To all my followers: thank you!

I couldn’t do this without you. Thank you for reading and following. That is such a compliment and I am humbled and grateful because you chose to follow me. Thank you for sharing my site with your friends on Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter and Tumblr and Google+.

Bless you all. You are all my tribe.

Advertisements

A writer or a dreamer?

I never seem to write enough or as beautifully as I would like to. I am listening to the sounds of the night while a soft breeze creeps in through my window. A lone cicada scrapes away as if hoping for a reply. I have Kate Rusby playing in the background; her album Ghost mirrors what I feel soul-wise and I feel stranded here and the world is strange to me as I carve out a life in this familiar yet unfamiliar place that is my home. The largest freshwater lake in the world is my heart, my mother, my world. It is she I have returned home to, her song I’ve heard in my heart.

Endlessly, like the sea she stretches onwards meeting the sky at the far eastern horizon in a blue line. Like the sea she has her moods and in her worst moods she has brought mighty ships down to her deepst depths. This lake that doesn’t give up her dead due to the extreme cold temperatures is unpredictable and I am hopelessly in love with her and have been since I was a child.

I wonder what life i am making for myself. It is easy to give myself over to my gypsy soul and be flamboyant and read tarot cards in public and do whatever jobs come up. I wonder vaguely if this is responsible –adult–and then I quail inside. My inner child rebels. She has had quite enough of being responsible and adulting as they call it now–she wants to play and blow soap bubbles with their rainbows undulating and shining in wet stripes as they are formed out of the breath of my lungs in that curious plastic loop and set free. It is a mini act of Creation, an imitation of the sacred act.

It is starting not to matter if I ever have a career. I have failed most miserably in this endeavor. I tried to have one and it was cut short by pay cuts and circumstance and maybe fate. I have never recovered it despite hundreds of resumes sent out. The collective no that is the silence of prospective employers never responding to my applications resounds.

And so I write. I write my story day by day for me, to prove I existed, I exist, I live, to spite mortality perhaps. My life is a homage to the man I loved and it has not been wasted. I have traveled the world. I have raised two beautiful sons. I am mother, sister, aunt. I am no ones lover, but perhaps that has been by unconscious choice since Jerry died; though we were never married, never acknowledged publicly, there we lived in a bubble for a moment where we found each other, understanding and kinship. Is it less for never having been a public thing or embraced in a togetherness all could see?

To me it is not less. I do not grieve less than the widow of 47 years. I am often breathless by the pain of it at odd moments, just when I feel I am healed at last, I’m over it. You never get over it. Ever. It just becomes bearable until it is not. Then you cry and feel and crumple and begin again tomorrow.

I wonder if I will ever love like that again, have a soulmate like that again. A kindred spirit. I soldier on. I open myself to meet others. It curiously doesn’t happen, the meeting new people along with possible bonding. Maybe I am so powerful I am stopping a new love from happening because I am not over this. Maybe I am not desirable. Maybe I’ve had the only love I will ever have.

These thoughts swirl around in my head as I go on with my life and improve my camper and myself. I wander over the lake shore daily, no longer questioning what is on the other side. Sometimes I feel as if I am staring across mortality as if my life stretches interminably ahead, and I cannot see what will come, and I am overwhelmed by having to live so long . It seems empty to live without someone who loves me back I can look after.

I shake myself out of this blue state. I read Joyce Carol Oates’ memoir A Widow’s Story and I relate. And then I remember I am less than a widow. I loved a man who never married me or dated me or anything. I loved a man who spent hours picking my brain and talking with me and confiding in me, who made me laugh and who enjoyed giving me things to read and watch and listen to. I loved a man who dated others while we wrote back and forth over the years, while I dated and married another. I loved a man who is now dead, having never married who died alone in bed, and only his books, a Masters thesis, my memories and a headstone are testament to his existence. And one photograph.

I am less than a widow. My love was invisible. Perhaps not to him, but to the world. What am I who feels a widows pain but am not a widow? I feel somehow wrong as if my love was wrong, as if it belongs nowhere, as if it should not exist.

Yet I loved and still do. I wish to love again and I fear I will not and I fear I will not be loved. I am most alone but content in that slowness, curiously enough. I live day by day awkwardly, fumbling, in my hometown that is unfamiliar and familiar.

Getting it together in this gypsy’s life

I’ve gone from friend’s home to car to camper.  The camper is a metaphor.  And I get it.   Get the camper together, and my life will follow.   When you get rid of the extras, you zero in on the necessities. Okay.    Cut the excess baggage. Oh wait—-!  I found out that applies to ME too–my body.  I gained weight the last few months and I was so disappointed because I’d  lost like 200 pounds.  The good news is that I didn’t gain back anywhere near 200 lbs.  No, I need to lose about 50 lbs.   So while I’m working on the camper, I’m also working on myself.   The answer for me?   (Click on the graphic for the app for either Apple or Android!)   It’s an interval program.  It comes with a personal trainer (okay, it’s not a real person but you get your choice between a man, a woman, a unicorn (the one I chose!) or a drill sergeant, and someone else I think.  You can play your own music and hey. It’s only 30 minutes a day three days a week).   I HIGHLY recommend it.   You’re never too old to get off the couch!  You may not run fast, ever, but you and me are still running faster than the one on the couch!

Screen+Shot+2017-09-29+at+15.46.59

And about eating–oh my god.  Carbs don’t treat me well.  I blow up like a balloon when I eat too many carbs, with edema.  So I went back on a high protein diet and it was amazing.  My ankles and feet quit swelling up after three days of being on it.  I donate plasma and they kept telling me that my protein was low.  Don’t know why it took me so long to get it.

Now for the disclaimer—this works well for ME.   I know my body and I know what works.  It may not work well for YOU.  You will have to find your own way, little Padawan.   

I applied for two jobs that pay three times what my current one does. Self confidence!

selfconfidence

Ever since I bought this camper, and found out I CAN fix things, and I don’t NEED anyone else’s help unless I ask for it, I have been EMPOWERED in a way that is hard to describe.  So many people seek to take over under the guise of helping a person, when maybe what we ought to be doing is leaving someone alone to let them accomplish!   When we “overhelp,” we are actually taking away that person’s power, and telling them that we don’t believe in them!   Little kids are so independent. That’s good!   We all need to learn to ask for help at times, but you know what?  Most of the time we do just fine on our own if we are allowed to.

See how fixing up an old camper has extended to other parts of my life?  It’s really incredible to me.   I have gotten rid of things, and now I’m getting rid of excess weight.  I have fixed things in the camper, and that has been fixing things that were broken in me–my self confidence, my faith in myself and my abilities.

For example,

I fixed  bad spot in the ceiling of the camper last night.  I had bought some peel and stick laminate that looked almost EXACTLY like the brown paneling in the camper.   I got the idea that a rotten spot in the ceiling that was dribbling down fine powdery rotten wood pieces on my head through the torn paneling could be fixed temporarily (I’m not rich you know), with cardboard and that peel and stick laminate.  I know how it SHOULD be done.  All the rotten wood should be removed and insulation put up in there, and a piece of paneling purchased and stapled in place with an air staple gun.   I get it.  I don’t have any of those things.   Winter is coming.  I’m getting rotten wood powder and pieces on my floor and my head every time I walk under it.  Necessity is the mother of invention.

Here’s what I had to fix: (this was from before I bought it–water damage sustained when a tree fell on the camper):

step 1

 

That’s all rotten wood and paneling.  I scooped all that out and stuck a piece of foam insulation up there.  Then I got out the cardboard and duct tape–miracle worker.  If it was good enough to fix airplane wings it’s good enough for me. I covered the hole left over (stuffed with foam insulation mind you), with the cardboard and duct taped it into place.

step 2

Then….I WHIPPED OUT THE LAMINATE.   Why did I capitalize that?  I have zero idea. It was pretty exciting though.

So I had to measure to see how much laminate I would have to cut.  And there is an annoying white border on the edges of peel and stick laminate that I had to trim off because I am totally faking it till I make it here.

What you need

Isn’t it great!!!   It’s a total lie, just like my makeup, but because I’m a woman and good at covering up blemishes, it sure looks terrific!    I measured, peeled and stuck and oh my god it went on the paneling SO EASILY.   Here’s the finished product.  The hole is sealed up and fully insulated so unlike before, no cold air can get in.  That was the main concern for me because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get the paneling to fix it before winter sets in.    Here’s how it turned out!!  So exciting!

Finished product

Not bad, eh?   It’s not perfect, but it’s a darned sight better than that gaping hole!   I woke up this morning and it felt so good not to have to stare at that broken paneling by the vent on the ceiling anymore.  It is fixed till I can get it fixed!

This is the first home I’ve owned.  It is not what I envisioned.  I thought my first home would be a “real house,” with a big lawn and a place I could have a dog and a basement office.  It turns out my first home is better than I envisioned, because I am putting my whole heart and soul into the place, and making it my own.  In the meantime, my whole life is improving because of that camper, and I am getting outside of myself at the same time and the whole thing is making my life better.   I have some thoughts to share on mourning  and letting go as connected to the last article about my friend Jerry that I wrote.   

I have thoughts.  So many thoughts.   But these thoughts will be for future posts.  This post is the foundation.   Fixing up that camper is an extension of the work going on within me.  I will be living in this camper for at least a year.  I wonder what my life will be like at the end of this year?   How will I be better?  How will others benefit as a result of my personal renovation?   How will my life be better?  Better job?

alcott

From house to car to camper–a series: What we can do without would surprise you

thoreau

When I wrote my initial blog entry “From House to Car in 2.6 Seconds,” I was not prepared for the interest this entry would generate. I am giving a bit of an introduction to the change of mindset that a move from consumerism to minimalism requires because 1) my mind is still getting used to the idea of downsizing, 2) I suspect many of you may not have known the option to live “tiny” existed. Or that it was feasible. Or that it could even be cool. What you may not realize, as I have not, is that you don’t really have to “go without”” in order to have a great quality of life. What does happen to your mind though, is that it gets “retrained” to think about what is truly necessary versus what we think of as “necessary.” For instance:

  1. I got rid of a bunch of clothes today because they won’t all fit in the small closet in my camper. I didn’t wear these clothes for a long time. I had no earthly use for them. I still had plenty to wear after getting rid of four big boxes and now those four big boxes are going to do other people good. Pros: I have less to wash, thus my laundromat loads will be cheaper. I kept what I REALLY liked.
  2. I don’t need a TV. I have Netflix on my 4 year old iPhone.
  3. I don’t need a phone contract. I got prepaid through Cricket for 30.00 a month with unlimited talk and text and 2G of data. What did I do with Facebook and Messenger? I deleted them off my phone because I have them on my iPhone, which I use for watching Netflix, email and Facebook. (I don’t use the iPhone as a phone anymore and I have never felt the need to upgrade to a thousand dollar iPhone X).
  4. I don’t need cable, or satellite. That saves me probably about 1200 a year.
  5. I don’t need WiFi. I can use WiFi for free at McDonald’s, Arby’s, Applebee’s, or just about any other public place including the public library. If I really want WiFi, especially in the winter when I might not want to go out in the cold I can add a prepaid hotspot to my phone to use for about 30 bucks a month instead of the traditional 75 and 80 dollars a month plus fees through other companies.
  6. I don’t even need to use electricity off the grid. I can, after a time, if I want, invest in solar panels for the top of my camper, and set it up to generate my own electricity for free.
  7. I don’t need the laundromat. I can, once I get on my feet a little better, get a portable washing machine that is compact, and drains in my camper sink and save myself the laundromat money. I can hang my clothes out to dry year round.
  8. I don’t need a bunch of food in my pantry or refrigerator. I can stock fresh meat and cheese and refrigerated goods a week at a time, and eat more fresh fruit and vegetables that don’t require refrigeration. I can stock dry goods like rice, flour, sugar and the like and make better meals instead of processed boxed meals. I have a CrockPot I can use. I can preserve food without refrigeration as well (canning, fruit jam, jelly, syrup, dehydration, etc). If I don’t have a ton of food to eat I won’t eat as much, and that’s just better all around. Better quality food and less of the junk.
  9. Don’t need to use a lot of propane. I used to spend hundreds filling the propane tank when I lived in the West. In a camper the propane tanks are small, and since I have electricity in the camper, it is not necessary for me to run the propane furnace. So it is a backup should it be extraordinarily cold. I can use an electric heater, and save the propane for cooking. The camper is such a small space it won’t take much to heat it, and I am taking the precaution of extra insulation, laying down rugs on the floor, covering the windows in the winter and laying black plastic on the roof to attract the sun in the winter.
  10. I don’t need to use full size shampoos, conditioners, and soaps. I started buying travel sizes for lotions, and shampoo bars instead of bottles. Shampoo bars are better for the environment as there is nothing to throw away. Ivory soap is biodegradable, and stackable! I threw out a bunch of products I haven’t even been using.

The time we really spend in our homes is minimal when you think about it. You are at work about a third of the time you are awake or more. When you are not at work, you are out with your kids, or out at the park, if the weather is nice, or you go out with friends. The time we spend at home tends to be in the evenings, before we go to sleep, and early morning before we go to work. Weekends we may spend all day at home, but you can see we don’t spend a lot of time in the house. Living in a camper due to the small space almost pushes me outside to tell the truth. It will be cozy when the weather is inclement, but I’ll be outside a lot of the time. Yet, the camper is large enough for company should someone visit me and need a bed. There’s an extra bed on the other end that folds up into a breakfast nook with a table. Neat, huh?

Granted, living tiny isn’t for everybody. Some just like their houses, and that’s quite all right. Living tiny appeals to me because I am so aware of how much time gets sapped away on Facebook, TV, video games, and working, and I find myself listening to other people who wish they had time to go to the beach, or time to read a book, or spend with someone they love. The start of living tiny for me is getting back to basics, and spending less time on technology (not giving it up altogether), and finding that I have time now that I am not distracted by TV or the need to be “entertained,” to read a book, or to write in my blog. Work is necessary, in order to live, but work will not define my life. I am doing what I love and I realize that, by writing here, and writing about rats, and I’ve never realized really that writing is what I love to do until I lost everything that was distracting me from seeing what I really love. Who I really love.

I feel like my imagination and my mind are waking up after a long sleep. I could have a garden in large pots. (I can’t dig up my lot). I could have a pallet garden. I can hang wind chimes. I can paint a scene on my camper…I can do some seriously cool interior design in my vintage camper--my mind is working out possibilities.

Why do we think we need to do what is expected of us? Go to school, graduate, go to college, get married, buy a house, pop out 2.2 kids, get old, retire, THEN go RVing? We think if we fail to achieve this illusory American dream we are somehow failures. I know I went through that for a long time as my finances didn’t seem to pick up at all and I felt I was underemployed in comparison to how highly educated I am. What if we are trained to believe if we don’t follow that line, don’t achieve what we are “supposed” to==what if we are TRAINED to believe we are failures?

Oh my darlings. You are not failures if you don’t have the house with the white picket fence and retirement enough to go to Florida and live in a condo. Don’t fail to live. Reducing my circumstances (which let us not forget I was FORCED into), has slowly started to mean a better quality of life, which seems counter-intuitive in a way. Money really doesn’t buy you happiness. Quality of life is what brings you happiness and you do NOT have to be rich to live well.. Trust me. It’s a myth. The money you can save by simplifying your life…well, already it’s astounding to me. Doesn’t take a lot to live well.

It is a myth we will bust together if you want to come with me and follow my adventures. I plan to write day by day the struggles, the problems I encounter, and the innovative ways I find to solve them. I will share my joys, what I learn in terms of big ideas and profound thoughts, and what I learn to make life easier in a tiny vintage house. Who am I? I’m just a teacher without a classroom, because finding a job that pays well has really been difficult–I’m just an English teaching, Emerson and Thoreau spouting woman who loves nature, reading books, writing journals and blogs, loves art, swimming in Lake Superior, and clearing away the clutter to find out who I really am. Who are you?

emerson

Contemplative night while the eggs boil

I heard a story once about Michelangelo. He was asked how he could sculpt such lifelike, beautiful sculptures. He considered a moment, then replied, “I chip away all that is not part of what it is.” Or something like that.

That very thing is what is going on here. This isn’t about a woman living in a camper. If that is all it was about it would be boring. Plenty of people camp. Then they go home and park the camper and go about their lives.

This is my life. This is the first time I’ve experienced pure freedom to live as I wish, and I got thrown into it and had to discover like the kid who gets tossed in the pool and learns he loves to swim that I actually like having my own camper. My own house. No landlord to say what I can do to it. I can fix it and decorate it and put nails in the walls if I want. (I don’t want to put nails in the walls although I did find a canvas sailor bag at a thrift sale for 3.00 which I use as a laundry bag and I hung that on a nail in the wall).

I never had freedom. I had a metaphorical leash on my neck most of my life. I had to do what church said. I had to do what the Bible said. I was never allowed to do extra curricular activities because they were on church day. I was chained by legalism so confining I felt choked and overwhelmed most of the time. Never good enough. I had a dad who told me incessantly I was never good enough and who did not allow me to do much of anything. He never liked anyone who took me on a date. He told me I wasn’t good enough for my dates.

I grew up chained by the tapes in my head. “You can’t do…or be…__________fill in the blank. How many opportunities did i miss out on thinking I couldn’t do that anyway? I thought I had to go to school then college then go be successful and make lots of money and get married and have kids and then get old and retire. That’s the American dream.

I failed utterly in achieving any of that and that dragged me down for years chasing it and wondering why my friends seemed so successful and I was not. Feeling badly for failing at getting the big job and the great guy who was supposed to adore me and the nice house and the kids and the stocks and bonds and retirement and bank account and vacations once a year.

What a carousel of futility. Thats how we spend our lives. Chasing the American dream.

What if all we were told about that, about success– was just plain wrong?

While we chew on that here is my new refrigerator:

It has a big block of ice in it along with my eggs, butter, milk, and juice. So far that block of ice has not melted at all for one day. I am interested in seeing how long it lasts in the insulated bag I stuck in the insulated box.

Yes, they are all cold! I can’t yet afford one of those coolers that keep your ice ice until you’re old. That will come at the end of the month. For now, this innovation seems to be working well.

Eggs are on the stove heating up on a gift I found in a cubby under the stove. I bless the people I bought this camper from. A hot plate. I don’t have to use the propane at all. Its purely backup for the furnace should it get -50 in the winter.

And along with the renovations and curtains I’ve really started making it my own with my books. I will have to go through the rest of my books because I can’t keep them all–too small a space–but thats okay. I keep the ones that mean the most and serve the public by donating the rest which I have read to the local public library! And I have a Kindle which has 200 books on it. Perfect for the minimalist. I keep the real books I love for I will never succumb to technology completely. I love the experience of reading a book. The feel of a book. The marginalia from previous owners who wrote their thoughts in the margins. The smell of the pages. The sound of the page turn.

My eggs are done and, because I am back on the protein bandwagon–I don’t respond well to carbs–my body rebels when I eat too many carbs and my ankles and feet swell and I feel woozy and awful. So I mix the eggs with tuna and organic mayonnaise and onion and put some of it in a low carb flax, oat and wheat pita pocket bread. The rest goes in a plastic container and into the “fridge” for lunch tomorrow.

My water got shut off for the winter (already!) So I had to put Plan B into action. I got a 3 gallon self serve water jug for now but….(I know we all hate Wal-Mart…) They have a program where you can get a five gallon jug of water for 7 bucks and then reuse the jug for just a few cents per fill up. Five gallons of water will last me a long, long time. Right now the 3 gallon jug will last me a long time. So I don’t have to use small bottles of water and create more trash waste.

Back to the books and the point of this post. When you strip your life down to the bare essentials, you are left facing yourself clearly day by day. You have to face certain things. For me I am listening to Kate Rusby and Declan O’Rourke sing Bring me a Boat and am grieving the best man I ever knew. He was a beautiful man, sad, contemplative, alone in that appealing Heathcliff on the moor kind of way, the Mr Rochester to my Jane Eyre. I was too young and he too old and we found one another on either side of that abyss and spent endless hours talking of all we loved, books, music, his travels, his great love, different things he’d lived through in his life, and he spent many hours asking me questions about myself. We laughed a lot. He gave me terrifically bad coffee that was so strong I almost couldn’t drink it. Gevalia coffee. He was my teacher and he gave me the world. He made me want to travel and see all the places we talked about going or had gone or wanted to go. Ireland was a big one with him. Hearing him describe a foreign love affair he had made my romantic soul take off. He gave me Blake’s poetry and Bob Dylan. The first tape he gave me of Dylan perplexed me. Then I listened again. And again. And suddenly I couldn’t get enough. I still don’t get him entirely–Dylan. But I love the music. Same with Charlie Parker and Coltrane and Billie Holiday, all of which he introduced me to. He was so carefree yet distracted. I loved to watch him walk . He was here yet wandering off in his mind somewhere and he had this way of meandering slowly while lost in thought, lock of hair drifting down over his forehead waywardly, and once, he did not know I was there and I was right in front of him! When he came to himself, the grin on his face when he saw me was the sun breaking through the clouds. He had grey-blue eyes that were like the great Lake on stormy days and sometimes, they seemed blue. He had square hands and wore jeans with a suit coat and turtleneck in class or in winter a sweater with a navy pea coat and black jeans and loafers. Always comfortable yet classy. Always.

He came to my concert when I played with the college chamber orchestra. We did the Albinoni Organ Concerto. I was in my performance black. Suddenly I felt him there and I looked and sure enough, there he was, and suddenly the night was meaningful and my soul sang along with my viola. He made the evening special just by being there. He stayed after to share how he enjoyed it. He was so pleased with the fact I played the viola. I couldn’t look at him in the eyes. I was suddenly shy and unsure and the way he looked at me I did not know but it made me feel like I could fly. We had many visits. He was a gentleman. We never dated and never kissed or anything. It was more than that. It was an intellectual meeting of the minds that was intimate and expansive and joyous all at once. We loved spending time together talking. Hours flew by. Once I got to meet his mom and brothers and I felt like family. I felt like he was my family.

How can you love someone and not even know it? I didn’t know what to do. I did perhaps the only thing I felt to do feeling this huge thing ive never known for this man and being terrified and young and unsure. I ran.

When I told him I was leaving he got quiet. It was in his office. He stared out the window a long time. It was so quiet. It was like glass shattering. I’ve never experienced anything like it since. He turned to me with a sad smile and told me I had to go. “You have to go see the world. Go to Madison in the spring when the cherry trees blossom. Its quite the sight.”

Years went by and there were letters and cards and occasional visits when I came home, in one visit he looked at me a long time and asked me if I had a soulmate. I gazed back at him a long time and said “yes I do,” and I now wish fervently I had told him it was him. The things we wish we had said when someone was alive. We all have that regret.

There were in the intervening years postcards to him from where I went in the world. I married. I invited him but he did not come. I spent too much time thinking about why he didn’t come when I was walking down the aisle to marry someone else. That marriage failed and I blame myself because my heart was not all there. I love him still. I always will. It has been constant and quiet and beautiful like the lake always there, never ending. I did not know that was what real love was like. Now I do know and I am blessed to have had it even if I was never with the man I loved so wholly rightly.

I got one more postcard before he walked into that good night so quietly. He slipped away in his sleep.

You never recover from grief. Not really. They don’t tell you that. It is a searing knife that cuts you so deep you think you want to die. It is a disconnection. A cord cutting. It hurts less over time. But tears come at odd moments when a certain song comes on or you smell coffee or see a show or a beautiful sight and you wonder what he’d think of it or think of a book you read. When he died I did not know till a few months later. I felt something was off. As if a phone line was cut. I just knew. I never spoke of this till now. I am faced with the grief I have run from.

It seemed right somehow when his brother in one visit and sister in law in another gave me his books and a cassette of music. The books he taught out of. A tape he made of songs he liked. I have treasured them and taught out of them and they have a value that is inestimable. He liked to write in books and so he seems to be in them somehow.

I got a packet of shamrock seeds when I went to Ireland and gave some to him at the cemetery. He never knew I went.

He told me to go to Dublin at Christmas when the snow gently falls and sit in Bewleys Coffee Shop and watch the snow through the windows.

He loved that I lived. He would love that I live in this camper. He used to call me the girl with the gypsy feet. And so I am. These gypsy feet have gone to 9 countries and 37 states and experienced many people a d cultures and I am better for all the experiences I have had. I am bettee for having known him. I went on and I go on, open to new opportunities and open to a new love should one enter my life. Until then, here’s to you Fitz. You’d get such a kick out of all this.

You face yourself when you strip the possessions away. You have to in order to experience who you really are so you can live into the next authentic experience.

Its all about authenticity. Feeling your feelings. Not running. Not hiding.

Living true.

Lola, a hot day up north, the lighthouse clock, and the contact paper that saved my world

I had a day off. I tried not to look at the bench bed that needs fixing. Instead I took a deep breath and went outside. I went out to a place with Wi-Fi and I did some of my contracted writing that I do for a blog a friend of mine has for his business. Four hours later, work completed, I went to my storage and put some items up for sale. When I was finished with that, I got some corn starch so I could thicken the chicken chili I had thrown together in the Crock Pot the night before. I got some contact paper for a dollar at the dollar store because the wall behind the stove in my tiny camper was old paneling and it had little screw holes in it and I didn’t feel like tearing it out from behind the hood and having to buy a whole new piece of paneling. I don’t have a lot of money. Getting back on my feet and all.

I then vacuumed out Lola. I named the camper Lola. Lola needs love. Not huge amounts. Just little loves as we all do. She was all clean and spic and span when I got done vacuuming and wiping down the cupboards. She seemed like she felt better. So did I. I had felt cluttered and flustered about that bench framing project and about not getting the big stuff accomplished like the skirting.

I was still looking at that big construction project in the corner and worried that I wasn’t getting anything done. As I’m cleaning.

Here’s the chicken chili.

So my mind was taken up by that bench bed I needed to frame most of the day. I went and got another curtain for the window that didn’t have a curtain.

I put the contact paper up on that plain white paneling behind the stove. Bought a battery for my lighthouse clock. Its Lake Superior. Lighthouses are a thing here. I love them. I drove to the cemetery to visit someone I love and cleaned off his headstone.

This is the after shot of the wall behind the stove after I put the contact paper up. Plain white wall before.

Then I realized how wrapped up I’d been on the big project I hadn’t noticed what a big difference the little things I’d done all day made. I got a lot done. I got work done. I got work done on my home….a few improvements that to me made a big difference. What do you think of what I’ve done?

The camper smelled good from my chicken chili bubbling in the pot. My floor was clean. My clock was ticking away in a homey fashion. My curtains made the place look more like the gypsy caravan I was going for, and I felt good being in my Lola camper. I felt at home. Home.

Soffits and channels and skirting, oh my!

Women of the world, you must look upon home repair and building as an adventure in which you enter a world smelling of particle board, freshly cut lumber, adhesives and all the screws you could ever imagine! (You’re making that dirty. I see the look on your face). I must make skirting my camper first priority. This is what it will look like (except much smaller since I have a tiny camper and not a full size mobile home :

I have to skirt before I improve the inside as the skirting is necessary before winter. One project at a time.

So after turning over the possibilities (treated plywood with foam insulation or treated chipboard with foam insulation?) for skirting for my little camper which I am required by the mobile home park to skirt for the winter, (it’s really best for me as it will keep the camper warmer by blocking cold air from blowing underneath and coming up into the floor)—I went to Menards on a mission to find someone who could be my Virgil on the journey to Paradise (a ha! You thought I’d say hell! No! Building should be fun! You should feel empowered and accomplished while you’re doing your home jobs!)

So I found a pleasant young man who calculated what I’d need. I have a 7 x 14′ camper. Here’s what he came up with:

Now, to be fair, I hadn’t even thought of vinyl skirting. I thought I’d use treated plywood (so it doesn’t rot in winter snows and thaws), but it turns out plywood was ten dollars more! Vinyl is easy to instal. You have your top rail which you can use locking screws to attach to the camper, which the skirt slides into which for me needs to be 3′ from ground to place on camper where I’ll attach it) . I only need 2′ 5″ to 3′ of skirt to cover the space from the ground to a foot up the wall of the camper. I need 13’5″ long of skirt for each side 2′ 5″ to 3′ foot high-and 7′ long for the ends. The bottom channel is for the bottom of the skirt to slide into so it sits on the ground evenly.

Now I can glue foam insulation to the back of the skirt to reinforce it which I will probably do. Here that is: (inch and three quarter thick)…

All I have to do is glue the skirt onto the foam board and cut the foam to an inch below where I’ll slide it into the channel after I cut it the three foot width I want–I was thinking originally of doing a width of two and a half feet of skirt but three feet sounds like a good number.

How much will it cost for the supplies that I need for my skirt?

Probably 175.00 with tax. I’m saving about 350.00 a month in rent and utilities remember, so even after deducting the skirt materials which I only have to buy and install once, I will come out ahead.

I can’t wait to get my first electric bill to see how much I’m saving living in my camper. I switch off the breaker when I go to work during the day. No sense having the electric on while I’m not there. So far I have used a small amount of kilowatt hours but since I’ve never lived in a camper before, I really don’t know how much it costs to plug one in. I will share the bill with you when I get it!

Dottie, the tattooed lady who has a saw, has offered to help me skirt my camper so I will not be a woman alone in doing this project! I will have a woman teaching me, which is even better!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions no matter how stupid you think they are, when you are learning to put in insulation or skirting or framing up a bed or whatever you want to repair. Guys are awfully glad to give you different ways of fixing things and there are a lot of women who know how to do these things too. As a teacher, I’m here to tell you the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask. Don’t be afraid of looking inept. If you don’t ask for help you don’t learn!

I learned to use a caulking gun tonight too. I was posing like Charlie’s Angels with it

and the teenaged girl helping me load the tube of Liquid Nails was laughing so hard she couldn’t hardly stand.

I won’t get the Liquid Nails or the caulking gun till later because that’s for the inside.

Skirting first. Skirts are fun!! See?

Measure twice cut once

One improvement a day. Oh my God. What have I gotten myself into? It turns out all of the studs in the entire back end were rotten along with the fiberglass insulation and I had a job cleaning it all out. The more I tore out the worse it seemed to get in terms of the rotten studs I was finding. There was nothing to sister my new 2 x 2’s into. I gutted the end down to the aluminum walls. Now I have to frame a new bench so I can have a couch and a bed. I think it won’t be hard. I just need a tape measure. Here are the before shots:

I’ve said it before and ill say it again—THANK GOD FOR MY SHOPVAC. The wood studs disintegrated in my hands. There were wood chips everywhere. There were also acorns as if generations of squirrels had made their home in the back of my camper before I got it. There was a lot of dirt. I tore it all out and swept and Shopvac’d it all out.

Afterward, covered in fiberglass and dirt and sweat, I took a bath in Lake Superior scrubbing myself with sand (no soap). My skin is so soft and I feel so clean! It was a treat after the work I put in today.

Big storm coming in off the lake. My tiny house rocks to and fro like a covered cradle. I feel good for what I accomplished today. I got the insulation so after I frame up that bench I can insulate and cover with new paneling.

I won’t quit.

Thoughts from the Red Mug coffee shop

As I sit here in the Red Mug Coffee shop having a latte with an extra shot I am going through jitters over what I have planned for today. I am tearing out the walls of my camper and throwing out the old rotten insulation and putting in new foam insulation so I don’t freeze to death this winter. Because the old insulation got wet due to a tree falling on the camper before I got it, there is mold inside the camper so I have been Lysoling the bare walls as I strip the old stuff out. The Lysol works by the way. Spray and wait then wipe down. Repeat till all the mold is gone. Make sure your windows are open so it can air out well.

Why have I got the jitters? I am still nervous that I can’t fix things myself. I am faced with the fact that women are not encouraged to fix things, that construction and remodeling and fixing are a man’s realm so it’s almost like we learn helplessness unless we have forward thinking fathers who teach us to fix stuff. As I said before, my dad was not forward thinking so I am virginal in this realm. If I die this winter it will be by my own ineptitude. I have sought advice over and over as to how to correctly install foam insulation and paneling and now all that remains is to actually do the thing.

In America women are told they can do anything but they are also restrained by lesser pay and opportunity as if to be reminded who is really in charge. A recent Pew Research study found that women in majority male workplaces report higher rates of gender discrimination.

This sense of “needing a man” for certain things is pervasive in a way to me that I did not realize about myself. I did not know how much I accepted or subscribed to the notions that there is “women’s work” and there is “men’s work,” and you don’t cross the lines unless you want to be perceived as unmarriageable. I grew up a Generation Xer and was taught girls should be quiet and agreeable and talk about his interests and wait to be asked to dance and wait for his phone call and basically be all about him. Thank God the world is evolving and relationships are coming to be seen as a shared responsibility with roles not so sharply defined. I can be feminine and fix things. I can be a voluptuous woman and sweat like a man.

This was a surprising thing to discover about myself, how conservative I’d held male and female roles even though I consider myself to be a progressive person. There is no black and white. Plenty of women do men’s work well. Just look at World War II.

These women are my inspiration as I begin the process of stripping the old and useless and rotten out of my camper and in the process strip the same old and useless ideas whose time has expired out of me. These points which I talked about in the previous entry are continuing to be a springboard for me to grow and expand. My camper and I are getting better together.

Simplifying isn’t just about letting go of things but also people

I start with these ten points because I am still learning them myself. I am learning to let go of shame and procrastination and expectation and excuses and as I have been growing in the letting go of all these things holding me back, I’ve found also that I’ve been having to let go of people I love. A person I love. This is not an easy thing for me but I have seen that the time is not right for us nor seems ever right and i live the adage that good things come to those who wait. Instead of seeing the shedding of people as a disappointment I understand that this happens for the following reasons:

  • They no longer fit who you are becoming
  • They need to live their life without you so that they can learn their own lessons that maybe you would keep them from learning
  • They need space to figure out what they really want or need.
  • Knowing this I always wonder if their retreat out of my life was because of something I did wrong. It is unknowable really and I am letting go of torturing myself about what I did wrong or if I should have done this or that or the other thing. Loss isn’t about me. It is all about them, their best outcome and all I can do is love them anyway. And I do. Things seem emptier without them. I am faced with myself entirely and so I turn to writing as I have always done, to process life and loss and who I am becoming as my life becomes more about independence, minimalism, positivity and less about weighing myself down with guilt and shame and dread and the illusion I have power to change much of anything or anyone. It is better that I don’t. I can control my responses to things that happen. I can’t control people, nor would I want to. The people who I matter to will remain in my life, whether they retreat a while or remain actively engaged with me.
  • Sometimes the wrong people have to be cleared away so that the right people can enter. It doesn’t mean you don’t mourn the loss for a while. I do and I don’t deny or bury my feelings.
  • Loss doesn’t mean getting over having love for someone. It means learning there is a bridge over what we have lost and that nothing is ever really lost in the end. Love is that bridge. I love enough to let go and not control and show the respect and compassion we deserve in the letting go.
  • The ones who are meant to stay and support my growth will come into my life and stay and go perhaps; gain and loss is a circular thing that helps us learn about ourselves if we are open to the lessons people teach us as we live this journey.
  • I have gone where I feel most alive. I am home, by my Lake and gulls and boats, living how I want to live with a minimum of what I need experiencing life more fully, being more present, authentic and loving without reservation. Thank you for all of the people who taught me about who I am.
  • Nothing is ever lost.