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.
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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?

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!!

O Canada

Ever the predator

you hunt me still in the solo silence of Canadian nights where the tall trees circle you and the stars are

cut off

cut off from everything

you are

Cut off from humanity

your humanity shapeshifter wolf shedding

sheepskin

whether you like it or not you pad slowly in darkness knowing that you are condemned to the life of the lone wolf you are

condemned and condemning ever the

creator of your own prison how many have been your prey

death follows you for everything you touch dies

everything

I remember the hawk who flew into your window and the callous dead way he flew one last time as you flung his body over the fence into the woods

how houseplants died and how you tried to murder my soul how you slaughtered the truth

God knows you.

Predator.

I think of you in passing then life turns my head to other things like my lake and how I would not be home if I had stayed with you not know such complete happiness had I stayed with you and your sharp sabre like tongueteeth which kills tender souls

no

I belong in the here and the now on the driftwood log on Wisconsin Point at one with wind, water and Spirit

while you

lurk in the shadows knowing nothing but deadness and lethargy and the emptiness of the house at night where all of what I had lingers waiting for a return that will never come

if you were not so calculating

I could almost pity you

Alone

Wolf

but I know your kind

devouring tender souls

I see you in the tree line shadow man-child

the breeze shakes the leaves of the trees and you melt into the brush only

to return

predator

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.

Poem of the Day: Self portrait with Sylvia Plath’s Braid by Diane Seuss

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For those of you who want to know more about Plath’s hair kept at Indiana University go here.

Self-Portrait with Sylvia Plath’s Braid

Diane Seuss
Some women make a pilgrimage to visit it
in the Indiana library charged to keep it safe.
I didn’t drive to it; I dreamed it, the thick braid
roped over my hands, heavier than lead.
My own hair was long for years.
Then I became obsessed with chopping it off,
and I did, clear up to my ears. If hair is beauty
then I am no longer beautiful.
Sylvia was beautiful, wasn’t she?
And like all of us, didn’t she wield her beauty
like a weapon? And then she married,
and laid it down, and when she was betrayed
and took it up again it was a word-weapon,
a poem-sword. In the dream I fasten
her braid to my own hair, at my nape.
I walk outside with it, through the world
of men, swinging it behind me like a tail.
Copyright © 2015 by Diane Seuss. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 25, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
Diane Seuss was born in Michigan City, Indiana, in 1956 and raised in Edwardsburg and Niles, Michigan. She studied at Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University, where she received a master’s degree in social work. Seuss is the author of three books of poetry: Four-Legged Girl (Graywolf Press, 2015); Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open (University of Massachusetts Press, 2010), recipient of the Juniper Prize for Poetry; and It Blows You Hollow (New Issues Press, 1998)

taken from https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/self-portrait-sylvia-plath’s-braid

 

 

She-wolf

I have run wild across the land and

hunkered down in snow I have hunted for the food that nourishes and found only bones

I have borne pups and raised them until they forayed into the wider world and

now I roam again beside

great inner oceans

I sing over bones and they stir faintly

they speak to me in whispers I cannot yet make out

my ears dart forward and I nose the bones

Willing them to live

they are me long dead perhaps and perhaps they are glad I have found them

I will lie here until the breath of life fills them