Tiny Houses | Women Refuge Retreat

First Tiny House from Sydney's first Tiny House Building Course
First Tiny House from Sydney’s first Tiny House Building Course
I find myself the owner of a sunny little Tiny House, which I’ve called the Rad Pad. It came about because earlier this year late March, I organised Sydney’s first Tiny House Building Course. – I’m proud to say.

There was such a diverse mix of people attending; young couples, middle aged professionals, students and married couples. People came from all around Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and one brave Kiwi flew in from Singapore. I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s true we have a few things in common; we value having more life, than we do using a lot of that life to get stuff. We pretty much knew nothing about using a hammer or a saw, let alone able to build a house from scratch. Lastly, we pretty much had a blast, it was exhilarating to know we can in fact build our own homes.

Part of our course was filmed by the TV station SBS Living Tiny check it out, unlike a lot of media commentary of late, they did a fair job of tapping into what’s happening here in OZ with the Tiny House Movement.

It would not of been as successful as it was, if I hadn’t brought over the talented, creative and well known Tiny House Builders ‘Deek’ Diedricksen and his brother Dustin (of Relaxshacks.com) all the way from Massachusetts, USA to lead the course. Here is little tutorial he recorded from our course . Do subscribe to his channel – it’s the bomb. I also got the invaluable assistance from Rob Scott a Melbourne House Truck builder and Trainer and a local community college (TAFE) building instructor Anthony kept everything to Aussie standards.

The whole project for me was a real challenge and to be honest; stressful to get everything and everyone organised, particularly as I had no knowledge at all of how to put a building course together. There were a few times, my ignorance could of landed us in serious trouble with the Sydney Council and the training centre. But hey, the Universe is kind to fools, (seriously there were a couple of lucky coincidences and meeting extraordinary helpful people that meant we came through unscarred). Thank you Universe.

The journey is not over though. I want to make some kind of dent in the housing situation for women refuges, kids at risk and the homeless. I’m travelling to Canada and USA this year to look at Tiny House Communities on the other side of the planet. I also donated the Rad Pad to a lovely lady called Fatima as the first of five Tiny Homes we are going to build providing temporary accommodation for women refuges when they come to her beautiful grassy property in Goulburn. Moving forward, we’ll continue to run the training courses, because we one provide training to people wanting to build their own homes, two cover the cost of a new Tiny House’s materials and three in effect have ‘free’ labour building a new Tiny for the Refuge Retreat. Therefore far less money is required to pay for additional expenses; off grid solar power, electrician etc.

If any have done this sort of thing before, I would certainly like to get in touch, network with you for support and ideas. My email is Catherine@peepsweave.com. As per usual, I am working all this out as I go along. Wish me luck.

Dear Felicia Day…

“Inevitably when I get the ugliest comments I click the profile and look…oh this guy doesn’t make anything, so like the dude doesn’t make anything so he doesn’t know what it’s like to be vulnerable and create. Because, but at the end of the day if you don’t create and you’re not vulnerable then you’re just a drone, in a sense ’cause you’re not really sharing what is special about yourself…”( See whole talk here) Felicia Day

Dear Felicia Day,

You inspire me. Strangely, you also comfort me. Your insecurities do. You’re the only person I’ve come across that seems to have had a similiar experiences to myself. I wasn’t home-schooled like you. But I went through numerous homes as a kid before 14, so I was responsible really for my own education in everything.

My social skills I learnt from TV; “Get Smart”, “The Brady Bunch”, popular shows like that back then, Sunday afternoon black & white movies and early morning childrens stories on the radio. And of course books. One of the homes I lived in from the age Seven onwards, the old lady I lived with used to buy me a book each week when she went to town, she ended up by getting me all the classics; Little Women, Black Beauty, Oliver etc.  I also got the Encyclopedia volume ‘C’, everything to do with C; clowns, cats, clouds, Canada, you name it, all things starting with C. She couldn’t afford the whole alphabet, so she got me C, as my name started with C; Catherine. If there was ever a quiz show that tested you on C, I would kill it.

For example, I learnt how to punish myself from watching the Brady Bunch. One time, when I didn’t like something I did, I decided to ‘ground’ myself. We didn’t really have that as a punishment in New Zealand in those times. Basically if you did something wrong, you got a hiding. Which is getting hit with a strap around your legs. I could never manage it myself, as I didn’t own a belt.  But the idea of limiting yourself to a place, seemed novel. So I sent myself to my room. Useless punishment though, as I would then read or draw  and quietly end up having a good time. I pinpoint that as the time, that I stopped having absolute faith that tv had all the answers to life.

So as you can imagine, I wasn’t particularly socially skilled, there was too much moving around; 30 plus homes. But I think like you I got to take charge of my own education and didn’t feel limited in what I was supposed to learn. Or how I was supposed to learn it.

But, since I was on my own most of the times, there are a lot of social skills that I never really got good at. People in the business world, would find that surprising. I can sell and that takes people & communication skills. If I’m working full time, I complete 3-4 jobs a month that gets me $15-22 thousand on average per job. That I think is good, but that type of work actually has a game mechanic to it. It’s a numbers game, it’s a recognition of certain scenarios, responding accordingly, funnily enough it hasn’t got much to do with people. It’s very much a bunch of game mechanics, I play a personna and knowing all the scenarios so well, run on an auto-tactics mode to complete a job. And the ‘mechanic’ aspects of all that really doesn’t have a lot to do with me, that’s operating under the persona. Or maybe thats just me because my Aunt said, Doctors said; I was a little bit autistic as a kid. I operate in the world like it’s a game to figure out, discover the rules, rewards and then work out the talents, skills, abilities and tactics I need to play to win.

But getting back to you, what makes me hope, or encourages me in my new endeavors, is that you don’t seem certain about everything, you stress about stuff, but I see you (as much as a stranger can see you) get stronger, more assertive and sure of yourself as time goes on. It’s the continuing on under uncertainty that I find inspiring because I think what that is all about; continuing. I greatly admire you because I’m sure it’s not an act that you have been at times – truly open and vulnerable. I love you for that.

Of late, I’m doing a lot of stuff that I don’t know how to do. I was supposed to die a few years back. Not surprisingly as these things go, it was something that made me decide to just give in and die if my life had to stay the same. Or live a life doing things that gave me a reason to want to be here. Things I have a passion for. One of those things is having kids learn in real world settings – rather than book ‘learning’, rote ‘learning’, template ‘learning’. All those things I don’t think have much to do with learning at all.

So one of the projects I’m involved in right now is going into that unknown – to make that happen. Although I am bringing to the role a lot of my skills, I’m very good at. I’m on a different terrain to what I’m familar with and I care intensely about the outcomes, I have goals that I think are quite epic but I haven’t figured out the rules of this new game. I don’t really have a persona to rely on. It’s  scary, sometimes as I have no other option other than to show up as me, not someone I know or like a lot really. Therefore success or failure isn’t distant from me anymore.  Sometimes if I think about it, I feel really vulnerable and wonder who I’m kidding. I can feel lonely, but reading, watching experiences that you and other women I have as heroes share (Janet Tamaro, Jane Espenson, Sylvia Ashton-Warner) I recognise patterns and I intuitively know things will be okay.

You’re a complete stranger, I don’t know you. But, it doesn’t matter. Being you is encouraging me to be me (sort of). Hopefully that works out, or I figure out a new persona, either way – I’m cautiously confident that everything will work out okay.

(There was an hour twitter challenge given by Jane Espenson to write something in one hour, above is what I wrote, If btw, you don’t know who Felicia Day is do yourself a favour and go here: http://feliciaday.com/about/ )

It’s about seeing…

When I was 17, I was looking at some preschool children’s pictures.  I noticed something. These preschool children didn’t make their drawings fit inside the four sides of the paper. It was like the world they were seeing was bigger than the paper (which it is) so that’s how they painted it. When kids hit school, even though it’s not surprising that the pictures they draw would change as they increase in age. Typically it seems if they draw a house, they draw it as a square with a triangle on top for a roof. Two squares representing windows are put inside that square. If they add a sun it’s a circle with radiating lines, trees are brown with a cloud shaped green top, sun; yellow, etc. And everything fitting inside the paper.  I actually remember being taught how to draw like this and wondering as a 5 year old, “Why was the Sun yellow when during the day it mostly looked white?”   I wonder if teaching us as children how to draw this way, has it taught us to not see what’s actually in front of us?

Much older and not so long ago I decided I wanted to learn how to paint.  Little shy about it. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to, because I remember being told artistic talent is something you have or haven’t got. But, I heard of a good teacher, Stephen Wilson and I went to him. He told me anyone can paint. Painting he said is about seeing. When you can see then you can paint. His first lessons included teaching you how to see. Which I think was kind of like seeing things as you saw them preschool.

I remember having an epiphany (which is going to sound far-fetched) – but walking out of the studio and looking at a tree – and suddenly actually seeing it, like it was the very first time I’d seen a tree. The dapple of the grey to black shadows hitting the bark, the crevice shadows outlining the peeling bark. The graduation of off-whites, off-yellows, off-greens, browns, greys lightening as they circled up the height of the trunk. The deeper harder more dense shades of colour around the base.. and more. I drove home, looked around and suddenly the whole world felt like it verged on being magical – and realer than it had been before. And I felt a palpable sense of awe.

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Here’s the first painting I made.