, Currency, Investment, Insurance, Cash, Banking of my unemployment benefits, and I was about two months away from the start of my seasonal work. I had money saved, but would it last? Also, I was planning to take a long-anticipated road trip with my sibling, but maybe the financially responsible thing to do would be to sit in one place and conserve until it was time to report to work.

I pulled into the supermarket parking lot and stopped the van in a designated space. I grabbed an old flyer so I could jot down my grocery list. When I unfolded the flyer, I noticed somehting flutter. I looked down and saw money! A one dollar bill and a five were on the floor. Where did that come from? I wondered as I reached down to grab the bills. I figured The Man had given me cash for his share of something I’d paid for, and I’d tucked the money in the catchall box I keep on the console above the dog house. It was good to have a $6 surprise.

I finished writing my list, grabbed my bag, and climbed out of the van. When I turned around to close the door, I saw more bills on the floor. I picked up three fives. My bounty of $6 had turned into a bounty of $21.

I chuckled and shook my head. The miracle wasn’t finding $21 I’d forgotten I had. The miracle was the message from the Univers advising me to stop worrying about money. I had all I needed. Money would come. I felt all  my money worries disapate, and I walked inot the supermarket with a light heart.

As many miracles are, my third miracle was born of potential disaster.

Tyre, Burst, Karoo, Flat, Road, Rubber, Car, VehicleI was on the interstate, headed home. There was a lot of tire debris on the road. Vehicles attached to tow trucks and the remains of blownout tires always make me think, There but for the grace of God go I. Tire pieces strewn about the road also trigger me to make a mental sign of the cross. I haven’t been a practicing Catholic in nearly 30 years, but I hope the mental sign of the cross will ward off evil spirits of tire destruction.

I was following a dump truck. The Man always tell me not to follow trucks too closely because they’re prone to throwing rocks. What was thrown at me wasn’t a rock and it wasn’t thrown by the dumptruck. A chunk of tire came flying from one, maybe two, lanes on my right, thrown by a car. It hit my windshild with a loud thunk, then ricocheted off to my left.

I scanned the windshield for a ding. Sure enough, I now had an imperfection in the glass, but it looked more like a chip than a ding.

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! I shouted while pounding my steering wheel before calming down and trying to figure out how to solve my problem. When I’d had the windshield replaced a little more than a year ago, the company I’d bought it from said they’d repair dings for free as long as I was in the county of purchase. I decided I’d stop two exits before my turn-off towards home and investigate getting the windshield repaired.

Problem #1 I didn’t know the name of the company I’d bought the windshield from.

Problem #2 I didn’t know if I’d still be inthe county of purchase when I got off the interstate.

Problem #3 My receipt for the windshipd was in an email. I didn’t have a paper copy.

Problem #4 I didn’t have my phone to access my email account.

I did have my laptop, and I decided my best option was to stop somewhere with WiFi and use my laptop to find the receipt. If I found the name and  phone number of the seller, I could call to find out if they would send a mobile unit to deterime if the problem could be fixed.

I exited the interstate and headed to a supermarket I knew offered free WiFi. I turned too soon and ended up in the wrong parking lot. I decided to stop there and assess the situation. I pulled into a parking spot and hopped out of the van. From the outside, what had looked like a chip from the inside looked more like paper stuck to the glass. I reached up and–miracle #3–wiped my problem away.

I hopped back in my van, disaster averted, and continued on my way.

I need a miracle every day, but that Monday morning, I was blessed with three.

 

Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/postbox-british-red-monday-post-15502/https://pixabay.com/en/coins-currency-investment-insurance-1523383/, and https://pixabay.com/en/tyre-burst-karoo-flat-road-rubber-1614265/,

Scrap Book Boy

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Scrap Book Boy by Tom Bollinger,

When I first saw the Scrap Book Boy sculpture on Main Street (between Robson and Macdonald streets) in the Mesa, AZ permanent downtown collection, I thought it was a companion piece to Booked for the Day. In the former piece, a young boy rests on his stomach looking at a big book, while in the later piece a girl sits on a bench reading. I wondered if they were by the same artist. A little research showed me the two sculptures are not related except by proximity.

Dan Hill created Booked for the Day, and the creator of Scrap Book

Booked for the Day by Dan Hill

Boy is Tom Bollinger. Also, Scrap Book Boy seems to be a one of a kind piece, while different versions of Booked for the Day are on display in more than half a dozen cities.

Tom Bollinger’s biography calls him

a visual artist, living and working near Phoenix, Arizona. Born in North Dakota. Bollinger is a self-described “Sculptor”. He is inspired by his observations and life experiences and inspired by what he describes as the “hoped for..” in humanity. Bollinger seeks, by way of his exploration, to discover what is beneath the surface of what we are and what we see.

I was unable to find much information about Scrap Book Boy online. Bollinger’s list of Commissions and Placement referes to it as

Boy with Book, cast bronze, life size figure, Public Art Program, Mesa, AZ.

However, the plaque on the ground next to the young boy looking at the book uses the name Scrap Book Boy and tells a sad story of the loss of Bollinger’s younger brother.

Upon closer inspection of the book, you really can see the pictures etched from the original scrapbook owned by the senior Bollinger.

So while this piece of art commemorates the sad loss of a child, it also incorporates a cool technique that lets the viewer share in parts of the family history.

To learn more about public art in Mesa, view the brochure that goes along with the self-guided tour of the city’s sculpture collection. You can also read other posts I’ve written about public art in Mesa like the Big Pink Chair, the Mesa Pioneer Monument, Quackers, and Humpty Dumpty.

I took all the photos in this post.

10 Things You Can Do to Increase Your Chances of Having a Great Experience as a Camp Host

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Some aspects of having a great experience as a camp host are matters of chance. You have little control over the weather, the mood of your boss, the number of mosquitoes buzzing around your campsite, or whether your campers are nice folks or jerks. However, here are 10 things you can do to increase your chances of having a great camp hosting experience.

#1 Choose a campground in an area that’s right for you. If you read my previous post 10 Steps to Getting a Job as a Work Camper at a Campground, you’ll know you need to consider where you want to work. If you hate humidity, don’t take a job in the Deep South. If you love humidity, stay out of the desert. If you’re hoping for a cool summer, go up in the mountains. You’ll start out at a disadvantage if you hate your campground’s location.

#2 Ask a lot of questions before you accept a job.

The following are questions you may want to ask:

  • What is my pay rate?
  • How many hours will I be scheduled to work each week? What happens if I work more than my allotted hours? Will I get paid for overtime? Does overtime have to be approved in advance?
  • What duties am I responsible for?
  • How many days off will I get each week? Will I get the same days off each week? When does my time off begin and when does it end? What if my day off falls on a holiday?
  • Will my partner and I work the same hours? Will we get the same days off?
  • Am I allowed to have visitors while I’m on duty?
  • If I drive my own vehicle for work related duties, will I get a mileage reimbursement?
  • If I work after Labor Day weekend, will my hours be cut? If they are cut, by how much?

#3 Get it in writing. Ask for a contract. If there are any disagreements between you and the management in the future, you can refer to your contract.

Skunk cabbage growing in the campground where I was the host for two seasons.

#4 Research the area where you’ll be working before you go. Learn all you can about the nearby attractions as well as what animals and plants you might see. Keep learning once you get to your campground. Go to the places campers ask you about. Learn the answers to the questions everyone asks.

#5 During your research get yourself a really good paper map of the area. Some people are visual learners and will really appreciate it if you can show them how to get from here to there on a map. Also, if you are in a remote location, GPS systems and map apps may not work.

#6 Know the campground rules and follow them. It’s difficult to enforce rules if campers see you breaking them.

#7 Get paid for every hour you work. It’s only fair. Likewise, work every hour you put on your time card. That’s only fair too.

These are the comfortable, sturdy boots I wore during my first season as a camp host.

#8 Use gloves when cleaning toilets. If the company you work for doesn’t provide you with gloves, provide your own. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to clean toilets when you’re not overly worried about getting grossness on your hands.

#9 Wear comfortable, sturdy, closed-toe shoes. Break them in before you start your job.

#10 Laugh every chance you get.  People will be rude. You’ll have to pick up annoying micro trash. It will rain when you were hoping for sunshine or snow when you were hoping for warmth. A sense of humor will get you through the rough spots and make your entire camp hosting experience much more enjoyable.

Blaize Sun was a camp host for two seasons (mid-May through mid-October) in a remote Forest Service location in the mountains of California. She wrote a book about her experiences. It’s called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During her time as a camp host she chased a nursing mouse out of a restroom, cleaned feces off the floor, and discovered a dead man. Her sense of humor is all that kept her going on more than one occasion.

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
I took the photos in this post, except for the image of Confessions of a Work Camper. That’s an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on the image, anything you put in your cart and buy from Amazon during that session will earn me a small advertising fee.

 

 

Interloper at the RTR

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I wrote about this experience at the 2017 RTR but never publislhed it because I really wasn’t as nice as I should have been. I’ve decided to share it anyway. We can all probably learn some lessons from the story. 

The 2017 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) was crowded. There were substantially more people there than in either 2015 or 2016. I guess that’s what happens when a free event is promoted far and wide on social media.

I’d joined Auntie M’s camp across the road from the free pile. In the three days I’d been there, Auntie M had become frustrated by the crowds and the sense of entitlement displayed by some of the RTR participants. She managed to find a spot on the far outskirts of the gathering and moved out there. My friend Gee had arrived from the Midwest and spent one night across the road from us, then moved into the spot Auntie M vacated. I was waiting for a third friend to arrive, so Gee and I  staked out a space between my rig and hers with folding tables and camp chairs.

It was Thursday night, and as usual, I’d gone to bed early. I was in a deep sleep when the headlights shining through my back windows woke me. Someone had gone around the barriers and pulled into my camp on the side of Gee and me fatherest from the road. I wasn’t expecting anyone I knew to arrive that late. No one had texted me to say she was on her way; no one had texted me to say she had arrived. When I peeked out my back window, I saw the vehicle that had pulled into my camp was a large pickup with a slide-in camper on the back. I didn’t know anyone who drove that sort of rig.

I should have gotten out of bed, put on some clothes, and gone out to speak to the stranger who’d so boldly moved right into my camp. I should have told the interloper the truck was parked too close, and we were saving room for another rig. I should have stood up for myself. However, I’m Southern, and I hate conflict, and it was dark and chilly outside, so I fumed for a while, then went back to sleep.

I was up early the next morning. Gee was on her way out on a day trip, so I stretched the tables and chairs to save the spot she’d left temporarily empty.

While I was out there, I determined how the interloper had gotten in. She drove on the narrow path between our closest neighbor and Gee’s small cargo trailer. The trailer, Gee’s van, and my rig were parked parallel to the road. The driver of the pickup had come around from the back and parked on the thin strip of level ground to our left. No considerate person would have put themselves so close to us or tried to start another row of rigs on our far side.

My third friend had arrived in Quartzsite the pervious afternoon, found Auntie M’s camp, and spent the night there. She and Auntie walked into the main camp for the morning seminar. When they saw how close the interloper had parked to me and Gee, they were outraged on our behalf.

I was still undecided about what to do.

I know there is no exclusive use of public land. I could tell the driver of the truck s/he ws too close, but the BLM wouldn’t back me up on that. If I suggested the interloper move and s/he refused, I might have a pissed off, vindictive person in my camp. Perhaps it was better to say nothing and just try to get along.

It was late morning before the interloper emerged from the rig. I was talking to my friend Iggy when the woman and her tiny chihuahua came outside. She plopped down into her camp chair and tried to insinuate herself into our conversation. I was livid. I might have felt differently had she introduced herself, explained her situation, maybe apologized for being way too close. However, she did none of those things. She just acted as if it were perfectly natural to move in on strangers without so much as a howdy-do.

I replied to her attempts at conversation coldly. I discreetly (or maybe not so discreetly…I didn’t much care) moved father away from her. I was most unhappy with the situation.

While Iggy and I talked, the interloper’s dog barked and strained on its leash to meet another dog. She brought the chihuahua to meet the other dog, and as they parted ways, the chihuahua defecated just outside my camp. When the chihuahua was done, it and its person went back to the truck. I assumed she would get a plastic bag and clean up the mess, but instead she plopped back down in her chair.

I turned to her and asked, Are you going to clean that up? I figured someone was bound to step in the shit if it sat there very long.

The woman sputtered about needing to get a plastic bag, then got out of her chair, found a bag, and cleaned up the mess. I suspect she hadn’t planned on picking up after her dog.

I went back to my conversation with Iggy until we saw folks walking up to the free pile with armloads of items to give away. We decided to walk over and examine the new offerings.

Lady Nell was at the free pile, so I was chatting with her while finding a few more useful free items. I glanced across the street at my camp and saw the interloper had a visitor. Then I realized the interloper’s gentleman caller was sitting a chair I’d earlier salvaged from the free pile and promised to a friend. The nerve!

I told Lady Nell what was going one, and she and others around the free pile agreed it wasn’t ok. Both Lady Nell and  woman I’d never seen before asked if I needed backup, but I said I thought I could handle it ok.

I marched across the stree and right up to the man. Excuse me, I said coldly to the gentleman caller. That’s my chair.

To his credit, he jumped right up and apologized for offending me. I snatched the chair, folded it up, and brought it to my van. The interloper and her gentleman caller then went over to Gee’s chairs which were holding space for her rig and had a conversation about whether or not he should sit in one of those. Apparently they decided not, so they walked over to the neighboring camp and sat in the chairs there. (I found out later the interloper was friendly with the neighbor.)

Honestly, I if I had been standing there and the guy had asked to borrow the chair, I would have said yes. However, walking into a stranger’s camp and making use of someone’s gear without permission is simply unacceptable.

I sat in my van with the side doors open most of the rest of the afternoon fuming and texting with Auntie M who was even madder about the whole thing than I was. Around three o’clock, one of Gee’s friends came by, and I had a pleasant conversation with him. While we were talking, the interloper maneuvered her truck out of our camp and took off on the road out of the gathering.

When Gee’s friend and his cute dog strolled off to resume their evening constitutional, I approached the guy in the camp next door. I’d seen him talking to the interloper after her gentleman caller left.

Is that lady gone for good? I asked the neighbor

She had orignally been parked on the other side of him, he told me. When she’d come back from town the night before, she’d been disoriented (is that what kids these days are calling it?)  and accidentally pulled into my cap. She must have been quite disoriented becaues my camp looked nothing like where she’d been parked before and there was no way to accidentally pull in where she’d put her truck.

I told him she’d been too close to me and Gee, then her gentleman caller had used my chair without my permission.

Yeah, the guy said, she told me you’d read her the riot act.

Oh dear! She thought that was the riot act? That was the wimpiest riot act ever! I didn’t even ask her to move or complain about her being too close. I only asked her if she planned to clean up her dog’s poop and reclaimed my own chair.

I suppose I should have been more direct in a kind way, but sometimes I’m just at a loss.

 

Animal Collages

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The Crafter's Complete Guide to Collage
My friend sent me a copy of The Crafter’s Complete Guide to Collage by Amanda Pearce. I felt like I’ve already mastered many of the techniques included in the book, such as the use of found objects and basic composition. However, I was fascinated by the chapter on paper collage, especially the section dealing with the grain of papers, mixing textures, and ripping versus cutting edges. The chapter made me think in new ways about using paper.

Then I was in a thrift store and found a stack of those wildlife cards marketed to kids on the 1970s and 80s. I was rummaging through them, considering the collage posibilities when I saw a naked mole rat! A naked mole rat! The Lady of the House had recently told me the naked mole rat is the favorite animal of The Man of the House becasue the critter seems to have to ability to live forever–or at least they don’t appear to “go through the gradual (and eventually rapid) process of self-destruction that we think of as aging.” The odds of finding a good photo of a naked mole rat in a thrift store seemed slim, and I felt like maybe the universe was prompting me to create some art for The Man of the House.

Will you humor me while I talk about my process?

Of course, first I cut out the photo of the naked mole rat. Then I went through my papers and found some colors I thought would go together nicely. I tore the edges of the papers for added visual interest, then glued the papers onto a piece of canvas panal board I’d picked up at a different thrift shop. I glued the photo of the rodent onto a button then glued the button onto the board to lift the photo slightly off the surface.

The words in the talk bubble are in reference to the lyrics to the song “Fame” (from the movie Fame). In the song, lyricist Irene Cara writes, “(Fame) I’m gonna live forever.” I thought it would be funny if a creature that doesn’t age (in the way most of the world understands aging)  was singing about living forever.

The stars were the last addition to the piece, necessary, I thought to perk it up and pull all of the elements together. I knew The Man of the House wouldn’t like glitter, but maybe shiny stars weren’t going too far.

After I finished this gift for The Man of the House, I wanted to make something for the Lady of the House too. She is a big fan of the blue-footed booby, and I just so happened to have a photo of two of them I’d cut out from a magazine some time ago.

Again, I tore the edges of the papers and glued them to the canvas board. I cut as close as possible around the edges of the birds, then glued them down next. Blue stars added a little bit of dazzle, as did the sparkly blue squares on the bottom corners. The blue “sun” is a button, and I glued a light blue bit of bling to a white heart. Of course, the little song the birds are singing to each other is a takeoff of the old standard “Tea for Two.”

By the time you read this post, The Man and Lady of the House will have received these gifts. I hope they go over well.

 

 

10 Steps to Getting a Job as a Work Camper at a Campground

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Lots of rubber tramps, nomads, vagabonds, and van dwellers are drawn to the idea of work camping. Working a few months, accumulating a pile of money, then living several months without a job can be quite appealing. While there are a variety of work camping jobs available throughout the year (Amazon CamperForce during the winter holiday season, the beet harvest shortly after that), working at a campground during camping season (typically Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, but sometimes later in the year depending on the weather) gives workers the added bonus of spending time in nature.

People who’ve never before worked in a campground often wonder how they should go about getting such a work camper job. Today I’ll share with you ten steps to help you get a work camper job at a campground.

#1 Be honest with yourself about your strengths, weaknesses, desires, and dislikes. If the thought of cleaning pit toilets makes you gag, you may not cut it as a camp host. Perhaps you might be better suited to a job at a campground store. Not really a people person? Maybe you should get a job (such as doing maintenance) which doesn’t require contact with the public every day.

#2 Consider where you want to work. What state or region draws you? Do you want to be close to family members or as far away as possible? Hate sand? You probably don’t want to get a job at the beach. Have breathing problems? You may not want to work in the mountains. Can’t stand the heat? The desert is probably not for you.

Remember that as a rule, temperature drops with a rise in elevation. If you’re looking to escape from summer heat, get a job in the mountains. If you’re always cold, find a place to work at sea level.

Being flexible may improve your chances of getting a job. If you decide you’ll only work in Delaware, you might discover the job market is tight. If you expand your job search to the entire Eastern Seaboard, you’ll have a better chance of finding employment.

#5 Decide if you want to work at a private campground or on public land. Some facilities on public land are run by private companies who have negotiated contracts with the government agency managing the land.

#4 Think about the amenities you need. If you need electricity for medical reasons, don’t take a job at a campground with no electrical hookups unless you will be allowed to run your generator whenever necessary. (Many campgrounds have quiet hours when running a generator is not allowed.) If you can’t live without Facebook and YouTube, don’t work in a remote location without internet access. If you have to check in with a loved one every night, a campground with no landline and no cell phone service is not going to cut it for you. If you need a hot shower every morning and you can’t take one in your rig, make sure any campground you consider working in can provide that for you.

Find out not only how far any campground you are considering working at is from town, but also what is available in that town. Where I work in the mountains, there are communities where I can buy ice and highly overpriced food eight and twelve miles from my campground, but those communities offer no WiFi and no cell phone service. I have to drive a minimum of 30 miles to get to even a small town grocery store. You’ll need to decide how far from civilization you can stand to be.

#5 Assess your rig. Can it make it across country to get to a job? Will it make it up a mountain if that’s where the campground you’ll be working at is? If you’ll have to drive it back and forth to civilization on your days off, what’s your gas mileage like?

Some companies only hire workers with newer rigs. Check with the companies you hope to work for to determine if your rig matches their criteria.

Some companies also require a photo of your rig before they’ll make a hiring decision. When you take the photo, be sure you get your rig’s “best side.”

Before you take a job, make sure your rig will fit in the site reserved for the camp host.

#6 Look closely at your financial situation. Can you afford to work in exchange for a only spot to park your rig and full hookups or do you need to earn an hourly wage? Some state parks do give campground volunteers a small stipend, which can help offset your costs.

Consider how much it will cost you to get to your job. Are you going in the hole to get to work? How many hours will you have to put in before you recoup your expenses?

If you’re working in a remote location, how much will it cost you each time you go into civilization? Factor in the amount of gas you’re using, wear and tear on your vehicle, and the amount of time you’re losing driving.

#7 Start your job search.

If you’re on Facebook, join the groups relating to work camping. Some of these groups include Work Campers Mobile Jobs, RV Hosts & Work Campers of America, Workampers, Journey RV Workampers, and The Camphosts.  Members of these groups share information about work camping jobs, including jobs at campgrounds.

Private companies that hire camp hosts and other workers for campground jobs include American Land and Leisure, California Land Management, Recreation Resource Management, Hoodoo Recreation, KOA, Rocky Mountain Recreation, Scenic Canyons Recreational Services, and Thousand Trails. Go to these companies’ websites to find out what campground positions are currently open.

Several job search websites list camp host and other campground jobs. Try Indeed, Happy Vagabonds, and Glassdoor.

If you’re interested in a volunteer work camper position, go to Vounteer.gov. You can put in keywords (such as “camp host”) in the search bar and even choose the city and state you would like to work in.

Workamper News is another source for finding work camping jobs. There’s a free membership which includes the digital version of Workamper News Magazine and a $47 a year membership that includes the printed version of the magazine and a lots of extras like a résumé builder and a member directory. I’ve never had a Workamper membership, but I know the company is highly regarded by the people who use it.

#8 Write an awesome resume. If you’ve never been a camp host or work camper, accent how the jobs you’ve had in the past relate to the job you want. Research I’ve done indicates that even if a potential employer asks for a resume, the person actually reading it appreciates applicants who keep things concise and relevant.

#9 Interview like a champ. Make a list of questions before your interview. You can find a great list of questions to get you started on the Workers on Wheels website. Take notes during the interview and repeat what you’ve heard to make sure you understand what was said. Ask for clarification about anything you don’t understand. Be honest, but don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Let the employer know how you will be an asset to the operation.

#10 Apply early and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Work camping positions in popular locations fill up fast. If you are willing to apply for several different positions, you increase your chances of being hired somewhere. If this is your first shot at work camping, you may want to take a position that is less desirable to you so you can get your foot in the door and some experience under your belt.

Blaize Sun got her first work camping job as a camp host and parking lot attendant in 2015. She wrote about her work camping experiences in her book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. In May she’ll start her second season working in a campground store.

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
I took the photos of the pit toilet and Smokey the Bear. The photo of Confessions of a Work Camper is an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it, whatever you add to your cart and buy while on Amazon will earn me a small advertising fee.

Strays

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Dog on Concrete RoadI was on my way home from a festival where I’d sold my handicrafts and shiny rocks. I’d just turned my van into my neighborhood when I saw a dog racing down the street ahead of me.

The people where I live take the county leash law very seriously, and I never see dogs running loose around here. As I drove very slowly behind the dog, I looked around for its person. There were no humans in sight.

I stopped the van and got out. Hey dog! I called. The dog whirled around and looked at me.

Here doggie! I called calmly, and it ran right up to me and let me pet her. What a sweetie!

She wore a collar, so I checked for a tag. She had a county registration tag, but nothing wih a name or phone number on it. She was obviously somebody’s dog and I didn’t want her to get hit by a car on the nearby highway or be torn up by the neighborhood pack of coyotes, so I decided to try to help her find her people.

I opened the van’s side door and moved some things around. As soon as there was space, the dog jumped right in.

I called the office of the place where I live. The manager answered the phone, and I asked her if she knew of anyone whose dog was missing. She said the dog had been running around for a while and other folks had called to notify her.

I’ve got the dog in my van, I told her, then asked if there was a nearby animal shelter where I should take it.

She gave me a phone number, which I called. I talked to a woman whose position I still don’t know. Was she an animal control officer? Was she a local pet rescue volunteer? I still have no idea.

I told the woman on the phone my location and described the dog I’d just ushered into my van. She said other people had called about the dog, whose name was Milly. Her person hadn’t answered his phone earlier, but the woman knew where he lived. (I suppose this information was found via the county registration on the dog’s tag.) The women on the phone gave me the dog’s address, and I said I’d drive Milly home.

As I pulled out onto the main highway, I saw a most unusual sight. Two travelers were walking on the side of the road. The guy had long salt and pepper hair pulled back into a low ponytail, and the woman had dread locks in a neat bun on the top of her head. Each carried a big backpack and held a leash hooked to a big dog. Both wore clothes made drab by long wear and road dirt. These were traveling kids, although I could see in their faces that these folks were well out of their 20s.

Seeing them there was strange because my winter home is truly in the middle of nowhere. It’s 10 miles from the nearest small town, 50 miles from the next small town, and ninety miles from the nearest Wal-Mart. These folks were over 100 miles from the next city in the direction they were headed, with practically nothing but tribal land between their current location and the city. Of course, they could have been headed somewhere on the tribal land; surely there are Native American traveling kids on the highways and backroads of the U.S. Maybe these two were almost home.

In any case, I didn’t have time to stop for them. I was trying to get the stray dog home, and the travelers and I were headed in opposite directions. I decided I’d look for them upon my return and continued on my dog rescue mission.

I found the street where Milly supposedly lived and a mailbox with the correct house number. I had a leash in my van, so I hooked it to Holly’s collar, and we went together to find her people. The houses were laid out in an odd configuration, and I had trouble finding the right one. I knocked on a door without a number and an elderly woman with thin hair and unfortunate eyeliner answered. I politely asked her if this dog was hers. She said it was not. I told her the address I was looking for. She was unsure of the location, but told me where she thought it was.

From inside the house, an unseen man hollered, She’s looking for Marv!

Marve doesn’t have a dog! she called back impatiently.

I thanked her for her help, and Milly and I were on our way.

I drove just a little ways down the street and found the number I was looking for. It was Marv’s house, if the painted rock labeled Marv and Betty was to be believed. Maybe Marv had gotten a dog without alerting the neighbors.

I leashed Milly again, and we walked up to the door. I knocked. The door was opened by an elderly woman I presume was Betty. Like the woman I’d just spoken to, she wore jeans and a sweatshirt, but Betty’s hair was a perfectly white frizzy poof surrounding her head like the nimbus of a saint in a Renaissance painting.

I politely asked her if this was her dog. She said it was not. She said she currently didn’t have any dogs. I explained I’d been given her address as the home of the dog, but she firmly maintained that Milly did not live there. I thanked her and took Milly back to the van.

I called the woman who’d given me the (mis)information about where Milly lived and told her the dog’s person didn’t live where she thought he did. She asked me if I could meet her ten miles away at the animal shelter. I agreed.

When I arrived at the county complex housing the shelter, I leashed Holly yet again and walked over to the entrance. The woman I’d been talking to was waiting for us. She was middle age, blonde, and dressed Saturday afternoon casual. She told me she’d called Milly’s person again, and he’d answered this time.

He’d been drinking, and I woke him up, she told me.

Apparently, when she asked for his address, he couldn’t tell her. Get up and wash your face, she’d told him, and figure out where you live!

I felt bad about leaving Milly in the dark concrete kennel, but she did have the company of a fuzzy white dog named Buddy.

I don’t want anything bad to happen to her here, I told the woman, meaning please don’t euthenize this sweet dog just because her person is a dumbass and lets her run around.

Nothing bad’s going to happen to her here, the woman said. If you leave her running around out there, she might run onto the highway…The woman shuddered and didn’t spell out what might happen if Milly were to run onto the highway. She didn’t need to spell it out; I know cars and animals can be a dangerous combination.

I left Milly, trusting the woman to get her home. I suspected the woman would also give Milly’s person a stern lecture on the dangers of letting her run free.

Gray Concrete Road Beside Brown Mountain during Golden HourI was almost home when I thought about the traveling couple again. I wonder what happened to them, I thought moments before I saw them sitting on the side of the road just past my turn. I purposefully missed the turn and stopped my van near them.

Where in the world are y’all going? I asked as I approached them on foot.

As I suspected he would, the guy named the city 100+ miles away, then asked hopefully, Where are you going?

I live over there, I pointed. I could tell they were disappointed.

We heard there’s a truckstop about a mile down the road, the woman said hopefully. Do you think you could drive us there?

I don’t think it’s a truckstop, I told them. I think it’s just a gas station. But yes, I can drive you there.

They loaded in their packs and their dogs, all the while tickeld that a Grateful Dead rendition of “Scarlet Begonias” was coming through the speaker attached to my phone.

What are y’all doing out here? I asked as soon as the van was rolling.

That’s a long story, the guy said. I’ll let you tell it, he said to the woman.

She kept it short. They were looking to settle down, she said, and they had friends in the nearby small town. They’d come to stay with the friends who had immediately started acting weird, so now they were heading back to the city.

I pulled int the gas station’s parking lot and handed the woman a few bucks. She was very thankful, as was her guy, who lifted his shirt to show me the word “LOVE” amateurishly tattoed high on his stomch. (Yes, that part of the encounter was as awkward as it sounds.)

I briefly toyed with the idea of offering to drive them to the city, but I really didn’t want to make a 200+ mile round trip that overcast afternoon, especially the part where I’d have to come back alone. Besides, they were old enough to have been around the block a time or two. I think they’d been on the road a while and (hopefully) knew how to handle themselves.

They unloaded their packs and their dogs, and they thanked me again before I drove off.

I hope all the strays I picked up that day eventually made it home safely.

 

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/dog-on-concrete-road-688835/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-concrete-road-beside-brown-mountain-during-golden-hour-163848/.

My Girl Scout Career

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girl scout trifoil with outline by barnheartowlMy Girl Scout career lasted six years. I started in first grade as a Brownie and continued in the organization until the end of sixth grade, my last year as a Junior. I sold a lot of cookies, earned some patches, and never went camping.

My mom was the leader or assistant leader for the first five troops I was in. In fifth grade, no one wanted to lead a Junior troop, so I got to be the helper in my mom’s Brownie troop. I don’t remember in what ways I helped. Mostly I remember participating in activities with the younger girls during meetings and working on projects for my badges alone, at home, on my own time.

By sixth grade, while I was still interested in Girl Scouts, my mom was burned out. She was done being a Girl Scout leader. By the beginning of the school year, another mom had stepped up to lead a Junior troop.

I don’t remember much about that troop. We met in the same building where Catholic kids (including me and my sibling) received weekly indoctrination in church policy. My overall memory of my troop is of a bunch of almost teenage girls running around a small classroom screaming. Our troop leader did not have control of the situation.

The Christmas season rolled around. (This was the early 80s in a medium size, predominately Catholic town. No one I knew spoke of the “holiday season.” I’d never heard of Hanukah or Kwanza.) At a meeting after Thanksgiving, our leader told us we’d make Christmas tree ornaments the next time we met.

On the appointed evening, after we ate our snack (cheap cookies and super sweet Kool-Aid), the leader gave each girl a metal circle that had been removed from a can of food. The edges were jagged and sharp, and a crude hole had been punched to facilitate hanging. The leader said we could decorate our circles any way we wanted, then turned us loose with glitter and glue. Badges, Cartoon, Comic, Comic Characters, Cookies

It wasn’t my finest art project, but I hadn’t been given much to work with. I don’t recall the ornament ever hanging from the family Christmas tree. In fact, when my parents divorced and I took the box of family Christmas tree decorations, I didn’t find the ornament among the tinsel, lights, and other school art project decorations. I suspect my mother trashed the can lid ornament moments after it arrived in our house.

My mother was trying not to badmouth this new leader. After all, the woman had taken on a job my mother didn’t want. It wouldn’t be fair to criticize her for doing the best she could. Beside, since I was in the woman’s troop, I should respect her, which might be difficult if my mom was badmouthing her within my hearing. Somehow, I still knew my mom didn’t approve of the rowdy chaos of the meetings, and even I could see the Christmas tree ornament was a substandard art project. My Girl Scout troop didn’t meet during the Christmas holidays, and whenever it came up as a topic of conversation, my mom pressed her lips into a thin line of disapproval, but didn’t say much.

Soon after we went back to school, it was Girl Scout cookie time. Some years back, the people governing the Girl Scout organization decided girls should take preorders for cookies. Each girl received a large, glossy card printed in color with a list of all the cookies available. The chart included a place to write the name and phone number of each customer and a row to fill in how many boxes of each variety of cookie the customer wanted. I dutifully carried my order card around with me for the next few weeks so I could take orders from friends, family, and family friends.

When the cookies were finally delivered, my mom went with me into our troop’s meeting room to pick up what my customers had ordered, as well as the extras I’d sell door-to-door. My parents spent the following weeks driving me around so I could drop off cookies and collect money owed.

I don’t clearly remember the next part of my story, but my mom told me all about it when I was in my 20s. Of course, my sibling says, Mom lies about everything! and Mother’s track record is spotty at best. However, since I have no recollection of the following events and only Mom’s side of the story to go by, I can only report what she told me.

Throughout cookie delivery time, the troop leader wanted the girls to give her cash as we collected it. I think she even called my mom and asked for the cookie cash we had on hand. My mom explained that in years past, as I collected cookie money, she deposited it in the family checking account, then at the end of cookie sales, she wrote one check for the full amount owed. I don’t think the leader was very happy with this arrangement, but there was nothing she could do if my mother refused to turn in the money until the very end.

The day came to turn in the cookie money. Mom sent me in to the troop’s meeting room to hand it over, but I don’t remember if it was in the form of a check or a wad of cash. She made me bring in the order card too, on which there was a spot for the leader to initial to indicate all money had been received. My mother told me not to come back to the car until I had the leader’s initials in the proper spot.

I was gone for a long time, Mom told me years later. I’m not sure if I told my mom that the leader hadn’t wanted to initial the card, of if that’s a detail one of us has added in. In any case, the cookie money was turned in, and my mom had one less thing to worry about.

I don’t know if it was weeks or months later when a representative of the local Girl Scout council called my mom to let her know our family still owed money for all the boxes of cookies we’d taken. Mom said I’d given the money to my troop leader. The person from the Girl Scout council told my mom the leader said she’d never received any money from me. My mom countered with the leader’s initials on my order card indicating she had received full payment. The Girl Scout council representative thought that was very interesting as the leader had not initialed any of the other girls’ cards.

More details came to light as my mother talked to the parents of other girls in the troop, as well as people she knew who worked for the local Girl Scout council. The leader had been asking everyone for cash during cookie delivery time, and apparently, lots of families had handed it right over. There was even some indication the woman had ordered way more boxes of cookies than the girls in the troop could possibly sell, but I don’t know if she planned to go into the black market cookie business during the summer or if she planned to feed her kids cookies when she didn’t have grocery money. I imagine her driving down to Mexico to start a new life, a thick stack of cash in her purse, her kids buckled in, and the back of the station wagon stacked with boxes of Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Patties.

The last my mother heard, the sheriff was looking for the troop leader.

I understand times were tough for the troop leader. I think she was a single mother with a couple of kids in addition to the skinny daughter who was in the troop. However, one can’t get much lower than stealing from Girl Scouts, except maybe by stealing from nuns. The leader probably didn’t think what she did was stealing from 5th and 6th graders, but some portion of that money was supposed to go back to our troop for fun activities and projects. She really had stolen from us.

That year was my last in Girl Scouts. I would have moved on to a troop of Cadets in 7th grade, but no one wanted to lead the troop, and maybe no other girls wanted to be part of it. After the leader embezzled the cookie money, my mom decided my time in Girl Scouts was over.

Images courtesy of https://openclipart.org/detail/215146/girl-scout-trifoil-with-outline and https://pixabay.com/en/badges-cartoon-comic-1300127/.