We have celebrated Winter Solstice for a few years as a family, but never have we shared this celebration with friends. This was going to be our year. I was going to invite friends and it would be magical and well-planned. Then my kids started cycling through short (but contagious) fevers. We called off the friends-coming-over part and decided to make-do and celebrate this holiday alone!
Dinner was nothing special– cabbage salad and soup– but any meal can be made magical with candlelight.
This year, I really wanted to focus on two things. First, embrace and accept the fact that we are in the darkest time of the year. Second, remind myself and my family that the light is returning. We took turns talking about what we remember from this last summer, as well as what we look forward to this summer. It helps me feel less overwhelmed with the darkness when I just accept that it’s a part of the year’s cycle, and remind myself that it won’t last forever.
This has been a wonderful year. We have experienced better health than ever before, we have made progress to accomplish our tiny house goals, and we have had many days of loving our kids and our friends. It has had a lot of sad days, anxious days, and “junk days” that went un-enjoyed… as any year has. But mostly I remember this year for all the happiness we have felt.
We read two very good books that I had borrowed from the library. One was Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, which spoke of a boy taking a quiet walk in the snow with his dad to find an owl. The other book was The Shortest Day: Celebrating Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer. This book explained the history of solstice and the science behind it.
Embrace the darkness, take time to rest. Summer will come quickly.
There have been two times in this tiny house process that my stomach has been in knots: the day I ordered the trailer (a $7,000 purchase) and the day we bought our truck to pull the tiny house (more than a $7,000 purchase).
We saw in on Craigslist, it was everything we were looking for. It was a Ford F350, with the good 7.3 L diesel engine, not a bad price, even had a few extras to up its “cool score”.
So, with trembling hands, we handed over the cash and rumbled away with a humongous white truck. The whole way down the freeway, I was nervously checking my rearview mirror, sure that he was slowing down and driving to the shoulder. I just knew we had made a bad decision and it was a lemon.
But we made it home. I woke up the next morning and saw that thing out the window and thought, “WHAT have we DONE!!!” It looked like an untamed bull and felt like a rash purchase. One thing I knew for sure, I never wanted to drive it.
Then commenced all the repairs. It’s a good truck that hasn’t had quite enough love and attention for several years. It needed a few new parts, batteries, brakes, oil, stuff like that. It has taken a good amount of Trent’s time, since he is a dyed-in-the-wool do-it-yourselfer. We got so close with the guys at Napa Autoparts that they gave Wade a football.
It’s been frustrating because progress on the tiny house has ground to a bit of a halt. And while I care about this important part of the tiny house journey, I have to admit I don’t care about auto repairs… at all. It’s the most boring thing in the world to me.
Trent finished the repairs with replacing part of the turbo booster, but now the thing won’t start well. It’s a bit of a mystery.
I’m sure we’ll get it figured out, I’m just wondering how much it will cost. It might (gasp!) involve a mechanic’s help.
Once it’s fixed, we will sell our minivan and call the truck our only vehicle. The minivan was bought in a very different time in our family’s timeline: we had two babies, had just moved to a new town, and weren’t sure how many kids we would have. We just wanted a comfortable, normal life— so we bought a comfortable, normal car. The car that society expected us to buy.
I think this truck is really a symbol of the change that is happening to our family. It means we will finish and move the tiny house. It means we will leave our old dreams of comfort and societal approval behind. It means we have plans to move to a more rugged place, far away from the places we know. It shows our hopes that we will work from home and be a one-car family.
It also embodies my insecurities and fears that seem to be almost taking me over. What if it’s un-fixable and we lose lots of money? Are we making bad decisions? Are we not thinking this through well? Will we find property? Will Trent get a job? Will we have friends? And then there’s the visual I have when I’m half-awake in the middle of the night: The tiny house tipping when being towed, and crushing in the side like a cardboard box.
And every once in a while the thought comes sneaking in… Why can’t we just be normal and buy a normal house? We could stay here close to home and Trent could keep the same job. Screw that fact that you will be in debt until Wade gets married and you have grey hair. Everyone expects you to do it, so DO IT! for goodness sake.
So yeah, this is a weird way to leave off with the story, but this is just real life. Sometimes questions aren’t answered yet. Sometimes you’re not sure what to do. A LOT of times, you’re just not sure if you are taking a good path or not.
But as my sister Karen reminded me, bad decisions are succumbing to an addiction, ruining friendships, racking up unmanageable debt, or getting sent to prison. The rest is negotiable.
Big Trent and little Trent sanding some cutting boards.
One evening this week, we all ended up in the tiny house together as Trent sanded some cutting boards. Right now, there is building materials and tools everywhere, which makes it not such a great hanging out spot, but we seem to manage. I can’t imagine how big the house will feel once it is finished and the tools are out!
Kitchen taking shape!
The kitchen cabinets are coming together! It will be a u-shaped kitchen at the end of the house. Right under the window will be the sink; you can see the drain pipe and PEX water pipes waiting. Ironically, I think this kitchen will have more counter space than our 800-sq-ft rental house! I know it will be much more custom and functional. I cook almost all the food we eat, so a good kitchen is important to me.
The kids always find something to play with! You don’t need much more than some wood chips and a few dolls to be happy at their age.
Our wood stove is so good at heating the house. We are very pleased. It gives such a deeply warm heat, like only a wood stove can.
We are getting very excited to live in our new home.
It took me almost a year, but I finally finished the braided wool rug for the tiny house! I really am not a crafty person and have not finished any large handicraft projects, so I was not prepared for how proud of the finished product I would feel! It all started last Christmas when my sister Karen gave me wool strips from the Pendleton Outlet store in Portland. She brought the most humongous bag and pretended like it was nothing and that she had just tossed some change out to get it, but I know it was a rather costly gift.
I stripped the wool into 2-inch wide strips as we sat in front of the fire at our beach rental at Christmastime last year. It was a cozy project and a wonderful memory.
Braids ready to be stitched into a rug!
As winter wore on and spring began to come, I braided and braided. Braided while we watched movies. Braided while I talked to Trent after the kids went to bed. Braided while I listened to podcasts during the day.
When I reached the end of one colored strip, I would stitch on another strip of the same color. As I braided, I rolled the ends of the strips under so the fraying edges wouldn’t show and the top of the rug would be smooth.
All summer and into the fall, I stitched the braids together. This was the most time-consuming of all. As the rug grew larger, it became really hard to manage. Instead of sitting on the floor and working around the rug, I insisted on having it on my lap. This turned out to be a mistake.
It’s a braided wool boat!
We watched YouTube videos about forest kindergartens as I stitched the last stitch. I couldn’t wait to lay it all out and admire it.
I laid it out and… aughhhhh! It was more suited for being a braided wool boat! Disaster!
My mind started to wander to worst case scenario. What if I have to rip out 6 months of stitching?
I just about cried.
But thankfully, after a little soak in the bathtub and some stretching and pulling to the edges and a little smooshing to the middle… it laid flat!
And what a beautiful rug it is! I can’t wait to set it in front of the couch, light a fire in the stove, and curl up with some tea.
I also have some dreams of always taking it with us, no matter what house we live in. I hope someday my grandkids will play on it.
Thanks Karen for the wool. You’ll be with us wherever we go.