You Get What You Need

I have a lot of energy. Once I make a decision I want to make it happen. Sometimes I find myself at odds with what I know and what I want. Sometimes I find myself in the same conflict with Rose: what she wants against what I want.

When Rose suggested staying in Portland for a month I had some concerns. But, the first night in our sublet erased them. We have come here, I think, for good reason. We have experiences that are useful to the people we are living with. Well beyond our goal in this project, these are conversations that Rose and I need to have as people.

June is not a great month for me. One of my favorite people died in June–specifically my father. This year I attended my grandmother’s memorial and found myself leaning on my aunt during the anniversary of her husbands death. Overall this project has been forcing me to slow down.

It doesn’t have to happen today. Just breathe and let your thoughts happen. Getting what you need today won’t stop you from getting what you want eventually.

Conversion Van Renovation

Due to the recent passing of my grandma I put my shoulder to the grindstone to finish the van. I’m going to show what I did, and show you my materials list at the end.

So the Van (we call her Nessy) started like this:

Interior shot - Chinook Interior Cab

But, then I tore ALL out. All the carpet, the bed/seats, the cabinets, the stove, the toilet, the heater and water heater, even the kitchen sink.

2013-04-15 17.19.45

That resulted in over 600 pounds of trash and recycling.

600 pounds of trash

Since we started with a 1986 Ford Chinook I was able to reuse the holding tanks, stove, and heater–I had to replace the water heater, it was too far gone to repair. Once I had the entire thing torn out Rose cleaned all of the surfaces and I started insulating the walls, floor, and ceiling. I used 1-inch insulation board on the floors, 2-inch insulation board on the walls, and a combination of fiber insulation and Refletix on the ceiling.

Framing for van insulation

You can see in this picture that I made framing for holding the insulation in, and to attach the plywood to. I used mainly 2×2 boards with some 1×2 boards for spacing and buttressing. Special thanks to my father-in-law, John, for help during this section.

Framing for conversion van

After all of the parts that require outside attachment (heater and water heater) were back in place and the insulation was complete we used 1/4-inch plywood to cover the walls and floors. Rose found some outdoor fabric that helps us make things look nice and retro at the same time.

Retro Fabric Wall

That window cutout is the bane of my existence, at all stages of the process. The hole in the floor on the left is where our “house battery” lives. Because we started to run out of time we half-assed the ceiling covering (it is bright blue canvas, if you are curious).

Once that was all done I started with the cabinets. I used an old table top to build the new kitchen area and upgraded the faucet to be a taller model with a spray head. The framing for the cabinets are 2×2 boards and the shell is 3/4-inch plywood. I built the back portion to be sectioned in 3-rows and 2 columns. I reinstalled the over-cockpit cabinet and will be adding a bedside cabinet. I used Rose’s favorite Ikea rug and a cheap 4×6 rug as floor covering.

Next, I upgraded to pluming system by replacing the Suburban 6-gallon water heater and switching the lines to PEX tubing and SharkBite unions. With all of the changes in design I also had to reconfigure all of the grey water plumbing. Rockford helped.

Rock helps me cut pipe

Next, because we are bringing our dog with us on the adventure I picked up a 12-volt fan for the roof vent. I chose the Fantastic Fan since it has a thermostat control and move 90-cubic feet of air per minute. Since we only have 144-cubic feet it should be able to keep it fresh even in the hottest weather.

Replacing a vent

I am also replacing the power converter and controller, the stereo (we wanted usb and auxiliary inputs), and the speakers. Those are less interesting to describe though.

Overall the materials list looks like this:

  • 6 – 4ftx8ft 1/4-inch plywood sheets (you might want more for your ceiling)
  • 2 – 4ftx8ft 1/2-inch plywood sheets (miscellaneous cabinet parts)
  • 3 – 4ftx8ft 5/8-inch plywood sheets (We used these to build the vertical walls of the cabinets)
  • 2 – 2inch 4×8 foam insulation board
  • 2 – 1inch 4×8 insulation board
  • 50ft – 48inch Reflectix Sheeting
  • 6 – 2×2 8 foot boards (framing for insulation and cabinets)
  • 12 – 1×2 8 foot boards (small framing, furrings, cleats, etc)
  • 1 – 5×7 foot rug
  • 1 – 4×6 foot rug
  • 1 – 30 gallon tank
  • 1 – 15 gallon tank
  • 1 – 10 gallon tank
  • 1 – Faucet and sink
  • 1 – Propane Cook Range (ours is an older version)
  • 1 – Range hood
  • 1 – Fan-Tastic Vent w/ Thermostat
  • 1 – Suburban Water Heater
  • 1 – Suburban Furnaces
  • 1 – RV Toilet
  • 14 yards – upholstery cloth
  • 5 pounds of screws
  • 12 door hinges
  • 100count wide crown staples

Now Nessy looks like this on the inside. We still need to finish doors for our cabinetry, but this is the gist of it. I will update once we get it all dialed in. 🙂

In Nessy

I Love You, Even When You Are Mad

The Cold Shoulder

There are a number of issues that have recently reared their gnarly domes. As Rose has mentioned, we lived in a house with 5 adults, 200 pounds of animals, and a baby. Which coincidentally means 2 cars, a truck, a van, a motorcycle (for sale), and a Vespa (also for sale). Adding into this that the only person, other than me, that isn’t on the decidedly introverted-side of communication is teething, and you will have a rough guide to life as Carlos.

Rockford only speaks to me in dinosaur noises that express hunger/pain/drumming, and the rest of the household has between 20 and 32 years of familial semiotics that mean most of my day is filled with the kind of silent seething that only a stranger in a strange land can truly understand. Everyone is talking at me and surprised that I don’t understand what they mean. Finally, people get mad at me for persevering too long or, occasionally for asking probing questions (nails on the chalkboard for introverts), and I am left with just this one motto to guide me: “I love you, even when you are mad at me.”

Long ago, in a relationship far far away, I used to get in a lot of fights. Many of those fights revolved around a feeling that I was being willfully negligent of my partner’s desires, many of which were inadequately defined/communicated. On one of these occasions that phrase came to me, even when I wasn’t doing what-I-was-told/what-they-wanted, I wasn’t being intentionally difficult.

Sometimes when we are having issues with people, we forget what it is like to not have any idea what our partner (wife, baby, in-law) is trying to accomplish. One of the things that you will hear a lot from us is that emotions just are, but actions make them good or bad. Anger is neither proof nor refutation of love. Even when emotions get in the way of clear communication, it is important to take stock of yourself and your partner to address what can be done; either a solution or just a chance be heard and return to common ground.

The Final Countdown

Cue up GOB’s entrance music:

Magic from jrk on Vimeo.

The Chinook is almost ready to launch!

All our bags sturdy storage boxes are mostly packed.

We have an agenda! At least, we have a specific agenda through the end of the first week of July:


View Larger Map

June 3: We launch! From Yakima, we’ll be heading to Boise, where we won’t stay long.
June 4: Southward! From Boise, we head down to Las Vegas for the memorial service of Carlos’s amazing grandmother. Sad times, but we are grateful to be able to celebrate her long and rich life with our family.
June 10: From Las Vegas, we head to San Francisco. We want to talk to people while we’re here! We expect a dinner and a lunch here, and then we’ll head north again.
June 11: Northward bound, we’ll stop… somewhere between SF and Portland.
June 12: Arrive in Portland! Pick up two of our favorite people from the airport! Spend the weekend back in the warm embrace of our alma mater. And attending a baby shower.
June 17: Reedie times are over, and we’ll be staying in Portland to spend some time talking to people/washing laundry/taking our baby and dog to bars. PLEASE MAKE PLANS WITH US!
June 19? 22?: This is going to be our Seattle stop. It’s going to be sadly short. MAKE PLANS WITH US!
June 27ish: From Seattle to Lake Tahoe, for Family Reunion. Our schedule after that is still TBD. We know we’ll be heading east to DC by the end of August, and we’re taking requests for visits between Tahoe and DC.

For now, that’s all I know for sure. Please send me an email (rose at grumpypie dot com) or send one to Carlos (carlos at grumpypie dot com) to make some arrangements with us. We absolutely cannot wait to see you.

Image courtesy US Navy

All work and no play

It feels weird to start another post of the subject of hobbies, but dudes, they’re important.

We’re at the point of really refining what gets to come with us in the Chinook, and it’s not going to be a whole lot. One thing that IS coming, though, is the Art Box. (Other Boxes of note: Dog Box, Tool Box, Office Box.) At first glance, I think the Art Box seems frivolous, like there’s something more important that could go into the space that it’ll take up.

But the thing is this: Art is important. It’s important culturally, and individually. I can’t thrive when I feel like I don’t produce anything. Working on creative projects helps keep the brain flexible, in the same way that riding a bike makes the body better able to do the work of carrying a baby.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I always read this as meaning that Jack was dull to be around; that having no fun outside of work meant that Jack couldn’t relate to other people. I still think that’s true, but it’s not the whole meaning. All work and no play makes Jack less sharp, less shiny, less bright.

I think that people who make a craft (rather than a “fine art”) as their creative output get a little more leeway from the judgment that “art’s not important.” My friend’s dad is a recreational cabinet maker; another friend has gotten deep into tailoring her own clothes; occasionally I finish a knitting project. These creative outputs tell other people that we’re “doing something” when we’re doing something creative.

Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of waking up on Saturday morning and putting on my trail boss pants, driving the men of the house outside to work in the yard. Part of it is necessity – five adults in one house gets to be overwhelming, and making the backyard habitable relieves some of the pressure of close quarters. It’s practical, too, beyond just necessary: clearing the ivy from the broken fence so it can be replaced, taking last years fallen leaves to the compost, reducing the number of hazards to both children and unprotected feet. But even beyond that, I do it because it enables me to force them to work on something good.

After days of hauling out leaves and unneeded branches and that stupid ivy, I dragged my dad out there after work one evening. “Come to the yard and let’s talk about your trees.”

“I don’t want to talk about the trees!” he said, as if that were even remotely true. But it didn’t matter, really. The trees are there because he planted them, because he needed them, and they still need him. So I dragged him out (that may be a little melodramatic, yes), and made him spend a few quiet minutes discovering what the yard has been up to while he’s been busy elsewhere. I showed him the tiny, perfect red maple seedlings hiding under the crab apple (RIP, crab apple). We talked about the trees after all.

I do the same thing to Joe – I drag him out of the house, into the sunshine, into the yard where he gets to climb and destroy things and find weird shaped pieces of wood. I drag him outside because it’s really hard to force someone to paint, but it’s easy to say “I need you to help me with some work.” “Come keep me company while I clean the garage, and oh, incidentally, let’s talk about art projects!”

I don’t think of myself as an artist, particularly not a good one, but I love nourishing the artist in other people. During an argument with Carlos, I told him, “What I want is for you to finish the ukulele you’re building me!” It wasn’t because I need that ukulele, but because I want him to spend time making art.

I want all of us to spend time making art, in ways that are appropriate to ourselves. We cannot go live our life on the road without bringing with us the tools to improve and maintain our souls. So we’ll bring fewer pairs of shoes or whatever, and make a little extra room for the screenprinting gear. It’s a trade that is entirely worth it to me.

Apropos: As I was writing this, a smart friend shared this video. I LOVE IT!

Watch Mayim Bialik: Blossoming To Science on PBS. See more from Secret Life of Scientists.

What’s In A Name?

I want to give you a quick warning that this may get weird for those of you who don’t like history or philosophy of faith, but bare with me (pun fully intended).

Those of you who have had in-person conversations with me have probably heard these words come out of my mouth, “People like naming things. It is what we do well, it helps us understand.” I think that you have to be respectful of peoples’ names for themselves. If you have had a private, perhaps late-night or intoxicated, conversation with me you may have heard me say something like: “Naming a thing is not the same as knowing it,” or, “You can’t name a path that you are on.”

Part of this view comes from my understanding of the universe around me. That understanding is very influenced by the Tao Te Ching, particularly the day that I read, “You cannot push a river.” I won’t get into the evolution of what that means inside of my head; instead I will tell you what that means to me in thinking about my own name.

My name is Carlos Durant del Rio. That means (roughly): Man Enduring of the River or Strong Endurance of the River.

Depending on the day, I have distinctly different feelings about the river, but I can’t really escape it. That has been in many ways how I have seen my life–surviving or persevering through life. Both my dad and my granddad had the same name: Guardian (Protector) of the River. It’s kind of like Granddad passed his job on to his son. And, in turn, my dad gave me the job of trying to be part of the river.

Days went by, as they are so wont to do, and I met (and much later) married Rose. When she decided to take my name it had a great deal of symbolism for me, like she was committing to get in the river with me. So, get this, her name now means Little Apple Flower of the River. At this point you may be saying “Shut the fridge-door!” No, really, that is her name–she was sort of pre-made to be the little thing that makes the river less terrible.

But, wait there’s more!

I kinda knew exactly what I wanted to name our baby, like immediately, well before we decided to get married I knew I would name my son Rockford. Somewhere in my heart, I knew what I wanted to pass on, what I wanted the next step to be.

We named our son Rockford Jay del Rio. Jay has a variety of meanings, depending on the line you trace, but if I can pass any of them on I will be happy.

Rockford Jay del Rio == (Victorious/Happy/Swift) Rock Crossing of the River.

Okay, the woo-woo stuff is over now. Here comes the big finish…

There is power in naming. Neighbor, Friend, Lover, Family, ‘Ohana, Child, Mentor, you get it (I hope). One of the key components of communication is clarity, and love needs communication. You should give your love a name to give it power.

Rockford and Carlos

Weird and wonderful

You guys, my life is really weird.

Yesterday I edited a post of Carlos’s, and realized that there’s a piece of information in there that I actively fought against people knowing for literally years of my life. And there it is, just another fact in a story he’s telling, and I’m fine with it.

Last night, my body hit the point of rebellion against my recent lack of activity. But my bike light is broken, and I just can’t get my shit together to get back on two wheels (even though I miss it IN MY BOOOOONNNNNEEES!, as a friend used to say). So I got up on the treadmill, and ran. Yes, you read that right. I ran, outside of an airport, voluntarily. Not exactly recreationally, but close. And perhaps the oddest thing about that is that I changed the speed part way through, because I wasn’t running fast enough.

Now I’m writing about a life I never would have imagined myself living, while my kiddo sleeps in my lap, clutching his wooden spoon for dear life. Every year we go through a period of being ridiculously busy, usually in the summer, and just now I’m looking at our schedule for a couple weeks in June and July and realizing that it’s just around the corner. And realizing how many people I need to make plans with, like, yesterday.

I get caught up in the day-to-day business of doing my life, and I forget how deeply, truly, amazingly special the life I get to live is. Now to pry myself out from under my beautiful, perfectly snoring child and get back to it. I cannot wait to get to see you all soon!

The schedule, so far:

May 25-27, Seattle? It’s our anniversary! Three years of legal bondage and shouting “del Rio!” across the house at one another. I think we should be in Seattle for this, but it’s still up in the air. It’s Memorial Day weekend – What fun thing will you be doing?

June 12-16 +/- some extra days, Portland, OR – We have a reunion here, and a baby shower. We have lots of Portlanders to catch up with. Please let us know if you’re one of them.

June 30 – July 7, Lake Tahoe. Family reunion. Expect drunkenness, and tales of children harassing one another, across the generations. I lost count of the babies. Three? Five? A bunch. My siblings will be reunited on their shared birthday for the first time as adults. Shit is going to get real.

July and August: Boise, Steamboat Springs, Iowa City, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, New York, Baltimore. Ambitious, and subject to change.

August 30-Sept 1, Washington DC. This may be our only wedding of the year. I believe it may be baseball-themed. Joyous hilarity should ensue.

September to ??, The reverse of July and August, only across the southern US. Austin, Memphis?, Patagonia, Long Beach, Orlando?. This agenda is still really rough.

Did we miss you on our agenda? Here’s what it (kind of) looks like so far:

View Larger Map

Talking about Talking

You know that old saying about what happens when we assume; we make an ass out of u and me! Except, when it comes to relationships, it’s not so much “make an ass” as “make a mess.” Perhaps the most basic assumption we make is that we know how to talk to people.

The truth, though, can be a little more complicated. Even with the person I talk to most, I still run into places where my skills need sharpening, and where we have to work together to find tools that work to keep both of us on the same page. Over time, Carlos and I have come to a series of agreements about how we handle ourselves in substantive conversations.

  • Assume best intentions. We have a partnership; the end goal is always to make things better, for ourselves, our kid, our marriage, the people around us. We’re human and we make mistakes, but we don’t work to actively hurt one another. Even when what we’re talking about isn’t “an important issue,” we still try to work under the assumption that the goal is better understanding, not just arguing.
  • We are on the same team. When we sit down to work out an issue, we make an effort to remember that we are working together. It’s not about winning, or proving a point. The purpose is to work out an issue together. Yes, we get into knitty-gritty stuff, and it’s hard. It can be especially hard when the issue at hand is something that one of us is doing; it can be easy to feel personally defensive. In this case, it’s good to remember that it’s being discussed because we care about one another; we’d probably let it slide if we weren’t committed to making our partnership work.
  • A person’s feelings are not up for debate. When someone says they have a feeling, that is to be taken as an inarguable fact. What is done with that feeling is a different matter. Actions can be right or wrong, good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate. How we feel is not to be argued with, or asked to change. It’s fair to say “I don’t understand that feeling,” or to ask for more explanation. We’re not always going to understand what’s at the root of feelings, but talking about them can give us insight. And then we can talk about actions.
  • Keep it relevant. Talk about the issue at hand. Don’t change the subject or look for a place where you can “gain back ground” by being right. On this note: don’t make personal attacks, or bring up “old shit.” If something comes up that needs another discussion, set aside some time for it.
  • Be aware of yourself. Learn to read your own physical state, and how it can affect your communication. Body language, facial expressions, even breathing can be a signal. Sometimes, they’re saying more to your partner than they are to you. Learn to take a moment to check your own state – maybe you didn’t realize that you were making a face that looks like a scowl, or that your voice was rising in volume. Taking a moment to calm your breathing or slow down can be give the conversation a minute to relax as well.
  • Know when to take a break. Some conversations just aren’t going anywhere. It’s ok to take a short break, or a long one. When discussing an “important issue” with a partner, walking away forever is not a good option, but taking a step back can make a huge difference. Have a specific place, outlet, or time. For example: walk different directions around the block, go to different rooms for 5 minutes, or do some dishes–something that enforces separation and has a clear return point. Come back together and leave the petty stuff behind.
  • Say what you mean. This can take practice. You’re going to say the wrong thing sometimes, and that creates an opportunity to be better the next time. You can practice on your own, or with a third party. Say it outloud, so you can hear it. Write it down before you bring it up. I know I can get caught up in my head, and wrong ideas start making sense. Get some sunshine on them.
  • Examine your own position. If something is a hot button issue for you, try to understand why. It’s better for you and your conversation partners if you know where you’re coming from, and spending time examining your own beliefs will make you better able to articulate them, and to choose which ones are actually of use to you.
  • Be aware of your audience. Think about who you’re talking to, what you know about them, how your interactions with them have gone in the past. If you want to make actual progress, keep your conversational partner in mind when putting your thoughts into words. If you’re just looking for someone to yell at, try not to aim it at your partner.

Of course, neither of us always lives up to the standards that we shoot for, but that doesn’t mean that the goal is any less worthy. When we talk to people outside our relationship, these same guidelines apply. Conversation and learning are good, arguing for no reason is not. Unless given reason to do otherwise, we assume that people are coming to a conversation with good intentions, and we treat them with respect. My goal is still to work toward making things better, to find common ground and create more space for love.

photo credit: sachmanns.dk

Swimming Up River – A Chinook

I bought a van last week–a 1986 Ford Chinook!

We don’t have a name for it yet. But, this is why I have been less active on the blog, and on Twitter, lately. I have been tearing the van down to its bones.

Interior Cab

I’ve already taken out the bench-seat/bed and freshwater tank to clean and renovate them. I am also tearing up carpet, lots of carpet. I’m fairly certain the previous owner derived sexual pleasure from carpeting, because there are places where there are two layers of different carpet.

Interior shot - Chinook

Over the next few weeks I am checking all of my lines (water, propane, electric), reinstalling insulation, and re-upholstering to make this into a more perfect dominion–and to make as energy efficient as possible. Once I have the interior torn out I will update more frequently with what it looks like to bring a 1986 Chinook into the 21st century.

If you have any suggestions for what we should name it please put those in the comments!