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.

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If I can’t see it, it didn’t happen

A visual journal is much like a diary, but instead of just writing things about your life, you make art with your life included. I’m excited to be starting my visual journal as part of this Lent writing every day goal. So far, I have written 3 letters, a few diary entries in my physical diary, started layering a few of my visual journal pages, 2 in my prayer diary, and now the second entry here.

The fun thing is that a blog is a visual journal of sorts. I can include pictures and videos of what is going on very easily. I have some pictures to share with you of what’s been going on with The Girl Next Door.

She got moved into the shed at Jeremy’s parents’ place a few weeks ago when one of the windows was found leaking. It’s a good thing with all the wind over the last week.  Thankfully, we got the windows out with no problems. Jeremy and his dad started insulating the front wall right away for when we put the windows back in. 17193715_1873220836247273_144457305_o

In the meantime, we took the windows home and started cleaning them off to change the glazing. One day, while I was at our office and Jeremy was at home working on the windows, he came to the office. He informed me that he had cracked a window pane. We had to go to Indianhead Glass in New Richmond to get the glass in the frames replaced. Then, they gave Jeremy some pointers on replacing them in their spots and he did it last night. They look great!

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While we were waiting to get the windows back from Indianhead, we had to find some work to do to keep moving toward our move in date. We decided on creating some window insulators that can be removed when we want to use the windows. We took some foam siding insulation that Jeremy’s dad had, taped the ends together, added a Reflectix wrap around it, and placed velcro around the window to hold it in. Now, we’ll be nice and toasty.

Jeremy also got busy with some other insulation that we had been planning: the interior vent covers. He added reflecting foam to the inside of it just big enough for the vent hole. Then, he added Reflectix to the outside to provide even more protection from heat and cold. We had just enough of the foam to add it to the bedroom window as well. Instead of Reflectix there, we’re able to get a little bit of light still.

When it was all done, I tried out how well it worked. The bedroom heated up in about 15 minutes with our little electric space heater and stayed warm for a long while. We are more and more ready to move in on the 18th.

Our next step is to finalize the list of things that need to be done before we park at our semi-permanent location. We have already gotten so much done that it’s hard to remember when we hadn’t started yet. And, like every household, there’s a running list of things that need to be checked, fixed, and maintained. Let’s raise a glass to home ownership, whether it be on wheels or not. Enjoy the almost spring weather and we’ll see you on the road.

Tires, exhaust, and brakes. ….Oh my!

I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.

— Thomas A. Edison
Working has been almost our whole life for the last 2 months. When we’re making money, we’re working at our massage business about 50-60 hours a week. When we’re not making money, we’re working on the Girl Next Door.
In a previous entry, I said I would write about the work we’ve been doing soon. Now it’s been weeks and I still haven’t taken the time to catch you up. Consider this your knowledge restoration.
At Somerset Auto Salvage, we finished sealing the roof and trying to fix the brakes. Pat even helped us fix some leaking tire hose extensions by removing them. We had to take the tires off to find out that the extensions were the problem and not a leak in the tire itself.

On a Monday morning, we went to clean her up and move her home. We paid our rental fees and Jeremy drove her while I followed with Ruby.

Before we could go too far, we needed to add some gas to move her home. We stopped and Jeremy added $25 worth. He cleaned the windshields and checked the oil, just to be safe. He got in, turned the key, and….. near silence. There was a light grinding, but no movement and no roar to life that we were accustomed to. So, the Holiday Gas Station’s gas pump became a shop for a few hours.
While she sat at Holiday, Jeremy and his dad changed all solenoids, the starter, and a post cable. They learned that they need to listen to me earlier; I had commented on the loose looking cable before they replaced all that other stuff. We’re glad we found and and were able to get out of there without a tow truck. Finally, Jeremy got to drive her home.
“Home” for The Girl Next Door right now is at Jeremy’s parents’ place. When we got there, he said that he spent the entire drive wondering if he would make it because the brakes were still not working correctly. Thankfully, she made it safely and he with her.
After getting her to the home base, we continued working on her regularly. The holey exhaust has been removed and replaced. That, in itself, was a huge project. An important reminder: The Girl Next Door is a 1990. That means that there are almost no parts still being made for her. This includes the exhaust. Jeremy made numerous trips into town, talked to people at Fleet Farm, NAPA, and the Muffler Shop. He bought more than 16 ft. of 2″ straight pipe and 3 different mufflers. He consulted many mechanics and enlisted our friend Jason to help weld. 2 weekends after the bad exhaust pipe, catalytic converter, and muffler were removed, she has a beautiful new whole exhaust system.
We also were blessed to find out that the front windows did not seal well enough when we put them back on last month. When it rained one day, Jeremy visited the Girl Next Door and found her front window wet. Tom & Lisa moved the RV inside their shed for us so that we don’t have to tarp the top.
 So, we removed the windows again, cleaned off the butyl tape that we had used, and bought some professional grade window/windshield adhesive. This weekend will be the beginning of putting the windows back in place and finishing up the front wall.
We both finally agree that this is going to be a full summer of projects. We’ve accepted the fact that The Girl Next Door will probably need constant upkeep. That’s alright because we love her and are looking forward to living in a vintage beauty. We’re looking forward to working together to problem solve and supporting each other through the transition. Be sure to check back from time to time to see how far we’ve come. I’m sure I’ll post more on our journey. 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.

To the running part

It’s the time of year when the gyms are packed, diet plans sell like hot cakes, and Weight Watchers sees a membership increase of up to 5% according to the Wall Street Journal. We are not immune to the hype that happens this time of year.

Last year, I started getting rid of things. I had read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I took 8 garbage bags full of clothing to a clothing swap and got rid of it all. I still have a dresser and closet WAY TOO FULL of clothing. I believe I’ll go through again and get rid of half of my clothes again.

Last year, Jeremy made his goals for physical wellness. He planned the year of his 40th birthday to reflect the number 40. He participated in the 40th Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in June. He also did the Twin Cities Marathon in October. His year-long goal was to swim 40 miles, bike 400 miles, and run 400 miles. He annihilated all of his year-long goals! He ended up with a grand total of 67.8 miles swimming, 1419.5 miles running, and 1238.6 miles biking. He also lost 40 more lbs throughout the year to reach that lowest weight of 215. Physical fitness was really a big deal to him last year and will continue to be in the future.

One thing that we didn’t make goals for is our mental health. We both view this as a failure on our parts. We found throughout the year that our mental health is really what went awry. I fought with depression for 5 months before seeing my doctor for a medication. Our youngest had a lot of instability because of some other issues. Jeremy had some med changes that lead to some instability as well.

I won’t be neglecting my mental health this year. I’m realizing how extremely important it is with moving into our motorhome. I will need to be able to face myself in this space and we will need to be able to communicate and live together well.

Yet, not neglecting my mental health means also not neglecting my physical health. Jeremy has always said that he needs to run to get rid of the crazy. There’s something to be said for how endorphins effect the brain after physical exertion. Not only that, when you’re exhausted it is very hard to over think things or pick fights that don’t need to be picked. It helps reduce anxiety and gives you a quiet time to reflect on your strengths. It also pushes you to gain some accomplishments, which can help self-esteem. I’m hoping to force myself into all of these positives.

I have a mix of health goals for this year. I hope to do 2 mud races this year: the Spartan Sprint race in Chicago, IL June 10 and the Tough Mudder in Plymouth, WI on September 9th. To get ready, I need to get back to running regularly, lifting weights, doing the local par-course at least weekly, and fuel my body correctly. For my mental health, I have a few goals also. I want to participate in at least 1 yoga or BodyFlow class a week and I want to get a 90 min massage each month. Both of these goals will obviously help my physical health as well. I do believe that eating correctly will help my mental health as well. A final mental health goal that I haven’t partaken in for a while is that I’d like to start reading my Bible more regularly again. I find myself relying on video sermons and podcasts to feed me spiritually, but I really need to spend some alone time with God more often.

Now that it’s posted publicly, I’m less likely to miss these goals. No, these aren’t my only goals for the year. There are financial goals, relationship goals, and housing goals that I have. I’m sure they’ll all come up at some point. This entry is so that you know that you’re not alone in your quest for something different physically. Start where you’re at and find people to do it with you. Find someone to push you (they’re a little bit farther than you), someone who you can push (they’re right where you were or they’re just starting or they have longer to go than you), and someone right where you’re at now (you’re about the same speed, same weight, some stage of goals). With these three people, you won’t be able to sit on your butt all year the way I did in 2016.

Our Journey to Health and Wellness is a never-ending quest. It’s something you’ll hear about often from me. Health and Wellness isn’t about being perfect; it’s not about being skinny. This journey is about becoming the best people that we can be. There will always be something else we can work on; some other goal to reach. We are hoping to take you along on the ride. Stay safe and we will see you on the road.

P.S.- The latest news on the RV is that we got a Mr. Heater Big Buddy Heater and tried it out in The Girl Next Door today. It worked great!! The whole place was comfortably heated in about 45 minutes. After wiping down the surfaces to remove condensation, we just hung out for a good hour to get used to our space. We haven’t really tried the furnace yet, but we will make sure of that next. Now we know we can live at least warm enough not to get hypothermia, even if our furnace doesn’t work. We wanted to make sure that we have a few alternatives no matter what. Heat; check. One anxiety down; 75 more to go. Adios!

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.

A Mexican Nightmare… Finale

After Day one, things got better. In day 2, we went to see the doctor. My client got approved for the treatment that the doctor had first suggested. He even started treatment later that day.

Also, during day 2, we found a company that was willing to build a ramp for his wheelchair to be able to take some tours. This is a big accomplishment in Mexico. There are very very few people with wheelchairs there, much less people with power chairs. We were lucky to find a company with caring staff that built a ramp just for my client and took the middle seat out of their van so that we could go around San Miguel.

Day 3 we changed some money and got used to our surroundings. Day 4, my client got a double dose of treatment and we took a tour of the city. Our first stop was Atotonilco, a church with a rich history and great paintings on the ceiling. Our tour guide told us that it is considered the “Sistine chapel of Mexico”. It was beautiful. Then, off to a local high end artist market. There was nothing there for me, but my client got his wife a very nice necklace. While he shopped, our driver and I talked some. We got to know about each other’s families and life outside of this day.

After shopping, we returned to the hotel. My client got another treatment. Oh, did I mention that the doctor made “house calls” to our hotel? It was much easier than trying to treat my client in his office, as his office was on the upper level with no elevator. It was very nice of the doctor to be willing to do this. I know the concept of a doctor coming to your  house or hotel seems foreign in this day and age, but this doctor still does it.

I finally go to do some authentic shopping at a large market that evening while my client got a shave. It was an alley littered with vendors. Every ounce of extra space was taken up by booths filled with handmade and reproduced souvenirs and Mexican goods. Every vendor took USA dollars and would give change in pesos. About 75% spoke just a little English. It was nice to find a few things to bring home to my family and friends while trying out my Spanish.

Saturday, day 5, was probably the best day of the trip for me. My client was pretty tired from his week. He wanted to rest up for the next day, which was a travel day. While he rested, I got a spa treatment. For 155 minutes, I got a body scrub, a mud wrap, a facial, and a massage. I fell asleep half way through, which almost never happens. It was glorious. Thanks Norma for a great treatment. Afterward, I went to get some fried chicken for supper and hit another, smaller market. It was much more unique than the previous day. I found some great gifts to bring back, as well as some of San Miguel’s wonderful leather in some wallets and a bag.

All in all, I felt very at home in San Miguel. Leaving on Sunday was hard for me. For one, I knew that things would probably not go swimmingly on the flights. Second, I did not want to return to the -20 degrees of Wisconsin. Third and finally, I was really starting to feel like I was hitting my stride in touristing.

We left the hotel at 1pm. Thankfully, we got our sweet cab driver from the week to take us to the airport too. It was a leisurely drive that we stopped to get a melon on and enjoyed the scenery as we went. That was the best part of our return trip. Thanks, Freddy, for a great trip. If ever you get to San Miguel, look up San Miguel Magico tour company. They were more than accommodating and very helpful.

The airport was a mad house. The day previous, there had been a snowstorm in the Midwest USA. That meant that many of the flight crews were stranded there for extra days, which delayed everything. The Leon airport had multiple cancellations and every single flight was delayed. Yikes! On top of that, their baggage check area is the same as their customer service. As I said, madhouse. Our flight was delayed 2 hours, moved to a different gate, and renamed. We were just happy to be able to have a flight at all. But because of our delay, we missed our connecting flight by 30 minutes. Ugh. This time, we had to wait for them to bring the wheelchair to us behind immigration and customs before we could go to the hotel. It took over an hour for them to bring the wheelchair to us. At one point, they even LOST THE WHEELCHAIR!!!

For those of you that know me well, you know that I do not lose my temper often. In fact, I tend to be very very chill and patient. So much so that it is annoying to those around me. When they said they couldn’t find this chair, I lost my temper. Not just a little bit; my client was visibly a little scared of my new stance. This is not a manual chair that folds and can be stowed somewhere under something. This is a humongous 350 lb specialized piece of equipment. Eventually, they found that the staff from the tarmac had taken it to the domestic side, rather than the international side.

We got the chair back after going through immigration and customs, since they would be closing soon. Then, on to customer service again. They were swamped again, for the same reason that Mexico was. We waited. Once we were in customer service, we mentioned our horrible time last time with Houston airport. They gave us a special person to help us with our damage claim. Except there wasn’t really a damage claim. There was a number that lead to a confusing bit of badly worded explanations and no names of who to contact. We found that the number the supervisor had given us the week before was to the woman we were now talking with. This, along with updating the badly written damage claim, took a few more hours. By the time that we were done with all of this, it was 2:15 in the morning. We had to be back by 8 am to get ready for our 10 am flight. If we had decided to find a taxi with a wheelchair ramp or lift, then the hotel room we were supposed to go to, then transfer to the bed, then back up in the morning, find a taxi back; we would have maybe gotten 2 hours of sleep.

We decided to stay the night in the Houston airport. It was cold, it was uncomfortable, it was ridiculous. Every 30 minutes or so, I would wake with another idea of what could be done to gain back some dignity and care. I called about 10 numbers that night searching for information and help. I took a picture of my client in his wheelchair sleeping in the Houston airport. It shouldn’t be like this.

To top off my anger, at midnight it had become my 34th birthday. I was supposed to be home shortly after midnight. I wanted to sleep in my own bed. I wanted to be held by my husband. I wanted to wake up refreshed and enjoy my birthday.

A young girl traveling with her family was tired of being in airports. She didn’t speak English, so I told her in Spanish that it was my birthday. She felt bad for me and congratulated me on my birthday. Her mother and I spoke a little in broken Spanish and English. I told them to call me when they got as far as MSP. I’d love to see them again.

16 hours in an airport or on a plane on my birthday was not my idea of a great birthday. 1 hour of sleep did not make it a really fun day.  It absolutely could have been worse. I had my health, my client was not in danger, and my husband knew I wasn’t going to be home yet. While his anxiety was high, he also was able to understand that I was safe. It was an adventure that I came out of.

I came out of it with first class seats, some knowledge of how to get my client a possible refund on his seats, and knowing some helpful people in 2 states in the US and at Leon, MX BJX airport. Adventures like this don’t usually come easily. It’s the times that you roll with the punches that things become real adventures.

As we embark on our next adventure, I’m even more prepared to roll with it. So, if you get a chance, come visit where ever we are at. Good luck with your travels and we’ll see you on the road.

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.