Friday, January 20, 2012

New Blog

Dearest subscribers,

Few though you may be, I feel terrible about the neglect I have demonstrated on this blog. For those of you who do not know me personally, my life has taken a drastic u-turn since Thanksgiving. My vandwelling adventures have been put on hold for a few months, but not forever. First of all, I have had to drop out of school due to financial difficulties. I am working hard and saving money in order to return in the fall. Also, Mr. Miyagi broke down. He is now undergoing massive repairs and with any luck, by March he will be in tip top condition and completely renovated for my vandwelling adventures. As a result of these circumstances I have moved back home temporarily and am mooching off my sister in order to save up some cash. That, compounded with some personal family difficulties, which I do not feel comfortable disclosing, has lead to an absolute neglect in this arena of my life. I have decided to shut down this blog and start fresh with a new one sometime this summer. I will keep this blog up only to notify everyone when and where the new blog will be. I am so sorry. Thank you all for your support. I look forward to blogging again with you all soon.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Road Trip and a Turkey Coma

Thanksgiving break is upon us here on campus. Time to take off for a week and mooch off my parents for free food and laundry. Yay for family gatherings! My uncles and cousins will pop the hood of my van, or in this case, the front seats, and fix as many problems as they can. My Mom, aunts, sisters, and grandma will chat in the kitchen and sip on eggnog we spiked when Grandma wasn't looking. We will play poker till dawn and have biscuits and gravy for breakfast every morning. We will play horse shoes and listen the Christmas music. We will go out dancing and sing every song we know at full volume. I will have three square meals a day, snacks in between, midnight snacks, walk away ten pounds heavier with armloads of freshly washed clothes, and I didn't have to pay for any of it. I love going home to see the family.

So the departure time is 0600, though it will more likely be 0930. My projected eta is before 1600. I have a long trip ahead of me. Mr. Miyagi is packed, clean, and ready. Tomorrow we will depart before dawn with four piles of dirty laundry, two cats, and two girls. This is Mr. Miyagi's second road trip and he is in excellent condition due to his recent operation (more on that later). I am optimistic.

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and if you are travelling, travel safely. I will try to post despite the inevitable turkey coma. Even though it is cheesy, try to take a moment and think about what you're thankful for. I am thankful for Mr. Miyagi, my friends, my family, my cat, and my new found material liberty. Thank you to all the pioneers and gypsies who went before me. It is truly a joy to feel so free.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Bad, the Ugly, and the Good

Hello everyone. Yesterday was quite an adventure for me, fraught with all sorts of experiences unique to vandwellers. I believe in ending with Good news so I am going to give you the 'un-fun' stuff first.

The Bad: Yesterday was the first real rain storm we have had in a month, which is unusual for the area, but it worked in my favor for a few weeks. Yesterday I discovered a leak in Mr. Miyagi. It isn't horrible, just inconvenient. Water leaks through at the hinge edge of my hatchback door. Right now all I can do is roll up towels underneath it and clear everything out of the back of the van. This leads me to the worst part of yesterday.

The Ugly: I chose my parking space for last night based upon the inconvenient presence of a leak in my van. I did, however, have an excellent place to park. My church has large covered driveway areas on each side of it for dropping people off in the rain. There are also external electrical plugs. I was set up there, shielded from the rain and hooked up to shore power. The night looked promising. Bible study goes on every Tuesday night at my church and I attend as often as I can. I was already hooked up there so I had no excuse not to go. As soon as bible study was finished Em and I decided to hang out inside the fellowship hall for an hour or two before leaving.

The bible study group left and we got comfortable. Three minutes later a couple of guys came back to the church and banged on the doors. Em and I went and opened it for them. They told us that a man was lurking outside the church, that he was watching through glass doors from the outside. I freaked out. I don't scare easily and I never ever panic, but for some reason this just really got to me. If they hadn't noticed him I would have gone to my van and gone to sleep and a strange man lurking around in the dark would have seen the whole thing. Em and I packed right up and left. I spent the night out at her place last night. I know I prepared myself for the dangers of living in a van, especially in an urban area, but this was the first time it was brought home to me.

The Good: Yesterday I met a remarkable young woman, her name is Misha. I was sitting in my van reading a book with my cat and the door open. She came up to me and asked if I lived in my van. At this point I kicked myself for not being more discreet. I gave her the usual run around about a long commute and needing a place to relax or sleep a few hours rather than a long drive. All true, just half truths. She introduced herself and offered her home to me. She said that if I ever needed a place to stay that my cat and I are more than welcome at her apartment for as long as we want to stay. This young woman's courage is remarkable to me. She opened her home to a complete stranger.

Reflecting back on this event earlier yesterday, I can deal with the scare of last night. Her courage and compassion remind me of my belief that humanity is mostly good. Yes, there are those who are cruel and violent, people who may hurt you if given the chance, but there are also those who will help you. Most people are not bad, just as most people are not overly generous and compassionate. I believe that everyone has goodness in them and that most of the time we can appeal to that goodness inside of ourselves and in others.

So, of course I am scared that some lurking man in the dark will see me crawl into the back of my van for the night; but I am also confident that that fear will not keep me from boldly living as I choose and meeting others like Misha.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Improvisation and Soda Bottles

Hello everyone. Sorry I disappeared for a while. Things were definitely hectic here. So much has happened in the last two weeks I barely know where to begin. I have promised you all updates on my progress as well as comprehensive outlines of my construction projection. I am working on them all right now and they should be posted very soon. In the meantime I would like to review my first week as a vandweller.

My first night in my new home was November 4. The lease on my apartment officially ran out on the first, but the people moving in are good friends so they let me stay on for a few days while I got things straightened out. I slept in their living room. When I did start sleeping in the van it was parked in front of their house. They are truly generous friends and my thanks go out to Kay and Magnus. I have plans for a brilliant house warming gift after the holidays.

The days before moving into Mr. Miyagi were filled with outfitting my walk-in closet. I always wanted a giant walk-in closet and now that I have moved into a van I finally have one. Magnus, Kay, and Em all spent many hours helping me outfit my little 5'x10' storage room into a wonderful space where I can keep my wardrobe, bulk dry foods, tools, and books. It really looks like a walk-in closet and I adore it.

The second step was to outfit the van. I have only finished construction on the floor which sucks because I am way behind schedule, but it is good enough for now. So I threw in my twin size mattress, fit a suitcase, a rubber tub, a basket, and a toolbox around it and stuffed all of the bare necessities in. Privacy right now is kept by crude cardboard cut outs that fit into the windows. I hang quilts over the back window and behind the driver seat for complete enclosure.

The cat litter box is upfront in the passenger floorboard. - I got a covered litter box at 50% at the pet store because one of the snaps was broken. - My construction tools live in a box on the center console and my backpack and coat sit in the passenger seat. Cesare, the plant, lives on the dashboard. The cat food and water sit on my toiletries box behind the driver seat. There is a lot of trial and error involved, but improvisation is getting me through.

Sleeping out in the van was a little unnerving for the first few hours, but I finally got some rest. One large challenge was the need to urinate at night. Normally I get up three times a night to pee. I drink a lot of water though I am trying to cut back after 5 in the afternoon now that I don't have a built-in bathroom nearby. When I parked at Kay and Magnus's place I just used their toilet. When I parked out at Em's new place in the sticks I just peed outside. Recently, though, the weather has been getting cold and wet so peeing outside isn't as easy. Also when I park in town I really only have the option of peeing at Walmart. I could continue doing this but I don't like parking at Walmart at night and I hate wasting the gas driving down there. So I improvised. When I have to pee and I can't leave the van I use a funnel and an old soda bottle. It actually works really well, though I have already ordered a little john with a lady J attachment. I am relieved to know that if I need to, I can pee in the van without any problems.

Hadassah is adapting beautifully. She wears her jacket during the day most of the time and whenever the door or windows are open I just put her on her leash and she roams about freely. She still isn't sure about moving about so much but she is much calmer now than she was five days ago. I am sure that Hadassah will adapt quickly to the new lifestyle and be back to her old self soon.

That is about it for now. I will be resuming construction on the van this weekend and hopefully I will have the ceiling done by next week and the walls by Thanksgiving. Take care and enjoy the fall.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stardate 65317.5

Yes, I'm a Star Trek fan, get over it!....okay, wait. I'm not on of those fans, but I still love the shows, so....yes. Moving on.

Alright, not much really. I honestly have no news. I have finished with the insulation in the floor today. I hope to have a floor by this evening. Not much else. Really, really, really busy. Right now I feel like Captain Hook with the tick tock of the crocodile haunting my wake. There is a giant count down looming above me and I cannot escape it. My personal out-of-apartment deadline is Thursday, as in the day after tomorrow. I don't think I will make it, but once the floor is down I become a moving machine. I promise to have pictures and a detailed how-to post on my van renovations thus far. Give me till next week and you won't be disappointed.

Speaking of disappointment, I might add that I may have to sit out of school next semester due to financial difficulties. At first this really saddened me because I was going to present my thesis and graduate, but now I am thinking of all the wonderful possibilities. Looking for that silver lining is a wonderful skill. Develop it. Use it.

More later. Keep warm or keep cool, depending on your location. (It is hot here today.) Best of luck with your adventures. Ciao.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Going Pooless.

I have decided to go Pooless......This is what my roommate, Em, said to me the other day. Now, if you have a mind like mine, the mind of a disgusting eight year old boy, then you probably took the word "poo" and changed it into "poop." That's me, an 8 year old boy, trapped in a 23 year old female body; a fascinating combination between Peter Pan and Jane Eyre. The result is hardly as romantic as it sounds. I'm just clumsy. Back on topic.

To put your minds at ease, Em did not mean poop, but rather shampoo. The No Poo movement has been going on for some time and I have decided to hop on board. The person who really introduced this concept to both me and Em was our friend Kay. She has some of the curliest, most beautiful hair I have ever seen. So naturally I wanted to follow her lead, though my hair is board straight. I figured it was worth a try.

I don't do a lot to my hair. I don't blow dry it, straighten it, curl it, or put any kind of daily product in it. I just wash it about twice a week and brush it. My hair is approximately 35" long and very easy to take care of. This is not a big switch for me, but it is for Kay and Em. So I have done my research and looked into shampoo alternatives.

The first step is to stop washing your hair as much. If you are like me and you only wash your hair twice a week, or even just once a week in the winter, then you are probably fine. If you wash your hair everyday with harsh commercial detergents you could start by diluting your shampoo and opting to rinse daily rather than wash.

The goal is to rinse dirt and sweat out of your hair and allow your hair to balance its own oils. This may take some time. Em's scalp releases lots of oils in response to daily washes that strip the oils from her hair. She is going through a transition period where her hair is a little bit oilier than normal, but she is just letting it sit. After a while, her scalp will stop producing the extra oils and everything will balance out. Remember that oils help keep your hair shiny, protected, thick, and constantly growing. Dry hair falls out and stops growing. I am not really experiencing problems with oils, but then again, this is not a huge transition for me.

The next step for me was to experiment with shampoo and conditioner replacements. Em and I did a little bit of research and found some simple recipes that work.

Shampoo - 1c water to 1tbs baking soda. The more baking soda, the higher the oil stripping properties. I used only one tbs of baking soda and found that it worked just fine for my hair. I made a tincture of lemongrass and chamomile and mixed a little bit into the shampoo. I also used a few drops of tea tree oil. To use the shampoo wet your hair with warm water. Make sure your hair is wet through. Take the shampoo (I use a squirty bottle) and apply it directly to your scalp. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and then begin to massage your scalp. The key is to clean your scalp. The impurities in the rest of your hair will rinse out. I try to let it sit for 3 minutes and massage for 2. Some sites recommend a full 15 minutes, but I find that 5 minutes is more than sufficient. Gently rinse and and follow with a conditioner.

Conditioner - 1 part apple cider vinegar to 3 parts water. I actually did 1 part vinegar, two parts water. My hair is long, so the ends need a little more help sometimes. This time I made a tincture with rosemary and lavender and mixed it in. After washing hair with shampoo, massage the conditioner solution into the ends of the hair. For me, this is the last two feet of my hair. If your hair is shorter, there won't be quite as much to condition. In some cases there is no reason to condition at all. Your hair will restore a natural conditioned balance to your hair in a matter of hours if it is only a few inches long. Gently massage the conditioner in for approximately 2 to 3 minutes and rinse with warm water. I also like to follow with a cold water rinse on my scalp to combat hair loss and promote shine.

I have found that this combination works beautifully. My hair is shiny, soft, clean, and it smells really good. I am looking into a leave in conditioner for the last three inches of my hair, but this is not necessary unless you have really long hair. I would also like to look into environment friendly hair washing methods and ingredients for camping. In the past I have used cornmeal while camping, but nothing feels quite as good as a water wash on the scalp. More pictures and recipes to come.

I promise to post more on the van and the garage sale, but this is the last week before eviction so things are crazy. More posts about the van next week.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Communion with the Energizer Bunny

This weekend was tough. Things did not go exactly according to plan. Last Thursday my roommate and I walked out of the house to go to church like the good girls we are. When I tried to start my van absolutely nothing happened. I'm not kidding. Nothing. No sound, no cough, nada. Okay, the battery was dead. No big deal. I would just get a jump after church. So we went to service in the roommate's car and then a friend followed us home and gave me a jump. That was a fiasco in itself. I had never had to give Mr. Miyagi a jump before. It was an unusual experience getting the cars lined up the right way. I fell and bruised my left knee quite badly attempting to push Mr. Miyagi into position.

So we finally got the vehicles in a configuration that worked (my battery is located under the floor behind the driver seat). She gave me a jump, the van started. We let it charge for a while and then unhooked the cables. I tried to start it again, just to be sure. Nothing. Nada. By this time it was too dark and too late at night to really do anything, so it all had to wait until Saturday morning at which time I unhooked the battery and took it to an auto part store where it was tested and confirmed irreversibly dead. Okay, so I just bought a new one and put it on.

I am making light of this whole taking off and putting on of the battery, but it was my first time to ever attempt such a feat. It was really quite an adventure. Don't laugh. I am learning as I go. Stop laughing. You know who you are and I know who you are. So with a good deal of effort and some help from my trusty sidekick *grin* the battery replacement was accomplished and construction could go forward, or at least it would have if the power saw had arrived on time. As it was, not construction was accomplished on Saturday as planned. Still, it was a job well done.

Now please send prayers that it actually was just an old useless battery and not a bad alternator draining it lifeless. We shall see.