"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Jan 4, 2021

A Decade of Homes

Most of the people I know outside of homeless encampments have inherited money.  I’m not begrudging them, it’s not their fault; but I can't help wondering what that feels like, the things you think of during the wee hours.

To have someone hand you a check full of zeros…how would I act? What’s the first thing I’d do once I picked myself up off the floor? The first thing I’d buy? After a hot chicken I'd locate a financial adviser, then start dreaming like I’m doing now…

house of my own. Not a home, since Mom always claimed,

“You have a home; you just don’t have a house to put it in.” What she meant was a sense of home and that was fine when I was in my 30’s, but I’m not sure I still believe it now.

The first home I owned was Ruff Life (top), thanks to my 401K, read the story if you care to.  When I returned to Oregon in 2010 it made no sense renting an apartment just to fill it up with stuff, not after I'd auctioned most everything before moving on to the boat. 

Close to broke, I picked up an inexpensive 1992, 16-foot travel trailer, and my first truck: a 1990 Ford F150, inherited from an acquaintance for the repair bill; cherry red with flames and bullet holes I didn't realize were stickers.

I found a space in a nice little RV park a ways out of town, quiet, with a huge deck and small storage shed off to the side, for about $375 a month, plus electric.  I picked up a rescue dog for companionship.  I'd create during the week then peddle my wares at local shows; teach; and show in galleries.

I started out in my new community by renting space at the local Saturday Market, and on the side offered free arts and crafts for kids while their parents shopped, I had to do something with my time.  As beautiful as everyone claimed my pieces to be, people weren't spending disposable income on original art; I understood that but I was starving. Fellow marketeers bought my stuff to help me pay the weekly fee. The lemonade gal was making more money than me, so I put on my thinking cap and started a separate business.

For two years I'd been living on the smell of an oil rag, as Mom would say; supplementing my dismal sales by taking odd jobs and eBaying anything I could to meet my rent. My hands and arms were killing me but I didn't have health insurance.  Every month was stressful, so I understand people's anxiety today.  Finally, I looked online to see if I could get any help, when I stumbled upon the SSI program.  I qualified and began receiving help, so at least I could pay my rent.

I put all available cash and motivation into developing Woofers and Tweeters, dog treat flour mixes, gluten-free and Vegan, so health-conscious people could bake them at home.  It was a hard sell but there was enough of a positive reception, particularly from smaller venues, that I hoped to try other parts of Oregon.  My goal was to market the Pacific Northwest, with a dream of turning a little cottage industry into a Mary Kay-ish distribution system for homemakers, students and anyone interested in part-time, make-your-own-hours work.

Right after I made the decision to give it the old college-try, out of the blue I inherited my next vehicle from my next door neighbors in the RV park.  They knew I was looking for something better to tow the trailer, and since they already had a separate car felt no need to keep their truck any longer.

"It needs such and such...about $300. I've had the same problem in the past and don't want to deal with it any more.  It's yours if you want, don't bother with a trade.  You'll need the money."

Yes, there are still people like that out there.  It was a peach: a 1986 F150, suitable for towing and meticulously maintained by the original owner all those years.  Providence, I assumed; so confidently, enthusiastically and with cases of product, I hit the road with BC in 2012 for the first time.

We got as far as Salem before being derailed by the heretofore unknown discriminatory practice that 'no vehicles older than 5 or 10 years' could rent monthly space at RV parks, which stopped me dead in my tracks.  I'd been living in an exception to the rule, or it was at the time. This is when and why I began to speak and write about Economic Inequality.  You can read more in a paper I sent to every state legislator in Oregon, and even received a couple responses.

I stored the trailer and spent the winter housesitting in Albany (l) before returning to southern Oregon, tail between legs.  My friends from the Market gave me safe haven on their (sprawling) property while I figured out what to do next. It wasn't a permanent arrangement because they didn't have hookups but they did have large hearts.  The year before, Hurricane Sandy left Mom's house in New Jersey intact (below); but since that time my mother, in the early stage of dementia, lived with Sis in the next town.

Mom was a packrat who saved, it seemed, everything, so I left my RV and struck out with BC on our first cross-country trip to sort through and prepare her house for sale.  The truck had no A/C or radio but we had a good drive nevertheless, and after the summer headed back home.

Back in Oregon, I'd hoped Mom might be able to live with me part of the year but everyone said I couldn't possibly care for her in my 16-footer (l).  My friends then offered to trade my RV (perfect size for their hunting trips) for their unused 33-foot, 1988 Bounder motorhome, which I couldn't possibly drive but it didn't matter.  I still remember how thrilled I was to have so much ROOM.  I could park it on their children's rental property, which had hookups, at the bottom of the hill (below).

It's the same property I'm on right now, but at the time I'd unwittingly landed smack in the middle of a Hatfield/McCoy feud.  Someone called the county to report I was parked illegally on private property, and right after Thanksgiving 2013 I was given my eviction notice: 30 days or else the homeowners would be fined $500 a month, Merry Christmas.

Since no RV park in the county would rent me space because of the age limit, these same friends (now regarded as family) located a space on their friend's property and moved me.  It was closer to town on a main road, which was fine except I was always afraid whenever a police car drove by that I'd be forced to move again.  I was assured that wouldn't happen for different reasons I didn't 100% believe; but I tried to relax and create myself a home.

I began by removing two hi-back passenger seats, what a bear that was to get out by myself.  I couldn't completely remove the floor mechanism on one, so I solved that obstacle by covering it with the tall painted cabinet (after removing the bottom drawer).  I was so happy to live with my two remaining pieces of furniture inside rather than in a shed, and this RV had cabinets and storage space galore.

Older RV's don't usually come with pop-outs and such, so this was like a long hallway, which was great for playing football with BC. There was a separate bedroom area with two twin beds, and a full bath in the back. I was so anticipating my first bubble bath in my own home; but the water heater could only heat a couple inches at a time so I never tried that again.

I worked on the outside, too.  I wanted BC to move about without being tied up all the time, so I looked on Craigslist for free fence pieces.  Sure enough, homeowners less than 5 minutes away had replaced all their old, mismatched fencing and offered all I wanted, so I filled the truck and created this enclosed space.

I loved my garden. My friend, a Master Gardener, was always giving me plants; and under her tutelage I developed a pretty green thumb.  My new landlady was kind and motherly, and the rent was more than reasonable.  

But something told me to go see my real Mom in New Jersey, even though my sister said she was fine. The nagging thought wouldn't go away, so with Mom's help from the proceeds of her house I acquired my current 21-foot home, below, and made plans to hit the road.  I downsized as much as I could from the Bounder to the Warrior, donated loads of stuff, gave favorite items away, including my painted furniture, and returned the Bounder to my friends, who’d so kindly supported me over the years, I couldn’t possibly repay them.

In the spring of 2016 BC and I took our second cross-country trip, carting back to New Jersey most of the possessions I’d driven from there years before.  I though I might stay on the east coast indefinitely to be closer to Mom but it was too expensive, so after a visit and depositing my things in storage I headed back to Oregon.  Mom passed away in the fall, so I'm forever grateful I listened to my gut.

While wandering the country, always on the lookout for an affordable place to park, I stumbled upon Community First, the tiny-house village for the chronically homeless in Austin, and as a Workamper I painted in exchange for a place to park.  One month turned into nine before heading back to Oregon.  I tell people,


"I went there to paint, I thought," but the experience profoundly affected my attitude and sense of purpose.

My motor, as it turned out, barely got us back to Jackson County in the spring of 2018; so while terribly disappointed at the time not to head for Montana, it turned out to be right for me.  It's given me a chance to put down roots again, at least a little. 


Hope Village welcome center
After a stint as a Camp Host for a state park I moved back to this property, since the feuding neighbor moved.  I picked up  a car, and I've been volunteering at the local tiny-house village and local performance theater, at least before everything closed down.

Which brings us to now.  I'm working on my teardrop to retrieve the aforementioned belongings in storage, I should have my head examined; but at the rate we're being vaccinated that won't happen until next year earliest, I'm not deluding myself. Lots can happen between now and then.

It was unintentional to write all this but sometimes I'm asked how I managed to do this or accomplish that; it was the same with the boat.  Dumb luck, primarily.  Through the course of this discourse I've been remembering the unexpected windfalls I have received this past decade from friends and family, bless 'em, to help keep me going.  I may not have received an inheritance check per se, but no one can dispute I have gotten what I needed, and then some.  Made a believer out of me these past 10 years, and a better person.  And what would I do with a house?

P.S. To understand what happened just before this story, read No Guts, No Glory.  And if you enjoyed the stories please share them, there are buttons below.  Someone else might get something out of them, and make my tribulations worth it, thanks!

2 comments:

  1. A very sobering post. To see your travails 'en masse,' similar to the piece you wrote about getting Ruff Life repaired to sell, shows an extraordinary spirit and determination, despite all odds. I am truly dumbfounded to review your past decade, and to know that you have found the inner strength to not only overcome your financial and situational odds, but have come through it all with your resilience, good humor and innate kindness in tact. What a story - especially because it is all true. I am in awe.

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