Belated Christmas Tidings

Happy Holidays to all!

I realize that I’m a day late for those of you that celebrate Christmas, as I do. I figured that we have a whole season of holidays, thus there are lots of options to celebrate the season. Besides, no one knows exactly what date Jesus was born on and it was probably some time between April & August…. so it’s really just symbolic anyway.

We spent the weekend visiting our family. Jeremy’s parents hosted on Saturday. It is a nice, small family and was one short due to some mental health concerns with the youngest. We always enjoy a great meal, made better this year by some healthy sides and great steak cooking. Yum Yum. And the gifts are always fairly extravagant, or at least one person ends up speechless from emotion. We laugh, we joke, we catch up with everyone’s lives. It’s always a nice relaxing time together.

Afterward, there was a short lull before we took to the road toward southwest Wisconsin. That’s the region where my parents live and we wanted to make it before the rain started. Jake, our oldest, came with for the first time in years. It made it a pleasant drive and a great time to catch up with him.

We got to the homestead an hour or two before my mom told us to visit my dad’s father, who lives 2 miles away. We got there to a boisterous crowd of my uncles, grandparents, and family friends. Oyster stew, lefse, and cookies were served. We got to sit down with my grandma & grandpa who have been snow-birding for 25 years. It’s nice to pick someone’s brain about our future endeavors. It was a good homecoming.

On the way down, I was informed that my grandmother had been asking for me. She was diagnosed a few years ago with Alzheimer’s and has been struggling to remember family members for a while. Recently, she wasn’t feeling well and had to spend a little time in the hospital. So, first thing Sunday morning, my mom and I loaded up to go visit her in the hospital. My aunt was there with her husband and we all chatted a while about options after the hospital, as well as my Mexico trip. Check off seeing both of my dad’s parents for a Christmas visit.

Sunday at noon was my mom’s extended family’s Christmas celebration. They’ve started holding this get-together at a public community space just because there are so many people. This gives us enough space to decorate, have table space to eat, and let the kids run around without worrying about heirlooms being broken. Only one of us grandchildren was missing and there were 8 great-grandchildren present. There was ham, sweet potatoes, salad, cherry salad, tiramisu, and of course milk and coffee. The chaos was manageable and well managed by the hostess, my aunt Sharon. Pokeno was played and won as usual, gifts were uniquely distributed, and even a raffle made things interesting. Check off seeing both of my parents’ parents for the holiday. Double win!

Finally, on Christmas at 5pm, we started the festivities at my parents’ place. This is still a large group with 3 grown girls, all married, and all with children. The most fun part of the evening is always the meal. With 6 courses, each daughter takes 2 dishes to prepare this year and next. All other years, each daughter and husband gets to pick the courses. But, after 6 years, our parents get to pick for 2 years. This year, there were margaritas (and a supplement of brandy slush), shrimp cocktail, bakery made white and wheat bread, grandma’s apple pie, beef stroganoff, and waldorf salad. Delicious, every bite. Gifts were ripped into after dinner by the young grandchildren and the adults followed. Everyone got at least one thing that they loved. It was a warm, intimate time with much discussion, laughing, and reminiscing. We always miss this feeling inbetween our visits, but we realize that the distance is what makes these times special.

All in all, it was a successful Christmas for us. Please, feel free to share with us what your family does for the holidays? Do you go to any religious ceremonies? Do you celebrate solstice, Chanukah, or some other holiday? What traditions do you have that you feel are unique for your family?

Travel is something that changes your life. I have done very little travel in my life compared to what I’d like to do. Every single time has brought me home with a new part of my world view adjusted.

The first time I remember traveling anywhere outside of my own state, I was 11 years old. I stowed away in my dad’s covered pickup truck bed when he was on his way to pick up some calves. It’s not a comfortable ride, nor is it a cool ride. I remember that it was late spring, so the truck got pretty warm. About half way there, my dad realized he had a tag along. He called my mom to let her know where I was and we continued on our journey with me in the front of the truck. We went to a farm in Iowa that had a little blue heeler dog and a beautiful peacock. I remember getting scolded because I was supposed to be watching my sisters, but I hadn’t wanted to stay in boring Wisconsin. It was only a 3 hour drive from our place, but I felt like I was traveling the globe.

My first time really traveling was a trip to visit my mother’s sister in Kansas. We drove through the night in a Chevy conversion van and stayed in her basement grandma’s apartment. Fairly uneventful, this trip was too fun for me to sleep while we drove.

We later went on family camping trips to upstate New York through Canada, rural Montana by way of the Dakotas and Wyoming, and a few short camping trips within the great state of Wisconsin. We visited family in Illinois as well.

With school groups, I got to visit more places. The band went to Chicago when I was in 8th grade, New Orleans when I was in 10th grade, and Colorado when I was a senior. The Traveler’s club was a club that (at the time) went every other year to Washington DC by way of coach bus. We stopped along the way at Notre Dame and Gettysburg. Because we were all juniors and seniors, they gave us a bit of freedom and it seems everyone tried to get outside of their normal cliques on this trip. I went from a goodie-two-shoes to getting in trouble at least a few times during our trip. Oops. Sorry, Sarnowskis. I never meant to give you mini-heart attacks.

Then, it seems my traveling stopped. When I went to college, I got comfortable on campus and did very little traveling after that.

Jeremy traveled a lot as a kid. He had parents who made it a point to take the family on vacations regularly. They also traveled a lot for his brother’s basketball and track teams. They went all over the country to play, so the whole family got a bit of travel from that. As an adult, Jeremy has traveled a lot. He’s been to Mexico with his buddy Dave; they also went to the Smokey Mountains; Jeremy loves Colorado and has family in California.

One of the reasons we want to go full time in The Girl Next Door is for travel. There is a sense of freedom that comes with travel, much like being debt free. Once our debt is paid off, we both want to travel. Living a simplified, smaller life at home will help us do that. If we are paying less for lodging, we can go more places. Plus, The Girl Next Door can get us there and will make us slow down to enjoy our surroundings. We want to live smaller now to pay off our debt so that later, we can live to travel. The list of places we’d like to visit grows daily. We don’t want to just RV everywhere; we want to see the world.

We will always have our roots that tie us to our family and friends at home. We will always be loved somewhere in the world. A this point, we both feel it’s time for us to fly.

To start it off, tomorrow I leave for Mexico. I am going to do some personal care work for a client going there for treatment. Jeremy and I are both nervous for me, but it should be an interesting and exciting trip. It’s important that he pushes his anxiety a bit and that I remember my meds to take them while I’m there. We wouldn’t want this to hurt our mental health more. I may not have access to a computer or internet while I’m there. Just know that I’ll be taking pictures and fill you all in when I return. Enjoy your week and your Christmas preparations. Have a great day and I’ll see you on the road.

Well…. That was fun

Yesterday, we parked The Girl Next Door in her spot for this winter. She’ll be “stored” this winter just because we still need to get rid of an apartment full of things and we’re not quite ready to be full time yet.

Her winter spot is between a large shed and a smaller shed at Jeremy’s parents’ place. There, she will be shielded from the wind and some sun, as well as out of the eyes of the neighbors. She’ll be close enough for us to work on making her our own, while far enough away that we (probably) won’t try to sleep in her during the cold of winter.

Anyway, back to moving her. It took us 8 tries to get her out of the spot next to the house (not ideal) and  situated just right before Jeremy and his dad thought it was perfect.  In one of the attempts, we caught a tree branch. Jeremy got a bit impatient and kept backing, hoping upon hope not to do any permanent damage. Unfortunately, that happened. Now, there’s a pretty fist sized dent in the right rear panel. Thank God for aluminum siding; it should be an easy fix.

This little slip of land that was finally settled on is fairly level, although pointed just a little down hill. It’s also grass. To prevent any sinking into the grass, we put some wooden boards under the leveling jacks to help them stay above the mud. In the front, we put 2 boards; in the back one. As the jacks came down, my father-in-law climbed off to see what a certain noise was. All of the sudden, the whole rig crashed forward!

With the tires back fully on the ground, Jeremy sat stunned, holding the brakes. I hurtled myself outside, expecting to see a splattered man under our new home. Thankfully, he hadn’t climbed underneath. THANK GOD! Although, he did say that he had been thinking about it. I’m glad his conscience got the better of that inkling.

After we gathered ourselves, turned the key off, and took a few breaths, we found out what happened. The first sound that my Father-in-Law went to investigate was one of the back boards breaking in the middle. We also found that the falling was created by one of the front boards slipping out from under the jack. Lesson learned: use boards that have some kind of divot that helps them stick together or something. It was a freezing day, so there was a tiny sheet of ice on the boards. Thankfully, the jack fell backward, so it was not broken. The spring needed reattaching, but we got it working again after a few minutes. This time, we weren’t working for level, just to take the weight off the tires. We’re not living in it this winter, so we don’t need all of the appliances to work perfectly. After that scare, we just wanted it to be stable and off the tires.

Once she was happy in her spot, we put on her tire covers, took the batteries in the house, dumped some fuel stabilizer in the gas tank, and stuck some dryer sheets in the tail pipe (to keep the mice out). She already had the water lines winterized, moth balls and dryer sheets in all compartments, and all of the cabinets open to let the smells permeate the crevices. I think Jeremy will have a hard time smelling mothballs in the future.

Today, we got an email from our landlord that we will be able to stay for 1 extra month. YAY! Now we don’t have to move twice. This means that we will have until April 1 to move out of the townhouse. We both agree that April is the perfect time to start out.

The Girl Next Door still needs to get a little work over the winter, but all in all, she’s ready for April. Now, we need to get rid of our stuff and find ourselves a semi-permanent place to park next Spring, Summer and fall… and maybe Winter… we aren’t sure yet. Have a good day and we’ll 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.