Packing up for three days of tiny house learning (and sawing!) with Deek of relaxshacks.com!
Time: 10 minutes.
A snowstorm. In Cotuit. We lost power for days. No electric heat. Only fire, fueled by the dismantled coffee table.
A thunderstorm. In Lenox. We sat in the window seat, watched the lightning, faces rapt, and listened to the rain.
A rain shower. In Clinton. We jumped in the puddles, smiling our we-have-all-the-time-in-the-world smiles.
A heat wave. In Arizona. We drove and drove and drove, and our boombox melted, and we smiled.
A cold snap. In Lenox. We cooked chicken soup and sat on the brown couch and cozied in.
A blue sky. We lounged in a cemetery on my birthday and read aloud.
Be a weatherperson.
Over the past couple months, I’ve developed a new mantra. When I’m stressed out, when I get daydreamy, when I feel antsy, this is what comes to me:
Tiny house. Tiny house. Tiny house.
I think the first time I learned about tiny houses—the kind that are less than 200 square feet, that are built on wheels—was this video:
I was enamored with this tiny house. Over the years, I’ve quietly explored tiny houses online in admiration, but it’s only this year that I’ve started doing so with a more serious purpose: I’m going to build one myself.
Well, for one thing: why not tiny?
There are so many reasons that a tiny house appeals to me. I’ve always been drawn to cozy spaces. As a kid, I loved reading in my closet with a flashlight and building tiny forts. More than that, I loved the feeling of home. I moved a lot as a kid (not to mention as an adult), so that feeling was sometimes elusive, many times interrupted. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine being tied to one place permanently. A tiny house is an elegant solution: I may move, but my home comes with me.
And my home will contain just exactly what I need. Part of the process of planning and building a tiny house is figuring out just what that is. I know I have too much—and unnecessary—stuff. And it’s weighing me down. I want to have a lighter footprint. I want to get down to the essentials. Make room for other things in my physical and mental and emotional life.
Like community. The tiny house community (so many amazing, enthusiastic people!) and the community I will build around my tiny house. This was a big topic of conversation that Dee Williams brought to the table at a workshop I attended (more on that below). I’m not going to have every single thing I need in my tiny house. Which is actually a beautiful thing. It means reaching out to other people, developing practical and meaningful two-way relationships. I also don’t want to live in the middle of nowhere all by myself. As I think about where to build and where to park my tiny house, I’m thinking about people and connection.
I used to dream of a big house with a big library—a big desk surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books, a ladder to reach them all. Now I dream of a tiny reading nook with a small bookshelf and many fruitful trips to the library—and a ladder to reach my bed.
“Growth can mean simpler lives and more livable communities. It takes work and doesn’t just come by itself. It takes labor and development of a different kind. Part of what functioning, free communities like the Occupy communities can be working for and spreading to others is just a different way of living, which is not based on maximizing consumer goods, but on maximizing values that are important to life. That’s growth, too, just growth in a different direction.”
I started with an amazing workshop in Portland, Oregon, with Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD). They’re a tiny house company (check them out on Facebook, too)—owned and run by totally awesome women—that offers design and build workshops. I highly recommend them to anyone interested in tiny houses. Dee Williams, PAD founder and a leader of the tiny house movement, is one of my sheroes and a total inspiration. I learned so much at the PAD workshop, about building principles, tiny house ethos, zoning and code questions, and more. And it was really during that workshop—learning about all the details that go into building and living in a tiny house—that my thoughts went from “It would be so cool to live in a tiny house” to “It’s going to be so cool living in a tiny house.”
- Started spreadsheets! I named my Google doc spreadsheet “Tiny House Scheming,” and it currently has nine worksheets, from “Heart-Swelling Inspiration” to “Budget”
- Began following all sorts of inspiring tiny house folks, like Lina Menard, who you can find over at thisisthelittlelife.com, and Chris and Malissa Tack of the Tiny Tack House, over at chrisandmalissa.com. They all presented at the PAD workshop I attended, and I can tell you that they (1) totally know their tiny house stuff, (2) are super friendly, and (3) are awesome people.
- Paid off my credit card debt, started a tiny house savings account (with no debit card to access it), and began direct depositing a bit from each paycheck into it.
- Registered and am currently taking a tiny house e-course with Tiny r[E]volution to explore even more of the details of building a tiny house, to keep the inspiration flowing, and connect with other folks who are into tiny houses.
It’s going to take me a few years to save up enough money to build my tiny house, but that really works out perfectly because it gives me ample time to design and plan.
In the meantime, here’s some of that heart-swelling inspiration I mentioned before:
How I shall welcome the new year:
- Clean dishes
- Fresh bedsheets
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Once More, with Feeling”
- A new word
- Many words
- Nourishing food
- Pristine, perfect calendars
- One achievable goal
- Several wild dreams
- A bit of dark chocolate
- A tiny bottle of prosecco
- A red dress
Tell me yours!
I made this today. That is all. (For key to proofreading marks, visit the Chicago Manual of Style.)
I keep in touch with my grandparents mostly through writing letters, something I eminently enjoy and feel has fallen too much to the wayside in modern society’s hustle and bustle of a harried existence. In his latest letter—written in the most beautiful and meticulous penmanship that is his hallmark—my grandpa wrote a paragraph that was exactly what I needed to read:
Glad to hear that you are finding time for personal writing. Keep it up—remember you have something to say to all of us and we need to hear. We write, we paint for different reasons at different times. Most of my painting is illustration, no big story, but I like boats and I want to paint them. Sometimes I try to tell a story—put some meaning into the picture. Sometimes I almost succeed.
That’s from Bill Atcheson, painter and my grandpa. I feel like there’s so much I want to tease out of this paragraph—about the importance of expression, about the ways that the things that are vital to us change but remain vital, about the need to try despite obstacles and challenges—but for right now, I am just going to dwell in his words and let them speak for themselves. And I’m gonna go write!
Inspired by my friends over at Queering Motherhood, here’s a snapshot of where I’m at:
Loving: the feeling of being home in many places. And clean laundry.
Reading: Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, by Chris Hayes, which is articulately and compellingly confirming my gut feelings about U.S. institutions and the pitfalls of meritocracy (read more over at Rolling Stone; definitely a post of its own to come upon completion). To balance out the wonkiness (uber readable wonkiness, but wonkiness nevertheless), I’ve also just taken My Antonia, by Willa Cather, off my shelf. Oh, and Labor Notes newsletter, Ms. Magazine, and Bitch.
Watching: political debates, the Rachel Maddow Show, If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (fascinating), Look Both Ways (heartbreakingly wonderful and moving), Winter’s Bone (intense and painful and good), Foyle’s War (British mystery! Sam and Foyle are my favorite characters).
Thinking about: how I am going to start eating healthier, the advances of modern medicine, the sorry state of health care, what I want my career to look like in the coming years, how cold my toes are, the word and the concept of weltschmerz, writing.
Stressing about: finding balance, the feeling I have right now that I am forgetting something, returning e-mails and phone calls, not having things done that should already be done, uncertainty (useless, I know).
Looking forward to: paying off my credit card debt, being part of a dear friend’s wedding at the end of the month, having three days off next weekend, movie night with my roommate, cozy knitting.
Making me happy: letters in the mail, end-of-dock conversations, homemade macaroni and cheese.
Political debates make me anxious. Maybe it’s all the not answering of questions or the off-topic attacks or the tick-tock of the answer clock. Nevertheless, I feel that they’re important to watch. So how, then, shall we all survive the election season?
Four Debate Viewing Tips
- Watch with friends and community.
It takes the edge off to be around people you know and love. And it helps remind you that the world is not completely crazy. And maybe your friends, like mine, are snarky and clever, and will make you laugh in the midst of it.
- Talk to the TV.
Political debates can be endlessly frustrating and angry making (e.g., “Did he really just say THAT?!”). Sometimes it just helps to talk back.
- Have a drink.
Beer, wine, pineapple juice, ginger ale, whatever the drink of your choice. Might loosen the tension that slowly builds over the course of the debate or keep you hydrated, depending on your preferences. Both of which can come in handy.
- Pay attention.
Even though they can be crazy making, they give you a clear picture of candidates’ talking points and approach to an election. And they give you a starting point for further research. Be an informed voter. I should have paid more attention when I watched the first Warren-Brown debate, but I wasn’t following my other tips and I just got too stressed out by the whole hullabaloo. Next time I will be prepared!
Why Even Watch the Debates?
The political is personal, and knowledge is power. The decisions that are made every day by lawmakers and people in power affect our lives in a very real way. The Affordable Care Act means people close to me will have access to affordable health care (imagine that!) that they didn’t before. Scary laws being proposed (and unfortunately too often passed) limiting access to reproductive freedom, from abortion to birth control, have very real practical consequences. Yes, the political system in our country is effed up—but we’re not going to change it by disengaging.
If you’re in Massachusetts, don’t miss the rest of the debates between Elizabeth Warren (love her!) and Scott Brown (really don’t love him):
- October 1, 7:00 p.m. ET, UMass Lowell (use #masendebate hashtag for tweets)
- October 10, 7:00 p.m. ET, Springfield Public Forum
- October 30, Boston Media Consortium, including WGBH
And the Obama-Romney presidential debates:
- October 3 (domestic policy), 9:00–10:30 p.m. ET, University of Denver
- October 16 (town meeting), 9:00–10:30 p.m. ET, Hofstra University
- October 22 (foreign policy), 9:00–10:30 p.m. ET, Lynn University
On a related note: make sure you’re registered to vote and know what you need at the polls!
I am sitting at the window counter of a coffee shop in the square. The stool I sit on is too tall for the counter—or the other way around—so that I bend my back to assume my regular writing posture. I’m auditioning places to write regularly (need one close to home for weekends; my house is too distracting), and I realize that if I were to go with this choice, I’d need to forego this window view—of not much, of the street, of the commuter rail—for a seat at a small table. My would never survive otherwise.
I like this place. I am entranced a bit by the unbroken buzz of voices speaking a language I don’t understand. Albanian, I believe, based on the small flag that hangs behind the register. Today, my heart sank when I saw a framed photograph of the owner and Scott Brown hanging next to it. “Great food, service, and smile,” Brown had written next to his signature. Autograph, in this case, I suppose.
The chai here isn’t quite right, either. The mix is too sweet. They have another kind, but I suspect from the “tiger spice” title that it may be too strong, a little too spicy. I feel like Goldilocks when it comes to chai.
A couple’s voices speaking English breaks into my space here at the counter. An older couple, drinking cappuccinos. I hear talk of the gunk in one of their eyes, of the performance of Beatrice last night in a Shakespeare play I can’t remember the name of. I feel a bit like Harriet the Spy. The woman rocks herself back and forth to propel herself out of the chair, grabbing her canes to make her way back out the door.
It’s not an ideal place to write. It’s not without faults. But perhaps that makes it perfect? Will I need to wait until Elizabeth Warren wins the election to make myself a regular? Decide on a different drink of choice? Find another spot nearby? Or realize that it’s all besides the point? A writer writes. (What cranky old writer said that? It escapes me.) I need to just write.
* * * * *
Things I dream about related to writing:
- The Hill House Artist Residency
- A writing studio
- Degree in creative nonfiction (Emerson? Lesley?) or communication management and gender/cultural studies (Simmons)