Two Little Birds

Earlier this week at church, we had a “paint and sip” fundraiser for an upcoming missions trip. It was my first time participating in a paint and sip (the sipping was sparkling cider and hot cocoa). The attraction to the event was that it was a fundraiser and the painting was two birds in a tree.

As I have been gradually settling into the house, it has been fun for each room to have a theme. In the apartment, the only room that really had a theme was the kitchen. The theme was fruit. In the house, the fruit theme does not seem to really go anymore. The kitchen theme is now birds.

The bird theme simply fits. The cats and I both love all of the windows in the kitchen because they are optimal for bird viewing. Since I live with two indoor only cats, bird watching is their primary form of “outdoor” entertainment.

The kitchen windows are original to the house and an unusual size for modern day window treatments. I purchased fabric and have hand sewn curtains not only for the kitchen but also for most of the downstairs of the house. The kitchen curtains are red cardinals on a blue background.

The kitchen walls are blue and I have exposed red brick in half of my kitchen. Red and blue come naturally to the room.

Our new Fiesta dishware are solid colors that will go with any theme. So the key decor elements to the new kitchen theme of “birds” are the curtains, the wall calendar, and the tea bag holder. I am also looking for bird place mats. I may make them myself – we will see.

With the paint and sip at the church this week, I have added my painting to the kitchen to complement the bird theme. In addition to being my first paint and sip, the painting was significant to me for another reason.

The example painting showed two black birds sitting in a tree looking up at a red heart. I was the only one in a room of about 20 who painted my birds something other than black. For me, it was very important to specifically paint a blue bird on the left and a red bird on the right. I made my heart pink so that I would not have both a red bird and a red heart.

Why was I so specific on this painting?

For me, the painting signifies a way to include Kip and Kitty (both deceased) in the new house. Yes, I brought their urns to the house when we moved. However, I hold some guilt over the fact that when they were both alive, life was very difficult for us.

Kip and Kitty had both experienced homelessness with me. I’m pretty sure that months on end of living in the car may have been a contributing factor to Kitty’s anxiety disorder. When I bought the house, it was a huge relief to have permanent housing – something I have struggled to obtain my entire life. I first remember being homeless at age 4, and it occurred on and off for many years after.

Kip and Kitty did not live long enough to see the house. They never experienced “permanent” housing, although the 14 years I spent in the apartment was the most stable housing experience in my life up until the last 6 months I was in the apartment.

So, the blue bird on the left in the painting is for Kip. The red bird on the right in the painting is for Kitty. Blue was Kip’s color, and it seemed to fit his personality. Kip was very happy-go-lucky, and blue makes me think of a blue bird of happiness. Kip was also left hand dominant. I did a red bird for Kitty, because red was always his color. His favorite blanket was red and Kitty was primarily right handed.

I’m also drawn to the old legend surrounding red cardinals. There is a saying that a red cardinal is like a loved one in Heaven saying Hello. In the few months we have been in the house, we have seen both blue birds and red cardinals outside.

It’s probably really corny, but for me, this painting of two little birds helps me feel like Kip and Kitty are included in the house even though neither of them lived long enough to see it. Kitty had been with me almost 19 years before he succumbed to cancer. Kitty was with me longer than any human being in my life. Kitty was with me through every major struggle.

Jude and Simon are here now and are benefiting from the stability that has finally been achieved in my life. I’ve never seen Jude as happy as he is being in this house. His attitude since being in the house is like night and day from being in the apartment.

The three of us are very happy in the house. The painting of the two little birds in the kitchen makes me fee like Kip and Kitty are in Heaven looking down on us. I’m sorry they aren’t here to see the house, but I know that Heaven is a much better place to be. And who knows? Maybe in Heaven, Kip and Kitty are in a house just like this one waiting for me, Jude and Simon to join them.

 

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Three Years After Facebook

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One of my friends whom I have known for almost twenty years lost her house in a fire a few weeks ago. This is someone with whom I also worked at two different places of employment. At one job, she was my supervisor, at another job, I was her’s. Even though we no longer work together, we have remained friends through the years and many different life events.

My friend was fortunate in that she, her husband, and all three of their dogs were able to escape the fire safely. The house, however, is a complete loss taking multiple fire departments over 12 hours to battle the blaze. The fire made both local and regional news channels at stations 60 miles away.

I spent some time over the weekend talking with my friend trying to figure out how to best help her. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose absolutely everything. Many people think that minimalism is some cold-hearted philosophy that centers around getting rid of everything and having empty rooms.

While I do have empty rooms, minimalism is not about getting rid of everything. Minimalism is about surrounding yourself with what you truly love and focusing on who matters in life. I simply cannot imagine losing everything like that. What I have in my house is only what I love and what brings me happiness.

During this conversation with my friend, one of the comments she made stuck with me.

She said that she was glad I had reached out to her because she had been thinking about how my Christmas card and letters were next to her chair.

Since deleting my Facebook account three years ago come the first week of February, I have been focusing more on being present in my relationships. I want the people in my life to know that they matter to me by receiving my complete attention when I am with them. I don’t want to miss out on the important moments in life because I am too busy scrolling through a social media feed or trying to get the right photo to post online.

This blog is my only form of social media. I have no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no LinkedIn, nothing.

Three years after deleting my Facebook account, I still have no regrets. I could not be happier with my choice.

Back to my friend … this person is one that I try to send a card to either monthly or every few months. There are a few people in my life that I write to on a regular basis to keep in touch since I am no longer on Facebook.

I do not often get a response from the people I write. That’s fine. Life is busy between work, kids, and life. I totally get that.

What really touched me about my friend’s comment was the knowledge that she actually reads my cards I send every so often. Not only that, but she seems to look forward to them.

She lost absolutely everything in her home and one of her (I’m sure many) thoughts was, “oh, your letters were right next to my chair.” I’m sure her thought stemmed more from remembering her house and the familiarity of it than from my actual letters.

I told her I would send her another card. I did. I tried to keep it light with little to no house stuff. I’m pretty sure one of my last cards was full of first-time homeowner news (like my lawn mower adventures last fall) and I’m sure that’s the last thing she wants to hear about right now.

Now, if I had been on Facebook, I would have known about the fire a lot sooner than I did. Apparently, she posted it to Facebook about an hour into the blaze.

I truly don’t understand how people can have the emotional strength to not only live their life, but actively report on their own personal tragedy while it is happening. It’s not a judgement, it’s just an observation of something that I no longer understand.

When I had a Facebook, I remember doing the same thing. Every inane thought and one-liner to major life events was documented online. For me, social media made everything become more dramatic that it needed to be. It’s like jumping up and down in the middle of the street screaming “look at me!”

I, personally, am so happy to have the drama removed from my life. I have enough drama at work. I don’t need drama in the virtual realm as well.

Three years post-Facebook, and I don’t miss it at all. I still get the weird looks and comments of “you should be on Facebook.” I don’t think so. Sure, I may miss out on things by not being online. It takes me a bit longer to learn things when my news sources are the paper (yes, paper) newspaper and the radio. However, I still keep in touch with the important people in my life and know what is going on with them.

I treasure my relationships more because I actually put forth effort into maintaining them. It’s one thing to mindlessly scroll through your phone pushing the “like” button or typing “I’m so sorry” giving virtual support and quite another thing to actually pick up the phone and ask someone “How are you? How can I help?” and then physically, emotionally and spiritually help them.

Community is what happens in real life. Who is going to be there for you when there is no wifi?

Recently, I have heard that some people are choosing to delete Facebook due to the privacy drama going on. Drama is still drama. It has been there since the beginning of Facebook. It’s just a question of what kind of drama you are willing to put up with and how much of it. Apparently, people have a lower tolerance for privacy drama than for emotional drama.

I’ve spoken with some people who rely on social media for information, and no matter what happens will not delete their accounts. That’s fine. To each their own.

There is a certain fear of missing out (FOMO). For some people, FOMO is real. They will not get rid of social media due to FOMO. For me, I can say that when I was on Facebook, there was no FOMO. I did miss out. Big time. I missed out on important things in my life and I missed out on people who were right in front of me due to my preoccupation with social media.

Three years post-Facebook, I don’t feel as though I am missing out on anything. I am present for the important people in my life. For those of you who stay on social media due to FOMO, think about what you may be missing in real life by using social media.

Social media does have it’s merits. As someone who lives in a rural area, I can see how social media would be helpful for people who feel isolated. Just keep in mind are you using social media to connect, or are you isolating the people around you in real life by using social media?

Social media use is a personal decision for everyone. I’m just here to tell you that if you are thinking about deleting social media, you are not alone. I have done it and am much happier for it.

Every so often, you will hear about a social media experiment where someone agrees to go off social media for a year or so, sometimes to get some money. There are articles on the internet about going a year without Facebook. In fact, I did a blog post about it. Part of the reason why I did a follow-up post in year two and now in year three is to show that leaving social media is sustainable.

It is not only sustainable, but my stress levels have decreased and my happiness has increased since leaving social media.

While it may have taken me a little bit longer to find out about my friend’s situation without social media, once I found out, that does not change my reaction to what happened. Without social media occupying my time, I actually have time to respond to my friend in a caring way beyond just a comment on a post. I have time to be there for someone in real life who needs a friend. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?

Three years after Facebook. I have no regrets.

 

Empty Rooms

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Part of what makes vacation so appealing is that it is not only a break from everyday life but also offers a clean slate. Sure, you get a break from cleaning the house, paying the bills, doing your job. There is also the little thrill of staying in a hotel room with no worries.

Hotel rooms provide a bed for sleeping, a bathroom for the essentials, and usually a TV or some type of entertainment when you are trying to wind down for sleep. You don’t have to worry about cleaning them. All you have to deal with is your luggage – which is probably just enough for the time you are there.

 

One of the items I decluttered this week on Minimalism Monday was luggage. I have been experimenting since about 2012 with minimal packing and minimal luggage. Over the past almost 7 years, I have flown to Chicago, Boston, Montreal, and Philadelphia for 4+ day trips, ran full marathons, and taken camping trips (some a week long) with one small piece of luggage. Each time I flew, my luggage was considered a “carry on,” so I had no checked luggage. Each time I flew was with one backpack. I typically travel with one backpack or one small duffel bag.

When I say one small duffel bag, I mean the small LL Bean size duffel bag. In decluttering my luggage this weekend, I discovered that I also have several medium and large duffel bags for luggage that are never used. I could pretty much fit my entire wardrobe in the medium duffel bag. I can’t think of any travel destination that would require my ENTIRE wardrobe.

I did not even use my luggage when I moved. I left all the clothes in the drawers, and removed all the drawers from the dresser. For closet items, I put a garbage bag over all of them and just picked up the bunch and went.

Luggage was an item I got rid of this week. Since I only use either a backpack or the small duffel bag for traveling, that is what I kept.

Back to the hotel room scenario …

Hotel rooms offer clean slates. You just deal with your luggage each day and everything else is about experiences. In a hotel, you shower, dress, and go out to enjoy the day. This is not like home, where you go through multiple outfits in the morning, throwing clothes all over the room, and struggling to get out the door. On vacation, you wear what you packed because that is all that is with you.

By the way, if you have mornings at home like I described where you go through outfits in the morning trying to decide what to wear because you “have nothing to wear,” then I highly recommend a minimalist wardrobe. I would start with Project 333. It’s an amazing feeling to wear what you love every single day.

When I moved into the house, it was like I was offered a clean slate, similar to a hotel room. Here is this empty space – what are you going to put there?

Even though I have more space in the house, I am still getting rid of things. As I have said repeatedly, I do not want to be chained to this house – I want to be able to go out and enjoy life, whatever that may look like.

So, the goal in the house is empty rooms. Yes, I realize that sounds insane. However, I went from a 5 room apartment to a 9 room house complete with basement, attic and garage. That’s twice as much space to maintain and clean.

This month for Minimalist Monday, I decided to start decluttering one closet. It ended up turning into going through and rearranging the entire upstairs, which lasted almost all day. However, at the end of it, I have 6 boxes for donation, one completely empty room, and another room that will be empty once everything goes to donation.

This is progress. Empty rooms are easy to clean and not time consuming. Wash the windows, floor, and molding. Done.

I only keep things in my home that are either useful or beautiful. Yes, I do the whole “spark joy” thing. I know many people roll their eyes over the whole “does this spark joy method.” However, with the house, I feel that some of the questions I’m asking as I declutter are slightly different.

Instead of asking “does this spark joy,” I am now more commonly asking myself “do I really want to clean and maintain that?”

Do I use this?

Do I love this?

Does it bring me joy?

Do I want to clean this?

Belongings are supposed to make you happy. I look at a Monet print in my living room. It makes me smile and I’m happy. I’m totally fine with cleaning the glass every week to see this beautiful painting.

However, if you are constantly grumbling that your Saturdays are being taken up by cleaning when you would much rather go to a movie/go ice skating/play a game with your child, then you need to also look at your belongings and ask “Do I want to clean this?”

I actually did get rid of about four wall hangings when I moved into the house for this very reason. That is four more frames I have to clean. Yes, I liked the prints. However, the amount of joy they brought me was not enough to override the amount of annoyance that cleaning it brought me. I kept and hung the pictures that I really love.

I get to see and use “special occasion items” every single day. What “special occasion” are you keeping that china/those keepsakes for? Isn’t every day life enough of a celebration? Use the fancy plates while you are here to enjoy them. Use them while your kids are home before they go off to college and leave. You’ll have great memories of family dinners with the fancy plates while the kids were home.

So yes, the goal this year at the end of Minimalist Mondays is to have two empty rooms and one empty closet. I currently have one empty room, so that is progress. I know that some people get weirded out by empty rooms. However, I am one person in a big beautiful house who wants to spend my time enjoying my beautiful house and not cleaning it. I want to sit in my yard in the summer and have a bonfire and roast marshmallows. I don’t want to be stuck inside maintaining this house. If there is not stuff every where, I can enjoy life. Empty rooms make sense for me.

Deep down, empty rooms make sense for a lot of people. Isn’t that why we love hotel rooms? They contain the essentials we need for a few days and the only thing we have to be responsible for is the luggage that came with us. Why can’t home feel like vacation too?

 

 

Welcome, Storm Harper!

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Frequently cursing snow, storms, ice, and winter, the fact that I am excited about a snowstorm is momentous. So momentous, we should talk about why this storm is exciting.

This is my first significant snow storm my first year in my house as a new homeowner. We’ve been getting snow since October, and I have been loathing it for the past four months. Driving since my stroke is a challenge, and driving in winter since my stroke is a near impossibility I somehow manage to overcome. Not to mention, snow cramps my training schedule. I can’t run in snow.

When we first got snow in October, I felt a twinge of happiness. With snow, I don’t have to deal with the grass. Mowing lawn is a problem for me. I injured myself severely for weeks and almost required physical therapy to overcome the injury. This is why I now pay for lawn service and was happy when it snowed. Snow means no grass to have to maintain.

I had 11 days off for Christmas vacation and was hoping we would get a storm then so I didn’t have to drive. We didn’t get one.

The best part about winter storm Harper is that it came on a weekend. Monday is a holiday, so I have three home days. As long as this thing wraps itself up tomorrow so we can dig out, I should be good.

There was 2-3 feet forecast for my area. I’m not sure how much snow we actually got, but there is well over a foot.

Luckily, we got the light and fluffy snow. I shoveled a few inches yesterday afternoon and again last night before bed. They had forecast 1-2 inches of snow per hour in the overnight.

I’m thankful that with all the snow we got, I have power, heat, water and food. I don’t have to go anywhere until Tuesday.

One significant change now that I am in the house is that the road is plowed. When I was in the apartment, our road was never plowed. When we got 4 feet of snow in 2017, the county decided to plow the road on day 3 of that storm and ended up getting the county plow truck stuck at the end of the road (and the road still did not get plowed). The snow plow was stuck at the end of the road an entire day before they could get it out.

My house is in a Village, and the Village plowed the road. Yay (and thank you)!

A second significant change now that I am in the house is that there are not snowmobiles directly outside my bedroom window at 3 am. When I was in the apartment, it was near a snowmobile trail. The snowmobiles would decide to deviate from the trail and ride through my backyard. I was often woken up in the middle of the night by the roar of the machines and their headlights shining directly on my bed. Thankfully, again, the house is in a Village. There are no snowmobiles directly outside my bedroom window in the wee hours of the morning anymore.

This storm is so significant that when I went outside today, I had to wear my snow pants. I have not had to wear my snow pants since that big storm back in March 2017.

I made a snow angel. In my own backyard.

Sure, I’ve made now angels before. This was my very first snow angel in my OWN BACKYARD. I just think it’s really cool.

I mean, it’s not like I have to go to a park or something to make snow angels, only to have them destroyed by people running and sledding around. I made a snow angel in my own backyard.

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We are really fortunate that we got the light and fluffy snow.

I shoveled it. One of my neighbors has been using his snowblower to help me this winter when we get a good amount. We have had many times this winter when we get 8-9 inches at a time, like that first snowfall in October. I’m pretty sure this is our first storm that is well over a foot.

However, my neighbor’s snowblower is not working right now, so I was shoveling. I would have shoveled anyway. While I am grateful for the help, I try not to rely on it completely. I shoveled the front walk and the sidewalk. Unfortunately, if the utilities need to read my meters, they’re going to be screwed, but whatever. We have a lot of snow, and I’m one person who weighs about 100 pounds soaking wet. I’m just happy the sidewalk and driveway are done.

We got so much snow I didn’t quite know where to put it all. So, I got out the trusty wheelbarrow that I used for the leaves in the fall. I am so blessed that the people who sold the house left me some tools in the garage and basement. The wheelbarrow is one of the items they left me. Today I used it to take snow from the end of the driveway (where the road snowplows tend to “block in” driveways). I got sick of putting snow on the shovel and then having to walk it to the pile at the side of the house, so I was happy I thought of the wheelbarrow.

I am able to shovel snow with much more ease that I can use a lawnmower. I may despise snow, but snow is easier for me to maintain than grass. I prefer grass and sunshine. I just can’t maintain a lawn. Oh, the joys of homeownership.

I have been thinking about getting a snowblower. However, given my physical inability to handle a lawn mower for the grass, I am thinking I would have the same challenge with a 40 pound snowblower. I’ve been spraying the snow shovels with cooking spray. Luckily, this snow is light and fluffy, otherwise I would be screwed.

I’m actually looking to purchase a snow sleigh in lieu of a snowblower. I have heard that snow sleighs are the next best thing to a snowblower and are easier for those with physical challenges and those who are older to handle. We will see about that. I am going to have to order a snow sleigh because everyone here is out of stock. Hopefully, I will have a snow sleigh for the next storm to try out.

Clarence (the outside homeless cat) is nowhere to be found. I do not see any little paw prints or anything that looks like a cat trying to get through snow. Hopefully, where ever he is, he is warm and safe. It is supposed to be 30 degrees below zero tonight and tomorrow. If Clarence does make it here, there is the cat shelter in my garage for him, and I replace the food and water twice a day. I’ve also been taking a microwaveable rice bag, heating it, and putting it in the cat shelter to try to provide a little heat.

Feral cats have their hiding places, and this one has survived this long before I lived here for the winter. Hopefully he is someplace where he can weather this storm and make it another year.

The last reason why this snowstorm is significant is that church was cancelled today. Yes, church was cancelled. Whoever heard of that? I have heard of school closings and business closings for snow, but not church. Every single business I have worked for over the past 25 years, with the exception of my current employment, has followed the schools for snow closures. However, there is no school on the weekends.

There is so much snow, there was no church today.

I think that is the other reason why I was so happy to make snow angels today. Making a snow angel for the first time in my own backyard was kind of a way to make a happy sign to God to say thank you for this house.

Along with all the snow, we have to get through the below zero temperatures tonight and tomorrow, hopefully, we can continue to weather this storm safely. I feel very privileges and really blessed that I am handling it as well as I am. Well, given that it is a weekend and I don’t have to call into work helps also.

Hope that everyone out there is warm and safe with water and food in this storm. Be well!

Welcome, Storm Harper!

 

 

The Magic of Three

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Simon enjoying his new beanie animal

Many times, I have written about the magic number three in my decluttering/minimalism goals. Three items on a surface, three things hanging on a wall … This week the magic of three does it again.

Minimalist Mondays this year are a way for me to try to organize and declutter my house. I want to be sure what I have is only what I love and what I need. Just because I have double the space now, does not mean I need double the stuff.

This week was kind of a wash. I have not been feeling well for most of it. Thursday I was pretty much a vegetable. For minimalist Monday this month, I have four Mondays to address the area in question for January. That area is one of two walk-in closets. Since there is a holiday coming up on January 21, I am hoping to catch up then since I have been under the weather this week.

Where the magic of three fits into all of this is in cleaning. My goal in decluttering is so that I can actually enjoy my life my being able to do things and not be chained to this house having to clean it all the time.

This week I discovered that by putting three CDs into the CD player, I can clean the whole house. #Score

Three CDs of cleaning. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

While the first CD was playing, I worked on cleaning downstairs. By the time the CD was done, I had everything clean downstairs except for mopping the kitchen floor. As the second CD began, I mopped the kitchen floor.

I can’t clean the entire house in one go. It’s just too much for me. Especially since I have not been feeling well this week, I was way too tired to clean the entire house in one swoop.

Once the kitchen floor was mopped and the second CD was spinning merrily along, I took a break. Not only did I take a break, but I cranked the volume and danced around in my socks (and Victoria’s Secret yoga pants, of course #weekend) a la Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

I’m sure if any of the neighbors bothered to look in any of my windows they were probably laughing hysterically. I mean, I washed all the windows, so they definitely had a clear view.

One of the things I absolutely love love love about the house is that all of my CDs are unpacked and out. They are displayed, organized, and ready to use. Not only that, but I can play them as loud as I want. In the apartment, the maximum stereo volume was 10. In my house, the minimum stereo volume is typically 16.

So for the second CD of this exercise, I took a break from cleaning. If you decide to try this at home, be sure to pick some kick ass tunes for all three discs.

Then, when the third CD came on and I was sufficiently rested, I cleaned upstairs. Just like with the first CD, by the time the third CD ended, I had the entire upstairs clean with the exception of washing the bathroom floor. So then I washed the bathroom floor and the whole house was clean.

It basically took three CDs to clean the house. It was a lot more fun with music.

Now, with both upstairs and downstairs, when the CD ended, I had everything done except mopping. I hate mopping, so I always leave it for last. My personal goal is to get the house minimized enough so that by the time a CD ends, the entire area of the house is clean.

We’ll see how that goes. It may be wishful thinking. Three CDs worth of time to clean an entire 1600 square foot house is pretty good, I’m thinking.

When I am feeling better to get to minimalism Mondays this month, the area for January is one of two walk-in closets. Some of this is organization. For example, the walk-in closet in question has all my camping stuff. However, I have found camping equipment in two other locations in the house. It’s a consequence of moving. Part of minimalist Mondays is going to be recreating my “zones” in the house. Once I get all of the camping equipment together, then I can evaluate it.

For the record, while many people’s walk-in closets are jam packed with clothing, mine are not. I have been doing pretty well with my minimalist wardrobe. My walk-in closets are mainly storage for seasonal and sentimental items. I’ll be going through things like camping, running gear, luggage, Christmas, fans, and the “sentimental” box when I finally hit the closet this month.

I would love to get everything down to one walk-in closet instead of two, but I don’t see that happening. I have too many summer hobbies that require equipment. Yes, I actually do USE all of that equipment.

Maybe when I’m engaging in minimalist Mondays, I will have to invoke the magic of three. If I can use three CDs to clean the entire house, I should be able to use three CDs to declutter and organize and entire closet, right?

I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I’ll just be sitting here in my shades grooving to some cool tunes in my clean house.

 

This is the New Year

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Simon at Christmas 2018

Welcome, 2019! Every year, for the past three years, I have wished for a quiet year. And every year for the past three years, I have had challenging times with multiple tragedies that were anything but quiet. So I’m not going to wish for anything this year. I know better.

My favorite New Year’s tune is done by Death Cab 4 Cutie. I’m just going to follow their lead on this new year (listen to the lyrics, people).

What I am looking forward to the most this year is that my 40th birthday will be coming up in March. We all know that birthdays are my favorite holiday. Every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Plus, anytime I turn an age with a zero at the end means I get to move up an age group in running. But my birthday is still a few months away …

Something new I will be starting this week is minimalism Mondays. My house is quite larger than my apartment, so I am going to take my time in going through each room, closet and drawer to be sure all I have is what I really need.

Not to mention, there were some items that the sellers left with the house for me. Some of those items have been quite useful – I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the wheelbarrow, the front window curtains and the entryway doormat. Then, there are some items that are so old that they are no longer useful and belong in a museum. Other items are so rusted that I am afraid to use them because tetanus is one of only two vaccines that I cannot have with multiple food and drug allergies.

So, next week I will be starting minimalism Mondays and going through one area of the house per month. My goal at the end of this exercise is to have a house that is easier to clean. If the house is easier to clean, then I have more time to spend doing the things I really want to do. I do not want to be chained to this house.

The other advantage to creating a minimalist interior, is that I can then focus my attention on the outside of the house. The exterior of the home has been the most challenging part of home ownership for me to handle. I am fine with cleaning a house, but dealing with lawn care, grass mowing, and snow is too hard on a body.

In addition to minimalism Mondays, I’m hoping to get back on some sort of schedule in 2019 so that I can do the things I really want to do. I’m going to run a half marathon this year. It will be my second race post-stroke. I need to go camping. 2018 was the first time in over 20 years that I did not get a vacation and get to go camping.

So, yes, I guess you could say that I am hoping 2019 will be a quiet year. But, shhhhh – I don’t really want to say that. I don’t think I can handle tragedy four years in a row right now. The goal for 2019 will be to slow down so that I can actually enjoy life instead of just trying to survive.

I’m hoping to make some changes in life on the professional front too that will extradite me from the bullying situation I am experiencing. Getting out of that mess is going to take some time. There is a lot more involved when you have to handle something like that on your own because the powers that be refuse to address it. So I do anticipate change in 2019. I highly doubt I will get the quiet year I’ve been wanting for awhile.

Most of all, I am entering 2019 grateful. I am so thankful that will all the tragedies I have experienced in the past few years that I am surrounded by some pretty amazing people that have been helping me. I would not be able to get by without a lot of help from many people.

A key aspect of slowing down my life and minimizing what is inside of my house around me is to give me more time to show the people in my life that I am grateful. I don’t want to be spending my time maintaining a home that is twice the size of my apartment. I want to maintain my home and spend my time with the people that matter. I want to be able to give back to them as much as they have given me. I would not have made it this far without all the amazing people in my life.

So minimalism Mondays will be starting next week, as I start going through the first room on the list for the month of January. I’ll let you know my progress. I’m focusing on the large indoor areas this winter. As soon as spring/summer arrive, I have a whole list of outside things that need to be done. There is no rest for the wicked. But, that’s another song.

Happy New Year 2019.

 

Home is Where the Cats Are

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Jude in the new house Christmas 2018

Many people get upset and emotional when they move from a place where they lived for a long time. It’s understandable. There was a lot of living done and may memories created when we stay in one place for a long time.

You would think that I would have had an emotional reaction when I moved out of the apartment I had lived in for 14 years. It was the longest I had ever lived in one place and the only place I lived that ever truly felt like home.

The second day I was in the house, I had a single moment of meltdown. I remember sitting on the bed in the new house, tired, dirty, drained, and stressed, crying because I wanted to go home and didn’t know where that was. Ten minutes later the moment passed, and I continued with unpacking boxes and getting settled into the house. That was the only “moment” I’ve had.

When some people move to a new location after living someplace for a long time, they will have a moment of confusion when driving and accidentally drive towards the “old house” before realizing that they have to take a new way home now. I’ve heard of this happening, but have never experienced it myself. From day one of when I moved, it was pretty clear to me where I was supposed to be.

I always return to where ever my cats are. I knew exactly where my cats were, so that’s where I go, no question. Home is where the cats are.

Within two hours of closing on my house, I moved the cats. The cats moved first before anything else.

I know that when moving with pets, this is counter intuitive. You are not supposed to move the pets first. You are supposed to move them last so that they do not get lost. In my case, I had to move them first before I even gave notice to the landlord that I was leaving. I had to be sure that the cats were safe and stably housed, since they were part of the “problem” for a landlord who was going pet-free.

Once the cats were in the house, this is just where I return. Every day. Every time I go out.

I think this is part of why I am NOT emotional over the whole move. Other than my one “moment,” which I think was mostly exhaustion and frustration from the move (who wouldn’t be exhausted and frustrated when moving?), I haven’t had any other break downs over the move.

I moved and did not look back. Yes, the situation was unfortunate. I am mostly mad at the circumstances of the move – that it was a forced move and not something of my own volition. However, the goal in that hellish situation was always to keep my family together. By purchasing a home, I have been able to keep the three of us together. That’s all that really matters.

People ask me if I like the house. I like it well enough. It is taking some time to get used to. It does not feel like “home” yet. That will come in time. I hate the stairs – I never wanted a two story house. I love my kitchen. It’s my favorite kitchen I’ve ever had anyplace I have lived or ever seen anywhere.

What is most important, is that the cats are happy here. They each have their favorite window for optimal bird viewing. I am so happy there are birds here for them to watch, as that was one of their favorite activities in the apartment. They seem to be happy. They both cuddle with me.

Jude has been spending a lot of time rolling around and on his back. He did that a little bit in the apartment, especially when I first adopted him. Jude likes to roll. However, I noticed on Christmas that he was so happy over one of his presents that he laid on his back with all his legs in the air. I’ve seen him do that a few times in the new house. He never did that in the apartment. I’m thinking he must like the new house if he is that comfortable here to expose himself like that.

Over the past 4 months we have been in the house, Jude spends less and less time hiding in the kitchen cupboard. In fact, the only time I see him go in there now is when someone comes to visit. Sometimes, he doesn’t even go in the cupboard, he finds other places to hide. The fact that Jude is so comfortable in the house that he no longer hides in the cupboard on a regular basis speaks volumes.

Simon is happy every place. This is the cat that even purrs at the vet office when getting his rabies vaccine. Nothing seems to phase Simon. Except thunderstorms. We discovered this summer that Simon is terrified of thunderstorms.

We are still getting settled into the house. We are getting into new routines and moving things around. We are all together, and that is what is most important.

I literally could have lived anywhere. Given the situation when the new landlord took over the apartment building last spring, I was fully prepared to be homeless again and was trying to figure out how to live in my car or an RV or someplace with both cats. I’m really glad that it did not come to that, but I was literally prepared to live anywhere with them. We are a family and we have to stay together.

So while it doesn’t really matter where we live as long as we are all together, this house is by far the nicest place we have ever lived. It’s home because this is where my cats are located. I come home to them every night.

As long as Jude and Simon like the house, then I’m happy.

Home is where the cats are.

Home for the Holidays

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“We should count all our blessings at Christmas.” – Frank Sinatra

Every year, people around me seem bothered by the fact that I stay home for Christmas. I don’t understand why. I stay home with my family. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about – family?

This year was one of the most challenging years of my life. On top of an ongoing and escalating bullying situation, I had a major threat to the only stable housing I have ever had in my life.

This Christmas, I am thankful that my family is together. If we had not been able to buy this house, we would not have had a place to live. I’m thankful that for the first time in my life and theirs that we truly have permanent housing. Now we just have to keep it (which the bullying situation makes challenging, but I digress).

Recently, someone criticized me that I wouldn’t “let go of” or “move on from” what the new apartment landlord did to me that precipitated the buying of the house. When someone comes in, doubles your rent with 2 weeks notice, threatens to evict you if you don’t give your children up for adoption, calls you every single week for 3 months wanting to know how you’re going to pay rent (and suggesting you ask your boss for a $8,000 raise to cover the rent increase), and tampers with your drinking water, it’s kind of hard to let go of.

I’m sure that eventually I will get to the point of forgiveness over this situation. It was suggested that I over reacted and was “emotional”. Well, I’ve been homeless before, and when you’re housing and family are attacked like that, it’s a little hard to not get upset. I have moved on from from this situation. I have now been thrown into a whole new crisis – that of reluctant homeowner. I never wanted to buy a house, but that was the only solution to keep my family together.

So this Christmas, I am counting my blessings, and this house is the biggest one. Even though I am a reluctant homeowner, this house is what is keeping my family together. I may not like the responsibility, but this is the price I pay so that we can all stay together and not be homeless.

Keeping my family together is priceless and the best Christmas present I’ve ever received.

For the first time ever, I can truly say that we are Home for the Holidays.

In 2019, I will be looking for a way to extradite myself from an ongoing and escalating bullying situation I am experiencing. Hopefully, I will be able to do it in a way that offers me some stability.

One of the scariest parts about being a homeowner, is that now I am stuck here. There is no option to move someplace else for a job or healthcare or some other opportunity. I’m stuck with what is here and dealing with this economically depressed area of Upstate New York.

Being “stuck” is not completely bad. “My house is always parked in the same place.” Each year at Christmas, when I watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, most of the movie makes me laugh. There is one part that always makes me cry.

The part where the little girl is saying how happy she is to stay in their home instead of the motorhome because their “house is always parked in the same place” makes me cry. I remember growing up like that. We spent a good three years (including New York winters) living in a motorhome when I was growing up.

When I moved into the house I bought, it was the first time in my life I have ever lived in a house. I’ve always lived in either a motorhome, a car, a trailer, or an apartment. It’s the best feeling in the world to know that your house is always parked in the same place.

So while there may be problems around me, at least I know where home is now. Hanging onto our home is the challenge I face daily. But as long as my family is all together, it is a challenge I can keep facing until we are able to find stability in all aspects of our life. We will face one crisis at a time. At least we are able to face them together.

This house is my biggest blessing this year, and I am very much looking forward to staying home with my family for Christmas this year. We are finally Home for the Holidays.

15 years and 6 hours

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Christmas lights at the library

Even though I try really hard to be a minimalist and only have what I absolutely need, it still took me 6 hours to move into my house. It was overwhelming. Granted, I had lived in the same location for 14 years, so it basically took me one day to move 14 years worth of stuff. I suppose that’s good. It was still overwhelming.

I had the thought that the next time I move, it better not take 6 hours. It better be closer to 2-3 hours. However, I won’t be moving again. I bought a house. I’ll be dying here.

I suppose that is why so many homeowners have so much stuff. It’s that feeling of comfort that this place is your’s, so why not store something? There is no need to get rid of things if you have a place to put it. Then, we wonder why we are surrounded by so much stuff.

The point is, even if you do own your own home, when you die, you can’t take it with you. Some relative is going to be left with the chore of going through all the stuff stored in your house that you didn’t want to deal with when you were alive. Newsflash: your relatives won’t want to deal with it when you’re dead either.

So even in my house, I’m still striving to be a minimalist so that I am not leaving a heap of crap when I die. I also do not want to be wasting my time cleaning or keeping house.

Someone tried to give me a lamp a few months ago. I took one look at it and thought “no way in hell do I want to have to clean that.” My mouth said “no thank you.” In reality, do I need a lamp? Nope. I have enough interior lighting.

Having less stuff means less to clean when you’re alive and less to get rid of when you die. I like both of those ideas.

Christmas vacation will be coming up, and I will be continuing my decluttering process. Now that I am in permanent housing – my own home – what do I really need? Not to mention that I have more built-in storage space. I can probably get rid of an entire bookcase simply by putting the items into some of the house’s existing space. It’s my space to be used. It’s not like I need the bookcase for some future dwelling when this is the last stop.

One of the positives about being a minimalist is that it is not all about what you are removing from life. It is about removing things from life to focus on other things. In fact, you can even upgrade things.

Here’s an example. About 5 years ago, I bought a set of dishes from the second hand store. I’m pretty sure I paid about $5 for a set of 4 bowls and 4 plates. I’m one person. That’s all I need. I love the dishware, but many of the bowls now have chips in them. I can’t really complain about $5 dishware. I’m sure that prior to my use, they probably served someone else quite well for a decade with no chips. But, now my bowls are chipped. I noticed it when I cut a finger on one.

One of the benefits of minimalism is that since I am not up to my eyeballs in debt (I don’t do hardly any shopping), I can spend money on quality dishware. Five years ago I spent $5 on dishware because I only had $5. All my money was going to this credit card bill or that bill or whatever.

Now, I have no debt as a minimalist, so I can go wild and pay $5 a plate if I want. And then some.

I decided to try Fiestaware. I bought one plate and one bowl. If I like them, then I will order more so I have a set of 4 bowls and 4 plates. However, Fiesta is expensive, so I am ordering pieces gradually. I view this purchase as an investment in my future. I have permanent housing. I need permanent dishware that’s not cracked and cutting me. I figure I should be able to get a good 15 years at least out of the Fiestaware. I’ve heard some people have pieces from 30-50 years ago.

I never in my life thought I would be paying $15 for a lunch plate. But estimating that it will last me 15 years makes it worth it. The fact that minimalism has realigned my priorities means that when I do have to replace something, I can afford higher quality items that will last longer.

I’m expecting to live in this house until I die. Hopefully the Fiestaware will be the last set of dishes I buy too.

My single Fiesta bowl and single Fiesta plate just arrived today. We will see how I like them before I order more. Of course, if everything works out, I’ll be ordering more bowls before I order more plates since it is my current bowls with chips that are causing troubles.

When deciding on dishware, I decided to avoid the second hand store this time. I love the second hand store, but I do not want to buy another set of dishes that will only last me 5 years. I want dishware that will last me 15 years.

I had narrowed down my choices to either Corelle or Fiestaware. I currently have a few Corelle bowls. In the house, there are water dishes for the cats both upstairs and downstairs. I had to buy more bowls to put water dishes upstairs and it just so happens that they are Corelle. I like Corelle. However, the idea of being able to mix and match colors with Fiestaware was very appealing.

We will see whether I ultimately decide to go with Corelle or Fiesta once I have had the opportunity to use the Fiesta. Corelle is more affordable, but Fiesta feels more substantial and oh, those colors.

Given that I am buying new dishes, you would think I’m not really concerned about the whole having to move in 6 hours thing. This is partially true. I like to think that when I die, whoever goes through my house would be happy with 4 Fiesta bowls and 4 Fiesta plates. Let’s keep it real.

I would like to get rid of things so that it would take less than 6 hours to move, but I still need stuff to use to survive. Plus, I’m not moving again. Hopefully whoever has to clean out my house after I die will be able to do it in less than 6 hours. At least they’ll have some fancy dishware to show for it.

Ferals in the Neighborhood

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Jude and Simon love looking out windows. They are avid bird watchers. One of the things I knew we would miss when moving from the apartment to the house was the sliding glass door that was on the second floor apartment. The cats loved looking out this and watching all the birds in the trees.

Even though there is no sliding glass door in the house, the cats are enjoying all of the windows just the same. We have finally settled into a routine and I have identified Simon’s favorite window and Jude’s favorite window. When I identified Jude’s favorite window, I took the cat tree and put it in front of it. The cat tree was in front of the sliding glass door in the apartment, so now it is in front of Jude’s favorite window in the house. Simon’s favorite window in the house already has an ample perch for him to bird watch. (He sits on a chair.)

Something new that we have all noticed outside since moving to the neighborhood are outdoor cats. The apartment was on a very busy highway and all cats were indoor only. We never saw any outdoor cats at the apartment. There are many outdoor cats in the neighborhood at our new house.

I have pretty much been able to figure out which cat goes to which house. I may not know all the human neighbors, but I know all the neighborhood cats and roughly where they belong.

There is one cat that I jokingly call Jude’s girlfriend. We will call her “Lucy.” When Jude sees Lucy out the window, he gets really still and intent. He watches her closely. If she is walking down the sidewalk and leaves his frame of view, he will race to the next window just to see her. He does not seem agitated or aggressive, just very, very interested. Lucy seems interested in Jude too. The closest she has come to looking at him through the window is our front steps.

There are other cats Jude sees out the window, who must be male. Jude puffs all up and growls. Sometimes he even turns around and growls at Simon because he cannot take out his aggression on the outdoor cat.

There is one cat in particular that upsets Jude and he continuously takes it out on Simon. Simon is black and white. He is pretty much equally black and white. The outside cat in question is also black and white, except this cat is almost all black with just a little white on his chest. I think Jude gets confused because the outside cat looks so much like Simon and then takes out his aggression on his brother. We will have to work on that.

We have already had well over a foot of snow and days below zero. As winter has progressed, I have noticed that I do not see the outdoor cats anymore. They are being kept inside their houses, which is great. They should be inside when it is negative 12 out.

The one exception is this black cat with the little bit of white on him who absolutely pisses Jude off when he sees him outside. Since I have gotten sick of just referring to him as the outside cat, I am calling him “Clarence.”

I am pretty sure Clarence is homeless. Like genuinely homeless.

He is the only cat in the neighborhood I still see outside in bad weather. He is outside all the time. I see his footprints in the snow all over.

As the temperature has plummeted, I am concerned. I see him huddled in places.

My garage door is open year round. There isn’t really anything in the garage except garden rakes, snow shovels and the garbage can. I firmly believe that a garage is for parking my car inside not for storing stuff. I refuse to be one of those Americans who has a garage so full of stuff that you can’t fit the vehicle inside. I have a hard time putting the garage door up and down, so I just leave it up. Apparently the prior homeowner did the same.

The point is, my garage door is up, and I noticed that Clarence would dash inside to hide from the elements. It makes sense. It’s probably one of the easiest shelters for him to find.

I probably shouldn’t have done this – I’m either a sucker or just a soft heart, but I went online and read about feral cat shelters. I strongly dislike the idea of Clarence being outside in such frigid weather. I’ve been homeless myself and I know how much winter sucks without permanent shelter.

I made a feral cat shelter out of a storage tote, some styrofoam, and one of my old space blankets from a marathon. These are the blankets they drape on us after a race to retain heat. They work. The website said to use straw, but I couldn’t find any. It said not to use blankets or towels because they retain moisture, but I did put a fleece blanket inside in lieu of the straw.

I put the cat shelter up on a pallet in the garage to keep it off the cold concrete floor. I have no idea if Clarence actually goes inside for warmth or not, but I feel better knowing it is there as an option for him.

On the days the thermometer has dipped below zero, I took one of my microwaveable rice bags, heated it and put it inside the shelter twice a day.

People have been saying that I will now never get rid of him. Some people say I should just let him in the house. My thought is that I don’t want him in the house. I am okay with him outside. I already have two cats and they are all I can deal with as far as family members. Ideally, I would like to either trap, neuter, release (TNR) or trap and take him to a shelter. We will see.

Part of the reason why I think he is truly homeless is that he is very skittish. He runs away. The only time I see him is through the window. If I am outside or open the door, he runs away. He is either not used to humans period or was/is abused. All of the other neighborhood cats are friendly. They will at least walk past you on the sidewalk and some will even rub up on your legs if you let them. Clarence is not friendly. At all. He is also the only neighborhood cat still outside in all weather and temperatures.

The other thing I noticed was Clarence licking my front steps for water. I felt bad. So, sucker again, I set out a water bowl. I just don’t think any human or animal should have to go without water. That’s not right.

I figured that if I am wrong about Clarence being a boy, that I would just call the girl Clare. Clarence is the name of the angel in the Wonderful Life movie. However, I am pretty certain Clarence really is a boy. His footprints are rather large, plus Jude strongly dislikes him.

The other reason why I am pretty sure Clarence is a boy is that someone sprayed (peed on) one of the snow shovels outside. I am pretty sure it was Clarence. I don’t think he has been fixed. While I am not sure if he is actually using the cat shelter or not, it is pretty clear that he is marking that space as his “territory.”

This whole experience of outdoor cats is new to me. My cats are indoor only because they are beloved family members and I would be too worried if they went outside. Various people tell me not to feed them or whatever because then you won’t get rid of them. But if they are truly homeless, shouldn’t we try to help somehow? Trap, neuter, release (TNR) to reduce the homeless cat population or trap and take to an animal shelter to be adopted. I cannot take strays into my home, but I can at least help support the homeless population. I can’t just leave them outside to dehydrate and freeze.

Right now the only homeless cat in question is Clarence. I have read about feral colonies on the internet. There is not currently a colony here. All the other outside neighborhood cats appear to have houses. Except this one.

Isn’t that what life is all about? Trying to change the life or make a difference in the life of one person? I’m just trying to offer resources to a homeless cat to survive the winter. I am pretty sure that he would survive without my help, but as someone who has experienced homelessness in my own life, I just can’t stand by and watch.

Do you have feral cats in your neighborhood? Any experience with building outside cat shelters? How do you interact with homeless cats?