Needing a break

I spent the evening just breathing while sitting on my bed in the camper. I find the smallness of the camper to be soothing like that machine Temple Grandin used to squeeze her body. I don’t have that machine but the embryonic roundness of my aluminum cocoon is what I curl up in when the world is too much with me.

The world is too much with me these days. The news happens so fast and its always negative. I shut it off and I can’t keep up anyway. Theres a feeling of desperation in the air I can’t describe; a bitter metallic taste of fear and anger and frustration. I become embroiled by it if I succumb to anger and fear. I feel like we are living Yeats’s The Second Coming.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I need quiet. I crave quiet. I’m tired of the anger and divisiveness and cacophony of voices all shouting at each other drowning out reason.

People fighting for their party like it’s a life and death thing. People disowning family over this. People hurting others because they believe what they are told about teachers and immigrants and protesters and Republicans and Democrats. I fear there is nothing to be saved and that we are lost as a nation. The divide between rich and poor is a chasm. We work more and earn less. Every day a new scandal and new denials and more anger and injustice ugh!! Today our president announced that protesting which is a 1st Amendment right should be illegal. This isn’t really a surprise, because Republicans have been trying to get rid of protesting by passing laws to curtail it for the last year-and-a-half. This in a country that used to be about freedom and used to stand up against the Putins and Dutertes of the world. No, now we admire dictators. It is a brave new world in which we hate diplomacy and pull out of human rights councils. It is a brave new world in which we deride our allies and embrace despots as friends. Upside down. Alice in the rabbit hole. I wonder when the madness ends. My life is looped into the life of the nation. I love my country and I’m terrified at what I see. The opposite of freedom is happening . Praise of Putin and autocrats by Trump and his followers even before he was in the White House let alone now is even scaring those conservatives left who are actually conservative.

I sit and breathe. Politics affects everything now. Its affecting friendships and relationships. Its personal. It didn’t used to be this way. You could live separately from the goings on in Washington and do all right. Not anymore. Its been a slow creeping infection this division and hate.

Its killing America. Its killing freedom and people will die because of this disease of nationalism and populism.

I fear for my country.

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Doors and windows oh my soul!

The door was next on the agenda today. I have had an unprecedented two days off in a row. I slept in. I woke up. I saw that door. And that was it.

The door had ripped paneling all along the bottom. I considered taking out the whole panel and buying a new piece. Then I remembered the great success of that hole in the ceiling I fixed and I thought why not? Except this time foam insulation wasn’t going to work because I couldn’t get a piece in the hole. I reached for the blue can of Great Stuff for Windows and Doors. I probably should have used the red can for gaps and cracks but this stuff worked pretty well!

Now. You have to be prepared to use the whole can when you initially use it because it can be self sealing, if allowed to dry in the tube sprayer. So if you only use a little and put the can away, you’re not going to be able to use the rest of it. Put down newspapers because you don’t want this stuff on your carpet or linoleum.

I sprayed it in the hole in the bottom of the door where I could see daylight in the frame. The outer shell of the door was in one piece so thats why this worked well. Had there been a hole all the way through the door I would not have been able to use the spray foam.

It sets up in about 15 minutes which is pretty quick . Don’t worry about if it poofs out. When it dries you can cut off the excess flush with the window or door. Here’s what it ended up looking like. I ended up spraying a second layer to get it all filled evenly. I trimmed the excess the second time.

It filled in the hole pretty well. And the outer shell on the door held it all. You can see why shoving a piece of foam insulation would not have worked well. I topped off this layer of foam until it filled the space evenly.

Then I got out my magic peel and stick laminate! (You knew that was coming!) That stuff is like duct tape. You can fix anything with it! An hour later, this was the finished product:

It isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that no cold wind or snow will be getting into my tiny home this winter! I love the way it turned out. You can’t tell the laminate from the original paneling!

I also used the spray foam between the insulation I put on the wall:

Again, not perfect. Trimmed the excess and it worked just fine. I’m ready to cover it up with new paneling or fabric.

To celebrate the day’s work I bought red leaf mini lights on a string which made it look very festive! The more I do on this camper the happier it feels! It is home. I can’t wait to decorate it for fall.

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.

Freedom

Today is the first day of utter independence on anyone other than myself. I have a camper. In my last entry I was a little disgusted with the economic conditions that put me in a camper. I was a little scared about living full time in a camper particularly in the wintertime. The encouragement I received in the comments helped clarify my mixed thoughts and I realize now I have been handed what people say they want but find so difficult to have because they are chained to a mortgage or a job they hate or five thousand other reasons why they cannot live in a freer, more minimalist manner.

I have been planning how to fix up my camper and decorate it, and it definitely needs a few things.

1. A good coat of paint on the outside.

2. Foam blown insulation just to make sure I don’t turn into a frozen corpse this winter.

3. A couple panels replaced for cosmetic reasons.

4. A mini refrigerator.

I have unloaded a lot of things and my storage is not full, but I do have insurance in the form of some very nice furniture I got fairly inexpensively that I can sell if I need more money. I have a good enough job. So this is what I have done.

1. I created a budget that allows for some wiggle room but not much.

2. I donate plasma for a little savings and it makes me feel good to help people too.

3. I write on a weekly basis for a rat trap blog called the British Rat Trap Company. Most of the blog entries on there I have written. You guessed it. The owner sells Fenn traps from England. He is from England originally. It is great fun for me to write and a good little side income. It is different but part of a plan to do what I love and I love to write.

4. I made a short list of supplies I would need to fix my camper. I’m so glad the exterior is tight and waterproofed.

5. Today I went swimming in my lake to celebrate my new lifestyle. (Lake Superior if you are new to my blog). I spent 25 years longing for this place I call home, and now I am here. This is the best benefit of all. I can go to the lakeshore anytime for free. People spend thousands to come stay here for a summer and I can be here for free.

I realize I have also been given a great opportunity, a gift as you will as a writer, to share my adventures in my caravan with all of you so I will take you through my year to come living this way and hopefully see the blessings in what I call “tiny living.”

From house to car in 2.6 seconds

My life has telescoped of late into a Tiny Life. I haven’t really had a place to live since I lost my job 4 years ago but I did stay with my mom a few months. Then I got accepted to school in Canada and I thought I would get a student visa to live there with my boyfriend at the time.

Nope. Got turned away at the border because they thought I was defecting. No kidding. They saw a backseat with two suitcases and two boxes of food my mom gave me and suddenly I found myself detained for 3 hours and boom. I was kicked out of Canada for a defection plan I never even had.

My life is weird. It was probably for the best. The boyfriend ended up being a mistake. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. But…since I had no plan other than Canada and school (my student loan falling through was the next thing after my purported defection That Never Was), I suddenly found myself in Buffalo at the mercy of a friend. I stayed with her for a year. I didn’t mind. I’d lived in Buffalo before. Its a cool town. Tonawanda is different. Its pretty with the Erie Canal but boy. People love to drink there. Lots of bars. Pubs and holes in the wall, any kind of bar you want. All with grills. Beef on weck and chicken fingers are the thing. Buffalo thing.

Finally after a year of not being able to get any kind of a job with a future other than ending up an old waitress, I decided to hang it up and go home. A friend at home in Wisconsin offered to have me stay with her. Fine. Got a job transfer and I’m there.

Kind of. I’m home but while I was busy living my life for 25 years, Enbridge the oil pipeline folks moved in to my hometown and tripled the rents. 600.00 for a ROOM in a house. Plus deposit. Yeah. 1200.00 for a ROOM. Not a fancy room. A room in a house that looks like my Uncle Wallys place hasn’t been cleaned in a dozen years and the landlord wants to do a credit check on me for this princely dwelling and have me fill out a five page application like he’s renting a place in Trump Plaza, and boy he has People “waiting in line” for this dump he says in order to pressure me into taking it.

I’m thinking yeah I bet you do.

I wish I were exaggerating. 1 bedroom apartments in a town where everyone else who doesn’t work for Enbridge makes on average 30,000 a year (women on average make 22,000 so way less than the men), is 750.00 a month. Plus utilities. Plus deposit. Thats 1400 up front plus 900 a month for heat, rent and electric. Plus a 20.00 application fee that is non refundable. Of course.

I meet lots of people who room together. Never knew each other from Adam before this. But they have to live together to split the rent and utilities because they can’t afford a place on their own. Want a house? You’re looking at 1500.00 a month plus deposit. Yup. Hand over 3,000.00 please.

No fucking way. I think of all the short videos I’ve seen on Facebook of regular people like me having to live in tents and suddenly I understand why. I even tried to get government housing. I filled out something like 15 forms on which I had to detail every place I had lived the last two years. Because I lived with friends I had to get their landlord’s name and number. Most of their landlords hadnt even known I was there and it got so invasive, the personal information I was expected to get for the government, and the process so convoluted and long I eventually threw up my hands and gave up. Which was I suspect precisely what the guy administering the process for the US government wanted me to do. He kept telling me it was a year and a half waiting list for a government apartment, a two year waiting list for Section 8, which helps people pay rent, and the final straw came when he found out I’d had no utility bills the last 3 years. That’s how they track your payment worthiness you see. No utility bills? The government runs your credit before they approve you for a HUD house. Keep in mind this is poor people housing. Here is the catch 22. I didn’t have good credit because I went broke–I went broke because I lost my job due to budget cuts. I need good credit to get poor people housing. If it wasn’t so frustrating it would be laughable. People think if poverty happens to you that you can get all this “free stuff.” I’m here to tell you that doesn’t happen. What the government expects you to go through to get anything at all is humiliating, and convoluted and shaming. They make you ashamed for using what you paid for and paid into. And we have a government right now in which our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson wants to triple the rents for HUD housing you have to wait 2 years for and who you already pay a third of your income to. As if poor people like me don’t have enough challenges and as if we need the government, who really seems to hate poor people) piling on to what is already a situation they wouldn’t put up with if it happened to them. I find it ironic I pay his salary and he gets the health insurance his buddies in Congress enjoy and don’t want me to have, while he himself doesn’t want me to use my own tax money that I earned over 35 years for a place to live when life kicks me in the gut. But he gets to eat out in a nice place every night– and this is the same guy who tried to spend 133,000 of my money for new furniture for his fancy office that I paid for. But I’m the bad guy here for going broke through no fault of my own. I ask you what’s the point?

Oh yeah. The government official who administers the HUD housing, very smug in his nice shirt and tie did offer to pray for me.

So now I am one of them. The tent /car people. Except I bought a tiny camper that I was able to park in a mobile home lot for 450.00 a month. No deposit. I just saved 250.00 plus 600.00 for that room rigbt there. I just saved almost one thousand dollars and my little camper paid for itself instantly. It was 700.00.

I live in a camper. Or will do on Friday when the guy who sold it to me pulls it into town. My Honda is a great car but it has its limits and no towbar. Until Friday I live in my car.

I live in my car. I have to stop and shake my head to reconcile to myself the reality of where I am.

I live in my car. I have a job. Not a great one but enough to pay the bills. But not enough to get me one of those crappy old apartments for 800 a month or a dank room for 600 a month.

It hits me how fast this happened to me. I’m an educated person. I have two degrees and I was a teacher for six years in a high school and a college. I made more money at McDonald’s than I did in my teaching career. Irony of being a teacher in America.

All it took to get me here was the loss of that job after salary cuts with zero white collar job prospects in the tiny rural town I was living in at the time. Valentine, Nebraska. I took a job at a ranch supply store along with my McDonalds job and slowly watched myself go broke trying to pay rent and propane and electric and food and gas for the car for me and my kids. A job loss. That’s all it took for me to lose everything because 8.50 an hour pays nothing. 16.00 an hour between two jobs is little better but you lose your family time which meant I worked all the time and never saw my kids because they would be sleeping when I got home and in school during the day.

How far I fell and how fast. I went from sleeping in a bed to sleeping on an air mattress on the floor after I got my kids graduated and off to college. While I had the kids I had to sell everything to pay bills. I failed utterly to pay them even though I worked 50 hours a week. I had to get assistance for heat or freeze because the price of propane shot up to 4.00 a gallon. I had a 250 gallon tank. Electric went up in thr winter too. Gotta have electric to run the propane furnace. Yeah. You got it.

So when I hear some smug person with a good job and a husband with an income and a house tell me that all I have to do to succeed is work hard I just want to punch them in the face. I work harder than I ever have and I cant get ahead. I can’t catch a break no matter what I do. Ive been being educated about being poor. You wouldn’t believe how nasty people get when they see an EBT card in your hand.

Taker.

Lazy.

Leech.

Never mind I paid taxes for 35 years and I’ve never needed help before this. Never mind the economy is so bad for me I can’t get a job in my field or any field that pays well and has retirement and health insurance. I don’t know why. 230 resumes. Not one phone call or email. Not one.

People who say that shit don’t understand what they are talking about. What has happened to me despite my education and my hard work and the mystifying question with no answer as to why I haven’t been able to get a job after fielding 230 resumes nationwide in my field can happen to anyone.

It could happen to you.

I have my tiny home nobody can take from me. I don’t have to worry about rent increases. I don’t have to worry about being homeless. I can fix it up. Have a dog. I am really experiencing freedom for the first time. It is terrifying. I don’t know what winter is like in a camper. I hope it will be warm enough. I can use an electric heater and it has a propane furnace in it. It has a full size bed that folds into a bench on one end and a twin bed thst makes into a breakfast nook with a table on the other. No bathroom. There’s one close though. I have storage for things but I have no room for things I don’t need. I am learning to stop blaming myself and start learning to think positively about my new situation. I do free things for fun like go to the beach at Lake Superior and sit in places with wi fi and write for pay. Its not much but every little bit helps. I read books more. My life has slowed way down as it does when you shed the possessions and live simply. People have been good to me. Helped me get on my feet a little. I’m actually looking forward to living in my new (to me) tiny home.

Here it is. The camper.

I’m not lazy.

I lost my job which didn’t pay a living wage anyway. Things have got to get better, right? Next time you see a homeless person keep your judgmental mouth shut. It could be you in this day and age. Remember that.

I am American.

to walt whitman

whitman

Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come! 

Not today is to justify me and answer what I am for.

But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than

before known,

Arouse! for you must justify me….

I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a casual look upon you and then averts his face,

Leaving it to you to prove and define it,

Expecting the main things from you.Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass

i have heard you

I have heard your barbaric yawp penetrating

through time and I answer you

mine is the soft voice in the cacophony people brushing up

against each other, me, travelling at high speed

i know them all, I am them all the

musician the teacher the

engineer, the migrant worker,

the immigrant, the wanderer, the homebody

the maid, the scientist, the

politician, the single mother with babe in arms,

the married couple,

the homemaker, the preacher, the old couple sitting

on a park bench

the young lovers

the writer, the trucker, the gas station worker,

Native American, African American, Asian, Muslim,

Christian, policeman, fireman, physician

the same sex couple, the child, the son

the daughter, the father

I know them all, I am them all, my words 

your words

their words immortal the poet-priest in me weaves

through the cities, the country, the prairies, the mountains

the rivers, the lakes, the oceans

the farms

the ranches,

brushes by the rich,

the poor

the middle-class they are all of you of me

I sing their song chant their chants, the they of who they are lives

and breathes with me and in me poetry

not dead in this time but an after current of conscience not

readily discernible but thrumming as blood

running through the body electric the poets, the artists the heartbeat

so obscure the main do not realize it keeps them alive

O Captain

my captain

I have seen you in that song of myself one

of many songs thousands

who did not know their song

I have brushed by you in the crowds and looking askance

I define you in defining myself

o you

dandy

wanderer

lover

man

poet