Happy Veterans Day

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Happy Veteran’s Day. This is the phrase I was attempting to say two years ago today. I’m not sure exactly how it came out, but that was the day I landed in the hospital with stroke symptoms. Today is my 2 year anniversary of the day that changed my life. Nothing has been the same since. I’ve had to slow down whether I like it or not. And, I don’t, by the way. I don’t like it – the slowing down or all the changes.

To celebrate the 2 year anniversary of my stroke, I participated in communion at church today for the first time in my life. Today was the first time that communion has ever been accessible for me since the onslaught of the multiple food allergies in my mid-20s. The most difficult allergen to avoid in this situation, is egg. Have you ever tried to find gluten free bread that is also egg free, dairy free and completely nut free? Let me know, because I don’t think it exists on a widespread commercial basis.

Someone at church went out of their way to find a local bakery in town who was willing to take on, tackle and accommodate all 5 of my food allergies. It was achieved successfully. I can’t tell you what it meant to be able to participate in communion with everyone else today and not be left out. It’s one of the few times when I have actually felt like God loves me. Someone actually baked something that didn’t kill me. There’s a first time for everything.

This is significant because I’ve been struggling lately. Ever since I bought my house, I’ve been experiencing negativity from the community. Pretty much, I’m being kicked while I’m down. I’m still down, by the way. But at least I’m not being kicked any more.

There are some people in this community who are not pleasant to me due to one of my “identities.” It happened again today. I try to blow it off and balance it with all of the people who are going out of their way to make me feel welcome. I figure there is no point in trying to make anyone else happy. I’m just going to be myself and people can either take it or leave it. I think that’s a pretty good attitude even if it doesn’t make the hurt any less.

Even though my life feels like a free floating shit show with no anchor right now, I am thankful and grateful for so many things. I just need some time to get my feet back under me.

I still have challenges post-stroke, but am considered “fully functional.” I am thankful that I am healthy, working, providing, and running. Running is definitely the greatest gift I have ever received in life. My goal for 2018 this year is to exceed the number of miles I ran in 2017. That would be an improvement.

I’m happy that two years after 11/11/16, I can say “Happy Veterans Day,” and it actually comes out sounding like “Happy Veterans Day.” I’m not in the hospital connected to tubes and machines being rushed into a machine that takes photos of my brain.

Happy Veterans Day. Thank you for your service that allows us to be free.

 

 

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A Day of Rest

 

 

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This morning during children’s time at church, the speaker was asking the kids if they knew what day it was – besides Sunday. One of the children responded “a day of rest.” The answer that the speaker was looking for was World Communion Day. Now, before I lose all of you who are non-religious, let me just say we’re going to run with the day of rest idea.

Rest. We all need it. I spent 20 years working 3 jobs, going to school full time, sleeping 4 hours a day and yes, working 7 days a week. Burning the candle at both ends for so long was probably a contributing factor to my stroke which has forced me to slow down. I am now physically able to work only one 40 hour a week job and I average 9-10 hours of sleep per day.

Every once in a while, we need a day off. A day off needs to happen more often than “well, its a holiday and my work is closed, so I’m home.” We need to schedule regular days off to rest and recharge ourselves.

If you give and give without taking time to replenish yourself, not only will you crash and burn, but you will drag everyone around you down into the searing fireball you have become.

We all need a day of rest.

I thought about how my life and my Sundays have changed in the past 5 or 6 weeks I have moved into the house. In the apartment, the bunny ears on my TV set received 12 channels. I’m not huge on TV, but I enjoyed watching baseball Saturday nights and football every Sunday.

The bunny ears do not receive any channels in the house. That’s fine. I’m content with the DVD player. I am so busy with house things that I very rarely have the time to sit down and watch something anyways.

I remember moving into my house on a Thursday. That Sunday, a friend had come over to visit. As I sat with my friend on the front porch, I told them “you know, this is the first time I have sat down in 4 or 5 days.” My life has been that way ever since.

For more than a decade, Sunday was my day of rest. I called it family day. I would do my long run for running or marathon training, then the rest of the day was dedicated to spending time with the cats and being a vegetable on the couch watching football.

Now that my bunny ears do not have reception to see football, Sunday has turned into a house cleaning day. I have my cleaning divided into sections to make my life easier. On Saturdays, I typically clean upstairs and work on outside chores. On Sundays, I typically clean downstairs and do the bulk of my cooking and baking for the week (I freeze meals, remember).

Sunday is no longer a day of rest.

This week is a 3-day weekend. It’s Columbus Day, or as some people call it “Indigenous Americans” Day. Sometimes I think of it as “Guy in a boat got lost” day. I digress.

Here I was all excited about a 3-day weekend. What have my 3-day weekends looked like in the past? Beach days, football, reading, hiking, running. All fun things. I could typically clean my apartment in about an hour. Then I was off doing some fun thing or just lounging like a vegetable relaxing.

With that in mind, the prospect of a 3-day weekend was exciting. Has it been? Primarily no. I have been doing something house related every single day. Even though Saturday afternoon I did take a 2 hour timeout to have a bonfire in the yard, it was not relaxing. I look at my to-do list and am overwhelmed. I have so many things to do.

What happened to my 2 item to do list? I feel like I’m buried.

The good news is that I have not been driving on the weekends. I have made a conscious effort to park the car in the garage Friday nights and to not drive until work on Monday morning. So that means I am either at home or only go someplace within walking distance. I feel like since becoming a homeowner that I have not stopped or sat down.

Well, I have sat down, but usually for an hour or two respite, then I’m back up tinkering again.

I think it was helpful when I had TV channels on my bunny ears that sitting down and watching football on Sunday afternoons was a way that I forced myself to take a day of rest.

Now that my bunny ears do not have reception, I do not experience that day of rest I had.

There is a local radio station that airs NFL football games on the radio of a “local” team. It may be that this afternoon I have to sit and listen to football on the radio in the same manner I was planting myself to watch football on the TV.

It’s the only thing I can think of to force myself to slow down. Otherwise, I keep getting up and doing things.

So I’m going to try listening to football on radio today to observe the day of rest.

But first, I’m going to make a loaf of allergy-friendly banana bread.

How do you observe a day of rest?

 

My First Art Show

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With my photo on display at my first professional art show – The Regional Photography Exhibit sponsored by the Cultural Council

I have the honor and the privilege of having one of my photos chosen for the Regional Photography Show this year held by the local Cultural Council. It is my first professional art show. Never before have I even submitted my work for anything.

As you can see from the opening reception photo above, the work I submitted is the piece that has been the cover photo of this blog from day one. I have never used any stock photos on this site. All photos are my original photography.

Granted, in the past few years since my stroke, most photos have been of the cats or whatever is immediately around me. You have to go back in the archives to see more of my landscapes when I was physically able to travel around more to the beaches and parks. My disability has kept me grounded and closer to home more than is normal.

My work will be hanging in the public library all month, along with some other very stunning and brilliant work. It is very humbling to see whose company I share.

The opening reception was an amazing opportunity to connect with the other photographers and artists. It meant so much to me that some of my coworkers and other of my community friends were there for the reception. I think next to buying my house last month, that my first art show is the highlight of my year.

One of the questions that was asked of us right before the show was hung was if our work is for sale and the price. I did not respond with my work being for sale. I don’t take photos to make money. I take photos because I enjoy it. Then, I post them here with some ramblings about my life at the moment for everyone to enjoy. So my photo is just hanging in the library for everyone to enjoy and it’s not for sale.

When my photo was chosen for the exhibit, I had it professionally mounted and framed. It is so much better than the $10 Walmart frame I had it in. Once my work is done being in the show, it will return to the space it occupies in the hall between the bathroom and bedroom. Except when it returns, it will be in a much more professional form.

I deeply appreciate all of my readers and everyone who visits my blog. No offense, but having one of my photos in the public library for the month is a little bit more amazing. It’s hanging in the library where I live for people in my community to see. That’s kinda cool.

However, I never would have made it this far or even had the gumption to enter the contest if it hadn’t been for the past 3 years of this blog. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being there. I just keep going trying to rewind real slow.

Thanks for supporting my work by reading me. This art show is dedicated to everyone who has been following my journey showcasing my work on this blog.

Lost Races & Pixies

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I despise selfies, but here is the pixie.

With my pixie, I can fly. At least, according to Peter Pan, all it takes is pixie dust to fly. I had my hair cut into a pixie last week. I have never before had my hair shorter than a bob. This is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I wish I had done this, oh, say 7 or 8 marathon medals ago.

I’m quite overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility I have right now, so I am trying to make myself as low maintenance as possible. Since I have to take care of everything and everyone else, this way I don’t have to worry about taking care of me. To add onto the increased responsibilities, I have been having trouble with my health. I don’t feel 90% anymore. Each day is a struggle.

When, I had my stroke in 2016, that was the Lost Year when I did not have a race. Unfortunately, after only a half marathon in 2017, I have another Lost Year  – 2018. Let’s not make a habit of this.

With the financial burden of paying 65% of my income in rent over the summer, I was not able to properly fuel (read: buy groceries and eat enough) or even drive to the running trail to be able to train. With all my money being sunk into getting this house and preventing us from becoming homeless, I also do not have the funds to travel to Connecticut for the race I had planned.

Mostly, it is lack of training. When you are barely able to afford food to eat every day, you cannot keep nutrition up to be able to train for a full marathon. It’s just not possible. Being a person with multiple severe food allergies, that meant that food pantries are not a resource to me. While my mortgage is quite a few hundred dollars less than the rent increase that was thrust upon me in May, I can’t train for a full marathon in less than a month.

Combine that with the health problems I am currently having, and I am not even able to salvage a half marathon. I was hoping to run a Veteran’s Day race, but that is not happening. Training for a half would have had to start at the beginning of September, and I am only able to do about 2 miles a few times a week right now. At least I’m running. That’s always a positive.

Another Lost Year is both sad and it pisses me off. I had a solid base of 4-5 mile runs multiple times a week and was all set to start marathon training when the housing crisis hit. So, I guess this year is the Lost Year due to the housing crisis. I hate the feeling of knowing I am registered for a race that I am unable to run.

On the plus side, since my financial situation has improved with the house, I finally had the extra $25 for a hair cut. This pixie is the best decision ever. I hate bangs. I hate hair in my face. This hair style is perfect. I don’t fight with my hair at all anymore. It is literally wash and go. Running with the pixie is amazing. I need to keep the pixie for my next full marathon. This is the best running hair cut ever.

My one concern is that people still know I’m female. I figure if someone thinks I’m a boy, I can always put a bow on it like Hello Kitty. So far, no one has mistaken me for a boy. Everyone has either made a positive comment or kept their negativity to themselves.

I figure since the house is my midlife anti-crisis that this new hairstyle can be my midlife crisis. I just didn’t wait the six months until my 40th birthday in March. I may not believe in pixie dust, but with a pixie haircut, I sure feel like I can fly when I run.

Since 2016 was the Lost Year due to my stroke, maybe 2018 is the year of Lost Races & Pixies. Hey, if I think about having two lost years, I’m going to be depressed, so you have to put a little creativity in it somehow.

My goal right now, if I can get my health to cooperate, is to at least be back to the solid 4 mile base before the snow flies this winter. I am also looking to swim this winter for my cross training. We will see how that goes. My stamina in the pool is not great. Swimming will definitely help work other muscles and increase my endurance. The only challenge is finding a pool schedule that works with my work hours.

Swimming in the winter with a pixie should be a good choice as well. The pixie dries fast, so I won’t have to worry about the hassle of swimming with long hair in the winter.

I have no regrets about this pixie. I have had no tears and no sadness over my hair. It’s a little odd. I have gotten bobs before, and cried and threw a fit trying to “style” it out of my face for running. With the pixie, I have none of those frustrations. This is literally the best hair cut ever.

For the record, when she cut all my hair off, it was more than halfway down my back going down to my butt. Now its short and spiky. I love it.

So if this is the year of Lost Races & Pixies, then so be it. That just makes my 40th birthday something to look forward to in 2019. That means the 2019 running season will have to be amazing. Hey, I got the pixie to fly.

Hello, again

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Kickin’ it old school with a landline home phone

Hello, again. It’s me. The year is 2018 and I have a landline again like it’s 1993. The house phone is a french blue 1960s type with a receiver that actually sits in the cradle and push-button dialing. If no one is home, there is no machine and no voice mail to leave a message. You just have to try again, or text my cell phone.

The house I bought is in a rural part of the county, where only one cell carrier has service, and that “service” is spotty at best. Luckily, my cell phone is already affiliated with the one carrier that offers the occasional service. The phone constantly oscillates between no service and one bar. I can generally send and receive text messages. If a cloud goes by in the sky, then service is completely disrupted and text messages have to be sent again. Welcome to rural America.

The funny thing is, I don’t consider my house location to be rural. I am actually closer to my work location in the city than where I was living previously. My commute time has literally been cut in half. The house is in a village where I have a store, library, laundry, churches, parks and schools all within walking distance. My apartment was located on a busy highway on a dead end street – you literally had to drive everywhere and could only walk as far as the end of the driveway.

I considered the apartment to be rural and cut off from services. Especially the winter where we were literally snowed in for about four days because even the snow plow truck got stuck at the end of the road. I do not consider my house to be rural at all. Apparently, though, when it comes to cell service, I am rural.

This is the first time in 15 years that I have a landline. The phone was just connected today, and it is comforting to have it there. I can now fully communicate with the world by all means – text by cell phone and voice by landline.

The house phone was connected at the best time. Today I had the day off for various doctor appointments. Apparently one doctor office was tying to get a hold of me for additional blood work. Because my cell phone does not receive voice service at the house, I did not receive the message they left on my cell phone until I was already in the city at the doctor office. The cell phone never rang at the house and only indicated it had voice mail when I drove the four miles into the city for the appointment.

I’m sure the novelty of the landline will wear off once telemarketers figure out the line is active and start calling. That is pretty much a given in today’s day and age. For right now, I am enjoying the peacefulness of knowing that if I have an emergency, I can call for help. I can call for anything, really. I can even call the library to register for craft class without having to walk over there to register.

When the snow starts flying this winter, I will have phone service to be able to call and talk to people. This is key because I am pretty sure that in winter, I will lose the ability to text from my cell. If I have to resend a text message because a cloud decides to float by, I can only imagine what it will be like with snow flying.

Speaking of snow, what did people do back in the day before treadmills were available for winter running? Well now, they ran outside, and shoveled snow, of course.

I have not used my gym membership in about 6 months, since maybe March. That is over $400 a year I am wasting on something I don’t use. I am still running, but I run outside. Now that I live in the village, I can literally lace up my mizunos and take off from my front door. At the apartment, I would always have to drive somewhere to run because it was too dangerous to run the busy highway on which I lived.

I basically cancelled my gym membership to pay for my monthly phone service. I am no longer going to drive someplace to run. How ridiculous is that? It’s it ironic to sit in traffic waiting to drive someplace to run on a treadmill? Now I can run right out my front door and down the street. If the weather is bad this winter, I can workout indoors. The house is big enough and I no longer have neighbors below to worry about. I can make as much noise jumping around to Jillian Michaels doing mountain climbers and burpees as I need.

I’m also looking to get back into the pool this winter and do some swimming. The off-season is typically when I go hard on the cross training to prepare for the next running season. This year, my goal is going to be swimming. I will run outside all I am able, and swim when it’s below zero out. A pool membership in my area is a lot more affordable than a full-on gym membership with access to all the facilities. In fact, I will probably just pay-per-visit or get a punch card.

It’s also time to get back to basics for my health. The four months of hell I lived through trying to address my housing crisis really did a number on me. I have had mini-strokes. The doctors are now watching me to be sure I don’t have another full on episode like I did a few years ago. It’s kind of important that I follow the directions and am able to communicate with the world.

Hello, again. It’s me. We’re trying to get this home ownership thing under control and back on a normal schedule again. Let’s hope for a quiet fall and end of 2018. I’ll be partying like it’s 1990-something with a throwback landline phone. That’s about my speed.   

Don’t Fill My Space

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Owning a home is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is overwhelming. I have finally come to the conclusion that I at least need help with the grass so that I can regain some sanity. Between trying to take care of everything inside and outside, I am losing my mind. I am constantly exhausted; falling asleep pretty much as soon as I sit down at the end of each day.

I am very fortunate in that I have many good friends who have been helping and supporting me in this process. Many people have lent their time to helping me. Some people have brought me practical items – wine (consumables always welcome), screen for my vents, hedge clippers, etc.

Most people know that I am a minimalist. As a new home owner, I am already overwhelmed, so the last thing you should do is bring me a car load of stuff to overwhelm me even more. Yes, I did move from a 600 square foot apartment to a 1,600 square foot house.

Don’t fill my space.

I have spent the past 14 years in stable housing. Except for the particulars necessary for home ownership (like lawn care items), I have what I need. In fact, I was surprised to find that I have things in every room. I was honestly expecting to have empty rooms when I moved into the house, but that was not the case.

I had to purchase three new towels when I moved into the house due to the water problem at the apartment. Normally, as a minimalist, I would have taken the three stained towels from the apartment and donated them to the animal shelter. However, as a new homeowner, I have actually kept those three stained towels in a bin in my basement – I have used them twice to clean up water in the basement due to washing machine mishaps. For the record, the washing machine issues have been addressed. The basement is completely dry now, and I am laundering loads of laundry with no issues.

One of the splurge purchases I made after I moved into the house was purchasing blue Adirondack chairs. I have always wanted blue Adirondack chairs. I got four of them for my front porch. I purchased four because people have been visiting me in groups of two or three people at a time. I have had more people visit me these first two weeks in my new house than visited me in all the 14 years I spent living in the apartment.

I figure that the four chairs are a good purchase, as they can also be used in the back yard for the fire pit when we have a housewarming bonfire. I have to figure out a date for this event when I am not feeling overwhelmed and if it finally stops raining.

The four chairs will be able to be moved indoors this winter so that I can have game night at home. I definitely have the space for them. By having open spaces in my home, I have the space available for what is most important in life – family, friends and fun.

So if you feel the need to bring me furniture or other indoor household items, please don’t. I have all that. I have been living independently. Being a minimalist in a larger space does not mean that I am going to start accumulating items. It means I finally have the space for the most important things in life. In my apartment, three people felt cramped. In the house, there have been four people here at a time, and the house still feels huge.

The cats have been settling in and  enjoy running and playing. They go upstairs and downstairs all the time. I have been finding their toys strewn about, so I know they feel comfortable here when they are home alone while I am at work.

At the end of the day, the only thing that needs to fill my space is love. I have that with my family and the presence of my friends. Don’t fill my space with things.

Midlife Anti-Crisis

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The midlife crisis is a way to rage against complacency, stagnation and stability. Tales of shiny red corvettes, new hair styles and relationships embody the stereotypical midlife crisis. Midlife is typically the time when you “arrive” in life – you are well-established in your profession, are comfortable in your mortgage, and are raising a family with a long-term partner. The midlife crisis is a way to shake up the hum drum of the everyday.

I’m here to tell you that I am NOT having a midlife crisis. I’m having a midlife ANTI-crisis.

Remember my housing crisis (genuine crisis) I have been having since May 2018? Well, here we are in September 2018 and I have effectively solved my housing situation.

I bought a house. #Boom. #ProblemSolved

I have never even lived in a house in my life and now I own one. Over the course of my life, I’ve gone from homeless to home owner.

While most people my age are trying to shake things up a bit, I am looking for stability and a sense of permanence. I needed a place to live that I could afford and keep my family together. Since the new landlord that bought my apartment building raised the rent to well over 60% of my income and is going pet-free, I needed a place to live.

All the rentals in my area are “no pets.” Or, they only allow one pet. Would you be able to choose which of your children to put up for adoption in order to keep your housing? Me neither. We are a family and we stay together.

The only viable option for me to be able to keep my family together was to buy a house and I have done so. By the way, my mortgage (including taxes and insurance) is almost $400 a month LESS than what the new landlord was going to charge me in “market rate” rent.

I’m going to live in this house until I die. While most people are bored with life, I’m just getting started. This is my midlife anti-crisis.

We just moved in last Thursday and have been here less than one week. Within the first 24 hours of home ownership, I already had an “idiot call” to the plumber. I broke down sobbing one night at bedtime saying I wanted to go home, but didn’t know where that was. I have used every tool in both my toolboxes. I don’t know the names of the tools, but I know what they do and I have used them all.  

I have a real mailbox with a real flag for the first time in my life. I have curbside garbage pickup for the first time too. I have more cuts, bruises and sore muscles that I have ever had in any of my 15 marathons.

I have been on vacation from work during this, and have pretty much “vacationed” at Lowe’s – I’ve been there every day. Some days, I’ve been there twice. I have been amazed at what I can fit in my 4-door sedan, and humbled by the many people who have been helping me and checking on me.

I successfully assembled a lawn mower and used it. I bought an old fashioned push mower. I only have .11 worth of grass to be in charge of. I mowed my own lawn for the first time. Mowing a lawn is some level of hell Dante forgot to mention in his inferno, but now that it’s done for the week, it’s kind of comical. One of my neighbors came out to check on me, and I could not tell from his reaction whether he was laughing inside, genuinely concerned about my efforts or both, but I’m sure I amused the neighborhood.

I have a detached garage and this was my first time in 24 years of driving that I have had a garage in which to park my car. Someone came to visit me while I was assembling the lawn mower, and I texted them to say I was “in the garage.” Hey, it was exciting to me.

I have a front porch where I’m writing now. I don’t think I have sat down for 4 days straight. I have plenty of chairs for all the people who have been helping and visiting. If it weren’t for my friends, I would not have been able to laugh through any of this.

Simon is adjusting slowly but surely. Jude has not left the kitchen cabinetry. I’m sure it will take time. I don’t think they realize what I had to go through to keep us all together. I was so scared that if this had not worked out, we would have been living in the car (again). We finally were able to escape anti-pet greedy people.

My goal is to get settled by the end of this week so that next week we can get into some sort of regular home owning family routine. The past week has literally been the ride of my life. I never thought I would own a home. I’m just happy that I was able to keep the family together.

While everyone else is having a midlife crisis, I am happily learning the positives and negatives of home ownership. Based on my first few days, I can tell you that this is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Hopefully, it will be worth it.

So far, it’s already worth being away from the toxic situation I endured with the new landlord over the past few months. It’s scary to think of all the responsibility that comes with a house, but at the same time, I get all the rewards.

So far, the time I spend on my new front porch with friends is the best time ever. It almost makes up for the fact that I sacrificed my camping trip, marathon, and summer beach days. Almost.

I have a lot to learn on this new journey. Instead of shunning responsibility, I am embracing it. This is my midlife anti-crisis.

Welcome home.

 

Hell in the Hallway

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They say when one door closes, another one opens. It’s hell in the hallway. I am usually a patient person. I don’t mind waiting for things. I have no credit cards, so when I want something, I need to plan and save for it. As long as other people are not waiting on something from me, I don’t mind waiting on them.

Where I am inpatient right now is in escaping a bad situation.  I am in the hallway between places and it’s pure hell. I have no problem waiting for the new door to open completely. My challenge is that the door behind me is not completely closed. It’s still partway open.  I would rather be stuck in a hallway with a door closed behind me waiting for the one in front to open.

I have had everything packed for the past three months, when I first got the news that I would no longer be able to stay in my current housing both due to finances as well as the need to keep my family together. Everything in my current living space will be leaving, no matter where it is going. Most of it will be going to a new dwelling.

I have been going through the boxes lately asking myself “do I really want to move this?” Of course, everything is leaving. It is a question of whether it will be donated or moving. I currently have three boxes I will be taking to donate. Even though I will be taking those three boxes, putting them in the trunk of my car and taking them to the donation center, it still feels like those are three less boxes I will be moving. It’s true. While I am physically moving the boxes by taking them to the donation center, they are three less boxes I will be moving to a new dwelling on Moving Day.

I have been sitting here for three months surrounded by boxes. The more I look at them, the less I want to move them.

It’s also been more than a year since my last vacation, and since I had to cancel my camping trip, marathon, park visits, beach days and baseball, I’m just really in need of a break. I have pretty much had to forfeit my summer due to this housing crisis. This is the year of the Lost Summer. I have only been able to go to work and back because I have not had the resources to do anything else. This is what happens when you are given 2 weeks notice that your rent will suddenly take up over 60% of your income.

Basically, I’m tired with no respite in sight.

Yes, I will be off when I move, but that’s a huge job. This is going to be my first move in 14 years. Hopefully, it will be my last.

There have been so many times in the past three months when I have wanted a certain CD or DVD, but it’s packed. The only items not packed right now are those I absolutely need to function every day. This would be a fun experiment if it was only for a few weeks. It’s not fun for a few months.

There are many minimalist experiments that advise to pack up what you are not using for three months, and if you don’t remember what is in the box after 12 weeks to donate it. Well, I know I am not donating these boxes because I know what is in them, and I want to use what I have. I am actually missing some of my items that are currently in boxes.

I am fortunate that in all of my downsizing and minimizing, I have not missed a single item I have donated or purged. In fact, I could not even begin to tell you about any of the items I have gotten rid of because I don’t remember them. I do, however, remember what is currently in the boxes I have packed, which is telling me this is stuff I need to keep. They are things I like and want to use.

I’m sure that there will be some items when I unpack that I look at and say “oh, I had forgotten about that.” That may be an item that needs to be donated. For the most part, I have been missing the items I have packed.

I’m pretty sure that I am moving this month, in August. I’m just waiting for a moving date. I’m hoping to get a moving date soon, because each month I stay here, my expenses increase, and there is the threat of “housing or family.” As eager as I am to escape this situation, it is hard to think of how it is happening.

I have been in my current living situation for 14 years, which is the longest I have ever lived anyplace and it’s the only place that has ever felt like home. It’s a hard pill to swallow that I am being forced out. Keeping my family together is my number one priority, so hopefully we will be able to escape the nightmare soon.

The one positive in this situation is that my current dwelling is much easier to clean now that everything is packed. I have already decided that when I unpack in my new living space, I will be taking a harder look at wall hangings and decorative items. Less clutter means less to clean. Less to clean means more time to do things I want to do. Of course, right now, I have plenty of time and can’t do anything because I’m even struggling with groceries. I’m not eating enough to train or to even run very far. All my money is currently going to housing.

It is very possible that once I am in the new living space, my rule of three may be revised to be the rule of one. One item on each wall and surface instead of three. Of course, I will only be keeping and using what is meaningful to me. A new living space is a fresh start. We will see what resonates with me when I unpack.

One thing that has become clear with this exercise is that music is my priority. I have no problem getting rid of books or DVDs. I use the library a lot for books and DVDs. What I cannot seem to part with are CDs and vinyl records.

That’s ok. Music is my thing. If my music collection is the one area that I do not downsize, I am okay with that. Minimalism is not an exercise in how to live without. It’s a way of living that allows you to optimize your time for what you love. Music is what I love and a huge part of my life, so there is no need to minimize that area.

Having everything around me packed for the past three months has definitely reminded me of my priorities. I basically have to keep my family together. Beyond that, my life is filled with music. I have music on all the time at my house. The cats even listen to the radio while I am at work all day.

Right now, my family is together, and we have music. So while its hell in the hallway, at least I know my priorities are firmly in place. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to kick that door closed behind us and fling open the one that’s cracked. I’m ready to move on.

 

 

 

 

Closets, Clothes & Packing For A Move

The kids are ready to go! Destination and moving day unknown.

My closets are the cleanest and most organized part of my house. This probably seems like an oxymoron and I’m sure you hate me right now. For most people, the opposite is typically true. Closets are usually the most cluttered and messiest part of a room. Company coming over? Gather items in your arms and shove them in a closet – instant space and instant closet mess.

I’ve been downsizing for a while now, and I got to a point where everything has its own place. When every item has a place to live, you don’t feel cluttered anymore. It’s only when things are overflowing that we tend to feel cluttered. This also means that we have a tendency to adapt to our space.Your stuff evolves to fit the space in which you live. Bigger space, means more stuff. Smaller space, you need less stuff. It’s all about balance.

For me, my closets became organized because I have been ruthlessly decluttering for years now. Every object has a place. Items in my closet have been culled and are there for a specific purpose.

My coat closet contains my winter coats (2), snow pants, boots, storage bin of hats, gloves, scarves and snow tires. My linen closet contains towels, sheets, cleaning supplies, and a box of toiletries. I do place large orders of toiletries in “bulk” as everything from shampoo to lotion has to be special ordered from one company due to my allergies. You would not believe how many toiletry items contain almond oil so I have to special order everything to be nut-free. Aveeno body lotion sent me into full anaphylactic shock one time, but I digress.

My spare bedroom closet contains Christmas and camping supplies. Everything is in its own storage bin. As you may know from prior posts, I have decluttered Christmas so that everything fits into one storage bin, plus the tree. I’m pretty sure when I started there were three Christmas bins.

My closet in my actual bedroom has my clothes, my luggage, and the storage bin of seasonal clothing. The seasonal clothing storage bin currently holds winter – hoodies and sweaters. My bedroom closet also stores the air conditioner when it is not in use in winter.

Everything else in my house that is not in a closet is out, in use, or in its designated place. The only items overflowing are the CDs. More on those later.

Back to closets. The only reason why I noticed how clean and organized my closets are is because I started packing. I don’t know where I am moving to yet or when, but I am packing. In looking at my closets, there is really nothing in them to pack. Pretty much everything in all the closets is already in some sort of storage bin or container, so all I have to do is pick it up and move it. The only exceptions are the coats in the coat closet and my clothes.

Let’s move on to clothes. I am a big fan of capsule wardrobes and Courtney Carver’s Project 333. I’m not a huge stickler on the numbers. Again, I’m one of those that as long as all my clothing fits in my dresser and closet and I only have one bin of seasonal, I am fine. I have no idea if I have 33 items of clothing or 50. I know that everything fits in my designated space, and that I wear everything I have. My clothing is comfortable, fits well, and has no tags or holes.

Since I am packing, what exactly do I have for clothes? Well, since I am not moving right now, I can’t actually pack the clothes. I literally wear and use everything I have. When I do move, moving my clothes will be easy. Remove the drawers from the dresser and carry clothes that way. For the closet, take a garbage bag to wrap the clothes in to keep them clean.

What is in my closet and drawers?

I actually do have work clothes and everyday clothes. I am not one of those people who is able to have one all-purpose wardrobe. I’m a jeans & baseball shirt type of girl; that doesn’t really fly when my office is business casual. I don’t like business casual. It’s an uncomfortable but necessary evil.

In my closet, I have 15 hangars in use. Some are random, like the one that holds my hockey jersey. Hey, I’m not perfect. I do have random things that bring me joy. I don’t have a set number of items.

I would say that there are 10 hangars in active use. For work, my color palate is a base of black or grey that is accented with jewel tones of blue, green, and purple/burgundy. So, on 10 hangars, I have:

4 pairs of work dress pants (2 black and 2 grey)

2 blazers (1 black, 1 grey)

2 cardigan sweaters (1 black, 1 grey)

2 dresses (not work appropriate, totally summery, for going to the theatre, a wedding, etc. If you are interested, one is pink and the other a summer orange and they are both fun.)

My dresser has 4 drawers.

In one drawer, is my everyday tops. These are mostly baseball, football, or hockey shirts. Yeah, you’ve seen them. They have the team on the front and the number and name of player on the back. I have about 8 of these in a drawer. Along with 2 thermals and 2 flannels for winter when it gets chilly so I can layer. That’s one of my four drawers.

There is one drawer of pajamas. For every capsule wardrobe or challenge I have read, pajamas, underclothes and workout wear don’t count as “wardrobe” if you’re doing one of the number challenges like 50 items or Project 333. I have one drawer of pajamas and the color scheme here is very heavily pink. I like pink nightwear. I have a bin of summer running clothes, a bin of winter running clothes, and one of those plastic containers with 3 drawers that has bras, undies and socks.

My third drawer is work tops. Again, my color scheme for tops is mostly blue and green with some purple thrown in. I have about 8 different work tops. Right now, I also have “summer” in this drawer, which means my tank tops (not work wear) for when its 80+ degrees out like it is now.

In my fourth drawer, I have everyday bottoms. Like work clothes, I have 4 bottoms. Except for everyday, this includes 2 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of my infamous Victoria’s Secret yoga pants. Also, for summer, this drawer currently holds 4 pairs of shorts and some swim wear.

In the seasonal box, which currently holds winter, is 3 hoodies (those are bulky), a pair of corduroy pants, and 3 sweaters.

My clothes aren’t a problem and don’t bother me. I have no decision fatigue in the morning. I can get dressed immediately without having to put on multiple options or throw items around the room because “I don’t want to wear this today” or “this isn’t working.” Like I said, moving my clothes is going to be super easy. I don’t even really have to pack them or put them into luggage.

I typically have two loads of laundry per week – one of work clothes and one that consists of everyday clothes, pajamas, towels and sheets. Clothes are easy to move.

What has been stressing me out in trying to pack is not my clothes and not the items that are in my closets. It is my everyday items that are out and in use. Specifically, this would be my media of books, DVDs, and CDs. I have packed this stuff up and am now looking at it thinking, “I don’t want to have to (physically) move this stuff.”

Before I started packing, everything was in its place and I did not feel cluttered. I have one 2-shelf bookcase of books, and one 2-shelf bookcase of DVDs. The CDs are overflowing. The CDs I was just going to start curating, and decided to take them all with me to curate in the next location. When packed, the CDs, don’t seem like much. I’m not sure if it is just looking at a pile of boxes that is getting to me or what.

I left 5 DVDs and 5 CDs out to play with in this transition process. It has been challenging. For example, I find myself wanting to unpack the DVDs because “Oh, I want to watch this, and it’s packed.”

Right now, I am unsure if I “have too much stuff” or am simply overwhelmed at the idea of moving after being in the same place for 14 years. Whatever I’m doing, this is a super big change. I can also say that the kitchen is a room that I cannot pack right now because I am still literally using everything in my kitchen.

The only thing kitchen related I have been trying to do is to eat up and use up everything in my cupboards, frig and freezer, so that there is less food stuff to move. There really is not any cook ware or dishware I can pack that is not in use.

One of the problems of being a minimalist is having to wait to the last minute to pack because you are literally using everything you have. I guess this is a good problem to have. If I can pack something and have it sit there for months without needing it, then it is probably something to get rid of anyway. I only like to have items that I use or love.

I’m fortunate in that I have been minimizing myself for a few years now, so I am sure that I have less now than I would have, say 5 years ago. Still, it feels like so much. It could be because I packed two rooms and have all the boxes from two rooms in one room. Maybe it just seems like more than it is.

Downsizing, minimizing, and simplifying are all a process. Whenever and where-ever moving day happens, I will have to see how I actually feel about my stuff once I start physically moving it. I will be moving all the small items myself.

The large furniture items like my couch, bed, table, etc., I will be enlisting help to move. I have already figured that all of those large items I can shove into one room to make it easier for my helpers to move me.

It’s just all the little stuff that seems like a lot.

What I am learning is that my clothes and my closets are not a problem. So I’ve done a wicked good job with those. I have downsized my wardrobe to the point where I am actually able to live and enjoy life without worrying about what I’m wearing or wasting my time shopping.

The benefit to this exercise is that I am learning about the areas of my living space I need to focus on simplifying next – which seems to be my living room and media. Yet, when I find myself missing and wanting things that are packed … maybe they are not a problem after all if I am using and liking them. Collections are not bad if you enjoy them.

Minimalism is not some exercise in pain or how to live without. Minimalism is about having room in your life for what’s important. Apparently all the stuff I have now is coming with me – even if it does feel overwhelming to move it.

I’ll let you know how it goes when moving day comes (whenever that may be, but hopefully soon).

 

The Toilet Paper Chronicles

People tend to have strong opinions about poverty and those who have “less than.” Many times, the individual is blamed for their “poor” choices. We refuse to acknowledge the societal factors that contribute to the cycle of poverty and instead firmly place all blame and responsibility for being poor on the individual.

There was an article recently that used toilet paper as an example of why people are poor. Unfortunately, as gross as it may sound, this issue of toilet paper has been a recurring theme in my life. More on that later. This particular article pointed out that buying toilet paper in bulk is cheaper in the long term than buying toilet paper in smaller packages. For example, the 20 roll bulk pack works out to be cheaper than continuously buying rolls that are either individually wrapped or packaged in groups of four (very common).

Do the math. Toilet paper is cheaper in bulk than in four roll packages. You can’t really argue with the numbers. It is a fact that bulk toilet paper is cheaper. The article then says that low income people or those on a fixed income, have a finite amount of money to spend. People are more likely to buy the four roll pack because it is “cheaper” (for that week) to pay the $2 for the four pack than it is to pay $10 for the bulk pack.

If you only have $30 a week to spend on groceries, it makes sense. You do not want to spend $10 on toilet paper and only have $20 that week to spend on your milk, bread, and eggs. When you are low income, it is hard to squeeze out that $10 in an individual week even if it is cheaper in the long run. When every day life is an emergency, you are constantly reacting to the present situation and it is extremely difficult to plan for the long term when you do not have any additional resources to set aside for an emergency. The emergency is now. You are living it.

The article then concluded because people only have a finite amount of money to spend each week, that the cycle of poverty is partially perpetuated by people’s inability to buy bulk toilet paper. They end up paying more in the long run for toilet paper and are unable to take advantage of the savings of buying in bulk.

This is, of course, an oversimplification of the point the article was making, but you get the idea. When you are low income, you are limited in what you can access. For example, if you do not have transportation to get to the discount store, you may be restricted to having to buy necessities at the local gas station down the street. We all know that this strategy is expensive. I personally do not buy anything in a gas station unless I absolutely have to. We all know the markup on items is astronomical. For some people who lack transportation or are in a geographic area that are what we call “food deserts,” there is no other access to necessities than the local gas station.

The cost of being poor is that sometimes, due to lack of resources, you end up paying more for necessities because you do not have the capacity to access cheaper alternatives. Poor people are often condemned for their “choices,” but often, they are making the best choices they can give what they have at the moment. It’s hard to break free of the cycle.

Toilet paper is a luxury item, not a necessity.

When I was growing up, toilet paper was a luxury item. We very rarely had it. Before there was SNAP or EBT cards, we had these things called paper food stamps. They came in little booklets where you would tear out a “stamp” that looked like monopoly money. The ones were brown, the fives were blue. If you were really lucky, the 20s were green. These were very rarely seen, and the highest denomination of food stamps.

When you used a food stamp, cashiers were only allowed to give you back change if the amount was less than a dollar. You could get coin change back, but if you had a $5 food stamp, and your grocery bill came to $3.73, the cashier could give you the $0.27 cents back in coins, but for the $1, they had to be able to give you a brown food stamp dollar, not a real American dollar. Thus, when you used your food stamps, you better use them in a place that could also give you change in food stamps. Otherwise, if the cashier did not have the brown $1 food stamp, you would have to forfeit it, and could only take the $0.27 cents in coin change.

As a child, I was given one brown food stamp per week for groceries. I can tell you that I used that $1 food stamp each week to buy 3 cans of spaghetti o’s and a pack of gum. The spaghetti o’s were $0.30 cents and a pack of gum was $0.05 cents. I would have a nickle left over each week. Each can of spaghetti o’s would last 2 days, so I had enough food for 6 days a week. As a child, I was pretty good at getting myself invited to friends houses for a meal so I could eat on the 7th day each week.

I remember when the price of spaghetti o’s increased to $0.33 cents because of how it affected my weekly food alliance. No more gum, and I only had a penny each week instead of a nickle. And people wonder why I started working at age 14. I had a paper route.

Food stamps were not allowed to be used to buy paper products. No toilet paper, tissues or paper towels. Food stamps were only for food. I used them for food. If I didn’t I would have starved.

At the time, you could get a roll of toilet paper for a quarter. So I was saving my nickels each week to be able to buy one roll of toilet paper every 5 weeks. This meant that you only used toilet paper when you absolutely needed to. If you were in a public restroom, you always grabbed an extra handful of toilet paper to take with you so you could have it for home.

This was the 80s when I was a child. The priority was having food, so toilet paper was a luxury item.

Because of how I grew up, I have this tendency as an adult to always buy toilet paper in bulk to have it on hand. It makes me feel rich knowing I never run out of toilet paper or have to go without. No matter how difficult my life has been at times as an adult, I have always had toilet paper. Even when I was living in my car.

As an adult making my own money, who is not on food stamps, I have the ability to buy toilet paper in bulk. I am privileged. I know there are people in my town and in this country who are not as privileged as I am who are making the choices I had to make as a child every single day. It’s the reality of being poor in America.

Buying in bulk may seem counterintuitive to the concept of minimalism. As a minimalist, the concept is less not more. Logically, bulk items make sense because they save money in the long run, especially for a household item you can use. For me, I have no problem making the argument to buy toilet paper in bulk. Buying other items in bulk such as shampoo or toothpaste, does not make sense to me, but to each his own.

Toilet paper is a recurring theme in my life. I cannot escape it.

I was in the grocery store this week and I bought the four roll pack of toilet paper.

Wha? I just spent how many paragraphs discussing the merits of buying toilet paper in bulk and got the four pack roll?

Yup.

I am currently having a housing crisis which has significantly reduced the spending power of my income. That’s a story for another day, but the consequence is that I have a limited amount of money to spend each week on groceries now. With multiple food allergies, it is very challenging to have to go from $80 a week for groceries down to $30 a week for groceries. This is especially true when I only have one choice of allergen-free bread and it costs $10.79 a loaf, which is half the size of a “standard” loaf.

So instead of spending the $10 to buy the bulk toilet paper, I spent $2 to buy the four pack. I took the $8 I “saved” and used it to buy a box of allergy-friendly cereal. Again, I only have one choice, and it is $6.78 a box. I may be paying more for toilet paper in the long run, but hey, I will have breakfast this week. I need to eat something in the morning in order to take my medication for it to absorb.

I currently do not consider myself poor. I still have toilet paper! I’m trying really hard to keep my family together and healthy. But these are the choices you have to make sometimes when you are in challenging situations such as being rent overburdened because someone decides to increase your rent hundreds of dollars each month to over 50% of your income.

Your next comment is probably going to be: “Then move to cheaper housing.” People make the best choices they can given the situation that they are in. I am working on it, but these things take time. Especially when the area I am in is extremely economically depressed and wages are well below what is considered “market rate” housing in a bedroom community. Again, a discussion for a different day.

While I feel that my life is constantly being measured in toilet paper, the point is to take a different perspective on poverty and circumstances. Sometimes you can make all the best and right choices in the world, and shit still happens. Literally and figuratively. The deeper the shit you are in, the less toilet paper you have to clean it up. Hope you brought a shovel. Hey, what did you expect? It’s the toilet paper chronicles.

Before you go judging someone and the choices they make, take a moment to step back and consider what may be driving those choices. You never know what some people are facing in life, whether as a result of their “choices” or simply the circumstances they are in. They could be reacting to something that happened to them in their environment.

And always buy your toilet paper in bulk. It’s cheaper.