Downsizing

I’ve been thinking a lot about downsizing recently. Not in a “Honey, I Shrank the Kids” kind of way, or a “let’s sell everything and live in a yurt” way either. More along the lines of “do I need a crockpot and an instapot, along with two types of coffee makers and a water seltzer machine” kind of way.

Tiny house, Portland
Tiny House, Portland (creativecommons.org)

As we were putting away the ornaments from this year’s Christmas tree, we began asking each other questions. Smaller tree, fewer ornaments , which ones do we think we’ll use next year, what to do with the ones we won’t? At dinner with the kids that week we asked them, and got the answer we were expecting: no, but thank you.

How many of our possessions and collections of things accumulated over the years have just been taking up space in our homes and in our lives? Bought for a purpose at one time or received as gifts, but now adding to the massive truck load of Stuff that gets boxed and stored each time we move. It seems as if new things come and take up residence in our lives on an ongoing basis, joining old things that never seem to move out. 

A brief Google search returned an overwhelming number of blogs dedicated to simple living. With so much written on the topic, one would think we were all living in tiny houses, growing fresh herbs in our pocket gardens while we shop local at the Farmers Market. Somehow, I don’t think that is the case with many of the people I know. But for what it’s worth, simplify and minimize sound like attractive goals in our materialistic, fill up the house with stuff, lives.

Most of the blogs started to sound alike: 8 Essential Rules For Living With Less; 22 Ways to Simplify Your Life and Make Time for What Matters; 19 Ways to Simplify Your Life…you get the picture. More rules than any of us have time for, really.

An online article (www.wsj.com) at least gave us a place to start.

  • Find someone who can help you sort things out, who doesn’t have the emotional weight of ownership and can help you make hard decisions. A friend or coworker perhaps who can Help Organize. I found this extremely helpful at work when it came time to pack up my office.
  • We are all familiar with the Keep, Give to Family, Donate, Throw Away rubric. Whether you place it into bags for donating, or simply mark it with color-coded stickers for action later, the goal is to make a decision now.
  • Don’t tackle it all at once. When we decided to move to a smaller home, we took the three months prepping the house for sale to also begin pruning our stuff. Much of it went to Salvation Army. Some of it we sold online. But truthfully, a lot of it went to the dump.

It’s hard to fight the urge to buy new; we are constantly being fed media messages to replace, acquire, increase, purchase: a steady diet of materialism. In our case, we know that one day we will downsize again. But with each move, I’ve found even more freedom from the grasp of our possessions. We actually can live smaller, and enjoy it too.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24

Starting Over

When I turned 30 I ran my first (and only) marathon. I had been running daily at work for a couple of years and had participated in several short to mid-distance fun runs in the San Diego area with a small group from work. The 10K runs were always enjoyable; I never ran at the front of the pack preferring to keep a pleasant 7 minute pace and just jog along. I don’t think I was quite ready for the amount of running/training it would take to get up to the 26.2 miles of a marathon. But I was game and I was pleased with my eventual 3 1/2 hour race time.

Doing things in inverse order, I ran a 15K race thru Torrey Pines sometime after the marathon. I was surprised at how my time had gotten better along with my enjoyment. I loved running, just loved it. And it was something I could do and definitely see signs of improvement.

However, 13 years later, after experiencing quite a bit of pain in my knee which I attributed to running on hard surfaces, I finally decided to do something about it. Laproscopic surgery was the result and repairing the torn meniscus greatly reduced my discomfort. But I found I couldn’t run anymore. At the time, the surgeon had said I also had arthritis in both knees (did you play football in college, he asked? uh…no). Watchful waiting was prescribed at the time.

It’s now 25 years after that first surgery and I am getting ready to go in again. But the years haven’t been so kind to my bones and arthritis has taken it’s toll. Like many others my age, I will be getting a total knee replacement. I’m looking forward to starting over: walking at first with my cane and in time, greater distances.

But reading through the literature I was surprised to see that I won’t be doing any running after recovery: “Following surgery, you will be advised to avoid some types of activity, including jogging and high impact sports, for the rest of your life…” We’ve been doing ballroom dancing (low impact sport?) for the past 6 years so I’m hoping to get back to that routine. But it doesn’t look like I will be competing in any senior division half marathons in the future.

There have been a number of times in the past when I have had to start over. When I moved to San Diego after college graduation; when I joined the Army; when I moved to Virginia. All have had their challenges and I’ve been excited for a fresh start. This time it’s reassuring to have a partner at my side as I start over. At least she can help me get to my walker! We shall see what lies ahead.

An MRI can reveal a lot on the inside to the trained eye.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

Fear of Falling

46 years ago I walked across the grass to receive my college diploma with a degree in Fine Arts. After four years of drawing, painting, and sculpting nearly every day, I was anxious to explore a career in making art. And then one job lead to another, and time passed. I’ve since retired from a career in communications (my minor in English helped with that) and graphic arts. 

painting outdoors
My granddaughter enjoying a little painting time outdoors.

But somewhere through those years I put my brushes and paints down. Except for a few years as a scenic painter for our church’s Easter productions, I haven’t painted on canvas at all. Scenic painting lead to decorative painting, but still nothing with the same scale and intent as what I had set out to accomplish 40 something years earlier. 

This week, with the closing of AC Moore crafts stores, I picked up a few canvases at 40% off. The shelves had been picked clean of their paints so I had to stock up elsewhere. Random thought: prices on acrylics have risen ALOT in 40 years. But now I’m ready to start again.

A friend online posted a bit of encouragement. I responded that I was hoping to “catch it again.” Nature or nurture? Training or talent? If you let the lightning out of the bottle, can you catch it again? I suppose that uncertainty has partially been the reason I haven’t been more prolific as an artist. At some point though, you have to overcome your (very real) fear of falling if you want to walk again, let alone create. My granddaughter has admonished me several times, “ You have to face your fears, Papa.”

Challenge accepted.

Painting with jar of paintbrushes
Something old, something new. It’s time to create.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

When Time Isn’t Your Friend

Not too many years after we had been married, Deb and I began a custom that we have managed to carry on for many years now. Our anniversary is just after the New Year and it has become an opportune time to get away for a few days. Depending on where you go, hotel rates are often lower during the off-season and it’s a chance to explore what the East coast has to offer in the way of smaller resorts, boutique hotels, and inns.

We’ve enjoyed staying at a boutique hotel in historic Charleston, SC; the Red Fox Inn in Middleburg, VA; the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, VA; and the Savage River Lodge in MD along with others. Large or small, they’ve each had their charms and we’ve revisited several over the years.

One of our favorite locations was the Inn on Daufuskie Island, SC (Melrose Resort) where we enjoyed New Year’s Eve and southern hospitality. In January of 2008, the resort was just over 20 years old. The landscaping was mature and well kept, the Inn’s rooms didn’t appear dated, and the southern-style inn, with it’s plantation shutters and wide verandas, seemed to have been built sometime in the previous century. The ferry ride over to the island was brief and, though no cars are allowed on the island, getting around via golf carts and bicycles was an enjoyable change of pace.

According to the Post and Courier “Melrose comes with a 50-room inn, 15 rental cottages, a marina and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. It occupies a prime spot along Calibogue Sound on a spit made famous by the late author Pat Conroy, who wrote about his time teaching school kids on Daufuskie in “The Water is Wide.” A film version starring Jon Voight in the title role “Conrack” followed in 1974 .https://www.postandcourier.com/business/on-business-idled-south-carolina-resort-is-out-of-bankruptcy/article_85012a88-32be-11e8-8f38-c7908cf90837.html

Searching online for an anniversary destination this year got me reminiscing about our time on the island: perhaps it was time for a repeat visit. I couldn’t find their website so I searched for “The Inn at Daufuskie Island.”

Strangely enough, I found several videos on YouTube of the Melrose Resort taken by urban decay explorers, people who take videos on abandoned properties. What had happened to this secluded resort that had appeared to be forgotten by time?

In 2009, a year after we had stayed at the inn, the owners filed for bankruptcy. The resort was sold and several years later the new owners filed for bankruptcy protection. There were several newspaper accounts of the last owners having been indicted in a Ponzi-like scheme, ostensibly to raise money for the refurbishment of the resort.

The resort is now out of bankruptcy and likely to be sold again, though the devastation brought about by hurricanes and neglect look to be too much from which to recover. 

Still photos are from the YouTube video which can be seen here: https://youtu.be/awvgUCcKCcU

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:26-27