Thistle

Today is the day we’ve been waiting weeks for… We finally moved into the RV! I know, I know you are dying to see pictures of the inside. Well, you are going to have to wait a few more days. I want to make another IKEA run and find a place for everything before I show you. I want your first glimpse of her to look like a magazine. Then, of course, I will show you what it looks like in real life, with kids and dirt and clutter. But let’s not do reality just yet!

  

First, I want to introduce you to someone. Her name is Thistle and I’ve been lovingly working on making her beautiful for the past six weeks or so. Her name came naturally to us. For one, thistles were in bloom all over the ranch while we were doing our remodeling. Watching these beautiful weeds bloom gave me hope that the ugly work we were doing was going to turn into something pretty. 

  

Also, the inspiration piece of artwork for our home is a yarn art rendition of a thistle plant in bloom. I got it at Goodwill several years ago for a dollar. It struck me then that someone took hours making this artwork, and there is sat in a dusty pile of framed posters from the 90’s. I just had to rescue it! That’s how I feel about Thistle. She needed a lot of work, but I think she is happy to be useful again. 

  
Lastly of course, our Thistle has been a PAIN to remodel. We have definitely felt the “thorns” of this project. We have each spilt blood, sweat and tears making her beautiful again. It has been a labor of love and I hope it shows in the warmth of our home. 

We could not be more proud of our Thistle and thankful to our family who helped us realize the dream of becoming RV owners. Thanks Mom, Skip, Mom and Dad Simpson for all the time you put into making our dream come true. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Worst Birthday Ever

I typically try to look on the bright side, but there is no real way to sugar coat it:  This has been the worst birthday I’ve ever had. Im sick, tired and in the middle of packing up/throwing out everything I own. Oh, and we are having another major issue with the RV that kept us from actually moving in today. Sigh. 

  
On the bright side (I can’t resist), God worked a miracle for me today. Caleb’s wonderful parents and my sweet neighbor, Pennie, helped us all day long. I could not have packed up this apartment without them. Not with two sick kids and being sick as a dog myself. Oh, what gift they were!

Caleb’s dad was the one who found the problem with our sewer cap. The notches that hold the sewer line and cap onto the waste water tank have been broken off. We didn’t find out until we got it parked yesterday that it is basically unusable. Meaning:  We cannot use the water or toilet in our RV until we get it fixed. Caleb’s dad rigged it so we can move in tomorrow, but we will have to find a long term repair solution soon. 

Who doesn’t love talking about sewage all day on your birthday?

Well, on another bright note (there I go again), I spent some time with my neighbors this evening and it was so bittersweet. We have lived here for 3 years and have made many friendships with our neighbors, most of whom are Hispanic. I have so enjoyed practicing Spanish with them, mostly laughing through my broken attempts. In many ways they treat me like family and I am really going to miss that. 

I guess that is another reason why this birthday has been so hard. I have spent so much time and energy focused on getting the RV ready that I haven’t really paused to reflect on the fact that I’m moving. Moving… Away from the community I love and into the unknown. Yes, there will be adventure. Yes, there will be fun and new friends. But there is something to mourn here, this place and the people I love. 

There will be no candles or parties tonight, but maybe that’s okay. Maybe silence is just what I need to feel the weight of the moment, and then step fresh into the adventure that awaits tomorrow. 

Packing… Blah!

We are planning to pick up our RV tomorrow from the ranch, where we’ve been working on it for the past six weeks. Caleb’s parents are driving down from Azle to help us learn the ropes. Dad Simpson and Caleb are going to pick the RV up while Mom Simpson stays and helps me with the kids as I furiously pack up the remainder of our belongings. 

Oh, and did I mention that we are all sick? Caleb and I have a terrible cough and the kids both have pink eye. I’m pretty sure we are all just run-down from stress. This last month has probably been one of the most trying times in our marriage. We’ve been apart more than we’ve been together, since I’ve been out at the ranch most of the time while Caleb stays here and works. The RV remodel has been an emotional rollercoaster. Finances have been stretched to the max trying to make all this happen while remaining free of debt.  There is just one word for us right now: weary. 

But tomorrow is a new day. The first day, really, in our new journey. We will park our new home and start the downhill slide into the new normal of full time RV living. Between here and there is PACKING. 

I hate packing. 

  
I love unpacking. I can unpack and organize like it’s an Olymic sport. And usually I can muddle through my hatred of packing knowing that the joy of UNpacking awaits. But not today. Today I laid around in bed with my feverish children because it’s the only place to sit in our house. Everything is a mess. I’m overwhelmed and oh-so-tired. 

If we are going to move at all, I need a miracle. For now, I’m taking some NyQuil and hitting the sack. Tomorrow is a new day. 

Light at the End of the Tunnel

This is our final week working on the RV. We are scheduled to move into it next Friday, God willing. Things are finally starting to look up as our major repairs are drawing to a close. Hallelujah!

 Here is our progress in the master bedroom:

        

Ta-dah! Our master bedroom has been transformed! The damask print is a plush headboard. The cabinets above will now have wicker baskets to increase storage. 

Here is our progress in the living area:

   
 

We replaced the subfloor with new plywood and will be laying new vinyl today! You can also see that I replaced the border and recovered the valences. It’s looking great!

Here is our progress in the kids room:

   

We removed a bunk to make a play area for the kids. The curtains are up as well as a special own door knob on their closet.

With only 5 days until move-in, we still have much to accomplish. But, as you can see, we are getting there!
 

I Love the Smell of Sawdust

I’ve been dying to update everyone on all the progress we’ve made renovating the RV, but I’ve been working so hard I haven’t had any time to write. The work has been hard and long, but I have really enjoyed spending time with my mom and learning every square-inch of our new home. 

  

Since my last update, we discovered that the leak in our bedroom was more extensive than we thought. We ended up needing to remove almost the entire back wall all the way to the studs and metal. Apparently, the roof was leaking all across the top, not just in the corner as we had first thought. 

  

We cut out all the old, wet wall board and scooped out the soggy insulation. Then we removed the studs that we water logged and replaced them. My mom had a genius idea to add new support beams across the front to support the sagging roof. It worked beautifully!

Next, I repaired the leak in the roof by using a six-inch-wide adhesive tape that was made for RV roof repair. I went over the whole front seam 3 times. We plan on going back over the entire roof with a product called Liquid Roof to make sure the roof is fully sealed. But we have to wait for some dry weather. It’s been monsoon season here in the hillcountry!

  
Today mom and I plan on working on the slide out. We discovered that water was wicking up from the underside of our slide and soaking the subfloor. We have attempted to repair this area 3 times on our own, each time tweaking the process slightly, but every night the rains came and soaked the floor again! We finally ended up with a solution on the 4th try. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will say that installing a 4 inch rubber drip edge did the trick. 

  

We’ve been waiting for the plywood in the slide out to dry so we can treat it with some epoxy to harden it up. Then we plan on reinforcing it with 2×4’s, which shouldn’t show since they will be behind the dinette and couch. Once that’s complete, we can add linoleum in the slide and replace the furniture. It all sounds so easy! But I have learned that each project takes twice as long as you think. Unforeseen problems always crop up, but mom and I like to think of them as opportunities to be creative. 

  
This process has made me extremely thankful for my mom and her construction expertise. I have learned so much from her. She has taught me to remain positive and keep looking for a solution, especially when it looks hopeless. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to learn from her and lay my hands on all the guts of our home. Even though it’s been tough work, I wouldn’t trade one day of it. Plus, I love the smell of sawdust!

We Bought a Truck!

  
We have been cruising Craigslist for about a month, getting to know what kinds of trucks are out there and how much they are going for. We knew we needed at least a 3/4 ton to successfully pull our 30ft RV (the dry weight is around 8,000 lbs). We pretty quickly narrowed our search to Ford F250 and F350 crewcabs with 7.3 liter PowerStroke Diesel engines. 

Our maximum budget was $9,000, so we were pretty much looking at 2000 year models and older with around 200,000-300,000 miles on them. Most of the ones we were finding on Craigslist were less than ideal. Lots of them either had mechanical problems or rough looking interiors. But we didn’t want to compromise, knowing that we would need something reliable for our time on the road. We knew God would provide just the right truck for us. 

While we were in Bandera working on the RV, Caleb was cruising Craigslist again and found our perfect truck. It is a 2001 Ford F250.  Just what we wanted! It was located in north Austin so he drove there right away to look at it since the good ones go fast. He came back 6 hours later with our new set of wheels!

It feels weird to drive such a huge, loud truck. But I have to admit, I kinda like it. It’s very roomy and will do an excellent job towing our rig. I can hardly wait for our maiden voyage!

Timeline

Many friends have asked about when we are moving into our RV and when we are hitting the road. Here is he condensed version of our plan… And a picture of Caleb making his “how-in-the-world are we going to afford a truck” face. 

  

May- selling everything, finishing renovations in the RV and buying a truck to tow our home. 

June 1- turning in the keys to our apartment, living full time in the RV here in Austin.

July 6- hitting the road! Heading to the Denver area to do some serious Bearded Brothers promotion.

August- taking a break from “work” in Estes Park and Caleb runs Leadville as a pacer for our friend, John Ryan. 

September- heading to Utah for more work and Caleb runs Wasatch 100!

September 19- heading back home to Austin, just in time for Abby’s 3rd birthday. 

We are still trying to decide where we will park full-time when we return in September. We have a couple of options, but will know more as it gets closer. Right now, our best options look like Mid-Town RV Park in East Austin and Sunset RV park near Dripping Springs. 

We plan on staying a few months at a time in Austin so Caleb can work. I’m not-so-secretly hoping we can spend December in California. We’ll see!

How to Survive IKEA

I love IKEA! But have you ever noticed that everyone enters IKEA smiling and giddy only to be released hours later looking war-torn and weary? How sad. Well, I treated myself to a spur-of-the-moment IKEA trip yesterday and I thought I would share my four tips on how to survive and come out smiling. 

 

   
Rule #1:  Shopping trips and inspiration trips are two separate things. I love walking around the acres of showroom IKEA has to offer. But if you are going to BUY things, I seriously suggest you skip this area altogether. I prefer to browse the showroom only on leisure trips where I am there for the specific purpose of looking around and getting ideas. This leads me to…

Rule #2:  Shop online first! IKEA has a great website where you can create a shopping list of all the things you like. You simply select which store you plan on going to, and it will generate a printable checklist, complete with aisle and bin numbers… So you can skip the showroom and go right to what you need in the marketplace! Brilliant!

    
Rule #3:  Never shop hungry. Whether I am there to shop or just look, my first stop is always the cafe. My favorite thing to get is their chocolate indulgence cake and a free cup of coffee. Yep, coffee is always free for IKEA Family Members! Now that I am thoroughly caffeinated and sugared up, it’s time to end with…

Rule #4:  Head toward the exit at the first sign of weariness. Even if you stick to my previous rules, the sheer amount of stuff IKEA has to offer will eventually drain you. As soon as it does, put down that throw pillow and head to the check out! You will do a much better job shopping if you return another day refreshed. 

  
Here is a little sample from my shopping trip. I would show you more, but I don’t want to give it all away before the big “reveal!”

  

WE’RE DEBT FREE!

Next Tuesday, we will appear live on the Dave Ramsey Show to scream to the world that we are debt free. If you don’t listen to his show, this is something called, “the debt free scream.” We are making a special week-long trip to Tennessee to celebrate our new-found freedom from the chains of debt. It’s been a long road and we are so ready to celebrate. If you are curious, listen to the show! We will be on at 2pm Tuesday, May 5th (find a station in your area).
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Our journey into freedom started on our wedding day. A good friend, actually Kristy’s boss at the time, gifted us with the best present you could give two newly weds: Financial Peace University. This is Dave Ramsey’s 12-week class on how to become debt free and build wealth. It took us almost a year of looking at the box before we actually got moving.

At that time, Caleb was working on starting Bearded Brothers and Kristy was working full-time at a non-profit. We were living off Kristy’s income, paycheck to paycheck. We were surviving, but not thriving. We knew something had to change if we wanted to start a family someday.

So we signed up for a Financial Peace class at a local church. The class was amazing and inspired us right away to start a budget. This was tough, as both of us were 30 years old when we married and had plenty of time to get set in our ways as to how money should be managed. But God was good to us and we were able to each make sacrifices to live on one income.

Once we got on a budget, then it was time to tackle our debt. Together we had over $60,000 in debt! About $40,000 of that was Kristy’s college tuition. $10,000 was Caleb’s 2009 Subaru Outback and we owed about $10,000 to Caleb’s dad. At first our progress was slow and torturous. We could only scrape together about $100 each month extra to put toward the Subaru. There were days when we felt like giving up and just going out to eat (our biggest temptation). But somehow we muscled through.

Abster-42

It took us just over a year to pay the car off. Oh, and in that time we had our first child! And we paid cash for her birth! We felt like we were finally seeing some traction. But this was also a time of testing. We had decided that it was a priority for Kristy to stay home and raise our daughter, but she was the only wage earner. Caleb was working diligently at getting the business off the ground, but it was an uphill battle and he still was not earning a paycheck. Kristy’s maternity pay came and went. She quit her job in faith that God would provide. We lived on savings for 3 months. Just when Caleb was considering taking a night job, we saw God’s provision. The business got some major promotion and took off! Soon Caleb’s salary replaced Kristy’s. God is so good!

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Next, we tackled the student loan. At $40,000, it was a beast. But Kristy’s midwife had taught her an inspirational saying during childbirth, “push harder than it hurts!” So we leaned into the pain and didn’t shy away. We continued cutting corners and living on as little as we could. We created handmade Christmas gifts instead of buying people things. We invited people over for dinner instead of going out. It was tough to say no to things our friends were doing, but we knew this was short-term pain for long-term gain.

ItsABoy

Soon we were seeing light at the end of the tunnel. We found out we were pregnant with our son AND paid off the student loan, less than a year after paying off the car!  The biggest contributor to paying off the student loan was the sale of Caleb’s house in Denton, that had been rental property for the previous four years. At this point we were high on paying debt. We only had $10,000 to go and we threw every extra dollar at it. Things moved very quickly at this point, as our debt snowball had reached $900 per month. We paid cash for the birth of our son and were nearly ready to pay off Caleb’s dad when Kristy had some major medical issues postpartum. An ER visit and surgery cost us around $5,000 after insurance. But thanks to Dave Ramsey’s plan, we were not discouraged. We put Dad’s payments on hold and put our entire debt snowball toward the bills.

LifeOfFreedomFamily

Now here we are, less than one year after our precious son’s birth we are completely and totally debt free! Heck, we even had enough money to buy our first home! We are so thankful to God for giving us the strength to persevere and for the support of our friends and family. We are blessed indeed.

Stress Bomb

With 30 days to go until we move into our RV, I’m a total stressed-out maniac. I don’t want to be, but I look at my calendar and know there is no earthly way to get it all done. We still need to sell 90% of our belongings and finish the remodeling on our RV. 

Our house looks like the bottom of a toaster. There are piles and boxes everywhere. I hate this phase. I thrive on order and simplicity… And right now I can’t find either. 

To make matters worse, I feel like a mom-failure. My son turns one in two weeks. I think we will celebrate by installing a new light fixture over the dinette. Happy birthday, Joshy!

Sigh.

If you think about it, say a prayer for me. I know there is peace outside this circumstance. I’m just having a hard time seeing past this temporary chaos.