Saturday, June 28, 2008

Some Thoughts About Renting...

After having been a home owner for over 25 years, the prospect of rejoining the ranks of renters has my head spinning with ambivalence. Over the next couple weeks I will be moving out of my home of the last six years and into an old farm house my beloved and I have decided to rent. For a lot of different reasons this move makes total sense. We've thought it out and done the math. Logic says go for it, and things seem to be falling into place as we have found someone who wants our house if they can qualify for financing. Still, my emotions are in turmoil about what it will mean to me to go back to renting a home that is not mine.

We've bought houses in Ohio, Michigan, Washington, and Oregon. They were never ours outright, as we always carried substantial mortgages on each one, never living long enough in any one place to get anywhere close to payoff. Still, we bought into the notion of those places being "OURS" because we had total freedom to choose what we did with them. We've painted and wallpapered, knocked out walls and built on new structures. We've landscaped and added water features. We've grown gardens and marked door jams as records of how tall our kids were getting. We've made every house we had HOME by virtue of how we shaped it.

I read in a book on home decorating recently "It is a proven fact that the more we personally participate in something, the more meaningful it becomes. Peter and I painted the inside of our house together, for example, and discovered that when you scrape, sand, and caulk and then prime and paint a surface of wood, you become attached to it the way new parents do with their newborn: You bond together in creating and understanding and appreciation. You take pride in what you do because you know what went into it, and you also feel the exhilaration of shared accomplishments." (from Creating a Beautiful Home by Alexandra Stoddard).

Those words definitely ring true for me. From the beat-up old fixer upper that was the first house we bought together in Ohio that had the horrific colors, fractured plumbing and dead bat in the bathtub, to our current home with it's 100 year old bones and gorgeous light, the projects we've done together on every house have been times we have truly cherished.

Now that we will be living in a rented house with limited options for making changes, we'll have to find different ways to make it feel like home.

Beyond that, I've been giving much thought to what "security" is and how financial commitments to property have defined for me what it meant to be stable and safe.

I am excited by the prospect of having complete freedom to go anywhere we may choose to visit or live over the next 10 years without being tied to any one specific geography. I kind of like the idea of spending six months to a year in a few different places as we explore all over the country before landing to put down roots again. My Gypsy soul eagerly pulls out the maps and fantasizes about spending time in Appalachia or New England or some small beach town or bayou retreat. Now, my husband loves the familiar, so it is highly unlikely we'll get quite that adventurous. But we COULD, and that freedom very much appeals to me.

I like the idea of paring down our possessions and opening up possibilities. I've seen so many friends and family members have to relinquish treasured homes in their later years, either due to failing health or changed finances. I know that if we stayed in our big two story house that eventually we would face that same challenge. I'd much rather let it go now while the move can be entirely on our own terms and of our own choosing.

STILL...the American Dream of owning a home is something I have been deeply socialized to believe in. Somehow "just renting" feels/sounds less stable, less secure, less successful than owning our own home. Why is that? Would I be okay with NOT buying another house? Would I be willing to accept my status as renter as permanent rather than a temporary transition? I'm not sure, but I suspect not. Right now I have ants in my pants and value freedom more than security. But I suspect that eventually that will run its course and we'll find ourselves looking to buy a house again. So we will need to be smart about how we handle our budget to make sure that remains within our reach when the time comes.

For today, however, I don't have to think about buying another house. Today my only challenge is to get ready to move out of this one. A big part of that means deciding what things we keep and what things we get rid of. We're selling our big screen TV, our King sized sleep number bed, our sectional furniture with the double recliners and hide-a-bed, the futon, and a whole lot more. We've given away loads of stuff and no doubt will hand over more to friends and charities. Piece by piece we are letting go of things we have have treasured but no longer choose to keep for one reason or another. Some of the choices are easy and some have had their sting, but overall it really feels good to lighten our load.

I love this link to pictures of HOUSES AROUND THE WORLD. Whether my next house when we are ready to leave the farm will be a sweet little gem of luxury or something very basic and bare...HOW I live is more important than WHERE I live or what I own.

Our capitalist culture is so tangled up in the false believe that our STUFF defines our value.

There is a 20 minute video called The Story of Stuff that serves as a powerful reminder that recreational consumption has its pitfalls.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not entirely renouncing all love of shiny things, I'm not about to take on vows of poverty or willfully choose the life of the ascetics. I do NOT see stark living as being any way morally superior to abundance. But I DO believe my own relationship with the material world is long overdue for a bit of a shake up. I want to be more mindful of the footprint I leave on this planet. This move feels like exactly the right step in that direction.

My heart has done flip flops of being apprehensive, anxious, filled with forboding about what we've taken on. But mostly I feel at peace about the decision.

So I am ready to let go of my hold on what I've defined as SAFE and SECURE and STABLE - being surrounded by a great many material things and locked into our commitment of home ownership. I am ready to embrace a new season of living more simply in a place that will not be my own. What will it take for me to feel AT HOME there? I don't know yet. But I am ready to explore and find out.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Play On Words

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

CONNECTED in the Wheatfield

I have a new toy. I just signed up with Sprint MobileBroadband. By plugging in the little gizmo you see pictured here I am supposed to be able to get fast internet service ANYWHERE that Sprint cell phone reception is available. Zowie!

Because I teach online it is critical that I have access to good internet connection. Now that we are moving out to the farm where no DSL is available I had very limited options. Sprint came to the rescue with a plan I can live with. Not only will I be able to get it out at the farm, now when I take my laptop places I will be able to go online just about anywhere. No more paying for access fees in airports or at hotels. Heck, if I'm in the right spots I could even take it camping.

The device just came in the mail today...I can hardly wait to get home and get it loaded onto my machine to see if it will work as well as has been promised. I'm pretty excited. This really frees me up to travel without having to scramble for available internet cafes or other hot spots where I can get online. I love new tech toys.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Well, the days will start getting shorter now. We've crossed over the longest day of the year. My dear pal Sylvana sent me this message:

"So did ya do the naked jiggley dance under the moon for the solstice?
Greet the day with a naked sunrise yesterday... burn sage and play hippie music?
;D S."

uh, no. Not even. Sorry Syl, but those days are LONG over.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why I Am Moving

I've spent the whole morning packing up boxes and cleaning out rooms. The move we have talked about for weeks is getting very real.

No telling when we will find a buyer for our house. But we've made up our minds we are really doing this. We are moving out now. I've had several people I know ask me why we are leaving. I figured this was as good a place as any to sort it out for myself. This posting is bound to be somewhat rambling and disjointed, because it's not intended as a clear explanation for anybody else. It's more my way of figuring it out in my own head.

I guess it all started last summer, when a dear friend of ours moved away. This was a lady in her late 70's who we had known through our church. She had lived in her home for over 40 years. But the children were grown and gone, and then her husband passed away. Increasingly it became apparent that she could no longer take care of their large, rambling home by herself, much less do the work required to maintain the yard. So, after much fretting and family discussion, she opted to sell the place and move into a nearby retirement community. For her, it was absolutely the right thing to do. She is very happy where she is now in her apartment, surrounded by just the few things she kept that she truly treasured. The process of getting her there, however, was excruciating.

Leaving that home that was filled with so many memories was very painful for her. She agonized over every dish, every knick knack, every piece of artwork, every marker of a life fully lived. She wanted to keep everything. Her well intentioned children and friends kept counseling her to let go. She felt pressured, cornered, losing her grasp. It hurt to watch. After much sorting out they finally held a big estate sell, laying out item gathered up over her whole life time for neighbors, strangers and friends to paw through and purchase. My dear friend watched this unfold with trembling grief.

I've been to my share of yard sales and usually enjoy rummaging through stacks to find that rare treasure. But at this one, I nearly burst into tears. I had visions of my own home being filled with strangers giving shrewed, evaluating looks at my priceless (to me) pretties - haggling down prices to a mere pittance for things that had been to me very dear. I could not stand the idea of it and knew I did not want to take that path.

I also recalled my own mother's house after her death. All five of us kids lived far away, so it took some negotiating and travel to get to the place to clean it all out. I swear, the woman must not have thrown a way a single thing in several decades. There were boxes upon boxes of stuff. Some things she had kept I could understand why she valued. But she also held onto things that were sheer junk. I think she was woman who got so overwhelmed by her life that it was difficult for her to make decisions. Rather than choose what to take care of and what to discard she would just toss it all in a box and say, in Scarlett O'Hara fashion, that she would think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow never came. The boxes piled up. In the end, she had rows upon rows of boxes that were a wild hodge podge. I sorted what I could, and then finally just started pitching it out - treasures and trash all mixed together. I vowed then and there my kids would never get stuck with a task of that scope when I died.

Still, over the years I have gathered my share of "stuff". While I have been considerably more organized and tidy than my mother, I have my share of boxes. Our current house has 2660 square feet and all three bedrooms have walk in closets. (Like 9 x 14 closets - as big as some people's bedrooms.) Somehow, having all that space has made it oh so easy to keep holding on to things I don't really need. It has been like wearing stretchy sweats and big T shirts for so long you don't really notice a few gained pounds. I had so much room for expansion of material objects that I just kept getting more. We've travelled a lot so I've picked up cool things here and there around the world. I have things people gave me. I have things my kids made. I have things I picked up at quaint little shops that just called out to me one day. I am surrounded by STUFF. A lot of it is very nice stuff. But most of it is stuff I do not need. Americans have a way of doing that.

Lately I have been very deliberately trying to clear out and downsize. But even though I have managed to get rid of A LOT, there are still way more material possessions than I want to hold on to. So that was one piece of it...wanting to make a change to a smaller place where we could keep things simple.

Then there is the whole issue of wanting to move to be closer to family. We've made the decision that once my beloved retires, this probably won't be the area where we will stay. We have family in Michigan and Arizona. If things work out the way we hope they will, we want to be snowbirds at some point. We'd like to split our time between the two places so that we can spend time with both branches of our family and avoid the extremes of climate in either direction.

We'd like to buy a small house in Michigan where we can be close to our 8 grandchildren. I want to go to their ball games and school programs, their birthday celebrations and special events. I want to have more of a role in their life than being the grandma who mails them cool care packages. I want to hold them and talk to them and take them geocaching. I want to exasperate them and endear them. I want to be a real part of their world. But I DON'T want to shovel snow with them in the winter. The idea of living in Michigan in the winter does not appeal to me. I did it for ten years and I've had all the brutal cold I want.

So from November to March every year we'd like to head out to Arizona where the other half of our brood is - my beloved's three son's from his first marriage.
There we could enjoy desert winters. We'd go hiking in canyons and fishing in creeks I remember from my youth. We'd visit with family and friends, keeping that part of our lives nurtured and well. We'd stay just long enough to see the lovely spring flowers erupt in wild color all over the desert. Then, before it got really hot, we'd head back north to our little house in the Midwest.

For the past several years I've taught college classes online. I have always had a full time job somewhere else and then done my adjunct teaching as something "extra" on the side. But I'd like to get to the point that I can forgo the day job and just do the online teaching. That way I won't be tied to any one geographic place. The online teaching will allow me to maintain my insurance and give just enough income that when combined with my husband's university pension and social security should allow us a modest living if we play our cards right. The idea is that by selling our house here and saving all our pennies for the next three to four years, we will have positioned ourselves to do just that. We will make our pipe-dream of snowbirding between Michigan and Arizona turn into a very realistic plan.

Then there is the dark side of the whole thing. My husband is getting old. Chronologically he's not exactly ancient. He's only 62. But in a lot of ways that are becoming increasingly noticeable, my sweet stud muffin of a husband is turning into a tired old man. That scares the dickens out of me.

He says, only half joking, that his warranty expired when he turned 60 yrs old. It was at that point that he started to have a variety of health issues. In the past year or two he has lost much of his energy and now is often in chronic pain from arthritis. He simply can no longer do some of the things we used to do together. We still have plenty of fun and some great adventures. But they are at a slower pace these days, and not the type that require as much physical exertion as things we took on in the past. These days, he needs more naps. I am beginning to see a foreshadow of a time in our lives when he will not be physically able to work. I am also recognizing that since I am 12 yrs his junior, there could well be an extended time in my life when he is not there at all.

I don't like to think about that. But the reality is, it's not only possible, it's down right likely. So I need to take steps NOW to prepare myself physically, financially, emotionally to be able to live my life well no matter what circumstances life may bring. If I have many years to work while caring for an old or infirm husband, I need to be ready to accept that. Or, if I have an extended period of time as a widow, as sad as that would be, I must have the resources and resolve and resilience to cross that bridge if I need to.

This big old house that we have now is beautiful. I love it very much. But it is NOT the house for us to be in for our old age. We want something smaller, simpler, all on one level. Granted, that phase of our life that would make it a necessity is still quite a ways down the road. But rather than wait for circumstances to force us to give up a house that we love but can no longer care for, I'd rather move out of it NOW when it is entirely my own choosing. I want to downsize and simplify while I can still call my own shots. I want to be the one that decides what gets kept and what gets tossed away. To do that, I have to begin while I still have the strength and the focus to pack and carry my own boxes.

So when this house out at the university farm that we are moving into became available, we jumped at it. It will be hard to go back to renting after over 20 yrs of having our own place. I like to do projects, to change and fix up and renovate. That won't be something I can do much of on someone else's property. But it's a sweet little house with a really great yard. And it happens to be where my husband works so he will have zero commute. With gas over $4.00 per gallon that is a very good thing. I'll still be driving to a job, of course. But I am well used to that. Depending on where my next job will be this move may have put us 10 miles closer or 10 miles further...but either way it will be a manageable thing.

Anyway, for all of these reasons and a few more, it just felt like the right time for us to make a change. The plan is that we will try to sell our house in Athena. But because the rent we will be paying out at the farm is absurdly low, even if we have to pay both house payments and rent for a year or more, we'd be ok. Obviously it will affect our budget, requiring us to cut back on extras like eating out or taking exotic vacations. But we won't have to worry about any immediate wolf at the door.

If the house sells sooner rather than later that would be great as it would give us one less thing to worry about and take care of. But either way, this move feels like the right thing to do.

We'll be living out in the middle of a wheat field in the middle of no where. The peace and the privacy are something I really look forward to. Since we'll be just 10 miles away from where we live now we can still come back easily enough to visit friends and I imagine there will be some of that. But I have moved enough times to know that there will be far less of that than I expect. People will move on with their busy lives. Once we don't have a common job or proximity of a neighborhood to bring us together, I suspect we'll see each other less and less. I'm ready to accept that.

Part of me is sad for all I'm giving up - my house, my neighbors, my congregation. (LDS churches are set by geographic boundaries, and my new house is over the line putting us into one of the Pendleton wards.) But I am also excited for the new chapter in my life that I am about to get started.

So time to get off my duff and get back to the business of packing and cleaning.
Ready or not, here I come.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I Need a Sorting Hat

My interview this morning seemed to go very well. It will be a week or so till they make a decision. But as of this moment, I'm thinking that if they do offer me the position I probably won't take it. That might change. But really, I'm feeling like that sort of job for that sort of pay at this particular time in my life would not be the right fit.

There are parts of it that really appeal to me. But when I look at the whole package of the energy I would be around, what the demands would be, what support I would have... I am thinking not. Actually I would REALLY like to work for that organization...but not necessarily in that particular role. So maybe this interview will open doors and lay groundwork for DIFFERENT opportunities down the road. Or not. But for now, I'm still looking for that just right job.

I don't want to be unrealistically picky. I get it that ANY job is going to have things that I appreciate and thing that I don't care for. Still, I am in a position that I can make some choices and distinctions. So I'm continuing to look at other options.

I heard today about another job in Walla Walla that might be right up my ally. So I fired off a resume for that. I'm in the process of moving to a different house which would put me 30 miles away from WW which is not a commute I would favor, but it is doable for the right job.

Sometimes I wish I has a sorting hat. In the Harry Potter Books/Movies they have a hat that sorts students into what house they belong in. The hat "magically determines to which of the four schoolhouses - Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin - each new student is to be assigned. During the opening banquet at the beginning of the school year, the hat is placed on every First-Year student’s head. The hat will announce its choice aloud, and the student joins the selected house." (Wikipedia)

But poor little me, I'm all on my own here figuring out what I'm gonna be when I grow up, where I will fit, or what it means to belong here or there.

I'm sure God already knows, has the whole scheme figured out. But He hasn't chosen to share any of that grand plan with me. So, for now, I'm just along for the ride.

I feel like I've got all these different puzzle pieces on a table that I'm trying to put together, but no one has shown me the picture of how it is supposed to turn out. I've been led/guided to a variety of different sorts of work and life experiences. It clearly feels as if I've been PREPARED for something...but I haven't a clue what. So I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, trying to learn how to be comfortable in my own skin no matter what sort of work I do or don't do. My job is not who I am. I am learning more all the time about how to pay attention to far more key questions of who I am and how I want to be regardless of what I do for a living.

Today when I went to the interview I made a very conscious decision NOT to try to impress them but to just come across as authentically ME as possible and then let them decide if that was the right fit or not. I just let myself be present in the moment and trusted that it would turn out however it needed to. And that in itself was a good thing for me to see. That state of being that I was able to present during the hour I sat in that office is something I want to experience more of, no matter what job I take on next.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I have a framed picture that shows a little blond headed boy standing next to a lake, along with a quote that reads: "A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove...but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."

On Thursday I have a second interview for the therapist position I applied for with a local agency serving seriously emotionally damaged / mentally ill children and their families. IF I get this job I will give up $10K a year and half my current vacation. Not to mention I would be taking on a hot bed of potential burn out. Not surprisingly, I've had a couple different people I know well challenge me on why I would even consider such a job. It's hard to explain. But it just FEELS right.

I've been the grand poobah boss at my current position since February. Clearly I have the skill sets to do it well. But I don't want to do it anymore. I was also an executive director at a different organization where I worked previously. Because I believed in the mission of that agency and respected the boss that I had very much, I stayed with that one for almost three years. I absolutely know how to lead and administer and all that stuff. And I have enjoyed the perks that come with being in charge.

But I'm oh so ready to turn in my boss button and make the shift over to focusing on an entirely different sort of work. I did mental health related work all the way through my undergrad program and genuinely enjoyed being part of a multi-disciplinary treatment team, even when the day-to-day dealing with clients could be fraught with stress and conflict. I believe I have something to contribute that is uniquely my own.

ANY smart, ambitious person could balance the budget, go to the meetings, and complete the reports required for my current role. It doesn't feel like it matters that it is me holding the reins. But I do believe that the sense and experience I would bring to healing interactions with troubled kids and their often fractured families would be blessed in some key ways because it was me in the mix. I don't say that out of vanity. I just mean that I have a deep respect for the human element of healing work and every relationship has its own magic. I want to share some of mine.

So I'll go do this second interview and see if this particular agency at this particular time is the right fit. I will remind myself that if I do not get the job (or if for any reason I see some red flags that convince me to turn it down if offered) that sooner or later I will find a job that suits my needs and my core values. But something I've come to recognize more and more over the last few months is that I need way more than a fat paycheck to be happy with a job. Earning money is a good and necessary thing. I've very much appreciated the international travel and other things my current income level has allowed. But at the end of the day I don't think it will matter how many shiny things I own or whether I had another exotic vacation. I want very much to have made a difference during the time I was on this planet. I think this job would allow me to accomplish that in a meaningful way. So I'll give it my best shot and see how it all unfolds.

Cross your fingers and say a prayer everyone. I think this one could be the one.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Book or Movie?

Mimi brought up a good question over at Bigger Than A Breadbox.

“What movies are better than the book that they are based on?”

Rather than repeat the list she gave I'll let you wander there if you are curious.
But it has gotten me to thinking some on my own book vs. movie perceptions. Also, as I said in my comment at Mimi's blog, I'm noticing I process differently when I READ a book with my eyes vs. LISTENING to audio books - even when hearing unabridged books that have exactly the same words.

How about you? Are there movies you think out shined their book origins? Which movies have been the greatest letdowns after a book that was a great read?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Perfect Brightness of HOPE

The scriptures are replete with references to HOPE.

PSALMS 71:14 But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.

ROMANS 8:24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

LAMENTATIONS 3:26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.

MORONI 7:42 Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.

I've been thinking about hope a lot.
I don't trust hope.
Too many times hope leads to heartache and disappointment.

In an eternal sense hope may be a dandy thing, connected with faith, trusting in the promises of God. But in the temporal world Hope is a trickster, buoying up my spirits with a giddy expectation that everything will turn out well when many times it does not. All too often, hope leaves me stranded.

So, at times, I try to disengage myself from hope. I tell myself it is not helpful to have any great attachment to one outcome or another. What I want, long for, hope for, will not have any bearing on the outcome. Events and circumstances are going to play out however they will regardless of my puny desires and motives, no matter how passionate they may be. I might as well just accept what comes. Hope is just my vain way of fooling myself into believing I know what the good/best/right outcome would be when the truth of the matter is that I only see such a small fraction of the big picture how can I possible know what would be for the best?

HOWEVER - the flip side of all this is that I want to hope. Even when things turn out badly in the end, the way I experience the process when I am in a state of hope primes me for noticing positive possibilities along the way rather than forfeiting into a sense of inevitability. When I am HOPING I am alert and looking for every toe hold of opportunity to influence things. When I lose hope I go despondent and begin to believe nothing I say or do will matter. That spirals into alienation and a dark sense of futility. Not a place I want to be.

Right now there are several key things I am hoping for.

I am hoping my oldest son will graduate
I am hoping our house sells
I am hoping I get the job I just interviewed for
I am hoping a variety of other things that I prefer not to mention here...

I have no idea how any of these things will ultimately turn out. But I do hope.

And with that hope comes much heartache and disappointment.
It's a package deal. I'll take each sorrow as it comes and view it as far preferable to the hollow sense of apathetic hopelessness that is the alternative.

I'm rambling, I know. But this is an issue that's been rattling around in my mind a lot of late. CAUTION says "Don't get your hopes up". My heart says "Too late, my hope is soaring. Perhaps I'll crash. But in the mean time, I'm going to have a fabulous ride. Just name me Icarus."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Life is What Happens to You While You are Making Other Plans

The Universe has such a quirky sense of humor. I remember reading in a sci fi novel once the phrase "God is an iron because He is a master of irony."

I have applied for about a dozen jobs that I was VERY qualified for, four of which sound like ideal matches for my strengths and past experience. Most of them I didn't even get a call back on and the couple interviews that I had (both of which went VERY well) did not result in me being chosen.

Then, on a lark, in a moment of frustration and petulance I submitted my resume for something that was totally out of my league that there was NO FREAKING WAY I would have a chance at - but sounded like it was for a cool organization I could support. I tossed off the resume and a very quick cover letter online in the middle of the night saying something to the effect that I would be interested in meeting with them to see if I might be a fit for any role at this organization.

Oddly enough, I was contacted THE VERY NEXT DAY and had an interview set up for the day after that - which is today. So I will be going in this afternoon to meet the director and talk about the program. I have no idea how to prepare or what to expect because I know I do not have the basic qualifications for the advertised job. I have looked at everything I could find to learn about the overall organization and see no other jobs on the horizon. So I'm totally stumped as to why this very busy man wants to take an hour out of his day to meet with me.

If I actually landed a job there it would be going into a completely different field doing work entirely unlike anything I've done for the past dozen years.

But hey, stranger things have happened.

I'm going at this with my mind open to anything, if nothing else just to learn more about the organization and the person at the helm. Never know where that connection could lead. I do NOT have high expectations for employment there at present, but it seems the universe has ideas for me that I would never guess.

It's a curious world.

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