Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cat Drop Off Day

It's been a get-things-done kind of week. Stoli and I came to Austin today. He will stay safely at his Auntie Pat's for twelve whole weeks. We arrived and within minutes it looked like he owned the place.

As an ex-on-the-road musician, I stayed on-the-road for a couple of months at a time before finding rest in a friend's home here and there. This upcoming stretch may be the longest on-the-road stretch I have ever done... it is certainly the FARTHEST I've ever road-tripped.

I have a few simple goals:
1. Don't stress out. Like ever. There is absolutely no reason to.
2. Take notes every day... details. I forget stuff later. Take notes.

Well, honestly, I think that's it. If I can manage to maintain my zen and take notes... everything else will be easy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

For the Money

"Would you rather sell 100 book or give away 1000 copies to people who would read them?"

Why do we assume it's ok to ask artists to work for free??? If they really love art, they will just do it, for free, right? Wouldn't they rather their art be available in the world even if they don't get to eat?

Do doctors work for free because they love saving lives? Do teachers work for free because they love kids? Do lawyers work for free because they want to see justice done? Do police officers work for free because they love to make people feel safe? Do accountants work for free because they love numbers????

Ideally, we would all love our jobs. But whether we love our job, or rather our contribution to society, we should all get paid what the contribution is worth. Art is a contribution that can't even be quantified. It is found everywhere and makes nearly all facets of our lives better. From the architectural art of a building to the layout of the magazine in the doctor's office to the music you hardly notice in the grocery store. Art is everywhere and it matters. Artists should be paid whether they create art with love or with tortured hatred.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Vacation Day

Today was vacation day. We went to Port Aransas for absolutely no reason at all... or well, we have been working so hard toward the Alaska trip... and a few other stressful events have given us more than substantial reason. We visited The Brewery for a beer and burger. We took a leisurely walk on the beach. We stopped for gelato and coffee, and then went home. It was lovely. We needed that.

Now, to finish what I can of the outdoor kitchen and the final details for Alaska! The countdown is ON!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Building

Today, I built the counters in the outdoor kitchen. Everything went very well. Anne assisted as needed. There were no injuries... and now, I can't wait to finish it!!

Next: tile, trim, plumbing and finish the electrical... Keeping it simple and clean.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

oh well

Today was the aftermath to a depressive episode. It was physically difficult to move. I tried... I'm writing this days later. It is much like recovering from a migraine bodyache. Today was pretty much useless.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Trouble

I have never once censored her writing or her blog posts in any way whatsoever. She asks me to read it. Sometimes we take pics of things to add to her post, but I never object to anything she writes. I suppose that means she is thorough and thoughtful... it might also lead people to believe that I agree with what she writes, but I do not always. Frequently, I think her attitude toward certain things is a little rough, but that's her. Hopefully, in our dual writing project, two perspectives will work for the benefit of our project.

Today, we woke up as usual. We went to the cabin where she usually goes to her computer while I make breakfast. Sometimes she reads unpleasant things, usually things are fine. Today, she sees to have read something unpleasant. Her demeanor is not angry, but troubled, but she says nothing directly as we eat and then go on to work outside.

I ask her repeatedly if there is anything I can do for her.

She finishes a mowing task and then gets her computer and gruffly sits down to make our home-ward reservations. This is odd as she usually doesn't do computer things like this alone. I tell her, "If I have done something, I hope you'll tell me."

She goes into a rampage about the blog I posted to our Eggcellence blog. How clearly she does nothing and I do everything. Someone even commented on Facebook, "Let me know if I can help." This is evidence that I have told the world what a lazy partner she is.

When she used the facebook comment as evidence, this made me angry. This particular person has lived in Alaska and has commented every single time we post about Alaska that he'd be happy to share his knowledge. I stormed away and as I did so, she yelled out something awful about her father.

The thing is, last week was HARD. I was left depressed and helpless on my own property. This is Anne's home too and I want her to have a say, a space, input, including and especially in HER outdoor kitchen, and this seemed like a great project to bring in her dad who could feel good about contributing. It turned out to be a very trying week. I battle depression as the tension grew... FINALLY, I got to go to town and get things done FOR US! The only reason I didn't mention her dad on the main blog, or what her contribution for the week was, was because I didn't have a single photo, I didn't have a single finished product, and I couldn't very well say anything negative. She did the hard work. I did a list of piddly little travel things. Exactly how was I supposed to say what she had been doing and be true to who I am???

This is written a few days later. This spun me into the final push over the depression edge. I need to do things to feel value in myself. That blog post is absolutely about depression written while I was still depressed. Getting things done helped, but it wasn't a cure.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Electircal finished

Haha...  no, it's not. He went home today. As soon as the car left the gate, I began fixing my beloved outlet on the porch. One hour later, I had the outlet exactly where I wanted, new wire run, etc. All done.

I have gone through the container and noted what wires he has where. Unfortunately, several wires end in the middle of a piece of conduit... They appear at one box, but not the other!

I went into town yesterday to do a whole list of errands while Anne tried to assist her dad. Both jobs were very important. We are running out of time to do all the little travel things that need to be done.

Today, in the quiet of the peaceful empty home, I wrote the Thursday blog.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

More evidence

I am more and more convinced that my theory is correct. We are down to the wire. The plan is to take him home tomorrow. Anne has repeatedly stated that it is important to at least get the kitchen done because I will be building and no further adjustments can be made after that. He has gotten no further. He flits box to box acting very busy.

A new piece of evidence has surfaced. I told him to leave the outlet alone that he moved. He wanted to add some sort of hardwiring above it. I said no, the one outlet is all I need, and I left it at that. Anne says he has commented that Abby doesn't seem to understand how low that outlet is... Anne finally told him, it wasn't low before you changed it. He seems to not remember the way it was and/or why he moved it.

Still Anne says he's not incapable, he's just like this.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The End

This could be the end of sanity as we know it. Anne and I are now placing bets on which one of us is going to lose her mind first.

Kidding aside, here is what I am beginning to see, believe, realize... it's a theory, but a strong one. He's in his 80's. He was an electrician early in his life. He has rewired his own home, his own organs (the musical kind), etc. He has a capable background. I think he is forgetting his overall plan, possibly confusing himself, redoing things... I'm honestly not sure he can finish this job.

The job itself is one straight line: electrical entry point with on/off switch, 3 feet up (near the ceiling) one outlet, 5 feet over one outlet, at this point there is a three feet down outlet and a continue near the ceiling ten feet to another outlet, continue another five feet to another outlet, drop 3 feet to a final outlet. THAT is IT. It's been a week. Wires are sticking out of every box. He goes from box to box to box like a hummingbird fussing over or changing or banging something.... and the next day, the same thing. His plan includes placing some switches beside some outlets (Anne and I don't care if those are there or not... actually prefer not, but it won't hurt anything.)

He doesn't want to leave until he finishes the job. We leave for Alaska in two weeks and two days. We need time to prep and this outdoor kitchen is just a side project. We are starting to feel pressure, but I have absolutely no idea how to assist in making his plan, which is ALL in his own mind, come to completion. He has spent from 9AM to 4PM working on this project every single day.

Our time is running out, causing stress... his lack of progress is causing stress... and his choices to do exactly what we specifically objected is causing stress... And if I'm right, his ability to complete this project is an indication of greater concerns, causing stress.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Electrical Saga

Well, that change that was made that I did not approve of... that change I called hideous... It got worse. I glanced over and saw ANOTHER electrical box has been added about 6 inches above the hideous one. So now there are two electrical boxes in full view for absolutely NO REASON. I need a single outlet up in the eve for my porch lights. The end. WTF.

We just got home from the hardware store. I picked up a few plumbing things and he ran through a list of little electrical things... Then, he asked the shop lady if she had fluorescent lights. We had all discussed that we did not want to do fluorescents... for several reasons. Number one reason: There is no water shielding roof for installation. Other reasons include: I HATE THEM, they buzz and give me a headache... The bulbs are long and difficult to dispose of when they die. But forget the reasons. WE TALKED about this and the home owners said NO. And he is insisting on it anyway.

So, I guess even if he had asked about my precious outlet and I had said "no," there is a good chance he would have done it anyway.

If he doesn't finish the job soon, I fear my gratitude is going to be overpowered by the frustration. I have to make sure I keep the parts I need to redo my precious porch outlet. As soon as they drive out the gate, I am changing that back. Anne can keep her kitchen the way he creates it, but my porch was wired exactly how I wanted it and it will return to my way! I just can't believe it's worse.... I paid money to have someone set it where it was. No discussion, he just changed it. Who does that?

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Outdoor kitchen sink

I made some progress on the planning of the outdoor kitchen. I'm using 3 inch PVC pipe as legs, leftover deck material for the sink counter, used plywood and tile for the prep and stove side. All things have been measured, counted, collected and prepared for cutting tomorrow.

The electrical art project is still progressing. We live in such a small town that no hardware stores are open on Sunday. Progress continues and the hardware store-forgotten-stuff list grows.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Help is...

People give their time and materials to my projects all the time. I always try to utilize their skills and time and effort as efficiently as possible. I also volunteer my skills and it is incredibly frustrating to show up to help and find that the person is too proud to use my skills or too disorganized to know what to do with me. I don't mind volunteering... but don't waste my time. In this way, I try to do unto others. I also believe that if a person has different skills than I do, it's usually best if I get out of the way and only assist when they actually need me to. I have a plan drawn up, the skilled person gets this in advance, and we talk about any safety or other considerations or suggestions they have for making things better. I often take bits of advice and/or volley back ideas as to why I designed a thing the way I did. This usually clears up any potential problems.

Today, I am being challenged just a tiny bit. It is absolutely imperative that I focus on my gratitude toward the work being done. When it is finished, however it is finished, it will be nothing less than a specific workman's ART project. I go for simplicity and efficiency. This individual goes for artist points... That's just how I'm going to accept this. Art.

We are reading a book in which two characters are writing during war time. The soon-to-be-soldier confesses to being scared. The girl-at-home fills pages of "I didn't say...." and "I didn't say..." and "furthermore, I didn't say..."

We... *I* need to always find the balance between standing up for myself and saying what actually needs to be said. I could say, "I had that outlet placed there by a professional who I PAID just a year ago. I dreamed of that specific outlet since the time I moved here and it has been PERFECT - hidden up in the eve so that I can plug in my porch lights. WHY did you lower it 2 feet so that now everyone can see it and also where it has to have a SCRAP of wood behind it to further point out its hideous presence?!?!  IT WAS FINE like it was." I could say, "You changed something outside of the kitchen, which was the location of the job, without asking? You know what I need better than I do, I guess. And... you're wrong." I could say, "Put it BACK!" But I'm not going to. I will probably move it back when he leaves because it is exactly that maddening and seriously hideous, but I won't say anything.

I will focus on the other work he is doing and be grateful when we flip the final switch that it all turns on and ta-da! And I am genuinely, truly grateful for the expertise and help in an area I don't feel like pursuing. I'm just also a wee bit frustrated at this moment.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Birthday

This year, Anne turns fifty. We will be in Alaska on the road for her actual birthday. I wanted to do something special just for her.

I knew we would be in Austin for one day together... this day was yesterday. Last week, I planned her first ukulele lesson. I purchased a uke and all the trimmings and had them shipped to Austin. I took my own Great-grandfather's uke to Austin when I went to pick up Stoli.

The wonderful woman who bought my singing telegram business years ago also does ukulele classes and lessons. I met with her and arranged the time... all set.

I'm horrible with surprises. I want to tell the recipient what an awesome thing is coming up, but I managed to control myself. I told her we needed to pick up some photos for me to scan - I do that all the time. I asked if she would mind coming with me to help carry the albums and boxes of photos. She didn't suspect a thing until Mardi answered the door playing a birthday song with her ukulele.

It was the perfect gift. She's been talking about learning since she moved out here and I've been trying to find a convenient time to meet up with Mardi. A surprise like this was overdue... and I think she really really liked it. Prepare for some song-writing genius in the near future!!

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Competition Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about my hatred for competition as a daily function. Today, I'd like to say how amazing competitions are at promoting and sustaining the specifics of certain art genres.

People, myself included, have mixed feelings about music competitions. These competitions create anxiety problems for children that last the rest of their lives. These competitions rank art and say whether an artist is a good or bad artist. This is the bad side. There is a good side.

For specific genres of art, competitions promote the specifics of that genre. They perpetuate standards that participants know, respect, and enter in order to grow within the rules of the genre. I am a traditional Irish musician. I do not do everything by the book nor do I believe anyone should unless that's the way they want to express their art. I DO, however, believe that people who participate under an umbrella of a genre should know and respect the roots of the genre. From that base, have fun, innovate your own sound, go your own way!

This past Sunday, we went to the Fiddlers Frolic competition for Texas style fiddling. The playing amongst the higher ranking players is phenomenal. At the end of the day, I'm never sure who will win because I do not know the particulars in the genre of Texas style fiddling. I do know who plays clean, in tune, and with some level of showmanship. But the best person in my qualifications is not necessarily the one playing directly to the standards of the genre. I think this distinction is important when preserving what it truly means to say Texas-style. Players' style with change with time and influence of everything they hear. To be able to come back to the true style, return to the roots, is important if you want to play respectfully as you make choices for your own style.

I love watching this competition. These people are amazing. I would love to witness an Irish music competition, especially Sean-nos song, the roots of the music I feel so deeply in my heart. Who knows if I'll ever make that happen... some day.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Competition

I loath competition in real life. In real life, there is room for everyone. There is room for every creation of art. There is room for everyone to succeed or at least contribute. There is room for everyone to grow. When people compete in the day to day world of art, we see people who are angry, bitter, burned out, and feel the world is out to get them. It's the same in a non-art work environment. If your office mates think they must always one-up you, the work environment becomes rather tense.

But doesn't everyone want to rise to the top? Isn't showing off how you are the best and have the best ideas... isn't that what will get you hired or get the raise or whatever elevation you seek? I say, no. Cooperation, the listing of others, the noticing of others' gifts is what will help you rise and get the best results for everyone, the company or the audience of art lovers.

When I share a stage with someone, I see how they contribute, how we all contribute to the better of the whole situation. I may not LOVE their art/music/act/voice, but someone does and supporting them and their art, contributes positively to my art. Every artist does what they do to express something. Expression touches people who identify with that expression. Laughter, tears, and thoughts are the result of these expressions. THIS is the most important thing about art. Any art that reaches people in some way is worth existing... and therefor, ALL ART is worth existing. There is infinite space for all art, even if one person says it's "bad."

I wrote a "bad" review on my book blog for the book Beer Money by an Australian writer Matthew Freeman. BUT, I did not say simply this is a horrible book because that would be untrue. I said SPECIFICALLY what was wrong with the flow of the book from my perspective and why the characters seem to be lies. In this way, I feel I contribute, not rip apart, the art. I positively hate criticism with no information on the actual problem or how to repair the issue. This book deserves to exist. Before I wrote what I wrote, I looked up the book and looked at several websites where readers had written that they had laughed out loud. THAT is all the qualification that this art needs to warrant its existence... and furthermore that the artist should create more if it is in him to do so.

On all three of my active blogs, I do not expect anyone to read or respond to them. I write for myself. The author found my review. I'm not sure how much digging it took to find a blog post that has been seen less than 20 times or if my search settings are just that darned good, but I'm glad he found it, and HONORED that he wrote a comment. The fact that I had this much to say about art and the infinite space the world has for art is a testament that he should indeed write whatever and to whomever he wants. Words have power, good power if you let them. His comment could have put me in the dumps. I don't want to say anything is "not good," that's just not a normal part of my repertoire.  That blog is more a "notes to self" on writing than a "reviews" page. I read to learn from other authors. I get ideas and grow from everything I read. This book is no exception.

I hope we all, as artists, learn and grow in order to make our expressions reach the hearts, minds, and souls of even more art lovers. Yes, Matthew Freeman, laughter is a very good thing and makes every line of your book worth its existence in our vast wide world of art.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Fiddlers Frolics

This is THE Hallettsville event of the year. Fiddlers Frolics is a competition for Texas style fiddling. Saturday out-of-staters compete. Sunday, Texans compete. Both days have some good fiddlers, but Sunday is by far the more impressive player after player.

I'm taking Anne today to enjoy the music, the church-lady bake sale, the civic organization fried chicken and green beans, and the Shiner beer. I can't wait!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Sigh

I'm getting so far behind on this blog that I am beginning to feel frustrated. I want to write. I have ideas constantly. I need to find a specific time and do it daily, but it seems like every day is so different and the demands of this place vary so drastically, that is extremely difficult to commit the needed time. I know I just have to commit or it won't happen. I've done four months... I can't give up now.

This has been my own personal pep talk... I could use some comments to cheer me on!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Alaska proofing

You know how young parents kid-proof their home, making the place indestructible and safe for their new baby? I'm doing a similar thing to the camper for our trip to Alaska.

Everything that has bothered us over our travels so far is being fixed - a box under the sink for miscellaneous appliances, a wall under the sink so that things do not slide to where you can't reach them, a place for garbage and doggy poo bags.

I am also prepping for the colder times, specifically for the dog. Her space is a large cavern under the bed. It gets cold on a floor with no insulation against the back wall that is also un-insulated. I blocked off about a foot of space with foam board insulation and made a foam mattress for her floor that snuggles a water and food bowl holder. Her space is now warm and secure.

Finally, The sun doesn't really set in Alaska during the summer. I made velcro tabs for our curtains to securely black out light. I also made covers for the two skylights and the window in the door. A trip is no good if you can't get any sleep!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Next trip

We've been home just a few moments, but as of today, the Alaska trip is ready! It is the highlight of our travels. It makes sense that it is the priority. It just feels a little funny to barely be home before turning around and finalizing the next departure.

I'm excited. We have plans to stay with old family friends. Big fishing trips are in the works. Hikes, breweries, tour boats... So many plans!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Dewberries

Dewberries grow wild around here. They are basically smaller tarter blackberries. Every other day, we take a walk around the perimeter and collect all the blackest ones we can find along the fence and in the brush near the mowed path. The dog and cat go on these walks too. The dog follows eating things she finds on the ground. The cat gets distracted about every other minute and, so, also follows slowly.

When we make it back to the kitchen with our harvest, I slightly smash them and add a tablespoon of sugar. By the next morning, they are sweet and juicy and great to top off a tiny bowl of cantaloup, pineapple or any fruit we have in the fridge. The pint of sweet dewberries lasts us a couple mornings and then it's time for another slow harvest walk.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Summer Tanager

It's spring... in South Texas, spring is almost over! I've mowed the wildflowers when they started looking pitiful. The trees are bursting with new growth. The hummingbirds are fighting over the feeder. We are in a pretty good migration path for birds heading north from Mexico. It's really fun to notice the birds that are just visiting. This year, we spotted a pair of Summer Tanagers. The red almost had me dismiss the male as just a cardinal. We have tons of those. But then, I saw the yellow. Time to grab the binoculars. Turns out there were two! I'd love it if they became residents, but alas, not likely. Good luck, visitors!!! 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Homelife

This morning, we return to our tradition of breakfast tacos made of yesterday's dinner. Pork roast was dinner. This morning it became pork tacos with garden tomatoes and goat cheese crumbles. And as a bonus, I found some ripe dew berries yesterday. I picked about 20. They are smaller than blackberries and more tart. I pressed them in a bowl with a fork and added a tablespoon of sugar and let them make some syrup over night. I cut up a couple of canteloup slices and added the berries over the canteloupe.

Anne's been mowing the areas that the riding lawnmower can not reach. She is currently the color of dirt and says she wants to do just a little more before showering. The frogs and birds are chirping. Baby grasshoppers are everywhere. Macy goes outside on her own and finds the best patches of sunshine in which to lounge. The only thing we lack is Stoli. I go to Austin to pick him up on Tuesday.

I hope you all are having a lovely ordinary day.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Normal?

We are home, and we are both hovering over our computers writing. Seems like all is back to normal. It's chilly. That's not normal Texas weather. We both have colds. That's not normal. Everything is so green and flowery. If it was this way all the time, I would never even consider leaving. It's definitely a nice scene to come home to.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Cantaloupe

Anne's sick. I am too, but clearly not as sick as she is. Pretty sure we caught the same cold from our host in St. Louis. We've had scratchy throats since then, and there's really no hiding it now. Anne's sneezing her face off. She went to the grocery store and bemoaned the fact that she couldn't sniff the cantaloupes properly. As a result, we cut into a fairly bland unripe melon. I don't mind. It's still refreshing... and a little less messy.

In other news, upon inspection, it appears the automatic watering system I installed for the garden did not work. The plants survived but clearly need more water than they received. Sigh. As far as we can tell, that was the only fail around the property. Not so bad.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Driving

I have a hard time sleeping the night before driving. I always have. I woke up at 2AM and never went back to sleep. Anne had said yesterday that no time was too early to get on the road, but 2AM seemed a little excessive, so I let her sleep. At 4, she got up for a run to the girls' room. I hit the coffee button. It would be ok if she wanted more sleep, but if she was really ok with an early start, coffee would be needed. Stat.

She returned to the camper filled with the smell of fresh coffee. And we began the final pack-up. We were on the road by 4:30.

We plowed straight through Dallas at 9:30, hit some traffic, but did just fine. We drove with the wind pushing us along and made it to Los Cabos in Hallettsville at abou 2:30. Impressive. A long day of driving, but I felt great. Maybe it was the reward of a margarita and Mexican food that I knew would be good! Whatever it was, this was possibly the easist 10 hour drive. and we only stopped three times.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tulsa Day

We went on a lovely morning hike and then communicated with an old high school friend of mine about going into Tulsa for dinner. Turns out that lunch worked out for all of us even better.

We drove into downtown which is nothing like driving into downtown Austin or Houston. It is a nice downtown, just not so big and hectic. The first thing we noticed once we began looking for a parking spot was the signage. There were "two hour parking" signs attached OVER what appeared to be older "pay at the corner" signs. The "pay at the corner" was just visible but the words partially covered by the new "two hour parking" signs...  uh, so... is it pay or 2 hour? Or both? And what city hangs a new sign OVER old signs. It was weird. We looked for a corner pay booth, but there were none on our corner.

We visited Prairie Brew Pub. Amy showed up shortly after we arrived, and she looked EXACTLY the same as the last time I saw her more than 20 years ago. It was a lovely lunch with talk of our parents and her kiddos and Texas.

When we left, I half expected a ticket for not understanding the awkward signage, but there was no ticket... however, as we approached the truck, I saw a snake hanging out on the step rail under the passenger door. A good sized snake. As we got closer he tucked into the truck's under carriage. Not knowing this snake personally, we decided to give him some space and go have another beer.

When we returned, the snake seemed to be gone. Either that, or better tucked for the long journey back to camp or even all the way to Texas!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Keystone State Park, OK

Keystone State Park near Tulsa, Oklahoma offers all types of camping from primitive tent to deluxe cabins. They offer a small number of campsites for online reservation. We chose the one closest to the bathrooms minus the handicap accessible campsite. No one was in the HA site which was lucky. The row of online reservable sites were VERYVERY close to each other and if someone had been in the HA site, our trips to the bathroom would have been awkwardly long walks around their site. As it was, we got to walk directly through on a sidewalk to the restrooms and showers.

These were possibly our least favorite showers so far across the country. The water never got fully hot. One shower had a heater, the other did not. The shower with the hotter water and the heater had two sprayers, a crotch-level and a face-level. The crotch-level sprayer sprayed bullet-streams of water while the face-level sprayed a good practical pressure. Yes, there was a handle to change which sprayer sprayed. When turned, it cut off the UPPER sprayer leaving the lower sprayer to emit even stronger bullets of water. No amount of turning cut off the lower sprayer.

We were determined to hike here. This made showers very important. We did all the hikes we could on this first day. All that's left is to walk the loops of campsites. Being determined, we managed to hike loop upon loop.

It's a lovely park on a beautiful lake that is sure to become even more beautiful as the weather warms up. If we hadn't needed the use of showers, the visit might have been nearly perfect.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Quail

We drove away from St. Louis with two homemade sandwiches and a six pack of donuts from Strange Donuts our host gave us. We were now hauling about 200 extra pounds of cast iron stoves, so I was prepared to take it easy. The wind blew directly at our faces the whole way. Gas mileage tanked... but otherwise, the drive was uneventful.

We arrived at Keystone State Park just west of Tulsa, OK. I stopped and went into the camp office where they gave me a map of the place. In the brochure were sponsor ads... This included a map with those sponsors' locations noted. Very convenient! There were a couple of steak type restaurants in the neighboring town of Mannford as well as a grocery store that advertised delivery service. Sounds like we hit the big time!

We drove into Mannford and cruised the main drag which was only about a mile long. We located the grocery store and the two steak places. There were several cars at the one called Freddie's so that's the one we chose.

Upon entering the restaurant, we noticed that most people were in the bar, but even at 4PM, there were a few diners. We were asked if we were there for the crawfish boil - all you can eat for $$$. Interesting, but no, we'll just take a menu. Cajun music played in the dining room. Big windows looked out onto the lake. Kids were running around in the yard. It was just warm enough that most of them were wearing their sweatshirts tied around their waists.

There was a regular menu as well as two specials. I was having a very hard time deciding. I like it when restaurants have a menu of things they are truly proud to serve rather than a generic list of generically expected foods. We asked the waitress what the restaurant was known for. She quickly responded that the Lebanese items were very popular, the cabbage rolls, homemade hummus, tabouli, etc. I do like cabbage rolls. They were listed as a side. Still unable to decide, Anne told me I should try the quail that was one of the two specials. She said she, herself, wouldn't like it because the bones are too much work, but she knows how I can strip chicken wings like a velociraptor. Sold. I'd have the quail with tabouli for my salad and cabbage rolls as my side. Odd meal, but whatever.

Tabouli and Anne's salad were brought to the table. Quite tasty. Then my cabbage roll arrived. It was hearty so I tried not to eat the entire thing knowing the best was yet to come. My plate of 2 quails with lemon pepper sauce arrived... and it was delicious. Anne was right that she wouldn't have been happy with all of its bones. I carefully and methodically ate every tiny bit of those birds down to the tiny wings. I found the large portion of meat that allowed one to taste the actual meat rather than the manner of cooking. It had a flavor and fine texture closer to chicken liver. The rest was ordinary bird flavored by the lemon pepper. There was a hidden gem of fat just below the wing. This was my first quail. Good choice.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Free stuff

Free stuff is my favorite stuff. Surprise free treasure stuff I never thought I would find or be able to afford is the most awesome thing ever.

Our hostess, Lucy, took us to this used outdoor gear store. It's a small shop with carefully chosen inventory that changes frequently. She and her family visit the store with regularity. We looked around and found lots of great stuff but nothing we HAD to have. The store had a large cast iron pot belly stove along with a smaller cast iron wood burning stove. I commented on how much I loved those kinds of stoves and had looked for one for my container house project. Alas, they were always too expensive or in horrible shape. Lucy immediately said, "I have one in the backyard. You want it?" I looked at her with confusion. She then told us how she had rescued a Ben Franklin fireplace from a house that was being torn down and how she had a second wood burning stove similar to the little one in the shop. She repeated, "You can have it if you want it... both if you want." Seriously? YES!

Now, my container house is now finished. I don't want to remodel to include this fireplace, tempting as that idea is. But I do have a few other ideas! The only way I accept a gift like this is if I can acctually put the gift to use. By the time we made it back to Lucy's, I had several ideas and several back-up ideas.

Both stoves were in the backyard under a tarp. Lucy told her husband that I wanted them and he instantly sprang into action. He had been trying to urge her to get rid of them for some time. I got to work making room in the back of the truck. The Ben Franklin is a heavy monster that took two men and some cussing to load. The little stove is much more manageable.
They fit!
I can't wait to get them home and clean them up!

Friday, April 13, 2018

An Ordinary Day

It's laundry day. We were invited to do laundry at our hosts' home, but with a few loads to do, we find it easier to go to the laundromat and be done in an hour. There is a brand new one near the house, easy peasy.

Since we were already out, and with the truck, we decided to stop by the grocery store in case they had beers we needed to take on the road. And there is Penzy's spices. Oh, but wait. We decided we should eat first. An old counter style diner called Tiffany's was our solution. The man at the flat top cooked us a grilled cheese and a bacon cheese omelet and gave us both a side of hash browns. Watching him cook, dipping a paint brush in greasy buttery substance, slapping that substance onto everything, made my arteries tighten a wee bit, but turns out it was so delicious, I didn't mind.

Anne grabbed a couple of spices at Penzy's and home we went.

We relaxed most of the day. Our hosts grilled pork steaks and brussels sprouts for dinner. Afterward, we played Cards Against Humanity and called it an early night. Simple day with friends. Good food, good laughter.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Eggcellence Update

Today is my day to post in the Eggcellence blog.... The week's event: HERE!

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Stupid Internet

My fabulous friend Kelly volunteered to take us to one of her favorite hidden gems of Ohio. The museum of things swallowed by people. She drove is to Lima, Ohio to the Allen County Museum. There are other things of interest and she descreibed them all with flair as we decided this was indeed where we should spend our day.

We arrived and the very first thing the museum clerk told us was, "part of our museum is closed for construction." Ah, the very parts of the museum we had just driven an hour and a half to see were ALL closed. We visited the rest of the museum and sadly left never seeing the most unusual and amusing parts.

Kelly was the most sad because she had even checked their website to be sure of hours, etc. No mention of this closing had been on their website. Oh well...

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Elizabethtown

We are on the road today from Natchez Trace State Park in Tennessee to Caesar Creek in Ohio. Once again, we have our site and GPS set to a brewery as a break in our travels. This time Elizabethtown is our chosen destination rather than trying to battle the traffic of Louisville which is also on our path.

Elizabethtown does not look terribly interesting, and according to our bartender, it's not... yet. There seems to be a movement to bring in and/or build businesses such as this brewery. Flywheel Brewing had its own beers available on tap as well as a few other locals. The pub is big and open with an amazing stained glass window. Good stop for the day.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Worth Buying

I have this thing where I must make large purchases "worth it." Campers are particular pet peeves of mine. People, too often, buy them planning to travel only to end up sitting and rotting (the camper, not the people).

This Egg Camper is the most expensive camper I have ever purchased. It needed no real work, just customization. It is the right size and the condition was great. Now, I have to make it worth it!

I have a journal where I enter the places we camp, how many days that makes in total for this camper, info about the park and our site if we should ever choose to return. In the corner with how many days we have camped, I divide the price I paid by the number of nights. So far we are at $300 per night by my calculation. Plus the cost of the campsite...

My goal is to bring that cost per night down to $20. If we do that, this camper did its worth! Even at $30 per night for the campsite fee, $50 per night is cheaper than one would pay to stay nearly anywhere with the added advantage that you have all your own things clean and tidy where you like them.

We have a few more nights to go... but I'm thinking, by the end of the Alaska tour, we will be much closer... all in its first year of travel!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Mexican't Food

I know better than to expect much out of a "Mexican" food restaurant east or north of Texas, but I get hungry for the food of my Texas home made by the people that feed Texas... Texans, by and large, would starve without Mexicans.

We ventured into town after a three mile hike. We ran in to WalMart for any long sleeved shirt that might be on sale. The we ran into the Food Giant which had all sorts of local foods that we do not see in the usual Texas market. By this time, I was ready for a small lunch. There was a Mexican food place that had cars in its lot for lunch and it looked well established. Luckily, there was beer, but that was where the lucky ended. We ordered a small nacho... I ate it because I eat everything, but it was not very good. Oh well... I knew better.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Hike finally

We were not hike-lucky in Arkansas. We knew the weather would be cooler here in Tenessee, and they had also had plenty of rain. Luckily, there was sun and a four mile hike to be had. It felt good to stretch our legs and breathe some fresh air.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Hot Springs

Today, we drive. We've mapped out two stops - one in Hot Springs, Arkansas and the other close to our next camp in Jackson, Tennessee.

Hot Springs is beautiful. We arrived before the brewery opened. With the trailer, I have to scout a place to park, and we did so down a side street. We walked the main road and through part of the park where you can see one hot spring reserved for squirrels as humans could not reach it. The squirrels appeared content and relaxed, so I suppose the therapeutic properties of the springs were doing their job. Superior Bathhouse is now home to a brewery. Anne liked their Juicy O the best and I enjoyed my Foul Play Stout as well as a big fluffy fresh baked pretzel served with three delicious dipping sauces.

We drove through the national park campground for the use of their bathrooms, if you must know. The place was clean and full of friendly looking retirees. We might have to check it out later, but patience may be in order - the place looked fully booked up.

The drive to Jackson, TN was mostly uneventful. Rock n Dough was our destination with both brewery and pizza. Pizza was great and so were the beers. Our waitress was rather young and seemed unimpressed with her job, but she managed.

We arrived to our campsite in pouring rain. We decided to crack open a beer and wait for a break before getting out and setting up the trailer. After just one sip, the rain stopped long enough to unhook the camper... Whew.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Random

It's colder now and into the forecast than I had planned. A trip to the local Wal-Mart is the best we can do to make up for my lack of long sleeves and pants. Anne has the same problem. She took my advice and had agreed based on her forecast watching. Oh, well. Long sleeves should be on sale by now... and luckily they were.

On our way home from our shopping trip, we stopped at a place called Hooked Up. The boast bait and burgers. That's pretty much it. It was worth the stop. We ordered. The woman made the burgers, handed them to us. When I tried to pay, she said to wait until we finished our meal. They were simple, real, good sized burgers with the normal fresh fixings.

We tried to take the one remaining hike in this park. It had been under water when we arrived. It's been a couple of days with no rian. Sadly, it was better, but not THAT much better, and of course, the mosquitoes were way worse. We retreated. After leisurely packing up our outdoor things, we enjoyed some more of our book and decided where we would stop en route tomorrow.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Easter Fool's Day

Can't help it if Easter and April Fool's Day fall on the same day - Happy Easter Fool's Day! We took a Sunday drive since we had already done the one hike we could do. There were several streets and "towns" that seemed worthy of a quick drive.

Jacks Isle turned out to be a tiny community with absolutely zero shops or restaurants.

In Ogden, population 180, we were intigued by the sign that said "business district." We found a closed shop and a volunteer fire department. That was it.

Yarborough Landing had a restaurant that had good reviews online. It was closed on Sunday.

Finally, we drove through Ashdown, the town closest to the park. It is a large enough town with a Domtar plant. The place smells like fertilizer or fire ant killer. I looked up Domtar. It claims to be a sustainable paper mill. There are certainly enough logging trucks driving around the area to give credance to the paper-mill idea. But, heavens, do paper mills really smell that bad?

As we finished up our Sunday drive, I was going to get some gas in Ashdown. The card readers at two places did not work. Fine. We need to come to town tomorrow to get more food anyway.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Millwood Lake

It's obvious that it has rained plentifully recently. The water in the lake is high and murky. The shoreline is rough with the trees under water at the water's edge. The two hiking trails are nothing but long puddles in some spots. We managed to hike the 1.5 mile loop, but most of the start of the 4 mile trail was impassable and we gave up - it's probably just fine right after where we gave up.

Macy is on her blanket at my feet beside the picnic table where I type. Anne has gone to the shower house where I just received a luke-warm shower. The plus side is that the bathrooms are spotless and spacious and little used in this day of fully equipped RVs.

The crows squeak like dog toys as they fly from tree to tree on this sunshiny spring day. A cool breeze blow-dries my hair. When the breeze stops, the full 77 degrees can be felt watming my back through my blue shirt.

I could sit here and write about the sights and sounds all day, which is good because there is not much else to do here. We thought there were some nearby breweries, but I was fooled by my searches of "near Ashdown" that pulled up things an hour or two away. I am certainly happy to sit around camp and relax, but we are doing people. We like to actively do things. It's hard to settle down in a place for three days of nearly nothing. The trees and sky, bird songs and campfire smells are enough to make me happy. Just be. Just relax. We will be in busy places soon enough.

Friday, March 30, 2018

On the Road

We woke at 5:51AM. Anne pressed the coffee button which is like hitting the snooze button - the coffee takes 9 minutes to percolate. At 6AM, we sat in bed sipping our coffee and waking up like two spoiled civilized ladies of leisure. 6:20 was our planned "get-out-of-bed" time, but Anne proclaimed the excuse, "it's still dark," so we lingered a while longer. The irony of this is that she was formerly in favor of waking up and getting a move on our day much earlier than the finally agreed to 5:51.

We left this morning at 7:30AM with a first destination, other than gas stations, of Rose City Draft House in Tyler, TX. We arrived just before they opened at 1PM. This gave us time to walk the dog and stretch our own legs.

The place was nice and well decorated and had more than enough taps with a wide variety of beers. It felt a bit like a college town bar. We were the only patrons the whole time we were there. No food is served here, but you can bring your own food, including the pizza or Asian food restaurant's offerings next door.

On we went and arrived at Millwood State Park just before the office closed. The staff members were super nice and we made it to our site easily. We decided to set up our screen room with our lawnchairs and table because it seems like there are a few evening mosquitoes and there are two concrete pads at our campsite - why not use one?

The bathrooms are a little far - we do not have facilities in our own camper - but the bathroom/shower rooms are each individual and spotless. The lake and tall pine trees create a lovely scene... g'night!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Scurry Day

We leave tomorrow. Do you know how many things need to be done the day before one leaves a ten acre home? There are categories. Clothes items. Kitchen items. Property shut down items. Vehicle prep items. Food items. Toiletry items. Writing items.

There is a growing list of things that can't be done until the last minute, meaning the hour after getting out of bed and actually driving out the property gates. That's the list that makes me the most anxious. Those are the little things that, if left undone, could lake a small leak ruin an entire floor. I make sure to write this list down and check it one last time before we leave.

The entire day is filled with these little seemingly insignificant things. It's a busy-bee kind of day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Errand-Land

My trips to Austin are so filled with errands that I am left with little to no time to work for organizing clients much less visit with friends. There are times when this is very frustrating. I want to see people. People want to see me. I want to take care of my clients, people with whome I have developed an ongoing relationship. Here's how things go...

Plan with Pat when will be good for me to bring Stoli and spend one night. I try to arrive around four which puts me at her home before rush hour traffic. She and I usually have some simple dinner of pizza or pot roast that she prepared. We catch up on all of her family news. Stoli gets used to his retreat home quickly and is soon rolling on the floor waiting to be noticed and petted.

The next morning, I wake early. If I have planned to work for a client, I try to work as early as possible. Other times, I have a list a mile long and get started at some place like the oil-change place that opens at 7.

I knock out errand after errand. It is then time to drive home, tired, in the middle of a weekday. No one is available for a 3PM happy hour on a Wednesday and I want to get out of toem before traffic gets crazy again.

I feel satisfied that I got so much done, but I do miss friends. I do miss clients. It's just hard splitting time away from home when there are also things to be done at home.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Time-Share Cat

I am so lucky. I have a dear friend who takes Stoli anytime I leave town. She has taken him for a couple of weeks or a couple of months. She took care of him during the winter trip this year and is planning to care for him for the entire summer. Because she cares for him so much, we call him a time-share cat. It's more than just caring for him, he's at his vacation home.

Today, I brought Stoli to his Auntie Pat's. He's been here frequently enough that he gets used to the place in about 15 minutes. There is the regular routine perimeter check, and then, he's ready for a toy or some scritches.

All of this sounds blissful, doesn't it? Yeah, tell that to Stoli. He is the biggest POUTER I have ever seen. It doesn't matter is I am hauling to Pat's or back home, he does not want to GO anywhere. And so, he POUTS. He slinks down into a low spot and barely lifts his eyes as he whispers a meow. When you go to pick him up to laod him into the carrier, he lets all 16 pounds of his fluffy kitty body go entirely limp. It's pathetic. He used to scream the entire drive. That's 2 and a half hours of cat-wailing. Luckily, he only pouts these days and rides quietly in his saddest looking position.

We arrived safely. This pouting session is now concluded.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Garage door

We managed to lift the garage door into place. It is not as high as I hoped, but it was much heavier than I thought it would be. We cut and lifted the kitchen door a couple weeks ago. It is fifty inches wide with three braces. The garage door is eighty inches wide and has four braces.

Kitchen door/awning.
 I decided to embrace the lower lift on this door. It is easy to walk in and out of the garage from the sides of the door. I added a bench so that it is obvious not to enter from straight out; you will hit your head!

Garage door and bench.
Looks like I should add a bus schedule.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Floor finished

We finished the floor yesterday and I started moving stuff over immediately!
Floor finished!
The next step will be to move the shelving from my old garage area into this new container space. That means I have to move all of the junk off of the shelving unit, cut it to fit into the container, move it, reinstall it, and then organize junk before we leave on our Spring trip ina few days. In installing the shelving unit, this will cut off the kitchen space from the garage space. See that door to the left? That's the kitchen door.  That door way at the end on the right is for the garage.

........

Later: The shelving is moved. Most of the garage junk is moved over. And I built the wee deck for the garage door area. We ran out of steam, power, muscle to lift the door into place, but we will do that first thing tomorrow.

The future outdoor kitchen!
Garage!


It's really a garage!!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Container floor

In the Piece of Junk Container, the floor had rotted out in places to the point that your foot would go right through if you stepped wrong. We ripped out the entire floor. Those shipping containers are floored with one inch treated plywood. They are made to last and not be torn out. Anne easily tore out some sections, and on other sections, had to practically dynamite the floor out. In the end, she won with only minor injuries.

I decided that, with the holes in the roof that will remain, and the fact that we wouldn't mind some air flow of sny kind, we would install a deck style floor in place of the old plywood. It will be more weather worthy than plywood. It will allow for airflow. And it will be less like a place for vermin to hide in the dark, damp, uninhabitable shadows.

Lowe's delivered the materials yesterday: 30 sixteen foot long deck boards and 34 eight footers. The container, measured from the outside, is eight feet wide and has 26 metal rails running across to support the plywood. I ground away rust, primed the metal beams, and then covered each one with a piece of wood. It's possible that I didn't need to do that, but the metal rails are rusty and old; a little extra support never hurt anyone. And then, the sixteen footers go lengthwise.
Floor going IN!
Yesterday, delivery day, I cut all of the eight footers to fit over the metal beams. Anne placed all of those as I cut them. Then we cut and placed a few sixteen footers. We were pretty tired and hungry by this time, so we stopped working and went to town for Mexican food.... See next post!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Lowe's Delivers

Today, finally, is delivery day. I live in the boonies. When I was building more frequently, I had a small trailer to haul materials home. Now, I only build for a small project. I sold the small trailer and I choose to pay for delivery instead. Basically, one delivery charge is what I paid for annual registration. So, if I have one delivery made per year, I'm not out any money and I don't have to replace tiresd or tail lights or worry about tha darn lights not working... or worry about the stuff I'm hauling flying off. I just pay that same money to a professional who brings me stuff and offloads the materials to a location of my choosing on the property. Pretty awesome.

There is a catch. Timing. Because I live in the boonies, I am essentially the LAST place any delivery person or company wants to be. I was originally scheduled for the 20th. An hour later, I was told that the 21st would be better. On the 20th, Lowe's called to say, "I know you're scheduled for the 22nd, but can we change that to the 23rd - one of our trucks is having trouble." I know we are the lowest priority, but come on. You guys don't even know what day you were scheduled?!... But what I said was, "OK," because I know arguing or being a smartass won't solve anything. My choices are to cancel my order or say, "OK." The choice is simple even if a wee bit annoying.

Our delivery man was sweet as punch. He called that morning to give me a noon to 2PM delivery window. He showed up at 1:05, forklifted the materials to exactly where I showed him, and was back out of the gate by 1:30. We began installing the deck floor immediately... See next post!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

To the big city

Off to Victoria. Anne drove and dropped me off at Lowe's. She continued onward to the mega-HEB just down the street.

Lowe's quickly and kindly matched my gray paint color. I chose a very awesome color for the exterior even though I won't be painting that until we return from our spring trip. I left with 2 more gallons of gray and two gallons of an awesme amazing exterior color.

Anne bought all kinds of delicious things at the giant HEB and away we went home.

Two more gallons still was not enough, but I prioritized and got done what needed to be done. The entire garage, the entire ceiling, and all the doors and windows are painted. I could not paint the kitchen walls. This is good, maybe. Anne can choose her kitchen color. That gray really is a grage color.
Kitchen walls didn't make it.
Truly a garage color.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Garage paint

My dad gave me a gallon and a half of some exterior gray paint that was left over from a deck project he had done. This seemed like the perfect paint for the interior of my container garage. I have a sprayer that I used on my container home. I figured this would be a piece of cake activity compared to the back breaking painting of the roof I did yesterday.

The good news:  the sprayer still works!!  Woohoo!

The bad news: 1.5 gallons wasn't even CLOSE to finishing the interior. I really ideally need to finish painting the interior before laying the floor which is now scheduled to be delivered on Friday. Turns out delayed deliveries aren't all bad.

My back is still killing me from yesterday, and so, I seriously wanted to cry when it was obvious there was no way I could finish with the amount of paint I have. It will be off to Victoria tomorrow for more paint. To cheer myself up, maybe I'll choose and buy the exterior paint too!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ow ow owwww

I have a to-do list almost every day. Not only does it help to keep me on track, I can look back at my notebook of daily to-do lists and see when I clipped the cat's claws or filed my taxes or bought birdseed.

Today the list was short. We had a bunch of errands to run in town. That had its own list and took about and hour and a half. The rest of the list was this: Finish cutting the garage door on the Piece of Junk container (only about 5 feet to cut), clean the interior of the PoJ container, and put a second coat of paint coating on the roof of the PoJ container. The cuts went smooth and easy. This was also a very satisfying task. The cleaning went fairly well. The wind finally died down enough to paint the roof. This task took about three hours. I had to scrub the pollen gunk off before painting. By the time I got off the roof, I was in serious pain. But I finished!

I am now sitting in bed with Stoli. The electric blanket is on "preheat" which means "almost on fire"... which feels really good on sore bodies. Anne made me some of her amazing popcorn and put two ibuprofens in my hand before sending me off to bed. I have just a couple of computer things to finish. Then it will be off to sleepyville.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Food

Usually we are very good about food balance. Most of our meals are very healthy. If we have a not-so-healthy meal it is balanced with activity and/or a series of lighter meals.

Right now, we have five half gallons of ice cream in our freezer. It was on sale and we found the first two we bought to be so tasty, we had to have more. It is the silliest happiest horrible indulgence. It is also an instant reminder of of how sugar and fat affect your body and moods in both good and bad ways. What joy we have eating our cones after a hard day of work. How bloated we feel as we lie down to go to sleep.

As much fun as it is to joke about 'ice cream forever!', this might be the last take-home ice cream we ever buy.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Post St. Patrick's Day

I gotta say, this was probably the nicest St. Patrick's Day I have ever had. OK, maybe I missed seeing friends who were all at gigs drinking beer, laughing, and having a good time. Then, I would see the posts of a few of my more honest friends, the introverts, the old-enough-to-say-so friends. These friends would comment on the drunkeness, the innappropriateness of the "Irish" stereotype, and the exhaustion of the under-appreciated hard work.

Instead of fighting crowds (and we did consider going somewhere for a pint), we went to Los Cabos, our favorite local Mexican food restaurant. We enjoyed a slightly green drink... a margarita, that is. It was lovely. It was calm. We were served ample amounts of food with happy quick service just like any other day of the year.

I hope everyone enjoyed the celebrations in whatever way made them happy... Mostly, I hope everyone took proper care of the musicians, the heart of the celebration!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Old container adventure

Today saw a milestone with the work on the old "Piece of Junk" container. I completed the cut for the kitchen door way. The fun part about corrugated metal is that it wants to curl. I knew this and had originally planned just one supporting 2x4 at the end where I would also secure the upright posts when the door was pushed out as a big awning. When we installed that first 2X4, just after cutting the bottom along the floor, it was obvious that this large 60 inch wide opening would need more than just that one cross support. With just the bottom cut up about 6 inches from the floor, the metal began curling inward so badly that the support board was a challenge to install. Two more supports were immediately added to the plan and installed before much curling could occur. Why not install them before cutting at all? Because the wood support would physically be in the way of the angle grinder. On the garage door which is 80 inches across, I will cut even more minimally, install the supports, and then finish all the cutting.
It feels really awesome to see this part of the project successfully completed. Onward!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Saint Patrick's Day Celebrations

This Saturday is Saint Patrick's Day, the day when Irish musicians play their hearts out or we stay home. I have been a SOLO Irish musician for some ten years. On the few occasions that I was honored to play a gig with other awesome musicians on St. Patrick's Day, I had a blast and I will do that again anytime! Being solo on Saint Patrick's Day is like going to a Valentine's Day dance and being the only single person who shows up. There are so many reasons for Irish musicians, both solo and whole bands, to stay home.  Here are a few:
  1. Playing music in the corner of a bar for drunk people who are shouting louder than you can sing with a microphone turned to 11... gets really tiring.
  2. Singing over a bagpipe band literally ten feet away... gets really tiring.
  3. Hearing pickup lines that include something like, "you're probably not as crazy as my first through fifth wife,"... gets really tiring.
  4. Working your fingers, voice, and heart to death while everyone else parties... gets really tiring.
  5. Dragging all your gear from gig to gig while everyone asks if you'll be playing "Danny Boy" soon... gets really tiring. 
  6. Sleeping in the car after the gig because it's safer than driving through Drunk-town, USA... gets really tiring.
  7. Eating junk food between sets because you can't leave because you'll lose your parking spot (where you're storing gear between sets), and the bar is too busy to serve you... gets really tiring.
  8. Having to run around trying to find the busy manager who has my paycheck... gets really tiring.
  9. Having to create my own stage, pissing off the waitresses but doing what the owner said... gets really tiring.
  10. Free beer for the band.... oh, wait, THAT doesn't get tiring. 
All that said, if you go to a Saint Patrick's Day celebration, be kind to the band. Tip them, or ask if they'd like some REAL food. They'd probably rather you didn't touch their gear, but you could offer to hold the door. Every Irish musician I know loves, truly loves, the music they play. Let them know you appreciate the heart they bring to the celebration. You know it wouldn't be the same in silence!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Rusty Roof

I wish "Rusty Roof" was the name of an ice cream flavor instead of the current battle of my daily existence. Over the last few days, Anne and I have been trying to clean up the roof of the Piece of Junk container. She has done the scraping and prepping of the roof, and I have primed it section by section after her.

Today I coated the roof with a thick sealer type paint. I applied it over the primed roof which had mostly kept the rust from bleeding through. Now, after checking on the drying of the thick sealer paint, it appears rust is bleeding though all over. I am rather disappointed, but the roof is/was REEEEEEEEALLY bad. I always wanted to get rid of this stupid monster because it is pretty much impossible to save this roof. If we can slow down the progress and cover the roof in about a year, hopefully, this scraping and painting we just did will be worth it. Today, seeing this, it feels pretty worthless. Oh well. We did what we could.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Giving myself an A+

It's been over three months since I started trying to get in a post each day. Some days there is not much, other days I have felt like I wrote about some very important things that occupy my mind. I have not posted every single day, but I make sure to fill in the blanks from my notes and that has worked out well.

Reading has also become a major part of the daily routine. We have several books going at once right now. I also have one I am reading alone... a book we vetoed from the potential "us" books. It's not that great, but I'm going to finish it because that's what I do.

All in all, I feel good. I'm getting projects done here on the property and balancing reading and writing and not feeling like I am wasting time doing what I enjoy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Junk for free

Today is the day to get rid of the amassed piles of junk. I have purged the garage and various areas of the house over the last couple of weeks. We have the trash pile. There is the 'junk someone might want but goodwill probably won't take' pile. A pile of metal is growing ever taller. And a pile of Goodwill donatables is taking up residence in the back of the truck.

We don't have ordinary trash collection out here in the boonies. That only means I minimize trash. Paper type trash is used to start fires. Recyclables are saved for recycling which only leaves plastic garbage really. I put all garbage into grocery store bags so that most of the time, this small bag can be thrown away every couple of weeks at the gas station garbage bin when I stop for gas. This pile is the garbage from the garage area. Things that have broken, etc. I place these things into small bags, but there is too much for the gas station. This can go to the big dumpster by the recycling.

We pulled all of the old metal scraps out of the barn, bits of roofing, and things like that. I save them temporarily because they could and have come in handy around here, but I think we are done with that phase for now. All of this metal could be recycled or possibly used by someone around here. This will be listed for free on facebook or Craigslist.

Junk someone might want is only a wee step above total garbage: tools that don't work, pieces of construction material, old paint. This pile of junk will also be listed on Facebook for free. I always make it a TAKE IT ALL listing. Don't just come pick one or two things. Someone always is happy to collect the pile of junk.

And the Goodwill pile will be dropped off when I take Stoli to Austin in a couple weeks.

All tidy!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Competition

Those who think life is a competition can never be happy. I hate competition of any sort. I think everyone has gifts that should be highlighted and everyone is better at some things than others, but more than likely, no one is better at all things than someone else. You have your own gifts, love them. Others have gifts, applaud them. Competition comes in many forms, from formal competition with awards to arguments between people...

Examples of competition I have heard recently:

  • You color better than I do, so I don't want to color.
  • Oh, you think doing 'X task' is tough? I wouldn't know anything about difficult work.
  • You do everything faster. Why do I bother?
  • You're always right and I'm always wrong. When do I get to be right?

These comments and plenty more like them are defeating. There is no way to get a positive conversation or outcome.

Coloring. How can that be competitive? Colors are beautiful. Everyone has a different eye and mental image. We all have different ideas about shading, highlighting, and how colors work together. For the record, the competitor in question is full of crap. We both color with our own different style, neither one better than the other. If anything, I believe my competitor has a better eye for creative use of highlighting and therefor ends up with a better more interesting finished page.

Life is tough. Everyone is entitled to express that something is difficult or that their back aches. If I say, "I do X task. It's tough, but I get it done," my statement in no way invites a competition from me. If you tell me your back aches and I launch into how mine is definitely worse than yours... Where is the conversation supposed to go? How can you possibly compare pain? If someone says something is difficult or painful, just sympathize and move on. You can complain and get sympathy too. It's no competition.

I do some things quickly because that's just how I've always done it. It probably would be beneficial for me to slow down. Other things, I have more experience and therefor know exactly what effort to place where to do things quick and efficient...  because, ultimately, I'm not that strong. I do not have the muscle power to waste. It's not a competition. If you want to compete is the arena of speed, I will lay down on the ground and forfeit every single time. I am not a competitor. However slow your contribution is, it has still gained us more together than me or you working alone! Therefor, I don't CARE how fast anyone goes!

The last one... seriously?No one is always right and I certainly have never claimed to be. No one is always wrong nor have I ever claimed anyone is. Comments like this have absolutely no positive course. None. Again, life is not a competition or score board of rights and wrongs.

Let's try something different.
You see someone do something better or differently than you can. Instead of saying, "You color better than I do, so I don't want to color," you say:

  • Wow, that's really pretty/amazing/cool/stupendous. 
  • I like how you did XYZ. Can you show me how you did it?
  • I see what you did there, but I'm not sure exactly how to describe it.
And then you continue your own project.

Instead of saying, "Oh, you think doing 'X task' is tough? I wouldn't know anything about difficult work," you say:

  • Ah, that's how I feel about Y task. Glad we get them done.
  • Is there anything we could do to make our tough tasks easier?
  • I'm sorry. I know how you feel. It'll be over soon, thank goodness!

And then you can have a productive conversation or simply move on working on those tough tasks.

Instead of saying, "You do everything faster. Why do I bother?" you could try:

  • You do some things so quickly. I'm impressed.
  • Can you help me with this?
  • I'm feeling slow and defeated at this task. Can we take a break and have a beer?
And then you take some time to thing positive thoughts about the person and positive thoughts about your own abilities. No one is faster at everything, nor should they be.

Instead of saying, "You're always right and I'm always wrong. When do I get to be right?" you could try:

  • I'm sorry.
  • You want to take a break from this argument and go hang out in the swing?
  • I love you.
You see, if you are inclined to say something like, "you're always right and I'm always wrong. When do I get to be right?" you are in a bad headspace where no discussion is going to be a positive one. It's not a true statement in any reality. It's mean, provoking, and unproductive. What you mean to say is something that will reach out and connect, not push away and stab. Arguments are not a competition. Scores should not be kept. There are no winners between partners. Choose kindness, and you should get kindness in return.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Home Depot and Lowe's

Dear Home Depot,
You had the exact product I wanted, so I followed the website and made the order with home delivery. Home delivery to my location is $79, totally worth it if you have no way of transporting 16 foot boards! I put in my credit card and all the required information. *Website Crash*

I called 1*800*466*3337. Told the representative that I was ordering for home delivery online and the site crashed. She took my first model number. Recited the product description and then told me that can not be delivered.

This whole thing took well over an hour. I have tried to order from Home Depot in the past and for one reason or another, the process never works out. This time, I tried because of the precise product. Lowe's does not carry the exact thing that I want. Alas, once again, I will order from Lowe's. It will be delivered even if it is a slightly different size than I had wanted.

Home Depot to-do list:
1. Fix your website! It crashes way too often going to error messages and losing my place.
2. Give customers correct information! This shouldn't even have to be said...
3. That's it...  those two things would make life much better.

Sincerely,
Abby Green



Dear Lowe's,
Thank you for offering store to home delivery service. This incredible kindness ensures that I shop in person at Lowe's whenever I have the option. I am sure that home delivery, especially out here in the country, is a pain, but it helps me more than I can express.

I have had three successful deliveries here in the past. And I look forward to the upcoming arrival of 72 boards.

In case you are curious, the product I was looking for was a 1"X4"X8' treated board. I settled for 1"X6"X8'. It wasn't very much more expensive than Home Depot's 1X4's... it's more that I just don't need 6" wide boards. Why waste the wood? But this will be just fine. Who knows, maybe I'll be glad in the end.

With sincere gratitude!
Abby Green

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Garage Organized

You know how they say, "It's the plumber's house that has all the leaks."? Well, I'm an organizer and my garage was beginning to say I was as bad as that plumber. Today, I acted as my own client and went bin by bin clearing clutter and organizing down to the last nail.

These are the times that remind me how daunting organizing is for the people who hire me. Here's a tip: It IS daunting! Don't tell yourself it's because there is something wrong with you.

When I started the chore, I spent the first half hour staring and picking up one tiny thing at a time. There was no way I was going to accomplish anything at that rate. I thought about quitting. But I didn't. I kept pecking the tiniest most insignificant things, and then, somewhere about the one hour mark, I was beginning to MOVE and tackle real things.

I purged good stuff that I will give away. I also purged trash... it just builds up. Don't be ashamed. Just do the tiniest thing toward any goal. You'll find the momentum!

Friday, March 09, 2018

Work Ethic

Being self-employed, there is no boss or list of things to do from anyone above nor are there employees to whom I may pass along tasks. I'm on my own. I have been self-employed in one manner or another for nearly 20 years. I make lists that push me toward career related goals. I also do this with the property I bought five years ago.

This property is a form of career. It is certainly an investment. As I improve it, I have something to sell if I decide that a new home would be better. I have rented one of the cabins for a little extra income. The thing about the property is that the to-do list is infinite and directly visible everywhere I look.

People come to help with certain big projects. My parents have helped. Anne works constantly. I have been working at grinding rust off the ceiling of the old container all day and came to a very good stopping place. I am due to begin making pizza dough in about 30 minutes. I am taking this time to do my daily writing. It's hard to walk away from the project while Anne continues working. I feel like a slacker taking advantage of others. That goes for any time anyone is here helping. I can't stop if they are doing anything.

This got me into serious trouble when my parents came to help a year and a half ago. My dad can work like a man half his age who does construction for a living! We decided to bury a sewage line and since we were doing that, we decided to go ahead and bury the new electric lines in preparation for the electrician powering up my new container house. I worked until I literally cried. And then I went back and tried to work some more.

No one has ever tried to make me feel guilty, but this is my home, a home I have literally built with my own hands. I don't want others laboring for my exclusive benefit while I hang out in the hammock eating bonbons. Paid help is different, of course. But even then, out here, I don't think I've let any paid person do anything without my assistance. There are always questions and location issues. I helped the truck driver position and place my new container, physically moving blocks and then his own truck levers while he did other things on the truck.

Hopefully, my pizza making skills will let Anne know how much appreciate her hard work today and always.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Reporting from the "Piece of Junk"

I am sitting on the back porch now known as "the veranda." Example: "Where shall we eat this evening? The veranda is such a lovely place to eat." It is lovely, but it is much more red-neck than what any definition of "veranda" would allow. We figure our own classiness balances everything out.

I just finished grinding the rust off of the inside ceiling from HALF of the"Piece of Junk." Half to go, but my arms can't take any more! Anne is doing the same section from above... She's still up on top of the Piece of Junk because, of course, the exterior of the roof is much worse that the interior. She is scraping and brushing and scraping some more. It sounds horrifying, but I'll keep my complaints quiet as I would hate for her to stop! Still, I stay outside nearby for safety sake.

The Piece of Junk is a standard sized shipping container, that is, 40 feet long by 8 feet wide by 8 feet tall. This container was here on the property when I bought the place. It was FUUUUUUUULL of stuff. Do you have any idea how much stuff one can store in a standard container? It took many years, many Craigslist ad listings, and much gnashing of teeth to empty the thing... I can neither confirm nor deny the accusation that many things were thrown in the fire. From the start, I hated the Piece of Junk. It was rusty on top and the water that came in soaked into the floor and rotted big chunks. Also, the location is really not ideal. It's under a power-line (big no-no especially for something made entirely of metal) and it blocks the view of a good deal of property from the veranda.

I tried for two years to give away the Piece of Junk, but there are trees boxing it in pretty tight. Honestly, I have no idea how they rested it here... although I can picture 6 country boys with tractors and other assorted machinery, a cooler full of beer, and lots of standing around pondering what to do next until "Hold my beer and watch this." TA-DA! The Piece of Junk found its current home.

The plan is to clean and preserve what is left of the metal shell. We stripped the floor out, and we are now almost halfway through with the roof. We will lay floor with a deck-like construction so that any leaks can drain through the deck floor. I have two doors planned - one large one for the kitchen, and an even bigger one for the garage. The kitchen will be about 12 feet of the 40 and the large door will open into the veranda area where there is also a fire pit. The garage door will open toward the pasture and will house my entire garage stuff freeing up what is now the garage area to become a better place to house the Eggcellence Camper. Eventually, we may cover the Piece of Junk with its own transparent roof embracing the holes up there as "sky-lights."

It's a big project, but if I keep the total expenses fairly low, which is always my project plan, it will be worth it. Most of the investment will be muscle power. When we finish, we may grant this monster a kinder name. Until then, Piece of Junk stands.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Food is Love

I love food. Anne loves to create amazing food. I feel honored and privileged every day that she creates art for me to eat!

Pork ribs over peas and five grain. DELICIOUS!

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Spring is in the Air

I made a bird feeder! I had a couple of melamine plates that I was going to pass on to Goodwill, but as my brain pondered bird feeder ideas, I decided I might be able make a feeder with those plates. I used a plate for the bottom, drilled a hole in the center for my eyebolt. The eyebolt holds a lightweight chain up through the sewer grade PVC pipe. Sewer grade is thinner and therefore lighter. The chain continues up through a license plate roof and then finishes up by attaching to a tree branch.
Here birdie birdie birdie!
We bought bird seed and we are now waiting until the bird social media makes our bird sanctuary areas famous!  If I ever come across more melamine plates, they are becoming bird feeders.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Depression

I have depressive spells. Not sadness or stress, but spells that are nearly indescribable, but I'm going to try here and now.

Yesterday, I had a few spells of just not being able to continue the tasks I was doing. Nothing overly spectacular, but a few key points to these spells did display themselves. First, utter exhaustion, like a feeling that I will absolutely just fall over if I don't lie down. Second, an inability to laugh at anything. I find humor in anything. I can be on the third day of the flu still throwing up my feet and I will still find something humorous. I lose that ability in these spells. Third, I get a sense of great shame, hopelessness, and dread. It's as if someone is looking at me and knows something about me that even I can't identify... and I can't. There's nothing technically wrong. There is a fourth key, but I'll get to that later.

I managed to make it through the day yesterday without toppling too badly. I made a couple of trips to the bedroom for 15 minute lie-downs. But I did work and I did make the walk to the mailbox and things like that.

Today, things got worse. I excused myself in the mid-morning after breakfast. I went to bed for a rest and did fall asleep for about 15 minutes out of the 1.5 hours I was there. I felt awful. This intense dread, exhaustion, and cloud hung down heavily. I got up in spite of this. My "normal" self knows this is not an okay state and I fight to come back to earth. I got up and went back to the living room. As Anne offered several kindnesses, tea, etc, I found myself staring back at hear like I was underwater. I could barely speak. I even reviewed my morning to see if I remembered taking anything, even advil that might have given any cause to this feeling at all. Usually, when I have spells like this, I am alone. With another person around, I have an added sense of responsibility to be myself and I think that is both better and worse. In the moment, I feel HORRIBLE that I am being not just a lump on the couch, but a humorless, staring person who might, to some, appear mad at the world. The better part comes as the other person calmly patiently feeds and cares for me which helps even though I feel guilty for not seeming grateful and my usual playful self.

I have described these episodes as something like a migraine. They are oppressive, overwhelming, and take everything that I know to be my normal self and throw it out the window. Then, with some time, patience, a feeling, a literal FEELING of the oppressive cloud lifts. It could take a few hours, it could be a few days. It could be completely gone, or little flare ups may occur here and there. Today, after a few hours of a particularly bad spell, I pulled up and out. I carefully, cautiously went out and picked flowers for our dinner table. Another flare happened after dinner, but I managed it okay.

I have described this to doctors, therapists, friends. Someone said it sounded a bit like a PTSD episode in its severity and in its episodic manner. Someone else classified it as "Major Depressive Disorder," but the definition of this term is for longer episodes than I have, but possibly a little less severe. Friends listen with sympathy and encourage me to visit a doctor. Friends feel like this is on a spectrum of treatable situations.

The fourth red flag of these episodes is that my brain is on autoloop of any and all manners of self-destruction... from minor afflictions to death. This is the reason I have sought help in the past. The thing that makes doctors not take it seriously is that if someone asks if I am suicidal, I say "no." I say this for several reasons. 1. To say "yes" means I give up my rights, and I could be locked up and drugged - a real and serious possibility. It's not just for the movies! 2. I have a sense of my real self in these episodes as if I am sitting next to this sick version of me. My real self is there reminding me to just hang on. This will pass. So, as long as I stay strong enough, I am NOT, in my mind, suicidal; I'm just having constant suicidal flashes. 3. My ability to see reality is completely gone. I am in a cloud that is physically heavy. I don't actually know what I am capable of.

This fourth flag is why I have sought medical attention. If an episode lasts too long, will I continue to be strong enough? Why are these episodes happening at all? There is migraine medication. Might there be something similar for these episodes. I CAN NOT be the only living person on this planet that has this problem. Yet, no doctor or therapist has come up with anything helpful, and more often they look at me like I'm making it all up.

I worry that some day I will be under actual real stress when one of these episodes occur and that it will last longer than my strength can hold out. That's how real and strong the death-flashes are. It both comforts me to think that Anne would be around to see signs and find help, but it also crushes me to think she would ever have to deal with this.