Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spring Forward

Joseph Herrin (03-30-2016)

There is something about the Spring of the year that puts people into a mood for house cleaning. I think it has to do with being able to open up the doors and windows and let the fresh air in as well as a greater abundance of sunlight. This stimulates us to air the house out, and along with it, to clean out the dirt and clutter. At times this leads to even greater improvements to our living spaces.

Most readers know that I live in a school bus that I converted into a motorhome. I have been living full-time in The Dreamer for the past six years. (Time sure does fly.)

This photo was taken just a moment ago. If you look closely on the left side of the photo you can see Champ “dreaming” away as he soaks up the Georgia sunshine. I am parked on some property in a rural area of south-central Georgia. It is ideal for a ministry of writing as it is quiet and peaceful. Pollen has been giving my sinuses fits for the past week or two, but that too is an annual rite of passage for me.

The image at the top of the page shows the interior of my bus where my office area is located. Typically, one would have seen a standard RV dinette in this space, but I removed it to make way for an upgrade.

This is the dinette, minus the cushions and table, outside of the bus. Girlfriend, Champ’s new best buddy, is doing her best Vanna White impression as she shows off the furniture. She is actually showing off how very pregnant she is. Girlfriend should be having her first litter of puppies this week. I am looking forward to having some puppies around. Doesn’t everyone love a puppy?

Girlfriend is a Boxer. She has a very sweet personality. She loves people, demonstrating the social graces which Champ lacks (until he gets to know you).

With the prison ministry increasing I have found the need for more desk space. The dinette was staying cluttered up and since it had to do double duty as my office and dining space, it was increasingly awkward in these roles. In hindsight, I am surprised that I did not replace the dinette with a desk long ago. I rarely entertain others for meals, and when I do, it can often be accomplished outside at a picnic table.

What initially prompted me was that I began looking into some way to get exercise during my long sessions at the computer. There are some peddling and elliptical machines that are made to fit under a desk and to serve this need. I ended up getting an under-desk elliptical machine. It fit under my dinette, but since I had to enter the dinette from the side I was always having to step over the machine under the table, which was awkward, and painful if I forgot it was there. I concluded that a desk would work much better, and that I could gain some much needed space as well as having some drawers for storage. I prayed about it and asked the Father to give me grace in finding what I needed to complete the project.

I began by looking at some floor cabinets that are typically used in kitchens. I figured I could put one on either side of my chair and construct a top to use as a desk area. I looked at Lowe’s and Home Depot, but the quality of their cabinets was very poor. It was all made out of press-board and held together with staples and plastic bracing. It was definitely not up to the challenge of motorhome use.

I then looked on Craigslist for used desks and found one for sale in a nearby town that looked like it would perfectly fit the bill. The desk was very solidly built and was 6 feet wide, the precise size of the room occupied by my dinette. It was a very heavy desk, so I rented a small, open sided U-Haul trailer for $25 and enlisted Nicholas to help me pick up the desk this past Saturday. Nicholas is doing very well, by the way. His parole will be ending on May 23rd, which is a landmark event for him. Nicholas was charged with an offense at the age of 16 and he is now 23 years old. He has been out of prison for about a year and a half, but has had numerous restrictions which are part of his parole requirements. He is on a curfew and has to pay for a special phone service where he is called at random times when he is supposed to be home. He also has to take a lie detector test every few months and attend classes every Saturday. All of these things are expenses he has to pay for himself, so it will be a relief to him to no longer have these parole requirements.

Nicholas has been doing well since he spent six months living with me in my bus. I suppose I needed the dinette then. He moved out on his own in May of last year and is renting a manufactured home and working at a local hardware and sporting goods store owned by some Christian men from the church he attends. Before getting on with them, Nicholas worked at a Mennonite storage building manufacturer as a contract laborer. He got in a bit of a bind since he was required to file his own taxes quarterly, being essentially self-employed, and he experienced some money management issues. I have no stones to throw there, as I was quite bad at managing money when I was young, and Nicholas has had the added difficulty of being in prison since he was 16 which kept him from having the experiences of many young people as they learn to manage money while still at home. So, other than having a tax liability with the filing deadline approaching on April 15th, Nicholas is doing well. It is all part of growth and learning.

Returning to my home improvement tale, I spent some time thinking about how to best use the space I had for an office. I decided that a U-shaped desk would provide me with the most space, and since I have a lot of different items I use when working on prisoner newsletters, I could use workspace on my right and left for a stapler, paper folding apparatus, and sealing labels. I also thought it would be nice to have a pull out keyboard drawer in the center, for although I use a laptop computer and the keyboard is not detachable, I could use the drawer for eating without the need to clear off my desk. I could simply pull out the drawer when I want to eat and set my plate on it. The desk I purchased already had a pull out center drawer, so this need was met.

In order to transform the desk from a 6 foot by 3 foot rectangle into a U-shaped work space that was at its deepest 41" from front to back and 26" in the center from front to back, I cut the desk into three pieces. I basically cut the drawer sections off of each end and then pulled them forward so that the center section was set back, placing me in the center of the workspace.

Here is the desk, chopped into three pieces and reassembled. I used some metal brackets and screws to join everything back together. I then used a thin piece of paneling to create a unified surface and to even up the desk at the back.

This is the desk with the piece of paneling laid on it before I cut out the center part where the chair goes. Once I cut the panel to the proper shape I used contact cement to glue the paneling to the desktop. I then used some linoleum flooring tile to create a decorative and durable soft work surface.

Here is the desk with the top finished.

Another view of the desk. You may note that the sides of the desk need finishing. They are quite scuffed up from years of usage and show bare wood where I made the cuts. I also raised the desk 4-1/2 inches to give me room for my elliptical exercise machine. I then spray painted the sides with a flat black paint this morning, and it is now done and I can get back to work.

That is the finished product, and underneath I have my elliptical trainer.

So, on those days when I cannot get out and ride my recumbent trike, I can peddle away at the computer.

On a related subject, I discovered last weekend that my printer is quite sensitive to paper that has been exposed to humidity. Many people do not realize that one of the leading causes of paper jams in a printer is moisture that has been absorbed by the paper. I have not yet had this hi-capacity Xerox printer during a Georgia spring time and summer, so I have not had to deal with high humidity on a regular basis. This past week-end was exceptionally humid, with the humidity levels reaching 100% for a number of hours each day. You cannot get any higher humidity than that.

This is a screen shot from the Weather Channel website from last weekend. Note particularly the numbers in the Humidity column. When I ran the prison newsletters the printer began experiencing paper jams about every 5-10 sheets. I realized what the problem was and after trying several different reams of paper, I ended up having to discard about 3,000 sheets of paper and go purchase some more. (I donated the paper, along with the old dinette and some other items to a local charity.) This enabled me to complete the newsletter run. I realized I needed some solution to keep my paper from absorbing excess moisture and I found a dry box for sale on Amazon that will hold 4-5 reams of paper. It fits perfectly under one side of my desk. These dry boxes are typically used for other purposes, such as storing firearms, or ammunition, or electronics, or cigars, but it will do the same job of keeping out moisture and I will add a packet of dessicant to the box for added dryness. (Dessicant is a moisture absorber.)

I appreciate the patience of those who have written to me. I spent a few days without having a desk to work at, but that is the cost of improvement. I am very happy with the new set-up, being confident that it will serve much better for my weekly ministry activities. I want to thank those whose financial giving have enabled me to continue this work and to meet unusual expenses as they arise. Say a prayer for Girlfriend and I will post pictures of the puppies when they arrive.

May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days,

Joseph Herrin

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Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063

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