On The Other Side

This post is about a leg of my journey that felt more like a stretch of whitewater river than a winding path, and how different the scenery looks on the other side. But on the surface it appears to be a post about all the stuff I bought with all the money I made in the past year, so I apologize in advance for the temporary detour into quasi-materialism.

A year ago there was a big part of me that was just biding my time, waiting for a chance to escape where I was living and put this place of broken dreams and painful memories behind me. I was saving every spare penny with that goal in mind, just waiting for an opportunity to present itself. I made about $5,000 last September when I sold The Mighty Herd and every dollar of that went into my savings account, as I stood poised to jump through the first door that opened.

But no doors opened that didn’t look like a big step down instead of up or even reasonably comparable to what the kids and I had here. So here we stayed.

And then in November the Black Friday sales hit and something in my brain went SPROING! and I went out and bought a new mattress and box spring, a new tv and a Blu-Ray player. Can you say “uncharacteristically frivolous spending”?

I should mention that my old mattress was old and horrifically uncomfortable, so the new one was more of a need than a luxury. And our old picture-tube tv had muddy sound and a low-def picture with occasional random purple spots in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, so the kids and I do enjoy movie nights a lot more with the new one. But there was nothing wrong with our old dvd player, and it’s not like me to replace expensive stuff that still works fine. I was kind of baffled by my own priorities at that point.

But the thing is, after that it got easier to live in my house. It got…easier to breathe, somehow.

It didn’t take a PhD in psychology to figure it out: I had replaced everything that Steve and I used to share here. The bed, the tv and the dvd player were pretty much the only things that contributed anything resembling a relationship to our empty sham of a marriage, and some subconscious part of my brain needed to be rid of them.

Once they were gone and replaced, something shifted in my perspective. When I got the Census job, the first thing I did with my first paycheck was buy skylights for three rooms that never used to get enough natural light. I wasn’t thinking about leaving anymore, I was thinking about all the ways this crappy little mobile could be made more livable. Now the kitchen, the kids’ bathroom and my dressing room are much brighter and cheerier, and I don’t have to pay for electric light in the daytime anymore.

The next thing I bought was insulated curtains for the front half of the house. We used to lose a lot of heat through the windows in the winter, so hopefully that will change now.

After that I started letting the paychecks pile up in the bank, partly because I was getting too busy to start any new projects, partly because I didn’t know how long the Census job was going to last and I was hoping to save up enough to replace the exterior siding on the mobile, and partly because almost everything else I wanted to buy would have to be delivered on a Home Depot truck and I wanted to order everything at once and only pay one delivery charge.

The Census job lasted long enough to fund the new siding, but I decided to only replace the north and east walls. That’s where we lose most of our heat anyway, and I didn’t want to take on too much all at once. Besides, my plans for the south wall are more ambitious and involve lots of glass for passive solar heating in the winter. That’ll be a project for another year.

I knew how crappy the old aluminum siding was because I’d torn a section of it off part of the north wall back in ’05 when we built on the new addition. But this summer I was freshly horrified at the flimsiness of it — there’d been no real barrier between the elements and the inside of the house at all. The framing was “insulated” with (highly annoyed at being disturbed) wasps’ nests and mummified mice. It was deeply satisfying to clean it all out and replace that tinfoil crap with solid exterior walls: wood sheathing, tar paper and then lap siding, and then all the seams and joints were caulked to make an airtight seal against weather, bugs and rodents. Then I painted it and it is very pretty. I had a ton of great Before and During pics, but I lost them all when my hard drive crashed. Here’s a sneak peek at the After; I’ll post a bunch more once the front porch has been sanded and painted to match the trim:

(Btw, if any of my local readers own a floor sander, maybe we could work out a deal? This is taking forEVER with my little hand sander.)

To those of you who have seen my previously boxcar-like mobile and are wondering where the eave came from: I built it onto the frame while I had the siding off. Cool, huh?

I bought the siding and the insulated curtains with winter in mind, but I am astonished at what a difference they’ve made this summer. We don’t have AC, but even during the most blistering heat waves the house now stays comfortably cool as long as we remember to keep the curtains closed on the east- and south-facing windows. Yay!

Since I only re-sided half the house, I had enough money left over for a new back door (the old one was falling apart), some parts for a solar oven I’m working on, and to finish the retaining wall that now keeps my side yard from washing into my driveway every time we get a heavy rain. And also some fencing to replace a stretch along the property line that badly needs replacing.

What intrigues me most about the past year isn’t what I decided to spend the money on, but the order in which my priorities ran. The most significant purchase was obviously the new siding, followed by the skylights and the insulated curtains. And I could have bought all those things last fall with the cow money, but it never occurred to me. I wasn’t there yet. The most “frivolous” purchases turned out to be the most liberating, the ones that freed my mind to think about the bigger picture and made this house feel like home again. Healing works in mysterious ways sometimes.

Also: very accommodating of the weather to stay clear and sunny while my walls were off and then give us a good soaker as soon as the new paint was dry. We appreciated that!

Categories: frugality, Life, Love, Weather, Winter | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “On The Other Side

  1. Anonymous

    Looking good there. Hopefully more job offerings in the mix?


    • Debora

      Something I learned while I was working the Census job: I can either do the self-sufficient homesteader thing, or I can have a paying job, but I can’t do both. I had no time to cook healthy meals or help the kids with their homework (or spend much time with them at all) or keep the house clean or the garden tended…everything gradually slid into a sad state of neglect at home while I was out earning that lovely paycheck. SO, I’ve decided to wait until the kids are old enough to shoulder more of the cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc, before I look for another full-time job. On the plus side, I’ve gotten self-sufficient enough here that I was able to stop receiving spousal support from Steve, which makes me feel pretty good about the whole homesteading thing. One baby step at a time…


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