We are not “Instaperfect”

Part of building the a frame now is so that it will hopefully contribute to making it easier to visit our spot in the future.  It is situated only an hour away, yet the preparation we take each week to go there for a night or two feels big. I thought I would take this week to share a bit of what we do to get there on the days that we plan on spending the night or the weekend.  

Every time we go, we tell ourselves, “This time, we will be packed and ready by Thursday night to leave right after work on Friday.  If I don’t vocalize it, I think it, but somehow, we are never ready when Friday afternoon rolls around. We might have some general food plans worked out and a pile of clothes half-packed, but it never fails that Friday looks like this:

Twelve hours after waking up…

5:00 am:  The alarm goes off as it does each weekday.  I always hit the snooze just in case, but we are typically vertical after about four minutes. Mittens is slow to stir, but Tux is first out of bed and ready for breakfast.   Perriee feeds the kitties and I wake up the ducks by letting them out into their run for the day with fresh water and food. Luckily, it is almost always dark so they don’t give me too much fuss about wanting out in the yard.  That equals less guilt for me too.

5:20 am: Perriee leaves for work to clock-in  by 5:30 (incredible, huh?). I finish getting myself together and am gone by about 6:00.  I am at work by 6:30, brewing my pot of coffee and getting the day going.

2:00 pm:  Perriee is done with work around 2:00 and is usually home by 2:15 or so.  She comes home and might jump in the shower and start changing out duck pools and fluffing their house bedding and enclosure for the weekend.  We have our neighbor look after them when we are gone, but we don’t expect him to spend too much time cleaning up after them so we leave them as fresh as possible when we leave.  They have two kiddie pools and a deep “indoor pool” which is just a big tote with a ramp. We also leave them with fresh drinking water for the rest of the night.

3:00 pm:  I leave work for the day and get home around 3:15 if i don’t have to stop for cash to pay the neighbor with.  We clean litter pans and vacuum all of the duck straw that collects at the back door. Suddenly, I start to feel like I could lay down and fall right asleep.  This is when my regrets of not planning more before Friday start to kick in. I will start by scooping the duck food into containers. That is mindless and it smells good.  I scoop their dry food into containers and then their duck salad with apple cider vinegar into other ones. We try to make it super easy, to the point that someone just needs to open the lid and dump it in.  

4:00 pm:  My anxiety will get the best of me and I will say at least once, “Are you sure you want to leave today?  I don’t know if I will be able to get it together in time to leave before dark.” Perriee will respond, “Whatever you want, Love,  just let me know.” I will keep looking at everything, maybe make a couple of rounds around the house, feeling lost, then I will eventually get some clothes and towels and wash cloths packed and hope I don’t forget anything essential.  I toss our hers and hers occlusal guards in my black farm bag, along with phone chargers and the Biolite camp light as well as my Lowes card, debit card, and drivers license.

I go into the kitchen and open the refrigerator and another wave of anxiety rushes over me.  I think, “What are we going to eat all weekend?” in a slight panic. Some weeks it is easier than others, but I always have to reign it in and get my mind right to pack the food.  Perriee will bring the cooler up and I pack a dry bag of goodies, then the cooler, then grab the Dutch oven.

We grab the batteries to the power tools, of which we do make sure to charge ahead of time,  and gather the extras: screws,brown paper for fire starters, that “thing” we no longer need in the city that might work out in the tip,and If Perriee got any good pallets from work, we will toss those into the car as well.  It really just depends on how much room we have. We make sure our work boots are by the back door or outside so they don’t get forgotten.

Twelve hours after waking up…

5:00 pm:When we are about packed, one of us sends a text to the neighbor that we are about to leave and Perriee brings the ducks’ overnight bag over.  Depending on whether or not they are home, we will leave the duckies out or put them in their run. When we put them up before bedtime, it often takes two people and some meal-worms to herd them inside.  They are quick and stubborn and will make you work for it. We make sure the cats are filled up with food and water. 

5:40 pm:  We get off of the exit and stop at Lowes and the grocery store.  I would say we go to both of them more often than not. It is always a pleasure to go to both of those places.  I will say this again, but they are some of the friendliest folks in the country. I am convinced.

6:40 pm: Back on the road.

7:10 pm: Finally, we pull up the driveway.  We go slowly since it is a choppy ascent. This driveway has never been right!  We have even had it repaired since we acquired the property.

img_5092

We park at the top of the driveway by the house and the barn and usually find Matt close by working on something.  We chat for a bit, then start hauling our stuff down to the tipi. We each take a load, always a bit too heavy to carry, and make our way back.  We walk past the house then to either the Tipi Trail or through the open pasture of grass, down the back trail. On our second trip up to the car, we grab the water containers and stop in the house to fill up for the next couple of days.  

8:00 pm: Once we get everything down there, we (might) start a fire in the tipi and set up the bed. We put out our rug on top of our pallets, uncover the mattress and pull out the bedding.  If we are lucky, we find a mouse nest to photograph for our upcoming coffee table book. We inevitably at least encounter one of the artists who will jump out of the stove, or down from the smoke flaps.  At this point we open the beer or wine and decide on cooking or snacking for dinner. This is the point that I start to come down. I can breathe again and let the peace overtake me in time for bed.

10:30 pm:  We brush our teeth and pull out the mouth-guards.  Then we crawl into the most comfortable bed and drift off to sleep.  The last time we were there, Perriee told me she wanted to come, if only for the sleep.  It is so comfortable in that bed. Even if the coyotes wake us up or if we hear a mouse nibbling on something in the middle of the night, we will wake up feeling rested in the morning.  

Homework

List the things that make your day worth living.  I keep hearing things about making a gratitude list everyday and how it makes your attitude better.  We found some little chalk boards at one of the Walmart’s we went to while we were shopping in Georgia, so we have been writing down four things every day when we are home to try to stay centered and optimistic.  I will not lie and claim it has changed my life, but it at least changes a couple of minutes. I need it. You might too.

Putting up walls while breaking them down.

The last time we were able to visit the a-frame and tipi we started putting up the exterior wall on the tall side of the cabin, which is the side of the house with sleeping loft and kitchen/bathroom. So far, Perriee and I don’t feel too pressed to move at lightning speed to complete the a-frame since it is staying pretty dry inside. This way, we can take our time, get things right, and customize the shit out of it!

It really blows my mind how much we have learned in the last year to do just that. For example, we were able to figure out the exact measurements of how to cut the plywood at an angle based on our experience with the cabin plans.That step alone would have sent my mind into a tizzy merely months ago. Here is a list of what we got done in the day and some change that we were there:

We removed the Tyvek wrap that we had tacked up on the outside wall and took down the tarp that was hanging up in the inside.

Blocking was put up to allow us a substrate to attach the plywood to since our studs did not quite reach the top of the rest of the frame.

We cut and installed two rows of plywood on the outside wall with our amazing new folding extension ladder.

We hung up the bottom two rows of Tyvek on top of the plywood we put up.

A third row of Tyvek wrap was tacked up to temporarily cover part of what has not yet been completed and we rehung the tarp on the inside of the cabin for the time being.

The next two rows of plywood on that side are going to be a little tricky since they are up quite a bit higher, but we think we have a plan for it. We will also be prepping to install the solar fan, which will attach above one of the windows on that side of the house.

While those walls are going up, we had to skip a weekend out at our spot to go to Georgia for our friends’ wedding and to watch some walls get broken down. Except for ours, I have not been to any other queer folks’ wedding ceremonies and I had quite an epiphany while watching through my tears from the doorway at the back of the venue with about twenty other guests, standing, because the room was packed with their friends and loved ones coming to watch their profession of love towards one another.

The epiphany I experienced had to do with the importance of the Obergefell_v._Hodges Supreme Court decision in 2015, which gave same sex couples the right to legally marry. Queer people have been having commitment ceremonies for years, but our decision to unite our lives really did stem from a lot of the legal benefits of being married too, and I suspect that a lot more same sex couples are taking this big step for similar reasons. It gives us the rights to care for one another in ways that would otherwise be denied to us in the times we need it most: in sickness and death.

img_4910

All weddings are full of the people who the couple loves so dearly: best friends and family. The ones who make life worth living. That is why they were invited and that is likely why they come to witness the union of the couple getting married- because they love at least one of those two people just the same. What is extra special about a queer wedding is that sometimes, people who come to witness the union might be a little unsure of how these two people of the same gender could possibly fit together in such a way to represent marriage. They have ideas of how a marriage should look, based on their life experience and just don’t quite understand it. But they come regardless because they love one of those two people.

Then the magic happens. The guests start to trickle in, all of them there to support the spouse’s to be. Some are local, some come from far away. The officiant exclaims the couple’s love to the crowd and then the couple exclaims their love to one another. They tell their witnesses how they promise to love and support one another through the best and the worst of times. Then, come the speeches, when the newlyweds’ friends talk about how these two people fell so perfectly in step with one another and how they have never seen them so happy as they have been in their lives as they are with this person.

That is when the walls start to crumble. The mortar of skepticism falls to the ground. First, just dust, then in chunks, then you see the bricks falling out. Those people who came because they love one of those people now find themselves there for both of them.  They are touched with the sunshine of love that is peeking through where a wall once stood.

Then all of the guests go home and the new couple begins their lives together, doing the same things couples have done for a millennia. They go to work, they love, they cry, they sweat together, and they laugh together, just like all married couples do. But the people who were not too sure when they came to that wedding? They do something a bit more profound. They go home and tell one person about that weird wedding while they are still freshly bathed in the love they witnessed between those two people. They chip away at someone else’s wall without either them even realizing it.

See, love can change the world.

Homework

Celebrate.  It’s Pride Month!  Even if you don’t think you have a queer friend or family member, statistics will prove you incorrect!  If you are not LGBTQXYZ, you can still celebrate. Wear a rainbow lapel pin. Fly a rainbow flag. Go to a parade.  The people who might be hiding in fear will see you and it could change their life to know you might be there for them. Most of all, to me anyway, it is a celebration of love.  Love one another. It can change the world.

November 12, 2016

What is happening?

What is happening?  Why am I not overjoyed to have the most wonderful job?  I mean, I do like my job, a lot, but find myself thinking about alternative ways to make money, outside of an office.  How did people used to work for so many years, doing the same thing the entire time until retirement? Is it because they actually had hopes of retiring at a reasonable age?  Is it because they felt secure that they were going to have enough retirement funds to carry them through to the end of life? As Americans today, we don’t have that feeling of security that my grandparents (my dad’s parents, specifically) had.  

As I struggle with my feelings of dread about working continually in a job, away from my wife and immediate friends and family, the people I want to spend the most of my time with,until I am in my late 60’s,  I am noticing a lot of my friends worrying about this too. They also want a way out of the mainstream expectations to do the “9-5” until we are nearing our seventies. How though? How do we get out and spend the time we want with the people who matter most while maintaining the quality of living that keeps us fed, housed, sheltered, and happy?  

The ultimate end goals are to spend more time together and travel more. We work a lot now, and are not exploring the world, so why wait until we are too sick and old to at minimum spend more time together?  I don’t want to take the chance of waiting until i am 67 to see the world. That day might not even arrive for me and if it does, will I even be able to do those things then?

I have ideas on how to make the move, but I don’t know how to take the plunge and whether or not they will be viable enough to maintain our current state of living.  I’m not talking extravagant here… we are fairly basic as far as our level of living goes, feeling solidly middle class at the moment. Smack. Dab. In. The. Middle.  

Things we can do:

Go” fuller-time” Airbnb, including the tipi and expanding access in the house to include the kitchen (Labbato’s on the Knob, if you are interested).  This income will not replace what we have currently, but it could really help.

Turn into a professional blogger!  It’s ok to laugh, since this obviously is not currently drumming up the traffic to lead in that direction, but hey, you never know do you?  We just need to find our audience.

Become Instafamous with #lotsaflocka.  Our backyard has never looked better and maybe the city farming and cooking we will do this summer with their duck poo and eggs, respectively, of course,  will evolve into something extra inspiring for others. We hope to encourage our neighbors to use some more of their water and litter to help ferilize thier backyard projects.  That shit is good!

 

Vote.  If we can elect a candidate that can move Medicare for all and student loan forgiveness, our monthly budget would be reduced drastically!  Talk about life changing. This could effectively free us up to take a real chance at the American Dream and open up our awesome jobs to two other well deserving people.  

img_4673

Write kids books about the ducks.   They have had some amazing adventures in their short lives which we know would entertain and educate some little ones.  

 

Start a honeysuckle removal business.  How much would you pay to have someone remove the honeysuckle from your property without the use of chemicals?  This is literally something we really love doing.

So there it is, a short list of our crazy ideas to spend the quality time together that we deserve.  Have I said that life is short? Well, life is short. Do something with it.

Homework

Take a chance on one idea you have that you REALLY want to do.  Just one. Maybe I will put a Craigslist ad out for the honeysuckle thing so see if anyone bites.  Perriee thinks we should take a crack at the duck stories. That feels pretty good. What do we have to lose?  Something has to stick eventually, right?

 

 

Riding the wave of accomplishment…

We had about 24 hours at the homestead this week and it was great!  Dad drove in for the night and instead of cramming in as much work as possible in that time, we actually built a fire and relaxed around it.  The first thing we did upon arrival was check to see if the cabin was dry inside. It was. At that moment, the list I had composed in my head for what I wanted to accomplish that day flew right out of the holes that are going to have a window in them one day (soon).   We are fully aware that building walls and installing the windows and door are a priority, but we also feel like we can take our time a bit on the next steps and we have such a tight schedule sometimes, so it was wonderful to take a day to cook and just hang out. Those moments are precisely the reason we are doing this for so I am happy with myself for taking it in.

Dad, hiking back to the cabin.

Ok, so I did a little work.  I swept some of the nails and dust up in the cabin since the last time we were there it was more of a wet mud than dry dirt.  We laid out an indoor/outdoor mat and laid out the guest mattress for its inaugural sleep.

Perriee and I made a fire in the tipi, then we made some grilled cheese and tomato soup on the stove.  That took a while, so while lunch cooked, we made the outdoor fire. Once lunch was done, I started dinner, because you know, cast iron cooking can be slow.  I mixed meatloaf and cooked potatoes and sipped on beer while Perriee kept the fire going.

Dad and I fixed some Tyvek wrap on the front wall since it was flapping a little too much in the breeze.  That stuff is so loud! We were worried it would keep him up, but it took no time to tack it down with the stapler.  After dinner, we relaxed again. It eventually started to rain, so we took our chairs into the cabin and sat for a bit to listen to the rain.  It was a perfect moment. Perriee and I eventually went to the tipi and had a great night’s rest with a peaceful mind and body. We did not break our backs that day.  

We had breakfast in the morning and dad hit the road.  I shook out some zinnia seeds around the tipi and we packed up and left to spend Mother’s Day with Ms.Gwen.  My only critique about the weekend was that it went too fast. We will be back in a week or so to work on those walls.  In the meantime, it will have to do.

Homework: Give yourself a break.  

I am guilty of sticking to deadlines and working my hardest to get a job done.  Perriee and I have consistently worked on something almost every time we go to the farm, whether it be clearing out some honeysuckle or taking the next step in our homestead build.  I tend to have guilt if we go there without a plan. Perriee is so supportive in my restlessness. We have got a lot accomplished in the two years since we have been working on things but we have admittedly spent little time relaxing there.  

My feelings to move forward so hard and fast with the cabin are partly related to my drive to move into our “early retirement” stage of life.  We want to spend time together now, not in twenty years. When we move into this phase, it will not be to do nothing, but to do something meaningful and fulfilling all day, every day, together.  The things we are able to do accomplish in the time we have together now is amazing. I can’t wait to see what we will do when we have even more time together.

Give yourself a break.  We can all be our toughest boss and you can push yourself into endless overtime, whether it be from your full time job or your hobbies, or your long term goals.  Make sure you are fitting in the time to spend with those who mean the most. I can’t remember the last time dad and I had that much quiet time together. It was something I will remember forever.  I feel like a broken record saying this, but it is worth repeating: you only get one life. Spend it wisely. We did last weekend, hanging out with dad.

Smoke Flap Mouse Nest

And…she’s up!

I am writing this from the living room in our city house. This room is about the same size as our new cabin that we BUILT last week!  Perriee and I took the week off of work to get as much done as possible and let me tell you, we needed every day of it to get the frame up and cover it with a roof.  As it stands, it might already be drier than the tipi and the end walls aren’t even up yet.

img_4479

My dad, step-mom, brothers, sister, and brother’s girlfriend came in on Saturday (from Cleveland)  to kick everything off. My brother, Carm, and his girlfriend, Rachel, helped us with some amazing math skills to figure out how to make these beautiful angle cuts on the miter saw with the wood that goes on the end walls.  My sister, Crystal, picked up lunch on her way in and took three, hour long trips to Lowes to make sure that we had the correct fittings for our hose that connected to our nail gun and compressor (just when we thought we had all the pieces, we discovered that the compressor hose we bought months ago did not come with any fittings on it- who woulda thunk?).  

We got the end walls and the ridge beam up on Sunday with the help of Matt and my family.  My brother Mark helped us get up 10 of the 30 rafters before he headed back to the city.  Perriee and I worked on the rest of the rafters, including floating “cat ladders” on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, we put up the nailer boards for the roof and two roofing panels. Brother Mark came back Thursday to bring it home with putting up the rest of the roof and a temporary ridge cap.  It was then that you could see how happy that cabin was to be in her place. That spot beckoned for her. She is settled in there like she has been there forever and we can’t wait to spend the rest of our forever with her.

Friday, Perriee and I decided our bodies needed a couple of days rest, so we tossed up a bit of Tyvek wrap on the back wall and organized everything before we left for the week.  I must not neglect to mention one more pearl…that we moved one of our homemade sawdust toilets into the cabin before we left. Not only did we build the shell of our home, but we also started design on our bathroom.  It is glorious. No more long, muddy treks to either the house or the “Number 2 Room”. From now, until we start sleeping in the there with the potty, there will be only short muddy treks to the cabin. It is even complete with a hand washing station, thanks to Ms. Gwen, Perriee’s mom, who gifted us a water cooler to keep out at the farm a while back.

Before we go back, we will have another consultation with neighbor Mark to talk about how to fix the ridge cap and get some guidance about putting up some of the plywood on the exterior walls. We may need to run some extra wood around the eave ends to give the plywood a place to latch on to.   It seems we may be getting a ladder soon, one long enough to get back up to the top of the roof. We rented ladders for the week, which were picked up on Friday, so we will let our savings recoup a bit before we get one.

Homework:

Need to work on a relationship?  Build a cabin together! Ok, maybe not a cabin, but work on something as a team that neither of you know how to do already.  Change a light fixture, put up some drywall, build a cat house, tile a floor. It might not be cheaper than therapy, but you will get to reap both the benefits of the project as well as grow stronger together in the process.  Perriee and I already have a solid relationship, but i realized this week, that every project we embark on together is like a team building exercise. It is almost comical to think about, but it is true! I am going to miss her so much next week when we go back to our regular jobs.  This week doused a load of fuel on our fire to move towards our goal of being together full time. We had roller coasters of emotions this week, but we were able to problem solve amidst all of our frustrations, and when we were packing up yesterday, it was apparent that not only did we build a strong cabin, but we made our marriage stronger as well.