Archives for category: The ‘Hood

By the time you read this, I’ll be gone.

It’s not you! It’s me. I’ve moved on, and you just don’t fit my life anymore.

But don’t be sad. You’re going to a better place. For real!

There’s this awesome organization called “Mobile Loaves and Fishes” that provides services for the homeless, and they’re going to take you, get you all fixed up, and find someone who needs for you to be their new home.

As for me, I’m still Trailer Trash and Proud. I am taking this act down the road a bit, and I think my friends and readers are going to like the new shtick.

But I’ll never forget you. Thanks for the shelter, for the memories, and for two years of inexpensive housing with my sweet girl. It’s been amazing.

And now… on to the new place… (Click the picture to be transported!)

IMG_0131

Advertisements

Yesterday, I had taken a mystery shopping job just off of the University of Texas campus. I have avoided this shop for the majority of the year, but because the Nuthaus is so close, I knew we could park there and walk.

Before we left the house, Daphne was doing school and working on a Minecraft skin and was still wearing what she’d worn to bed: a t-shirt and a pair of mismatched shorts left over from her gymnastics days.

When it was time to go, she asked if she could wear what she had on, and I told her yes. She asked where we were going, and I said that we were going to walk to dinner, then go to the grocery store. She seemed to vacillate between changing clothes and being comfortable.

At one point, she asked what she should wear. I told her to wear whatever she wanted.

As we left, I asked one last time, “Do you want to change clothes?” She said, “Nah, it’s Austin. Why should I?”

Confident with that, we took off.

We drove downtown, parked at the Nuthaus, and started walking up to Guadalupe. Pretty soon, we were passing very hipster-looking coeds, and I saw something in my daughter that I’ve never seen before. She was twirling her hair (which is normal) and appeared to be shrinking inside of herself.

“I wish you’d told me we were going to walk like this. I would have changed clothes,” she told me.

I let this slide, though I usually call her on blaming me for her decisions, because I knew exactly what she was experiencing.

My child had no reason to feel ashamed. She looked fine. She did not, however, look as shiny and put-together as a bunch of young adults, and I could read that she felt “less,” that she compared herself to them and found herself lacking.

For what it’s worth, I was wearing sweats in layers, and it was really too warm for it, but I have (hopefully) gotten past the days of comparing myself to “cool” people.

I hope that Daphne gets past that a lot sooner than I did. I still remember sitting around in BSF, looking down and realizing that everyone had nicer shoes (and toenail polish) than I did.

There’s this juxtaposition in me that I think I see in Daphne: I am pretty low-maintenance. I don’t spend three or four hours getting ready, and I don’t particularly enjoy shopping for clothes, and I don’t have my hair professionally colored or cut unless it’s a mystery shop. I like that.

At the same time, I’d love it if every picture of me looked like it could have been in a magazine.

And I understand looking around and seeing person after person (women) you recognize as being somehow a lot more conventionally one of the “beautiful people” than yourself.

If that’s important to you, if you allow it to resonate in your brain, it can really mess you up. I desperately want my daughter to be able to avoid that.

And she was right: This *is* Austin. If we’d gone farther up Lamar, or farther down Lamar, or almost anywhere else, how she was dressed wouldn’t have been an issue for her. I don’t think any of those kids cared how she was dressed, but it was obvious that she did.

So next time, I’ll be the meanie who forces her to spruce up a little bit.

Adolescence, here we come…

120302_Aus-koozie-and-mugWe’ve been here nearly four months, and Daphne and I absolutely love Austin. There are so many opportunities to do interesting things, and everything is so close by, and we felt at home within the first couple of weeks. It’s been amazing.

The one thing I am having to learn, and re-learn, and am really trying to re-calibrate for myself, is expectations for start times.

Having visited and really enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere of the Caribbean, where time signatures are merely a suggestion, I am finding that culture in real life less charming than when on vacation, especially in a month that is full of activity.

There have been a couple of times Daphne and I have volunteered for various service projects, been given a window of time during which the work would happen, have shown up, and fifteen minutes after the posted start time, people have just started showing up, with their own breakfast or lunch, and sit down to eat and socialize. That sounds lovely and if we’d had that expectation, that’d be one thing. But when I show up, fully fed and ready to work, when a thing is supposed to begin, but work doesn’t really start until an hour after that, then I’m ready to leave at the posted end-time, but things aren’t finished, I feel like I jerk when I take off. But, seriously, if we say “9-12,” why not work 9-12? Or say “Bring breakfast and hang out 9-10, then we’ll work from 11-1.” I can’t be the only person who has about three things a day in December.

When we went to Pedaling for Safer Roads, the event was supposed to start at 6:00 PM. Because of my personality, we were in town at 5:15ish. I parked way off site so I wouldn’t have to pay. Then we rode our bikes downtown, got some sushi for dinner, and were at the site by 5:40 so we’d be ready to take off with the masses at 6. At 6:05, someone got on a PA and thanked us all for coming out, then announced that we’d be leaving around 7:00. Daphne and I rode around, hung out, and wished we hadn’t gotten there so stinking early.  At 7:15, they asked us to give them just a “few more minutes.” We ended up taking off at 7:20, and the ride took less than 15 minutes, because it was only a mile. Even going really slow with about a thousand people and a police escort, it just wasn’t very lengthy. If they’d said, “The event lasts from 6-8; we’ll be doing interviews and hanging out until 7,” I’d have not been annoyed at all by waiting twenty minutes to take off. An hour and twenty minutes was somewhat frustrating.

But that’s just me. If you tell me that something starts at 10:00, I’m going to be out front at 9:58, because I do not like to be late. We’ve showed up at small group late before, when the time had been changed on us without our knowing, and I felt like we were a little late but found out later we were an hour late. It didn’t seem like we were *that* tardy. The next week, when I showed up on time, we were the only people there for twenty minutes.

We got a little taste of this with the homeschool community in Sherman. When we’d have a birthday party for Daphne, we’d be a full fifteen minutes into it before people would start showing up. Daphne’s dad stopped asking, after about the third time, “Did you tell people the right time?” because he’d figured it out.

I don’t know. I understand being laid back and not legalistic, and having grace about other people’s lateness, but does it show any disrespect for someone else’s time, especially when they’re volunteering to do something, that you ask them to be there at a given time but, like a doctor, you make them wait until you’re ready to deal with them?

Maybe I should drink more?

Because I’ve considered showing up later, but I’d really rather be part of the solution to what I view as a problem than just dealing with it. Is it just me? Is timeliness not important to anyone else?

Fall! Huzzah! It needs an enthusiastic tag line akin to “spring has sprung!” Because when the temperatures taper off and I can stand to experience fresh air, I feel like a bird set free from a stifling cage. I can only imagine it’s not unlike astronauts who have been in a tiny capsule for weeks on end and who finally get to emerge. I’m sure they feel like it’s just HUGE out there. Outside.

Now, I realize that there are those who love and mourn the passing of summer. It seems that there are more of those here, slightly south and probably slightly more moderately-temperatured than where we were before. These people miss the (borrowing from a friend’s friend’s comment on Facebook) “sun tans (being pale sucks), frozen drinks by the lake, beers while floating the river, summer colors and fruity scents at Bath and Body Works.” 1) This is beautifully put. 2) It’s just wrong! I’m typically a tolerant person, but… WRONG. If you like summer, we can’t be friends and I hate you.

Kidding, of course. It takes all kinds. But I will be a killjoy and say that the only “healthy tan” is a spray tan, and that’s likely overstating it. It’s at least health-neutral (assuming you don’t inhale as the spray passes your face). Also, I LOVE the musky, earthy or cooking-inspired Bath and Body Works fall scents.

Not where I live, and not my RV. Trying to ward off potential stalkers. But you get the idea. Fall is awesome. Just maybe not *this* awesome in *this* part of Texas.

Fall means opening the windows, which means a lot of traffic noise since we live right off of a highway, but it also means airing out the stale cat litter odor (I do keep the bathroom vent open pretty much all of the time, for the record) and breathing air that came from God instead of our flat, recirculated breath. It’s being able to ride a bike without needing a deodorizing hose-down half way through. Fall is enjoying the walk to the laundromat instead of wishing each step for death. Fall is Halloween and Daphne’s birthday and Thanksgiving and people being generally more gracious than usual. It means better hair days, as humidity hides its soupy face for a while. Fall means that everyone everywhere has pumpkin-flavored everything, and probably cinnamon stuff, too, and likely gingerbread. I’d get tired of these things eventually, were they featured year-round. As it is, I LOVE this stuff. Oh, and Indian Mix. But only Brach’s. You people should not be buying any other brand; you might as well just chew on wax.

In short, I adore fall.

With the changing of the seasons and cooler temperatures, however, comes a climate-control challenge here in the travel trailer (living the dream!).  During the summer of 2011, I learned a lesson. I had originally tried leaving the air conditioner set to 90 when we’d leave the house to go to work (the cats can hack it), and then turning it down when we got home at 2ish. After a month or so of this, I realized that: 1) we weren’t saving much money, and 2) in the heat of the day, the air conditioner can’t catch up, and it’s just hot until the sun goes down. So I started setting the thermostat and leaving it, and we were pretty comfortable.

When fall and winter rolled around, I tried the same strategy. I filled up both 7-gallon propane tanks, turned the heater to 68 degrees, and left it alone. Three days later, we were out of propane. That’s right: I’d spent $53 (half of what it takes to cool the RV AND run all other electrical appliances for an entire month during the summer) in three days. Clearly, we had to find a work-around.

Enter this little guy: the Sunbeam personal ceramic heater. I’d asked around (on Facebook, because that’s how we youngsters roll) for advice and had these recommended. They’re adorable, about the size of a toaster, which is perfect for RV living. I bought one for me and one for Daphne.

We handled our need for warmth thusly: Daphne takes her heater to her room at night, closes the door, and lets the room get warm. I do the same in my room. We are able to adjust for our level of comfort only, as there are no temperature settings.

This works very well while we sleep, but then there is one conundrum it presents: the restroom, while significantly warmer than outside, still rests somewhere in the mid-50s or below on the coolest evenings.

What typically happens is this: I’ll wake up at 2 AM and feel the call of nature. Then I’ll convince myself that, if only I can fall back to sleep under my cozy blankets, I can certainly wait until morning. Next, I will awaken at 5 AM and elect (not really, I have little choice at that point) to make a dash for the “outhouse” as though I’m leaving a demilitarized zone to grab a ball my kid threw over the border on accident.

If it is indeed 5 AM or later, I will stop by the thermostat on my way back to bed and turn the heater on to about 60 degrees, just to take the edge off of the living area. Otherwise, if a run for the facilities is not necessary, I will get up in the morning, dash out to turn the heater on, and go back to bed until the heater shuts off.

By then, the common area is workable. Daphne and I both bring our ceramic heaters in and turn them on. One goes on the border between the couch and the u-shaped dinette, and the other across the room on top of the stove. We turn off the central heater and make do with the electric heaters all day. If it’s really cold, we’ll shut off our bedrooms. Typically, by the afternoon, we don’t need heaters at all. This is probably the only benefit of poor insulation: the sun shining on the trailer roof all day eventually warms it right up.

In the trailer, the heater and the stove/oven are the only things that have to run off of propane. The water heater can, but unlike the oven, the pilot for the water heater is an eternal flame and will drain the tanks. The refrigerator can, too, but since we never move around, we don’t use it. I suppose that, in a prolonged power outage, it might be to our advantage. Perhaps. My perishables likely cost a lot less than a couple of gallons of propane.

When it is really cold, we have to be as careful with the two heaters as we do with the air conditioner when it runs full-time: that is, take care not to overwhelm the 30 amp system and lose power.

What about you? Do you have any heating/cooling strategies for your home? The house I owned prior to buying an RV was drafty, so I’d gotten used to wearing gloves and layering pants and shirts. It was good preparation for life-in-a-box.

Happy fall, everybody!

Monday night marked the end of our first full week in Austin. So far, we are loving it!

When we got here, we had some usual move-in/set-up stuff, and there was a learning curve with the park, and the layout of the city, and where stores were, but we’re already feeling really settled in and having a great time! The first reminder that we weren’t in a small town anymore was when I went to Time-Warner to pick up my wireless router and we had to take a number. Our half hour wait was extremely enjoyable, as the building was cooled to the extreme, and our RV’s a/c was desperately trying to catch up from the half-day’s journey being turned off.

Tuesday, we got up and did our first day of school and work, which was a bit of a challenge since the slide was still in. At 3 PM, the repair guy came, fixed the slide, and even ordered a circuit board for my water heater so that we could enjoy less-than-bone-chilling showers. We decided to leave the awning alone (he noted that, in addition to the motor being out, the spring was probably broken, too), but the tree in the yard is so over-arching that I am not sure we could extend the awning, anyway. Lots of shade!

As he was leaving, and we were walking around taking pictures of the park, my sister and her family came over to say “hi.” The Littles were asleep, so the big Brownies just came in for a few and we all headed over to Wal-Mart.

D has wanted a bike for so long, and I’d promised her that once we got moved, we could get bikes. $300 later (yeah, I’m kind of a cheapskate) we had bikes, helmets, and a gel-cushioned pad for moi. Hey, she’s young; she can take it.

Leaving Wal-Mart, D and I headed over to The Juice Peddler, about which I blogged here. Then we went over to my sister’s to see her new house.

The cousins were having so much fun that Daphne spent the night with them, and then Wednesday, after I’d worked a bit, we all went to Zilker Park. This was our first real introduction into Austin culture, and we LOVED it. We paid the paltry entry fee to go into the “kept” pool (as opposed to the free springs down the way a bit; dogs seem to love it there!). There were hundreds of people there, but it is so big, it wasn’t at all crowded.

 

It was about 100 degrees outside, and the water is always a chilly 68. Although this was a bit shocking at first, we quickly adapted, and it was a welcome relief after days of moving, and working, and humidity.

The people: this is what made the pool brilliant, and one of the biggest reasons I have high hopes that my love for this town will be enduring. So many people. So many walks of life. So many colors (and that’s just the hair). My sister ran into some kids whose parents she knows through work and the Deaf community. There were some extremely beautiful people here, but it was a natural beauty; not a put-on show. In the Dallas area (my single friend who’s dated some Metroplex women calls it “North Dallas Women’s Syndrome, which I didn’t realize was a thing until I started paying attention), trips to a public pool involve being around many women who sit around with designer sunglasses, refusing to get their hair wet, even if they do deign to dip into the pool. Not here. It was chock full of people who were there to enjoy themselves, and to cool off, and not to worry about who was watching them or what they were thinking. Families. A lone Rasta playing music off in a corner. An extremely old, extremely exhibitionist couple. Teenagers. College kids. Bromancers. It was a great time.

The oldest Brownie came home with us, and Thursday morning, I had my first ever Krispie Kreme mystery shop! Another plus in the “Austin” column. From Krispie Kreme, we headed to the nearest grocery store, which just happens to be H-E-B plus! I bought four things, but I think we spent an hour there: watching tortillas come down the conveyor belt, drooling over fajita meats…

 

… checking out the store brand cereals, and just exploring the giant unfamiliar layout. There’s one section of the store where they have $20 meat deals. It’s nearly-expired bundles of things like 1 4-pound fryer chicken, 2 pounds ground beef, 4 pounds bone-in pork chops, 2 pounds of beef bone-in chuck steaks, and 2 packages of hot dogs for twenty bucks! This isn’t great for someone who has RV-proportioned refrigeration, but if I ever plan a barbecue, that’s where I am heading!

We also found our nearest library branch, which is barely 2 miles from the house. While we waited for five minute for the facility to open, we got to witness a rather obnoxious religious “witness” insulting another library patron’s love for Jesus, evidenced by the fact that this lady didn’t go to his church denomination. He left her promising to pray that her love grew from a tiny love to a giant love. I was just *waiting* for him to approach me, and it’s probably better that the doors opened and we were allowed in before he tried.

Thursday, we found out that my parents had come down to check out both of our new homes. We all ended up gathering for dinner at an Austin institution:

After dinner, the two older Brownies came home with us, the girls all went swimming, and then spent the night.

Friday morning, we had a special breakfast party, followed by a visit from Nana, swimming, lunch (left over from The Magnolia Cafe) and then we all ended up back at my sister’s.

Daphne spent Friday night with her cousins, and I had an ambitious idea to make an epic music video for my teammate. Headed into the laundry room to wash clothes, however, I slipped on standing water at the drain and fell. I was mostly concerned that the small amount of mud at the drain would make it look like I’d soiled myself. Heading into the clubhouse to work while the clothes were busy, however, I realized that my left knee had swollen to about 4 times its normal size in a period of about 3 minutes! There was no discoloration at all, but I was worried that my kneecap might be floating around in that mass, totally out of place. After about 10 minutes of freaking out, I touched the alien-looking thing, and realized it was all just fluid. I put ice on it for the next hour and a half (except when I changed the clothes over) and rested in the knowledge that it wasn’t going to require medical attention.

That night, I did make the video, but I sat on my rear the whole time. Then I got restless and went out to see “Hope Springs,” traveling without the net of GPS. I made it, after circling the venue a couple of times, trying to figure out how to get in. In the parking lot after the show, I saw a Chevy Astro, and it was love all over again,

Saturday brought the first rain we’d had since moving to Austin.

I think they like it.

D and I came home that afternoon, but we were to meet the Brownies later that day at a really neat Eco-Arts Festival. It took place at the Austin EcoSchool. Oh, how I wish I had the bank to send Daphne to that. It looks like an incredible program. Growin Together, the new after-school enrichment, is amazing… In fact, I want to go to that!

At the festival, TJ got to help with a chicken wing-clipping demonstration.

They had demos about composting and time-trading and storytime yoga. But my favorite was Food Is Free’s wicking bed instructions. We intend to do this right after I upgrade my sewer connection, per Travis County Health Ordinance.

 

Did I mention the organic, locally-grown food they had for us? I didn’t? Shame on me!

 

Daphne made a mask out of an empty milk jug, a noise-maker out of an empty can and decorative duct tape, and a small planter with pepper seeds, soil, and the bottom of a water bottle. It was a fun night and, again, the random collection of people made my heart happy.

Sunday, we visited Soma Austin for the first time. I’d found it by expanding the diameter on my Google Maps search from our RV until I saw a website that struck a chord with me. This one did, for three reasons. The first was their homeless/unemployed ministry. The second was this, under the “Who Will I Meet” section: “You will meet people who are alot like you.  We are professionals, bohemians, college students, musicians, artists, moms and dads, and more.  We come from broken backgrounds and spotless records, from nuclear families and divorce, we have been through some life and each of us walks with a bit of a limp that life has given us.  Some of us became believers in Christ at an early age.  Others, including the pastor, came to faith in Christ well into adulthood.  We are not perfect people, but we hope to be humble people who follow Christ.  No matter your past or present, we invite anyone to join us.” The third was the art “vibe” I got, and the statement about worship that included various forms of artistic expression.

When we walked in, one of the first things I noticed was that they have an original and evocative “Stations of the Cross” display.

I wish I could panoramically capture the whole thing, but it’s on two walls. Just trust me. It’s moving. Better yet, stop by and check it out.

We loved the people we met, and the heart of the congregation. It is much smaller than any church I have ever attended, but there is an energy and a spirit here with which I identify. I want to get to work! We’re trying to plug in, having attended a small group last night and planning to attend a picnic this weekend… but that’s not in the “first week,” so I’ll hush about it.

Sunday afternoon, I had another mystery shop at a sports bar with pretty swanky food for a sports bar. We both loved it; it would have been great even if it hadn’t been free… but we wouldn’t know, because we wouldn’t have eaten there.

We just relaxed and hung out that afternoon.

Monday, the pool is closed so Daphne and I started the day riding bikes around our neighborhood. I love it! It’s big and beautiful and just a neat community. Daphne did her first day of a new online school she’s trying out. I worked a full day’s worth of hours. We rode bikes some more. I had two lunch shops. I colored my hair and made banana pudding. It was a nice “home” day. We’ve missed those.

So, all in all, a great initial week! We got caught in our first “rush hour traffic” yesterday, but other than that have managed to avoid that particular annoyance. Even then, it wasn’t too bad. We were downtown and got to watch people (and dogs) running in the park, rowing on the river, and visiting. Looking forward to the rest of our lives here…

 

The repairman came today and got our slide unstuck; he’s ordering a circuit board for the water heater, so hopefully we’ll have appropriately warm showers and dish-washing capabilities soon.

I took several pictures around the trailer and the new park… Enjoy!

D’s room, remade!

She still has a bunch of Harry Potter stuff. 🙂

My room. Not much difference from before.

La toilette.

The slide! Finally out!

The Wall of Awesome.

The kitchen.

D, chilling on the patio in the shade.

The whole lot! I love it. The car is in the shade all day!

The community clubhouse.

The patio at the pool.

Daphne hanging out by the pool.

Inside the clubhouse. There’s a lending library and…

…A kitchen!

A DVD lending library, too.

Snacks for sale.

Recycling center!

Playground.

The laundry room.

Common grills and picnic tables.

Nice, right? I think we’re gonna like it here!

3:43 AM – Wake up, like wide-awake, lie in bed for an hour trying to decide whether just to get up and start doing stuff.

6:00 AM – Alarm goes off. Apparently “decided” to fall back to sleep at some point.

6:08 AM – Shower. Cold. Cold. Cold. Cold.

6:12 AM – Run into my bedroom yelling at Daphne, still sleeping, to turn off the fan because my teeth were chattering. Warm up under the blankets.

6:15 AM – Start draining the sewer line. So glad I found those rubber gloves.

6:20 AM – Become increasingly horrified how gross waste management is.

6:45 AM – Change tactics and unhook the cable modem. The internet works no worse when it’s unplugged than it did when it had a power source and a connection to cable lines.

7:15 AM – Start jacking down the RV. Realize at some point that the front right jack is mounted upside down, but that the bottom side is the only one with instructions printed on it. Have to ignore those, though, because for that one jack, “counter-clockwise” is up and vice-versa. All of the rest operate properly; a couple after some serious WD-40 treatment.

7:45 AM – Text The Dude Who Moved My Trailer  and tell him to text me when he’s 10 minutes out. He said he was running late, as he’d hit traffic in Grapevine and that he’d be there by 8:30. Based on where he told me he was, I knew he’d be there by 8:15.

7:47 AM – D goes out to get her birdhouse, leaving the door not all the way shut. Both cats get out. Daphne cries, gets Rudy, we  remand him to the car.

7:55 AM – Bring in the patio furniture.

8:05 AM – Dude texts me that he’s 10 minutes out. Bring in front slide, turn refrigerator to gas, and turn off electricity.

8:07 AM – Daphne catches Carol and throws her in the car.

8:15 AM – Dude gets there. He hooks up, his sweet little ginger boy sticks his head out and asks to play, but is told to stay in the car.

8:30 AM – Ready to go! Stop by the office to pay electricity. Cats meowl as though they are being slowly murdered.

They huddle with Daphne for comfort. Daphne wears her pajamas because we pulled her room “in” and had already put the bag in the car, and we’re not all that fancy, anyway.

8:44 AM – Drop off wi-fi router at Cable One.

11:12 AM – Drive-through Waco Chick-fil-A for lunch, courtesy a gift card from fellow homeschoolers. That place was PACKED. At least ten cars in the drive-through. So I went in and D stayed with the felines.

1:07 PM – Arrive at the RV park. Drive by our spot; we love it! Check in at the office. The clubhouse is fun, with a TV and sitting room, snacks for sale, staff who obviously try to learn your name, and people constantly going in and out.

1:11 PM – Realize that the wi-fi is not going to be strong enough for two people working and one kid schooling/Minecrafting, so spend nearly an hour on the phone with Time Warner. They are irritated that my teammate used the same phone number for his account that I am trying to use for mine. I’m not sure how they fixed that, but it became a non-issue later.

1:35 PM – Dude gets here with my trailer. He backs it in, I set up the electric first thing and turn on the a/c. It promptly becomes clear that the living room/dinette slide won’t extend. Daphne’s room works. We bring in the cats.

2:35 PM – For the most part, everything has been brought inside/outside as necessary. The water is hooked up, and the sewer is, too… for now. Travis County has a most wonderful ordinance that if an RV is staying in the same place for 30 days or more, it has to be removed from the unit with PVC instead of the Rhino pipe. This bodes well for a more conservative rationing of Duct Tape, if nothing else. Mental note to add that to my calendar for two weeks from now, when I’m not on the verge of mental death from exhaustion. Done.

3:18 PM – Daphne and I head to Time Warner to pick up the wireless router! They’d said that it would be shipped in 2 – 5 business days, but I threw a hissy fit about that one. Also, I requested no installation appointment, because, hey, I’m not an idiot, right?

3:31 PM – Oh, yeah! This is what it’s like to live in a bigger city! Take a number and sit down. In the super-cold A/C. We don’t complain. We enjoy.

4:00 PM – Hit the car wash. Not literally. Wash the car. Vacuum the profuse collection of nervous-cat-hair.

4:10 PM – McDonald’s for soda (me) and strawberry banana smoothie (for D; who had helped me lots and was going to help a lot more!).

4:33 PM – Time to unpack! Because of the non-functional slide, we have to climb over the u-shaped dinette and through a hole that would not allow a more corpulent person passage. Unpacked D’s room; it’s a lot more organized than it had been. She has more room now, too, our having ridden ourselves of the PC that was in her TV hole.

5:45 PM – For a small space, the unpacking is taking quite a while. I keep going out to adjust a jack, put something in storage, put boxes in the car, etc. Sister invites us over for dinner. There is sweat dripping down my nose, and I am filthy and smelly. We decline.

6:15 PM – I challenge Daphne to be done by 7. She insists we will be finished at 6:30. Which we are.

6:30 PM – Blessed shower. Wouldn’t have minded a cool one, but the water heater was actually working, so it was comfortable, and eased the pain in my back and shoulders. To enter the bathroom, because of the non-sliding slide, I have either to open the door before I climb, or go all the way into Daphne’s room and open the door completely flat to get in. The guy will be here to fix it between 3 and 5 tomorrow.

7:00 PM – D and I are in bed, eating grapes and apples and cookies. Anything else is too ambitious. While I work, we listen to a couple of Mark Driscoll messages.

9:00 PM – Daphne finds the bike she wants online. I promise to buy them tomorrow. But I need a few hours to work first, too!

9:28 PM – The Brownies get online and Skype with D. She WILL be in bed by 10. This day is SO over. 🙂

All in all, it was drama-free. It would have been so much worse if the air conditioner hadn’t worked. Or the refrigerator. The slide-out is a pain in the back, literally, but by tomorrow, it will be fixed.

Daphne is a little homesick; we haven’t had a chance to “experience” Austin. We probably won’t until later in the week. This weekend, we’re going to a neat festival, then to our first church service Sunday morning and their picnic Sunday afternoon. This will be home in no time! We’re just too beat to enjoy it much.

This guy.

Our RV park was probably paved when it was first built in 1886. Since then, as rain and use have wreaked havoc on the drive, it has been graveled over.

There are several pretty severe potholes. Occasionally, after a rainy season which has displaced a good deal of gravel, one of the managers  will get out with a small front-loader and move stuff around until the holes fill back out.

It usually lasts until the next rain.

I’m sure many of us have had the idea that it would be much lower-maintenance and a lot better on the vehicles around here if they would just repave the drive, but I’m sure that is an expensive proposition.

So, every time it rains quite a bit, this sweet man gets out with his broom and sweeps rocks into the potholes around his space. There are a dozen or more.

I don’t know anything about him, except that he’s probably in his 80s and that this seems to be his sweeping uniform. Today, I noticed him out when I was doing laundry. He was at this job on and off for 4 hours.

Fortunately, there is no rain in the foreseeable forecast. Hopefully he can take a well-deserved break.

On April 17, 2011, I stood in the gravel road watching a very nice couple back this 2008 Jayco Jayflight G2 into my space at the park. They were kind enough to hook everything up, level the unit (snicker), and make sure I was all set before they left. After they pulled away, I started loading my gear. I’d packed up earlier, and had unloaded several cars full of “stuff” in the side yard, ready to move in. Daphne was at my parents’. I put up all of the storage stuff, hung up her clothes and mine, made our beds, and got ready to live life in 300 square feet. I didn’t have a timeline. I didn’t know what the plan was beyond that day, beyond having someplace safe and sane. I had no idea. But I had hope.

Over the next week, weeks, and months, we had some of the most consistently bad weather this area has seen in years. Friends’ had windows blown out of their wall mounts. There were tornadoes. There was rain. There was hail. Multiple occasions of hail. Once, we evacuated to the clubhouse bathroom, but that was mostly because my niece was over and I am always safer with other people’s kids than mine. Another time, we happened to be at a friend’s house when the hail that dented the north side of the trailer did its best.

Through all of that, though, we remained dry and safe and at peace. And that was all I was really going for.

A year ago, I was studying medical transcription. Over the next two months, I would test for numerous companies, frustrated by the slow going, poor recordings, and distractions of having a very conversational child who didn’t appreciate the “time is money” concept or that being distracted took my head out of the game completely, so that I’d often have to start over. I started applying for jobs with at-home-call-center providers, I was doing odd jobs for friends, and I was watching my savings slowly dwindle, picking up as many mystery shops as I could.

If you had told me then that, within the year, I would have begun working outside of the home, in an office, and even have my insurance license, there is very little way that I would have believed it. How can that happen when you homeschool? How can that happen when you’re not even willing to work 40 hours a week? How can that happen when your brain is a magnet for all things artistic and unimportant and a holey grocery sack for numbers and business principles?

The past year has been a roller coaster of surprises, disappointments, blessing, devastation, enlightenment, humbling, exhilaration, and craziness. I have loved everything I thought I would love about living in an RV: little maintenance, no yard work, simple lifestyle, inability to accumulate too much. I didn’t think much about the kind of neighbors I would have, but they have turned out to be the greatest. As a whole, this is a very quiet community. There is no drama, there is no crime. The ambiance is laid-back and comfortable. Everyone has the vacation mentality, and that is always fun. I have learned how to keep us cool enough during the summer, warm enough during the winter, and how to bake properly in a tiny propane box.

Since this time last year I could in no way have imagined where I’d be now, it’s foolish to try to predict what life will look like a year from now. However, I hope it’s fundamentally different. Don’t get me wrong: I am blessed beyond what I deserve, and I do struggle with reconciling that to the several “hitches” that won’t loose. And it’s that struggle of which I’d like to be free this time next year. There are elements of my life that I can’t change. The two biggest (and second and third most important facets of my life) are inextricably intertwined. One can’t change until the first does, and the first shows no signs of changing. So by this time next year, I pray that either those things will have miraculously begun to resolve, or that I will have found the strength to move beyond them. Whether that takes the form of physical moving (I have my eye on both the Pecan Grove RV Park in Austin – in which I’m primarily interested because it’s downtown and impossible to get into – and the RV Park in Van Buren, AR that I’ve just wasted 20 minutes trying to re-find on my computer) or allowing God to cut out parts of me I felt he planted in me before I was born or just learning to stop straining against the bonds and finding a way to work within them, I don’t know.

Daphne doesn’t want to move. She doesn’t want to leave where we live, or where she goes to the gym, or where we go to church, or her friends she has now. One of my friends reminded me that she’s along for the ride until she’s 18 and that I have to do what is best for us as a family, regardless of what decisions make her “happy” at the moment. Thing is, I’m not entirely certain that I’m qualified to make that judgment call right now. Hopefully, a year from today, I will be.

One year's worth of momentos. There have actually been more added since I took this picture...

I would like to share with you my Sunday, lest you think that all of my days are full of fun adventure like this:

This morning, Daphne and I got up and went to church. After we’d worshiped and chatted with friends, we headed over to a bookstore where I had a mystery shop (which sounds a lot more glamorous than it is). We read books for over an hour, then came home to relax.

While she played Minecraft, her favorite pastime, I got to work making Whoopie Pies. (As of right now, the cookies are baked; I just have to make the filling, then I’ll take and post pictures for you.) Because our oven is so terribly small, I am able to bake exactly six cookies at a time. This means that it took nearly nearly three hours from start of project to all cookies out and dishes washed.

It is a gorgeous day, and I was able to open the doors and windows to let the fresh air in. We are listening to “The Help” audiobook, and during the eight minutes it took each batch of half a dozen cookies to bake, I did a chore.

First, I cleaned the cat box. I tried a different litter last time because they were out of the pine pellets I usually get. It was pine flakes, and they were an ugly mess. It only solidified my belief that pine pellets are the greatest thing in the history of cat ownership.

I needed to find something on which to put my cookies as they came out of the oven, so I got up under the couch to empty out a 12-pack for the cardboard. It was at this point that I realized something. At first, I wrongly thought that the cats had been taking dumps under the couch, like the cat we “lost” in a far-away neighborhood did at his leisure. Then I realized that it was actually their “sick place.” Thankfully, the junk had dried out, so I got that up, then doused the area with carpet cleaner and scrubbed it up. Finally, I dried the area and sprayed it with Febreze.

I continued on with the cookies, and put Daphne to work. She put duct tape down in all of the floor edges to pick up errant cat hair and detritus. I also needed to replace the water hose outside.

Here’s an embarrassing truth: I had a vague idea that there would be some kind of maintenance issues with the RV; mostly, I just rejoiced in the lesser-than-an-acre-and-a-half-and-aging-house maintenance. So, even though I’d seen my water hose (the garden hose my mom had bought at Dollar General at the last minute, because I was moving in and hadn’t thought to buy it) bulging from the pressure of having water turned on ALL of the time, I left it. Even after the hoses froze (twice), I left it. Finally, this week, I noticed that the green coating was breaking away from the white inner hose, like a snake shedding its skin.

Last night, I bought a heavy-duty, eight-ply hose to replace the old one. I went out, expecting it to be a lot easier and instead found that the old hose had rusted to the fitting. I turned the water off at the spigot and unattached the old hose from that end, then used a wrench to try go unscrew the hose at the wall. It kept turning around and around, twisting the hose, but not making any progress. It was then that I realized I needed more than just my single wrench.

I went next door and knocked at my neighbor’s. I heard him moving around, but he didn’t answer. Then I remembered our old friends from across the street, and went down the road a bit to see them. The wife gave me a rusty Vise Grip and pipe wrench and sent me on my way.

Here’s something you need to know about me: I am a lazy dresser. I do not like to change clothes. If I have a dressy event at any point in the day, I will usually be dressed up all day regardless. This morning was church. So I cooked, cleaned the cat box, and was doing my outdoor plumbing in my mules with wind blowing up my skirt (fortunately, I was wearing tights).

Armed with two extra implements, I tried to loosen the hose again. It was then that I realized that thing was not budging. As I was turning it, I was turning whatever was behind the wall, which means that the wall plate needed to come off.

I came in to get the screwdriver set and took the plate off, then tried to remove the fitting from the interior pipe. Unfortunately, I had twisted the hose so much that it just wouldn’t turn anymore. I called to Daphne for a knife and she handed me a steak knife. I went back over and hacked through the hose, mentally berating myself for having sold so much of what I owned when I moved out of a house. A hacksaw would have been a smart keep.

After that, I was able to successfully remove the interior fitting and brought the whole apparatus inside to work on it where I could better hear “The Help.”

As an aside, there is, of course, so much more to the book than the movie. There is an element that I hadn’t expected, an element that so closely parallels something in my life that it’s been a little painful to hear.

Eventually, I realized that one of the things I’d been trying to turn wasn’t actually supposed to come off and that the hose had rusted INSIDE of it. When I hit on that, I was able finally to pry the whole thing apart. Gleefully — okay, that’s an overstatement… With relief, I went outside to reattach the faceplate and screw in the new hose. As I made a first attempt to put the new hose on, I realized that I hadn’t put the fitting back into the interior pipe, so I had to pull the faceplate back off and start over.

A very few minutes later, I had everything up and running. I came inside for a shower, which smelled wonderfully like the rubber of a new garden hose.

Then, I finished these. They are delicious.

By the way, at one point, making the filling, I turned the mixer on while it was open. Why did I do this? No idea. But there was shortening everywhere, including somehow up my buttoned sleeve on my arm.

I’d write more, but I just had to turn the water off to go take care of a problem involving The Poop Stick. Living the dream, baby! Oh! The cat is drinking out of the murky toilet. Yeesh.