Our Crazy Lives


It's been one of those weeks...  One of those weeks where we spend at least a few minutes each day kind of checking in with ourselves and realizing how exactly un-normal we are.  It's not all by choice.  We can still remember the days when we had "normal" jobs and paid vacations and wondered why we couldn't just keep going to work and collecting checks like everybody else. But to us it felt like a noose tightening every day.  We didn't know we would end up here (and we still don't know where we'll end up tomorrow), but we knew deep in our souls that just about anything had to be better than the path we were on.  Better than waking up every day to go back to the same pointless cycle of stress and anxiety.

Now we find ourselves with a new set of "problems" where we wake up and realize we are completely over our skis.  We are WAY out of our comfort zone, with only half a plan and no parachute or net to catch us.  We are risking almost everything we have left in a gambler's attempt to take us to a better place... and yet somehow it all feels so very right.PNWshanty

The last week has been anything but "normal" even for us.  We flew back from NOLA and landed at midnight.  Delayed several hours due to storms and without a home to stumble into and crash onto our pillow.  Our place has been rented on AirBnB and guests already had those pillows in use, and I don't think they would appreciate the company.  Luckily, a good friend had already thought ahead and texted to tell us that our guest room was made up and ready for us (with karma laying on it awaiting our return).  We hopped a cab directly there, spent a few minutes raiding their fridge for leftover pizza and giving karma a weeks worth of belly rubs, then crashed hard.

By 8am we were groggily driving to our next project.  Like it or not, it was kickoff day and we had major demo to do before we can start to put several plans into action.  We sipped coffee and began hurling heavy objects at walls.  By noon we had removed most of the interior walls from a structure that really needed it, and we were all too aware of the debaucherous few days we spent wandering around nawlins and of the horrible travel day we had just hours before.

I got a question last week asking if we bought a house and i realized i haven't been very descriptive.  No...we most certainly did not figure out a way to secure a loan to buy a new house as two people without jobs (although i would if i could).  We bought this house almost 8 years ago.  More precisely, I bought this house almost 8 years ago.  The house with our beloved garage attached to it is actually jen's.  When we were returning from living in UT years ago a very dear friend, excellent realtor and general promoter suggested that since we were not yet married that we should buy two houses with jen's severance package instead of one.  As she pointed out, with our nuptials planned for less than 6 months away...it was go time.

We did what anyone else would do in this scenario.  We tilted our heads and laughed heartily before realizing that she wasn't joking.  "Who does that?" we asked.  But the more she talked the more it actually started to make sense.  We were legally each allowed to buy/own a house, the check would cover two almost non-existant downpayments at the time (it really is no wonder the market crashed about a month later), and we began to see how just maybe it wasn't so ridiculous after all.  We flew into portland for a weekend, looked at 8-10 houses, placed 4 offers and later that month signed papers on two houses.  Insanity.


This house we lived in for all of 1 week.  We moved in, did some quick projects/enhancements, painted every surface and then moved out and handed the keys over to renters.  Those same tenants just moved out and purchased their own house at the beginning of this month.  Their rent checks never quite covered the mortgage, but did allow us to pay off almost 8 years of a mortgage almost for free.

But after the (life-changing) project at the other house, this just seems like a waste of a roof.  If converting the other house to a rental + ADU for us to live in (and to rent out when traveling) suddenly meant we were mortgage free, maybe a second similar project could actually take us to profitability.  So...like i do, we began drafting up potential plans and ideas.  The house is unattractive (at least).  It's an eyesore at best and will likely be torn down in a few years by us or some developer who eventually decides to buy it.  Everything around the house is being rezoned commercial and the dirt it sits on is already worth more without the house than with it.  But- if we can find a way to make a bit more income from it in these crux years of our lifestyle where we try to find ways to survive without jobs - than it might just be the most beautiful ugly duckling ever.

It sadly won't be a brilliant portfolio piece for zenbox.  It wont be a design masterpiece that I'm proud of.  It also (hopefully) won't be an incredibly expensive project.  In fact, we have almost no money to throw at this, so it can't be.  But, when i'm successful at letting go of my need to make all things perfect, i realize that it's all still for good.  If all goes well, it might just give us checks to cash every month and could even mean we have a chance at ending 2015 in the black.  Profitability was one of our goals for the year after all...

More on our plans in future midnight writing rants; but for now we are sleeping on the floor of an empty shell, knocking out every wall without a foundation and trying to turn a turd into a work of art.  Or at the very least into a decent backdrop for works of art.  You have to get down to the basics before you can try to make a place better, but in this case we are actually flipping the entire floorplan over to take advantage of the natural light and garden setting in the back of the house.  Over the last three incredibly long, incredibly grueling days we turned an otherwise mostly habitable house into the set of a post-apocalyptic horror film. 2 people tore down 6 walls, 2 roofs and a fence and moved 5200lbs of debris into a 20yard container in the driveway within 72 hours.  Kids... do NOT try this at home.


We are now catching our breath and trying to recover from a job that I must admit...we might be too old to be trying to accomplish.  The major demo is complete and we now move into phase two (trying to put the pieces back together again in a better way than we found them).  We've been rushing around in between sledgehammer swings trying to source contractors and hoping to find guys willing to put us on their schedule despite portland being in one of the busiest period of construction on record.

In the evenings i try to stay awake long enough to get work done on other fronts, to keep up with zenbox clients and to keep the websites up to date...but mostly i crash as soon as my back hits our backpacking mattress on the floor.  It's not lost on me that someone else is sleeping on our comfortable mattress and pillows 10 blocks away while we sleep in the center of a house covered in a inch thick layer of dirt and debris.  That they are soaking in our hot tub while my body aches from each day's work.  But the money they are paying to sleep and soak there will help fund this project... and we are happy to have them over there enjoying our home while we further define exactly how nomadic we can be.

We have definitely moved into new, even further uncharted territory here... and even for us the last week has had its moments of uncertainly.  Luckily our friends keep dropping by at the exact moments when we need them to.  Just as it seems we have depleted the energy source and have nothing left to give someone shows up to help us daydream about the possibilities.  Someone else shows up with snacks in hand and the makings for old fashions.  They likely have no idea how important their visits were, but we owe them a huge thank you for keeping us moving in a positive direction when we needed it most.


During our trip to NOLA last week (wait...was that seriously less than a week ago??) we were in a conversation with dear friends who mention that we were all dealing with the 1st world problems of DINKS (double income no kids).  They slowly turned our way, chuckled and said "oh, sorry".  No apologies needed, but when they tilted their heads and tried to find an acronym to fit us (NINKS, clearly was the first obvious choice) it made us realize that here we are trying to keep up with jetsetting travelers who haul in two hefty paychecks twice a month while we try to avoid anything that looks like a job.

We spent the next ten minutes as a group trying to figure out what category jen and I fit into.  NINKs (no incomes no kids) is easily the world's perception, and since we just finished our taxes i can hardly argue.  PINKS was thrown out, but in order to describe yourself as having passive income you actually have to have income.  Striving for Passive Income no kids (SPINKS) just doesn't quite have the right ring to it.  MNINKS (mostly no income) and BPINKS (barely passive income no kids) get a little closer...

I guess we're still here, adrift without an acronym to fit into - and loving it.  But we also know we aren't alone.  We know others out their chasing similar dreams.  Even in our small circle of friends, there are others who know well the feeling of having torn apart an entire home in a weekend's time.  Others who know what it's like to walk away from normalcy in search of a dream and other still who know that being a nomad isn't necessarily a negative thing (quite the contrary).

For now, the sun is rising and we have at least another 2 months worth of work to do in the next 2 weeks... so we'd better get at it.