Sunday, February 25, 2007

Moving Fast

This past week, we crossed into the divide between our previous lifestyle and our new chosen lifestyle as full-timers. We moved into high-gear and it all happened so quickly. Despite planning for this for almost 3 years, putting the house on the market and ordering the motorhome are two events that can hit you right between the eyes: this is real, this is really going to happen!
For the past few days we’ve both been staring off into the distance with glassy eyes, emotions running high. Normal routine is gone for a few months, a victim of the real-estate agent’s interior designer that came in to help make the house “show” better. The coffee maker is now in a cabinet under a counter somewhere; my socks are in the same dresser drawer, but it’s all been moved to the other side of the bedroom; the tables are all set, apparently, for the new owner’s first dinner party (I’ve been relegated to small corner of one table, sorta’ between place settings that can’t be touched.) So life has changed. As I was vacuuming the kitchen floor the other night I came to the realization that this really isn’t my house anymore. Yes, in theory we still own it, but in reality, we’re just cleaning it up and taking care of it for the next owners.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

NOT Retirement

As most of you know, Dar and I are planning a big change in our life. No, not divorce. Instead, we’re going to divest ourselves of a good number of our possessions, as well as the house we own, in order to spend a few years “on the road”, living in a big ol’ RV, seeing and experiencing North America. Some people, who hear about this, ask “why?” I ask in return, “why not?” But, since we’re not totally crazy (I don’t think) and since we have a few real reasons, allow me to try and respond to “why?”
First, a desire to find the place we’d like to spend the rest of our lives. Since we were married 30-some years ago, we’ve moved from Wisconsin to Minnesota to Florida, back to Wisconsin, back to Minnesota, out to Washington, and then to Illinois. While there are some things we like about the Chicago Metro area, there is no driving reason to keep us here. We have friends and family all over the country, but not a critical mass in this, or any other, place. Ideally, we’d like a more moderate climate, a lower cost of living, fewer crowds and congestion, and more laid-back lifestyle. Our favorite grand-kid, our only grand-kid, lives with his Mom and Dad in Washington, so, by default, that’s high on the list. Our son currently lives and works in the Chicago area, but he is considering a change of venue himself. In any event, we want to take our time and wander the U.S. for a while before deciding.
Second, to more deeply experience the real U.S… and I don’t mean the big cities and population centers where most people now live. We want to see and experience the land and the people on it, the history of this country, to see where we’ve come from and, perhaps, get a sense of where its all going. Outdoor recreation is also high on our list: hiking, kayaking, and cycling. We’d like to express ourselves creatively by writing and photographing what we experience.
Finally, to escape, at least temporarily, facing our mortality. We’re in our mid-50’s, and friends and acquaintances are dropping over at an increasing rate. Each one of them remind us “if you don’t do it now, just when will you do it?” I know this is natural process, very normal, and there’s nothing we can do to stop the inevitable. But, at least for a while, we can do something different, something crazy. We can experience and enjoy life in a way we haven’t done before. Remember the old adage that, in the end, people don’t regret the things they’ve done… it’s the things they don’t do that they regret. For years our “raison d’etre” was raising our two children and getting them set off on a good path. That completed, simply saving more in fear of unknown problems as we age isn’t, for us, that driving reason for being, that purpose… at least at this point in our lives.
This is not retirement. We don’t have a desire to retire, maybe ever. We’re referring to this as a sabbatical. In academia, a sabbatical refers to a year off every seven. Since we’ve been working for over 30 years, we think we have about 4 years in our sabbatical bank. Whether we use all four in this endeavor remains to be seen. At some point, we fully expect to get back to work again… be it a small business, professional engagements, or traditional jobs for pay.
So, in a nutshell, that’s it. Why?… Why not?

Getting Organized

Dar and I are in the process of “de-cluttering”. This is really a big deal, since the two of us have opposite views on the subject of accumulating possessions and their subsequent disposal.
My dear partner is a pack-rat. She admits it. These genes run in her family, and she really got a good dose of ‘em. She believes that everything has value, given the right conjunction of the matter-space-time continuum. This genetic pre-disposition for hoarding was probably also reinforced by her up-bringing on a farm out in the Township of Westford, where things like this occurred on a regular basis:
  • Old Man: “Dang, this old electric motor on the grain-auger is about shot. I’ll have to run to town, buy a new one, and loose half a day gettin’ it all done.”
  • Daughter: “Gee Dad, do you think the motor that’s in that old washing machine lying out behind the barn would work?”
  • Old Man: “You know, it just might! I like the way you think. I’ll give it a try.”
Living on the edge of the prairie and miles from anywhere made saving stuff “just-in-case” a necessity. However, behaviors learned in childhood are hard to change, maybe impossible. So, fast-forwarding to today, this is how a recent conversation went:
  • New Old Man: “Looks like the pump is shot on the dishwasher. We’ll have to get a repairman in to have a look.”
  • Wife: “I wonder if the pump that’s in that old wash machine out behind by Dad’s barn would work?”
Besides the utility of saved stuff, there’s the emotional element to contend with. I can’t write much about that, because if she reads this blog entry, she’ll start crying. That’s all I have to say about that.
Now, I admit, I played a role in the accumulation of all the stuff that surrounds me and is currently preventing me from getting to my workbench in the basement without crawling over some old exercise equipment or squeezing around the side of the furnace. But the difference is this: she saves stuff because it might be useful someday or because it has some sentimental value. I just abandon stuff and am too lazy to get rid of it.
So, here we find ourselves — preparing for the future and, together, cleaning out the clutter. And it’s becoming apparent that we have different philosophys here too. She carefully goes through every box, making a mental calculation with everything she touches: “how might I use this someday? who might be able to use it? what does it mean to me? I wonder if my Dad could use it on the farm?” Some things are being thrown out, some offered to others — but it’s a slow process, and we still have way too much stuff.
I, on the other hand, have a slightly different philosophy: the house has just burned to the ground. Now what, I ask myself as I sort through the ash and rubble, would I not be able to replace at Fleet Farm or WalMart if I ever needed it again? I could fill a dumpster in a day!
But, alas, in the interest of domestic harmony and staying married, I’m letting my dear wife go through it all her way first. But I’ve got the number for the dumpster guy in my speed-dial. And I’m waiting.