Surfing in Wisconsin

“Social media sites create an illusion of connectivity” — Malay Shah

“We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we do it.” — Erik Qualman

“You have friends all over the world; you just haven’t met them yet” –Couchsurfing.org

I can go on and on with quotes about social media. We have a lot to say on this subject. There’s information to suggest that 55% of people throughout the WORLD use social media. There is NOTHING ELSE in the entire world that 55% of people agree on (other than needing oxygen, food, and water). And I’m thinking that this phenomenon has something to do with us feeling more lonely and disconnected.

I’ve noticed in recent interactions online, I feel empty. It felt like my interactions on social media were more about the “media” than the “social”. This led me to make a decision. I have decided to use Facebook only for groups and events now. Trying to avoid my feed as much as possible. Why? Because it’s not really social there. My feed is a bunch of information being thrown into the world; thrown at the wall by my friends and family. It reminds me of advertising in a magazine. We tend to just flip through it until we find something for us. It has nothing to do with connecting.

Anyway, I’m moving most of my social to groups and in person meetings. Last night was a good example. I used the Couchsurfing app to find a Twin Cities event that happens every week. This community has created great friendships and memory makers. Couchsurfing is a way to travel on the cheap and really see the world through the eyes of others. The idea is that you can lend your couch (or guest room or air mattress or floor) to a traveler or two. They, in turn, teach you something or hang out and offer the same couch service to others if they can. It’s a great way to find travel partners and new friends. I highly recommend you check it out.

Back to my experience with this website/app; Jeremy and I joined the site years ago, when it was in its infancy. When we checked it out first, it was an interesting idea, but not something that had hit any kind of stride yet. There was no one around us that used it and only a small handful of people in the places we were looking to travel to. We also had almost no friends who were willing to write us a reference. We filled out our whole profile and got as verified as we could without paying anything. Then we forgot about our profile there. When Airbnb came out, we touched base back there, but had no desire to focus enough to try this new concept and learn the new website. Then came the app and his most recent trip.

Currently, Jeremy is in San Diego, CA learning about Watsu. It is a bodywork modality that he’s gotten a new passion for. That passion led him to search out classes so that he can also be a practitioner of water therapy and help even more of his clients with their mental and physical illnesses. When we were planning his trip, the question of what I would do for 2 weeks without him came up. Would I still come home every night if I didn’t have to? Did I really want to keep travelling 52 miles one way each day for work? No to both. I wanted to stay closer to work so that I could drive less and enjoy my extra hours in the day.

Couchsurfing came to mind when we were booking his Airbnb stay there. Why couldn’t I stay on someone’s couch close to home? That way, if something was shady, I could just go home instead. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know the tricks to convince a host to let me stay. But I did know how to find local events on the app. I joined an event last night for the first time. My first time actually being able to use the app helped out a lot.

First of all, everyone that joined this event online actually showed up, plus a few that hadn’t joined. This is a new concept for us Facebook users. When we have 5 “yes” answers and 15 “maybe” answers, we expect 2 attendees. Events get lost in the turmoil of the feed. So, our social on FB can turn into that feed thing again. On Couchsurfing, there’s no feed really. The events are front and center; the interactions with real people become the focus. You can’t forget when the event feed is constantly reminding you that you have something coming up.

Second, all of these people value interaction. Why would you sign up on a site to be hosted or host someone if you didn’t care about the interactions? They want in person meetings, hugs, and sharing a drink. That interaction is what taught me that short “trips” are better than long ones. I had posted a 2 week hosting opportunity on my trip, hoping to stay close to work for 2 full weeks. Yet, I have Tuesday class that I would need to go home for and Wednesdays I have a standing time to stay with a friend already. Plus, my mom is coming up for a conference at one point and I plan to stay with her for 2 days. So, that breaks my “staying” down to a few short trips. I have thus changed my trips to a few short ones. Hoping this leads to a stay or two. I’m still hoping to interact with one person or more during the times that I’d like to not have to drive to work.

Third, references are important. Interaction and connection are vulnerable experiences. Having someone tell you that another person is good can be a big anxiety reducer. We already do this for people!! How many times do you vouch for someone in your life? “Oh yeah, I do know Troy. He’s a great guy” when your best single friend tells you that she met someone who knows you. “Kelly and I used to work together. Glad you met her.” “John and I went to school together.” There are ways on the Couchsurfing app to do this. There’s personal references, host references, and traveler references. You may have a great place to stay, but be a slob when staying at others’ places. That can be found on here. You may be great at making friends, but not be able to host anyone at your place. So you’d have no references from people you’ve hosted, but many can vouch that you’re a great person to host at their place. We do this in real life; I like that this community offers the opportunity to do it online as well.

Cutting back on Facebook for my social media experience is a hard thing for me. I have spent hours and hours just scrolling my feed, sharing things that make me laugh or cry or angry. It’s a bad habit that I’d like to break. I don’t want my hobby list to include “spending hours staring at a screen sharing pictures of words”. I’ve had moments like this in the past when I found it particularly good to disconnect. I think this will be a way to find real friends again, instead of 1000 followers that like my dog videos I share. It’s already been wonderful for me. Last night, I loved really connecting with a community of vulnerable people who crave interaction and genuine connection. I’m grateful for their new place in my life.

So, what Apps and events and groups do you use to keep it cheap and still fun? What ways do you really connect with people? How do you contribute to the giant brain we’ve created with the Internet? And how have you contributed to the hands and feet of it that go out and find real interactions? Hopefully, you’ll consider reaching out by staying on my futon. Come and surf in Wisconsin in The Girl Next Door. With that, we’ll see you on the road.

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Catching Up

“When I have spare time, I catch up on things
I’ve had to postpone due to lack of time.” Steve Wozniak, Brainquote.com

For those of you that deal with chronic illness or severe mental illness, you know that sometimes life gets in the way. Appointments with the doctor, counselor, physical therapist, or other health professional tend to take up a lot of time. On top of that, there are times that you need to be making the money that you couldn’t make when you or those you love were sick. There’s also that all-too-sought-after ideal of this thing called “rest”. Who has time for sleeping, reading, watching TV, or “self-care”?

The truth is that we all have plenty of time. Our priorities just tend to take over one way or another. My priorities have been to do that self-care, to get the therapies taken care of, and to get my butt back in gear to live my life. So, let’s go forward and let you know how life is going now.

RV life is still happening!! Jeremy and I have loved being in the RV full-time. This winter, we remained parked at the Round Barn location. Our hosts are snow-birds and they left for Florida in November. They requested that we use the dishwasher, sink, and laundry, along with the toilet, to ensure that the waterlines remained in use. It took a load off of their minds to have someone checking this almost daily so that they didn’t have to worry about coming home to a flooded house.

The use of the dishwasher created a natural migration of our cooking to the house, since we could just put everything directly into the dishwasher. So, here we are learning how to cook in the RV again. We also had naturally migrated much of our clothing into baskets because of the back and forth to the house. Another re-learning experience: fitting all of our clothing into the tiny closets. It won’t be as steep a curve as it was last year. Now we at least have experience RVing, so we know what we need to do.

What has come about because of those “natural migrations” and “relearning opportunities” is that we have not put our things away where they belong. Our RV is a MESS!! I have called in a professional organizer to help me make sense of it all this Friday. I’m afraid it may take more than one session and I am willing to put forth the effort so that we can have a harmonious household.

Family life is much less strained. Jason has been living in a foster home for a few months after a stay in juvenile detention. Thankfully, he’s really putting in the work to stay clean, live by the rules, and straighten out his future. We’re really proud of the hard work he’s doing and we hope he keeps honest with himself and with everyone else. He should be transitioning back to his mom’s place within the next month or so. He will remain in treatment for a time and he enjoys the support he gets from AA meetings that he’s been regularly attending.

Jeremy’s mental health has bounced back very quickly since Jason got clean and started buckling down. I think it’s hard for me to grasp the enormity of emotion that goes with being the biological parent to someone with mental illness. It has helped me see Jeremy’s parents and their relationship with us in a whole new light. I’m so grateful that they stick with us and hold family as such a high priority.

Jeremy’s physical health has also made a bounce back. He’s been biking since January again and started running again just recently. He also swims with a group of friends 2-3 times a week. Last weekend, he raced in a duathlon; that is running and biking. He’s eating healthier and losing weight. His blood pressure seems to be better controlled as well.

Physical health has also moved back to the top of the list for me. Along with Jeremy, I’m eating better and exercising more. I’ve started making all of my social time into active time by going for walks, hikes, and bowling instead of out to eat or drink. Running 3-5 times a week has become the norm because of taking the community ed class, First Steps. It’s amazing what having a calm life can do for your health in every aspect.

Work is going well for both of us as well. Jeremy has picked up a new massage type (modality) called watsu. It’s a way of incorporating the buoyancy of water with light stretching and massage pressure.  He’s been doing intermittent training in it for about 6 months now. He also has been offering free practice sessions to our friends and family as part of his certification. I can say for certain that he has a gift in all things bodywork. He’s extremely passionate about the amazing things that water can do to facilitate healing and relaxation.

I’m still at Aveda working in the Quality lab and loving it. I have great coworkers, a wonderful benefit package, a decent wage, and I’m using some of the schooling I have in Chemistry. The only downside to my job is the distance from where we’re parked. It’s 52 miles 1-way to work. I’ve caught up on my music listening, call my family and friends regularly, and have gotten an Audible subscription. My hips and my back do not thank me for this drive. It’s not that I can’t keep myself busy; I would just like to be able to have a life outside of the car.

I know what you’re saying: “Can’t you just park somewhere closer? Isn’t that the benefit of RV life?” While this sentiment is very true, finding places to park a 30′ motorhome is not the easiest task in the world. We’ve been very very blessed to have family and friends who live close to our “home-base” that have allowed us to park in their yards. They’ve been amazing, helping us put in all of the work we’ve done this far. Our current location even has an RV electric panel now because our friends are so extremely helpful to us. That all being said, it is still hard to find parking spots.

RV parks and campsites tend to be fairly expensive compared to making deals with friends and family. It is not uncommon to spend $20 a day on a non-electric site, $35 a day on the electric ones. This is a barebones site, not often including water, dumping, WiFi, or cable (not that we need cable, as we do not have a television). There are some that have this, but usually run around $200/week. We just can’t afford that. I mean, that’s about how much we were paying for a 2 bedroom townhouse. We might as well not RV if that’s the case.

The spots that are not expensive have plenty of rules attached. There are free sites that can take a tent, but often need to be hiked into or used a boat to access. There are corporate sites at Casinos, Cabella’s, or Walmart, but you need permission and can usually only stay for a few days. $5 Truck stops don’t usually allow more than one day. The Girl Next Door is not young enough to be moving that often at this time. As we replace more parts, she’ll get younger and younger and be able to move more and more.

Thus, we rely on family and friends to barter and trade with us. It has worked out well and the current location is with people that we really enjoy our time with. So, I’ll be driving until we either buy our own place to park on or find another friend closer with a similar setup.

All in all, things are going well. With my new found energy, I’m hoping to be able to write a bit more here and fill you all in on the adventures that we take part in. Take care of your health and the health of those around you. We will see you on the road.

You Take Your Toilet For Granted

WARNING! I talk about pooping and other bodily functions…. do not read further if you are grossed out by biological processes.

I used to take my toilet for granted also. I’m not talking about those people that do not have in-home toilets for whatever reason. (BTW, more power to you if you’re one of those people. You’re a badass!) I’m talking about just being able to use your toilet in a comfortable manner.

I didn’t realize that this was a thing until the first time I went on our RV toilet. It wasn’t the lack of water that was a problem (we started full-time before it was done freezing, so had no water for the first month so far). I can handle using antifreeze instead of having running water. We had water jugs for drinking from and have been washing dishes and clothing at our friends’ place that we’re parked at. They’re so generous to us!

I also do not have a problem with the shape of the toilet itself. It’s pretty close to a regular toilet, although it’s a bit shorter, both floor to top and back to front. It’s usable, even though petite.

What really has been irking me (and I found out Jeremy as well) is the inability to take care of the “aftercare”. Wiping was impossible. The reason: the sink cabinet was WAY too close to the toilet and bathroom wall. We are big people, so our legs pressed on the cabinet and the wall when just sitting, much less wiping afterward.

This changed the “routine” a lot! First, add a little antifreeze to the bowl and move the jug out of the way so you can sit down. Then, sit and wiggle enough to be able to “go” in the toilet. Next, wiggle a little so you don’t drip when you stand at a half squat to try to wipe. Throw toilet paper in garbage (we don’t want to change to RV toilet paper, so that has to be where it goes). Close lid and flush.

I DID NOT like the half standing squat that was necessary. I still felt like I couldn’t get clean. And when “that time of the month” came around… forget about it!! I kept waiting to go at the gas station down the street and empty my menstrual cup there. (If you want more information about what the heck I’m talking about, please please please, let me know!! I’m passionate about this thing.) Feeling clean during my period was not even an option after using the toilet. I just showered double that week.

Rain prevented Jeremy from working on the engine on Saturday morning. Lucky us; he’s a handy guy. So, we decided to renovate the bathroom. I know that sounds like a huge undertaking to you sticks & bricks dwellers, but an RV is much less involved. It is especially so because we didn’t want to change the wall coverings or the toilet. All we wanted to do was take the cabinet out and move the sink higher and closer to the window.

Between a pair of drills and a saws-all, Jeremy removed the counter, cut the cabinet in half, and cut the counter in half. He ended up spending time under the cabinet to remove the counter, so it made for some fun pictures. Once we had done that, we noticed that there was still quite a bit of restriction when seated from the cabinet. So, we’ve decided on a fabric covering for the pipes and “storage items” instead of the wooden cabinet.

I even got to do some work with the power tools! He let me pick where the garbage holder and the towel holder had to go. Now it is so much nicer in our toilet. There’s even some like-new carpet that was under the cabinet. And The Girl Next Door is just a little closer to perfect.

When placing the sink back, we had to make sure that we put it where it would be out of the way. I’m really blessed to have a creative man as my husband. He put the sink back together and did some funny looking yoga to get a working sink into the right spot. He even cleaned up afterward with our little vacuum. We gave the whole area a once over, discarded the refuse, and marveled at how much larger our little bathroom felt without a countertop and cabinet.

It was a good experience to work on the inside for a while instead of just engine work. The Girl Next Door feels more and more like a home every day, thanks to the efforts of Jeremy. I’ve been working so much that I haven’t been able to help much. That was another fun part of this project; we could work on it together. So, remember, not all rain is going to ruin your day, not all projects are long ones, and it’s nice to have a handy husband. Love your family, love your life, and we’ll see you on the road.

Full-Time Happens

We now have an empty townhouse and a very very full RV. We went full-time this weekend!! Both of us are overjoyed to be embarking on this journey and learning what a great adventure life can be.

Beginning on Friday, Jeremy spent most of the time after work packing up things in the townhouse that weren’t already in the motorhome. The Girl Next Door was already parked at Jason & Ona’s place, so we had to take all of what was left by the car load. There was clothing, kitchen utensils, and bathroom products that all needed to be moved. Both cars were packed to the gills more than once to bring things over.

You can imagine that that much stuff did not fit easily into The Girl Next Door. We’re definitely finding that there’s a deficit of storage space, even with the extra cabinet above the bed. We determined that it might be best to find any space for everything and get it in the “right space” later.

We also will need to change our routines. I will need to set out my clothing the night before so that I’m not crawling over Jeremy at 4am when I’m getting ready for work. We will need to find a space in the living room or bathroom for hair and makeup space. Another thing I can’t really do in the dark. We will no longer have the space for our medicine to sit out on the counter all of the time. Reminders to take medicine will have to come in a different form. Before bed, we’ll need to put the door insulators on. Routines will need to be changed and learned.

That’s not the only thing that’s changing. I started my new job. A few weeks ago, I accepted a position with the QA Lab at Aveda Corporate. Now, my routine won’t revolve around Jeremy’s client schedule. I will have a steady wakeup time, a commute, coworkers, and rush hour. At 62 miles from our current parking spot, it’s quite a hike every morning. Luckily, I’ll be going right past our office, so Jeremy and I will still get to ride together sometimes. I can drop him on my way. I’ll miss controlling my own schedule, but this new adventure will afford us things like a retirement fund, health insurance, and paid vacation.

With me not in the office anymore, Jeremy needs a little more support. We were able to have a friend, who has been in the massage business for years, join our team starting this Friday. She’ll not only help with office/reception work, but she is a licensed massage therapist. Every massage therapist is different in their technique and Chris is no exception. We’re excited that she may be able to offer our clients another layer of services that are drastically different than what we’ve been doing. We will probably be taking on more office support staff as her days fill with massage as well.

Today being the first day of spring, I also decided that my hair needed updating for the new season of our life. Friday morning I got a hidden rainbow added to my hair. It’s been fun playing with how to wear it, how to hide it, and how it looks both up and down. It did my brain some good to be pampered.

By Saturday at noon, we had most of the stuff moved out of the townhouse and into the RV, so Jeremy and Jason spent the rest of the day working on wiring. There were lights that were starting to flicker because of degrading wires, some antennae that had broken off and were no longer used, and battery cables that needed a replacement. They’re not done yet, but they’ve gotten a good start on cleaning up the wiring where it needs it. And on Saturday night, we spent our first official night as full-timers.

Until we started this journey, we hadn’t realized what a movement this lifestyle has become. We began talking about tiny houses about 4 years ago. We had hoped that a smaller house would free up more of our finances to pay off bills, but still give us the space we needed to live. As we talked more and more, we realized that the typical tiny house just wasn’t for us. We want to move every few years, so it needs to be on wheels. Most parks and campgrounds to not allow a “tiny house” because it’s a house. On top of all of that, there are places in the US where tiny house owners are being penalized for having “domiciles” under the “required size” or for going “off the grid”. There are even places that tiny home owners are being forced to pay for electricity on the grid even though they’re not using it and sewer even though they have a self contained system. We didn’t want to deal with these kinds of regulations.

Then, one day, Jeremy said “You know who does get to park at campgrounds? RVs.” That started the conversation that has lasted until now. We found that there are many people, especially Gen Xers and Millenials like us, that are embracing this lifestyle of living on the road or in a tiny space. Can I tell you how many? Not really. Another blog addressed this question HERE with research and everything. I won’t rehash their work (Thanks for saving the me the work, George & Sandy.

Either way, we’re among the estimated 1 million fulltimers now and we are not looking back. So, follow your dreams and make sure they’re really your dream. See you on the road.

 

The Wheels on our House Go Round and Round

Jeremy has taken to singing this song now that we’re on the way to our “new home” for The Girl Next Door. Please don’t sing “The Wheels on the Bus” to me or mention the wheels on our house… I think I may lose my mind.

It’s amazing how fast this all is happening!

Once the windows were done, Jeremy wanted to start moving as soon as possible.

So, one day I came home to this. The Girl Next Door was parked in front of our townhouse. She just barely fit in the yard. You can see in the big picture that she really didn’t get to be level while there. Our yard and driveway are slopped so that rain and snow melt run away from the building. That kept her a little off kilter. So, front door to front door, we started moving in.

Jeremy and his parents had wrestled our regular queen mattress into the bedroom. It hangs a bit over the end of the platform, but it is so much more comfortable than the foam mattress that existed. We don’t know if it was the original from 1990, but we wouldn’t have been surprised. Now we have a pillow top queen mattress stuffed right in where it’s supposed to be.

Jeremy and I moved most of our things from the townhouse into the belly of The Girl Next Door. We made some organizational decisions on the fly, like who gets what closets, where the spices go and if we’re going to use the under cabinet appliances or not. So, the toaster went bye bye, the “pantry” became Jeremy’s closet, and the spices are above the sink.

Saturday and Sunday nights, we decided we were going to try it out. This way, if it was too cold, something broke, or we changed our minds unexpectedly, we could just go back inside and sleep in the guest bed. It was actually very pleasant with a heated blanket for most of our heat. The more of our stuff we moved, the warmer the place stayed. It also helped that I finished all of the Reflectix window insulators.

Monday morning, Jeremy had gone to workout when there began to be a knocking on the townhouse door, then on the door of the RV. When I opened it, I found our association manager. He told me that we needed to move the RV somewhere else; that it wasn’t allowed and there had been complaints. At the same time that he was talking to me, Jeremy got home. So we jumped into action.

Everything that would fit from the counter and table got thrown into the sink. Jeremy took off the window insulators and started scraping off the frost that had accumulated both inside and outside of the windows and windshield. I put the larger things away where we planned to keep them later when we move around, including the basement, the closets, and just tied up in a chair. Once Jeremy unplugged her cord, we were on our way to our next destination: our friends Jason & Ona’s house.

Jason & Ona will be helping us with making sure she works well. Jason has some experience working with big engines like this. He was the one that helped so much with the exhaust back in February. They’ll also help us out a bit to make sure the appliances and electrical system are working correctly. We’re more than a little grateful for their hospitality and help.

We weren’t able to stay long when we dropped her off at their house. Jeremy had to get back for a massage immediately, so we left her sitting in their driveway and Ruby took us to the office. That night, we got home and looked around.

Our living room, guest room, and kitchen were 90% empty. We were excited that we got that much done and ready to take on the next steps of moving. I finished going through my clothing that night.

This morning was the first time we were able to eat at home since then. We found out a very important bit of information about moving gradually… keep the spices and most food where you’re living!! For eggs and porridge, we had no cinnamon, nutmeg, very little ginger, and our pepper is getting very low; we have all of our walnuts and almonds in the RV.

Jeremy picked up what we needed most at Walmart and we went without the other stuff. When I roasted our spaghetti squash for dinner, I did so in a cast iron sauce pan because all of our baking sheets are in the RV. We even made our spaghetti sauce in the microwave at the office because we ran out of time from having to run to the store for seasonings.

We won’t have to worry about this for too long. We are planning on moving into The Girl Next Door mostly full-time starting this weekend. The rest of our things will be moved and all that will be left to be done is cleaning the townhouse and giving them back the keys. T-minus 4 days to full-time. We’re both excited now and ready to have it done with.

There are still things to get rid of and there are communications that we haven’t had yet on the things that need to be done before we can be done at Jason & Ona’s place and move to our semi-permanent location closer to our office. No matter what, we’re happy to still be moving toward embarking on this journey together, no matter how far the mercury falls below zero. Stay warm all, snuggle your loves, and we’ll see you on the road.

Working on the Weekends

“These are homes that are under constant earthquake conditions and thus subject to more wear and tear through normal use.”–Cherie Ve Ard,”The Sucky Sides of RVing: 10 Things We Hate about Full Time RVing”, Technomadia

I know I haven’t written enough lately. As a result, this is a very photo congested entry, so give it time to load. It’s hard to focus on anything when you work full time on the weekdays, then spend so much of the weekend wearing yourself out. Jeremy and I haven’t been working at our office every day for the past month, but we haven’t exactly taken any days off.

The Girl Next Door wasn’t perfect when we found her; she’s not even really perfect now. However, now she is mostly sealed on the roof and ready to have windows put back in, brakes repaired, and exhaust replaced. Here in is the essence of optimism: we HAVE to focus on all the major work we got done or the mound of work we’re looking at moving forward will overwhelm us.

This started out as a very simple resealing project. It was in our budget’s best interest if we took care of this ourselves. The sweat equity in her hull and our home will help us really feel at home in this space, even if it’s horribly cold or feels too small.

Speaking of cold, we live in Wisconsin, so doing this outside wasn’t even an option. This is why we are really blessed to have friends. One of our friends rented us a large bay in his repair shop at Somerset Auto Salvage and Repair. Being inside a heated garage was invaluable to us, even though it will cost us some once we figure out the shop hours we’ve put in.

We thought we would take the old lap sealant off of the roof, scrape off some putty, and replace it all with newer, better sealant options.

We removed vents and began scraping off the icky, sticky putty and sealant. Things were going quicker than we expected at first. It helped that we had many extra hands. Jeremy’s parents, Lisa & Tom, and our close friend, Erin, all came to help us with the first day of deconstruction (and what we thought would be the beginning of reconstruction).

As Jeremy and Tom removed vents and trim, Lisa scraped the putty and old sealant off of them. Erin and I worked at removing the remnants from the actual roof. There were scrapers, putty knives, razor blades, and screwdrivers involved, along with a rotary sander and some mineral spirits. The hallway vent was removed and exposed a dirty secret: rotten wood. We had known there was a leak in the shower vent. We had been hopeful after finding no mold in the shower wall that there might not be any need to destroy more of the walls and wood. We were wrong. After finding the rotten vent hole, we knew we needed to remove the whole roof to replace the rotten pieces of plywood. Thus began a HUGE undertaking that has, so far, taken us 3 weekends.

We had to remove all of the screws, every piece of equipment attached to the roof, and even tarp The Girl Next Door over the week between the first and second weekends. In the process, we replaced rusty screws, broken vent caps, and the screens on the vent covers. Lisa was a champ at cleaning putty off of trim, vents, and vent covers; she spent about 90% of the time doing just that. Friday-Monday of our supposed “staycation” 4-day weekend, we worked on The Girl Next Door. Jeremy said “I need to go back to work just to get a break.”

We even worked on it at Tom & Lisa’s house for a while on Sunday, since we couldn’t get enough garage time. At the end of the first Saturday, we had everything removed,  and the roof ready to take off. By Monday afternoon, we had finished removing the roof, fixing the plywood, adding some HomeGuard building wrap , and putting the roof back on. We tarped her and put her in the yard for the week while we all went back to work at our day jobs.

In the process of removing the roof, we found we needed to lift the upper part of the cab to release the aluminum. To get it to hinge upward, Jeremy had to remove the windows. As he removed them, he found that the interior walls had some wet wood. It isn’t enough to be concerned the way we were with the Shower, sweet, shower post. We think it probably came from being tarped at Lisa & Tom’s for the last few months. No matter how the water got there, it needed to be removed. Our overhead windows came out and the wall on the front cap came down. More scraping on the windows happened at home.

Jeremy and I showed up very early on the next Saturday. We untarped The Girl Next Door in the dark. Once we got inside, we scraped more on the roof, reinsulated the cap with 6 cans of Great Stuff, and started the resealing process. Jeremy also added the leftover housewrap under the cap to add some extra water resistance.

We decided to go with Eternabond for our resealing. This stuff sticks to EVERYTHING. Thankfully, we had done some research and knew this already. It’s kind of a hybrid between butyl/putty tape and a smooth backed packing tape. From the reviews we’ve seen, this stuff isn’t going to leak or need replacing for quite some time. It is also very easy to get straight lines with it.

Eventually, everything went back on during the second Monday. The tape is pretty compared to the ill-conceived silicone that was on top of the original lap sealant and butyl tape. Really, if you’re working on an RV or camper PLEASE DO NOT USE HOUSEHOLD SILICONE! It was hell to get it off and it cracked in multiple places. That’s not something you want with a house under constant earthquake conditions. We got all of the seals closed up with the Eternabond and all of the vents back onto the roof. So far, we have a total of 33 shop hours in the last 2 weekends. This weekend, we are planning to get back at it again for a few hours Friday, maybe a little on Saturday, and hopefully a few hours Monday morning.

Eventually, all of the major problems will be fixed. We are lucky that we found the rot when we did. Starting out knowing that The Girl Next Door is put together right is going to be a bit load off of our mind throughout at least the next few months, longer if we decide this is definitely the life for us and stay in her for another few years. The peace of mind will be worth it. Either way, be sure to check for leaks everyone and we’ll see you on the road.

Little Red Riding Toad

Until about a month ago, we owned a beautiful, big, blue 2007 Chevy Tahoe LT. We had gotten it a few years ago when both boys were still at home. You see, our family is a big family. It’s not that we have tons of kids or animals. We are all just large people.

At the tallest, the oldest is 6’5″ tall. He’s no string bean either. This is a man who has worked on a farm since he was 14 and has hands big enough to hold a calf bottle in one hand. Size 15 feet needed some room in the back just to sit in the car.

When we bought this behemoth of a vehicle, Jeremy was the largest he’d ever been and the largest in the family. At 6′ tall and 290 pounds, he was a mountain of a man. The youngest took in his foot steps already at 12 years old. At that time, he was 5’8″ tall and 260 pounds and had size 12 feet. We knew that he’d keep growing taller and probably get stronger, thus maybe heavier. He has since gained some size 14 feet and is about 6′ tall. He’s still around 245 pounds, so he’s slimmed down, but still tall.

So, a full sized SUV was not a frivolous buy for us. It was also WAY at the top of our price range. When we went in, I knew we could handle about $100 a month for insurance and about $300 a month for a payment comfortably. When we came out, we had signed a loan for $412 a month, plus the insurance was still $100 a month. On top of that, this large of a vehicle only got about 14 miles/gallon of gas. Less if you used the flex fuel option. So that we could have a comfortable vehicle, we tightened our belts, worked some extra hours, and paid a hefty sum.

The need for the Tahoe changed about 2 years later. The oldest was an adult and moved out of our house. With his own vehicle, he could get himself where ever he wanted to go without our monstrous motor. Jeremy’s ex moved to a town 20 miles away. That meant that the custody agreement for the youngest had to change. He started an every other weekend schedule of visiting us and we agreed that he would stay longer during the school breaks. We started paying some child support so that he had everything he needs when we couldn’t be there. So, we stopped having to drive him to work & school events.

We held onto the Tahoe for a while longer just because it was nice to have all that room. With a massage business, taking a portable massage table anywhere either means you give up your back seat or you need a big vehicle to haul it. Eventually, though, that payment “adjustment” caught up with us. We were no longer able to pay so much for such a large car.

At the same time, we decided that we would soon be changing our living situation. If you’re unfamiliar with RVing, you probably don’t realize how people with RVs get around. Our RV is a Class A motorhome. That means it has its own motor to pull the “house” part. Most people that have one of these also tow a smaller vehicle behind (a towed vehicle or toad). It gives them the flexibility to leave the motorhome where it’s parked and use the smaller car for errands. So, in short, the grocery-getter is really used for getting groceries and the RV sits parked. A large SUV like the Tahoe is not really conducive to tow behind a Class A.

We started the process to get rid of our luxury blimp. At first, we thought we’d downsize by just getting rid of the Tahoe and keeping our 1994 Chrysler Concord to tow behind our RV. We parked the sizable wheels right outside our office with a “For Sale” sign on it with our info. We waited… and waited… and no one called. We reduced the price each time that we made a payment so that maybe someone would bite. The Tahoe’s picture ended up on Carsoup.com, Craigslist, and even Facebook Garage Sale sites. No one was biting. Apparently, our unseasonably warm autumn made people far more comfortable with their tiny little gas-getters.

After 2 months of trying to sell it ourselves, we started looking into consignment, trade-ins, and dealerships that might buy it outright. Jeremy spent one Saturday visiting the local dealers. Eventually, he came back with some numbers. Most places would give us $2,000 less than we wanted as a private buyer and a few didn’t even feel the need to have us buy a different one from them. He finally did find one place that would trade-in the Tahoe for only $1,000 less than we wanted.

In the meantime, I took the Chrysler for its regularly scheduled maintenance. The mechanic did not have a good word for me when I picked it up. He told me that he wouldn’t put very much more money into this car. The body was rusting and he didn’t see it lasting too much longer. One of the bolts holding the engine on had already rusted through and the others weren’t far behind.

Back at the dealership, Jeremy did some test driving. After a few hours, he called and told me he’d found the one for only $6000. That means a total debt reduction of $6,000. I showed up to test drive a 2010 red Ford Focus, manual transmission. I was ecstatic that we were looking at a manual. She is gorgeous and drives very well. The number one plus: We can tow a manual transmission “4-down” very easily. That means that we will not need a tow dolly. Plus, we will not need to disengage the transmission when towing. I like the feeling of power I get when driving a manual transmission.

So Ruby became ours. She’s only $160 a month payment, $100 a month insurance, and gets 35 miles/gallon. Plus, she’s a cute little speedster once you get the handle on second gear. Now, we’re ready to hit the road with Ruby and The Girl Next Door. What do you think? Stay warm everyone and we’ll see you on the road.

New Year; New Life

I am the same person that I was yesterday; you are too. The only differences are that we’ve learned things that we didn’t know then. We may have learned good things: knowledge, love, efficiency, patience, kindness, wisdom, how to avoid cheesecake. We may also have learned bad things: pain, hurt, betrayal, anger, loneliness, and ignorance. In the end, we are still the same people; we have the same minds, the same bodies. We might have changed what we do on a daily basis or the way we wear our hair. All of these things aside, I am the same person today that I was a year ago with a lot of things I’ve learned.

I learned that my family was struggling so much more than they had let on. I learned that our kids were both struggling with drugs. I learned that my perception of what my husband and his children go through every day is not the whole story. I learned first hand what it is to have your brain attack you. It’s not a physical battle when someone is struggling inside their brain. Fighting with your own delusional thoughts is exhausting and hit my family this year. When you have cancer or diabetes, muscular dystrophy, or asthma, there are physical symptoms that show on your face, hands, and speech. You may slur, you may be unable to walk, you may throw up, you may have a hard time breathing. You may have to use a wheelchair or walker. Other people can see those symptoms.

When the war of mental illness is involved, it isn’t so visible. The vomit is an emotional vomit that often comes out sideways that has nothing to do with the person you’re spewing on. The slurring is in your inability to stay on one subject for long. The stumbling is in how you treat the people you love, even though you really want to show them love and respect. Your brain may tell you that it isn’t worth it to get out of bed today; that you are better off staying in the warm dark and letting your job fall away. Your illness tells you that your psychiatrist doesn’t know what he’s talking about and that the drugs do a better job than pharmaceuticals. There are no wheelchairs for someone who is so depressed that they are paralyzed. There are no walkers to help you find the thoughts that got lost somewhere in the racing conversation of your brain.

Thankfully, we have doctors that are beginning to know how to help my family. This year, we were able to find some stuff that is finally helping. I got some antidepressants that help me feel like a real person again; I can actually get out of bed daily, smile when something’s funny, and I am  not having random crying sessions for seemingly no reason at all. Jeremy’s doctor and he have decided to go back to the medicine that worked for so long even though he got a rash from it. Hopefully they can increase it slow enough that no rash happens this time. He also found a chiropractor and nutrition doctor that is helping him do better to fuel his athletic pursuits. The current doctor for our youngest took Jeremy’s past into account and found a medicine that seems to be helping him feel like himself for the first time in 2 years.

This year, Jeremy learned that he can do so much more than his brain tells him that he can. He ran his first marathon in June. He did multiple half marathons, tons of 5ks, and Ragnar Great River. Jeremy participated in 3 triathlons, one duathlon, and hundreds of group fitness classes. He ran his second marathon at the Twin Cities Marathon in October. This year, Jeremy continued his weightloss from last year; at his lightest, he was 215. He’s learned that Lithium is not a med that will work for him. He learned by gaining 25 lbs on it and experiencing some pretty severe depression symptoms during his trial-and-error phase of his med change. He learned millions of hours worth of information about RVing, motorhomes, fulltiming, and heaters. His phone  has been stuck on YouTube videos for about 6 months. By the time we move in, he’ll be an expert at all things RV.

We learned to coexist in work and home life. We learned a little harmony in our life; we learned a little struggle. We learned that 1200 sq. ft. is just too much space for the two of us. We learned that we have WAY TOO MUCH STUFF!! We learned a little bit of Spanish by using the Duolingo app. We learned to lighten up and to relax some. We learned that we want to have a life, not just be alive.

We are looking forward to 2017. Both of us have some physical goals, financial goals, and household goals. Resolutions aren’t our thing, but we do review our goals regularly and today is as good as any day to do that. We hope that everyone has a safe New Year’s Eve. Stay warm and we’ll see you on the road.

How to decide on a home

RV life is about excitement and travel for some. For others, it is about small living. Still other people go into RV living because they can’t afford the traditional way of life. None of these are the main reason that we decided we will be going full time in March.

From the time we met, Jeremy has been always looking to the next best thing. At first, it was the next car. Then, it was the next job. After a while, it became the next house and the cycle started over. Through this process, he really wants our family to have the best of everything. If this thing isn’t perfect, we can get a better one.

What this cycle ends up leading to is a WHOLE LOT of moving. In the 10 years that we have been together, we have lived in 6 different places. 2 of our abodes have been free-standing houses; the other 4 have been either apartments or townhouses. Only one home was one that we owned.

I’ve noticed that changing habitat and impulsive moving is something that does tend to go around when mental health is involved. Having a new space can increase the hormones in one’s system that tell you that exciting things are happening. Those are very happy chemicals for some people. One of the exciting things about mental illness is the adventure of never knowing what will happen next. Sometimes, that means deciding to move and doing it less than 60 days later. For us, changing scenery regularly seems to be what works.

There are some good reasons for less ownership. The main reason we prefer to rent is upkeep. Being business owners gives us very little time to do things like mow lawn, fix siding, clean gutters, and shop for new refrigerators when one goes out. It is very beneficial to us to have a landlord that will take care of those things. Another reason is that our credit is not great. We have quite a bit of debt that we are working to get rid of, but it doesn’t allow us a lot of room to buy. The last reason I’ll talk about now is our moving habit. Moving every year or two makes it unreasonable to own a property. We probably wouldn’t see turn around necessary to buy a house.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to build our life together. What’s so hard about renting is that we pay a huge sum of money with very little in return later. Basically, it’s a bad investment. Renting does not leave us much left over for real investing. At $900 a month, a 2 bedroom takes a lot of our income. Add on the cost to heat, cool, and electricity for that, you have a good chunk of your workday gone every single month.

Living in The Girl Next Door is supposed to help with this a little. We bought her for just over 2 months’ rent. We expect to put a good $2000 into her before she’s really full-time ready. She needs a good resealing on the roof, the shower needs to be fixed as one of the walls was torn off to look for mold, and some general maintenance stuff needs to be attended to. All in all, it will cost us the equivalent of 5 months rent to have her in tip-top shape.

Yes, I realize that this doesn’t take care of everything. We will still pay for water (at least to fill and dump most of the time) and we will still often pay for electricity (that will mostly depend on where we stay and what that stay includes). We will need to find places to fill our propane for heat and places to pay for getting rid of our garbage. But, we will be able to take our home with us every time we move. That is a positive for me. I’m tired of making new homes in new houses. I just want to keep the same home and change the scenery.

Of course, there is also the question of where to park. Right now, she’s sitting at Jeremy’s parents’ place (Thank you Tom & Lisa for a winter storage spot). That spot is just a little too far away for us to commute daily. We took the task of finding a spot to park pretty seriously. We were also pretty realistic that we might end up paying way too much at a camping spot or at an RV park. We asked around to friends and family; we checked out some Craigslist ads; we even called the local mobile home parks to see what the cost is.

Finally, while I was in Mexico, Jeremy decided that he was going to find something. He started telling everyone what we’re planning. This turned out to be a great strategy. When he went to our favorite bar and was talking to the owner about our plans, she latched onto the idea. She even has some land that is only 5 miles from our office that she’s willing to have us park on. When I got back, we talked it over and we’re super excited to be able to park on this spot. Although we don’t have specifics of how much she’ll want from us to park there, we’re absolutely sure that she’s generally reasonable about these things. It’s good to have friends.

We will be able to plug in for electric. Unfortunately, we will not have access to sewer or water, but we can drive into town to dump when needed. We are thinking this will be less than once a week necessary. Especially because we often shower at the gym, it will save us a lot of back and forth. Another thing we will be doing to cut down on necessary dumping is getting a composting toilet. We’ll talk more about our water saving ideas and goals in another entry. Just know that we are ready and prepared to live full-time.

All we need now is warmer weather and the time to get The Girl Next Door into shape for a full-time adventure. We’re excited to know that we have somewhere to go. Have a great day and we will see you on the road.

First blog post

This is our very first post. Yay!! Most of the “me” and “I” discussion will be by Candy. If Jeremy takes over for an entry, we’ll make sure to make that clear.

We have been talking about doing a tiny house for about 3 years. Early in 2016, we decided we needed to get really serious about paying off our debt. The main thing taking income from us is our rent. Right now, we’re paying $850/month just for the place we stay. It’s beautiful and the perfect size if we still had a family life. The problem is that we don’t.

We never really have had a regular family life. Jeremy was married and divorced before I came along. In that first marriage, he was blessed with 2 boys. Those boys have now grown into young men. When I came along, they were 10 and 5. So, I’ve gotten to be a part of their life for half of it so far. Because of the blended family, our “regular family life” consisted for years of the boys going back and forth every other week. They’d stay with us one week, the next week with their mom. Thankfully, she lived in the same town for most of it, so they didn’t have to be driven for school or miss their friends. But we’ve always had an ever changing schedule of kids/no kids, sports/no sports, triple laundry/no laundry.

Our “regular family life” ended a few years ago. Jeremy’s oldest was out of school and getting ready to go on his own. The youngest was still at home and his mom wanted to move 20 miles away into her fiance’s house. Youngest had been having trouble with bullies and his grades. Everyone agreed that it might be good for him to move to a different school district. This also meant that the week-on/week-off schedule wasn’t going to work anymore. We switched the schedule to every other week and some extra in school breaks. Recently, his illness has created some turmoil in our lives that made it so he won’t be coming to our house at all for a while. We hope he’ll get to visit us in The Girl Next Door at some point, but probably will not be living with us in the motorhome.

That all being said, we no longer have a need for a second bedroom. We also don’t really need the living room or dining room. We own a massage business. To accommodate for our 1000 clients, we need to be at our office a LOT. So, during the week, we pretty much use the refrigerator, the toilet, and the bed. We even shower at the gym most of the time, so we don’t really need that much. Out of our 1400 sq. ft. townhouse, we probably only use a good 500 sq. ft. on a day to day basis and half of that is only because of the hall way and the empty space between our kitchen and bedroom. On top of rarely using it on weekdays, our weekends are crazy!! We are part of so many different social groups that we rarely stay at home on weekends. We visit my parents in Southwestern Wisconsin, we visit friends in the Greater Minneapolis Area, and we travel all over for races. We are almost never home on weekends.  So, the tiny house seemed FAR more within our reach.

To remedy that rent situation I discussed earlier, we decided to start looking into the tiny house a lot sooner than we had planned. Once we started looking, we realized that we might have the same exact problem on our hands. There were lots of draw backs. The cheapest tiny house we could find that we liked was $25,000!! And most banks won’t finance them as a home because they’re often built on wheels. Therefore, at a 5 year loan with a 5% interest rate, we’d be paying about $600 a month just for our “mortgage”. That didn’t find us a place to park it, which was another problem. Most RV parks and trailer parks don’t take tiny homes because they’re built as a house. Most residential areas have a specific type of house that needs to be on a property, which tiny houses usually don’t fall into the requirements. If we buy our own land, we pay another $300/month. We are then right back to where we don’t want to be with the payment.

In April, Jeremy came up with a solution: Isn’t an RV just a tiny house that’s already been built? It would take care of where to stay for races sometimes too! We started looking through some ads. Of course, we saw that many RVs run at a quarter of a million dollars or more and got a tad discouraged. It wasn’t long before we found out that the vintage models tend to go MUCH MUCH  cheaper. After a small inheritance from his grandma, we decided to start getting serious about an RV. So many to choose from. Class A, B, C, Travel trailer, 5th wheel, camper van, truck topper, converted busses, and other custom models…. and within those different classifications, there are thousands of floor plan layouts.

Oh my, we had our hands full looking, but we knew that it was what we wanted. This way, we don’t need to worry about building a custom model. We don’t need to find a plot if we don’t want to. We can really use it to travel when we desire. So, we picked a few floor plans and classifications that we liked and got busy. We checked out CrankyApe.com to see if an auction would have “the one”; we scoured Craigslist and Facebook sales sites; we even checked the paper. We knew that we had time, so we wanted to find the exact right place for us. My grandpa was even selling his 1999 Winnebago Grand Tour and we looked it over. It was slightly out of our price range and didn’t have quite the right layout for us, but it felt comfortable to sit and hang out in. In the end, it wasn’t for us. We knew we had time and wanted to get the one that fit in our budget AND in our hearts.

Then, one day, Jeremy found the perfect one on Craigslist. It was $2200, class A, no slide outs, and a floor plan we liked. She’s a 1990 Tiffin Allegro 30′ motorhome. We looked at it and instantly fell in love. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite ready to drive away. The fuel pump had recently gone out on it while it sat without the previous owners’ knowledge. He was very gracious and replaced it for us before we could take it away. While we waited, we came up with names, got our cash in order, and prepared Jeremy’s parents for her to be parked in their yard for the winter.

3 weeks later, we went and picked up The Girl Next Door. She was a little rough around the edges when we picked her up. Little things here and there that need some fixing. But, she’s pretty, she’s homey, and she gets the job done. She’s not right for everyone, but The Girl Next Door is just right for us.

We are done with our lease on April 1 of this year. Before then, we will be going full time in the RV. We will stick around Wisconsin for now. We like our business and we want to be close to our friends and family. This little town has treated us really well so far. While we are around here, we have some little things to fix up on The Girl Next Door. We need to redo the caulking and trim; they’ve been weathered while she sat. She has a bump in her back bumper; we’ll probably try to fix that. Her exhaust pipe is rusting through. Her windshield is cracked and there’s a dent in her side. Little things here and there just need a fix and a straightening. However, she’s road worthy and she is livable. Starting sometime in March, home is where she goes.