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/ )

Seeing the real you…

Have you ever been put in a corner by a friend? They ask you to give them your honest opinion? Sadly you’re dumb enough to give it to them?

Don’t say something that reveals a character flaw.  Don’t. Worse yet a flaw that’s true.  I can be philosophical about it and say; pointing out a negative trait is like a pointing out one dot on a piece of white paper.  There so much more white expanse than that small dot. So why should that small mark matter? But hold up that piece of paper and ask people what do they see, they’ll always say “a dot”. It seems most people including yourself just home in on the flaws to the exclusion of everything else.

I do believe that our weaknesses are as necessary as our strengths because they give us a  world where we have a need of one another. We’re flawed. Everyone has something to learn and something to share. It’s others that teach or inspire us not only on what we can become but how to become it. If you believe that then your biggest weaknesses can with openness and a desire to learn become your biggest strengths. And those people who have been a part of your growth usually you bond to.

But if I think about what I suck at I feel small. I focus on a flaw like a dot is the whole page. I label myself based on a few sucky traits. Good or bad though all labels fail. Labels belong on boxes, on static things, not on living, changing or growing people. No label can represent all the things we are now or will ever become.

So, I was stupid with a dear friend in giving them what they asked for an ‘honest opinion’. I hurt them. And it hurt me to hurt them. I spent the next day crafting this poem and put it in a friendship card and stuck it in their letterbox.
‘Seeing the real you..’
“ I view the world through a camera and you’re caught within my lens,
 an ever changing image…caught second to second..in single frames.
 A face of you is attractive. I’ll catch that frame in joy,
 I’ll remove it, enlarge it and soft focus I’ll employ.
 I may choose it over the others it’s to me the essential you, to separate and develop and draw out for me to view…
(And I’ll look, And I’ll say, …I love )
Yet others are blurred.
Images my lens can’t catch.
The inexperience of the eye – can’t place the angle.
The novelty of the movement – can’t place the light.
And in frustration, I’ll lose it, And put the film aside. Losing many precious moments, through the darkness of the eye.
But I’ll move on catching others as they come also to view..
As if in the greater collection. I’d have in composite – you.
And then if I take a moment to study what I’ve seen. I have a kaleidoscope of moments, a myriad of reflections. And yet rare, a whole being.
It’s as if my lens is my understanding hence why the pictures not right,
experience focuses the range of vision,
learning the degree of light.
And it’s a friend though I’d develop..
And hold up for my own. The rare sweet moments of clear seeing..
When I don’t feel alone.
Would my heart in trust, open, and catch God, me and you as One.
To that sweet moment striving please come…and know…Love.”

 

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.

What informs learning?

This is not the typical type of experience that I would share with the kind of people that make up the majority of my main twitter feed, most being developers and testers who I tend to think pride themselves as being scientific, rational and most seem agnostic or atheist in their beliefs. But still in the words of Nicole Kidman this experience ‘is what it is’. My attitude towards science is that it’s a subset of truth and that’s what I’m sharing here.

When I was seventeen or eighteen I spent a whole Saturday surrounded by books, magazines and essays (this was before the internet) sifting through them to find quotes and insights to use for my first speaking engagement. The topic was ‘the importance of education’. No biggie, it was just a church talk, but it was to be in front of a few hundred people and that kind of thing is scary.

So I wanted to nail it and besides, getting an education really was the most important thing for me at that time. I’d left home earlier than most and paid my own way through the last two years of high school. I was now working 30 plus hours a week, apart from a grant I had won, paying my own way through a full University year.

Education also was a topic I was conflicted over. A lot about school and University education system angered me, particularly how much of it I felt was irrelevant, various unfair flaws in the marking system, the disconnect between what I was learning and what I could see myself using. And the feeling you get from school that getting a C, B or A made you a “C”, “B, or “A” person.

I’m not surprised that the day probably influenced the dream I had that night. I dreamed I was walking through a church and a minister stopped me in the hall and said; “I want you to go on a mission”. Hello? He wanted me to go wandering around knocking at stranger’s doors interrupting their dinner time, wearing clothing that looked like it came out of the 50’s, live 24/7 with a perfect stranger and worse -stall a University education that I had invested so much in? Even though I was just dreaming, my chest felt heavy and my heart sank to the floor of my stomach. Whilst thinking more such thoughts, a calm voice spoke right in my dream ear and said; “The most important education in life, is the education of character and all other forms of education are towards this end, or secondary to it”.

It woke me up. And I lay quietly mulling that over for some time.

Now, here’s the interesting thing. Whilst I lay there, the dream started to replay while I was still awake. Literally it was like a slow screen flare that opened to display a 3d see-through movie image, right in front of my eyes and below the ceiling above me. I froze and I stayed very very still, stilled my breathing, stilled my body and thoughts, I didn’t allow myself to think or analyse what was happening. It was just the most curious thing and I didn’t want to spook it. When the hallway reformed, I heard again the same words, but this time the voice spoke not just in my ear, but clear and audible from all sides.

Throughout the years thereafter, whether teaching kids, mentoring young adults, coaching candidates for job roles or getting to know the number of people I’ve interviewed for high tech roles, I’ve seen how much character impacts on your ability to learn and grow. I’ve met quite a few PHDs who have worked more than 20 years in factories and a number of Bachelors, Masters and Doctors of Academia that live sour lives in low paid work far below their intellectual capability and their career expectations. In contrast others I’ve met who’ve succeeded without degree or other academic qualifcations.

In recent times, when I’ve explored in interviews the whys or wherefores of either group. I’ve seen or heard that their ability to have success, has depended more on traits like resilience, passion, courage, ethics rather than their formal education alone. Resilience to knock-backs & upsets. Passion, enthusiasm or curiousity that fuels ongoing learning and improvement. Courage to attempt at things that they could fail at, or courage to take a risk when problem solving requires it rather than be hand held through to a solution. Open mindedness to open themselves to ideas outside what their past which informs them on things they don’t actually know. Ethics; that gives a person a pride in producing quality work.. and so forth.

An academic education is a boon, but I’ve seen for myself that much of our capability to learn and grow is rooted in character.

 

 

Small events that hardwire you for life

I saw a picture of people in the community of Ferguson, standing in front of the doors of local businesses to turn looters away. Their resolute faces got me thinking about those who choose to commit crimes and those who don’t, even though they come from a similar environment.  It reminded me of a social worker I met once, who wondered the same thing of me. She asked ‘why I didn’t go the way of many troubled kids she dealt with, given the similar kind of experiences of multiple homes, violence, molestation that kind of thing’. Why hadn’t I got into crime or trouble of any sort? I ignored her (nosey woman), but I remember that it was due to the impact of one small event.

When I was 3 nearly 4 years old I remember picking up a deflated balloon off the floor at Woolworths. It had fallen off the counter. And I put it in my pocket because it didn’t seem wrong if it was ‘rejected’ on the floor. I knew stealing was wrong. But this didn’t seem to be it. Later we’re in the old Humber driving the long way back home and I sitting in the backseat, brought it out of my pocket to play with. My grandmother was driving glanced at the car mirror and saw me.
Asked me where I got it, I told her, her face went resolute and she sharply turned the car around and drove alllllll the way back to return it. It cost less than a farthing (which is like less than half a cent today). It was a really long way back, or so it seemed to me as a child. But my grandmother’s logic was that it didn’t matter whether it was a farthing or $100.00 the taking of it would make me a thief.

That one thing totally stuck in my head, her absolute honesty, that this is something you just didn’t do. It imprinted on me and I think hardwired me from that point on – that there was no other way to behave than the example she set.

It’s a small thing, but it strikes me as I remember other small happenings – just how powerful a small action a person can take that it can completely hardwire you for the rest of your life.

Maleficent – a reflection

From Maleficent Facebook page
From Maleficent Facebook page

Ancient cultures the world over have all had oral traditions as the roots of their literature, both to educate and entertain. I imagine in the darkness, by a fireside, story-tellers enthralled their fellow tribes people with tales handed down through countless generations and centuries. What determines whether a story gets told or retold through the ages? I suppose it’s a story that illustrates a moral value, a particular quality or a lesson that your society deems important.

When I was growing up in the 60’s my ‘fireside’ was the all-surrounding darkness of the picture theatre, sitting mesmerized, enthralled by the animated tales of Disney movies; Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella and others. I learnt Good was beautiful. Ugly was evil. Good was always good, Evil was always evil and Good always won out in the end. I learnt being a heroine had little to do with courage or power, it had more to do with being lovely, making friends and winning instantly the hearts of powerful others through your beauty and grace.  Growing up, these Disney ‘lessons’ haven’t stood the test of time.

So it’s good that they’re being retold, and Maleficent the movie is a case in point. If a story is to be repeated generation after generation, I think it needs to tell some truth, some human law or principle that stays with a child and later gives them an insight into the human condition.

Whether it was intended or not, I found a few truths within Maleficent that are worth passing on. In the old Disney movies, ‘true love’ I used to think was the province of the beautiful and elite. I thought to be loved you needed to be beautiful. After all I saw when Prince Phillip kissed Aurora, his ‘true love’ was based on little more than the fact; she was lovely.  Young Stefan and Maleficent seem to play out that old Disney theme in the beginning.  Maleficent is beautiful, loving and caring to all the creatures of the Moor. Stefan happens along like Disney Princes before him and by chance discovers her. They become friends, and in time he bestows a kiss on Maleficent representing his ‘true love’. Maleficent the movie turned that definition of true love on its head. Prince Phillip in this story failed, his infatuation wasn’t recognised as love. Instead it was the kiss of Maleficent who had watched over Aurora protected and made sure she survived childhood.  Hers was the spell-breaking real kiss of true love. Good lesson to learn.

In our culture, (Maori/New Zealand), we’re taught all things were created to be good in the beginning, the road to evil or great good requires choice. So I liked that Maleficent was both villain and hero. Because evil isn’t inherent in any of us, we’re innocent in the beginning.

As was Maleficent she was innocent, loving and a powerful protector in her youth. But then she was betrayed by her friend; Stefan. Stefan chose to do her evil that he might be King and have all the power that that title gave him.  Stefan slipped Maleficent the equivalent of a medieval ruffie, he violated her, blooded her, cut her wings and stripped her of her greatest joy; freedom. In doing so he deeply wounded a large part of who she was. His was an act equivalent to rape.  Maleficent turned. Once a strong, powerful protector of the weak, she became instead an overbearing ruler of her domain and suppressed the freedom of many of the creatures in the moor to be their natural selves.  The moors became then a dark place. And there’s another truth; it’s the nature of evil, to make its victims in its own image. People who are wounded and take the path of hatred and revenge; tend to do to others the wrongs done to them. Its why evil really blows.

If I had a child I would use Maleficent to illustrate one more truth, you would recognize it, if you’re Maori, Black, American Indian, Aborigine, abused child or been some kind of minority that’s dealt with an oppressor. The oppressor hates those they wrong.  They will hate you and seek to paint you as ugly, inherently evil and deserving of anything you the Oppressor may do to them. Thus what is done to the bullied, is ‘good’; a punishment, and not simply wrongful acts done in order to satisfy the Oppressors want for power, status or wealth. Or out of the Oppressor’s fear that the wronged will retaliate or seek justice.

Lastly I like, that at the end, there was a choice for both Stefan and Maleficent. Maleficent could have killed Stefan,both their faces were reflections of the same hatred as they fought on the high tower. She paused and in a moment seem to recognise that.

And in that briefest of moments – she again turned. She put her hatred aside and turned away. However Stefan didn’t, consumed with hate, even though his daughter was now alive, he tried to kill Maleficent and in the end caused his own death.

So for me, this was a far better tale to pass to a new generation. I hope children sit in dark pictures theatres and be enthralled by all it’s movie magic. Because evil isn’t always evil, good isn’t always good. True love is more than just a pretty face, heroines can have power and courage too as into the fortresses of burning iron we saw her and her faithful friend go. We can undo a wrong. We can be villains or heroes, either is in us, and it’s in us to choose.