The bench is framed and done!!!

Ive been showing you for weeks the bench on the end and today I got the tools I needed and the wood screws to do it up right–the top photo is what it looks like finished and the bottom are the original cushions before I covered them. The cushions pull out into a full size bed.

Happy Labor Day weekend from America!

Im so happy! I did this myself!!

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Big storm, sturdy camper

One of the facts of life living next to any huge body of water is that you’re going to have squalls, thunderstorms, downpours, and monsoons. Big winds certainly. Maybe not monsoons but it seems like it when the flood warnings come and the water rises in the riverbeds. I had shared previously that I have a leaky window on one end of the camper. So I went to my storage and got an old tarp and some bungee cords, and because it was going to rain two days ago, I rigged up the tarp on the leaky end and secured it with the brightly colored rainbow bungee cords. A big Band Aid in other words. It rained gently two days ago, no water leaked outside so I was satisfied. That was when Mother Nature shook her head and said

“Hold my beer.”

Last night the warnings started. Torrential rain. Hail. They said 70 mph winds were coming. Then an hour later they ramped it up to 90 mph winds. Heck. NOAA said they couldn’t rule out tornados. We don’t get tornadoes up here because the lake provides a shield. So that’s when I got nervous. I checked the tarp. I had visions of the 70 to 90 mph wind picking up my camper and slinging me to South Dakota. Or Oz. (See image for what I visualized. In color). Image credit

Shaking all such nonsense out of my head I added two more bungee cords to secure the tarp to the camper. Once the tarp was secure, the wind had picked up and the heat lightning was increasing and it was getting on towards evening and black clouds were rolling in deepening the effect of ominous darkness. It was silent too. No evening birds. I felt as early humans must have felt in a time of no TV or radio and no weather forecasting, when they felt intuitively they should seek shelter and soon. I felt an urgency to getting inside but I love watching a storm come in. I was amazed how fast the clouds were moving.

I got inside. I got out the emergency candles just in case the electric went out.

Right then, the wind smacked into the camper and the camper shook with the force of it. Big drops of rain hit the aluminum roof like thunder and it deluged! All I could do was lie on the bed and watch out the side window. I saw some awesome lightning strikes. Thankfully the dire warnings didn’t come to pass. No 90 mph winds. Maybe 40. No hail. No tornadoes.

The electric stayed on and the camper was sturdy.

Today, I stapled up the ceiling where it was bowing at the seam, and finished framing the bed on the end. The project I’ve been talking about for weeks. I finally got a drill and a big staple gun, just enough tools and just enough knowledge to be dangerous. I kept thinking about Theodore Roethke’s poem The Storm …and here it is for you. Nature is bigger than us and awesome in its power but somehow we are sturdy enough and adaptive enough to continue on. I hope the awe and respect for nature’s power never leaves us.

The Storm

Theodore Roethke, 1908 – 1963

1

Against the stone breakwater,

Only an ominous lapping,

While the wind whines overhead,

Coming down from the mountain,

Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces;

A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves,

And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming against

the lamp pole.

Where have the people gone?

There is one light on the mountain.

2

Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell,

The waves not yet high, but even,

Coming closer and closer upon each other;

A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea,

Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot,

The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending,

Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness.

A time to go home!—

And a child’s dirty shift billows upward out of an alley,

A cat runs from the wind as we do,

Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia,

Where the heavy door unlocks,

And our breath comes more easy,—

Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over

The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating

The walls, the slatted windows, driving

The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer

To their cards, their anisette.

3

We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress.

We wait; we listen.

The storm lulls off, then redoubles,

Bending the trees half-way down to the ground,

Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard,

Flattening the limber carnations.

A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb,

Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead.

The bulb goes on and off, weakly.

Water roars into the cistern.

We lie closer on the gritty pillow,

Breathing heavily, hoping—

For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater,

The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell,

The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses,

And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.

Picking up the pieces

I haven’t worked on the camper much lately. Ive been just cutting foam insulation and insulating the bare spots, which, as you remember from earlier posts, is down to bare aluminum because the old studs were rotten along with what old insulation was left from the water damage sustained before I got it. Ive been having to do a lot of little things lately. Spot insulation with spray insulation in the door and windows. New weather stripping around the outside of the windows. Caulking what gaps I find.

Again I am stunned by the parallels of this camper and my life. Cleaning up the bits and bobs as my British friends would say. I am listening to Loreena McKennitt and thinking about all I’ve had to clean up in myself in reconciling the past going forward into a new future in my hometown which is familiar but not familiar at the same time.

  • Unresolved grief
  • Learning a healthy lifestyle mentally and physically begins with living a smaller and minimalist life
  • When your living space gets smaller everything gets smaller

The evening is cool and soft. The clanking of the trains with its mournful horn sounds as it bangs and rocks through the night past my tiny home is something that now I am used to and cant sleep without. The smell of ham and bean soup with fresh vegetables and herbs wafts through the air and adds to the coziness of this small living space that I have come to consider cradles me. It is swaddling and I like a child being held tight. I have been at sea in a world too large for me and I adrift in it. It is a comfort now to be in a tiny space where everything has a place and is in its place.

When the insulation is in place then the framed bench goes into place. Then i will have a larger bed. I will get my table and seats back on tbe other side when I move the bed over to the newly fixed bench. I am excited about that, but also finding I am not in a hurry to give up the small loft bed I’ve been sleeping on for a month on top of my breakfast nook. The small bed has been solid and embryonic for me curled up in sleep. To stretch out in a larger bed is a freedom that I will develop an appreciation for; but for now, I am loath to give up being that fetus-like sleeper.

I make ham and bean soup with the little bit I have in my pantry. Onion, celery, great northern beans, ham necks, carrots. I find I don’t need salt and I’ve cleaned up leftovers so no food will go to waste. It is important to me that food is never wasted. I realise how large American packaging is for food and that they don’t package for one person. They package for a family. A sack of celery hearts is too much for one Crock Pot of soup. I only used three stalks. I will be eating celery for ages. One garlic bulb is enough to last for many makings of soup. I only needed two cloves. Four carrots was enough for my soup. The rest of the package I will have to eat in lunches. I never realized before that packages could be so large. In a house I never thought abkut it. I bought food and had large cupboards to keep it in. I have that no longer so I can’t buy huge amounts of groceries. I have to shop more frequently but thats what they do in Europe. They buy small amounts of fresh food more frequently and use all of what they purchase. I will have to learn to eat smaller now.

Eating smaller is healthier though. Everything narrows when you live smaller.

This is true. I don’t have much and I am calmer. I don’t feel the emptiness I used to fill with buying things on Amazon I did not need. I walk around stores now, because I have so little money, and I cannot think of one thing I am desperately in need of. I realize I have been trained to be a consumer, and I am untrained in how to live without consuming. I have conflated living with consuming only to find that consuming constsntly as we do consumes us.

It can seem like we have reams of time on our hands when we stop shopping. I have learned little by little to fill that time creating.

  • Creating a home.
  • Creating blog entries like this
  • Recreating my life
  • Uncovering me.

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

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.

DIY empowered: Women, if I got this you got this!

I set myself a goal that I would improve one thing a day in my camper. I got three little things done that make a big difference. I had a broken cupboard door.

The door was lying inside the cupboard hole. I took off the old hardware attached to the door which was comprised of broken spring that used to help it snap back against the board when it shut. As it turned out I didn’t need to replace it because it shuts and stays shut just fine. Just needed a Phillips screwdriver and a couple of screws and it was a two minute job. I present to you a fixed cupboard!

Next was the ceiling vent. The screen was dirty and full of bugs. The whole screen will have to go along with the vent molding but for now I cleaned it out with the ShopVac. (I tell you what ladies, that ShopVac is the best thing I ever got. Get it for your tool arsenal. You won’t regret it).

I also bought a hose for five bucks and put it on my water pipe outside and now I have a ready and handy source of water to fill my jugs with. And wash my hair!

Bought a socket set for eight bucks and took off the remnants of an old first aid kit that had six locking screws fixing it to the wall. Excellent purchase! Now I have six locking screws I can use elsewhere if I need to!

I am learning to use tools which is funny because my dad was a mechanic so I grew up washing parts in the garage—but Dad had views about a woman’s place so he wouldn’t teach me to use the tools–just wash parts. I feel so good when I can fix something and not have to depend on anyone. I love men and I think they are amazing, but a self sufficient woman who isn’t afraid to learn is an empowering thing, particularly if one is single with no man around anywhere. I hit up my men friends and coworkers and ask them to teach me things about tools and how to best fix something and they have been so supportive of my learning and so happy to teach me.

Because one thing is for sure:

Don’t be afraid to try something new ladies. You can do it!!

woman whole

I do not know what I have reconciled except

a sense of myself which separated from me long ago has come to me lost

in thick northern pines and birches

where we lodged those memories

drowned in wild waves and winds smashing beaches, cliffs and breakwalls.

Lostandfound now are that night I lay on the beach at the Point where the Northern Lights danced in colored shimmers weaving and undulating purples, yellows, pinks and greens across the ink black sky

The wind whispers that I have become one with who I was where I was when fear and rage and pain created who I was

turns out that the illusion was the monster who was really not one at all what is real is

Who I am

unapologetic

Unafraid

beautiful

wild woman walking on water weaving dreams stars trailing behind me

I wear rage and fear and overcoming stitched in my life-coat of many colors which I wear with defiance and pride and shyness

I dance while

the water sings

Roaring on the shore

Poem of the day: Anne Sexton, “45 Mercy Street”

In my dream,

drilling into the marrow

of my entire bone,

my real dream,

I’m walking up and down Beacon Hill

searching for a street sign –

namely MERCY STREET.

Not there.

I try the Back Bay.

Not there.

Not there.

And yet I know the number.

45 Mercy Street.

I know the stained-glass window

of the foyer,

the three flights of the house

with its parquet floors.

I know the furniture and

mother, grandmother, great-grandmother,

the servants.

I know the cupboard of Spode

the boat of ice, solid silver,

where the butter sits in neat squares

like strange giant’s teeth

on the big mahogany table.

I know it well.

Not there.

Where did you go?

45 Mercy Street,

with great-grandmother

kneeling in her whale-bone corset

and praying gently but fiercely

to the wash basin,

at five A.M.

at noon

dozing in her wiggy rocker,

grandfather taking a nap in the pantry,

grandmother pushing the bell for the downstairs maid,

and Nana rocking Mother with an oversized flower

on her forehead to cover the curl

of when she was good and when she was…

And where she was begat

and in a generation

the third she will beget,

me,

with the stranger’s seed blooming

into the flower called Horrid.

I walk in a yellow dress

and a white pocketbook stuffed with cigarettes,

enough pills, my wallet, my keys,

and being twenty-eight, or is it forty-five?

I walk. I walk.

I hold matches at street signs

for it is dark,

as dark as the leathery dead

and I have lost my green Ford,

my house in the suburbs,

two little kids

sucked up like pollen by the bee in me

and a husband

who has wiped off his eyes

in order not to see my inside out

and I am walking and looking

and this is no dream

just my oily life

where the people are alibis

and the street is unfindable for an

entire lifetime.

Pull the shades down –

I don’t care!

Bolt the door, mercy,

erase the number,

rip down the street sign,

what can it matter,

what can it matter to this cheapskate

who wants to own the past

that went out on a dead ship

and left me only with paper?

Not there.

I open my pocketbook,

as women do,

and fish swim back and forth

between the dollars and the lipstick.

I pick them out,

one by one

and throw them at the street signs,

and shoot my pocketbook

into the Charles River.

Next I pull the dream off

and slam into the cement wall

of the clumsy calendar

I live in,

my life,

and its hauled up

notebooks.