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.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Mailbox Surprise

The mailbox is 4/10 of a mile from the gate. We like to take a walk to the mailbox because it makes us feel like we did some exercise. It's not that we don't get enough exercise with the mowing and the trimming trees and the other miscellaneous property maintenance we do, but this walk is intentional and sort of a cool down from all the other crazy activities. There is no other reason to take this walk. Typically, we get absolutely no mail and if there is some scrap, it's addressed to "the current resident" and therefore extremely important fire-starting material.

Usually we take the dog on a leash, but we decided to start walking without even telling the dog we were leaving. She has a hole-in-the-door type doggy door, and before we were even out of the yard, she was running along side of us making sure we noticed that we had indeed forgotten her. We decided to carry on without the leash. She usually sticks very close and follows directions when we address her. There is a cattle guard at the end of the road. This would stop her if nothing else did.

Macy stayed fairly close and the three of us had a lovely walk. When we came to the cattle guard, Macy stopped as instructed, but then carefully stepped one paw per metal pole until she safely made it to the other side. We had no idea she could or would do that. We laughed and instructed her to stay close to Anne while I went the remaining 20 feet to the mailbox that is on the Farm to Market road with a speed limit of 60. People generally follow that speed limit give or take 20 miles per hour.

I pulled out two pieces of mail. Neither were addressed to "the resident." One was from Lavaca County, the county in which we live. One was a post card addressed to "Anne and Abby." The postcard was delightful. A friend of our simply wrote, "I love you! That is all!" Haha! "Awwwww! That's fantastic!" is all we have to say!

The other, which I carefully opened, was a refund check for an overpayment of property taxes. When I saw the amount, I thought this couldn't be correct, but the idea of getting random money in the mail sure is lovely. We pay next to nothing out here for property taxes. The check was for about 80% of what I paid. What an adorably delightful mystery!

When we made it home, I was way too intrigued about the check to drop the subject. I got online and looked up my property tax information. This lead to looking at the tax CAD map to see who owned the properties around mine. In the end, I am quite sure there is some mistake. None of the dollar amounts on the form matched the dollar amounts on my tax records. I'll give them a call on Monday.

Still, what a wonderful day for mail!

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Excuses

Imagine for a moment that you make a living in the world of personal training, both physical and lifestyle. You help people become healthier with workouts and nutritional advice. You are also literally paid to hear people's excuses and call them on their bullshit and help them achieve goals that they are too "stuck" to manage on their own.

You hear daily from your clients:

  • I don't feel like it. I'm not inspired. I haven't felt like it for months. The weather is all wrong and I have a hundred other things to do.
  • Now, I want to, but I can't. The cat is playfully distracting, and the dog won't stop scratching. I can't focus with all the distractions.
  • Even though it seems like a good idea, if someone suggests something, I don't want to do it. It's a rainy day, a great day to tackle the goal, but the TV is so easy to click!

And when they say these things, you call this "bullshit" straight to their faces. You're paid and trained and experienced enough to know excuses even when they are much more gossamer than these. You know that you can't force them to do anything, but you can certainly point out the problems or the fact that there really ISN'T a problem, and if they want to shift their thinking, you are there to aid them in a healthier more productive life.

You pride yourself in setting an example by doing all the amazing things and achieving every goal you set forth for yourself. You pride yourself in looking at the positive and knowing an excuse when you are within fifty miles of it even in yourself.

And then one day, someone calls you out on the exact above list of excuses. You've been saying these things for months, but the person who calls you out has mostly quietly listened and not pushed you in any way knowing that you are the aforementioned personal trainer, we all need down days, and you will find your way through this. That is, until you go on a 30 minute rant that started as a reply to the question "how are you feeling?" You rant for 30 minutes claiming all manner of "can't"s. The EXACT "can't"s listed above. The exact "can't"s that drive you nuts about your own clients. This time, you are being called out. What do you do?

Friday, March 02, 2018

What day is it?

You would think that with writing here each day, I would know exactly what day it is every day. Ha!

Today's post is over at The Eggcellence!

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Stuck

I’m only five years old. I think that might be 35 years old, maybe more like 50 in people years considering the amount of hard work I’m required to do. It is hard work, sure, but I enjoy it. Sitting idly quiet makes it harder to get moving. I get creaky and living things begin to set up house beneath my protective body. It’s better to be useful, get moving, make a respectable presence.

We live on a ten acre ranch which, given my small frame, feels more like 1000 acres. I was chosen specifically because of my narrow frame but mighty strength. I’m in charge of keeping all the low lying vegetation from becoming impassable freakazoid monsters. Occasionally, I find myself feeling sorry for the rose bushes and other wildness, but I keep my feelings to myself and do as I’m told - chop it down!

Yesterday morning, I woke with a roar as the key turned and the clutch pressed and the throttle given a little back and forth action. It was time to take care of business. It’s spring in Texas and that means things are growing and I must keep that growth under control.

It felt great to back out of my parking space of four months. Oh! What’s this? I get new blades. I only get new blades every couple of years, when the space between my blades becomes an entire path of tall grass left behind between my tires. It’s a task that takes driving up a couple of ramps and sitting patiently as the correct socket wrench is located and the proper pressure applied in the correct direction. This could take mere seconds if only someone had made notes the last time, but we like a challenge around here. Soon enough, the new blades were ready and I rolled back down the ramps ready for action.

I left the inner acre where the cabins are and took a route right against the fence toward an area that has been neglected for years. About six months ago, the power company came here to cut trees back away from the lines. They chopped the living devil out of our beautiful friends. While they removed most of the brush and scraps, they left a good deal of smaller branches which are problematic for a tractor of my small stature. Therefore this area had been neglected. Removing these branches was part of the winter property clean up. Now, I ran my new blades over this area and the grass nearly smiled as the old was brushed away making the green beneath shine.

I was feeling great. Four passes completed this previously neglected area. As I turned to begin my work of the larger pasture area, I stopped. I didn’t mean to stop. Uh oh.

In February, the month otherwise known as “Texas Springtime,” we get rain. Our soil around here is a foot of sand over clay. Clay is a funny substance. It can be hard as bricks when it’s dry, but when it’s wet, it is slick as snot. It also drains slowly. The sand can stay soaked on top of slick-as-snot clay for days if there’s a good day or two of rain in a row.

There are places where the water and over saturation are obvious. There are also places where the grass grows green and the texture or saturation of the ground can’t be immediately seen. This is sort of the equivalent of black ice. You don’t know until you are in a turn and you slide out of control in the case of ice, or get desperately stuck in the case of this mud.

The first time this sort of quick-sand over snot-clay phenomenon occurred on this property, some friends in their truck and fifth-wheel trailer came to visit. They got stuck once. And they got stuck twice. The second time, all the humans scrambled with all their might and brain cells to find a solution. They did everything. They attempted to jack up the vehicle only to watch the jack descend into the mud rather than lift the truck. They shoveled away mud and added rocks only to watch the truck descend further into the mud as the rocks were swallowed down and lost forever. They tried a bit of cursing. They also tried a bit of praying. Neither vengeful wrath nor holy patience seemed to do much good.

Finally, having left the scene for five days, a tow truck man was called. “Oh, sure, we can come out. It’ll be $500. If you need to use a credit card, that will be 3% extra.” I am only a small tractor. In these parts, most folks have large diesel type tractors that they use for just these sorts of predicaments. The tractor down the road had already been on one such mission, but he too had gotten stuck in the quick-sand snot-clay. The decision was made to cough up the money and have the pros come on board.

Within thirty minutes, the whole ordeal was over. Well, over as long as they didn’t get stuck again! I know it was difficult to hand over the credit card, but the pros did in thirty minutes what the average Joe’s couldn’t do in four days.

So, here I sit. I watched as the sun descended upon my orange shiny body. I’ve never been out all night exposed to the elements as sounds of wild animals wander around searching for their dinner. I watched as the sun rose this morning. I wonder if I’ve been forgotten or if a rescue mission might be planned for today. The earth is still pudding, but it’s supposed to be sunny and warm for the next two days.

I know two things. First, when I get out of this situation, we will walk the swamp end of the property before approaching it. Second, With two more days of sunshine, the vegetation is going to need more of a reprimand than it did yesterday. I’ve got my work cut out for me!