Sometimes Size Does Matter

I’d like to rearrange my room.  It’s not really working well for me – the bed blocks access to the closet and dresser so I end up piling clothes on my chair and desk.  But after spending some time with a tape measure and graph paper I’ve come to the same conclusion I had when I arranged the room in the first place.  The only way to rearrange (short of hanging a hammock from the ceiling and frankly, judging from the experience I’ve had hanging things on the walls, I’m not sure the ceiling wouldn’t collapse) is to knock out a wall!

Which got me thinking – is it possible to add on to a mobile home?  So I did some research and the answer is theoretically yes.  The internet (love being online again) is full of articles, plans and photos like the one below that make it seem (relatively) easy and I do have two ‘free’ months in the summer.  AdditBook1Then again I wasn’t even able to get our front porch rebuilt and I’m notoriously incapable of even hanging a picture straight.  Building is not my forte and although I’ve been known to attempt to do things I’m not qualified to do I try to limit my disasters to those of small to medium sized proportions.

In addition to lack of skill and know-how our current home is not exactly level. Our erstwhile contractor/con-men left it so skewed that interior doors would slam shut unless propped open by a door stop and while our relative did his best to fix the faults he lacked the proper equipment and while the house ended up being more level it also is just a bit torqued.  And that was before it sort of settled into the ground. So now cracks are developing (have I mentioned before the incredibly cheap material these places are constructed from?).wall crackOn the other hand, in my fantasy home addition this is the wall that would get knocked out :-)  If I could I’d like to add a 8-foot (or so) addition running lengthwise along the entire back of the house which would make my and my youngest daughter’s small rooms long and skinny, enlarge the living room to the point that we could curtain off a section for my son to give him more privacy (we can’t add another bedroom as our septic system is only permitted for three bedrooms – oddly it doesn’t matter how many people or bathrooms you have, just bedrooms), create a dining area and a mudroom/laundry room.  My older girls have the master bedroom and the oldest is headed to college this summer so I don’t see the need to enlarge their room.

Although there are organizations that sell pre-fab add ons such as and Aluminum Fabricators, most don’t serve our area or they just offer single room additions. I suspect we would have to find a local contractor to build the addition I have in mind.  I haven’t even begun to estimate the cost but I suspect it would be substantial.

But this is all wishful thinking at this point.  On my salary it’s not possible to save much, if any, money and in addition to ongoing problems with our water system, the latest being a cracked water pump and an inexplicably empty cistern (another crack?) that has left us without water for the past week, we have other basic needs like gravel for our mud driveway that are more pressing than extending our house.  Still it would be nice to be less cramped, have more storage and comfortable spaces, so I will continue to dream and doodle floor plans!



Posted in DIY, home repairs, housing, tiny houses | 10 Comments

Still here!

A supporter recently reached out to me, saying that whenever there was a long pause in blogging he wondered if we’d finally been sucked under.  Nope, we’re still here treading water. :-) The long pauses in blogging are mostly due to the pressures of being a first year teacher combined with the demands of being a single parent of tweens and teens living in a somewhat high maintenance living situation. I can’t blame it on lack of access now that we finally have internet at home.  There just isn’t enough time. It takes time to be creative – when I was unemployed I had time to think and write, time to imagine and construct.  Now I’m something of a manic juggler – trying to keep up while chasing the balls that have escaped my grasp and careened off out of control.

And frankly I feel that our story may have less appeal or interest now that we’re no longer living on the edge.  There was a certain suspense to it, particularly in the early tent dwelling days, that is no longer there.  We’ve clawed our way out of the abyss, or at least to higher ground and now our struggles and challenges are much the same as that faced daily by many American families – trying to get by on a limited budget, shepherd the children through the turbulence of adolescence and see them on to the next phase of life, deal with health issues and healthcare costs, and the ups and downs of the workplace.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel if I had enough time I could spin a story or two around the antics of the goats and chickens, the trials of country living, the poignancy of preparing for my oldest daughter’s move to college, and amusing anecdotes from the combat zone of middle school. Bits and pieces of these tales occur to me in the middle of a sleepless night or during my hour commute to or from school but they flit away and by the time I’m seated in front of the computer and have caught up on emails and Facebook, researched information for lesson plans, dealt with outstanding college and financial aid form needs, and paid bills, I lack the mental stamina to write thoughtful, coherent posts.

That being said, we would not have gotten free of the abyss without the support of all of you and I still strongly feel the connection forged over the past five years.  So I want you to know that if I’m not blogging it’s due to time constraints more than anything. I’m hoping to survive this first year of teaching (it is unbelievably time consuming and pressure filled)and reach more of a balanced life that will allow me to get back to writing as that is one of the things I most enjoy.

And now for a brief update on life:

My blood pressure is controlled by new medications but despite numerous tests we have no clue why it got so high. There must be an underlying reason but it remains a mystery at this point. The day/night in the hospital and follow up tests have run into about $1600 dollars not covered by insurance so I’m not sure I can afford to find out! My heart seems to be in good health so for now I will just take the medication and continue to work on lifestyle changes – less salt, more exercise.

My oldest daughter is in her senior year and has been accepted two several colleges in Indiana (still waiting to hear on a few out of state schools). She has a scholarship that will pay tuition and fees for all four years as well as room and board for her freshman year at Indiana University in Bloomington so that’s her first choice at this point.  The years have rushed by – it seems it was just yesterday that she was a tiny toddler practicing going up and down the stairs, over and over, clinging to my hand, and now she’s almost ready to stride out on her own! I regret that so many of the years of her life have been spent in poverty and uncertainty and hope that they’ve made her more resilient and not more vulnerable.

My middle daughter (14 and in 9th grade) continues to excel in school and progress in her singing.  She’s smart and steady and keeps to the middle of the road – not a risk taker or attention seeker, nor a wallflower.  She’s looking forward to getting a job this summer and still misses her friends in California.

My youngest two have birthdays coming up – both turning 12 in early February. For the first time in years my youngest daughter (6th grade) will have a ‘real’ birthday party with half a dozen friends at a skating rink.  We are busy planning the party – invitations, cake, goodie bags, whether or not her brother can come… My son has an appointment scheduled for his biannual cardiology check up (only one year late) in April and I’m looking forward to finding out the status of the ‘wait and watch’ issue discovered at his last visit.  He’s hoping to be cleared for sports participation for next year. In the meantime he’s looking forward to 4H where he plans on working on construction and small engine projects.

I’m mulling over getting out of the goat business.  Since losing our buck to the Barberpole worm infestation we haven’t added to the herd.  We either need to get a new buck or sell the does we have or we aren’t really running a business – we just have a herd of pet goats!  Personally I like our goats but none of the kids are farm kids at heart and with my long hours away from home much of the daily goat care falls to the children.  If we want to make a business of it we need a new buck and we need to fence in a larger area in goat fence (not just electric fence as the goats are masters at escaping).  All of that takes money and time.  I will make a decision this spring when folks are looking for new livestock.

Teaching, well that’s a blog post for another time!

Posted in 2nd Career, birthdays, blogging, Farming, health, healthcare, hobby farm, Job, kids, teaching | 5 Comments

Back to the Future

So appropriate that 2015 sees us finally back online at home (see Back to the Future 2)! Yes, we now have an internet connection.  It was a multi-step process – first I had to convince AT&T that our address actually existed!  Every time I contacted them – both by internet and by phone the representative would check the database and then assure me that our address did not exist and therefore they could not provide service.  I would explain that our home was relatively new and that we did have other utility service (electric) but they always, and most frustratingly, responded with a virtual shrug and told me to check back another time.

Only when my relatives had an internet outage that required the home visit by a technician and I physically grabbed him and walked him over to our house was I able begin to convince AT&T that we really did exist! It still took time (over a month) for that information to filter into the AT&T database but at long last I had an order in for my extravagant Christmas gift to the family – high speed internet (we have the low introductory price for 6 months and I’m hoping we’ll be positioned to continue at the higher rate then)!

The same technician returned the day after Christmas to hook us up but was stymied by the fact that we had no telephone wire running to the house (yes, of course I mentioned that fact – several times – during the ordering process).  Although he checked our phone jack and attached a magic box to the outside of the house, our internet would have to wait until the following Monday when a utility company could come out and run wires from the poles out in the hay field to the house. Privately I was convinced it would be a fruitless exercise and the utility truck would fall victim to our muddy morass as the UPS truck did but they did come out and they ran wires from pole to pole to pole until they reached the pole next to our house.

magic box

The magic internet box – blends nicely don’t you think?

I was gone from home (taking my youngest to a dentist in Indianapolis for a root canal and as awful as that sounds you don’t know how nice it is to be able to take care of these sort of issues just like normal folks) so I wasn’t around to witness this feat but I was looking forward to reaping the benefits.  Needless to say, nothing is ever as easy as it should be, when I got home that afternoon and tried to get online to register our account nothing happened.  The AT&T representative on the support line looked up our information and politely informed me that we would not be activated until 8 PM.  Sigh.  We were told to leave the modem plugged in and just wait for that magic moment when the blinking red light would switch to green.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that many eyes were on that light for the next four hours and that devices (iPod, smart phone, laptop) were kept close by and at hand in anticipation.

8 PM came and the light remained red.  “Our clock might be a little ahead,” I cautioned the children (not wanting to admit that setting it 5 minutes ahead was the only way I could be certain they would leave the house in time to meet the bus on school days.  But when 8:20 rolled around with no ‘green is for go!’ light I redialed the help line.  The tech walked me through all the trouble shooting steps (which I had already tried) without success.  I was put on hold while additional people from the order department were consulted.  At last the much more apologetic tech returned to the line.  “Yes, the utility company did run the wires to the poles but apparently the AT&T tech was then supposed to return and do the actual hook up but didn’t.”  He would be out the following day.

I wish I could say he came out and waved his magic wand and we were immediately connected but it was a little more complicated than that.  He came out and connected, wished us happy new year and left and I connected my laptop to register our account.  At last we were online.  The kids couldn’t wait to access our Netflix account but when we got online our high speed internet was 0.5 mbps.  Not fast enough to stream anything.  Back to the AT&T help line!  To make a long story short (yes, I know – too late!) we finally got most of the bugs out of the system and we are now a connected part of society once again.  The novelty was such that as a family we’ve probably logged more internet hours in the past 4 days than in the entire previous year (not a lifestyle that I hope to maintain as the kids have been glued to a screen for days now)! At least we don’t have commercial tv so as soon as they catch up on those favorite shows on Netflix and the weather improves I’m sure I can pry them loose!

Looking forward to more productivity and connectivity in the New Year!  Many more blog posts to come :-)

Posted in blogging, internet | 3 Comments