Battening Down The Hatches

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The ten and a half inches that fell on my route to Tiny Estates last week would have been in the neighborhood of ten FEET of snow in January. Neither snow nor rain could have been blamed on the first mistake with my trip, though. I left my clothes back home.

There was a perfectly reasonable explanation for this; I had to empty the van so that I could help my youngest son use it to move off campus. Having done the same in April for the middle child, I knew it was a managable change in plans. What I did not allow for was the fact that the clothes, in a large Rubbermaid bin, were in the garage instead of the main portion of the house. Most months, this Rubbermaid bin also acted as a work-table. It served absolutely no purpose in the garage at home.

I got much less work done on that front, but the design of my own tiny home moved closer to reality. As always, I learned even more with this new unit, both positive and … not so much. The Prairie Drifter was the first unit that had a true first floor bedroom, but it also had a smaller refrigerator. It had two loft bedrooms which I never used. It also had induction burners, which was a personal challenge. There were issues with the shower which ultimately left me assuming I was an idiot when no water came out at all. It was a water main break.

With less ability to work in the pattern I had been developing, I was free to entertain a friend from college and his teenaged son. After a few hours they were demanding a return visit. Even my own sons have not visited. That was nice.

This was also the week I left my keys and my bra hanging on the doorknob as always, and I went outside to comb my hair. Yep. As I jiggled down the road to get the spare key, the lawn maintenance people arrived, muttering “mucho muchas somethingorother.” Served me right. Once properly attired, including my Fitbit to measure the wasted steps, I returned to the office with yet another story for the records.

Clearly, I have made myself at home.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

When I set Mom’s ashes into the grave last week, all that was left of her was a granite urn weighing 20.8 pounds. She had been downsizing since the mid-eighties, and she arrived at the Pearly Gates completely used up and emptyhanded. Her children will not be arguing over the holiday dishes or her teeth. There is no estate to settle.

Mom is my hero.

As the detachment of my current possessions becomes more psychologically sophisticated, I notice that everything at Home Base is in my way. Today my dinner, briefly perched upon one of many piles, marked its territory by slaloming into credit card bills, my Zack Rabbit, a ball of rubber bands and some origami instructions. Creamed spinach from Boston Market lost its appeal pretty quickly, and after trashing all but the Zack Rabbit (by Zack Giffin, skier, and tiny-houser extraordinaire) I was happy for dinner to be a spoonful of Skippy right out of the jar. In the blink of an eye, several decisions were made for me, and I believe this new tiny house I end up with will truly be just another step in a journey I have been on for a very long time…..long enough for me to have hoarded an article from a Worth magazine from September of 1995 when this journey was called Downshifting. You can’t even find a stick shift anymore these days, so the term, if not the magazine article, was discarded.

And so, without ever realizing it, I have become my mother.

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.

Location Location Location

Home is where you hang your heart. And your keys. And your backpack. And your wet mittens. And your dreams.

The first step in designing your home, tiny or otherwise, is to decide where to put it. There has been only one objection to my chosen location, coming from the third wife of an old heartthrob from college, and whose opinion doesn’t carry nearly the weight of a building inspector or a zoning board member.

I really lucked out with this initial part of my journey. It is still more difficult to find a legal plot of land than a fabric swatch for the curtains. It might not be my last stop before the urn, but it suits me right now in a way that few properties anywhere else could. I even thought Destiny had me in mind when she designed the location and the business model. It is truly ideal.

It’s a former RV campground. It is now a resort community of tiny house rentals. I go for a week a month. For perhaps a year. I love what I’m learning about myself, including the arthritis which taught me that a loft bedroom has its drawbacks. I love what I’m learning about the kinds of people who want to take back their leisure time by getting away from their suburban castles. I love what I’m learning about the capacity for human creativity…..unless it’s coming from a disgruntled third wife, of course.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Front Porch Light

One of the things I noticed right away at my Tiny Resort was a pair of night lights blinking a red line across the gates. It was during April’s full moon and Tiny Estates had just opened. The lights blinked to the beat of my heart, and although I was the only guest, I didn’t feel as alone as I needed to if I was going to dance naked under the full moon. There were also no curtains in The Journey, which has since been rectified. And so I danced naked in the shower and then treated myself to the thickest white towels I’ve ever seen.

All the units have fluffy white towels and flushing toilets. They also have a porch light, although each is controlled at a different location on the switchplate.

I find a symbolic comfort in the ability to welcome potential neighbors with the flip of a switch. My porch light in Harleysville is never on unless it’s Halloween. This is so far from the vision I had of my home life that I sometimes turn it on for ghosts of the past that needed shelter and were forced to look elsewhere.

I have a wish list for my tiny home: a first floor bed, a bedside light, an adequate sized refrigerator and a porch light.

It All Comes Out in the Wash

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It is snowing.  I am six years old, and because there’s another baby in the house, I am sent outside to play.  Mama’s lap is always full with one brother or another.  My nose is cold.  My mitten fell off.  The icicle I was licking has my snot all over it.  I beg to come back indoors.

The other mitten comes off.  The boots and four socks.  The scarf.  The hood and the cap.  The jacket.  The sweater.  The snow pants.  I stand by the door somewhat mournfully, because I have shed the layers and seen what is left – a big sister who loves her brothers but misses her Mama, and has no idea who is standing next to the pile of wet outerwear.

There has come a time in my life where all my wet clothes are beside me and I am forced to look upon my naked soul in the harsh light of day.  This is not a bad thing; my clothes are both designer dresses and ragged T-shirts.  Some are stained but otherwise serviceable.  Some should stuff a sofa in some third world country.  Whatever the article of clothing, it does not hide the truth of what lies underneath.

It turns out that none of my decisions is entirely altruistic.  With each step forward into the future, another costume is obtained for another pretense.  I return from my latest tiny house visit and am bombarded with all the indecision associated with my possessions.  The only good news is that I returned with less stuff than when I left.  The emotional clutter will continue to reveal itself, I know.  But will I throw the baby out with the bathwater?