90,000 Miles to Me

10,381 Miles • Best Christmas Present for Van Life

This is a backdated post from late December, 2017

Hey, look, less than 80,000 miles to go! I’ve already been on the road for 10,381 miles! That lines up neatly with the end of 2017: just over 10,000 miles in just under one year. Wow.

Speaking of the end of the year, what do you get someone for Christmas when they are actively trying to downsize? This was my mom’s dilemma, and although we don’t generally get each other much, and it is rarely a surprise, we do see the holiday as an opportunity to do something special for each other.

One evening I was lamenting how I kept passing on opportunities to go to museums and historical sites because of the admission fees. But a helpful tip from another vandweller got me looking up museum reciprocal memberships as a way to pay once and go to museums for free all year. If there were enough museums that I would want to go to, and I actually did go to them enough, it would be worth it, but it is still a chunk to shell out up front.

Mom said she would give me a membership for Christmas! Thank you, Mom!

So I spent about a week looking up all the reciprocal membership associations and their rules. It turns out that when you join an individual museum, you essentially become a pseudo-member of all the other museums that they are affiliated with. Mostly that means free admission and a small discount in the gift shop, though sometimes admission is just discounted.

My task became finding a museum that offered the most museums in their association—and some are members of more than one association, bonus!—that has the types of museums I like to go to, and would be a museum I genuinely wanted to support. I settled on The Works science center in Ohio. My card arrived in the mail in less than a week, and because it is a family membership, my mom gets one too.

The reciprocal membership isn’t available at the cheapest membership level (at any museum), but at the family level, which is between $100 and $250 depending on the museum, and for The Works, we paid $150.

The Works membership will get me free admission (mostly) to:

Woohoo! I can’t wait to get out and visit some of these museums and science centers. And when I go back through Ohio in a few months, I am really excited to spend some quality time at The Works. That place looks awesome.

Wondering what I got Mom for Christmas? My skills and labor. I’m her live-in handywoman for the time being. Putting up decorations, fixing a drawer, touching up paint, fixing a broken chair, and all sorts of small jobs around the house.

The big job? The real present? I built her three sets of shelves. One for her pantry, one for her craft closet and one for her fabric stash.

Look at that nice squat. That’s two years in the making, that is. Still working on getting my heels all the way down, but it is stable for two to three minutes at a time!

It was well below freezing outside, and not much better in the garage, so we covered everything in the living room with blankets, set up my uncle’s table saw in there, and vacuumed the place about three hundred times afterward. Then I set up a blanket fort and did the sanding inside it, which really helped to contain the dust. Nevertheless, we still had to vacuum, dust and mop extensively.

Above is the work in progress, which became the below, turning a small, vertical, nearly unusable space into a functional baking cupboard.

And these shelves let her organize the smaller pieces of her fabric stash and library of quilting books:

And the closet now stores works in progress and embroidery tools:

So we both got something we wanted for Christmas, and are both very happy with our presents. Okay, the shelves weren’t exactly done in time for Christmas, but close enough. Most importantly, she loves them.

As to Christmas itself, I’ve had the last month to rest up and not be around people (which is a form of resting for me), and that helped me to not get too overwhelmed. There were a lot of people at my aunt and uncle’s, but at least the family groups came and left in waves, so everyone wasn’t there all at once, talking over each other and competing for attention. I still needed to retreat to another room occasionally when it got too much, but this time I had an empty enough bottle cap that I could deal with it much better. (Read the last post if that doesn’t make sense.)

It only took me a couple of days to recoup this time, instead of close to a month, and I’m getting antsy to do stuff again. Hence the shelves, handyman work, and plans for upcoming art projects. Learning watercolor painting is next on my priority list.


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