At Last: An Update on Tiny Living

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you know someone is about to say, “I told you so?”  You kind of squint and wait for the comment to hit you in the face like a pie.

Well, after this update I’ll be doing a bit of squinting.

If you’ve been following our journey, you know that it has been our dearest wish to build our very own tiny house to take with us on the road as we travel nurse.  We’ve been pursuing that goal for the last year or so.  We found a builder we absolutely loved and together we created a floor plan and design for our would-be home.  We even put down the money to buy the actual physical trailer on which said tiny home would be built.  Then the time came to find a loan to pay for the build.

Groundhog day

But time after time the answer from bank after bank was “No, we don’t do tiny homes,” like Andie McDowell slapping Bill Murray in the face over and over again in Groundhog Day.  It was an exhausting and discouraging process, to say the least.

Throughout the process of tiny home planning and dreaming, we have had lots of people say, “Why don’t you just buy an RV?” to which we usually sigh and explain that while technically a tiny house IS an RV, they are also nothing like RVs.  Tiny homes are extremely well built, far less flimsy than most RVs.  And you get a lot more square footage.  And they’re meant to be lived in, not camped in.  You get the idea.  Also, most motor coach style RVs cost three times more than our house.  So the RV idea was always a giant, “NO!”  Plus I hate how they look on the inside.

But then one day I picked my husband up from a shift at the hospital in Florida and he mentioned one of his coworkers, a fellow travel nurse, lived in a rather nice travel trailer that she and her husband live in that only cost a fraction of our tiny house budget.  I immediately started in on why travel trailers aren’t a good idea: they’re flimsy, there’s no space for the baby, and they look like they were designed by a baby boomer convention (baby boomers – no offense – tend to LOVE dark woods, fluffy leather furniture, and ornate window coverings.  All fine if you live in a 19th Century English manor home, terrible if you live in an RV.  It makes the whole thing look like a cramped, dated cave.  Millennials like myself like our spaces sparse, open, and light — mostly because we’ve been broke since ’08 and we have no wealth to flaunt).

But as the dream of our home-on-the-road started to look tinier and tinier, the idea of a travel trailer seemed like a necessary evil.  My heart sank at the idea of living in some ugly trailer instead of our lovely tiny house.

Enter Instagram.

I follow #tinyhouse and #tinyhomes and a number of other tiny related hashtags on Instagram, if for no other reason than as a means of keeping the flame of hope alive.  A few months ago I stumbled on a photo of a lovely fireplace scene in what looked like a tiny house, only to look closer and see that it was the inside of an RV travel trailer.  My interest was piqued and I instantly began following this woman’s Instagram account.  Then I found more and more people who had purchased an RV and completely renovated it to look like a tiny house.  Do yourself a favor and do a Google image search of “RV renovation before and after” to see what I mean.  I was so excited.

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My husband and I called our builder to ask if he would be willing to do the renovation for us after selling our trailer (we have neither the time nor ability for a massive DIY like this).  He loved the idea.  Since he already knows exactly what we want, getting something fixed up would be no problem.  Within a short time, our trailer sold!

After weeks of trying to search for just the right travel trailer, we found a nearly brand new one really close by and at a really decent price with a bunkhouse, so the baby has her own space as she grows.  We are hoping to sign the papers tomorrow on the loan and by next week this trailer is ours!

We are not sure of the renovation timeline, but for now we are excited that our “home-on-the-road” is going to become a reality!  Photos will be shared in earnest once we move in!

Now to wait for the “I told you so” comments!

 

Travel Nursing Update: Pregnancy, Housing, and Living in a Retirement Community

We have now lived in Ft Myers, FL for seven weeks and as of today I am exactly 32 weeks (eight months) pregnant.

How my pregnancy is going:

Pretty uneventful, to be honest, minus a few ribs that like to pop out of joint and hips that don’t like staying in their sockets.  My mother and baby chiropractor in Cape Coral is an absolute lifesaver!  At the beginning of my pregnancy, my chiropractor in South Carolina told me she was pretty sure (but couldn’t diagnose since that requires an x-ray) that I have an inherited connective tissue disorder that results in extreme ligament laxity (which was so NOT a surprise since I’ve had so many ligament-related injuries over the years).  When you mix already lax ligaments and the relaxin my pregnant body is pumping out on the regular, it means that this mamma-to-be has the structural soundness of a pile of jello.  Other than my ribcage collapsing in on itself and not being totally sure if my hips are in their sockets or not, I’m doing really well!

Since we are moving next week (update on housing below), I’m trying to make sure we clear out our fridge, which means an unending amount of smoothies!  I’m not really prone to cravings anymore (except for a regular craving for pho, which is fine since there’s a great pho place up the road), which means sticking to a pretty strict diet is doable.  It’s really important for babies to have a healthy gut flora, and a lot of newborn issues like colic and acid reflux can be due to a lack of healthy gut bacteria.  This means I’m trying to keep my gut bacteria in a really healthy place (yes, mother’s gut bacteria gets passed to babies through the placenta as well as during birth).  That means limited processed sugars, refined carbohydrates, and dairy, and adding loads of probiotics and gut healthy foods like bone broth (incidentally it also means that the usual stereotype of pregnant women having constipation does NOT apply to me!).

Ironically, the Southern tradition of a meat and two vegetables has kind of been my go-to for setting up dinner (though you won’t find any chicken fried steak or fried okra in our house and macaroni and cheese does not count as a vegetable).  Dinner usually consists of a modest sized piece of meat (usually organic chicken or salmon), and two hearty portions of vegetables of varying kinds and colors (purple potatoes, swiss chard, sweet potato, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc).  The only bread we eat is Ezekiel bread (or whatever arrives at our table when we do eat out) which is usually at breakfast.

My exercise regimen now consists of walking most days, stretching A LOT, and doing weight training a few times a week.  Since my body is getting more and more loose (and prone to injury), I’m taking it easier and easier with the weights.  It’s really important that I keep my muscles in tact for the marathon (birth) that I’m training for, so I won’t toss out weight training until I just can’t anymore.

What about your housing?

Glad you asked.  Remember the lady from the last post?  Yep, we love her.  We will be moving in with her on Wednesday.  She’s even driving us to the airport on Thursday for our flight to SC for Christmas.

The tiny house is another issue, though.  There is one bank who is deciding as we speak whether or not they’re cool with lending for a tiny house, so if you’re the praying kind, prayers would be appreciated that they will look favorably on us.

Thoughts on Living in a Retirement Community

I would say the majority of people living in Ft Myers are 55+ retirees (or at least that’s how it feels).  Especially where we live now, it seems like there are 10 silver haired folks/baby boomers for every Millennial.  These folks in particular have made it: they have retired to Florida, near the beach (or at least they have from November to April).  This means, for many of them, that they are in constant mental vacation mode.  I’m not saying that every snowbird has mentally checked out, or that everyone who retires to Florida is in vacation mode (my uncle and aunt would definitely be an exception, for example).

But you want to know something funny?  I’ve never overheard more complaining in my life than I have living here.  I’m not really sure how to account for it, either.  Maybe having a “grass is greener” mentality for 40 years just waiting for the day when life will be easier has led to permanent discontent, or maybe it’s a generational/cultural gap between me (an older Millennial) and the q-tips in the booth behind me at the restaurant.  Maybe life is just so much harder when you’re in your 60s and 70s than I ever realized.  I don’t know.  But I will say it surprised me.

I think the antidote to perpetual complaining/discontent is to avoid “someday” thinking: someday when x happens I’ll be happier, someday when I lose x pounds I’ll be happier, someday when I get x object that will make me happy, someday when I’ve saved x dollars my life will be easier.  The problem is “someday” may never come, or if it does “someday” looks nothing like you imagined and you’re left facing the bitter reality of “now.”  Focus on gratitude and contentment in your present.  Make life meaningful now.  Try to stay mindful of the times you complain.  Catch yourself complaining and ask, “How many times a day do I complain?”  It might be a lot, and you may realize that you’ve been a total Debbie Downer to the people around you for years and never known it.  Just a thought.

BUT the other thing I’ve noticed is the obvious lack of smartphones in the hands of said silver hairs.  And you know what?  It’s so refreshing.  It makes me catch myself a little when I realize I’m the only one in the room staring at a glowing screen.  Life is slipping by and I’m checking email (and I don’t even have a real job, what is wrong with me?).  Put the phone down every once in a while, friends.  Or better yet, turn it off and enjoy your surroundings.pexels-photo-386148

Parenting Lessons and Christmas Insights from Traveling Tiny

On Thursday, I closed my laptop and started sobbing.

I had spent the day before visiting bank after bank after bank all day long with my husband asking for a loan for our tiny house, and we got ‘no’ after ‘no’ after ‘no.’  Well, really the responses were, “Oh my gosh how exciting!  I’ve seen tiny houses on TV, I really hope we can help you,” only to be followed by, “I’m sorry, we just can’t finance a tiny house.”  More on that later.

On Thursday, I had spent hours and hours on the computer and the phone trying to find a place for us to live after Christmas.  We are staying in an AirBnb apartment that will not be available after Christmas.  We had originally thought, “We’ll easily find a place to live after, and then hopefully move into the tiny house before the baby is born.”  But after a whole lot of searching I had zero success.  There were no AirBnb’s in our area that were available for the time we needed within our budget, no apartment complex in town would do a two-month lease (trust me, I called every last one), and there was nothing to be found on Craigslist or anywhere else online that I could find or afford.  Finding a place to live was starting to feel utterly impossible.

Cue the sobbing.  After two full days of slammed doors, I was completely overwhelmed.  I felt like I was already a horrible mother for not providing a place for my baby when she’s born.  Would we have to sleep in the car?  What are we going to do?  How can I bring a child into the world in a life like this?  I felt like a mama bird with no nest for her little chick.

Let me say for starters that I’m not a Catholic, but the Virgin Mary has never meant more to me than she has the last few days.  If anyone in human history would know how I feel, she would and then some.  This Christmas will mean a lot more to me from that regard than ever.  I’m not sure I could look at a manger scene right now without tearing up.

The day after this intense sob-fest, I decided to go to the Friday night Eucharist service at a local church we had visited a few Sundays previous.  I needed some soul care.  After the service was over, the priest was excited to meet a new face and ask about me and my husband.  I was a young face in a church of mostly elderly faces. I told him my husband was a travel nurse and that we would be staying in town until February, just after the baby is born.

“If there’s anything you guys need while you’re here, anything at all, just let me know.”

I pounced.  I told him our living situation and that if he happened to know someone with a guest house or finished basement or something (not that anyone in southwest Florida has a basement, but you never know) to please let me know.

“I’ll see what I can do.”  He handed me his card and told me to call him next week.  And with that, I had a glimmer of hope.

My husband and I decided to visit the church again this morning.  It’s definitely a “high church” Anglican type service, complete with bells and incense (or “smells and bells” if you like).  Before the Eucharist, a layperson in a white robe walks to every part of the church swinging the censer filled with the perfumed smoke of frankincense in front of the people, signifying our prayers going up before the Lord as we come to His table together.  As he walked to the corner of the church, the little clouds puffed up blue, purple, pink, and yellow as it caught the colors of the light in the stained glass windows behind him.

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And with this sight filling my eyes, I could feel God say, “I am writing your daughter’s story.  You cannot write her story for her.  You are part of her story, but I am the One writing it.”  And with that, I knew we would be okay.  God allowed His own Son to be born in a cave in totally unpredictable and less than ideal circumstances.  That doesn’t make Him a terrible Father.  I knew He would bring one of His people to provide hospitality to us and to open their home.

But I was also filled with dual comfort and terror that I have no real control at all over my child’s life: God does.  He is knitting her body together.  I can fill my body with nutrients, rest, exercise, and do everything I can to make a healthy baby, but her growth and her birth are up to the one building her up neuron by neuron.  Her little personality is not up to me.  Her will is not up to me.  Her sins are not up to me.  I can teach her, love her, feed her, and provide for her, but how she turns out in life as an adult is not up to me.  She could reject her upbringing entirely and go her own way, or she could use what we teach her and choose a path we’re happy with.  She could come down with a disease when she’s ten, or she could live to be 95.  Either way, I have no real control over my child’s life: God does.

I’ll give you a parable: I had six tomato plants in my back yard in South Carolina before we moved.  I cared for these plants so well because I really wanted a good crop of tomatoes.  I raised these plants from seedlings, giving them little light baths during the day until they were hardy enough to stay outside.  I fed them, watered them, sheltered them during storms, pruned them, weeded them, and gave them mulch.  They grew and grew until they were each six feet tall.  But after a whole spring and a whole summer, not one of those plants produced one single tomato.  NOT.  ONE.  On our side yard however, a sweet potato plant grew completely on its own from out of the compost pile.  I did nothing at all to make the sweet potato grow, but it grew.  I bent over backwards to make the tomato plants produce fruit, but I got no fruit.

I plan on smothering my child in love because I don’t think I’ll be able to help it.  I plan on teaching her how to live a healthy, Godly life.  I plan on giving her structure and discipline in love.  But I know full well now that my child is not a robot and that I cannot write her story.  God is writing her story.

As we left the church the priests shook the hands of those leaving.

“Hey!  Don’t go away, I may have already found someone for you.”  Long story short, a widow in the church who is a retired trauma nurse heard that this travel nurse with a pregnant wife needed a place to stay for a few months, and she didn’t hesitate.  “You may get other offers that suit you better, but if all else fails, she will take you in.”  There is room in this total stranger’s inn.  We haven’t spoke to her yet, but I’m hoping and praying that this works out, if nothing else does.christmas holly decoration

Travel Nursing Stage 1: Waiting

I have two boxes of books sitting on my guest room floor taped up and labeled “Books: Heavy (Tiny House).” Next to these is an open box of DVDs and CDs, the contents of which are still being weeded out.  We watched two of my movies last week and promptly put the DVDs in the “Library Donation” pile.  I don’t think we’ll be watching either again any time soon, and I purchased both on a whim years ago for $5 from a Blockbuster that was going out of business.  Many of my CDs are slowly being added to the donation pile, but as they’re 1990’s Newsboys CDs, my inner 12 year old is horrified at their removal.  But that’s why we have iTunes.

We are in limbo right now: trying to live fully in the present with our current jobs, enjoying family and friends that live nearby and our wonderful church, but knowing that we could get a travel assignment at any moment telling us to hit the road in a matter of weeks.  Here is how travel nursing works for those of you unfamiliar with it: hospitals post staffing needs to various agencies that then send those opportunities to travel nurses.  If the nurse is up for it and is accepted by the hospital, then you pack your bags and work there for 13 weeks.  We are still waiting for the right assignment.  We’ve had two “almost’s” that fell through.  By now, I’ve gotten really adept at instantly Googling everything I need to know about a city or surrounding area; crime rate, Air BnB availability, cost of living, things to do, where to do laundry, everything.  But nothing has panned out.  So we live in a state of waiting.

The crazy planner in me wants everything to be ready to go by the time we leave, whenever that may be.  This is where being minimalists really comes in handy.  I know (for the most part) that I can have the contents of my house bubble wrapped, packed, and in the attic (more on that later), in a matter of hours.  I still want to whittle down our possessions more and more, though.  The less we have to pack in the car or store in our attic, the better.  In the end, everything we are planning to keep will eventually go in the tiny house, and if you’ve ever watched a tiny house show you know people try to take WAY more than they should and their minimalist mini mansion gets turned into a box of clutter (no, thank you).  So the less, the better (my birthday is coming up, and so far I’ve been given symphony tickets and chocolates.  Perfect gifts for people who are trying to live light!).

We’ll keep you posted when we have our first assignment.  For now I’ll be posting some of our ideas for our tiny house and some really awesome smoothie recipes!