Small Living – Big Life

Tiny House Workshops Coming to Canada

Yours Truly (aka The Canadian), BA (aka Ms. Bed Over My Head) and Nina (aka T-Homie) at the Four Lights tiny house build in Sebastopol, California, February 2013.

Yours Truly (aka The Canadian), BA (aka Ms. Bed Over My Head) and Nina (aka T-Homie) at the Four Lights tiny house build in Sebastopol, California, February 2013.

A lot has happened in the SIX months since I last wrote, but that update will have to wait because first you need to know about some tiny house workshops coming to Canada in June, July and September.

Four Lights will be holding tiny house workshops in Toronto on June 22-23 and in Vancouver on September 7-8. Tumbleweed’s workshop will take place in Vancouver on July 20-21.

Both companies are running most of their workshops in the States, so check out their sites to see if a trip to visit our southern neighbours will better fit your schedule.

I’ve attended tiny house workshops with both Four Lights and Tumbleweed, and while both conferences were very informative, my hands-on experience with the Four Lights workshop was the most helpful. Tumbleweed had many engaging speakers lead by the fantastic Dee Williams, however Four Lights had the magic combination of Jay Shafer + Daniel Bell delivering both the artistic and technical know-how needed to build a tiny house. Plus, I made

My front row seat to the Jay & Daniel show (Four Lights workshop, February 2013)

My front row seat to the Jay & Daniel show (Four Lights workshop, February 2013)

some life-long friends in BA and Nina during the Four Lights workshop and the 3-day tiny house build which followed in Sebastopol, California.

Jay Shafer is a self-taught tiny house builder, building his first house in the 90s, founding Tumbleweed and then moving on to start Four Lights Tiny House Company about a decade later in December 2012. Daniel Bell is a formally trained carpenter who runs his own construction company and teaches carpentry to high school students.  Together they are practical magic.

It wasn’t just the combination of artistic genius and technical skill that Jay and Daniel brought to our workshop, it was getting to benefit from both Jay’s “This is how I design beautiful and functional homes” and Daniel’s “This is the how and why of correct building techniques.

They worked so well together and ensured we all had some hands-on practice before the weekend was over. I was also lucky enough to assist in building one of these tiny houses immediately after the clinic, an opportunity I hope Four Lights will try to make available after most of their workshops.

If you’re curious about Four Lights workshops, check out this sneak peek video.

I’ve purchased my own tiny house plans from Four Lights, but have lots to sort out before I can start building. In meantime I would love to hear from other tiny house enthusiasts in the Ottawa area and beyond. Hope to hear from you soon!

It’s still October 30th somewhere, right?

Ok, maybe one of these isn't actually a costume.

Ok, maybe one of these isn’t actually a costume.

My seven days are up. It was one week ago this morning that I kick-started my blog, that I promised once I reached five posts or one week, I would reach out to Susan Murphy and thank her for her post “The Number One Thing Holding You Back from Creating Great Content“.

But I don’t wanna.

I still haven’t figured out why I want to do this. Why would I write what is essentially a diary, and share it with complete strangers, or even worse, with people who know where I live?

I know that part of it is I want to document this journey, this big trip to building a tiny house. I want to write about how hard it’s going to be to let go of most of my stuff, and hopefully how good it’ll feel once I do it.

Part of it is I want to inspire my mom, show her it can be done. Of course she’ll see it first hand, and unless I give her some computer lessons on how the inter-tubes work, she’ll never see this blog. Maybe I’ll start her on Facebook first.

Part of it is the practice of writing. It’s something I find much easier to daydream about than do. I live too much in my head, and writing a blog is exercise and a commitment.

And a big part of it is that I have at least ten shopping-cart-sized boxes of photos, postcards, school reports, military assessments, newsletters, diaries, tickets, teddy bears, newspaper clippings, pins, Girl Guide badges, piggy banks, jewelry boxes, berets and shawls that I really want to hang on to… and let go of. I have so many memories and stories wrapped up in those boxes marked “Treasures” and “Personal”. It’s time to let go of all that stuff, and I figure if I can write that I was there, I did that, I failed, I survived, those were my people and I loved them, if I can attach those memories and feelings to words rather than things, then maybe I’ll be ready to let go.

And buy some more stuff (kidding!).

Speaking of stuff, I would like to take this moment to congratulate myself on not buying a Halloween costume this year. I was in Fort McMurray twice last week and both times I resisted buying a costume. Ok, one time I resisted and the other time the line up was too long. Still, when you consider how many costumes I got my hands on in Kandahar, this is quite a feat for me.

Despite my penchant for dressing as an elf/devil/ghostbuster on a military base with 30,000 soldiers, I am nervous about exposing myself on this blog – sure that’s normal. As was spending two hours after work this evening scrolling through page after page of vectors in search of the perfect paisley background and vintage tags on which to write my non-existent blog categories. Yep, 100% typical of what I would do when I don’t want to do what I should do… which is this; posting my fifth blog post and making a connection.

Get ‘er done.

(Thanks Susan!)

Fighting the fuzz

(The entry below is what I was working on when my laptop kicked me out two days ago.)

My blog folder should be around here somewhere.

It’s five am and I am filled with clutter.

My desk, my desktop, my brain – all filled with clutter. Apparently so too is my laptop, as the words on this screen are appearing a good four seconds after I type them.

Five am sounds pretty dedicated right? Well, I was actually up at 4:30. This is how long it took me to scurry to the bathroom, clear some crap off my desk, boot up my computer, take a screen shot of my cluttered desktop and open up Word.

Uh oh – “High Disk Usage” warning. And all I’m doing is typing.

My life is full of clutter. I gave up my apartment in 2009 so you’d think I’d be the epitome of clutter-free. I’ve been living in small places on and off for seven years overseas, and if there’s one thing I’ve discovered (besides that I’m comfortable in small places) it’s that I sure can cram a lot of stuff in 8’x10’ or less.

My brain was chock-full of clutter yesterday. And not just clutter, but fuzzy clutter. The kind of jumbled mess you get when you wake up at one in the morning and don’t get back to sleep before work. Actually it can go either way with me – sometimes when I get no sleep for a few days in a row, all that I’m able to manage is a single thought at a time, and that kind of clarity once led to one of the most productive and decisive days I’ve ever had at work… but that was 2006 or 2007. These days lack of sleep leads to fuzzy brain and too much time staring into space, meandering through my head when I’m supposed to be stamping and stacking and punching paper.

Yesterday my brain was so muddled and sleepy I asked the guys if there’s anything they needed done outside that I could do. Sure thing – insulating pipe!

So yesterday afternoon I tramped about in snow and mud and taped silver puffy  insulation sheets around sewer lines. Or grey water lines. I’m not sure, but they were pipes and hoses and it took me two hours tape up maybe 30 feet of snakey two-and-four inch pipes and hoses all by myself. I got dirt under my nails, mud on my knees and all over the cuffs of my jeans, my fingers got numb and my nose wouldn’t stop running.

I felt good.

I must admit I am pretty lucky. A year ago I would have stayed at my desk, checked work e-mails, checked my personal e-mails, maybe sneak a peak at facebook on my phone, made coffee, answered some e-mails and generally not get anything done except the most immediate and superficial tasks because I was too tired to think.

Now the guys will take me along to insulate pipe, or nail rolls of non-skid flooring on walkways or change out furnace filters and wipe down hot water tanks. They’ve also offered to let me snake a clogged toilet, but I haven’t gotten to that yet.

In fairness the guys have offered to show me how things run and are done on the camp, but I’ve always been too busy trying to catch up on the mounds of paperwork piling up around me. I always felt guilty to be doing anything other than what I was hired for.

The difference this year is that I put in my notice and told my boss I no longer want to spend ten hours a day in front of a computer. I gave three months notice so that they could bring a new person I could train and then catch up on all the work that that is simply too much for one person to do. I gave January 2nd as my last day, but offered to stay on another six months if I could train and work as a maintenance technician.

A maint tech knows a little bit about everything, and a lot about a few things. They can fix a washer that won’t spin, a door that won’t lock, and a bathroom fan that won’t shut off. Depending on their background and experience they might also be able to troubleshoot a broken A/C unit or walk-in cooler. They sometimes complete jobs normally done by a ticketed plumber, electrician, carpenter or HVAC tech – they just don’t have the formal education or red seal to say they’re qualified to do it. They’re a jack of all trades, learn as they go, and know more about how these camps run than any single tradesperson.

I don’t know how long the company will keep me on after January. I have a good boss though and if he can keep me on as a maint tech-in-training, I know that he will. We certainly have enough work, but it’s really a matter of numbers and if the company has the budget for it.

I still have too much paperwork to process, but the difference now is that I know I only have a limited amount of time learn new skills that I may never have a chance to learn again. There is so much I could learn from these guys, and if I don’t make the time to learn, no one else will.

And sometimes finishing a job in the snow and mud is exactly what you need before tackling another mountain of paper.

Or a cluttered desktop.

You could have just asked

Thank you Windows.

Thank you for installing that update as I was writing my blog, already at 500 and something words. Thank you for that shock of watching my 500-and-something-words disappear without my asking and shutting down my laptop that took way too damn long to start in the first place. Thanks for giving me time to make my bed and haul on some clothes as you rebooted.

If I had known that my computer would have forced a shutdown at 5:35 am, maybe I would have gotten more done. I may have forced myself to finish my 500-and-something-words instead of writing until the very last possible minute when all I have time to do before running to brekkie (ok, forget brekkie, it would have been just coffee) and hitching a ride with the guys to work (it’s too dark and cold for me now to walk that kilometer to our office; I like to be able to see the bears and wolves and coyotes coming to get me) is haul on a hat and mascara. If I had known my computer was going to kick me off, maybe I would have been more productive.

Hmmmm. I bet there’s an app for that.

I just heard of Freedom a few days ago. It locks you out of the internet for however long you tell it to. And it won’t let you on no matter what… unless you reboot your computer. It’s completely ridiculous and would totally work for me.

There must be a forced-shutdown-so-get-er-done program. I mean other than using will power and self control.

But if there isn’t, I want first dibs.