What I’m Working On Right Now
Half blog, half journal.
Check back every few weeks to see what’s up on the road!
Sunday, July 7, 2019
Jeff and I are back on the road after a bit of a hiatus.
So, to catch up. In March we had a major, I mean MAJOR, repair pop up on the van. Heading out of Indio, California, our transmission blew at the top of a long, steep grade. A few weeks later, we’d spent just under $5,000 on a combination of new transmission, hotel rooms, endless Uber rides, and a bit more eating out than we typically do. It was a pricey fix, made more pricey by crazy-high hotel rates in the Coachella valley — our first night at a Motel 6 was $125!
We were able to cover the fix, but it left us feeling a bit shakey on our feet. That’s a lot of cash to have to come up with real quick-like, at least it was for us! After talking about it we were both feeling that at 14 months out on the road, we were still loving it, but ready for a bigger rig. Something we can move around in if it rains.
We headed east, back to Virginia, and bunked with family for the first part of April while we took stock and decided what to do next. At that point, we thought that for expediency’s sake, we’d settle down for a year so that Jeff could find some work and add to our savings. While I make my money online, Jeff is more of a traditionalist, so a ‘real’ job works better for him.
The last week of April we started calling around to check out rentals near Staunton, Virginia, a lovely little town in Virginia where we’ve lived before. There’s good food, good friends, and the cost of living is on the low side — even for the adorable older homes that line Staunton’s streets!
Then on April 27th we got a call right before dinner that my mom had been airlifted to the hospital with a heart attack and a stroke.
Luckily, we hadn’t settled in a new place yet, so we packed up and headed to Minnesota to see mom.
She was in and out of the ICU for nearly three weeks. We weren’t sure if she’d even be able to come back home at first, but near the end of May we brought her to her little cabin in the woods. We stayed through the middle of June, helping her get settled in.
When it was time to leave, Jeff and I found that we were both really resistant to our original plan. We’d meant to save up to rebuild savings and have the security deposit for a place, but the criss-crossing the country plus helping out getting things for mom had meant that there wasn’t a lot of savings going on. We also spent a fair amount catching up on some hobbies (Jeff took up fishing in Minnesota) and a few other things. It was headed into summer, which, in northern Minnesota is a very nice time of year for van-dwelling. Not so much if we went back to Virginia. Plus, we both missed the road.
We decided to head back out. Since we were leaving from northern Minnesota, that meant that the Black Hills in South Dakota were just down the road from us. We took a side trip to visit the iconic Babe the Blue Ox and Paul Bunyan statues built in Bemedji, Minnesota in the 30’s. We also stopped in Lebanon, South Dakota, population 46 or 71 (depending on which sign was to be believed) a town that Jeff’s great-grandfather helped found around the turn of the century. We passed through the Badlands, but didn’t stay (too windy!!) and found a sweet, sweet spot in the Black Hills National Forest right outside of Custer, South Dakota. We hunkered down there for a few weeks and hit all the tourist spots.
Finally, earlier this week we headed south and now settled right outside of Bayfield, Colorado, in a national recreation area. It’s a pretty part of the state. Snow-covered rockies just north of us and rolling, scrubby hills and pines all around us. We’re not far from Durango, Colorado, or the Four Corners area where Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona touch. We’ll stick around here for another week or two then see where the road takes us.
So that’s where we are. This is supposed to be more about what I’m up to! Jeff and I are working out a schedule that works for both of us. It’s important to us that we go bed at the same time, and we almost always do that. Even when the night owl (me) isn’t tired and ends up watching old Star Trek TNG episodes until three in the morning while Jeff snores away.
So we’re working on a schedule that works for both of us, offers some structure for my relatively unstructured days, and allows lots of time to spend together and have fun.
I’ve also been binge-listening to the ‘newish’ Conan O’Brien podcast, Conan Needs a Friend, as well as the writer podcast, Writer’s Detective Bureau.
Seriously. Binging. My iPhone time report is a little embarrassing these days…
On the money-generating front I’m taking a good, hard look at what I want to “Do with my life”. I parted ways with a long-time client a few weeks ago, which has left me feeling adrift as well as excited. Over the next few weeks I’ll be fine-tuning my area of focus that I’d like to take with clients, as well as updating some of my branding and website. Ah, yes. Yet another run at the ‘should I have one website or two’ questions. (Angel-Patty: THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS ONE WEBSITE. ONE. Devil-Patty – But, but…. focus on a NICHE….)
Finally, I’m taking steps to finally, finally work on some writing projects. I’ve brought it up over the years, drug out Scrivener, worked on my novel… then shoved it back in the proverbial online drawer as real-life, client work, and whatever ridiculous iPhone game that was currently distracting me took precedence.
I’ve got two projects I’m focusing on right now. First, I’m working on a memoir-how to hybrid about Jeff’s and my time on the road that I’m planning to release in late 2019-early 2020. And Secondly…. I’ve pulled that novel back out and am on the edge of trashing the whole thing versus just reworking the outline. I’m not sure which way this will go. I’ve got a lot of words already into the novel. None of them really go together all that well, but taken on their own… they’re pretty funny words! #winning
Until next time,
Updated March 3, 2019
It’s a lovely Sunday, March 3rd, 2019. Jeff and I are tucked into Ajo, Arizona, after a slight setback to our plans.
A few weeks ago, it was cold and getting colder here in Arizona. I was crazy at work. In fact, so crazy, I was ordered to take Friday afternoon off. Jeff and I were staying at Organ Pipe National Monument which is about a half hour south of Ajo and just a few miles north of the Mexican border.
Since the forecast was so cold and we were both a little tired of Arizona, we decided to spend the weekend waiting out the rain, doing laundry, and packing up to head back east to Florida. But we thought we’d take one last trip over to California. The drive over was about four hours and we went, played sightseer and headed back to our campsite.
It was late — almost 9 p.m. — and about 30 miles outside of Indio our engine started revving and smoking. Luckily, we were right at a truck stop. We made it to the parking lot with smoke all over the place. After some minor freaking out, we decided to spend the night and in the morning find a mechanic and get towed back to Indio.
Long story short, our transmission was shot. We feel super lucky that we broke down so close to the city. There was a Motel 6 and Uber. Unfortunately, the repair was $2,850 and we spent another few hundred on Uber rides (including a $75 failed attempt to rent a car at the Palm Springs airport). The hotel bills added up to and all told the repair, along with the hotel, Uber, and eating out cost us around $4,500.
That’s a lot of money. And a serious setback to our plan to upgrade to a larger rig in a few months.
So now we’re back in Ajo. We’re in a magical spot. It’s the prettiest desert we’ve stayed in yet, just a few miles from town with good Verizon service. We’re hunkered down here for a few weeks to rest and regroup and decide what’s next.
In other news, work has been insanely busy, but fun. My role has changed, so there’s new challenges and lots to do.
I’ve also gotten OBSESSED with Happy Planners… I’ve missed a paper calendar, which I ditched for the most part when we headed out on the road. I’ve kept a travel journal — noting where we stayed, what we did, what we ate — in a calendar. But I’ve been looking for a way to create reward and celebration while building habits. The Happy Planner fits the bill for me and is feeding my inner fourth grader’s love of stickers. Seriously, check out the tag #thehappyplanner on Instagram. You’ll see.
So this month we’re focusing on healthy living. Our stay in the hotel for two weeks meant lots of (non-refrigerated) junk food and not much walking. And I’m focusing on routines so that I have time for all that healthy living and not just happy working!
Until next time!
Updated March 3, 2019
It’s Sunday night. The 14th of January. Jeff and I are at RTR — a large, loosely organized rally of folks who are interested in living on the road. Full time or otherwise.
It’s a grand event. Vans, RVs, minivans, cars, tents and more… everywhere. The setup is near Quartzsite, Arizona, a winter community full of crazy vendors, tents, swap meets and other nooks to investigate.
I’m struggling with the new year. As one does… I had plans. But since I’m still kicking the bug I got before Christmas, my plans haven’t panned out quite the way I want.
So, project-wise, I’m still planning on starting a novel this month. In real life, I’m scheduling blocks of time, wondering how I consistently lose four hours a day to… I don’t know. It’s still in the back of my head to spend my extra hours on my blog, kicking up a YouTube station… I love just creating helpful content.
But I want to write a book.
We’ll stay in Quartzsite. For a while. A few weeks. Or more. It’s still cold down here, so we can’t head north. We’re a bit stuck. And making the best of it. Soon, it’ll get warmer. And we’ll head north. Sedona, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon. And whatever comes up next.
Until next time!
Updated January 14, 2019
Right at this moment, I’m sitting in the coldest Starbucks in the known universe. It’s right by an In-N-Out in Yuma. It’s 60 degrees in here. We’re still hanging out at Mittry Lake, with a plan to head a bit further north to Tonopah, Arizona. There’s a great BLM area with a pretty view, hot springs close by, and within striking distance of Organ Pipe and Quartzsite, our next stops.
I’m tempted over the last week to do a million things. My brain loves to play games. Determined to finally get my schedule under control, my brain keeps throwing out new fun projects. It’s been about a year since I redid my website, I should do that again. This morning I was sidetracked for for 30 minutes creating Instagram story highlights that will ONLY be of interest to Jeff and I. So now I’m obsessed with making cute little over icons for them because, of course.
My tricky brain, fixing to derail me.
The other day we got a few fun Christmas garlands and stockings and decorated the canopy so it feels festive. I mean, not really. It’s not super duper warm here in Yuma, but mid to upper 60’s during the day doesn’t really feel like Christmas to this up north girl. Also our current view from the canopy includes palm trees, and our next view will likely have Saguaro cactuses. So that’s not super festive either. I’m given to understand that putting Santa hats on the Saguaros isn’t encouraged. What a bunch of grinches.
Things continue much the same for Jeff and I. We’re winding up some end of year things, the biggest being determining what’s the better financial decision — purchase dental insurance that will cost $960, but give us $2,000 of benefit, most of which will likely require co-payments of nearly 100%. So basically, spend just under $3,000 for $5,000 of dental. Or… just renew our passports, save up the cash and head over the border for dental when we’re down this way. Decisions, decisions.
I’ve not been successful getting my schedule under control, but made good inroads, and as always, tomorrow continues to be another day. Likely will be a better day, schedule-wise. Mondays are always chaotic for me!
Until next time!
Updated December 10, 2018
What a gap! Today is day nine months and something. We’re currently set up at Mittry Lake near Yuma, Arizona. This is our first time staying at BLM/disbursed style spots in the desert. Arizona has some great places for free or very inexpensive — where we are now is free for 10 days, has good data service (Verizon), and is right next to a little lake. Apparently, there’s good birding.
This week, I’m determined, yet again, to arrange my schedule in a way to create more space for creating. I’m accustomed to working on client work with long breaks. Long enough to eat up time, but never productive. Since Jeff and I have had luck recently with setting up a savings scheme that works for us, I’m confident that this time I’ll come up with a way to spend my time that makes me feel free, but still gets stuff done!
I’ll spend that newly freed up time working on my book. And enjoying the desert air. We arrived in Arizona last week and headed over the border to Joshua Tree, which was amazing and otherworldly. We’re going to hang out near Yuma for a bit, then plan to try to score a spot at Organ Pipe for Christmas. In January, we’re going to see if we can stand the crowds and desert around Quartzsite to hang out at RTR. Then we’ll be waiting out the weather to head north — we are looking forward to Sedona, and exploring New Mexico and Utah, which we weren’t able to get to last year.
Until next time!
Updated December 5, 2017
Today is day #4 of our new life on the road. We left the farm on December 15th, stopped in Virginia for pre-Christmas with family, then down to Daytona Beach (well, Port Orange, but more folks know Daytona than Port Orange!) to work on the van. It took about 2 months to get the van converted to a mini camper and we headed out a few days ago.
Right now our focus is on learning to live on the road. We are off-grid with a portable solar setup. It’s a learning curve for sure to get the hang of handling basic daily tasks we took for granted… bathing, cooking, finding a bathroom.
So far we’re really loving it! I’m 100% focused on staying on top of client work in such a non-standard office. That, along with the basics has kept me busy, but it’s in the back of my mind that there’s going to be long expanses of time perfect for more writing.
Jeff and I are also talking about doing more content creation on the road. It’s easy to make fun of the idea (everyone’s doing it!) but in reality, we haven’t seen a lot of people like us (i.e. old as the hills) doing it. Not sure yet how that will fit in.
We’re also working on the shop, which we have kept up and running with inventory up in Minnesota for my mom to handle orders. It feels all so far away right now!
Until next time!
Updated February 25, 2018
It’s already the holidays here on the farm and the last few months have been a whirlwind!
We staged a show in mid-October where we brought our handmade soaps and candles, found items and a bunch of new things we sourced from some of our favorite vendors. Once again, sales reflected what we’d seen in our shop in Virginia… folks love to LOOK at the found items, and they buy the new stuff. Over 60% of our home decor sales were new items, not vintage and antiques!
One of the super fun things about the October event is that I included a mini-launch of 3 Snugbugs Studios clothing! As some might remember, I won a business grant a few years ago and was just rolling into sales when the opportunity popped up last year to take over the B&B up in Minnesota. Since the move, I’ve been focused on client work and learning how to run a B&B. It was a real milestone to get a small release finished and ready for sale. Now it’s time to focus on the photographs and other things that we need to do to list and market the clothing. With such a unique style, we’ll really be looking at online as our main sales platform at the beginning.
This weekend we’re out in our barn gift shop hosting one of two holiday-themed shopping events in concert with a neighboring business in our small community. It’s cozy and we finally found a decent Pandora station that plays holiday music that doesn’t kill me — I’ve already OD’ed on the big band era Christmas station. Mom’s here to help out and Jeff is manning the till and making candles while I’m working on my laptop. It’s so fun to have a shop right on our farm!
Until next time!
Updated November 11, 2017
And I blinked… and it was fall! Just a quick update… we made it through a very busy summer and now are slowing down a bit with guests and getting ready for the holiday retail and show season.
We are linking up a few craft shows to attend close to the B&B where we will be showing our soaps and candles along with some vintage items and a limited release of clothing from 3 Snugbugs Studios. We’re super excited to be pulling everything together and the whole family is in on it, including my mom.
It’s leaf season in northern Minnesota, so we’re still getting a fair amount of guests coming through which we love! I expect we’ll see a slow-down in November and December with things picking up a bit in January/February and then dropping again until June. We’ve got a lot of projects to work on during the ‘slow season’!
With everything that’s happening at the farm I haven’t had nearly the discipline to write that I’d like. It’s a constant struggle to prioritize and get out of putting-out-fire-mode.
The farm menagerie is doing well. Biscuit the kitty is finally a semi-outdoor cat and has lots of fun AND entertains guests with his kitty antics. Peppermint is as sweet as ever and the Northern Comfort flock is holding at eight hens. We lost two chicks and just recently lost my favorite chicken, Speckles, to a hawk. She was a pretty, inquisitive little thing and it was a sad day on the farm when we realized she’d gotten ‘gotten’ by the mean hawk.
Back to work!
Updated Septemer 18, 2017
Whew! This has been a crazy month. I completely overcommitted myself to various sewing projects and realized that I was sending myself off the rails, getting distracted with fun things that don’t necessarily contribute to the direction I want to go.
And this has made me a little crabby.
Also, we got our first batch of chickens a few weeks ago. They are growing like weeds and fun, but extra work. We also had a small cat emergency surgery mid-month due to Biscuit’s love of eating things that aren’t food.
As we head into May I’ve rearranged my goals for June to help me focus. In addition to client work and B&B work, I’ll working on writing and nothing else. In order to support this, I’ve been working on this daily journal practice from Randy over at Advanced Fiction Writing. I’d never thought of using Scrivener in this way, but really like the use of document templates and being able to condense everything into one journal!
Spring is in full force here on the Farm. The leaves are out and a few of the fruit trees are starting to flower. The lilacs are just peeking out and the bleeding hearts have little baby heart-shaped buds out as well.
And… I lied a little 🙂 In June I’ll also be experimenting with a video format for my blog posts over here at PattyBrower.com. I’ve been wanting to play with it, and think I might be a bit faster doing a weekly Facebook live and posting versus my normal ridiculously long blog posts.
At the B&B Jeff and I are untangling our 2016 taxes and negotiating unanticipated (and not very well explained) new insurance payments thanks to aforementioned chicks. We’re also sorting out the leasing relationship with the folks who own the B&B property — a process not always enjoyable and frequently ire-inducing for me….
We’ll see how it goes.
Updated May 30, 2017
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