the jerry rigged life

After yesterday’s “poor-me” post I got several emails from people who were worried that the kids and I were wrapping our feet in rags and huddled around a candle flame to keep warm, a la The Little Match Girl (one of THE most depressing stories I ever had the misfortune of reading as a child, landed on it right in the middle of a fairy tale book, damn thing sprung on me like I had just seen a grown man kick a puppy, don’t read that story!).  But hey, listen, we’re fine!  We’re warm!  We have a ginormous propane heater that isn’t nearly as nice as the radiator but it works and plus we have down comforters and silk long underwear!  I just like to complain a lot, its a sickness, we all have our crosses to bear and I am my family’s!  Please don’t worry.  Really, we’re fine.

The red-caped…person? alien? entity?…from Journey.

Besides, we downloaded (after much swearing on my part, who designed this stupid system?!) a game on the ps3, “Journey,” which is very beautiful and interesting and we stayed up Way Too Late playing it, waiting for Paul to get home from his trip.  Which he did, finally, yay!  And he built a fire and now all is right in the yurt once again.

But see, we’ve got one of those held-together-with-spit-and-string housing situations, you know what I mean, it comes of hand-building your house a room at a time with no mortgage, boot-strapping as you go, using recycled materials and used parts and just generally making shit up.  Most houses have a few of those tricky items, like, you have to turn the hot water tap backwards, or the thermostat is broken so you have to guess the temperature, or that door knob sticks

If Kaylee could keep Serenity flying, maybe she could have helped me make the stove work.

Except we’ve got oodles of them, the way the on-demand hot water heater turns off if you don’t have enough water pressure, and the front door knob that has to be twisted the right way, and the sink faucet that is stuck, and wires that have to be switched out to go from gaming system to dvd player, and the way to prime the front burner on the stove, and the special way to hold broken handle on the dish-washer.  It’s hilarious.  Duct tape is our friend.  It’s what I imagine living on the Serenity was probably like in “Firefly.”  Kaylee was the ultimate Make Do with what you’ve got kind of gal.  You set up a work around, you fix it good enough for now.  “For now” being a range from one to ten years.

MacGyver is so cool!

And our water stove (old blog post on this crazy contraption here) is a giant heap of these little tweaks and quirks.  The fan switch is iffy so you have to unplug it to turn it off.  The temperature gauge is blackened over so you just have to know where the numbers used to be.  If you stack the wood inside just so, it will light better because of the draft from the fan hitting it, once the door is closed. The pump will trip the circuit if you don’t prop this piece of metal over it when it rains.  Etc.  I only know a few of them, to be honest.  Paul is, I’m convinced, the only human who can really run the thing, because he’s the guy who put all these work arounds in place. He is the MacGyver of wood stoves.  Without the mullet.

And THAT is why I couldn’t get a fire going.  I was doing something wrong in the intricate web of Making the Heater Work.  I didn’t have the Secret Knowledge.

But its fine.  You just have to have good cheer about these things.  Yes, I believe that some people have houses and cars that work perfectly all the time and they just get someone in to fix everything back to 100% whenever they need to.  But, barring that impossibly shiny fantasy, we smile and do whatever we do to keep the ball rolling and the plates spinning in the air a little longer.  It’s a superpower.  It’s the Kaylee-MacGyver-Paul superpower.

And now I am going to go write that scene (see previous post) or DIE TRYING.

6 thoughts on “the jerry rigged life

  1. Michele

    I totally get the wacky housing deal. The house I grew up in grew with me/us. My mom still lives in it. The hot water is reversed in the bathroom. My dad considered his own personal hell to be plumbing while listening to jazz, and it was/is an old house, so there was a lot of plumbing to deal with. His solution? PVC, aka, Not Up To Code But It’ll Do. The storm door and front door have handles on opposites sides (one to the left, one to the right). Nearly all the windows were scavenged. The highest ceiling is barely 7 ft high and the lowest is exactly 5’8″ (sloping attic high point), the steps to the second level are too narrow, and there’s always a bucket in the upstairs bathroom to assist in the event of a flushing malfunction. It’s not just thinking outside the box, it’s thinking outside the parrellogram. That house needs an Operator’s Guide for visitors.

  2. CathyB

    I’m glad you guys are warm and happy, Maya. And now that you’ve finished that last chapter (ahem), if you’re looking for a Wise Reader, I’d be happy to oblige. 🙂

    1. maya Post author

      Yes, Cathy-san, I’ll take you up on that offer! At a later time, though, as there are many revisions I’m already set to do. And I didn’t quite get the scene written, although I figured out why I was having a hard time with it and have gone back in to fix that wrinkle up…

  3. Shannon

    Completely understand. Were gypsies until my Dad bought a farm that was settled late 1800’s. The house took three years to build (it is three brick thick walls) and was finished in 1899. The main barn, milk barn, outhouse and smokehouse went up before that. When we got there the back half of the house had been removed for a renovation, the outhouse was gone and there was no plumbing and very little wiring in the house. Oh, and a wonderful cistern system in the attic that no longer worked and a large beehive in the attic walls. Fortunately there was a river in the back yard and we rented a portable outhouse. My Dad was a jack of all trades, including construction, so just before it got too cold we had put in a couple of well sites, some wiring and plumbing in the house and had wood-burning stoves, at least downstairs; one for cooking and one for heating. I remember one time we had a guest over and we put them downstairs by the Earth stove. The warmest place in the house unless you happened to (ahem) forget to make sure the front door was properly closed and locked. Woke up at three in the morning trying to figure out why it was was so cold, so I went downstairs and the front door was wide open and there was snow blowing in. LOL We tried to get the fire going, but there was a trick to it and was having trouble, so was messing with it while alternately huddling and shivering with our guest (my younger brother joined us at some point in there). Dad finally woke up and came to the rescue (was not happy, sigh). It takes a long time to warm up those three brick thick walls. 😀

    1. maya Post author

      Haha, Michelle and Shannon, yes yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about! Operator’s Guide for Visitors for sure.

  4. CathyB

    I had a feeling revisions would need to precede the Wise Reading. All good. I’ve got quite a bit of my own writing going on these days.

    But I always enjoy your stories and look forward to this one when you feel it is ready.


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