How to be a Karen Without Being a Karen

That is the question.

It is really a big question, in some ways the question of a lifetime, certainly the question of our time. What it means to be a Karen, a Bad Karen, has morphed from simply the “May I see your manager?” type with a bad Posh Spice/Victoria Beckham bob complete with brash highlights, to a broader caricature that is offensive to a larger number of people (with a racial/racist component that kind of blindsided me because I didn’t realize it was a part of it all until the whole birding in the park incident). See this Guardian Article (or countless others) for more on Karen evolution. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/may/13/karen-meme-what-does-it-mean.There  

Posh, BTW, does seem like a more fitting moniker for a Bad Karen than Karen. Just think about it, from its elitist origins, to its current choice for an ungendered name. What other word ‘come name has a Snopes page about its etymology AND can apply to men and women equally? Because you know deep down Karenhood really isn’t a girls only club.

The first “Karens” I personally noticed were not older women, they were teens of both sexes. I used to volunteer in a local high school, and there were some kids who would say whatever phrase (to the principal if they had to) that got them what they wanted. It was never a true statement. It was simply saying the words that made the exception that got around the rules, an unscrupulous manipulation of the system for the purpose of having one’s way. The very epitome of entitled Karenhood, and yes, they probably learned the skill from their Boomer parents whose decades of egocentrism was peaking, or, at least I thought it had to be peaking. Not. The. First. Time. I. Was. Wrong.

“May I see your manager?” can be a fun question if you have something good to say. I once asked to speak to my postmaster, and afterward my letter carrier beamed smiles at me for a year. She smiled bigger than big when she saw me right up until she was given a new route. It can be an important question if you have the right motive. Or, it can be meme worthy if you want a refund, privilege, reward or result you don’t deserve.

 “If you see something, say something” is where the real challenge comes in. We’ve been “Together-Apart” in so many ways since long before the pandemic. Doing your part to be part of a community is a challenge. Sometimes talking to the manager does need to happen when things need fixing. The phrase “If you see something, say something” was promoted by Allen Kay of the New York MTA after 9-11, and it resulted in a real reduction of crime.

We’re about to switch off of “Karen”. I can tell because there are so many articles out there on Karenhood. One of them suggested to just not be a jerk. That is nobler. We need to be involved, talk to a manager, or a representative, or a businessperson when it’s time. We all know there’s a lot that’s broken, and together, as well as apart, we have to fix it.

Just try not to be a jerk.

Training Schedule

Since we made the commitment to get back ot on the trail, riding the Greenway, or a small segment of the Silver Comet for the primary goal has become, once again, a piece of cake. So, no training is necessary for the primary goal.

Stretch Training Plan

We’re going to train for the stretch goal while we are waiting to find out if either plan makes. There is no down side to that, and it helps us to remain flexible. It also gives us the motivation to increase our mileage. The stretch plan includes all of the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trails weekly, so, building up our mileage to be able to full century rides is necessary. In fact, the stretch goal would be to do the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga in both directions with an overnight in the middle, so two centuries a week is the ultimate goal. If conditions allow, the two short rides (on the Greenway for variety) will still be be filmed. If the crowds and conditions remain risky, we’ll assess the value of filming mid week “recovery” rides. The full plan with all three trails is 250+ miles per week. There are plans to expand the Silver Comet Trail to meet the Beltline and we will ride as much of the trail as is complete, so over time the ride may increase.

I thought I had reached 50 miles a week before I actually did. There are some mile markers in one area of the trail that are ordered correctly. Current level of riding is now approaching 60 miles though. Physically I’m feeling good again.

To reach stretch level cycling distances, we’ll increase mileage at the recommended rate of 10% per week, filming to work out the kinks as we go.

So, rounding up to whole numbers, here is the plan we will meet begining next week.

Week 1. 61

Week 2, 67.

Week 3, 74.

Week 4, 82 miles

Week 5, 90 miles.

Week 6, 99 miles.

Week 7, 109.

Week 8, 120 miles.

Week 9,  132 miles.

Week 10, 145 miles.

Week 11, 160 miles.

Week 12, 176 miles.

Week 13, 193 miles.

Week 14, 213 miles.

Week 15, 234 miles.

Week 16, 257.

If we were able to start on Aug 15 and train for 16 weeks without weather, health or emergency setbacks, we would be doing full mileage by the time we are moving into the holidays. There will be setbacks though, There will be weather holds and I will take off for family time too. So, it seems like a good plan for the official start date for full filming would be to make coincide with the calendar year.

https://www.bicycling.com/news/a31469228/cycling-during-coronavirus/

Ooh, Ooh, That Smell: Safety Planning for the Long Haul

What’s “safe”, or relatively safe, makes a pretty big difference to me and my partner as we look at how best to be healthy while planning and completing this 2 year cycling and video project in Georgia and Alabama during the pandemic.

The original basic plan was to make the project goal on 8 paved miles of the Big Creek Greenway in Roswell and Alpharetta, Georgia. We would ride both directions 2 or 3 times per week for 32-48 miles with the near certainty that we’d get 30-60 minutes of good video for every week with rideable conditions and hopefully capture the occasional spectacular wildlife sighting. Big Creek is the shorter drive from home and the gently curving trail along the streambed is pretty with good habitat for wildlife viewing. It was perfect for the smaller basic plan, “was” being the operative word.

With the Shelter in Place order came change. The bike shops were deemed essential and they sold out. The people who bought all the bikes (and those who didn’t) showed up on trails everywhere straining park staff and facilities and crowding green spaces. The Greenway was filled with people not following social distancing nor mask guidelines, sometimes they even look at us a bit funny when we do. It seemed like we would have to postpone or cancel the project. After a couple of months of staying home, we realized that the project was more important than ever.

By definition, there’s no long standing science specific to a particular novel pandemic. There are guesses based on similar diseases, and a developing knowledge base that changes as we learn. Mistakes are made in haste and under pressure. Good information takes effort to find and it is hard for people without a science background to interpret or distinguish the good from the bad. People get burn-out, especially with the politicization of the subject. Some are too overloaded to even try to sniff out any answers.

What I’ve been able to find says 20 yards of separation is probably safe cycling. But, there are all kinds of variables. As Russ and I discuss what we will or won’t do, we’ve had some pretty detailed discussions, and even though we both have science backgrounds, we haven’t come up with the same safety parameters all the time.

One day, I was riding a remote section of the Silver Comet with, maybe, one trail user per mile. A guy passes me easily and when he’s around 30 or 40 yards beyond me I catch a whiff of “he’s been riding for a while”. Body odor or perfume is not something you pay much attention to until there are people dying and you’re trying to figure out how not to be one of them. Smelling smokers and other odors through my mask, especially when riding to, and through, Brushy Mountain Tunnel has caused me to wonder all kinds of things.

The tunnel is really damp. There is usually water trickling down the exterior sides at the entrance, and unless we’re in drought conditions, there are puddles on the tunnel floor. Air passing through the tunnel has been moving eastward since I started paying attention. So, as I come up to the tunnel from the east, I feel cool, damp air with a slight headwind well before I get there. Recently, I smelled a smoker on the far side of the tunnel while I was still at least 50 yards away. The tunnel is 800 ft long (about 267 yards). So I was able to sense particles, some of which came from inside someone else’s lungs, in the air 300 yards away and I was really questioning that 20 yard figure.

It makes me all the more wary of sharing crowded trails with unmasked hikers and bikers who think 6 ft (or business as usual) is fine. Russ says “But smell particles are so much bigger than virions…” Well, you know I had to look that up. Turns out he was correct related to smoke, but incorrect about most smell particles. But, here’s the thing. Does size really matter? I really don’t know that much about the fluid dynamics and aerodynamics of nano or micro-particulates. I do know virions, like humidity, the kind the south is known for, the kind the tunnel is filled with. Drying Covid-19 virions is one reason the virus dies faster on some surfaces than others. Should I be paying attention to smell and humidity? I often take several deep breaths as I approach a trail user, hold it as long as possible while passing and exhale slowly afterward. I have varying levels of success depending on my level of exertion and how soon I saw them.

Am I being ridiculous? I don’t know. There are enough variables to drive a girl crazy, even one who’s comfortable with science.

We don’t know that we can be safe, but we do know that strong and healthy is better than weak and stressed. So, as I’m looking at the project and making choices, I’m looking at three things. 1.) If I do get sick, my chances of a complete recovery will be better if I’m healthy and cycling regularly. My health and mental health were going downhill fast during “Shelter in Place”, so, I’m going to do everything I can to get out there and build my health back up, even take it to new levels. 2.) There are fewer people, and fewer unique people on the trail out in the rural areas of the Silver Comet Trail and Chief Ladiga Trail, so the basic plan needs move out there, even with the extra time and cost. 3.) Much of the stretch plan is already possible. There’s a good chance of a vaccine or better treatments as time goes on, so there is also a good likelihood that the whole plan will be possible.

The stretch goal was (and I hope still is) riding the entire Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trails in Georgia and Alabama in each direction weekly. Rides on the Greenway would then reduce to 1 or 2 recovery rides per week. As we work toward the full plan, the hours on video multiply and the chances of capturing some of the more thrilling wildlife experiences will increase. Putting in the full 250+ miles per week should allow me want to catch some the really cool wildlife sightings. That makes all the difference.

Karen Goes, Cycling

Cycling on local trails in Georgia, I get to see nature that awes me. One day a pileated woodpecker flew beside me for 20 yards on the Silver Comet Trail. Before the pandemic I was riding more on Big Creek Greenway, a path in a streambed north of Atlanta. There a Great Blue Heron was feeding in the shallow puddle of a drying pond and I didn’t know there were otters at Big Creek until I saw them one day. One of the coolest sights was when a Great Blue Heron flew from the stream below to the bridge I was about to cross, and then, just as I approached flew on across right in front of me. Deer are often out on many trails. Oh, to have had a camera going for some of these sights.

Sometimes the interesting things I see are people, all kinds.  A person on stilts, on a pennyfarthing, on a stand up bike with no seat, even, once, a person walking with his head buried in a textbook. He never looked up as far as I could see. I don’t know why he didn’t walk into people. One day I saw a woman tethered to her phone (not as in listening to great music and working out in the zone, but, as in, really never letting go of being connected to the device). Do those people get the same benefits from being out on the trail as people who are attuned to their surroundings, or is it merely cardio benefits for them? And, where do the benefits of being in nature come from? I mean there are obvious things like vitamin D coming from the sun and the endorphins that come from the exercise itself, but what about things like your mind space? So, I read some things, including Nature Fix by Florence Williams and while I began as a skeptic about some things, like bird calls having a positive effect, she did convince me in the end that they do.

So, my next thought was; just as the person who is wired outdoors loses some of the benefit of being in nature (and some of the safety in being alert), maybe there’s a way for people who are home bound to gather some benefits of being outdoors. I don’t just manage to get myself back on the bike when the outdoors is part of the picture, I want to (most days) ;). How can people who would attend to nature and their surroundings if they could get some of those benefits? What if I video a large amount of trail time, capture some of the more extraordinary wildlife sightings as well as changing seasons and provide a varied distraction for people to watch while exercising?

Video isn’t the whole outdoor experience and can’t provide all of the outdoor benefits. But, maybe, at bare minimum, it could help people who can’t get out, or can’t get out as often as they need to, find a more enjoyable experience for exercise and help with the motivation to get back on that stationary bike or other cardio machine. I want to collect video that could be used to give a more varied experience for the homebound, or those who don’t get to travel for exercise as much as they’d like to, an experience that is closer to nature, or just enough different to help with motivation. Maybe it could even be a meditation guide for some.

When I first thought of this plan fitness centers were open and I used one. I’ve kept my membership to the Y current through the pandemic so far, but haven’t been in for months, not since the first Covid-19 cases came to town. When I did go, I primarily used strength training. I’d never really do cardio for more than short 20 minute span, sometimes less, usually on the water rower to give my arms some attention (maybe I’m a sucker for a gimmick, but I really like it better than traditional rowers). Back when I did use stationary bikes there was never a cycling video that provided variety, or even actual real scenery to watch, and daytime TV choices on other available screens fall way short of inspiring. If I couldn’t cycle outdoors, I’m not sure I’d have the motivation to keep going. If my video helps people who can’t get out there in person, get out there in spirit, that would make me pretty happy.

A base goal could be to film my roughly hour long ride 2 or 3 times a week for a year (originally planned on the Big Creek Greenway, a paved multi-use trail that goes north-south along the Big Creek stream bed in the suburbs north of Atlanta), but now more likely to be on more remote areas of the Silver Comet). Partly a photography or data/film collection project to capture nature and the changing seasons on, but there was/is a creative aspect too. At the lowest level of funding, the project would just subsidize rides that I already take and commit me to filming them. I would capture video that as long as some people want to work out, and it would provide an experience for people that changes weekly with the seasons.

When the Shelter in Place order was given, outdoors was one of the few escapes people had. The bike shops sold out and the trails were filled with crowds (on those trails that were open). The numbers of people wearing masks was, and still is, very low. The best research that seems to be available points to 20 foot distances being more appropriate for cyclists because of speed and exertion than the 6 ft recommendations for people who are stationary or moving slowly. That’s a nearly impossible distance to maintain on the Greenway. The base plan needed to be altered before I got it out in front of people.

I had been building up to my plan, researching successful Kickstarters, and working toward one of my own. But, now Big Creek was filled with so many people, and the Silver Comet was closed in the two closest counties. We went out to Big Creek in the early morning one Sunday, normally the slowest time there, to see if that was doable. Out of 100 or so people we saw spread out over 8 miles, one other couple had masks on, and many were walking 2 or 3 abreast, so that didn’t allow safe passing distance. As that ride ended the numbers of people on the trail increased markedly.  That was an unpredictable risk too, choosing to start a ride with conditions at one level, and finishing at another level. I thought my plan was on indefinite hold. I settled into sheltering. And, I thought I was doing fine. I was so wrong.

A friend posted about going out past the two closed counties to ride the Silver Comet (SC) where it was open. She’s someone I’ve worked Support and Gear (SAG) for on overnight rides for the entire length of Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga trails. Together they make the longest paved paved path in the Rails to Trails (RTT) system. I had ridden my bike out as far as she was driving, and I had driven out there if I was working SAG for her, but I’ve always tried to limit the amount of gas and transportation expense I was willing to use in order to cycle. It seemed too much to drive that far for a bike ride, and to spend more time in the car than I do on the trail. But, we did it. Russ and I went out there for what turned out to be a ride that was both pathetic and necessary. 12 miles was all we had in us. But it was a very important 12 miles. I felt alive again after not having realized how far from that I had drifted. I said to Russ “If I get sick, you need to remind me that there are things I still want to do.” I didn’t know that my voice was going to tremble when I said it. I started going out often, and as I did, I realized that my project is more important now than ever, and that I have to build back up to spending more time on the trail than I do in the car, even when I have to drive this far.

So, now my base goal is to get an hour of video per week at the most sensible place, whether it’s the Silver Comet, or the Greenway. I’ll stay flexible as conditions change.

This will be a stretch in many ways. I’ll be happy enough to have the base goal fund, but the big dream is to make the stretch goal. At a higher level of funding, I will film the entire Silver Comet and adjoining Chief Ladiga trail in two directions weekly. For this, I will have to reach a level of physical output that I have never before sustained. I’ve done a century before. I’ve done the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga together before, but not repeatedly twice a week. And, though the goal is to get a year’s filmed record of the longest paved RTT trail in the country, I really expect it to consume me for 2 years. While building up, increases in mileage of 10% per week are recommended. I may have good weeks, but I’ll likely suffer setbacks if I try to build up faster than that over time. I won’t be able to stop that level of riding abruptly either. I expect to fill in weather or other unavoidable gaps that may happen by continuing to film as I slow my level of riding gradually.

I’ll be sharing my best film shots with supporters and making some digital wallpaper calendars with different themes. Some of the unbelievable things I see while riding are wild life, and some of them are crazy stupid. I also hope to get some good footage for a multi-use trail safety video. I do understand that this will be grueling at times and there will be days when I wonder what I was thinking. I’m looking forward to the challenge, and working through it to the other side.

Monetizing a Hobby

Last week my partner in everything, Russ, was talking about a tweet he had seen on monetizing hobbies. He said that it was sad so many people felt compelled to monetize their hobbies. I said “I don’t know. Some people can’t have their hobbies unless they monetize them. Dad never could have had all of those boats unless he had been willing to build and trade them, and I never would have felt the freedom to do all that smocking if I hadn’t been able to make it pay for itself.” He said “Exactly.”

For a little back story, Dad built his first wooden boat in his father’s backyard shop when he was a child. He probably built more bass fishing boats than anything else, but he also built race boats (hydros), sport fishing boats and put at least one cabin cruiser in a pre-built metal hull. He built engines too. In fact, that was what he did best. When I was young, there was always a way to get on the water, and it would run perfectly tuned while you were there, and fast. I truly miss that part of my life.

For me, it was fine needle arts. I funded my love of English hand smocking by teaching classes and selling supplies. I also designed smocking patterns, had my work published and attended conventions. It’s a specialty many people don’t know, but, English Hand Smocking is a type of hand sewing best known as coming from Polly Flinders or Feltman Brothers branded baby clothes. It’s time intensive and something most people can only afford if they do it themselves, buy second hand, use them for generations, or, sadly, if the original hand sewing workers didn’t get paid a living wage. Baby clothes that were passed from generation to generation had English hand smocking (and/or French hand sewing). That is where my soft spot began, in the hope chests and family portraits of my heritage. It was a privilege, and because of privilege, that I was able to pursue the art, even though I made sure none of the cost came from the family budget. One day, I’d like to have the time and resources to research and write a book on textiles of all sorts and income inequality. It is a multifaceted issue that weaves itself through all of the arts and the economy.

I didn’t see the Tweet Russ referenced, but we were probably looking at the same rub. The age old advice is to never turn your hobby into a business because you will lose the escape and gain another obligation. But, many (like me) don’t get one without the other. Is it a privilege or a burden? Yeah, that’s the rub.

Karen Goes and Goes

After changing careers a while back, I was thinking about “What next?”. My sysadmin (also my son) recommended Karen Goes as a url that would easily be relevant to whatever I might do next, then next, and then after that. It was just before “Karen” became synonymous with the mother who wants to speak to the manager, and well before the name morphed into the world’s most heinously entitled woman exemplifying everything wrong with people who have “First World Problems”.

So, now that I’m off again. My next project is underway and the title “Karen Goes” is particularly appropriate, but I still thought about leaving “Bad Karen” behind until I remembered Dad’s favorite Jim Croce song. I had other favorites, but his liking it made me notice what a really nice song it is.

Like the pine trees linin’ the windin’ road
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
Like the singin’ bird and the croakin’ toad
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I’m living the dream that he kept hid

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

Like the north wind whistlin’ down the sky
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
Like the whippoorwill and the baby’s cry
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
And I carry it with me and I sing it loud
If it gets me nowhere, I’ll go there proud
Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

And I’m gonna go there free

Like the fool I am and I’ll always be

I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
They can change their minds but they can’t change me
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
Oh, I know I could share it if you want me to
If you’re goin’ my way, I’ll go with you

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by
Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

Like the pine trees linin’ the windin’ road
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
Like the singin’ bird and the croakin’ toad
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I’m living the dream that he kept hid

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

Like the north wind whistlin’ down the sky
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
Like the whippoorwill and the baby’s cry
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
And I carry it with me and I sing it loud
If it gets me nowhere, I’ll go there proud

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

And I’m gonna go there free

Like the fool I am and I’ll always be
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
They can change their minds but they can’t change me
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
Oh, I know I could share it if you want me to
If you’re goin’ my way, I’ll go with you

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by
Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

 

I always thought that was written by Jim Croce, but it was actually written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel and I’m a sap for it.

So, about that name change? Nah, it’s my name. And, I’ve got a dream.

Greetings Earthling!

Another year comes to a close in these United States, and if you’re like me, it’s been a real hum dinger. Now, as many move to the annual year end discussion/conflict on holiday greetings, I’m hoping we can come together. But, if you’re subscribing to the Mike Huckabee theory, perhaps you’re feeling a bit persecuted by the non-Christian minority. Personally I don’t get it and I remain deeply committed to a more inclusive understanding of the egalitarian freedoms our forefathers and my ancestors fought to establish.

Looking forward, here’s my prayerful wish or wishful prayer for my fellow countrymen and fellow earthlings. May you and all your people thrive, live long and prosper, have a beautiful, joyous, lives full of family, friends, acceptance, peace, forgiveness, purpose, enlightenment, service, gratitude, wonder, health, wealth, wisdom and all those things that make a life well lived.

And if we should meet, whatever your background may be, if you want to offer me greetings, prayers, goodwill or kindness in any form, I hope that I have the attention and intention in that moment to accept it graciously and return something equally meaningful to you.

Spartan Existence

So, it’s been over a year since that comment in my last post about the renewed commitment to writing. I actually have been writing quite a lot, but only in my head where no one can read it. I don’t know whether I needed a new topic or whether it was the fear that no one ever reads my posts… I mean literally, not even my family.

What ever it was, I do have a new topic and so let’s see where it goes.

It has been a longtime dream of mine to own an Airstream, but new ones are expensive and old ones are scary. How would I know if I was getting a bargain or a nightmare? But still, I’ve looked at Craigslist ads every now and then for decades. So sometime, I think just over a year ago, I saw a Spartan Travel Trailer made in the 50s in Tulsa, Oklahoma I only found it because it was mis-advertised as an Airstream and it peaked my interest. So, I showed it to Russ and we were both bit. We looked and thought and learned. We looked some more. No, we’re not finished with the renovations on the house, not even close. We looked. We joined Facebook groups. We found great websites and lots of Facebook friendlies. For better or worse, we managed to neutralize the fear. We found an Avion. We went to Hilton Head to look at it. It was scary even for our new found bravery and we like Avions, but they aren’t Spartans and we didn’t think it was a price / condition match. We actually found several things we like. Boles Aero, Vagabond, M Class, and on and on. Trolley tops are really cool and there is some stuff out there that is just so awesome that I never knew existed. Each ad we saw represented a trade off between location, condition, price, brand and whether or not Russ could stand up in it. I had Craigslist alerts set up across the entire south east. Some how I couldn’t stop the Avion query from also giving me the frequent furniture ads by the same name.

I was up one night recently doing the late late night mucking about on the interwebs and I decided it had been some time since I had looked at actual Airstreams. I put in a search and there it was, an ad 15 minutes old for two local Airstreams, only 1 of them was a Spartan. The asking price was within reach and the wording said it was negotiable. This is the begining of something new and wonderful!

Anniversaries

Today is the two-year anniversary of the day the house burned. (As it happened, it’s also the anniversary of wedding my ex). So, I’m going to take some time for looking back on what I did right and what I did wrong. And, take time to make time to get back to writing. But I’m only looking back two years to the fire. I’m just writing a post, not a book.

The most important thing I did right was when I decided to settle with the insurance company. I didn’t want a false incentive to rebuild my life “cookie cutter” style, nor to work hard at digging deep for proof of all that I owned. “Cookie cutter” was the adjuster’s phrase. If you choose the “build your house back” option, cost overruns are only covered if you build back exactly as it was. Meaning that if you upgrade to stone counter tops or move a wall, any completely unrelated cost over runs in the basement or drive way are not covered. When you live in a house 23 years, you can’t help but see some things you’d change. I had one of the more modern floor plans for my neighborhood, but the house was more than 30 years old and trends change. It was still not what you would build from scratch for the next 50 years. I moved on and sold the lot. A builder put a spec home there. He did a nice job of building a current home that fit well in an older neighborhood and it sold for a top price. I thought the clean slate was a good result for the neighborhood that I called home longer than any other and I felt good about that.

There are drawbacks to a clean slate though. When you are building back cookie cutter, there are few decisions to make because you already made them. “Same” is the answer to everything and you just watch the contractor to be sure it’s done right. When you do that, moving on in ways unrelated to dwelling and contents moves up in the queue. When everything is a new choice, the layers of choices past aren’t there building the foundation of quick new decisions. A conscious choice to start from scratch is not for the weak at heart. Those decades of layered choices are how you ended up with the life you had, and even though stuff is just stuff, it’s the stuff you use for your life and insurance isn’t designed to improve your life, only to keep you from suffering if the worst happens. The mistakes you make while remaking your home are at your own cost, just like the original ones were. The more unknowns, the more likely it is that there will be mistakes.

The biggest surprise was how long things took. I thought there would be more Amazon.com involved in my rebuild, but things didn’t fall neatly together. There was the unexpected news that we had a seller’s market going on big time. I knew that neighbors weren’t having any trouble selling in my great school district, but I didn’t know just how hard it was to buy. We even went to a neighboring area where the school scores were a couple of percent lower, but finding a home was really tough, a big time sink. I was in that price range that has the most people in it, so well-priced houses were snapped up quickly. Now, I’m driving past houses we looked at nearly daily. I’m glad we didn’t end up in any of them and Russ says the same thing. But, there were complications and delays. We were still looking at back up houses the week before closing in case the deal fell through. I hated to ask to see a house when I had one under contract, closing in a few days, but I really didn’t have confidence in closing and I really didn’t have time to fail. If it hadn’t been for my allergies and that little hint of dog smell left in the carpet I might have jumped ship and be living in the last other house we looked at instead. Of course the irony there is that the house we bought had knock your socks off pet odors, but for that house the cure was to rip out everything and seal it with Zinsser.

The biggest mistake I made might have been having the urge to get on with things and buying before I had a permanent place to be. We had the goal to replace as much as possible through thrift stores and estate sales. It was the only way to get some semblance of the quantity and quality of what we had back. When you appreciate the quality, weight and feel of an antique tool, flimsy short term pressed sheet metal doesn’t cut mustard. We had to buy things when we could find them. They might not be available again. So, in some respects, it wasn’t a mistake to do it that way. And that may just be how it is when replacing a household, but it was definitely the hot spot. The place where it hurt was in the mix. Getting the right house meant getting a fixer because of the market, ours came with delays. We piled stuff on top of stuff inside of stuff and then rearranged stuff so that we could fit in more stuff. The irony being that 5 years from now we might have bought an Airstream (or a Spartan) and chosen not to even have a stationary home. It wasn’t 5 years from now though, it was two years ago. I replaced a lot of hobbies and do it yourself tools, household items and just plain stuff. The pile of stuff FOR the house gets in the way OF the house while we’re working on it, and it gets covered in saw dust too. My son downsized and wanted to fill my basement the day we closed. Life doesn’t stop going on just because we are still really, really disorganized and stressed. Moving stuff to do stuff. Moving stuff to clean it or clean behind it, or to keep from having to clean it. etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSd6-EvBgN4 We thought after things settled, we might take a long overdue vacation. One where we don’t carry our food and bed on our backs. One where we walk on the beach and sleep in a bed. Russ had an injury in the spring that lasted through the summer. There’s no telling how over due that’s gonna get!

The uncomfortable irony happened when we learned from neighbors that lightening had struck several times in the new neighborhood. So far, it’s been mostly tree damage. The old neighborhood was in a dip and I never worried about tornados. The new neighborhood had several new roofs due to storm damage. I noticed before we bought that several homes had new roofs, but I had guessed it was just the age of the neighborhood. Later a nearby house burned. I was coming home and saw the dreadful black plume. Every turn brought me closer to a home I’d been in for only a short time, and every turn I was unable to tell that the plume was coming from somewhere other than my home. I don’t wish loss on anyone else, but another fire before recovering from the first? I really hoped it wasn’t me. At the same time, I started going through emergency choices in my mind. I listed settling as the best choice I made, but that double edged sword also makes me wonder if it was the worst. The whole thrift replacement idea got me some cool finds, but all that time and gas… there is no reimbursement for that, and I was only able to do it because of my employment gap. I believe that if it ever happened again (please, NO!), I’d go the other route. Rent close by and rebuild. At least if you know where you’re gong to live, it is possible to know if you’re renting nearby when you sign the lease. This time no corporate apartment in an inconvenient area. Get a nearby rental house this time, and rebuild this time. Make it as fast, painless and finished as possible. I’m not sure I regret how I made my lemonade over the past two years, but the litmus test for any choice is “Would you do it again?” Right there in that moment, drawing closer and closer to a plume that could turn out to be my own? The road was long. The answer was “no.” For that house at that time, maybe my decision was right, but I hope I never find out what it would be if it happened again, and I hope you, dear reader, never have more than a passing interest in what your decision might be either.

And, More on Hard Wood

So, the particulars of the flooring salvage on a technical level were this: You rip off any remaining carpet that has been laid on the floors and then you take off the molding, doors and other things that get in the way. You loose a bunch where you start. You have to rip into the tongue and groove somewhere and that’s where you loose a couple, or more likely several rows. Russ got pretty good at minimal loss. He used a big yellow four-foot heavy-duty wrecking bar. He actually used four of them because the first three bent. Manufacturers have made a fine science of using the minimum resources required in production. With this tool, Stanley missed the mark. It was made for our purpose and he used it properly, but they were consistently not up to the job.

When pulling the wood up, it helps to slide the bar in near the nail if it’s not too tight, and to move down with a gentle sliding motion. The trick is not to pull too high, hard or fast. The mighty oak breaks, and then it’s not such a great salvage product. Russ turned out to be great at it and improved with practice. I pulled nails and moved wood.

In a project like this there are always the unexpected problems. We expected to get the house that we were putting the floors in sooner than we did and when that didn’t happen we stored salvage wood from the first demo house on palates at the lot where our old house had been and wood from the second demo house in a garage at the apartment.

Planning is always a cost saver, regardless of whether you are talking monetary costs or any other kind. With demo houses that were on the block and a reno house that had an unpredictable, even questionable closing date, planning was nigh impossible. I had my hands on each board a minimum of 7 times, so anytime we had to move them again from one place to another, I was thinking and talking about efficiency. I’m pretty sure Russ didn’t want to hear that nearly as often as I brought it up. My natural state is pretty Polyanna, but when I’m stressed my strong analytical side can stick like a thorn.

I mentioned the job being bigger than both of us in the last post, and then left it hanging for six weeks before posting this. The truth is, that for most of the second demo house I was certain that the end result would not be worth the hardship we experienced. Russ got sick working in the house, I don’t know if it was heat, stress, or viral. My uncle was nearing the end of his life, and one thing I had usually been able to do in the past was to spend enough time being around for people I care about at important times. No matter where I was I felt like I should be somewhere else.

The choice to do the floors the way we did wasn’t really unusual for us, so it wasn’t just that we were trying to economize after loosing so much in the fire. We are always frugal, always trying to make something beautiful out of nothing and always trying to make environmentally friendly choices. Respecting the resource and salvaging the mass and energy it represents felt good on a fundamental level, but I wouldn’t be fully forthcoming if I didn’t admit cursing that we made those choices more than once during this project.

Many of the things we bought for the future house at a bargain were not reachable because we had amassed quite a store with precious little space to hold it. Things were stacked on top of things, not always by the same person and not labeled, as they would have been if we had the crystal ball that would have let us know that nothing would happen quickly. We had to buy some things again in a rush and at full price. There was a huge bag of paintbrushes that we found at a thrift store and I believe they were stolen out of our garage one day when we failed to notice that the safety tripped and the door didn’t close. It seems such an odd choice of things to take that I wonder if we lost other things that we haven’t missed yet. The lack of organization brought me to my knees on more than one day. Our plan was to organize early and stay organized, but with the delays in getting the house in the first place, then the delays with cleaning and treating the mess left by the owner, we never were able to get out in front of things.

As soon as we got the sealing and prep done, we installed the flooring on the first floor just as we had acquired it, one piece at a time. We’ll do some “how to” articles to, hopefully, save any readers from our mistakes. Russ rented the sander and we didn’t use it. It was not made for someone his height and we were afraid of failing to get it right while at the same time actually damaging his back. We ended up hiring someone to sand and finish the floors. We were glad that we did. We needed the breather and they turned out beautifully. They even ended up being completed on the same time frame.

I like these floors much better than I would like carpet. I can keep them cleaner. I like to look at them better. I appreciate them. As I accumulate new antiques, they will look like they belong on hard wood floors. A fine antique sitting on wall-to-wall carpet really bothers my eye as being out of place. We couldn’t have made a hardwood choice without the salvage component. It’s just too expensive, and we wouldn’t have been preserving a resource. We wouldn’t have gotten the long 12, 16 and 19 foot boards with new materials either. Those long boards are a nice feature that we really enjoy.

I, we, like everything about having the floors. But then there is the telling question. “Would you do it again?” I don’t know. I highly recommend it for others for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, but also, if for no other reason than as a right of passage, or maybe just to truly understand how hard some people work. You know, walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins.

Our experience was mostly good. We were really getting into the first demo house, but the second one was just plain “grin and bear it” work. Doing it gave us enough wood to probably do our upstairs and I’m not at all sure we could have finished the full first floor if we hadn’t done it, but that second house weighed heavily on us. I’m going to love having these floors and I’m going to be glad we did it. The pleasure of living with the floors that we wanted will last and the memories of the unpleasant parts will fade, but to do it again, I’d probably want a much more controllable situation with less uncertainty and less deadline pressure. I’d want an organized base of operation and I it’s likely that I’d be more comfortable downsizing so the project would be smaller. But then I wanted those things for this project too, so for now, I’m just going to take a deep breath and move on to the next project.