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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Living Small Part #3

Living small part 2 left off with me on the I-95 following our home to it’s final resting place 1 hour away. The semi-truck wheels slung mud onto my windshield from the bog down we just left on the flooded Santee. I switched on my windshield cleaner and wipers to remove the muddy remnants of the 1000 year flood of Charleston and it’s surrounding communities. We are on our way to a sister tributary, another river that had been just as flooded, the next river to kiss the sea, the Edisto. My nerves couldn’t take the ride behind the little box home and I sped ahead of it.
I was waiting for the mover’s at the road. I told them that it was boggy as heck. They gauged it and told me that they had one shot and needed to know exactly where I wanted it dropped. I guided the first 18 wheeler with my hand to back up. The crew knew they didn’t have much time to play since the wheels were sinking already, they started throwing heavy concrete blocks around like Nerf balls underneath. The cab released the load and started spinning out, we had deep ruts in the yard for a while.
When they pulled out, it was a hot mess. We had no steps, the previous mover (that ripped us off) dropped our front porch off on the land and left it 20 feet from where the home is sitting now. Little use to us, Don and I aren’t builders, but we have Goggled our way through a lot of projects lately.
We got the electric company to give us temporary power on the land so that we could use a generator and tools. We tackled the steps, it took us most of a day to do what a carpenter could do in 3 hours. But you know what? We know we did it right and we finished it. We left that land tired and quiet many a day for the ride back to Mt. Pleasant.
During the hardest part of these trials, I am sure those silent rides had questions for both of us. What the hell are we doing? We have a good business, a nice suburban life and convenience at our fingertips. But the truth stared at me in Don’s worn and creased brows that would furrow themselves further if we didn’t get off of this track.
I drove down a long dusty road that led to the Edisto River one day. My soul needed water, still water. I sat on the Cypress studded bank and cried. I cried because my house didn’t look like the pictures I took of it as it sat on Santee River, a quiet little cook house with a nice front porch. I cried because I could see tires below a home that was once covered with beautiful river rock stone and a porch that once held a swing and rockers now sat like a frigging monstrosity apart in the yard. I cried because we were killing ourselves to recoup the money we gave to someone in earnest.
Even though I am in part 3 of this series I can tell you that every single second of that pain and worry and sacrifice was worth it today.
I don’t know that we knew where to start when we drove out to the home. Don pulled a piece of the carpet away from the center ridge to see if there was damage from the storm it sat in. We kept pulling, it felt good to pull it out, that dank dark carpet. The rest of the day was kind of like shedding skin, we ripped out the ugliness of the last few months and threw it into that monstrosity of a porch that sat outside. From that moment on I new that the porch would never be reattached.
During this transition time, I was talking to a friend and told him that we were moving into our place hell or high water by Christmas. High water had already came and hell felt near. But, I meant it. Even Don asked me repeatedly, “Are you sure about this?” We won’t have water yet, we are 1 ½ hours away from our jobs.”
“No, I am ready.” I replied.
The week of the move, Christmas week. We nixed the professional moving company to use a young man I met during the worst part of our moving fiasco. He mowed the land while we weren’t there and was going through a challenge of his own. He called to say that he had lost one of the movers and there was now a crew of two, but they could do it. I didn’t notice until hours later that the other mover was limping. He broke his foot the day before! They played games with each other most of the day. Laying snake skins they found in the shed in each other’s paths.
That first night was eerily beautiful. The big California King bed, the biggest thing in our small home was both familiar and not, we slept a little tighter together, Snowy and Don and I in our new home. We died to the world, I was so exhausted I could have slept in a foxhole in Vietnam.
Well the part I told my friend about “hell or high water” was partly true. Although we had power, we had no running water. It was the last week of December, I called and vetted well and septic servicemen. Scars from the earlier thievery had us leery. The most recommended well technician was booked out for 6 weeks. Challenges were met accordingly. We put out buckets to catch rain water for toilet flushing and bathing. Offers were numerous from friends to stay at homes or bathe etc until we were set up. Except for a few occasions we declined appreciatively.
Our mantra every single day was, “Do the next right thing.”
I gleefully looked forward every morning to our one luxury. Daily ground and percolated coffee beans. We brushed our teeth minimally with ice cold water. Each night we would boil water for our bird baths. But the thing we missed the most was the continuous flow of water on our bodies. I would go to either my sister’s or my niece’s once a week. Don wasn’t as eager to participate but was missing the running water himself.
On a rare warmer night (48 degrees) in January, Don asked me to boil a little more water than usual, he wanted to feel the water run over him as he washed.
You haven’t lived until you’ve stood on back porch under a full moon and poured water over your naked husband. The white bar of soap glowed in the moonlight. I waited by with a large towel to cover him.
Our heat came from a few electric heater’s, they kept us quite toasty. It would be months before our a/c heating unit would be connected. We worked hard and encouraged each other day and night, striving to make sure the load wasn’t more than either of us could bear.
New Years Eve, 2016. It is 82 degrees! I search the house for my old church fans. It was a quiet day in the woods. That evening, almost the very second that the sun fell over the tall pines and the darkness crept in, I was jolted to my feet. Wth? Armageddon?? An explosion that shook the ground.  Don explained, obviously the country boys idea of fireworks is to shoot propane tanks??  Shotguns rang out in the distance along with a few bought fireworks. Happy New Year to us!!
Right before bed time we heard the tapping sound of water on the roof. We ran to get the 5 gallon buckets in place at the eves of the house. We are using 6 gallons of water a day, for flushing, cooking, cleaning. It rained for 3 days, it filled those 5 buckets continuously!

Our evenings after work were very quiet and peaceful. An old grandfather clock tick tocked louder than I ever remember it before. Our big flat screen TV sat quietly, a black abyss in the living room. We read a lot, talked a lot, laughed a lot.

I handwrote chapters of my book. I had to re-write them later, they were dark, like spewed demon flies from the depths of my soul. They had to come out to make room for the good that I wanted to replace it. About 3 weeks later Direct TV installed the little dish that brought the world into our foursquare, just in time for the Superbowl. Those must have been some strong prayers Don! We found the TV to be loud at first, intrusive even.
Internet was not quite as quick. I admit that I leeched off of other server’s when we would go to populated areas.

And then one day almost 8weeks after the day we moved in, a truck pulled in the yard with lines and a pump for our well! Let me tell you, when they tapped in and that geyser of clear cold water shot 15 feet in the air, I was one happy girl. I was dancing inside but actually wanted to go stand under it.
I am grateful actually for the time we had in those hard weeks, they were necessary for the appreciation Don and I have for what is normally taken for granted. I’ll leave you with a line from Living Small IV.
“I turn this knob, and water flows all over my body.” Don Brabham.
I’ll leave this segment of Living Small with a few country revelations.

Deer are a different color here than they are at the coast.
Un-lessen is a word. In a sentence it goes something like this. “You need to buy mo of that un-lessen you want to come back soon.”
We won’t ever need fire-starter again.
Turkeys’ don’t like their picture taken.
I can brush my teeth with 4 ounces of water.
Dollar General is the grocery store
There are two types of wine/arsenic for sale in my town. Wild Irish Rose and Mad Dog 20/20. Un-lessen you drive a half hour to the big town.
You can get a speeding ticket for going 38 in a 35.
Deer are outnumbered by coon dogs.
Entire houses can be consumed by woods.
Rust is the new red.
Gizzards and liver’s are sold at gas stations.
Quiet is quieter. All is well.

Living Small—Part 3

Living Small—Part 3

Friday, February 12, 2016

Living Small II

I sat staring at this blinking cursor and asked myself “Should I? Should I tell this story in it’s entirety? Do I really want to re-hash it?” I am still friggin' raw. But—this is a series blog, writing is therapeutic for me, and if the events of the last 6 months save one person the trial-and-error we’ve gone through, I’ll feel better about it. Okay, so let me pour a glass of liquid Band-Aid and we’ll begin.

I’ll start with a re-cap of where I left off in Living Small Part I. We’d just re-evaluated our goals for sustainable living. After researching shipping containers, campers, and tiny houses we started looking at modular, it seemed the logical choice, being middle-aged. If I had “gotten” this earlier, we would have a small living community by now. Anyway right now, a modular is the quickest route to get off the wheel, well—as soon as they take the tires off the home. 

We went to dealerships to check out some new model’s. The first criteria for our purchase was that it would be paid for in cash, same as the land. After a few lots we decided to scratch new, the cost was more than our allotted cash. So—we entered the no-mans-land of used modular's. 

For a month we followed leads on Craigslist. Let me tell you, mobile home selfies are misleading as hell. I nearly fell through the floor of one property and feared a snakebite on another. 

I rode back-roads for miles, looking for those crooked little signs that said mobile home for sale. One Saturday morning last May, a new listing popped up. A lake-house modular on the Santee in Eutawville. My sister and I went to check it out. Good bones, solid, small and, as the little bear said in The Three Bears, it was Just Right!

The owners were wonderful. They explained that originally the home’s purpose was for entertaining and a temporary residence for business contacts but they recently decided to build a home on the site. I could see its potential. And—they were throwing in the most tacky décor I had ever seen in my life for free. A resin cast toilet seat with embedded hollow point bullets. What The Hell?

We shook hands that day and I came back 2 days later with cash. Our acquisitions sat on two different rivers, exactly 55 minutes apart.

Now all we needed to do was find a mover. Piece-of-cake right? Well, apparently, the world of mobile home moving has become a seedy profession. I called 22, that’s right…22 movers! Sixteen of which were no longer in business. The six left on my list were undesirables to say the least. They gave quotes sight-unseen, had a longer list of what they wouldn’t do than what they would, and had other dis-qualifiers like you would not believe. There are reasons that this profession has declined morally, but that’s another story.

I narrowed it down to the three worthiest of the non-worthy. I felt led to one particular mover, because he did all the right things, (in the beginning.) He met me at the site to give a quote, talked knowledgeably about the procedure, signed a contract that I wrote up, and assured me that the date we were looking to move could be achieved.  I made a huge deposit. You don’t want to know. One thing that was cohesive in mobile-moving jargon was the price. It was going to be upwards of 10K for a 55-minute move. We didn’t see that coming, but here we were. 

In two weeks I was packed and ready to go! Don and I were settling into the comfortable possibility of not owing a soul for anything and staying that way for the rest of our lives. We were Googling solar panels and grids, Don gets a chicken coop design book ordered. I started declining any invitations to anything because the move was imminent. It was June 15th,  the last day either of us felt peace for six months.  

We were one hour away from home in Eutawville, the mover was doling out periodical phone calls to let us know of progress. The Move was the first of next week! And then I got a call—“Mrs. Renae, So & So’s truck alternator went out and we have to rent a truck to haul this or that, I need a check to cover the cost.” he said. I wasn’t suspicious at this time, being contractors ourselves, we know stuff happens. 

“Okay, we will give you the second draw, since the move is next week anyway.” I told him. Work commenced and I felt like we were okay; moving along again. 

A few days before the moving date, I got a call. The mover said “It’s raining here.” 

Now, I am like Doppler Radar, Doppler can’t move without me. 90% of our business is exterior. I am the best weather barometer in these parts. I replied “There’s no rain anywhere near us or Eutawville.” He told me that they would resume work the next day.

Living Small Part II

Living Small Part II

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How does one get ready for Christmas in the south? The same as our snow hoarding upper states do, we just don't shake our snow dome.
How do we deck the halls?  Right nicely I'd say, with  oyster, pine, sea shells, cotton and magnolia  wreaths. A resourceful bunch we are! We string lights from palmetto's to pine's, shrimp boats to pillions in plough mud.
You may not get a whiff of ham from a tiny snow capped smokehouse with white furling smoke in Charleston, but — if you follow your nose you're likely to find a burn pit or barrel glowing red and have a bottle of some Christmas cheer put in your hand.
Nope, you won't spy a sleigh tumbling down the hill, but if the tides just right you just might see someone paddle boarding downtown with a Santa hat on.
Merry and bright bundles of clothes? Oh yes, we have those here too! I don't care if it's 85 degree's on Christmas Day, we're still going to wear our boots and scarves. Last year while waiting on a bench for a few minutes before we went in to see a Christmas movie, I counted 60 pair of boots. But I sure couldn't say anything, I had on a super heavy 3/4 length black wool dress coat.
I'd of worn that coat if it were 100 degrees. The coat is part of an accidental tradition that started up north 16 years ago. Don and I found ourselves and our home oddly silent on Christmas Day. All of the kids and grand's were at their own homes. We decided to go to the movies and eat while we were out. It didn't take long to figure out that we were going to be eating Chinese. We went to the theater afterwards to see Tom Hanks in "Cast Away." I slid the ticket stubs into my pocket.
When I hung the coat up that Christmas, I didn't think anything about it again until the next Christmas. I pulled it off of the hanger and Don and I headed out for our Christmas Day date of Chinese and movie. Once again I slipped the tickets in my pocket. I felt something and pulled out the ticket stubs from last year. The tradition has continued every year since, same pocket, same coat. I've even thrown in some Chinese fortune cookie predictions to boot!
I pull those stubs out every Christmas morning now, and we read the movies out loud. Some were fading so badly I had to write in the wording again. Most of the movie titles wouldn't spark a thought of Christmas to someone who saw the stubs, but for me — they are memories, a constant reminder that we can make Christmas tradition wherever we are.
Sometimes I muse futuristic endings to situations of the present day. The Christmas coat is one of them. I'll set up the scene for you. After I'm gone from earth, this very well made classic coat ends up at a thrift sore. A woman pulls it off the rack and then hangs it back up scolding herself, who needs a 3/4 length wool coat here? She comes back to it again a few minutes later, the vintage coat is in great condition. She slips it on and checks her self out in the mirror. Sliding her hands into the pockets, she pulls out the stubs. "These are all from Christmas Day." she whispers. She takes the coat to the register on this 90 degree fall day and smiles at the odd glances from customers and clerk.
On Christmas morning, she picks up her grandchild. As they stand in line at the theater, she notices that people are doing double takes when they see her in this long wool coat, especially when most of them are in short sleeves, sandals and flip flops.
She purchases their tickets at the window and places the stubs in her granddaughter's hands. Before the movie starts she tells her grandchild the story about the Christmas coat tradition and then has her add their ticket stubs to the pile and back into the coat pocket.
Her grand-daughter smiles us at her and ask about another tradition. "Grandma, how does Santa get into our house if we don't have a chimney?"
 "Oh sweetie, that's a Yankee Santa, southern Santa comes in on high tide, uses the back screen porch door and — he looks a lot like Bill Murray."
Merry Christmas everyone!!