Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Hope in a World of Quiet Desperation

I have to confess.  I have not been living deliberately lately.  I have been eeking out life moment by moment just trying to make my body do what my mind tells me I need to do.  Not listening to what my spirit is telling me to do.

I have depression, and I have anxiety.  I am a mess most of the time and the world never really knows it.  Hiding behind a smile is what I do best.  I have lived most of my life knowing my weakness and trying to battle the voices in my head that tell me how life is going wrong.  I have noticed that I get worse around October and tend to suffer through the Holidays.  My idea of a great Thanksgiving and Christmas is spending quiet moments in a far away land.  I've also realized that being a teacher is mostly to blame for this Seasonal Affective Disorder.  During the winter months, I am not able to take care of myself because I am stressed about taking care of others people's teenagers.  I need sunlight and exercise and quietness when October rolls around, but my life just starts to get messy around that time.

I need a different pattern.  I need freedom to work when I am at my best and rest and write when I need quiet.  I need to be able to sit outside and soak up the sun, go for a walk, or listen to nature during the day.  Instead, I wake up when it is dark, arrive at work as the sun starts to peak over the horizon.  I spend most of my day in a room with cold, cement walls and no windows.  It is LITERALLY depressing.

To live deliberately means to take a hold of every moment and relish in them.  To create your own paths and set out to accomplish your dreams.  Well, hope for my dreams is the only thing I have right now.  I dream with and for my students.  I share what great minds and poets have said that life can offer.  I teach hearts and souls and wounded kids from broken homes.  I suffer with teenagers trying to find their way in this world.  It is hard.  It is what I was sent to this earth to do, so why does it have to break me, body and spirit?

This morning I trudged to the shower after another long night of anxiety ridden insomnia.  I have to mentally prepare myself for the day by reviewing what I will do to survive the many obstacles in my path:  "How can I face those 9th graders today?  I am showing a movie!  First and second period: have a discussion on point of view; I know I can at least get through that this morning.  The end of the day.... I just have to survive to the end and then I can come home and sleep.  I can't stay home because the boys have to go to school.  Thomas has a field trip today; he is excited about school today."  Then a thought occurred to me, my home, my trailer, my house on wheels can take me where ever I want to go when the time comes.  When I finally decide to take hold of every moment and relish in what life is bringing me, I CAN!

That is what living in a 5th wheel trailer has done for me.  It has given me hope.  There is a future where I will write the book I want to write.  There is a future where I will be able to sit in my living room and look out over vistas and then work from home.  A future of traveling the country is possible.  This life allows me to dream without anxiety.  I am allowed to at least see how my life can be lived deliberately, even if today I am just surviving.

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”    --Henry David Thoreau

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Summer of the Two Beaches

Before I start back to school and assign the quintessential "What I did over the summer" essay (HA! like I have ever assigned such a typical essay!), here I am about to write one.

For those who are keeping up with my New American Dream adventures, let me first inform you that because of our decision this year I have already set a precedent.  I have been to the beach THREE times this calendar year!  I can't recall ever having gone to beach more than twice in a year and that was in the care-free days of my teenage years when friends invited me along.  I want to record our trips so far this year and share the great things we have done.  Otherwise, we would just be that weird family who lives in a travel trailer, right!?

I am calling this the Summer of the Two Beaches mostly because there were TWO of them, but also because they were completely different in many ways and contain their own distinct memories.  But before we start with the summer I should share our first beach trip way back in April for Spring Break vacation.  It is important because it was the first time we took our new home along for the ride. We had already planned for a beach vacation in our old travel trailer, but since we had purchased a new "home" we decided to complete all the renovations before April and take her out for a shake down trip.  Then we could decide what else needed to be done before we were to live in it.

The trip was the first time I had been to beach for spring break since I was a teenager.  We decided to stay at St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach, Florida.  We also had Grandparents along with us on this trip which would definitely prove the seating and living capacity of our new house.

The weather was beautiful most of the time for this trip.  We spent time just hanging outside playing games and talking into the night.  There were days when the wind made it too cold to even sit on the beach, but we did it anyway, and the boys were in the water until their lips turned blue.

At St. Andrews State Park there are two ways to enjoy the water: you can hit the waves on one side of the jetty or snorkel in the calm waters on the other side of the jetty.  We did both on multiple occasions.  Thomas and Noah enjoyed the wave erosion the most...

There is great fishing and boating around the area and much to my chagrin, the boys went fishing one day.  I was jealous at the beautiful day they had on the water!



It was a great trip and I was thankful that we were able to spend it with family.  The lessons we learned that week were quickly added to a long to-do list that we would complete in the next two months.

We quickly booked out next beach trip for the third week of June, which would be our first trip after fully moving into the trailer and living in it for about two weeks.  The SECOND beach trip in a year!! I felt ecstatic!  Our trip to St. Andrews was great, but we still enjoyed St. Joseph State Park in Port St. Joe, Florida better, so that is were we headed in June.  The water is always clear at St. Joseph SP and you can stay within walking distance of the beach there.  It is very secluded and we wondered how much Verzion reception we would get this go round (we had none the year before).  Also, between April and June the weather in Florida turns brutal.  The ONLY place you can get relief from the heat in right on the beach, otherwise you spend your time in a puddle of your own sweat!

The other thing about Florida weather is that it controls every aspect of the ocean.  We arrived in the midst of a wave of late afternoon thunderstorms, which is typical in the summer, but it turned the ocean to a BEAST!  The waves were so powerful, the Park Ranger shut the beach down one of the days we were there.  They were having to rescue people out of the water multiple times as day.  If you are not aware of what the ocean can do, you are automatically in danger.  I would not let the boys in the water without one of us being in with them.  Those who are reading this and know my children personally are aware by now that this was the BEST time they had ever had at the beach.  Those waves were theirs to conquer and that is what they did.  I could not get them to leave the beach most days.  It amazes me how much energy and determination they can have sometimes!



Just like at St. Andrews SP, at St. Joseph SP you can enjoy monster waves or a calm lagoon on the bay side of the peninsula.  We spent part of one day snorkeling in the bay sea grass.  Snorkeling is one of my favorite beach activities.  I had never snorkeled as a kid because we never spent time in calm lagoon water.  I love watching the sea creatures as I float peacefully in the water. It is fun to collect all the fun things you find in the ocean as you snorkel.  We collected several hermit crabs, bait fish, and I even found where a fish laid her eggs!

Once we returned home from our first trip, it was time to start planning the next one!  This was a new exciting time for me to be able to think of all the possibilities of travel without worrying about the money.  I knew we were planning to go somewhere over the 4th of July weekend, but I wanted to avoid crowds and anywhere that would already be booked.  I planned a trip that would incorporate some roadschooling into our adventures.  We planned for a trip to coastal Georgia and would spend 4th of July on Jekyll Island.  Beach #2 here we come!

We decided to stay off the island because we would be making trip up and down the coast to various Historical Landmarks, so we chose Coastal Georgia RV park right off I-95 in Brunswick.  We got the last spot available for the entire weekend!  This was actually the first time we have stayed in a place that could call itself an RV park.  We have spent most of our trips even in the older trailer in State Parks and small campgrounds.  This was luxurious to us!  We had a nice concrete slab with picnic table and FULL hookups.  The park had a pool, laundry, and meeting pavilion.  We also chose this park because they were hosting a BBQ for the residence on Sunday evening.  It was fun to get together with everyone in the park and celebrate the 4th.

We spent one day with friends from Savannah at Fort King George State Park in Darien, Georgia.  It is a complete replica of a British Colonial Fort.   Even though the day was hot, we had a great time!  


 We also visited the historic Hofwyl-Broadfield plantation.  It is a rice plantation from the early 1800s with the original buildings still in-tact.  It remained in the same family until the 1970s when the last owner died and willed it to the state.  All the original family furniture, dishware, silver, and relics are still in the house.  Thomas and Noah got to hold the family treasure: a captain's Civil War saber.


 I think I was more impressed with the massive Live Oaks on the property!

The next day we spent the morning at Fort Frederica National Park.  The boys were not as impressed with this as they were with the actual fort replica the day before, but I enjoyed imagining this small colonial village created by Oglethorpe and the fort that protected Savannah from the Spanish.  It is all just an archaeological dig now, but that is probably what I was more interested in.  I wanted to discover some long lost relic too!

We spent the afternoon and night of the 4th on Jekyll Island.  We visited the Sea Turtle Hospital and then hit the beach. 

 Unlike the other two beaches we visited this year, this was the Atlantic Ocean.  It is an entirely different experience than the Gulf.  For one, tides are extreme here.  When we arrived it was a extreme low tide and it didn't even resemble a beach.  It looked like a third world country mud hole!  There were no waves and the water was completely mud.  But the benefit to low tide is the extreme sand bar the goes forever out into the Atlantic.  We were able to walk out were the fish would be swimming along the bottom in just a few hours.  We collected several live sand dollars while walking out on the sand bar and into the clear water.  As the tide started to come it, the boys were able to enjoy the water a little more and catch a few waves.  This is when Thomas was stung by a jelly fish!  As we walked onto the beach that day we heard some people talking about the extreme amount of jelly fish in the water, but you can't tell my children that!  They think they are invincible.  Thomas was a brave soul and took it a little better than I expected.  Nick took him to the Fire Station/Medic on the island and they sprayed his sting with anti-venom.  It was so successful that he even got back into the water!!  He decided that if he didn't go to the exact same spot he was in before he would be O.K.   

We also knew we were staying to watch the fireworks that night and picked a spot on the beach far inland so that the tide wouldn't get us.  It was funny to sit and watch people have to move their spot all day to get back from the in coming tide!  

Around dinner time we cleaned up a little and walked over the Tortuga Jacks right on the beach for some food.  The best thing is that is was Air conditioned and we got virgin daiquiri in a coconut pirate!  

The boys playing in the water until the sun went down and then dug in the sand until the fireworks started.  It was a long and hot and eventful day!

As we end our Summer of the Two Beaches, I can see that this choice that we made has brought us closer together as a family.  I have tons more pictures and memories of the summer that have nothing to do with travel.  We have spent the summer in very close proximity 24 hours a day and it hasn't harmed us at all.  We have new goals and new adventures planned, but for right now we are planning to continue with our typical, ordinary lives in an extraordinary way.  This life we have chosen will change us for the better.

Monday, June 6, 2016

RV Living Must Haves

We have only been residing in our 5th wheel full time for exactly 9 days, but already I have a list of items that are absolutely necessary to making this life pleasant.

  1.  Endless On Demand Hot Water Heater.  This was the first modification we made our trailer when we bought it.  It is a must!  They make Heaters that fit into the space for a typical RV Hot Water Tank and Heater except that these are tankless and heat the water with propane on Demand. We can take as many showers as we want, as long as we want!  We have to be hooked into the sewer for our tank to empty, but that is standard in most RV parks where we live.  
  2. Unlimited Verizon JetPack internet data with our ROKU TV.  We were fortunate to find a Grandfathered Plan that someone sells accounts for specifically for Full-time Families.  We still love our modern technology!
  3. A Step Stool. 
     This little stool makes it possible to do ANYTHING in my kitchen.  Noah can't even open the fridge without the stool.  I can't see into the microwave or get anything out of the freezer without the stool.  It is one of those items I am constantly moving from one spot to another.  Struggle is real for short people!
  4. A great mattress.  It has taken me a week to get comfortable sleeping in the 5th wheel.  We also purchased a new mattress right after we bought the trailer and had is specially ordered to fit the space.  It is very comfortable bamboo memory foam, but even with the comfortable mattress it takes some getting use to.  Every movement you make in a 5th wheel causes the rig the shake a little.  It is not drastic with stabilizers and wheel chocks (which is another item to add to the list), but when you are sleeping you feel like you are still constantly moving.  I am finally at my sweet dreams stage!
  5. A good bathroom fan.  You have to get a convenient and powerful bathroom fan to battle the smells and moisture in your small space.  Ours in just a button the wall and instantly the smells are gone and it takes less than a minute to dry out the bathroom after a shower.  I think we have less moisture now than we did in our Sticks & Bricks.
  6.  A U-shaped Couch with two movable tables.
This couch has another table not pictured next to the ottoman.  We could never do with a typical love seat and dinette like in other rigs.  The versatility that this set up allows makes living all in one space possible.  We can do work, play games, watch TV, eat, or everything at once in this space.

One week in... Tiny House Living

After one week living in a 5th wheel, here's what I know...

  1. You will get lots of bruises living in a small space.  I have not felt cramped or claustrophobic yet, which is something that I often feel.  However, you constantly bump into stuff that just seems to come out of nowhere.  It is especially hard for my youngest son who is ALWAYS getting bumps and bruises anyway.  He has a mysterious black eye that we have no idea where it came from.  He also continues to jump around and hit his head on the back of the couch.  I keep elbowing things and hitting my shins on stuff which is probably a result of number 2.
  2. You are always playing Tetris!  
    Tiny Living is about constantly moving items around and trying to make everything fit in a coordinated way.  Washing dishes is an art form, and I always have to use a step stool to reach things in the kitchen.  If it isn't the stool I need, I'm having to stoop to get something stashed below in a cabinet behind other stuff.  Moving, maneuvering, bending, stooping, reaching, changing-- tiny home living is a constant workout!  This is not a bad thing for me at all.  I need more exercise in my life.
  3. You are always wondering, "What is that smell!!?"  I am still trying to battle all the smells that come from living in a small space with an attached sewer system.  Leaving garbage out is bad. Leaving dishes out is bad.  Having smelly children is bad.  Farting is BAD!  I now have a Scentsy warmer in the bedroom, air freshener and Poo- Pourri in the bathroom, and a glade plugin in the living/kitchen.  
  4. There is never a down moment.  We never said it would be easy to make this lifestyle change, but it takes a lot more weekly/daily maintenance to live in a 5th wheel.  You are checking the water, the toilet, emptying tanks, switching AC units to get the right temperature.  We even are at the moment trying to get used to our laundry trailer which takes hooking up separately every time we want to wash clothes.
So is all of this worth it?  Of course!  To think of all the stuff we have gotten rid of from our lives and are now down to only what is really important.  We felt our lives were just too typical and too easy.  Yes, we had an easy life.  We were PAYING for that easy life and not experiencing life, so now we work a little harder to have the resources to live our lives.  Next week we will take our home to the beach and other adventures along the way.  After that the possibilities are endless.  This does not make our lives hard, just different.  Life is going to be a challenge.  You have to embrace your own challenges and learn lessons from them.  I was standing in the living area and had a moment where I was reminded of my ancestors who lived in small cabins on farms with about as much living space as I have now.  They lived with only the essential resources.  They maintained their homes constantly.  They probably monitored their poop in the outhouse.  They didn't even had endless hot water!  On top of all that they homesteaded and created a life on farms.  As I pondered what our ancestors went through and experienced, I was grateful for this experience that we have started. 

Over the past week, I was waiting for the moment to arrive when I would have to say to myself that this was a mistake.  I would get frustrated or the boys would grumble, complain, act crazy and drive me nuts-- something to make me regret, but it hasn't happened (yet).   

The boys have been getting along well in our small space.  I found them this morning snuggled together in Noah's bunk playing the Leap Pad.  They play Legos together in their small room.  Our board games have made a come back to spend our summer days.  The other night Noah fell out of his bunk which was something I was terrified of happening.  I just knew he would fall out and hit his head and die or get his arm or leg caught in the ladder and break it.  When I ran into his room (which only takes 3 long strides) I found he had landed like a cat on his feet.  He didn't even bruise his feet on all the Legos on the floor. We made a temporary bed rail until we can get something more custom for bunk.  These worries are proving to be my own internal struggle.  The boys will do well without driving my crazy.  There has been no extreme wrestling inside, and not *much* jumping around.  They have fun riding their bikes around the park.  We will survive; We will thrive.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Custom Mobile Laundry and Storage

For those who are planning their full-time living dream or those who may be traveling but looking to be stationary for awhile, we have some awesome ideas for you to consider...  taking your garage with you.

Our story begins with the fact that deciding to live full-time in a 5th wheel meant that we would be stationary for awhile to start our journey.  We are still working locally and living in a RV park specifically for full-timers.  Because of these circumstances, we knew we had the opportunity to create a semblance of home and ease ourselves into the full-time life.  A few of the concerns were washing clothes, extra storage for out of season clothes, our food storage and pantry supplies, and a deep freezer.

Hubby is a Contractor who created a plan for an enclosed trailer to be our mobile Laundry and Storage.
We started with a 7 x 12 enclosed trailer special ordered from the factory with doors on both sides.

The Washing Machine and Dryer will be at the front of the trailer, so to maximize space we built floor to ceiling cabinets on both sides of the trailer to flank the W/D.  I plan to use this space for surplus cleaning, bathroom and kitchen supplies.

The most important and most difficult task of this project is the electrical and plumbing needed for the W/D.  We installed a breaker box that is wired to an RV 30 amp electrical hookup.  One concern is being able to get enough power to this rig along with your RV.  At our site each panel box pushes 120 amps, so we are able to use both at the same time with a converter that splits into a 30 amp and regular outlet. If we move to another site, this may pose a problem without having to pay extra for electricity.
Along with electrical outlets for the W/D, an outlet for the freezer is installed and two LED lights.

The plumbing was a little more difficult.  It took a few tries to find the right spigot to install into the floor for the hot and cold water for the Washing Machine.  We plan to hook straight into our tankless water heater previously installed and into the second water spigot.  There will also be a sewer drainage that will connect with our line through a Y split.  

Next, we needed storage for typical garage/basement storage stuff.  These shelves will hold out of season clothes and our custom built canning system for our surplus food.  We always have at least a 3-6 month supply of food storage in case of emergencies.  That is an important principle that we didn't want to give up as we transitioned to tiny home living.

Hubby even built a custom fishing rod and bb gun holder. 

Mobile Laundry Room

This is our set up on our site.  We just moved in and are still unpacking, but you can see the trailer parked behind our rig and the door opens nicely into our site for easy access.
Leave any technical questions in the comments and I will get Hubby to answer them for you.