Sunday 30 November 2014

Holy Crap, Something Worked as Advertised!

Mark the day on your calendar, a product actually lived up to its promises. I was snug and warm last night and even after less than a minute of getting into my new sleeping bag, I was warm. 

Sure, Wanda was hovering around 5C, but me, in that sleeping bag, I was toasty warm. I sat there and listened to the radio and enjoyed the evening. It was nice.

I even went so far as to turn the furnace off as I settled down into the sleeping bag and went to sleep. I left the electric heater going and it was able to keep Wanda at -5C all night not bad, considering it was somewhere south of -20C outside. Again, I was toasty warm all night, all because of this.

It is one of those ‘mummy’ sleeping bags rated to -40C. It wasn’t as strange as you might think to be bundled up in this thing with only a hole for your face to poke out of. While I haven’t put it to the test yet as hovering around zero is hardly -40, but as with insulation, pick the thickest and warmest. I wasn’t silly as I still slept in my 3 thermal undies, as in the middle of the night to pee I don’t want to freeze.

I do see a problem that is when I am awake and in Wanda, and it is near or below -20C, the furnace just doesn’t cut it. As with the rest of Wanda, she was designed for a chilly fall night near (but above) zero not the dead of a Canadian prairie winter (despite what that sticker says).

(To you silly American designers, the Arctic is way further north of Calgary, and much colder. Well, that and penguins are at the south pole . . . the "anti-arctic?")

I will admit that the insulation in Wanda is fine and good, but the windows are single pane (are you kidding me). Then there is the complete failure of the system that is supposed to protect the plumbing system. Let’s not forget that the furnace is not up to the task of heating this trailer in winter. 

The insulation, for the most part, is good, I will give them that. (I really need to design and build these RV’s myself). When the weather is warm, Wanda works well and is well designed, that I will also say with certainty.

To help make Wanda more liveable, I will get a portable Propane Heater and only use it: 1) when I am home 2) when I am awake 3) with vents cracked open. That way I can augment the heat within Wanda and not always run for a coffee shop when I wake up (as I do now). Either that or I have to run Wanda’s furnace almost constantly just to get the temperature up to 5. 

I know that running any sort of combustible appliance indoors is risky and dangerous, especially so with propane, that is why ventilation is key. I am confident that that is the last piece of the puzzle (who am I kidding), to make it work and live in Wanda in or below -20C. 

The other thing that has been interesting is that everything freezes, as in everything, my blue jug of water is now a blue jug of ice. My milk is now ice in the fridge and the two litre of cola is now a cola slushie, (that is kinda cool). 

It is for this reason that I will still fill my two 2 litre bottles of water each day, but only use them over the evening and morning. That way they have less chance to freeze. I still don’t know what to do about the frozen bucket of graywater.  

Another thing is that when it is below or near zero the phone doesn’t want to charge. I get a little message on the phone that says that the battery is too cold to charge. So I end up precariously balancing it a few feet above the electric heater to keep the phone warm enough to charge while we are all plugged in. 

I did get a chapter and a half done yesterday, and the story is shaping up quite well. I know that this story still has some time to go and that I can’t rush it, not the crafting of the story. Already I am and have been mildly dissecting the story and rearranging and putting in a new scene here and there. 

The pace and timing of this end of the story is important but mostly I am having fun not only writing the important pieces of the story but also putting in the interesting titbits of information of Tanea, just because I can. 

I never did like the authors who clearly don’t know the world they are showing you around. You know, the ones who never show you anything but the plot, because they haven’t a clue how their worlds actually work. I on the other hand can easily get lost in this world and stray too far off of the path that is the plot. 

It may get very cold, but these very cold patches shouldn’t last too long in a stretch, so I am not too concerned.  Yet at the same time, I need to be prepared to live in them, just in case -25C stays for a few months. I will be okay, of that I know, I have already been through a few nights near -30C in Wanda, I can handle more (not that I want to). 

Saturday 29 November 2014

What I Learned Yesterday

As most of you probably know it got a bit cold yesterday here in Calgary, but rest assured I am fine. I made it through the night alive and with all of my appendages, fingers, toes, etc still attached. As I went through my day yesterday and evening, I learned a few things that I thought would be good for me to pass along. 

1) Did you know that you can’t fill propane tanks below -20C? 

Okay, I don’t know the exact temperature but if you are below -20C don’t bother asking for propane. If it is that cold then the propane stays in a liquid state as it is being transferred from their big tank to your little one. That is a problem and unsafe, I am to entirely sure of the reason, but they won’t do it, so don’t ask. 

What this means is that in winter either top up both tanks when you get them filled (somewhere north of -10C). The other thing to do would be to fill up that tank you just emptied as soon as possible, (somewhere north of -10C). Trust me, you don’t want to run out of propane in winter. This has not happened to me, but I can imagine what an unsafe condition it would be.

2) Did you know generators tend to not want to run below -20C? 

Okay, again I am talking about Jenny and for whatever reason she wouldn’t start. I had wanted to run her for an hour to charge Wanda’s batteries enough to run the furnace in the early evening. I can guess that the reason why she didn’t start was because the oil in her is 10W30 and not 5W30. What that means is that her oil is a bit thicker and thicker oil will not flow as freely in the cold and therefore slow the engine. 

So, all I know is that I couldn’t pull that cord hard enough to get her spinning fast enough to start. (not because I am a weakling, thank you very much). Not starting Jenny was a bit of a problem as that meant that I had no power in Wanda’s batteries. No power means no furnace and that means Wanda stays cold. 

In a pinch I might have put Jenny in the cab of the truck and ran Treabilla’s engine and heater to warm up the generator enough so that it would start (not in the cab of the truck thank you). Once it was running, it would have been fine (probably), it was just too cold to start. 

3) Did you know that Grocery Stores are a nice warm place to stay for a bit?

Okay, so while you can’t camp out in one or stay too long, but they are warm. I decided to do a bit of grocery shopping, as I waited to plug in last night. It was better than sitting in the icebox that was Wanda. 

4) Did you know that for the price of a cup of coffee, you can sit in a famous fast food restaurant for a few hours and not be bothered? 

Okay, again, instead of sitting in a cold Wanda, (I actually did this for half an hour), you can go sit in a place and kill a few hours for a cup of coffee. I did and used that trick last night as I stayed there until I decided to risk it and plug in early at 7pm. 

5) Did you know that these RV’s are really not able to handle a Canadian, Prairie Winter? 

Okay, so I have stayed in Wanda in -20C before but it was nowhere near as bad as last night. For whatever reason with both the furnace and Electric heater going, I couldn’t get it past 10C. I then turned it down to 5C and bundled up and went to bed. Somewhere in the middle of the night I migrated to being in my crappy sleeping bag on the floor next to the electric heater. 

I was fine but today I will be buying a -40C rated sleeping bag, just in case, so that I know I will be fine no matter what. My guess as to the difference is that the last time it got this cold I was able to run Wanda’s furnace for a few hours in warmer weather, so as to build up some heat, last night by the time I plugged in, it was about -13C, here, take a look.

6) Did you know that Shopping Centres are warm places to hang out and stay warm?

I will spend time in various places, such as libraries, shopping centres or coffee shops, and not run Wanda’s furnace until I plug in again tonight. I am not ready to throw in the towel (not by a long shot).  I see this cold as just another challenge to overcome. Besides, the ‘warmer’ weather is returning next week and we will be back to somewhere around -10, so Wanda and I will be fine. 

7) Did you know that your credit card company periodically evaluates your credit rating in order to determine what credit limit you should have?

Okay, so I checked my mail yesterday as well and got a letter from my second Credit Card company. That is the one that I am now beginning to pay down. I cringed, as usually these things are not good, or at the very least some useless piece of information. You know the “we are changing our privacy agreement” meaning “we are going to sell your information to whoever will pay us . . . suck it. (Okay that’s just what goes through my head anyways).

This time it was a note to say they wanted to up my credit limit from $5000.00 to $8000.00. I actually stood there and blinked, unsure of what to do, as this had not happened to me before. I read it over twice, as in the whole thing twice to see if they were messing with me. Nope, not an invitation to apply for more credit, this was just a note to say here you go take it, just say yes. 

Again, they want me to run into trouble again and rack that thing up to its limit. That is how they make their money, off of people who were in the situation that I was in for the past four years.

Now, I know what you are thinking, why would someone who is paying down my credit cards accept more credit. Credit Cards can get you into trouble and put you on a 4 year treadmill of never ending debt. There is the fact that they are handy ways to pay for things and yes can also pull your fat out of the fire. 

Credit is something you get when you don’t need it, so you have it when you do. As such I plan to get this extra credit and just not use it. It may prove handy in the future, but for now it will be a nice and useless thing. I know from experience how life can toss you curve balls and you have no other choice but to use your credit cards to live. 

I plan to pay down the cards I have, keep them at zero and build up my savings, so I can use that for emergencies. Just because Credit Cards are dangerous, doesn’t mean they aren’t handy, when used responsibly. That is the key, use them responsibly. (Think of them as a firearm).

I should start to write, I am in a warm place with a hot cup of coffee. Don’t worry about me, I will be fine, I will persevere. Don’t forget what Clint Eastwood repeatedly said in “Heartbeak Ridge” (I think) . . . . “Improvise, Overcome.”

Friday 28 November 2014

Don’t You Hate it When Other’s Don’t Stick to Your Plan?

So, I was all set to plug-in last night. I stayed in my work parking spot, had dinner, relaxed as I surfed the internet, and then went for a walk a few minutes before 8pm. 

I do this little walk just to make sure that all is clear in my work spot. It has been so routine that the place is abandoned by 8pm that I have come to think of this walk as a formality. 

Well, as I came down the sidewalk and peered into the space behind work, my plan to plug-in hit a snag . . . 

Those cars are not parked behind my work but the bay to one side of it. That bay has been vacant for the last month or so but just yesterday it became a noisy hub of activity. They are obviously renovating it to make it ready to suit their needs. It is yet another sign of a healthy economy here in Calgary, yay. So they are parking behind their bay and obviously working late, nothing wrong with that. Again, I say Kudos to their dedication and determination. 

How is this a problem for me? After all, my work bay is still unblocked. Well, they are on the street side from my work so I would have to drive past them and back into my work spot and I didn’t really want to do that particularly with them still parked there. I didn’t want to wait and keep checking on them to see if they have moved. So I did what I have not done before, I slept in my work parking spot; I went to bed. 

This morning I was all set to start writing but I realized that I had used the laptop batteries up last evening surfing the web (is that still a saying?). I had decided that I was plugging in last night so I could recharge the batteries all night for the morning. Well, those cars put a snag in that. 

So, why didn’t I use Ace to run the laptop? Well, if the laptop is charged up, Ace will last at least two to four hours. If the laptop is not charged then I am lucky to get 45 minutes out of it. The charging laptop sucks the juice out of Ace bigtime but just sips when it is charged up. 

So as a result I did not write this morning, but I will do something this afternoon, when I run Jenny. I turned the furnace down to 10C and bundled up to sleep, again I was fine, but this morning the batteries ran dry. When I open the fridge door to get something and the light in it flashes, I know that the batteries are dangerously low. So you turn the furnace and all other appliances off until you can charge up. If I run Jenny for an hour this afternoon I will be fine, particularly since I do plan on plugging-in tonight.

So I troddled on to work in my ‘warm clothes’ and carried a bag of ‘normal clothes’ to wear while at work. I will then change into my ‘warm clothes’ after work before I leave. You see, usually I dress in my ‘normal clothes’ before I go to work and then after I get back to Wanda change into my ‘warm clothes.’ 

If the weather is not that cold it isn’t that bad but when it is cold, it sucks. As that means I have to strip down to nothing to change in Wanda who is by this time at 0 C. Add to this that my ‘warm clothes’ are now cold, it is a special fun feeling.

Again this whole lifestyle is a constant process of revision and improvement. I never get too set in my ways to not be willing to change how I am doing something. There is always a better way to do whatever it is that you are doing. The trick is to be willing to see it, and have the courage to change something which is probably working okay now, but could be better. 

Thursday 27 November 2014

Back in the Writing Grove (Sorta)

Okay, so for the past two days I have been writing new and fresh chapters. I will soon get into the writing groove and pick up speed, but for now, in the beginning, the pace is always slow. 

That pace picks up and I am soon writing chapters quickly. I tend to average a chapter a day or two during the week, and two chapters on each of the weekend days. I am not concerned about the slow pace for now, as I know it will get better. 

Once Part Two is done then I can slowly hone each paragraph of each chapter, and get it better . . . so that people can tell me it is still regurgitated rat poop. I write for myself and my own enjoyment.

I am starting to stay close to work and plug in nightly and use just the electric heater. The pattern of plugging in at 8pm and moving by 4am seems to be a nice and considerate pattern as I don’t run into anyone. (Well, other than the garbage truck or the snow removal guys, both oddly enough at 4am).

I don’t think I will get away with my ‘electric heater only’ trick this weekend when it is down to close to -30C. I have been through this cold weather before, so I know what to do and what to expect; I will be okay. I just keep thinking of the warmer weather and the paid off credit cards, and I’m fine.   
I will be going to my favourite library but I will be coming back to work each night to plug in, as it is going to get cold. It seems that Saturday will be the worst of it, after Saturday it seems to warm up somewhat, so that is good news. 

I know that this is still late November and that the cold will stay around until at least April.  Hey, I have been through prairie winters before and I can and will get through this one. If those pioneers can stick it out in a dirt (sod) house and be okay, I can do this in an RV . . . I have a furnace, insulation and everything . . . (everything but the girl). 

I will say that motivation and a positive attitude is key to sticking it out. I actually bundled up and went for a walk around the block to enjoy (yes enjoy) the snowfall. That and I decided I should get a bit of exercise; I really should do this daily. 

I suppose that to get through this, the key thing to remember is that stuff happens. It is how you react to it, how you feel about it which makes it good or bad. You need to choose to see the positive in what is going on and what has happened. When bad stuff happens I force myself to laugh, actually laugh out loud, that puts me in a better mood and interrupts me from getting angry and negative about whatever it is that has happened. 

If you let yourself get angry and negative you will just carry that with you and it will drag you down. Don’t forget that you still have whatever it is that has happened to deal with. If you are in a better and more positive mood you can deal with the situation with a clearer head. Most times I can do this, but sometimes I just can’t, such is life and after all I am human. 

So my plan to lay low financially and coast through till payday on the 7th is going well. I am using my propane sparingly and not driving too far so as to conserve on gasoline. It is working, I have food to eat and just a few essential groceries to buy which will then last me till I get paid. 

The one negative thing is that my anniversary is on Friday the 5th, and I had wanted to do something for it, a dinner or something. I can’t afford to do anything so extravagant as that. I will drive up to the old area and walk around and take in the sights. I may even stay in the parking lot of the grocery store I frequented when I lived there, who knows. 

This anniversary is not the anniversary of when I moved out, that is on January 29th, or when I moved into Wanda that is July 12th. This is the anniversary of when I decided to start this quest, on the 5th of December, it will be a full year that I have rented my post office box. 

That was the day when I took the first concrete steps to actually start this lifestyle change so I could achieve debt freedom. I also started this blog on that day so I could further commit myself to this change and not allow myself room to back out. Remember that, if you publicly declare your intentions it helps cement in your mind that you are actually going to do, whatever it is that you said you were going to do.

All of December and January last year was a scary time for me. Those two months were full of lots of doubts and second guessing, but I stuck it out. I would like to do something to mark it, but going into debt to commemorate it doesn’t seem appropriate. As I said before, I will mark it in my own, frugal way. 

After all, I have a new goal to hit, credit card debt free by the end of July, 2015!

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Comfort Costs Cash

It is a simple formula; that cozy sweater, that thick coat, those warm boots; all of those things to make your life more comfortable, costs you money. So too will it cost you more when you turn up that thermostat. Each time that furnace kicks in, it is burning fuel of some kind and therefore, you are spending money, the same is true for me.

I just switched my propane tank over last night and had a mild heart attack, as I had just bought propane on Friday. I wondered how and why I could have gone through so much propane in so short a time. Then I remembered, yes I bought propane on Friday but I switched over my tanks mid-week. I know that the really cold weather is settling in and so I am using more fuel. Still, heating Wanda in winter is not as bad as that townhouse . . . yowza (I still shudder when I remember those winter utility bills).

I tried an experiment last night as it was a mild night, just a bit below zero, if that. I plugged in my electric heater and turned the furnace off. Okay so I had my furnace had been going from 5 pm till 8pm when I turned it off. At that time the temp inside Wanda was between 15 – 20C, by the time I woke up it was at 10C. 

All in all, that electric heater did not bad. Keep in mind that it was on the lower 750 Watt setting, if I was to turn it onto the 1250 watt setting it would be fine, but I never wanted to risk tripping the breaker in the middle of the night. That would mean, putting on clothes, trudging around to the front of work and search for the breaker box and the tripped breaker, and hope it didn’t trip again.

It is nice to know that the electric heater does help out. I know that I need to dress warmer and turn that thermostat down to 15 C again. I had turned it up to 20C for my comfort, but I need to conserve propane and thereby cash. 

I will be plugging in each night during this cold snap and again, I am not scared of it, as I have lived through it and made it. I know what to do and what to expect. The weekends will be the most expensive as I am in Wanda more with the furnace running.  

I am in Wanda more so Sunday when I have to wait till noon to get into the library and use someone else’s heat. I will have to see about hanging out in shopping malls to use someone else’s heat, hmm that might work. 

To encourage me I checked online for the balance of that second card and was delighted to see that the payment went through, it was now at $4224.39. I was tempted to put a bit on the card to knock it down to below that $4000.00 mark. Which of course would be silly, as that would put me in my overdraft; doing so is just trading one debt for another. 

I will put that money on the card when I get paid on the 7th, and then on the 22nd I will knock it down to below $3000.00. That is the really exciting thing, to finally see big chunks of that card go down.  

If I can manage to maintain that pace then I will be on target to get that card done BEFORE April 1. If I can then keep up the pace of $1500.00 per month on that final card I will be able to get it done BEFORE August 1. (A full month early).

After that, after August 1 and that final credit card is finally dead, I will be in unknown and virgin territory . . . ‘savings’.  As I understand it ‘savings’ is when you put money into an account and not touch it, it is what you do with ‘extra money.’ Again, the concept of ‘extra money’ is a bit of a new thing for me and I am looking forward to having some.

Looking at what I have done and what I am planning to do keeps me motivated to keep doing this. If I were to pack it in and give up now I would be in a worse state than before, I would have extra debt and still maxed out cards. I just have to stick it out a few more cold months and then I am back into the warmth and the home stretch. 

If anyone was to do something like this, I encourage you to look back and look forward now and again. Look back and the positive things that you have done and then where you are going to go. That will keep you going through the tough times, that I can assure you. I am excited to see winter approach as each day I stay in Wanda, is one day, one step closer to debt freedom! 

Tuesday 25 November 2014

More Cold Weather on the Way

As a matter of course I keep an eye on the mid to long term weather outlook. I just like to see what is coming, or rather as is on the parries, what may be coming. Predicting weather out here on the Great Plains is tricky at best, but it seems that cold weather is about to return in time for the weekend. 

While I am not enthused, I am not scared, I have already been through the -20C’s in Wanda already this winter and I was okay. I don’t have to worry about my pipes freezing and I know how to keep warm. 

I am almost thankful for that cold snap a couple of weeks ago, as it allowed me to teach myself not only how to survive in this cold weather but that I can not only survive but thrive. . . I can do this, I can live in Wanda all winter and be okay.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate the cold and winter, but there is little I can do about it, winter comes every year and my job is here in Calgary. Such is life, and I will certainly enjoy the warm weather when it comes and relish the first time I get to shower in Wanda after she is de-winterized. 

For now I will hunker down, stay warm, spend as little as I can and focus on paying that second card off by April 1. Then I can focus on that final card and delight in its imminent demise. 

I will keep myself busy by writing the Tanea novel and getting it ready for publication. That is something I can do, that costs me nothing but time and electricity, I have enough of both. 

Monday 24 November 2014

Good Day Editing

Okay so I finished editing Part One and this morning started on Editing Part Two. I also did what minor grocery shopping I needed before heading back towards work. 

I also deposited what twenty bucks I could scrounge from spare change in my wallets into the bank. This way, when the end of month bank fees hit the account, I will know that I will stay above zero. 

This is important to me as I need to relearn that that overdraft doesn’t exist. Just like that first paid off credit card is only for convenience payment (or emergencies), not as a vehicle to buy a new toy. If I don’t stand firm on this then I will undo the good work and ground that I have gained so far in this endeavor.  

I also know that I do want to have some amount of savings for emergencies but for now all of my spare money has to go towards debt elimination. Once my credit cards are done, then I will start to save. One the financial bloodletting that is credit cards and their interest has been stopped, then I will save. 

I have now locked away my credit and debit cards for the next two weeks. I have what I need to survive, I have enough cash set aside to buy the propane I need and a bit more to buy what little groceries I need. I already have enough food to eat, warm clothes to wear and propane in my tanks. I will last until payday.

I also know that even once I get paid, that paycheque is going to be tight, but I will be on an upward swing. I will still have my first card paid off and stayed out of my overdraft as I start to chip away at that second card. 

I am looking forward to a week Friday, Friday, December the 5th. That is my anniversary, it will be one year ago on that day that I decided to do this. I look forward to pausing and reflecting on the past year on that date, it shall be good. Until then, I shall carry on and spend as little as possible, and write . . . always write. 

Sunday 23 November 2014

Living With Less

Living and making do with less is something that I know how to do. Figuring out how to survive on next to nothing is a skill I have in abundance, as is the determination to work that plan to success. 

This is neither a skill nor a determination that I chose to have; it is something that I have developed over time due to necessity. I have been living in ‘crisis mode’ for so long that that has become ‘normal’. 

Living with abundance, that is something I have yet to learn and master, due to inexperience. I will take things slowly and one step at a time, one paycheque at a time. I will plan out what to do with each paycheque and how to use it towards my goal of debt freedom. 

While you can, and should, plan for the future, focus on the here and now and do the little things that you can to nudge yourself towards your goal. With enough and persistant nudging, over time, you will find that you have reached your goal. 

Having  said that, as dull and hard as the next two weeks will be, I know that I will make it and be fine. I have been here before; I have had to manage on next to nothing many times before. The only difference is that now, as I do it, I am not doing it just to survive but to get myself back on track after a month that threw me askew. Things happen, but I will: react, recover and carry on, of this you can be sure.

Yesterday was a good day as I wrote at the library and made good progress. I am back today and plan to add a new chapter to Part One of the book, a pivotal chapter in Brian’s backstory. 

Tonight I will plug in and be back on my work schedule for the next week, as the workweek begins anew. I hope to have a good start and continue with my work on Part Two and move this momentous project forward.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Twenty-Three Inches of Pleasure and Comfort

Yep, that’s how big it is . . . that’s how far Wanda’s slide-out sticks out, when it is deployed. The frustrating thing is that it sticks out into the street side. I know that for various design reasons it has to be this way. I mean, if you had the slide-out on the curb side then your door would be on the street side, not recommended.

That small protrusion does make a difference to my level of comfort on the inside of Wanda. Here is what the interior of Wanda looks like when the slide-out is out.

Now here is the same view when the slide-out is in.

I can function in both cases but it is much nicer when the slide-out is out, as I can move about more freely and the space feels more open. When the slide-out is in I am always shifting the table a few inches either way, just to get around it. I am svelte enough to get by though.

I know that when the deep freeze is coming (and it is) that I won’t ever deploy the slide-out. I just don’t want to damage that motor as it tries to move the slide-out in -30C weather. Again, such is life.

Well, today was payday so that means that I: deposited my cheque, paid my bills and now I’m broke. Such is life, but I am now out of the overdraft, and not only is the first card paid off again, but I put $500.00 down on the second card. 

Even in doing so I had to cut back on other areas of my budget, such as: 

I only put $60.00 in the tank 
Didn’t buy Jenny any fuel
Set aside less than half for groceries
Didn’t put anything for spends

I made sure to fully fund my Utilities Budget, as that is for propane, which means heat (which prevents nard-freezing). 

I will stay above zero in my account (but barely) from one payday to another and that is key. I will be fine as I have more than enough food to survive and will economize on fuel and not go far from work. When I get paid again I can get what I need and continue my upward swing. 

The key thing is to stay above zero, and not go south of it again, not if I can help it. In the past I might not have cared, and just let myself dipped below zero in order to “smooth out my cashflow,” but not anymore. 

I am committed to the concept that each paycheque must last me to the next one, to spend less during each payperiod than I bring in. It is a simple concept but one which may be harder to live by when you have other resources at your disposal, like credit cards and overdrafts.

I noticed something this morning that touched me and made me appreciate what I have. I saw someone sitting in a car parked not far from me. It seemed odd and at first I thought that it might have been yet another person keeping an eye on me. 

I decided to be nice and offer them a cup of coffee, as I was brewing some, so I walked over. What I saw was a man sleeping in the front seat of his car. I have seen his car there before, last weekend I think. I then realized that he must have been living in his car. 

I was going to offer him breakfast and coffee but didn’t want to wake him, as he was asleep. I kept an eye on him but he didn’t wake by the time I had to leave to do my errands. I noticed him waking up as I was driving away. 

As hard as thins get in your life, remember to keep struggling forward and that somewhere there is someone who has it harder than you. That and . . . this too shall pass.

Friday 21 November 2014

I Wore Only One Layer of Clothes Last Night!

Yes folks, it was a balmy 9C last night and that meant that I was able to treat myself to turning up the thermostat to 20C  . . . oooh having a heat wave! Seriously, it was nice to be warm in my house and not have to dress up in so many clothes. 

While it is possible to get my plumbing going in this warm weather, to do so would be silly. This warm weather will not last and I would have to winterize in a few days, inside of a week, so the plumbing stays deactivated until at least April. 

I was able to get some dishes and cleaning done last night as I puttered around Wanda. Yes, I did plug in again last night. I will not be near work tomorrow night and wanted to see if an extra night’s charge would last me two days. I hope to stay in my “western home” until Sunday afternoon.  I figure that I can run Jenny to keep things going until then. 

I am eager to get my paycheque today, even though I can’t cash it till tomorrow. I will see if I have enough to pay first card paid off again, stay out of overdraft and pay the second card down to $4000.00. It is now somewhere around $4600.00.

It would be nice to pay it down to a nice round thousand digit number, just a thing I like to do. That way I can easily see and figure out how many lump payments of a thousand dollars it will take to get this card done. Yet still there is that balancing act I need to do of keeping out of the overdraft, so I may not quite be able to do so, we shall see, but any large chunk is progress. 

This card should go quicker as there is the absence of the minimum payment for the first card. The final card should go even quicker with two lump payments per month on it, totalling $1500.00. This will be that as a result of all of the money I have allocated for “minimum payments” will now be going to one card.

As eager as I can get to pay these cards down I need to keep in mind to stay above zero at all times in my main account. That is vitally important, just like keeping the cards I have paid off at a zero balance. Using them for convenience is one thing, like when Wanda needed to be repaired, that is okay. Using one of my cards to buy a nifty new toy, like a new laptop, is not acceptable and how I got into this mess.

As far as the writing goes, I still say that I struggle with determining where my story is. What I mean is where does my story start, and what needs to be in it? What is important to tell and what isn’t? When you know your characters and the world you have created as extensively as I do, this is a problem. I know them too well. 

I have come to realize that a good tool to discover this is to just determine where the most fun for you to write is. For me, the most fun and interesting parts are in Tanea, not England (no offense England). So I will be returning to the storyline of starting in Tanea and have a more compact “Brian flashback” drowned in a longer and enhanced Tanea storyline.   

I never regret these detours and trying new literary things, as it allows you to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. I find that allowing me to take these detours and experiments encourages new ideas to freely flow. Not every idea is good, but every idea needs to be explored as long as it needs to be explored.

(On a personal Woo-Hoo, note, my little blog has just broke 6000 views!)

Thursday 20 November 2014

I Did My Michelin Man Impression Last Night

Okay, since I didn’t plug in the night before, I knew that I would have to plug in last night. Unfortunately I needed to plug in a few hours before I could. 

After work I got into Wanda and turned the furnace on and I could tell by the way that the fan was running that the battery was low. I let it run for a bit and decided it would be best to not try, so I turned the furnace off. 

Now, inside Wanda, even without being heated all day was still at just about zero, even though it was -7 outside and had been so most of the day. So I put all of my warm clothes on and decided to hunker down for the two hours before I could plug in. 

(yet with hat, gloves and neckwarmer)

I have decided to wait until 8:00 pm before plugging in, that way to allow anyone who may need access to behind the shop to do so before I park and plug in for the night (till 4 am). So there I was waiting in my warm clothes and in a sleeping bag and mostly warm and fine. (Mental note to self, need warmer socks).

Why did I do this you ask? Why didn’t I run Jenny and be warm? Good question. Well, for one, I didn’t want to run Jenny in the area near where I work or bother to move a block to run Jenny for an hour or two. 

The other reason was I wanted to see how I would do in that cold. I know that cold weather is coming and I need to be ready to face it when it comes.  Wanda may not always be as toasty as I would like her to be and I have to be ready. 

I started to doze off due to the inactivity and cold so I went for a walk around the block. That woke me up and got me nice and warm. (Still need those warmer socks though. Hmm . . . then I will need bigger shoes to wear while wearing those pillows on my feet.)

I will say this that for some reason my fridge/freezer does not work as well in the cold. I seem to need to leave it running 24/7 for it to freeze anything or keep it cold. I really don’t want to leave my food in the back of Trea for stuff to keep cold. Besides, we have not hit the permanent freeze where it makes sense to do so yet. 

I did plug in (a little early at 7:30 pm) and by the time I did I noticed that my humidity (the thermometer I recently bought measures humidity as well) was getting closer to “Humid” in Wanda. It seems that electric heater I bought doubles as a de-humidifier, as it was back to “normal” not long after the heater had been running. 

This morning I did more reading and research on the Wars of The Roses and am working on tweaking Brian’s backstory to suit what actually happened. It is a slow process but I feel that I am making some headway.

With each challenge that I meet, with each test that I face, with each hardship (however small) that I endure, my resolve and confidence in myself and my abilities goes up. I now firmly believe that I can not only survive this winter, but thrive. 

Know this: success breeds success; overcoming little challenges empowers you to try and overcome larger ones. This pattern will elevate you to greater and greater things. Even if the only thing you gain is improved self-confidence and a few new skills, isn’t that reward enough for you to try to better yourself?

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Spread Out and Cooked Last Night

Okay I decided to do a bit of cooking last night and make a bunch of meals to freeze. This is a little trick that I have done many times before, it worked great when I had a deep freeze . . . sigh. 

Hmm maybe I can put a deep freeze on a trailer behind Wanda . . . . or fasten it to her rear bumper, that can’t possible go bad, right? I digress. 

To do this I needed some groceries, so I went to the grocery store and even put the slide out out, it is a wonder what a difference those few feet make to the interior space and comfortability in there. 

Okay so what I do is essentially cook a pot of a stew/goulash/something creation and freeze it into meal sized portions. Then later I would take one out, tear the plastic off, put in on a plate and microwave it for five minutes. 

Since I don’t have a microwave that will work unless I am plugged into a 120 Vac/ 30 Amp service, I can’t do that. What I figured was I would just take the meal out of the fridge, tear the plastic off and heat it up in a frying pan . . . voila . . . dinner.

Okay so first of all, I start with a pound of ground beef, I fry it up, drain the fat and grease, then stir in a package of taco seasoning (trust me). Once that is all cooked up, I then stuff in two boxes of hamburger helper (add extra egg noodles) I typically go with the lasagna variety or but any kind will work.

Then add the water (be liberal with the water a few handfuls of frozen veg, frozen hash browns (in other words, frozen diced potatoes) a can of chilly is always good, a can of tomato paste wouldn’t hurt. You can see how this can easily get larger and larger as you add more stuff. I have filled a stock pot and made up to 75 meals in one pot at one time (as in 75 half pounds servings). 

Okay so cook the stuff up, then once it is all nice and cooked, let it sit overnight to blend together. Then in the morning start scooping it out into sandwich Ziploc bags, like this. 

I have used a scale to measure out exactly half a pound, this time I just winged it with two scoop (of goodness in every Geoffie’s dinner bag!) . . . couldn’t resist. Then you seal the bag but leave one corner open. Then you smush the dinner flat and move all the air to the one open corner. Once all the air is out seal the bag and lay it flat. Like this. 

The reason I do this is because a half pound is about enough for dinner but also when it is flat like this it takes less time to defrost and heat than a solid ball or lump of something. (Yes I have used this trick to keep uncooked ground beef in the deep freeze and at the ready).

Keep doing this until you have emptied your pot and have a stack of meals in a bag. I would ordinarily do a few different varieties up and have a choice in the freezer of meals ready to eat. This way I have my own ‘convenience food’ waiting for me for when I don’t feel like cooking. 

This was a small batch so only 11 meals out of it all for a cost of about 15 bucks. If you do a larger batch the cost per meal drops considerably, usually under a buck a meal.  

Now that we are finished our stack of meals we put them into the freezer. It is important that while they are freezing that first time that they are kept flat. In the past I have put them on stacks on cookie sheets. Once they are frozen they can then be stacked vertically for easier storage and ease of selection.  I just used a box of hamburgers. 

I am doing this so I have some meals conveniently ready for me, and hopefully be less likely to eat out. I finally had to fill up my five gallon jug of water, and now devised a better system to refill it. Each day I will take home 2 – 4 litres of water (aka one or two 2 Lt pop bottles filled with water). This way I can keep it topped up but not lug that thing back and forth.

I also had to water a tree with my graywater, as that bucket got full.  Don’t worry about the tree, this was just dishwater so it was soapy water and whatever else is left from washing dishes. 

For doing my “business” I usually find a toilet for “number two” or I find a thirsty tree for “number one.” I do have that “backup toilet” yet I have only used it once, as even my body seems to tell me “no, it’s all good, I’ll wait till we find a real toilet, thanks. 

I only mention this next part for practical reasons if someone actually does do what I do and live in an RV in winter.  Putting on clothes to go outside and find a tree to pee on in the middle of the cold night sucks, it really does. I will admit that this next tip is more for the guys and the skilled/well-aimed ladies.

So I decided to get myself a “temporary urinal” . . . AKA a jar with a sealable lid (Don’t worry, no pictures). That way I don’t have to leave the RV to pee but I don’t: 1) smell up the place and 2) risk kicking the jar over and spilling its contents that next morning. Once again I go out in the morning with my jar and find a thirsty tree. Gotta help the environment, you know.

Well, I really don’t know how to follow that, so I won’t even try. Just take this as a measure of my determination to make this work, get through winter and on to the home stretch of just that last card to pay off.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Adjusting Well

Life is made up of all kinds of little patterns and limits we place on ourselves. Often times we try something and only go so far. We look at something and say “that’s too hard, I can’t do that.” Or even worse we listen to others and “conventional wisdom” and never stray from the expected and typical. 

Now there are some nuggets of conventional wisdom which should be adhered to. Some examples are: not licking a frosted metal pole in winter, or not trying to fly like superman from a tall building. Yet when it comes to pushing your limits and stepping out of your comfort zone, I say, go nuts. 

For the past week, and on into the second week, I have been living in Wanda in sub-zero temperatures. It has gotten below -20C and I am still here with all of my fingers, toes and other appendages attached.  I have gotten used to how to live in these conditions. I have adapted and know that I can survive. 

While I do not particularly enjoy it, I can do it, and in so doing, save money. I had previously thought that living in an RV at all (even in warm temperatures) was impossible. Then I thought that just living in one in winter was impossible.  Then I thought that if it got too cold, that was impossible. I have proven all of them wrong, that I can do this.

I have found that first of all bundling yourself up in layers of clothing is key. The second thing to remember is to have lots of quilts on the bed. Thirdly is to have a hat like mine so that it stays on your head as you sleep and your head stays warm. 

Next is to get yourself used to a colder house by starting (before the cold really arrives) to turn down your thermostat, a bit at a time. If you get yourself used to a colder house you will not be so shocked by the cold when it comes.  

This also means that you will not be overtaxing your furnace/heater by trying to keep your trailer heated to 25C when it is -30C outside (good luck with that one). I have my thermostat set to 15C but when it gets really cold I have turned it down to 10C so as to not have it running constantly. 

Also, if you are or can plug in I highly recommend getting an electric heater.  Make sure to get one that provides steady, constant heat so as to help out and augment the heat coming from the furnace. In so doing, your furnace doesn’t have to work so hard to keep your trailer warm. I don’t recommend using a kerosene or propane heater inside as it may be not only be a carbon monoxide poisoning danger but a fire/explosion hazard as well. 

Last but not least is the simple truth that you can kiss your indoor plumbing goodbye in winter. Trust me, don’t even try to keep it going beyond -5C. I should have winterized earlier and it cost me a water pump.  I was lucky that my pipes did burst, but they could have, and that would have caused much more extensive damage. 

To winterize your trailer you essentially drain your tanks and fill the fresh water tank part way with antifreeze. Then you turn the pump on and run each tap until antifreeze comes out of them. In spring there is a procedure to sanitize the lines again. I recommend having the RV dealer to both winterizing and “de-winterizing” as the cost is not that much and it is worth it to get it done properly.   

On the book front, I have begun to research The Wars of The Roses in greater detail so as to be able to better tell Brian’s side of the story in the war. This is from The First Battle of St Albans to Towton, after that he goes to Egypt then ends up in Tanea. 

I am trying to get inspired and past this bit of a dry patch in the writing of this book. I do believe in this particular version of the novel as it tells two great stories at once and gives us insight into the backstories of two main characters. 

I am also looking forward to payday this Saturday, as I will be able to make my first serious payment on that second card.  My progress on the path do Debt Freedom must continue, or I have been chilly for nothing.

Monday 17 November 2014

Didn’t Plug in, Made it Okay

I didn’t plug in last night and made it through the night. I have decided to only plug in when I absolutely need to. Why? Well, when I plugged in on Saturday night one of those “white vans” I love so much gave me the hint.

The van pulled up to access their shop at 7:00pm on a Saturday night but didn’t talk to me at all. It seems they work all hours, as I figured that that late on a Saturday I would be safe and not bothering anyone. Had they needed to access the shop I would have happily moved to allow them to do so.

They stayed for fifteen minutes or so and then drove off, the next morning I found that my hitch light was on. I have a light on Wanda’s “leg pole” it is the pole which lowers down and has a foot on it. That foot is used to support the weight of the trailer when you disconnect it from the truck. Well, on there, there is a light which shines on the hitch and my truck’s license plate.

It is possible (but unlikely) that I have inadvertently switched it on and didn’t notice it until that next morning. It is also possible that this person driving the white van wondered who I was and wanted to report me (and subtly let me know this). I have, as yet, not been talked to at all about parking there, we shall see what develops.  It is also possible that I am just being a bit paranoid.

Once again if I get the official “don’t park there” I won’t, until then I will park there so I don’t freeze. But with Jenny and that new adaptor I will be fine, it may cost me more fuel but I could run Jenny, heat the trailer up, turn Jenny off and run the furnace and be fine all night.

I do need to get back on track with my spending and park my card again. I took it out for that Wanda repairs thing and haven’t quite put it away again. It is funny how convenient and dependant on those little plastic cards we are. I have also seen how easy it is to trickle spend and just buy this handy item or that interesting item.

I am determined to stick this out and pay off that second card by April. Yet at the same time I will keep out of the overdraft and keep that first card paid off. As with Wanda’ repairs it was needed, but I will pay it completely off on this payday.

That is the deal, that has to be the deal, or I get back into the mess that I was in in the first place. It is easy not to spend when you have every source of credit maxed out. Changing your thinking so that you don’t spend when you have available credit is harder than it seems.

There are always tempting things that you could want to get, yet in the end, don’t need. My last extravagant expense was a necessity (Jenny) but there have been other temptations, such as a new laptop.  

This process is a learning process and is more valuable than if I had just won a lot of money. If I had just won a lotto or inherited a bunch of money, I would have been cheated this learning experience. Struggling to slowly pay these debts off is teaching the value of paying this down.

I am earning my financial freedom by doing this and slowly learning how to handle money and credit. In so doing, I will be setting myself up to not get in this mess again. Changing my attitude about money and credit is vital in the success of this project. What is the point to pay all of these cards off if I run them up again?

Sunday 16 November 2014

My Overpriced Backup-Plan

Last night showed me that I needed a better plan to deal with a loss of power in Wanda. Okay, so what do I do if I am out of power and/or out of Propane? As it stands I freeze or sit in Trea with the heater on max as she idles. I knew that I needed a better plan. 

Simply to be able to do this, cost me almost seventy bucks!

Why? This little guy cost that much, that’s why.

Okay, let’s start from the beginning. Wanda takes 120 VAC / 30 Amp, which is twice as much current as your typical house line. Her outlet looks like this.

The cord that plugs into her looks like this

The other end of that cord looks like this

Now to plug into a regular outlet I put on an adaptor 

As long as I don’t draw too much power this is fine, as remember a typical line of power is only 15 Amps. I have tried to do this with Jenny’s other plug but she her breaker keeps tripping.  So I can only run the furnace and the battery charger, and maybe a few lights; any more than that and I risk tripping the breaker. When I am plugged into a regular outlet I seem to be okay, but Jenny’s outlets are not geared to give as much power as I need. 

The solution is Jenny’s 120 VAC/ 30 amp plug, but it looks like this

Yet Wanda’s cord looks like this, remember.

That is where this little adaptor comes in, 

That means I can do this

This means that I can run jenny and run that electric heater inside Wanda, thus being able to augment Wanda’s furnace, and even run the microwave (but probably not at the same time). This is important as it means that I am using Jenny at her full capacity and my independence is assured. 

If I ever find myself out and about without access to a power outlet I can now rely on myself to give me the power I need to not only recharge Wanda’s batteries but also run the heater inside. I tested this yesterday and everything ran fine, but I didn’t run the microwave. 

I did plug in and get with the electric heater Wanda’s furnace barely came on. The weather was warm enough that I was even able to put the slide out out for the evening, it was a nice treat. 

We are due for warmer weather with it staying somewhere between -10 and just above 0 C. I know that the really cold weather will return soon but at least for now, it is warmer. When the really cold weather returns, I know that I will be fine, I will survive. 

This month’s paycheque, I am planning to put it to that second credit card, as well as paying off Wanda’s repairs on the first card. It is progress and moving forward and it is important for me to actually make a payment on that second card. I need to see that I am not enduring this for no reason. 

My goal is that by April 1, (okay at latest the end of April) that my second card will be done. That will have been done during the time that I should have put that money towards renting a room. Once that is done, I will be positioned well to get that last and final card done on or before the end of August 2015. 

Then and only then will I start to write a book about this experience. When I am done, when I am successful, and in my saving phase, then and only then will I write the book about what I have learned during this process and journey.

Saturday 15 November 2014

The Flower-Pot Heater Experiment

I always like to try different things. Being that I need to keep warm and want to do so in as efficient and economical a manner, experimentation is key. 

I bought another set of thermal undies and another pair of sweatpants. So now I feel like I am wearing the twelve days of Christmas: two pairs of socks, three pairs of thermal undies, one pair of undies, Two pairs of sweatpants, one sweatshirt, one sweater, and a faux-fur hat on my head! 

I am warm though, and that is key. 

So a friend of mine told me about a nifty little heater you can build from a pair of candles and a couple of clay flowerpots. I decided, why not, it’s worth checking out.  I bought the materials from the hardware store and brought them home. 

I set up the ingredients in a flash, essentially bolting the two pots together with washers on either side of the clay pot hole entrances, and a nut in between the two pots. 

The four little clay dishes were supposed to be the feet for the clay pots, but the candles were too big, thus the coffee mugs. 

This contraption is supposed to trap the heat from the candles and warm the pots which capture and radiate that heat. What I found was that it just gets warm so if you need a coffee warmer or just want to warm your tootsies, this is fine. For what I need, this does not give off enough heat. 

I will try again with a number of tealights underneath it with the little clay dishes as feet and see if that makes a difference.

The effort is more important than the results. Don’t get me wrong I am still working towards a portable heater which can help augment Wanda’s furnace. To try, to be willing to try and not beat yourself up if things don’t work is the most important trait needed to improve: yourself, your situation and your life.  

If you want to do something, just follow my simple plan: 

1. Set a goal
2. Make a plan to achieve that goal
3. Give it your best shot (work the plan)
4. Observe the results (be honest and objective)
5. If it worked, great, see if it can be improved and go back to step 2.
6. If it didn’t work out how you planned, just figure out what went wrong and go back to step 2
7. Repeat as necessary until you determine this is as good as it is going to get or this plan won’t work.  

See how simple that is? Nowhere is there a “scream, yell and berate yourself” step.

I have used this plan and trust me it takes practice not to beat yourself up when things go wrong. I have had successes on this journey and made mistakes. Unfortunately for me, my mistakes are out there for everyone to: read, laugh at, and hopefully learn from. 

That is after all the purpose of this blog, to help others learn from my mistakes so you don’t do what I did wrong. Then again, what didn’t work for me, may work for you as you might have made a few key changes to make it work. I will also admit that by blogging about it, it forces me to keep going and not back out until I have achieved my goal of debt freedom. 

 This winter stint in Wanda is to prove to me that I can live in her in winter and in so doing eliminate my fear of winter. One of the reasons I didn’t move into Wanda years ago was the fear of what I would do when winter came. If I smash that fear by doing it, I won’t ever fear winter again. 

By the end of this winter I will have living in an RV in winter down to a science. Don’t get me wrong, it will never be delightful as you can kiss indoor plumbing goodbye when things get down below -5 C. Again, keep your mind on your goal and not the current struggle you are going through. Don’t ignore the struggle, fight it, face it and do what you need to do, but keep your mind focussed on that end goal.  

Keeping positive is another struggle that I am going through.  More than a few times in recent days I have caught myself berating myself for my past mistakes and my decision to stay in Wanda. I now have decided to stop myself and at that moment force myself to say something positive instead. It may seem silly but it is interrupting my negative pattern and installing a new positive pattern. 

There are a lot of things to get angry and agitated about, but getting angry and focussing on those negative things will not help me. I need to keep positive as this winter living has been my greatest challenge yet, yet it is a challenge that I shall meet and beat.  

I know that I need to plug in each night not just so I can use my electric heater, but so I can charge Wanda’s batteries. I decided to park in my Western home and not plug in as it is closer to the library I go in the weekends. When that furnace is running that draws some power. It was almost morning when Wanda’s batteries ran dry and the furnace quit. 

I now have learned that I need a backup heater solution for just such an occurrence, such as an small propane heater. I have plenty of ventilation in Wanda as my stove is an open burner propane stove. I will check into this today but plug in tonight. 

Each time something like this happens I ask myself two questions:  1) What happened? 2) How can I avoid this in the future? In asking myself those two questions right as soon as whatever it is that has happened, happened, it focuses myself on solving the problem rather than the problem itself.