Wash your hands!

March 14th, 2020: No surprises here about the main topic of this post.  I feel absolutely obliged to share our experience thus far, living in this apocalyptic time (ok,slight exaggeration); the time of the Novel Coronavirus in the United States!  Specifically, I will share what it is like in Northern Kentucky, USA. During my recent hours perusing Twitter, I ran across a couple of posts that suggested the importance of journaling during the pandemic.  Years from now, it is going to be invaluable to look back at these times and see how we survived all of this. Why not throw my hat in the ring too?

This is so extra interesting since this weekend is our first weekend totally at home, alone, without any plans or obligations.  We moved away from Indiana two weeks ago and my family from Cleveland was here last weekend to celebrate the 30th birthday of my baby brother.  It is just us.  

The week as a whole has been remarkable.  

On Tuesday, March 10th,  we had plans to go see Steve Aoki at Bogarts, a small-ish venue, over the river in Cincinnati.  We planned on taking off the following day and scheduled a couples massage to use up a gift card that we received as a wedding gift almost three and half years ago!  The news about “social-distancing” had just been ramping up, but this show- Aoki, was a total bucket-list event. We were excited to go! 

It was an absolute joy and did not disappoint, but let me tell you, I began questioning our choice to be there when I witnessed a member of one of the opening acts spray down the first few rows of the audience with a water bottle that I am quite certain he had been drinking out of!  We are hand washers, but every time we hit up the potty it felt extra important to give it a little extra scrub and I was notably nervous when a drunk girl splashed her water all over me as she stumbled by. I might have been a bit more confident if it had been alcohol.

Wednesday, March 11: The next day, we survived (and really enjoyed) our first massages.  Oh, the irony of a lifetime of avoidance of having strangers touch us, only to sign up for sixty minutes of corporal relief, on the day that the World Health Org declared the new virus to be a pandemic.  It was really nice. We picked up some takeout at a favorite Thai restaurant and enjoyed the rest of the day, trying to lay low in the house.  

Thursday-Friday (12, 13): I worked from home on Thursday and was back in the office on Friday.  On my way out, my boss caught me to say I should pack up as if I will not be back for a while and I went home.  The day at the office was ominous, and you could hear murmurs of conversations about the virus here and there. Everyone seemed to have their head on a swivel and we had started getting recommendations about meeting sizes and preliminary precautions via our email and intranet.  

Saturday, March 14th: We woke up and vacuumed out the car and dusted it off.  The ducks got fresh pools, and then we hunkered down for the rest of the day and watched the rain from the basement.  

And it continues…

Sunday, March 15th:  By the afternoon, we received the text message from the boss that we would not be returning to work.  The governor of Ohio announced all bars and restaurants would be closing, except for takeout. The governor of Kentucky decided not to close them, as long as people continued to maintain their distance from one another.  The leadership from the governors of the two states right now has been so comforting. I cannot imagine the disaster we would be stewing in if the last governer of Kentucky was still in office. Just last week, Bevin, the previous governor of Kentucky,  posted a message on Twitter, implying that everyone is overreacting to the pandemic.  We are so much better off than we can even imagine. Perriee and I watched the movie, Outbreak and then the democratic debate.  We fell asleep watching the two old white men fighting over the future of the American people in a room with no audience.  Everything was normal, yet forever changed. 

Monday, March 16th:  It was my first official day of working from home.  I had an infected toe due to an ingrown nail that I had tried to extract.  When I called my doctor’s office to request an appointment, they directed me to the online portal where I could only be seen via a tele-medicine/electronic visit.  There would be no more visits to the office for now. I took a couple of pics of my toe, and attempted to conduct an e-visit to make sure my toe would not need to be amputated.  Again, exaggerating, but I am always feeling a day away from diabetic, so you cannot be too careful.  

My sister asked if she could come visit us before we were not allowed to leave the house anymore.  Of course I wanted her to come, and she did, but don’t think I wasn’t just a touch nervous to have her in.  We watched the government order us to not meet in groups greater than 10. It was 50 just earlier in the day.  I made some food while we visited, and we talked about our worst case scenario plans. What happens if we lose contact with one another?  What are our end of life wishes? All things that are extreme, yet so perfect to know…just in case.  

Perriee and I went for a walk to get out in the fresh air for a bit.  Aldi, across the street was our destination. I just wanted to see what it looked like.  There was almost no meat, no paper products, and they were set to close two hours early in order to stock up.  The vulnerable folks shopping were extra identifiable. Following our walk through the grocery, we went to Burlington next door.  There was one family shopping and us. I picked up a new pair of sweatpants to supplement my new work attire- they are “Nasa” pants! The cashier dutifully sanitized her hands before checking us out and I watched her hands the entire time.  After we got back home, I tore the tag off the pants, we wiped our phones off with a sani-wipe, and washed our hands- exactly in that order.  

Our neighbor, the best baker in Newport, texted us about some cake she made for St. Patrick’s Day- Irish Poke Cake and joked as to whether we would like some before we are forced to quarantine.  Perriee went over to get a piece for us. I begged her not to hug them and she reported back that she threw out her elbow for a tap to thwart a hug from one of them. Minutes before she left to go, I was wondering aloud about how my ex-husband’s family was doing in Italy.  When the chance came up to get some cake, I asked her to see if they had heard from them. Perriee said they were at least active on Facebook that day and there was no indication that anything was too bad. The cake was amazing.  

Tuesday, March 17th: I woke up with P and got my day started with some writing and some light weight lifting.  We had a team meeting where my boss told us that we would likely be home working for at least 8 weeks. Hearing that left me broken out in chills! At one point, I went outside to check on the ducks to find two of them in the neighbors’ yard.  Dayz and Nick, of course, the two flyers and also the most skittish of the four. I was able to catch Nick pretty easily and toss him over the fence. As I was dodging multiple piles of poo and a garden snake that was lurking in the grass, my Birkenstock slid on the grass and my leg went in the exact wrong direction!  I felt my hamstring pull in a way that I knew would haunt me for ages.  

Luckily, my neighbor was able to call her husband to help me catch her and he and his employee helped me get the ducks inside and locked up for the rest of the day. I know she cares about me, but I could feel the reluctance to come near me in this new age of, “social distancing” . I am fucked. Having already called the doctor about a stupid toenail, I knew there was no need to go anywhere. I managed to get my ass back in the house, got some ice, and took some ibuprofen to finish the day.

Later in the evening we received an email that the house in Kentucky was going to closing. Yes, we are happy about it, but this world does not leave us hopeful for the immediate future. We caught up on the up-to- date orders from local government regarding the closures, went to get some wine and liquor as well as some prescription cat food for the guys. While in the store, we saw a super nervous looking woman with a bandana around her mouth shopping with her partner for booze.  Me limping around, I was worried that someone would ask if I was sick. Nope- just really broken. At least I can walk. I googled the symptoms of a bad hamstring tear and am hoping it is just bad enough to not need medical attention. At least I can walk.  

Wednesday, March 18: I was happy to wake up and not be unable to walk.  It still hurts pretty bad, but I was able to get relatively comfortable sitting in the chair with a frozen water bottle under my thigh.  The ducks were grounded for most of the day since it is clear that two people are needed for catching escapees, and it isn’t fair to put that on the neighbors.  

Work was busy, trying to finish a project prior to a deadline this Friday.  I had the pleasure of watching the president spew racist nonsense at the press conference today about the “Chinese virus” and how we could have prevented so much, if only he had known sooner! Rand Paul threw a wrench in the relief package.  Ohio is closing down salons, so Perriee’s mom is now unemployed.  

The Terminix guy came to look at our damage to the deck steps and gave me a quote of 1500 dollars to treat, in addition to 200 for something else that I don’t remember.  Did I mention the termite damage we found on our deck? I know he said it was safe for pets, including the birds, and I believed him when he told me he grew up on a farm.  They will be back Monday to treat, which might also be the day we close on the house, if we don’t get postponed because of the virus. He indicated that they might be closing down soon, so I did not want to chance it by putting it off any longer than necessary.  I am glad I had him come and am hoping our relief money can be used to pay for this. At least we have credit. He came in the house and sat across from me to write up the bill and had me sign with my finger on his tablet. We are all doomed.  

Earlier in the day, I ran (well, limped) to the bank, in order to get the check we need to secure the home owener’s insurance at the Ewing home.  I went through the drive through and the guy informed me that there would be no more lobby transactions after today. The world is shutting down.  

Both hospitals where Perriee and my sister work at had their first Covid patients admitted today.  The doctors’ lounge is still hopping, with their new gourmet grab-and-go menu, which consists of quinoa bowls, quiche, pizza, chicken tenders, oh and salad and wraps too.  I thought they would be getting sandwiches and salad. They are going to be earning it. As much as I want her home with me, it feels good to know we have that safety net, for however long it lasts. 

Her mom is sout of work after today since she works at a nail salon, and we talked about how she will of course, live here if needed.  Turns out, her mom is such a bad ass that she is totally fine for now, living at home and chilling without the job. She get social security and said the job was for extra money.  We have her back if needed. I’ll finish my wine and go to sleep and see what tomorrow brings. Surely it will be more sickness and death, but hopefully also a couple of more videos of the beauty of humanity sharing tender moments on the internet.   

Thursday, March 19th: The biggest news out of Washington was about how much and who will be getting relief checks in the coming days.  The latest suggestion would be for people making less than 75k to get a $1200 check. We are in, which is great since that will allow us to pay the Terminix bill that has gone on the credit card for now.  

I snuck into work first thing to get my plants off of my desk and snag a monitor stand.  I hope to get back in after the weekend to grab a monitor. I need a screwdriver to take it off of the arm, and I didn’t have one at the ready.  There was no one to ask. There was no one there. I sort of wanted to get out without seeing anybody. I had a bit of a sniffle and sore throat so did not want to be pinned as patient zero.  As I was getting on the elevator to leave, I heard a toilet flush- ok there was someone. One.  

My work garden.

Texting has become the new lifeline.  My sister and friend from high-school have been keeping in touch.  We all acknowledged how lucky we are at the moment to have the jobs we have. Before dinner, I googled some physical therapy exercises to do for my hamstring.  I found a series that I will be doing daily for the next four to six weeks. When I did one in particular, where I laid on my stomach to do curls, I realized the gravity of the situation.  I could not curl. I could raise my toes up off of the floor about two inches. This is real and terrifying. I had a good cry and Perriee reminded me that this is how it was when I did my shoulder rehab after a scooter accident, years ago.  Slow and steady, right?

After the news, we sat on the front porch for a bit.  We waved to the neighbor, who just days ago was going in for a hug.  Now he waved back from across the street. I texted him that we would likely be seeing more of one another in the coming weeks.  He acknowledged, and included that it would be from our respective porches, because, social distancing. Things move fast these days.  

Before bed, as seems to be the new routine, I put on the address from Andy Beshear to see what the Kentucky updates were for the day.  He has started a great routine of showing posts of Kentuckians doing their best to keep us all safe in these uncertain times. His calm and encouraging, yet cautious demeanor is so comforting.  I don’t know if I have said it before, but we are so lucky to have the leadership that we have from Kentucky and Ohio right now. Washington is necessary, but not where I get encouragement. The president will not stop his self-serving behavior during this time.  He is not capable.  

Friday, March 20: I usually write about the previous day the following day.  I feel like I missed a day somewhere. Very possible these days. It is Friday and we are hanging in the house.  I am currently sitting in what may be our future family Skype spot. I just got off the Skype with dad. He suggested it earlier this evening on our family chat so Perriee and I practiced with my brother, then I talked to dad.  

His job closed today.  His sanity stems from the fact that his house is paid for and he doesn’t have a car payment right now.  He worked at a limo company and is fine to apply for some unemployment and ride this out. We recapped the amazing day of family text messages, including dad’s rendition of his “pet cat”, which was drawn on a piece of paper and shooed off the table, to be found by the front door, “gazing out”.  We brainstormed YouTube channels he could start. The best idea we came up with was a beginner morse code class. I had my first lesson tonight. “BA”. da..dit…dit..dit..di da? Ill study.  

Our CEO announced that anyone off of work for Covid would be paid 8 weeks.  The governor of Kentucky announced that our bourbon distilleries will be making hand sanitizer.  Governor Dewine is closing senior centers, but leaving non-essential business open for now. I have a coworker who cried over that announcement due to a medical procedure that will take place tomorrow because of it.  

I saw online or on the news that Christmas lights are being hung up to help cheer the air, so Perriee and I hung some up this evening.  We went to the liquor store after picking up some duck food at Tractor Supply and she immediately felt like she should have bought more after watching folks really stocking up today.  After dinner, I put on my slip on, rubber soled, red cowboy boots and went for a walk around the neighborhood. It was chilly and felt amazing to move, albeit slow as fuck.

Our pandemic lights.

Still no word from the bank about the house and that is fine.  I am hoping they will close before we can close. Perriee called her friend in Georgia and she shared some stories of nursing from the front line.  She said we would all likely be on some sort of lockdown in a few days. She really said a couple of days. I didn’t tell dad that. I texted her my sister’s phone number, who is going to need all of the lifelines possible in the coming days.  

Saturday, March 21: The new closures in Ohio yesterday included adult day services for the disabled and the governor dealt his first nasty hand by proclaiming that abortion services will be bucketed in non-essential medical procedures bucket.  Now is not the time to be pregnant against your will.  

I did my physical therapy exercises and took a slow walk around the neighborhood.  Perriee and I spent the day outside looking for the entry point to the digging animal in the duck run.  We came to realize they are likely running into the run and sneaking in to hide under their house. We lifted up the floor and flushed out some mice.  The hardware cloth that we installed seems to be helping to keep them from getting in the house, however. It was the most I had been on my feet in days, and I was certainly tired after we finished.  

After a shower, we went to Aldi for a few things.  We came home, had some food, and joined the family for our first group Skype.  It was nice to see everyone (and everyone’s cats, including dad’s!). 

Sunday, March 22: I drove down to downtown Newport yesterday to take my daily walk.  It was eerie to see all of the businesses’ signs in their windows regarding current closures.  One of the most memorable moments was coming across a medical mask in the middle of a parking lot.  It was actually sad to see it there, such a precious item in the middle of all of this. 

After, I went to Lowes to get some soil and small pots for our little basement garden that we are working on.  It was getting increasingly busy as I shopped and I checked out in the garden center. My reasoning for being in the garden center was because it was in the open air, at least.  They had marks on the ground to separate customers as they waited in line. The visibly nervous woman checking me out sprayed lysol on the credit card machine in between customers.  The fact that there was not time for the lysol to dry made me wonder if it was even working. She was calling for a new can and the response from her radio was to continue checking people out in spite of her running low.  

Victory gardening

The local liquor store updated their procedures since we were last there.  A man with a clipboard approached my car as I parked the car. I was taken aback initially because I did not know he worked for the store.  Their new policy is to text your order with your credit card information to inside of the store. I was a little frazzled by the process also because the man kept calling me sweetie and honey (in response to me asking if they had Jim Beam Honey).  I started to place an order, then realized how stupid it would be to text my credit card information to potentially desperate people who would be in need of money in the event that they were laid off. No thanks. This is not the time. 

I went to Kroger instead.  The Ohio governor announced an order to stay at home and the Kentucky governor basically echoed the same, except for an official order.   All non essential businesses will be closed in both states after today. Our next time shopping at Lowes will be a delivery.    

Thursday, March 26th: I finally went to the orthopedic urgent care to have my hamstring evaluated.  It felt like i re-injured it the other day while trying to help out in the yard, when my foot slipped quickly on the ground while trying to help with the duck chores.  The pain literally brought me to my knees. I called the orthopedic urgent care and made my trip to the office. I was the only patient there at the time that I arrived.  They took my temperature in the lobby and instructed me to remain behind the taped line on the floor. Every station I stopped at, there was tape and lots of gloves, sanitary wipes, and sanitizer.  

The doctor was awesome and told me what I expected- that I had torn my hamstring and that it was reprable without surgery.  That was the good news. Pre-coronavirus, she said, I would be doing vigorous physical therapy. That isnt happening right now.  I was handed a printout with exercises on it and told that Iw ould be contacted to begin virtual therapy in the future. She asked if I had someone at home and gave me a ten second demo of the massage she can help me with.  My wife is now a massage therapist. We will all have new certifications when this is over.  

Yesterday, Perriee informed me that her coworker’s wife has been tested for the virus.  It is getting closer and closer by the day. It sounds like she might be ok, but one day soon, we will all feel it. 

The president makes me angry but I listen in to keep abreast to what we are dealing with.  If it wasn’t for Dewine and Beshear right now, I would feel totally helpless.  

Sunday, March 29, 2020: Wayne died yesterday.  He passed peacefully at home with his mommy, my sister, after 18 years of kittieness.  This is just all so sad. Even though the virus has not specifically affected any of our lives as of yet, the side effects of the pandemic have been nothing short of tough.  In any other circumstance, we would have hopped in the car to go be with her during such an awful time. Not now.  

Instead, we cried on the phone together and made plans to meet at a McDonalds parking lot to talk and reminisce together.  Two of us drove separately from the Cincinnati area and met my sister who came in from Louisville. We stood in our respective corners and talked from an uncomfortable distance.  The drive through was hopping, the cold wind was blowing, and the sun was shining.  

Perriee and I are prepping for our closing on Wednesday.  They told us we would be signing inside the bank and I do not feel good about it at all.  We will be bringing our own pens and will not be touching anyone.  

We worked on some garden beds yesterday in the backyard and planted some seeds, mint, and one lone cabbage.  The ducks were annoyed that we were not sharing more, so I made sure to put some scoops of dirt out here and there to keep them off my back. 

Our indoor plants are kickin ass and I cannot wait to make a spot at the new place for them as well.  We don’t have a lot of room for things like cabbages in our city yard, so it will be nice to give it a go out there.  

I made Pandemic Pie with a couple of June’s delicious eggs.  Our neighbors are feeding us. One neighbor gave us cookies and another delivered a whole dinner of smoked meat, greens, cornbread and brownies.  We are blessed.  

Tuesday, March 31st: It seems that the abnormal is becoming normal.  It is normal to work at home, normal to take a walk each day, and normal to watch the governors give their nightly address.  We watch the numbers roll in like the medal count of the Olympics. The USA is winning at the moment. We may just take the gold.  

I went to the bank to get the check for the downpayment on the house.  The closing is tomorrow. Afterward, I took a walk down by the levy. I saw about three people there.  It has never been so empty. The world is closed. My leg felt the best since the day I injured it, so, there’s that.  My overall step count leaves a lot to be desired, but the cadence at which I could move pleased me! 

It is day two of not listening to the White House press conference.  I will catch up on Twitter later. After watching it for the past two weeks, I know that the idiotic things that reporters are sharing are, in fact, accurate depictions of what “he who must not be named”  says, and therefore not useful to my success in this fight. We watched some Andy B on the YouTube (his memes are as encouraging as he is) and I ate an ice-cream sandwich for dinner, courtesy of my wife who continues to make it to work every day in spite of this madness.  They have been taking her temperature every day and they just started wearing masks today. When she gets home, I ask if everyone made it through. She is a healthcare hero right now. It is pretty hot.  

Homework: Stay inside (and wash your hands and do your stretches)!!! 

Please do your best to stay in the house.  When you go out, don’t touch anyone. Don’t touch your face.  Wash your hands when you get back home. I know so many of us still have to be out in the world, so every interaction that does not need to happen is a win for all of us.  Take care of yourself. You might not be able to see a doctor right now. Brush and floss. Do your stretches. Stay healthy at home! Just remember the voice of Andy Beshear, when you are thinking about going somewhere that could be avoided: “You can’t be doing that!”

Empty shopping mall parking lot. Newport, KY (March, 2020)

Silver Linings, Lemonade, Cup Half Full…

I am not going to lie: the last several weeks have been super heavy.  Things have peaked with plumbing issues, keeping the ducks safe and healthy, waiting on the closing date of a property we may or may not accrue, along with trying to coordinate our move away from Indiana.  When someone talks about the walls closing in, I think I can finally relate. In the middle of it all, of the stress, anxiety, and worry, I keep finding rays of light to remind us of the good things in life.

We broke down the tipi last weekend and it is all ready to move home to the city.  We were hoping to be able to move it to a new place and get the canvas all aired out, but we are not there yet, and don’t even know if we will be there, so it is all coming home to the city. Initially, we were pretty disappointed because we had hoped to only have to move the tipi once, but the universe has other plans.  

One of my two amazing brothers and my amazing sister came out to help us take her down.  It was so awesome to see the tipi in its bare state again with all of her bones exposed to the air.  Surprisingly, it was actually pretty easy. Four people and two hours was about all we needed to get it all broken down and prepped for the move.  We celebrated by having lunch at Jack’s Place on the way home. They make homemade carrot cake and peanut butter pie (which we snagged the last piece of).  

We weighed our options between driving a truck ourself versus paying movers and we ended up settling on Two Men and a Truck, ordered a 26 footer, and called it a day.  Let me tell you, it was worth it. Let’s look at a quick list of why:

  • Successfully pull up the steep, precarious driveway, without getting stuck in a ditch at the bottom, and get out without incident.  
  • Pick up and move the picnic table 
  • Move the cast iron wood stove
  • Successfully pull up our steep hill, park and unload said items above, and drive out of the neighborhood without hitting any cars.
  • Moving tipi poles alone, in order for us to get a smaller truck would have cost between 500-700 dollars.  

The poles look pretty cozy in their new spot, and the things we moved into the city don’t feel at all overwhelming in terms of volume.  The backyard shed is pretty full at the moment, and we have a very large pile of tipi canvass in our basement/family room, but it is ok. We have turned the page, officially.  The sick feeling that I have had in my stomach for the last year, everytime we went there, is gone. That feeling would start towards the end of the ride to get there, until we unloaded everything and were settled at our spot, by the tipi.   Whatever the origin of that feeling was, it does not matter. It was not serving a purpose to enrich our lives so it needed to end. And it feels so good.  

Homework:  Look at how full your glass is and enjoy it! 

Now that we officially do not have to go back to Indiana, and have everything we own all in one place again, we are going to lean into the moment and regroup.  Although we still have a lead on a house, we don’t know if we will be getting it. Instead of worrying about that unknown, we will focus on the home we have and enrich our life here as much as possible.  We already have a list of projects we want to tackle, we have seeds growing for the spring, and are loving the extra time with the pets.  

Here is a quick list of our Northern Kentucky projects:

  • Build privacy fence along one side of the backyard.
  • Redo kitchen sink and install a door between the bedroom and kitchen (contractor please!)
  • Pour a concrete pad for the basement bathtub. 
  • Redo the basement bathroom area.
  • Epoxy the basement floor
  • Redo basement lighting
  • Tiny-house-ify the shed in the backyard? 

Being back in one place feels right at the moment.  In light of the whole mission of our lives to simplify and spend more time together, I think we are actually on to something! Yes, we are still excited about the prospect of the new property and have a ton of ideas about how to fit that into our mission.  But this time in limbo has given us time to reset and refocus what we really want. The cabin was amazing, but once done with it, we would still be in the same place we are at now. We would not have an alternate source of income, except maybe Airbnb in the tipi, which never felt right anyhow in light of the situation with the other family living there.

That time spent was not a waste.  We needed it to learn the skills that we will use in this next phase of life.  We grew closer because of it all. Now we reset and keep pushing forward. We are counting our blessings.  Yes, we have had a bit of disappointment in the last year or so. The true source of the “let-downs” is not failure.  The only real reason we have had disappointment is because we took chances. If you never take any chances, you cannot fail and cannot be let down.  We tried. And we will try again! 

We are simplifying.  We are Making Time for Tipi.  Our glass is half full of lemonade and it tastes so good.  

Kentucky Home

After we decided to move on from our Indiana life, we began looking around to see if there was any land within our financial reach that we could handle on our own.  Having spotted a couple of places on the “interwebs” that looked promising, we inquired about the ones we found online. The realtor we were connected with was really awesome at explaining what may or may not work based on what we were looking for.  One of the spots had a little cabin on it which coincidentally, was in almost the stage of build that our a-frame was in! Laura, our rep kindly let us know that the place it was in may not always be passable in inclement weather, and it was such a large plot of land that it might not be the best place for us, who would only be there on weekends.  She said that it would be very likely that folks would wander through when we were gone. Thanks and no thanks! 

Once we narrowed down the list, we set up an appointment to go look at a few of them.  The first stop was to look at a house on a little more than acres of land. It was explained to us ahead of time that the place needed some work.   I was expecting the worst and totally did not want to get my hopes up since both the price and the location seemed perfect. Surely, it would not be what we wanted, but it seemed like a great starting spot.  

The Farmhouse

About a week later, on my birthday, we took the hour and a half ride down the AA highway in Kentucky to take a look. It was a drizzly morning, but pretty warm for mid-December.  It was apparent from the landscape that were in Kentucky. The hills and rushing streams escorted us the entire way there. Our first glimpse of the property included a short ride up the perfectly level gravel driveway- a far cry from the steep, choppy driveway that we had to navigate each time we went to the cabin..  It was a dream! The house was white with a green metal roof- probably the same roofing material that we used on the cabin. Was this a sign? Once inside the house, we could see the remnants of years of history. Wallpaper and paneling lined the walls, old encyclopedias were stashed in the corner of one of the rooms and an old farmhouse staircase led to the upstairs.  

Nestled on a touch over four acres, the property lines were defined by an old railroad track on one side and a rushing creek along an open field on the other.  There was a barn with electric and water in addition to a mobile home and a couple of other “out” buildings.  

We had the pleasure of meeting the son of the previous owners, who had passed away not too long ago, but who had lived into their nineties.  He shared stories about growing up there and how they used to farm tobacco in the open field. His dad raised pigs in the barn. The feelings and memories were warm.  

After the tour, our realtor took us to see some other properties in the area, based on what we were looking for.  We saw some beautiful acreage with some spectacular views and they all had the ability to add electric and water pretty easily.  One of the properties even had an old log cabin upon it, which had been discovered when the owner started demoing the house. The wood, by our realtor’s account isn’t even around anymore; it is extinct! There was even an old stone fireplace with arrowheads embedded in the facade.  

All of the properties had no restrictions, meaning that we would be free to build, say, another a-frame cabin or put an amish barn on them.  They all had a minimum purchase of about 10 acres and had a nice mix of woods and open field. We went home with a top three but the farmhouse was the one that spoke the loudest, and in fact is still on center stage right now.  We made an offer!

Homework: Keep Moving Forward

Be ready to turn the page. You need something to look forward to.  Life is to short to mull over the past. Learn from it, but then move on.  

After we got home from looking at all of the different properties, all we could talk about was all of the things we could do at the farmhouse.  We could plant flowers, grow vegetables, host events, and do Airbnb. We can bring the cats, like right away if we get it! There is plenty of room for or family to sleep there with us when they come to visit.  The list just goes on and on! Leaving the cabin was a hard choice to make, but having a plan for the future that we can visualize is what really gets me excited!   

Keep searching for those things that make you want to get up in the morning.  Those goals are the ones that get you through a hard day at work or help you face a difficult situation that you would otherwise avoid.  Currently in this holding pattern, it has been hard getting through some recent weekends when I am missing working on challenging projects. To help me along, I ordered some seeds that I will plant at the new place and we have been dreaming up a storm about the things we can do at our little farm, if we get it.  That, my friends, is what got me up this morning. Stay tuned!

The Gamblers

We spent a weekend in Las Vegas not too long ago and it was ah-ma-zing!  The hotel we stayed at was Mandalay Bay in a gorgeous room. For thirty bucks a piece we scored a day pass in their beautiful spa.  Call me sheltered, naive, or uncultured, but in my opinion, it was magical. You got a giant robe and sandals to wear while visiting, along with a locker and all of the towels you could want.  There were greek or roman looking fountains spilling into hot tubs and a cold tub at the center of the spa, all surrounded by lounge chairs. We spent our time going between the dry heat room and the eucalyptus steam room, then to the cold pool to bring it all together.  

We went once in the morning to have a coffee and a sweat, then again before they closed after a day on the strip. It was perfect.  

Spa lobby, no cameras allowed inside!

We did not gamble that much, but threw a few dollars into some video poker, keno, and a Goonies movie themed slot machine, which at least gave you some extra steps to complete in between spins to extend your money a little bit.  

I ate some of the most delicious macaroni and cheese from the hotel room service menu and we left a half eaten plate of shoestring french fries because we could not finish them all!  What happens in Vegas… Our last stop of the night was to surprise some friends who got married that weekend at their hotel. We took the bus to Circus Circus, gave them a hug, then headed back to our hotel only to miss our stop and walk a mile back after getting to see the Welcome to Vegas sign.  

Perriee is the absolute best travel buddy I could ever dream to have.  We just have so much fun together everywhere we go. I know that anything that life deals out is automatically going to be easier and better if she is there to share it with.  

Saying that, I can now share that we are going to be leaving our spot where the a-frame cabin is standing.  Over the last year, it has become clear that although the exact spot where the cabin sits along with the tipi is absolutely magical, it is not the land that shines, but our energy when we are there together.  When we have thought about our future there and the things we want to do there, we have had some difficulty envisioning it in alignment with the what the other family might want to do in the future. 

We started poking around on the internet and have found that it might even be possible for us to find our own place.  I had not even considered that as a possibility since we started this journey over two years ago. Because of that, we are moving on.  We were at a point where we could invest a good amount of time and money into the cabin, but decided to first talk with the group about some things that have been weighing heavily on my mind for a long time now.  I have not mustered the courage to bring it up until now. Once the words were out it was clear what the best move should be, and it is, which is to leave. We are all adults and have found ourselves to be different in ways that just won’t mesh as a lifestyle and it is ok.  It is neither good nor bad. We are different and are all mature enough to recognize it. Things are a little raw at the moment, but I truly am looking forward to watching us all grow from this, even if it just through an Instagram post. I know Perriee and I feel a great sense of relief over it and I hope everyone else does too. 

We don’t have any regrets.  Our time there has brought us so much.  It has been one, very long, team building session for the two of us and we have emerged stronger from it all.  And it is not ending! We are still Making Time for Tipi.  That is not ending. In fact, it is very active as I sit here writing this post right now.  We can’t wait to take you on the next leg of the journey.    

Homework

Trust Your Gut:  Over the last couple of years I have found myself in some situations which were uncomfortable to me.  I am working on building up the courage to speak up for myself so eventually I was able to get out of them. The real practice is to have the ability to not get into those situations in the first place.  

As a child, I was constantly reminded to suck it up and deal with the situation at hand, no matter how uncomfortable it may have been.  My childhood was a bit of a roller coaster so I mastered the art of “grin and bear it” amidst some pretty heavy stuff. At the time, that was super useful.  I was a kid and had little control over decisions that were made on my behalf so a good survival technique was to make the most of a bad situation and keep pushing forward.  

In my new found forties (42 now, thank you very much), I am realizing that as an independent adult, I don’t have to just “go along” with things that I can literally feel eating away at my gut.  I need to recognize that feeling early on and learn to say, “no” with intent. For those situations that I miss the signs, it is imperative that I face the discomfort head on, and move away from it as soon as possible.  That is so hard for me!!

Life is too short to waste on negativity that is doomed to persist.  Whether it is a toxic person, relationship, environment, or whatever, we need to be able to see that some things will not change no matter what.  That takes courage to do and is super scary for people like me. Hopefully a lot of you don’t have this courage deficit that I have. If you do, just practice.  Put yourself first. Know that the feeling of the freedom from that toxicity in your life is so much better than the feeling of marinating in it. Save yourself!  

As 2019 comes to a close, I can say that I feel pretty good about how it ended.  Last year on New Year’s Eve I made a promise to myself to have more confidence. Good job me.  Leaving the partnership with our friends where our spot is, Camp Good Enough, was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done but it has already opened up a space for better things and I am proud of that.  

I don’t know what lies ahead, but I will make sure it is interesting.  Happy New Year everyone! Happy new decade!  

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em 

Know when to walk away and know when to run

You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table

There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealing’s done

The Gambler, Kenny Rogers

Heaters and fires and woodstoves, oh my!!

The temps are dropping for the season and we love staying in the cabin at now (as opposed to the tipi), so after our last night at the a-frame we decided to move forward on a heating solution. We settled on the Dyna Glo 20,000 btu propane space heater.  We believe it will be more than enough to heat up the cabin, once we get it up and running.  

Once again venturing into unknown territory, we did our YouTube research and bought a few parts that we thought we should use to get the propane flowing. Although we are clearly amateurs here, I guess I should not discount our experience with the one-pound propane green things, and Perriee did hook up our gas grill this summer.  But this time is all about indoor gas in a house.  We really don’t have a lot of room for error!  

What we noticed upon our research was that most people kind of half-assed their installations.  I mean, they did not have propane spewing out of their hoses or anything, but their processes were pretty far off of the manufacturer’s recommended instructions.  There was one kick ass family though, who rocked it out!  Really, the whole video is awesome from start to finish.  The guy gave a great supplies list demo, his partner (a bad ass woman) threaded it all together with their beautiful baby on her hip, and ultimately, did the final walkthrough to make sure he did it all right.  Ok, I don’t know these people, and I am making a lot of assumptions, but damn…

Per usual, we found our sweet spot somewhere in the middle of doing it “by the book” and doing it half assed!  We chose to hook up the propane hose that connects to the propane tank to a flexible gas pipe which connects to the heater.  Once we figure out for sure where the pipes need to be routed to, we will re-run some the gas lines with solid pipes. For now, however,  we can just push the propane hose through the roof and connect it to the pipe inside.  

When we went through this process, it sort of worked, but when we tested the leaks before firing the heater up (the ole dish soap and water trick).  We quickly found our line was not sealed. Perriee turned the gas on from the outside and I immediately heard the hissing of the gas on the inside. We soon came to understand that we were lacking a fitting and it would require a trip to the hardware store.  Being about 6:00 pm, I was miffed. It was already dark and the temp was dropping.  

For some reason, I was not feeling like sitting in the tipi for the night to keep warm by the wood stove that already had a nice fire burning within it.  I jumped into bed and covered myself up. Pouting, you may say. Luckily we had stopped back home in the city before heading to the cabin for “Big Blue”, the blanket.  Big Blue is this super heavy comforter that is what I imagine a weighted blanket to be like. It is both warm and heavy. So, I knew we werent going to be cold, but I was mad that we were stuck without a ready solution.  Perriee suggested that we make a fire outside and enjoy the evening. That was the tall glass of lemonade that I needed.  

I drug myself out of the bedand we collected some sticks and branches from around the homestead and made a beautiful fire.  The best part of it all was this video I took once the coyotes started howling in the night. They sounded a little too close, but it was spectacular to be witness to.  

In the morning, when I finally poked my head out from the cover of “Big Blue” ,  we huddled back up in the tipi for coffee and cast iron oatmeal. It is so funny how we are able to tolerate extremes when we need to.  I can’t wait until we get the heater going and have a warm space at the push of a button. That is fact. What I am worried about, is that once we experience the cabin with those comforts of heat-on-demand, we will feel like we can’t be comfortable in there anymore if we don’t have it.  

Enjoy the Best and the Worst

Totally digressing here, but it reminds me of the time that a friend of ours tried to fix our bathroom tub faucet.  He cranked it so hard that it broke the pipe. This all happened during the height of the recession- I think it was 2010 or so, and Perriee and I were consequently also super broke at the time.  To shut off the flow to that water, we had to shut off the water to the whole house. We had no money for a plumber and therefore no water. 

It was also really rainy at the time, so we started catching water in containers outside to supplement with bathing and such since it was there and plentiful.  We were like, “We don’t need water! We can just collect it all!” Once we finally saved enough money to call a plumber, fearing the cost would be out of our range of affordability, the water was back on.  It was awesome, and I cannot imagine collecting it all again to service the house. How quickly we adapt. I guess it is good that we are fast to adapt to either end of that spectrum of comfort.  

Homework: Women Can Build Shit Too! 

Expose girls to the home improvement projects, new construction, landscaping, D.I.Y. world from birth.  I truly hope you watch the looks of wonderment from the baby in the gas line video. She was soaking it all in and watching her mom hold her while she threaded the gas pipe moved me.   It was the best example of model parenting i may have ever witnessed.  

I am convinced that women should be exposed to all of the things that men are in order to form the baseline connections needed to utilize those brain cells, if needed, in the future.  I am not criticizing my upbringing by any means. I do remember my grandpa letting me hang out in his workshop and I watched him make some cool things, but I wish i had more knowledge to inform the things I am doing today.  I feel like it would all come a bit faster than it is. Yes, sillly, do the same for boys. Reinforce their desires to nurture and coddle like you do with the girls. Give everyone a fighting chance to be their best. Don’t limit children to those roles of,  “boys do yardwork and fix things while girls wash dishes and clean the house”.   

I understand that I am likely preaching to the choir here.  Lets face it- gender is a shaky construct getting ready to collapse.  THANK GODDESSES!! Lets just scrap all of those dumb buckets of his and hers and just teach all people to be their best.  It will be a simplified curriculum and so much more powerful for everyone.  

And remember: Women can build shit too! 

Off Grid Living

Cabin life is coming into focus, one screw at a time (we really are partial to screws as opposed to nails.  Amateur tip: they come out easily when you make a mistake!). We installed one of two small windows on the front of the house which will be topped off with solid triangle window panes. We have also started to dive into the whole process of finishing the roof off with fascia, j- channels and soffit stuff.  With the miracle of YouTube, the process is starting to look pretty easy! I think once that is done, we will be darn close to sealing off the ports of entry for the mice.  CLOSE. Not done, but damn close. 

As far as power goes down at the cabin, our main goal is to be fueled by the sun.  I think that is a very realistic goal, considering how much time we spend there currently and for how beautifully the sun hits the roof for a good part of the day.   We are in the market for the Goal Zero, Yeti 1400 which, after some research, we found out will support at least two pots of brewed coffee per weekend.  That, my friends, is amazing. Yes, we could walk up to the house to brew a pot, and we have. Yes, we can make a fire to boil water for the french press, and we have.  Yes, we can boil that water on a grill. Let me tell you, non- coffee drinkers, there is nothing more wonderful then pouring water into your coffee pot and flipping the switch for a fast cup first thing when you wake up.  No walking, no waiting, just brewing. It really is priceless. Be sure to click this link to see how powerful a coffee pot is compared to say, a full-size refrigerator.  A coffee-pot is small, yet mighty! 

Other than a coffee pot, other things we need electric for are simple:  phone and computer charging, power tool battery recharging, BioLite BaseLantern (our source of light in the cabin) recharging, and in the future, maybe a t.v.  We are going to need to be spending some serious time there for a t.v. to be given the gift of our precious electricity.  We are not quite set on a way to heat the cabin yet, but it will either be from propane or wood. 

What about refrigeration? We have recently been talking about getting one of those small cooler-type refrigerators.  Camp Addict has a good rundown of a few options.  But really, when the time comes, we may be best served with a mini-fridge running off of the solar powered generator.  We can go into more details about that later, but for now, we just pack a cooler. Over the summer when it was super hot, it was challenging to keep things at the right temps with a cooler full of ice, so recently we have been to trying to pack more food that does not even require refrigeration and it has been fun trying to come up with different menu options.

Below are some ideas of things that you can bring with you on your next off grid camping trip!  The freedom from ice is so liberating! The only catch for the things you cook, is that you might need to eat it all so you don’t take up any small cooler space for the leftovers! 

Shopping List:

We do have a small stash of things that we keep there in jars within a sealed plastic tub: Oatmeal, coffee, italian seasoning, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, cinnamon, some jarred nuts, and a few bags of tea.

Here is a basic list of things we bring there on occasion:

Apples:  Apples and pears pair so well with so many things.  Cheese and nuts are some of our favorites.

Slice a tomato and toast some bread, and you have the breakfast of champions.  In cool weather, butter can be kept nice without a lot of refrigeration which goes great with toast. 

Oatmeal:  all you need is some hot water!  Top it with nuts, brown sugar, and raisins or any other dried fruit.  Don’t be afraid to try some steel cut oats to change it up a bit. You can make it savory with some sauteed greens and a fried egg.  

Peanut butter! Peanut butter is delicious and filling and oh so shelf stable.   It is good for breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner.  

Farm fresh eggs:  the beauty of fresh eggs is that they do not require refrigeration unless you had already washed and chilled them.  They come with a nice coating on them called a bloom which keeps them fresh without the need to keep them cold. It is amazing! Pair it with some corned beef hash instead of bacon or sausage if you need some breakfast meat with your meal.  

Tortellini, vacuum packed,  with a marinara made from some canned tomatoes and sauce.  Yes, you can just buy your own jar of spaghetti sauce, but as a grandchild of an italian immigrant, I am not allowed to recommend that.  You could boil any type of pasta, but the tortellini is a bit softer to start with so it cooks nicely when your heat source is a little energy sensitive.  

Speaking of cans, my dad would always make Dinty Moore beef stew when we went camping as kids.  It has been forever since we have had it, but I might need to try it again for old time’s sake.  He also made canned La Choy chow mein.  

Other food in cans: Tuna (you need some mayo), all beans (make a bean salad), soups, veggies, and fruits.

Last but not least, don’t forget the fresh fruits and veggies. They really don’t need to be refrigerator cold if you are going to be eating them in a timely manner: Potatoes, onions, squash, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, apples, bananas, pears, peaches, citrus.

Homework: Try to use less energy. 

Turn a light off when you leave a room, unplug some dead energy like a stove, microwave, or computer that is not in use.  Adjust a thermostat when you are not home to enjoy it. I am totally preaching to the choir here because I need to do these things more too.  It is not only good for the world, but good for your bank account too!

P.S. It is beautiful at our spot in the fall.

October, 2019

These are a few of our favorite things…

There was no cabin to build last weekend because we stayed in the city to hang at Blink Cincinnati.  Blink is a multi day event in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky full of art installations in the form of light projections, sculptures, and performances that blanketed the area for the second time since 2017.  

We were able to go to the opening parade on Thursday night, then we went back on Friday and Saturday to explore the different exhibits.  It was so much fun to take the bus downtown each night. Because they had so many streets closed off, they moved the big bus stop at Government Square to the tunnel underneath the city.  It is one of my favorite places ever. It was the best surprise when the bus turned down to pull down the entrance ramp into the beautifully white and red tiled corridor. It really felt like the emergence into a big city to come up the stairs onto the sidewalk.

Last I heard, over about 1.5 million people made it to the city over the three and a half days that Blink was here.  There are only about a million people in all of Cincinnati so you could definitely feel the volume. On Friday night, Perriee and I went to check out the Roebling Bridge, which was lit up and had music playing to accompany the color.  You could walk across on either side of its walkways, and they had street closed except for small people movers zipping down the center.

The Roebling Bridge Experience

When we got on, it was crowded, but it was moving. By the time we decided to turn around it was almost gridlocked. It was packed to the point that you could not pass the person in front of you unless you pushed your way through.  I was trying to do the mental math regarding how many people would exceed the posted weight limit. I never figured it out. I was never so happy get back on land! Afterwards, we both shared with one another how it reminded us of the My Favorite Murder episode about the hotel bridge collapse!  The following day, we heard that they had to even close it down for a while to thin out the foot traffic.  Luckily, everyone made it through safely.  

The Roebling Bridge, Cincinnati/Covington, Friday, October 11, 2019

I would like to take a moment to brag a little here.  Not about me, but about every human who went to Blink this year (2019).  The City of Cincinnati reported one arrest all weekend for 1.5 million people! That is spectacular!  It was so crowded downtown. But is was also peaceful.  People really appreciated the art and maybe even had some healing from it all.  I really hope it comes back in a couple of years and I hope we can be there for it.

Neither of us are from here.  I am from Cleveland and Perriee is from  Chicago. I think it is safe to say that we both love living in Northern Kentucky.  Perriee and I love living so close to the city, so to round off this post, we brainstormed five places each that we enjoy in the Cincinnati area.  I will have to elaborate on them all sometime, because they all are pretty rad in their own way.

Perriee’s Picks 

Marietta’s Picks

Homework: Take the Bus

The bus is so much fun,  One of our first dates was tp take a bus ride to the Cincinnati Public Library.  I asked Perriee to take me because I had yet to ride the bus since I lived here and really wanted to try it out.  It was also my first time at that library, and even got some kisses in the stacks.  Finally, being a dork paid off!

During Blink, I actually felt a little bad for everyone I saw driving downtown last week while we enjoyed our leisurely walk to the bus stop each night (well, we had to run, once, but you know…exercise!).   For folks who may live pretty far outside of a local bus route, you can even benefit. Towns (like Newport) have park and ride stops, so you don’t have to drive all of the way into the city and deal with finding a place to park (or paying for one). The parking lots are likely a pretty direct shot right into where you are trying to go. Busses are pretty affordable, you get to watch the world go by, and its good for the environment. Just try it once.  The more you know…

A Win is a Win is a Win!

The Vocal Yokel Merch business is going, well…slow.  But it is going. There is definitely a lot to learn. Just this second, Perriee had the bright idea to send an email to our mailing list! We kew it was an option to do it, but had sort of lost sight of it in the midst of working on other aspects of the site. Worth a shot, right?  Even though it feels like it isn’t moving, we at least keep trying to learn something new about it and try something new whenever possible. Once we crack the code of ecommerce, watch out! It really is something we both enjoy, so I am sure we will get somewhere with it once we have a little more time to dedicate to it. Until then, we will forage ahead with the cabin whilst I daydream about working on our business, side by side from our a-frame’s shaded deck.    

After getting within a couple of thousand dollars of paying off our basement waterproofing that we financed five years ago, we decided to divert our cabin money towards paying the bill off.  I think we can say we are within three weeks or so of getting there so we are feeling really good about that part of life at the moment.  

We had our basement waterproofed several years ago and are just about to pay it off.  At the time, a ten year loan did not sound so bad but three years into it, and I was ready to wrap it up. Don’t get me wrong; we both agree that it was an amazing investment.  Our house was built in 1911 and she had a musty under-carriage. Having it waterproofed and ventilated gave us the opportunity to use the space as a type of rec-room which came in really handy when we starting hosting through Airbnb.  As a matter of fact, I am typing this post while sitting in it, right this very moment. It is going to feel good when we can say that we own this fresh basement air.  

In spite of the temporary diversion of cabin funds, we have really been able to make some progress on getting the cabin weathered in before the first snowfall.  We had enough materials on hand already to knock out several things and still have things to do. The front windows are framed in, we covered the front with plywood, Tyvek is up on the front of the house, and we are getting ready to put in windows and doors.  We already have the back windows in, but will be putting in the window above the door opening this weekend and will be trying our hand at retrofitting a steel hollow door. Once we are back in savings mode, we can get ready to purchase the rest of the windows for the front of the house (and maybe a door, if this one does not work out).  

The current plan is to get two big-ass triangle windows which will be installed on either side of the door.  That journey in and of itself has been a big to-do! Because we are going super custom, and we are doing them ourselves,  we have been in contact with many different places. Some do them, some don’t and there are other factors like delivery and price which have varied quite a bit.  We are finally settled on Lowes, but I will keep you updated because there is a great chance that could still change.  

Homework

Recognize your wins.  

Of course we want to report through the roof merch sales, and of course we want to report that the cabin has a door on it, and we will.  But for now, we can focus on paying off this basement bill five years early, We can also celebrate not running into another long-term loan and work really hard to keep it that way.  Building a solid financial future is just as important as building a home and I think that is something we do really well together. Good job us! Good job you for that thing you rocked out!

Perriee napping in the rec-room with Mr. Mittens!