The Trouble With Transience

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

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The day after I returned from my August Tiny House Adventure, my mother died. She had dementia and forgot to keep breathing. So I find myself reflecting upon her life, and comparing it to mine.

Mom and Dad retired early to live on the road in an RV. They brought his mother along for the ride. When Grammy Gun(hild) died in Florida, her body was transported by train to PA for burial. She was 92.

Living on the road came to a halt when Dad also died in Florida. His cremains were strapped under the sink of the motor home – because, Mom explained, the oven was just too morbid. In a comedy of errors that could have only been orchestrated by him, it was discovered that he had been buried in a neighbor’s plot only after the burial marker was installed several months later. It happens.  Up he came.

Twenty years passed. Mom spent most of that time back in Lowell on Death Row, a street with an inordinate number of funeral “pahhluhs” near the church where she had received all of her sacraments. She worked next door at the Merrimack River Valley House until becomimg a resident there. As her mental faculties faded, a series of moves ended at the facility where she died this week.

And here comes the complicated part.  Her ashes are in Massachusetts.  The plot is in Pennsylvania.  She resided in both states as well as others; not one right after the other, but concurrently.  That doubles the luncheons, the black suits, the priests, the services, and of course the death notices.  It doubles the hotel expense and the gas and the meals and the tension.  The one thing I know about living on the road is that the people you meet are almost entirely wonderful committed people who hold new relationships dear. In the campgrounds and state parks and rest areas, the lakes, the gas stations and the Walmart parking lots, a huge expansive community exists from sea to sea.

And that’s about how big her heart was.

Waterfront Property

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July’s Tiny Estates adventure taught me one thing right off the bat.  Ducks have this composting toilet idea down pat.  Yes.  The grass is always greener.  Whereas June provided the comfort of evening bull frogs singing lullabies, July was a month for watching your step.

Still, the view was gorgeous, day and night.  With unseasonably warm temperatures that week, it was sometimes possible to avoid the actual outdoors and finally get some work done.  This was the first unit that offered a table, and I took full advantage.  With my seven pound printer/scanner on the counter, laptop on the table, bra draped over the handle of the front door, and shades wide open, I set about condensing the most pressing paper categories on my agenda.  Using the seating area in the entertainment area for casual review before recycling, and refusing to carry any paperwork to the loft bed or bathroom, I stayed on task for the first time since this series of journeys began.

For a quick refresher, this is my fourth Tiny Estates unit and seventh tiny adventure since April 3.  I have also done a similar test in New England, but that was some time ago, and I didn’t even see a single true tiny house on the whole trip.  I did learn, though, to bring a dish basin for shoe washing at the front door.  If I had taken time to do a little fishing this trip, I would absolutely have needed it in this unit.

On another note, this is the first unit where my elbow hit the ceiling in the loft bedroom while rearranging the covers.  It was also the first wit a bedside lightswitch, so ya gotta take the good with the bad in all things, I see.  All four Tiny Estates units so far have had barn door style bathroom doors.  This was the first unit that prevented the use of the refrigerator in the open door position.  I am an architect’s daughter and this might not have been obvious to others.  I am also a grazing eater, and this took all week to remember.

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As for the Carbon Footprint, a unit like this which is wider by a sneaker length on each side, provides more elbow room than you’d think.  The extra width was most noticible by the fact that there was room for an aisle down the middle of it instead of along one wall.  imag0141 I found this arrangement in the center of the unit to be espescially useful for my purposes.  If it were my unit, the loft here would be for storage, and not a spare bedroom.  Then I could keep some of my paperwork as a momento of my former life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Genes and Other Conspiracy Theories

Jack Poker hand

Others call it Playing the Hand You’re Dealt, and I am holding a Full Haus.  Full from basement to attic, side to side, front to back.  No matter how the cards are shuffled, the process of playing those cards will take me on through to my little urn in the ground, however long that takes.

It starts with genetics.  For me, and others around me, the Baby Blues started when I was a toddler.  Full-blown depression hit me in my teens.  Panic disorder joined in.  I was both blessed and cursed with a critical eye and a serious orientation, even as I became known for my dry wit and tendency toward humorous expression of ordinary events.  I was also most likely given DNA which prevented me from acquiring that subtle trait called Organized.  I have never gotten to the end of a calendar or list or agenda without a detour of some sort, so I should have expected my new lifestyle to take detours as well.

But no.  The absurd complications that have been arising from my journey from a Full Haus to a Tiny House are keeping me awake at night.  Just as I dive in, the lake freezes over and I land with a splat.  And the ice skates were finally donated just last week.

The plan, after taking into account the limitations of income and legal expenses, was to obtain a very large pocketbook and tow it behind me.  Never again would I concern myself with forgetting the grocery list or wishing I had worn different shoes.  It got complicated immediately.

First, it needed to be a part-time endeavor, beginning in April.  Three of the first five adventures were simple hotel rooms with a micro-fridge.  Generally the rest are resort-style units on wheels in a former campground serendipitously created at the exact time that I started looking.  The towels are plush and the appliances are new.  Each unit has something I will decide to keep for my own design and something else I will discard as unworkable.

Once the concept formed, the clutter issue had to be addressed.  For better or worse, I started with paper.  Digitizing all the paper in my home was a ridiculous concept, so when the new printer/scanner and laptop combo didn’t work appropriately, there was still plenty to shred or recycle directly.  A good deal of paper clutter was actually created  in the first few weeks that the devices failed to meet their sales pitch descriptions.  One such scrap contained the Golden Ticket to allow for a refund.  Toss in low back pain and a cranky ignition and I was soon wondering if I was ever going to be able to pat myself on the back.

As June approaches and five units have been explored, I find myself joyfully pushing that rock up the hill in spite of everything conspiring to make it more difficult than expected.  Unstable Internet.  Rain.  GPS errors.  Mud.  Wrinkled clothes. Broken plastic silverware.  Squirrels.  Rude restaurant servers.  Long lines.  Ripped grocery bags.  Split seams.  Melted ice cream.  Can openers for righties only.  Pills.  No cell towers.  All first world problems, to be sure.

So deal again, Mr. Karma.  I will ace this.

 

 

 

 

April’s Fool Goes on the Road

pexels-photo-52599.jpegApril marked the beginning of my part time tiny house lifestyle, and it was not smooth sailing, let’s just get that much out of the way.  Trip Number One, to a small motel room in Amish Country, started two days late because of a delay in the delivery of a traveling scanner.  April Fools Day probably wasn’t the wisest day to start a new life anyway. –

Lesson one: Be flexible.

Lesson Two: Expect your navigation device to get restless and fall asleep.  A human, you can whack on the shoulder.  When you’re driving alone, you’re stuck pulling over onto the shoulder just to make sure your device hasn’t lost interest in assisting you.  Then you have to wait for a red sports car to cut over into the passing lane so you can actually get back on your journey.

Lesson Three: Do not pack more than your back can carry, and once packed, make sure your Stuff can’t slide around in transit.  Twelve banker boxes full of paper sit quietly behind me going west.  Eight banker boxes are far less cooperative going back east.

Lesson Four: Find a way to get your emails every day.  Even a three-year perfect payment history will not protect you from losing your cell service while you sit at the side of the road trying to call AAA.

Lesson Five: Never assume that you can leave your Stuff in the vehicle until your next trip.  Your son might get a job and need to haul his sofa to a new apartment.

Lesson Six: Plan for a lot of sitting.  When traffic is slow, I have learned to blow bubbles out the window.  For an extra advantage, the inevitable spilled soap is great for coffee dribbles. Keep water nearby for these laundry issues, as well as for thirst and medication.   The smaller the bottle, the less likely you are to bump into the ceiling to get to the bottom of it.

The Biggest Lesson: Laugh.  Whatever goes wrong will teach you something about yourself or the world around you.  Sometimes both.

 

Baggage on Wheels

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Living on the road has a much greater appeal now than when I was a kid sharing a tent with a bunch of brothers. At least half of it is probably genetic, and the other half is circumstance.

I remember the family trip that formed my approach to all the packing decisions that followed. I was 16 and we had rented a motor home for a heavily planned journey around the country. As the only female teenager, I was given more latitude than the others in terms of packing. My hair accessories alone, which included soup-can rollers in those days, took up more space than my little sister. She could verify this, because she was not trapped in the bunk with me the night my head got stuck between my pillow and the ceiling.  Circling my room, I gathered everything except what I knew I could leave behind.

This is the packing method I used for everything.  From purse to diaper bag, car to basement, everything was ready for possible use at a moment’s notice.

Until it wasn’t.

Like car keys that keep burrowing into the bottom of your pocketbook, I eventually noticed that the convenience of owning something was no longer worth the time it took to retrieve it.   So now comes the time to stop packing and start living.

Very few of us have the good fortune to start fresh at retirement.  Previous decisions restrict our options.  Downsizing is a tedious process that takes so long that we sometimes die before we complete the job, leaving the work to those we want least to burden.  In a couple of weeks I start the process of removing my Stuff from the house where I spent half my life suffocating in, living part time in a series of small spaces, and returning to the place where I raised my children, refreshed and prepared to waltz where the baggage once covered the dance floor.  And free to spike the punch bowl.

 

 

 

The Thanksgiving Table

Thirty two years ago we had not yet moved in.  Finally, after sorting and piling and flinging and stashing, we have figured out which one of us is leaving.  Me.

The kitchen table has been a hot spot for thirty-two years now, and I can finally say that it has seen its last Thanksgiving Dinner.   And the TV room has also seen its last football game.

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TV Room
My beautiful picture
Kitchen Table

My oldest son is at Base Camp on Mt Everest.  The mountain here at home is sure to tumble.  I took  the other sons to a restaurant.   Spouse remained at home, as always.  It was great.

However thankful I may be for the years of overabundance, I am ready now have Less Much.  Nowhere am I more aware of this than when I see my kitchen table.  What I mean to say, of course, is when I DON’T see my kitchen table.

We are all such creatures of habit.  Whenever I crack an egg into a pan, a voice inside me says, “This is your brain on drugs.”  I can’t help it.  I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t hear that voice I would notice, and thus I’d hear it afterall.  And so, whatever is in my arms when I walk into the house lands on the table.  A couple of things have been there for a year.  Seriously.

The good news is that I’ve had a table at all.  The better news is that it isn’t coming with me when I leave.  I have finally begun to see these Things as stuff that sucks the life out of me, and I’m almost ready to live.

 

 

 

 

 

My Treasured Chest

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What exactly is left behind when we move on to a new lifestyle?  This question hit home for me last week when a health issue sent me to the Breast Surgical Oncologist.

My left breast.  It took up a lot of room.  It was no longer useful.   I couldn’t sell it.  I wouldn’t donate it.  It was only the memories attached to it that I really wanted.

But when push came to shove, I couldn’t imagine having to part with it.  Or part with part of it.  Unless I was dying, I wanted to keep it.  And so I did.

Fortunately, the surgeon agreed and I came home with it and found the perfect spot to give it the honor it deserves.  I will take it with me when I leave here, knowing that I will always be able to revisit the decision at a later time.

But the sewing machine… that really has to go….