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?

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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.

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!!

The quiet before the camper arrives: cometh fear

I’m afraid of the camper. Afraid I won’t be able to fix it up well. Afraid of my lack of handyperson ability. Afraid it will be cold in the winter. Afraid it isn’t secure enough.

All these fears of the unknown. I know my brain is working overtime and things will be just fine and I am looking forward to the new life in store for me. I feel so many conflicting things.

I feel the camper is a gift from above. I know it is. I would be homeless without it. I look forward to putting my unique stamp on it. But then again there is the fear.

How many of us never get out of our comfort zone? How many of us aren’t forced out of our comfort zone by circumstance as I have been? What have we missed by remaining safe and thinking of all we would like to try?

Too many of us including me.

Vision of what is to come

all is black and I am

moved forward by voices a cacophony if voices quiet then growing louder confused

I cannot make out the words but they slipside around me washing me like water drowning me rough seas

for we have known fear all of us unable to get traction on the world in front of us moving at light speed all of us crying in bewilderment at what we have created this great evil destroying us by degrees

I get alone and rock back and forth on the shore of this big inland sea and my prayers are carried by birds on the wind dipping and wheeling over waves crashing then

I see eagles in flight glowing in the black

I have seen them every day for a week so they announced themselves and these are giant birds who have voices of thunder

those thunder voices carry them forward they know the people need them

there is a blue warrior

A red warrior

A yellow warrior

A black warrior

a white sky and cloud people usher them and the growing dawn erases the black and people are no longer blind

Oh the horses, black and brown and red and bays and white all flowing manes and tails

the thunder of their hooves is astounding and I cower in front of them waiting

To be crushed

they leap over me and the wind of them blows the sun across the sky

those warriors follow behind them and then I see a beautiful woman

all is hushed

This woman carries a pipe and a buffalo walks beside her and behind her and becomes her and she is woman old and young and buffalo and calf all at once shimmering in the wake of horses

she speaks in the ancient language and it does not matter I do not understand I understand she has come

To save us

she sang the world into being and she sings again to save it her song erasing those who would destroy her mother her mother no longer old and sick on a cot but rising to destroy the ones who are death

rising the people rise the people know the people rainbow people rising

I open my eyes and the sun is almost gone

I get up and now I write

to tell

To remember

This is what will be what will happen the eagles have told me an

4th of July 2018

Heavy treads descend. I hear the matched marching heavy booted clump clump clump jackbooted night drawing

upon us all

Freedom duels with itself and flags fly perpetually at

at half mast

dissent arrested shots ring out sad and slow and true scything down the flower of our youth who

die in vain for their country.

what is right is now twisted into former versions of itself and injustice uncloaked no more pretending to be something benevolent something

sinister

I hear the cries of children who are the lambs in this slow slaughter of liberty while

a soft slow voice tells me let the dead bury their dead

let the sleepers sleep

I run to gather up the discarded heart of she who has dropped her torch and sits weeping soulessly eating innocence

her castaway heart is too heavy to bear

and God has fled

an impostor shadow stands laughing mockingly

I am I am I am

there will be no fireworks only the screams of the damned behind barbed wire starving

work will set us free

souls will climb heavenward the sleepers unaware of

the hell they have unleashed

death creeps slowly forward in the eyes of the jackbooted suited fiends delighting in the chaos and

fear and

pain and burning black smoke goes up the chimneys

look here

is the abyss with an echo of the past

a child’s voice

My country ”tis of thee

Sweet land of liberty

let freedom ring

the whisper

dies

freedom no

more just a word we used

to fight for

a white dove

plummets

to the earth

Clump clump clump clump

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

Up North—47.7°N 87.5°W

I was sitting with my cousin today in northern Wisconsin where we live and we hadn’t seen one another in twenty five years. She asked me why I came back home because she was curious. What brought me back? I knew right away what had brought me back. An ancient lake singing an ancient song to my soul, a lake old as the history of the earth itself. As the earth shifted over thousands of years and magma flowed, the treasures of the lake, its amethyst, iron and copper, as well as living treasures in the form of 80 species of fish, and forest and fauna slowly developed. Lake Superior is an ancient prehistoric valley filled with water. It is so deep–1,332 feet at its deepest point and an average depth of 500 feet. Human history is young in comparison to the ancient lake. Whispers of the past come to me:

Ochiptwe Gitchi Gamee (Ojibwa big sea water)

Lac Superieur (Upper Lake, French, 17th century)

Lake Superior (British Anglicized name, 1760’s–because they thought it larger and thus “Superior” to the rest of the Great Lakes).

It is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. Nipigon country and the river of the same name in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, is a primary and largest inflow; there are over 200 rivers that feed it. It has the highest elevation of the five Great Lakes, and drains into Lake Huron via the St Mary’s River. These are the facts. But there is something more; something alive and vibrant and ancient and pure that sings on despite clashes with people and their desire to take from the land without giving back.

(Image from CBC.ca)

The lake has an aura of mystery about it, that morning mists illuminated by slow sunrises seem to magnify; home to wolves at Isle Royale, whose mournful cries are the song of this Great Lake’s spirit. For it does have a spirit; a strong one. Humanity has never conquered it. It has seen ice ages come and go and been the home to many peoples over many thousands of years; the Plano, who created dugout canoes and hunted caribou after the retreat of the glaciers in the last Ice Age, the Shield Archaic people, hunters and miners who developed trade networks, believed to be ancestors of the Ojibwa and the Cree; the Laurel people who developed seine net fishing, Algonquian people who hunted and fished, developed snow shoes and birch bark canoes, and tribes who have lived around the lake for 500 years before white Europeans came–Dakota, Fox, Menominee, Nipigon, Noquet, Gros Ventres, and Anishinaabe. Their pictographs can still be seen; humans the second hand of time; the lake, timeless.

The lake calls you home. No matter where you go or what you do. It calls to you.

I left home tethered to it; wandered around the world half-listening to the song of that great inland sea not realizing how fully it was a part of me.

Most of the towns that grew up on its shores describe bays and what treasures were found in them: Beaver Bay (prized for hats), Silver Bay, Taconite Harbor, Agate Bay; or portages when the French explorers came–Grand Portage, Little Marais, Grand Marais, or names of the many falls around the lake–Chippewa Falls, Eagle River Falls, Sturgeon Falls, Gooseberry Falls. The list goes on and on. There are many more falls than those pictured below:

There is much to write about as I listen to Superior’s song, a song that is the song of my life wrapped up in this place I carried with me to the other side of the world. It is a lake of stories and I will add mine to the ancient ones it holds.

We must begin with the Ancient Stories. They may be true for the truth is so often stranger than fiction. So the journey begins. In tandem this lake and I. Its voice tells me this story and I understand it. We must honor the spirit that lives within us even if it seems frightening for in that chaos of darkness and upheaval that lives inside of us is a path that if we are brave enough to walk it leads us into sacredness. My journey as well as the journey around the Lake is circular.

The Anishinabe tell of the great underwater lynx like creature who lives in the depths of Gitchigumi – the creature called Mishi Peshu or Mishipashoo. He is the ulitmate metaphor representing the power, mystery and innate danger that comes from these sacred waters. With razor like spikes on his back, the face of a lynx or panther, and the body of a sea serpent, this creature demanded respect. The Anishinabe offered tobacco and prayer to the creature spirit before they embarked out onto the waters in their canoes. The calm waters of Lake Superior can be quickly transformed into raging squalls and huge waves from the northern, north-eastern, and north-western gales that often suddenly crop up. These gales sweep over the open water, quickly picking up momentum and causing huge waves, some up to 40 feet high.

(Credit: Chi Manidoo)

There are many more stories and I will tell them to you. Look for more. Listen to the song as it unfolds.

Walk with me.

The girl with the gypsy feet returns home to ghosts and whispers of a life lived

Home will not disappear in the night on you. Attend to the task at hand lest the bear eat you.—J Fitz 1990

I returned home where I had not been for twenty five years a few days ago.

It is a strange thing to come back to a place so pregnant with memories where half my life unfurled. So much is familiar yet so much has changed. Somehow in a life lived, daily happenings are forgotten except in excerpts, and long forgotten events come back when I explore a certain section of town or find a house where someone I knew or was related to used to live in and now strange people I do not know live there. There is a certain familiar strangeness, an ostracization that is inherent when I touch the familiar, but it is no longer linked to me in any way. Here I was . I left no mark. Yet I was here, and I am no more; these people live here and they did not know what lives unfolded here. Lives that are only ghosts now. I feel so left behind. Bereft. I missed so much. I lived so much. The tension is palpable. Should I have stayed and lived a quiet insular life here and lived through the changes, or did I do right to have traded the safety of home for how I lived as a creature of the world?

It’s too late now. I made my choice and I went out in the world, lived, travelled, had my children, and saw and experienced, and here I am.

I did not expect fanfare, nor many familiar faces and indeed, that’s what I got. There are a few familiar people to make the transition easier and for that I am grateful. I am grateful for them.

A friend once told me when I was homesick and had been in college away that home would not disappear in the night. He was right in a way–geographically it is still here; yet on a deeper level, it did disappear. I am not sorry to have lived past the unhappiness of much of it, but I am sorry to have lived a life and to come to it later in life with the feeling that life has slipped through my fingers as so much water because I still think I am young and that life is ahead of me.

They are knocking down my school and soon that fixture in my life will be gone as it will be gone for a lot of people who went there. I walked around and around and remembered how safe I felt there, how secure, when I did not feel safe or secure at home. I remembered the rooms of teachers who no longer work there, wonderful teachers the current students will never know; I remember rooms that no longer exist and it is familiar yet different, as if life moved on while I stood still in it not understanding when my life became the past and I look ahead now into the edge of the abyss of an uncertain future.

Home did slip away. My friend is now dead, my relatives on one side disappeared, no familiar faces in town. Only the boats remain, and a whisper of the town I once knew. Buildings are gone and replaced. My entire school life is gone with the buildings that once housed me; my elementary school is lofts now , my middle school and high school are gone and I feel as if I have been in some way erased and thus forced forward.

Change is constant and necessary. I am not a fool. Sometimes I feel so old and life so fast, speeding past me, while I struggle to catch my breath.

Constructing s life from scratch is the task at hand now. I have people to meet, a home to create, a new normal to become accustomed to.

I have a piece of brick from my high school which will not be there anymore after the summer has passed. It is a piece of me I think. A relic. My beginning. I am the product of the sum of my life up to now. The past is severed so cleanly I wonder if it is by accident or design. I haven’t got the slightest idea what I’m doing. I only have a dream I am manifesting. I hope a dream is enough.

I will color my hair and begin again.

I am glad to be home at last.