Blog Posts

Switching Gears?

So, it has been a couple of weeks since we last spoke. I have definitely had a lot going on. It is unfortunate that this time has been a weary experience, yet one we all share in some form or another, at any given time. At this stage of my life, I am sad to say it is not unexpected.

My mother-in-law has been ailing for quite some time. She is elderly and it is a culmination of many things we will all experience as we age. She deals with congestive heart failure, COPD, and diverticulitis on a daily basis. It is challenging and she tires quite easily. (This is the reason we moved home after being gone for 15 years.) She went to visit my SIL, about 2 hours from home, a few weeks back and while she was there fell hard. This resulted in a broken hip, which happens frequently as people start to lose their balance, their legs become weak, and they experience neuropathy with an aging body.

To say this was a stressful ordeal for her, as well as the rest of our family, is an understatement. When she had surgery to replace her hip she did not fully recover from the effects of anesthesia. She suffered what is known as Postoperative Delirium. This is not uncommon in folks who are elderly and have other health complications, but it is dangerous. In many cases, the patients never fully recover. In Margaret’s case we were lucky, but we did not know that would be the outcome at first.

She gained consciousness after surgery, but without the ability to focus, speak, or eat. She remained in this state for seven days before we began to see any semblance of her regaining her cognizance. By the Grace of God, she has since recovered enough that she has moved to a Skilled Nursing Facility. Where we go from here will be a test of her will and our patience but we are blessed with the forward momentum we see daily.

About a week after all of this began, I took a call from my little sister in Michigan. Most of my family is in the northern area of Michigan and I have been very fortunate that both of my parents, and my maternal grandmother, are still around. My Gram is 96 years old and she is still kicking it. (She just recently gave up driving because it is too difficult to get around in the winter snow and ice.) The call from my sister was actually in regards to my Dad.

The night prior to her calling, my Dad and Mom had a discussion which my mom had shared on in her FB page. My sister wanted to call me before I read it online and panicked. My Dad is suffering from congestive heart failure, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease in his elderly years. He explained to my Mom that he is ready to go home. He just wanted to be sure that she would be okay without him. My parents have been together, essentially, since they were eleven years of age. They were engaged at 16, married at 17, and have been married for 59 years. He couldn’t leave if she wasn’t ready to let him go.

As both of my parents have a strong, abiding faith, my Dad has no doubt where “home” is and what will be waiting for him when he gets there. My mom understands this as well. She has assured him that she will be fine as she has 2 daughters, a son, and a granddaughter all living close by. She is living in a very nice retirement community across the hall from her cousin and 1 building down from my Gram. With her assurances, my Dad has asked that she not hurry and not worry. He will be there when she is ready.

My Dad and his baby, Daisy Mae

Now, I know that all sounds so nice and quaint, but I don’t want it to be misleading. This is a very, very difficult situation for all of us. Our family has always been close, even when we are arguing. There is an abiding love that is driven by our faith in God and reinforced by the way we were raised. My husband says that our family is like a Budweiser commercial during the holidays, which in and of itself is another story. We were just blessed to be raised in a part of our nation where the family farm is still common and it is a small town where everyone literally knows everyone else.

I spoke to my Dad later the same day my sister called. I asked him how long he could wait for me to come say goodbye. He said he would only be with us a short while longer so come now if I was going to. So we did. The trip to Michigan is usually a 20 hour drive that we take in 3 days so as not to overstress our already disabled bodies. This time we drove straight through. (I really need to express my deepest gratitude to my two local SILs and my BIL here, along with both of my sisters in Michigan. The trip would not have been possible without their help.)

The trip started out as pleasant as possible, given the situation. That is, until we got to just below Grand Rapids. Here we are in a Texas truck, that has no snow tires, and we come into a winter storm with ice and sleet on the roadways covered by white out conditions for big chunks of our route. There were several accidents that caused course corrections, but we did make it. I will fly past the details, but Jim and I were able to spend 5 days in Michigan with family, and my Dad. It was a blessing to have that time.

On the way home we had a very uneventful trip, until we got just east of St. Louis. Yep, you guessed it. Another gracious winter storm. This one on the wrong end of the expedition. It held tough until we passed Ardmore, OK. I can assure you that God is indeed GOOD. While passing flipped big trucks, jackknifed trailers, and car collisions, He led us through with no problems. So we lost a little time on each side of the trip, but all in all it was a good

I have learned, over the past two weeks, when we age and we are ready to go home, there is a compassion that ascends upon those we love to help comfort them. I also know that the will to continue can transcend even a bad stint with anesthesia. Basically, we know when God is calling us home and when we still have something unfinished, and His timing is always perfect.

My Dad continues to spend time with us, but we count the time by hours rather than days. He is tired even when he is not asleep. He is lucid enough to join in conversations about an hour or two a day. He has told my sisters that we shouldn’t stay away for more than a day or two because he may not see them if they do. He is calm, content, and ready. We are all proud to be his children and he has extended family, through marriages, that are glad to have had the chance to know him. He has life long friends, that he still shares what time he can, who consider him a brother. It has been a life well lived.

One last thing I would like to express is my deepest gratitude for the numbers and numbers of friends, family, and even strangers who have prayed, and continue praying, for the peace and serenity we need to pass through the days past and ahead. There is no better support we can give each other outside of sincere prayer. There is a deep lesson for all to learn here. Thank you and God Bless to all. Can’t wait to see you again!

Add a Little Here and There

Good day all! Here we are again. I can’t wait to tell you just what we have been up to. Let’s jump right in…..

The trailer we are going to use as a car hauler is well under way to being converted. It is still in the “OMG! What have we gotten ourselves into?!” stage, but well under way. The teardown actually proffered some valuable parts that we can use as well. It was well worth the effort of tearing her apart.

I know I didn’t mention before, but the actual frame itself is from an old pull behind RV. The roof had been severely damaged so there was a large hole dead center. That caused the A/C to fall through and left the entire interior exposed to the elements. In Louisiana you might guess that means a ton of rain. You would be correct. Thus, the deconstruction was inevitable.

We have plans to convert this trailer to a car hauler with a small utility room on the front, as I shared previously. Before we could do that we had to strip her down to the actual frame. We will have to sand blast and repaint the rusty areas before rebuilding but look at what we found. We were able to salvage all but 2 of the original windows, the door and the screen, and most of the hatch covers. We also saved the refrigerator, A/C, shower stall, fresh water tank with pump intact, microwave, and stove. Not too mention all of the trailer lights and small whatchado’s attached here and there.

So, the plans go as follows;

  • Attach a steel deck to the frame once it has been sandblasted, primed, and painted
  • Frame out a small utility room on the front 8-12′ of the trailer. (We have to determine what is left after we measure out for the car and a winch.)
  • Enclose the utility room with aluminum siding and roofing. The roofing will have a slight curve to match the Bluebird.)
  • Insulate the entire room, wire for electrical, and plumb (this is where it is getting my heart pumping.)
  • Set out floor plan for interior and get started installing.

So what are we using the utility shed for? I will tell you. We are moving our solar array to the sides and top of the room. I found these fabulous flexible solar panels through Amazon and they will fit the curve of the roof. If we place them with a slight gap so air is allowed to pass through we will be able to triple our solar array. We are also going to use the two 100w panels we currently have to the side and mount them on a platform that can be angled out for optimum southern exposure. Not only will this give us more control over the amount of energy they generate, it will also allow us to use them as an awning of sorts to prevent the sun from hitting the shed area full force. The platform will also fold flat against the side of the room for traveling. I am sure everyone understand how much of a difference have 600w vs. 200w will make. I think this is my favorite opportunity yet!

The inside will be amazing as well because it will allow us to have some amenities that we just do not have the ability to add to the skoolie. Not only are we placing our solar array out back, but we are moving our batteries, charge controller, and inverter out there as well. The convenience of having all of these components in one location will be an immense improvement as the batteries are currently stored under our bed and the inverter takes up an entire kitchen cabinet. No more additional heat coming up through the platform of our bed! Plus one additional kitchen cabinet for storage!! Amazing.

This also allows us the opportunity to add more batteries. The batteries we currently use are the largest deep cycle marine batteries that were available to us as non-commercial purchases. We bought them through NAPA and they have 440 Ah of storage each. We purchased these particular batteries because we originally used them in a wet area in both our off-grid cabin and our houseboat. Because we would like to use some appliances off of our grid, we would like to have more storage available. We would prefer to use the free electricity over burning any fossil fuels. Plus, the ecological footprint we leave will be far less intrusive when we boondock in natural forests, beside lakes, etc. I am sure you are seeing the bigger picture.

Jim is looking forward to his favorite addition out back as well. He is stoked that we will be able to install a shower with running hot water inside. He really prefers that option to the outside solar shower we currently have. Building this shower ourselves allows us to make it a bit more on the generous size than a typical RV shower. It also gives us the chance to place a tub as the base, not just a shower pan. I am a soaker so that is right up my favorites pole. Instead of a high pressure shower head, we are planning to use a custom (made ourselves) shower head. With a little bit of copper tubing we can create our own rain pattern shower head that will be low pressure, relaxing, and soothing. We are going to use an on-demand water heater for this and. after a ton of research, it will be propane. We did this same heater on our houseboat and I will never use another form of heating water again.

The third item we can place in this storage room will be an additional refrigerator/freezer unit. I shop for the main grocery stock only once a month and I really want to be able to continue to do that on the road. Our current refrigerator is around 7 cf. That has been serving us rather well for shopping a couple of times a month with the exception of meat. The freezer is tiny and I really need a bit more storage in that area. With this extra space I can actually get that. By freeing up an additional kitchen cabinet by moving the inverter, I can move the items currently stored in the small cabinet over the refrigerator. Once that has been done we will be able to remove that cabinet and place a larger 9.2 cf refrigerator in that space. Then the current refrigerator can actually be moved to the new space on the trailer. I will more than double both refrigerator and freezer space, allowing me to stock enough groceries for the month. Yep! My second favorite upgrade.

Now there is another improvement that will make Treasure, our grey tabby, very happy. Our current “closet” is adequate for our needs but it is a bit short when it comes to the hanging wardrobe area. All of our shirts, dresses, and slacks come out of the closet a bit wrinkled and I definitely hate ironing. Our intention is to move that portion of our wardrobe to a taller closet in the storage area. As we will be showering out there, it makes sense to have the bulk of our wardrobe there as well. That gives us the opportunity to convert that current cubby into two spaces. The first will be a deep shelf where things like books, our printer, and office type supplies can be housed. The second, a nice little nook for Treasures bed, litter box, and food can be stored. Two of the most unsightly areas of any full time RV home on the road can now be hidden away. Much easier for the neat and tidy atmosphere needed to successfully live in a tiny space.

Believe it or not, this still allows for some additional storage spaces both in the bus and on the car hauler. We have to wait until we have it all laid out with the list above before we can determine what will be going where. We were able to purge a great deal before moving into the Bluebird so we have already maximized the current space. We want to keep everything to a minimum now, so it may be that most of the extra space stays just that, extra space. It will be interesting to see where we go with that. Hang around and help us figure this out! We always love the input from those of you with a bit more experience than we have.

By the way, don’t forget to check out our Patreon page. Once we determine if we will use 8′ or 12′ I will post a floor plan of the space there. Plus, you can always connect with us on our other forms of social media. We are MyBlueJeanLife on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Until then, we look forward to seeing you out there, on the byways.

Jim and Kam


Decisions Decision, Decisions

Yup! Decisions! We have a bunch of them that we need to make and each one of them has different weights that we need to consider. All of this comes from our past 2 months of living in the Skoolie. Some are changes to the layout that are purely based on making life a little more comfortable when parked at a base camp. Others are in regards to our TOAD. Still others concern both aspects. I should stress that not one of them is necessary to maintain a comfortable life while traveling. We are currently set up perfectly fine for that. These are simply preferential alterations.

The first thing we are looking at is how we will transport our 2016 BMW X1 28i. When we began planning our travels we had planned to drive the Beemer because we actually get about 40 mpg and we have an extended warranty which is bumper to bumper coverage with unlimited miles. We also have run flat tires that are covered in full under a separate warranty. These vehicles are not designed to be flat or dolly towed and, to be quite honest, driving it as the lead vehicle would provide a navigator that could also act as an escort through heavy traffic. Not to mention the additional advance notice of turns, construction, accidents and other obstacles which might otherwise require fast braking by a very heavy vehicle relying on air brakes.

However, there are a lot of negative factors involved in the plan above. For instance, there are a lot of miles that we would be adding to the car and that would require additional oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid and pad, and other system maintenance. Plus, tires that simply wear out are not covered by the warranty and they are a sweet $300 +/- each to replace. Of course, there is the additional risk of accident which would put it out of commission during repair time. Besides, even though we are planning to travel 200 miles or less per move, we would still be traveling in separate vehicles. I know, I know; Awww!!

That being said, Daniel is to the rescue again. He happens to have the perfect trailer for conversion to a car hauler sitting, unused, right outside of his house. With a little bit of elbow grease, and a lot less money, we can create the perfect trailer which will tote our car and give us room for a small enclosed space at the front for some other conveniences that the bus is missing. So, the decision has been made and we will be towing our car. I am stoked. This is going to be a great addition to our little caravan and, from what we understand, because the drag of the bus is already there this trailer will not really affect our gas mileage much at all. Sounds like we will actually be saving some gas money as well and who doesn’t love to save money?!

I am sure as I am alive that there will be some adjustments to our plans as we continue along this new path. The first being the amount of time we will be spending here in construction mode before hitting the open road. As much as I hate the sound of that (not because of the company) it is for the betterment of our future excursions. In some of our future posts I will be sharing the project plans, the progress, and how much the changes will affect our plans now and further down the road. If you have questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to shoot us a line.

This alteration to plans will also change the way some of the bus space is set up. That is another exciting advent and, aside from the work involved, I am super excited about the options here. I will share a lot of before and after photos along the way so stay with us and let us know if you have any cool ideas of your own for personalizing a space like this. We absolutely love to hear from all of you about the different little tips, tricks, and gadgets that make life more convenient while keeping it minimal. We are a long way from knowing everything so we are open to advice from all of your varied experiences.

Don’t forget to check us out on Patreon. Now that we are creating again we will be sharing detailed plans and product information with our Patrons on our page there. If you prefer social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc., just look for us. We are always MyBlueJeanLife so search us out and keep us updated.

Until then, we will see you on the byways. God Bless!

Jim and Kam

Living or Life

No big secret! I am pushing the 60 year mark. I have never really been one to reflect on age too much so it didn’t just creep up, it hit me smack dab in the face. I think the catalyst was losing my mother-in-law and having my Dad go into Hospice. This following not too far behind the loss of my two life long best friends and 3 close family members that I also grew up with. It made me realize that I am at the time of my life where I am going to be experiencing frequent, high impact changes because those who I have known forever are leaving. That being said, I started thinking about what life looks like for my husband and I. It also got me motivated to get moving again. Soooo, let’s do this………

We have a contract on the house! Yes!! That means that our budget has changed so we will share that with you in a post sometime over the next month, before we hit the actual blacktop. As for now, we are at my husband’s best friends home in Louisiana. This is where we are making our home base for all the pertinents while we are on the trail. We will be here for the remainder of July and, depending on our closing date, possibly for a week or two into August. As a side note, I should mention that this was a planned pre-trip lay-over from the start. We have a few solar related projects that we were not able to accomplish ourselves since we don’t know how to weld. Lucky for us, Daniel is very handy in the welding department and is generous enough to offer his assistance in this area.

The plan, from here, is quite simple; Live. We found that most of the folks we know spend their days working to acquire a bunch of stuff. Very nice stuff to be sure. Then, after they work and shop, they sit at home in the air conditioning or heated home, on the nice sofa, and they turn on their nice television and sit there waiting to die! Not consciously, of course, but still with the same result. Seriously, just stop and look at your life honestly. Look at everyone you know. Make an honest assessment of what is going on in every home in every city and every state in this nation. The majority of us are simply living to die. NO MORE! We are making the choice to live life. Death will just have to do without us for a while.

So, maybe we are crazy! Or are we? Let’s face it. We sold a 5 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 story house and we bought a bus. An old church bus. Granted, the seats are not there any more and it has many of the same accoutrements that you would find in a RV that a lot of people take on vacation. Still, it IS a bus and we ARE planning to live in it. All of the time. You make up your own mind, but we do not feel crazy at all. We actually feel relieved, for lack of a better word. The weight of trying to conform to what life has become has been lifted and we released the fret factor. It just wasn’t the fashion we felt comfortable wearing.

What I would like to do is share why and how we made the decisions we made that brought us to living full time on the road. They are numerous and varied so that will a series of posts to follow. Since we are now beginning this new journey, I am going to begin posting short briefs every 2-3 days from here out. On Sundays I will be posting longer reviews to give an idea of the reality of life out there. If there are any topics, hints, tips, products or other information that you would like to hear about, please feel free to contact us. We would love to help everyone have the life they dream of because that is what God created us for.

Also, as a final note, I would love to invite everyone to check us out on Patreon. We have a page there where we will be adding even more special interest information. We hope to provide our special guests with some unique insights, in depth and honest reviews, and a few small gifts from time to time. We want y’all to be a part of our adventure.

Don’t forget, we are on Facebook and Twitter as well. Those formats give us a better opportunity to communicate directly with everyone out there on the road, as well as at home. We also plan to have a YouTube Vlog station coming soon! We just can’t wait for you to be able to see our adorable pups and our obnoxiously demanding kit. You know how people get about their critters.

In the meantime, we hope you have a fabulous life and we pray God blesses you abundantly. See you on the byways!

Jim and Kam

Where Have You Been for the Past 35 Years?!

Wow! What a while since the last posting, right?! So sorry and no excuses. I simply haven’t had anything happening except sad and depressing events. I don’t want to dump all of that here, so I have been avoiding posting. Simple enough. But, enough is enough. So here I am.

We have made a couple of purchases and a couple of short trips since I last visited with you. First purchase was a “new to us” car. It is a 2016 BMW X1 and, before everyone gets all “ooooh” and “ahhh” I have to say, after a LOT of research and looking, we decided on this because it was not anymore $$$ than any of the other small to mid-size crossovers that are out there. It was a certified used vehicle and we were able to purchase a bumper to bumper extended warranty as well as the additional 2 years left on the manufacturer’s warranty. Just a side note; we pay for everything we do and purchase with cash. With our income being well below poverty levels we cannot afford to pay interest over and above the already outrageous prices for big tag items. We budget very, very carefully. Some day I might share how we work our budget to do the things we do, but for now I will just say that we live extremely frugally. Which brings me to our next purchase….

About 3 weeks ago we took a day trip to South Louisiana and we bought a “new to us” Skoolie. For those of you who are not familiar with that term, it refers to a bus that was previously used for school, church, etc., transportation but has since been converted into a traveling home, similar to a class “A” RV. Again, I can not emphasize enough, how much research with did on all of our options. We found this Skoolie after almost purchasing a traditional motorhome. When we first contacted the seller we were heartbroken. They had a buyer that was flying in to pick the bus up. It was disappointing because when we saw the bus we knew, beyond doubt, that it was the absolute perfect home for us. You know the feeling?! You just instantly see yourself in something, like the perfect pair of shoes or the puppy that snuggles and warms your heart instantly.

Booyah for us, the people did not show to pick up the bus and we got the call. We left immediately the next morning. No taking chances on losing the opportunity a second time. When we got there and did the overall inspections, etc., I can’t tell you what a divine moment it felt like. When we asked the lowest possible price for cash, today, it all fell into place like only a true blessing does. Now that leads me to one of our recent disappointments among a string of them. The house that we are currently in and all of the work and the future we had planned here at home.

We moved back to my husband’s family home in January of this year because his mother wanted us to have the house and as she aged she was no longer able to live here alone. She was actually living with one of his sisters so, after a couple of years of her asking, we acquiesced. All of his siblings, 4 sisters and 1 brother, had agreed to sign paperwork regarding their potential claim to the property because none of them wanted to be saddled with the project of repairing and remodeling. With the exception of one sister, they all have their own family homes now. We moved and began doing the research regarding foundation repair, roof replacement, new windows, and so on.

We had a lot of plans and we were moving forward until the end of February. You can look at some of the pictures on previous posts. Not a lot of them but we were moving forward at a leisurely pace. (Why hurry when you have the rest of your life?) Boy, are we glad we didn’t move any faster. The sign offs on sibling claims to the property kept getting put off and the paperwork sat on the desk week after week. You know how some families have a bad case of sibling rivalry? Well, how does this sound? If so and so has signed theirs I will sign mine, otherwise let me know when they do and then I will. Over, and over, and over again. Then, as I noted in a previous blog, the worst imaginable accident happened with my Mother-in-Law and my Dad at nearly the same time.

Since the news of my Dad’s going into hospice care we have been able to make 2 trips to Northern Michigan to visit with my parents. My Dad is off nearly all medications now and his head is a bit clearer. This allowed him to be “present” during the visits and we were able to enjoy spending some good time with him and my Mom. Also, since my Mother-in-Law’s fall and subsequent hip surgery followed by Post Operative Delirium, things have gone horribly wrong so we have spent as much time as possible, between trips up north, visiting with her. Originally, after the surgery, she was moved to a Skilled Nursing Facility in my Sister-in-Laws hometown, as that is where she was when she fell and had the surgery. Shortly after that move we had them transfer her to a SNF here. Three of the 6 children live here so there was more family contact which we believed would aid in recovery. Then,,,

She fell a second time, in the shower attached to her room one morning. No one at the facility knew she was up wandering and she couldn’t say why she was in the shower room as she had already been up, had breakfast, and was dressed for a doctor’s appointment that morning. She had a huge knot on her head and she bruised her left arm up pretty good. This, in addition to the horrific pressure wound on her left ankle that was a gift from the previous SNF seems to have been as devastatingly cliche’ as it can get. We sat at the ER and they ran a myriad of tests and scans and we were relieved to hear there were no serious injuries. Not the whole story though. Seems it never is.

Two days following the fall, she was not eating again and she was having episodes of brain fog that were eerie. Back to the ER a second time and a whole new battery of tests and scans with the same results. Everything looked fine, but nothing appeared fine. The best guess was that the Post Operative Delirium had just not fully cleared out of her system yet. Now I won’t put you through the sheer hell that has been her life since that day, but I will tell you that the “confusion” did not clear up any. On her 80th birthday, they moved my MIL to the Alzheimer’s wing of the Nursing Facility she was in. We tried to avoid this move and delayed as long as feasibly possible, but let’s not underestimate the voice that the Federal Government has under the guise of Medicare.

Last night, four days into her 80th year, we were at the ER again. She has been favoring her left arm and it has been getting progressively weaker for the past 2-3 weeks. It also seems that she is using her legs less and less. That meant another round of exhaustive tests and scans. About midnight we were informed that the tests were not positive this time around. The CT Scan showed that she now has a bleed on her brain. Even more devastating was the news that it is in the Medulla Oblongata which is the portion that controls all of our autonomic functions (those things we never have to think about, like breathing, body temperature, heart rate, digestion, and such). Just so happens that this is the worst part of the brain for something like this to occur and it is inoperable.

My husband and I fully believe in God’s Perfect Will and in miracles so I will never say anything is written in stone, but I will say that the prognosis from here is not promising. We met with the doctor this morning for more clarification and we were advised that there were some very; serious decisions that had to be made right away. After calling the 2 sisters here locally, we all met with a member of the hospital staff. This Palliative Care Specialist helped us through the bulk of the information regarding choices available at this stage and some family had to come to terms with the gravity of the situation. Then a decision had to be made which, at this point, I am not comfortable sharing in detail. Some day I will discuss them with you and give our reasons and considerations, but it is all too raw now.

What I would like to share, and end here with, is the decision we made during this time with regards to our living situation. See, we cannot afford to live in the house, which is 2 story, 5 bedroom, 2 bath, 2100 sq. ft. as she sits. With the lack of insulation, the sinking and breaking foundation, the old roof, a lot of missing and problem windows, a gas leak in the upstairs a/c, and several water leaks under the house it is simply too expensive for our budget paying just the most basic utilities. The summer hasn’t even begun here and the estimate is that electric bills triple in summer months when the hot, dry temperatures can be an average in the high 90’s and low 100’s. That being said, we are very cautious with our finances and we do not see the wisdom in putting the money needed to make the house a livable home when we do not have sole ownership yet. That would be placing a fool’s bet and we cannot risk that.

Aside from the house issues that have arisen, we have renewed our original decision of 13 years ago regarding our absolute, pure disdain for the State of Texas. We left here those many years ago because we do not want to live in this neck of the woods. I am sure there are plenty of you who love this state and kudos to you. As for us, we truly hate this place. It is either brutally hot and torturous or grey and brown, grey and brown, grey and brown (dismal to the tenth degree). We love the out-of-doors and we love to grow our own organic food. Our dogs love to wander outside and play. Because of the blistering sun and the insatiable sand fleas, ticks, and fire ants, neither activity is reasonable.

I’m not even beginning to mention the absolute bureaucratic nightmare that the various government entities have created. It is the most frustrating place we have ever lived, AGAIN! If you live here and you have never been anywhere else in the world for an extended period of time I believe that you can readily accept this life. After all, there is nothing wrong with it if there is nothing better to compare it to. However, if you have lived elsewhere or traveled extensively, I think you understand the points. Enough griping for now.

Here is where the Bluebird Skoolie comes into play and I know you know what I am talking about. We are hitting the road. We are not getting any younger ourselves and there are quite a few adventures we haven’t had. That said, within the next month we will begin to follow our vagabond nature and strike out once again. This time we will be full time RVers. The whole vibe of my posts will change as we travel throughout the lower forty eight and we strike out on our new adventure. The bottom line is, we are still alive and we are going to live. There is far too much left out there to explore and we have come to terms with the fact that we are truly Nomads at heart.

We will still have the home base in Texas and I will still share my experiences from a well lived life. All of the past, present and future joys, fears, tears, and lessons rolled up and laid out for all. I hope you all stay around to share the next chapter with us. We love being able to talk with you. See you soon and God Bless all of you!!

NOTE: Regarding the title of today’s post; When we walked in to the ER last night and saw my MIL, the first thing she said to me was “Well hey! There you are. I am so glad to see you. Where the hell have you been for the past, oh, 35 years?” I love this woman who has been part of my life for almost 35 years now so I had to use that small bit of humor to start the day.

A Question to My Readers

How many of you are starting to get completely fed up with the overt intrusion into our privacy? Maybe you are already fully there! What am I talking about? Well, let’s look into this.

Years ago I worked for BCBS of TX/IL/NM. It was at the time when the Blackberry first came out and was an absolutely amazing piece of technology. I still remember when they rolled out workplace email. That was HUGE!! For a minute. Then someone invented SPAM! Thousands of emails flooding your inbox on a daily basis. At the beginning they hadn’t developed the unsubscribe function so all you could do was delete them. Of course they showed right back up the next day. Oh bother!!

Well, today we can unsubscribe, HaHaHa! Have you ever tallied the amount of time you spend unsubscribing from trash? Then how do you remember if you have removed yourself from one list or another? I swear that there are still dozens of emails coming in from sites I have opted out of. Luckily, that intrusion is diminishing bit by bit, day by day. Why? Because it is being replaced by unwanted texts that waste not only your time, but for many folks, data usage blows up. Yep, you can opt out of these as well. Use even more of your data to respond “STOP” or “QUIT”. Now I even say it, OMG!!

These intrusions are frustrating at best, I know. The ones that really get me are the more recently occurring type. They relate directly to internet searches for virtually any topic you can imagine. The history of customer service can be summed up pretty fairly by looking at this procession of events.

Remember when you called a company for some kind of information you needed only to be greeted by some new fangled answering system that asked a ton of questions and got you nowhere but frustrated? Maybe it was you insurance, phone service, utilities, cable or some other office where you expect good, knowledgeable, human contact. You begin the call with one simple request for information. By the time you are able to connect with a flesh and blood service representative you are so furious at the amount of time and lack of assistance that your threads are bare. Then you get that person and they can’t provide the answer or they give you incorrect information. I know! I know!

Now, not only do you have even more complicated and less capable phone systems to prevent human contact when you need and want it, but you have the intrusions when you least want them. Take a typical search on the Google, say it’s for what houses may be available for sale in your neighborhood. You want to have comps so you can decide if it is the right time to sell or if it is feasible to do some remodeling. This is information you are perfectly capable of gleaning yourself. No need to call a local agent. You do your search and you choose one of the dozens of sites that provides comps. Before you even fill out the entire search form your phone is ringing and it’s not a recognizable number so you answer. It’s a real estate agent calling to assist with your search for a new home!? SERIOUSLY!!

I can’t get a decent human interaction when I am phoning a place of business where customer service is a definite requirement but I get a phone call from someone when I am attempting to perform a generic internet search and I haven’t even provided my personal contact information? Where are they getting my phone number, name, address, and other information from? Why are they calling, texting and emailing me when I haven’t given them permission to do so? How come they don’t answer their incoming calls and take care of them with such intensity and generosity?

This should really cause all of us to pause and wonder! How much privacy do you truly have with all of this technology surrounding you? Are you really directing your own life? What decisions would you make for yourself if someone wasn’t constantly behind the scenes orchestrating what internet, social media, and postal advertising was available to you? I bet at least 50% of the time 95% of us would make different choices in nearly every arena. Think about it!

Let me know how you feel about these recent developments in our societal interactions and share how they have affected your daily life. Love to hear from you!

God Bless!

Life is Challenging

I know. Talk about stating the obvious. Sorry. I guess I am just stating it with purpose. I apologize for being very late with this post. It has been a bear of a week. My mother-in-law, who is elderly and in poor health, fell at my sister-in-laws Sunday night. She was down there visiting and, from what we understand, fell over her oxygen line when on the way to the bathroom. Well, I am sure you already guessed, she broke her hip and, yes, needed surgery. So, they did the surgery, and she ended up experiencing what is called “Postoperative Delirium”. That means, in a nutshell, that she is not regaining her full cognitive function. She is having difficulty speaking more than a word or two, she cannot chew and swallow, and she is not able to focus on anything. She is in a hospital 2 1/2 hours from home and the weather is typical Texas spring weather. Beautiful and balmy Monday, freezing rain and sleet Tuesday, overcast and cool Wednesday. You get the idea. Nothing much is getting done around here.

I did accomplish some more of the little chores though. I get a wild hare once in a while and push something through between cooking, cleaning, and laundry. This week I worked on an old coffee table that I am refinishing. It has been in the collapsing storage out back for about 13 years now. Originally it was a small dining table that my husband and I cut down into coffee table height for my father-in-law about 15 years ago. He used it for the last couple of years he was with us and we deemed it his “command center” . I guess no one around here wanted to deal with it after his passing so it just sat out in the gathering elements. Amazingly it was still in good condition and it is solid wood, so of course I saw an opportunity.

My whole adult life has been a process of looking for something that is discarded but salvageable, bringing it home (to my husband’s chagrin), and reviving it. For several years we had a retail store where we sold the multitudes of items that I reworked. We dealt with several interior decorator’s in Florida, supplying them with one-of-a-kind designs. I even used my own homemade milk paint and stains. In 2013 we lost everything we had to our name in a fire that consumed our store and our apartment above. With my health issues I did not have the ability to start from scratch again, so now I am back to the beginning. I find pieces and create my own art for personal use and, once in a while, I design and develop items for gifting.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I will now. My mantra is “I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.” I try to work on this little concept of joy as often as I can because it helps me forget about the sad things for a while. Anyway, I wanted to share what I have accomplished so far because I am trying a new twist to my design this time. I am combining two of my favorites; distressed and reverse stenciling. So far I am loving it. I am still working through what look I want for the apron and legs, so it will be a few days, health willing, before I actually get back to it. (That ought to drive my husband sufficiently crazy.)

I started by lightly sanding the table just to open up the pores a bit. I don’t sand too much when I am working on a distressed piece. The only way to get a piece that looks authentically distressed or aged is to keep the characteristics that are unique to that aged piece. I am absolutely, positively, 100% opposed to the common craze of Chalk Paint followed by wax. If only folks would take the time to create, really create. Chalk paint has a devastating affect on wood and the faux look of multiple layers and colors followed by waxing grinds me in a dozen different ways. There. Said. I just refuse to do it.

Once I had the sanding done, I covered an entire section of the top with painter’s tape. I love the Frog tape but any removable tape works, even simple old school masking tape. (I would never try duct tape or desk type tapes.) This is where the reverse stenciling comes in to play. I have done this a couple of different ways, but I find what works best for me is to trace the stencil directly onto the tape. Then, with an exacto knife, I cut very carefully around the tracing. You can cut directly with the stencil as a guide if you choose, but I like the ability to change my design up a bit so that it isn’t quite so perfect and with tracing I have the option of doing that without cutting through the stencil.

After I removed the excess tape, leaving the design on the surface, I painted over the entire table top and sides. With this particular project I used a can of spray paint. (Normally I would make my own organic milk paint, but due to money constraints I have not been able to replenish my dye lot.) I chose a slightly off white color, not quite ecru, and I put a fairly stiff coat over most of the surface, especially around the taped design. I removed the tape from the top about 7 days after painting because I wanted a very well cured surface. By opening the pores with the sanding, the paint adheres very well once cured.

With the tape removed, the reverse pattern is very visible, as it is the original wood surrounded by an off white paint. Generally I would leave it as is and apply a nice paste or citrus wax protective coating and be done. The perfectionist in me loves the sharp, crisp lines of this style. I took this look and totally messed it up on this particular project. I put a 220 grit sandpaper on my little mouse sander and I went to work. This is the distressing part of the design element (and another disconcerting area for me when I walk in to practically every shop that advertises distressed, farmhouse, coastal, or rustic furniture and decor).

When you choose to distress a piece, you really should take heed to study the item and consider the use it would receive over the years. For instance, this coffee table. If it were newly painted and then sat in my living room in front of my sofa for 10-15 years, where would it most likely see wear from use. Well, I sit on my couch with the table in front of me and I put it through real life situations. Where do my feet land and rub if I put them up? Where would my magazines be when a drink gets spilled and causes the cover to stick? What type of scratches would appear if I were to throw my keys or my purse on it surface? Now you understand, this is exactly where I used my sander and a few other items to put the stress marks on the table.

After creating a nice, not overly processed, design on the table top and sides, I use the 220 grit and lightly sand the entire surface so that the paint will no have a sheen. This is a crucial piece before the next step because the stain will not adhere to a bright paint as well. Yes, stain. I know, I know. I argued for a good 15 minutes with the salesman at the Sherwin Williams store where I bought my stain. (Again, I just have not replenished my organic stains that I prefer.) This gentleman asked what I would be using the stain for and when I told him he said I would not be able to put stain over paint. He told me that I would need to glaze over the paint or it would never dry and cure. I explained that as long as it was water based paint and water based stain it will work and I have been doing this treatment to furniture for over 25 years. He disagreed with me and claimed he had tried this and it had taken over 3 weeks for his project to dry beyond tacky. He almost lost a sale by arguing with me so much but that’s another story.

I am here to tell you that if you are sure to use a latex paint (or an organic milk paint), sand lightly to take the sheen off, and use a water based stain (or organic fruit, nut or wood stain), this will work perfectly, it will dry quickly, and it will cure within 48 hours. If you finish the surface with a paste wax or citrus wax I would suggest curing for 7 days to get a very strong bond, but you do not have to wait that long. You will get a successful finish if you wait only 48 hours between application of different mediums.

You may wonder about using polyurethane as a final finish product because of it’s durability and shine. That is perfectly fine if that is your choice. It works just as well as long as the poly is also water based. The reason I choose paste wax or citrus oil blend is personal choice. The citrus oil blend nourishes and seals the wood. Paste wax seals and protects the wood. Both products are free of VOC’s. Since I have severe asthma, I do not want the VOC’s in my air. Quite frankly, I am tired of eating, breathing, and drinking all of the chemicals that are poisoning Americans today, also.

To wrap this up for today, I have stained the table and it has dried so I am just waiting 5-7 days now before I put the citrus beeswax on it. Plus, after thinking about it, I have decided to paint the apron and stain the legs. We will see the finished project if the weather ever clears up and quits blowing gale force winds so I can get outside to sand and paint.

Slow and Steady

This week I have very little to update in regards to our house. It has been a week of cleaning, dumping, and planning that is not something to show on a photo. It is, however, very necessary and still fulfilling and forward movement.

In addition to working around here, I did start work on a city wide program for neighbors to help neighbors help neighbors (like the crazy description?). I am excited to get this going so that we can bring people together under positive, progressive programs that rely on individuals within the community and not the government. It is called Neighborhood Resolve and we will have a FB page and group. Anyone interested in following along is welcome. I am working on the website design right now. I want it to be above and beyond.

That being said, what we did accomplish this week was the removal of carpet from 2 more rooms. Even though the floors need to be finished, it sure looks 100% better without the gnatty carpet that is covered with stains from who-knows-what? I don’t even like to think about the possibilities. I promise that this carpet removal process is a long, tedious chore for us. Age and health aside, hauling carpet and padding down stairs and out to the trailer is a ton of work. I didn’t realize just how heavy that stuff is, even when you cut it into smaller pieces. This removal alone is enough to convince me that I will never lay carpet in a home.

I worked on removing some of the built-ins where we are planning to have the master bedroom and bathroom. It had to be cleaned out first, like the rest of the house. There were 3 of those big, old, tube type televisions that have to go. Thing is, you cannot throw old electronics into the everyday trash and the dumps will not accept them in Texas. The heavy metals cannot be allowed to seep into the soil. We have to dismantle them and remove the different metal pieces so that we can have them recycled. The mercury glass, gold, copper, aluminum, etc. are all items that can be separately recycled and the only piece we found that we have to pay to recycle is the mercury glass. Hopefully the others will pay that cost. I would rather recycle these metals rather than poison the soil with them.

This next week we are going to jump back into the kitchen. Still a lot of work to do on the wall with the bench seat and range. We need to remove the rest of the plaster, etc., so that we can get into the walls. We need to start our project of making sure there is proper structural framing in the walls and, if not, we will have to work on restoring it. Regardless, we need to insulate and put up drywall.

I will have to contact the foundation guys too. I have to find out where and how their tunneling will affect my yard because I cannot spend the time and money to install my permaculture, edible landscape just to have it torn up a few weeks later. I have my plant starts and several could be put outside now but I may have to reconfigure the layout.

All in all, next week promises to be very busy and a great workout. Maybe I will keep up my weight loss success of the past couple of weeks. I am so excited to be able to get outside and get my hands dirty. Gardening, and basically all things nature, are my passion. I love the smell of fresh dirt and young plants. I am hoping that in the next three or four years my front yards will look as good as this.

By the by, kids. I have a very open attitude when it comes to all of you. I love you just as God commanded. I will not have conversations or posts that pertain to politics on this blog and site. I do not wish to debate with anyone. I believe we should all let go of our prejudice and judgement and come together to help each other to “live long and prosper”. I only hope all of you can do the same. Love is the greatest of the commandments. God bless and I hope to see you on the journey.

The Wooden Roller Coaster

What? What! Yes! That is what remodeling an older home a bit at a time reminds me of. A wooden roller coaster. Shaky, wobbly, noisy, highs and lows, and pure fear at times. Add to that, it’s just a small part of the kitchen so far and whoosh!

So, as I was framing in the base for the window seat in the breakfast area of our kitchen, I had to remove damaged drywall, and everything behind it. Part of the reason was the definite need for some insulation, but we needed to make sure the windows are securely framed before we install replacements this spring also. Good thing we did this, even though finding what we did is not really something I would normally consider “good”. We found shiplap that had been removed and replaced haphazardly, and plaster behind that (or at least the remains of plaster). What we did not find was a single 2×4 stud. Not a single semblance of one. Plus, the interior layer of brick was crumbling under one of the windows. (Remember the scary?!)

Now we know what we are dealing with. Good! Now we know what we are dealing with. Bad! It is definitely slowing down the work, but we are going to be able to replace all of the missing studs and framing so that the top floor doesn’t fall down on top of us. It is definitely more that we thought we would run into though.

Meanwhile, I kept working on pieces that did not require the completion of the wall to finish. Jim chose some really awesome paisley fabric for the cushions to the bench and I was able to add a strip of fabric to the bottom of the curtains I bought for the windows. The goal is to eventually turn those curtains into roman shades so I am excited about the slow but steady movement forward in this area. Quite a few little projects to keep me busy while we contemplate the wall restoration. Each one a small piece of the big finish.

The pattern of browns and creams will be neutral enough to go with the Wild Truffle finish on the bench and cabinets. It also has a really dark outline to match any blacks or dark greys that are in complimentary pieces such as the appliances. We will be able to keep adding the accents of turquoise and sea glass also.

The curtains are a creamy gauze with a slight greige pattern which is picked up by the stripe of paisley fringe. When I get the entire project complete, and they are more of a Roman Shade than curtain, they will not allow quite as much glare but, when the new windows are installed there will still be plenty of natural light below the shades. The old school blinds are on their way out of this house. With energy efficient windows we will not have to keep them all covered and dark. How fabulous is that?!

Being as OCD as I am, it is amazing that I have been able to work on various areas of this project without going crazy (well, more crazy). I guess, seeing everything changing daily is enough to keep me going for now. Before we go any further with the kitchen space, we need to remove the rest of the drywall and whatever and get that space shored up. By then they will be here to restore the foundation and the work will start moving along. As for now, the pace is perfect while I am nursing Pneumonia, Pleurisy, and Bronchitis.

By the by, I have decided that I am going to finish off the top few coats on the floor with an oil based, satin polyurethane. Some soft shine that won’t cover the stenciling with a hard shine bounce. Plus, it should still lend the look of rustic, aged finishing. That has to wait until the cough and breathing issues let up because of the VOCs associated with that finish. I am so excited about the day I can finish the kitchen floor. That is my favorite project in the house so far.

I would love to hear what y’all think and any suggestions you may have. I am learning a lot of this as I go. Thanks for spending time with me and God bless you! See you next Sunday.

Did I Mention I Like Worn Denim?

Among other rustic, worn, distressed things, anyway. Sorry about missing a posting last Sunday. I had it scheduled but it didn’t run automatically. My bad! I usually figure those things out and they work right on schedule.

Today, you get two for the price of one. This is the week I started our floors in the kitchen. I don’t know if you remember, but our budget is beyond tight in our city farmhouse, so we have to go very slowly with our projects and the budget is 0, which is my favorite price. I do a bunch of bartering, repurposing, and just plain, ole, cheapskate haggling. In the long run it may take longer to get there, but in the end we will have our comfy, cottagy, cabiny, rusticky, perfectly ours home. In the meantime, it may take the rest of our life to get it there.

So, now that you know the place I am starting from, let me show you a before after photo of the floors. This was what we found when we ripped up two, mostly three, layers of vinyl. Plus, under the cabinets that held the stove top and ovens we had carpet? Just remember that this home was built in 1925 +/-. A lot of years and a bunch of layers with differing styles.

I looked at these floors, naked, drying out from all of the trapped moisture, for well over two weeks thinking about the feeling I wanted to get from them. I contemplated renting a sander and taking them down to perfection, using a light stain on them, and bringing them up with a high sheen. I considered white washing them and finishing with a satin type sheen. I considered tearing them up and replacing them but then I remembered my budget. Sooo, it was Monday and Hobby Lobby was open, YES!

Stenciling is a design aspect I have always loved. (Remind me to tell you about my favorite desk someday.) There are so many options on the store shelves now that it is impossible not to find something you love. Trust me, one store and I was there for almost 2 hours looking at stencils. But, true to my style (and as close to my budget as I could get) I landed on a paisley pattern. Paisley and Argyle are my favorite patterns and I use them where and when I can. I even knit some double sided Argyle (red & white) hotpads for our cabin in Tennessee, but that is quite another story. Oh, by the way, the stencil was even a better deal because it came in a package with nineteen other stencils for under $10.

I chose paint colors that would work with our scheme plus, added bonus, they are colors with a lot of different elements so they will work in most future decor changes I would ever make. I stenciled the color on considerably thicker than I normally would, but it is a floor and the patterns are being placed sporadically so some are finding their ways to heavy traffic areas. I let that acrylic paint (I don’t have any milk paint dye right now) set for 24 hours and then I took some 120 grit sandpaper on my trusty mouse to sand it down and give it a somewhat worn appearance. Then I brought out my stain and went right on over everything equally. I let that sit for about a minute and then rubbed her down.

Just a few more steps until the finished project, but some of the floor will have to remain that way until we open up the wall between the kitchen and dining room. I may have to wait on the final surface until I figure that out. Right now I am just considering a really nice coat of citrus and beeswax to keep these old boards nourished and protected. I think the dining room may be a little more formal finish than the kitchen, but I am loving it. Oh, did I forget to tell you, I chose to do a simple prep because I absolutely adore the rustic condition of the boards. I couldn’t help myself. No heavy sanding. Mostly a real good scrubbing with castile soap, water, and a very stiff brush. It’s mother-in-law approved! Let me know what you think and thanks for coming along on my life of lovin’ it.

I can’t wait until next week to share even more stunning kitchen work. God bless y’all and see you next time. Wear you blue jeans.