Monthly Archives: November 2010

Embracing Unexpected Time Out

Smack dab in the middle of my frantic efforts to move out of my home by Sunday night, a severe storm wiped the power out on Monday. Huddled in front of the wood burning stove on Jack’s mattress, we managed to keep a warm fire going until we ran out of wood, around 8pm. The temperatures plummeted as we slept, and when I awakened at 5am, it was 20 degrees. In the house.

Jack tending the wood burning stove.


I live in a little mobile home park community, and so to be very honest, I bundled up and went in search of wood to steal (borrow?) from my neighbor’s new wood pile to build a fire…but there was no kindling, and the log I stole was too big for my stove anyway. So I sat on the floor in front of the stove, shivering pathetically in the dark, as my slept on his mattress, trying to figure out what to do next.

Tap, tap, tap…there was a light knocking on my door. Embarrassingly, it was the very neighbor from whom I’d just stolen wood. With an uncharacteristically big smile on his face, he extended his arms full of kindling and smaller pieces of wood, saying, “This should do the trick,” to get a fire going (obviously I’d had no smoke billowing out of my chimney). I sheepishly confessed my theft which it turns out he’d observed from his window, and he simply responded by asking he could take my tea kettle and heat it on his bbq to make hot water for me. I can’t tell you how much this gesture meant to me; it’s probably one of the kindest things anyone’s done for me, in light of the dire circumstances of the sub-freezing temperatures and no power on the island!

Later that morning, we accompanied Jillian to work at Virginia Mason Clinic, blessedly warmed by a generator. As our feet thawed out, we spent a lovely day in the spacious and generously stocked staff lunch room, visiting with Larry, Eli, Jillian and her co-workers. We had a thoroughly lovely day, but when it became apparent that the power was going to remain out yet another night, Jack and I hightailed it to Seattle (in the sunlight of the 14 degree afternoon, while the black-ice-coated streets had had half a chance of melting a bit). A relaxing and unexpected evening ensued, spent with my son and Noel’s father, who prepared a delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs for us.

Although I was extremely anxious to get back to my packing (and my mess of a house, by this time), I made the decision for Jack and I to drive to Cannon Beach, Oregon, to fulfill our plans to spend Thanksgiving with some of my family, who had come up from California to visit my niece who is attending a little Bible college there in Ecola, just a stone’s throw from legendary Haystack Rock.

Haystack Rock, Ecola, Oregon

Despite my anxiety about the move, and all the pressures I felt, I was actually able to relax and enjoy our visit together in our tiny cabin for two days. We enjoyed Cornish Game Hens (or as Jack named them, Turkish Corn Hens!), steamed broccoli, yams, potatoes, and lots of goat brie and crackers. Not exactly our typical over-the-top Thanksgiving fare, but made all the more special for the long treks we each took to arrive at the beach just for the enjoyment of one another’s company.

The trip home included an enjoyable detour to Portland to explore the Hawthorne district and enjoy an incredibly delicious Thai lunch with Jack’s other mom and her step sons.

I’m so glad that I took time out of my hectic life to enjoy some small pleasures. The gorgeous drive down the snowy coast, walking on the beach at 9pm, with the tide seemingly miles out, hanging out with my niece at her dorm and meeting some of her friends, and even watching mindless HGTV upon awakening at 6am, waiting for the rest of my family to stir, hours later. The trip to Portland, and a sweet reunion with my honey (who arrived with homemade pumpkin pie), upon my arrival home last night.

Today, it’s back to hauling, painting, Goodwill runs, and cleaning. All fortified by the time I took to rest, enjoy loved ones, eat some good food, and take a few more days off (due to the storm and power outage) then expected. I’ll always enjoy the memories of our trip to Cannon Beach, and the time spent with my son, before the pace of life triples in the next few weeks, following the move to California and the start of a new job.
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A Short Guide to Consumer Disobedience

A Short Guide to Consumer Disobedience.

I love this post, and I think she makes a lot of great recommendations. When I think about how much interest I’ve paid to credit card companies in the last 20+ years, it makes me cringe. Credit card companies are criminals, folks! I cut up my credit cards two years ago, and now live entirely on cash.

It’s admittedly hard at times…there are times when I’d like to make a large impulse purchase (like a great chaise-lounge or a boxy Scion wagon!) but I simply cannot do it until I save the money first. I’ve learned that I won’t die without the chair or the car, and since I haven’t managed to save the money to purchase either, maybe they weren’t all that important to begin with.

I recently came into a bit of money (thank you, mom). My only priority was to pay off my son’s medical bills, and make some much-needed repairs to my car, including replacing the broken windshield, which had bothered me for several years. So I had the windshield replaced. As excited as I was to drive away from the glass-repair shop with a spanking-new windshield, only a few days later, I’d already forgotten that the windshield was broken. This is to say that even folks like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt take their fancy cars, huge homes, and jets for granted once they get used to them. Happiness is an inside job, after all.

I admit, I’m still paying off old debt from decorating a home I purchased over 5 years ago! I no longer own the home, but I had a great time decorating it – While on some excessive-credit-manic-induced-high, I purchased gorgeous Pergo floors, tiny green iridescent tiles for the bathroom, Room & Board custom upholstered chairs, a Pottery Barn sleigh bed, a gorgeous dining set and a bees-wax-finished armoir, and much more. I say we purchased them, but in reality, we charged them. Big difference. Which means, I’m only just now paying for the bed, chairs, tiles, and flooring (plus about 50% compound interest!). Those things did not bring me long-term happiness, nor did they fix all the problems in my relationship. I see now , how those purchases were just a short-term-high.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love beautiful things. Aesthetics are important to me. I love beauty, pretty linens, gorgeous potted flowers, my Fiesta-ware dishes, and colorful area rugs! My aesthetic is Bohemian-chic (think Anthropology, flea-markets and farmers’ markets). But now I only buy what I can afford; I live within my modest means, and I look forward to the day that I’m free of old debt. A friend recently asked me, what will you buy with all the money you earn from the new job? I replied, nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’m going to relish the spaciousness I feel from becoming debt-free, and having money in the bank for a change. I have no major needs, other than to live debt free. Think of all the options one has, when one is debt-free. Radical! I’ve come to relish (financial) freedom over any beautiful objects I might own..Took me way too long!….

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Sitting on the dock of the bay…

Monday night, I fell asleep to the sound of blaring car horns, cheering, and the hoots and hollers of San Francisco citizens celebrating the World Series championship in North Beach. Exhilarating, but not the stuff of good sleep, the night before “the big interview”! Just weeks before, I’d been invited to interview for my dream job, however, it would require a move back to the bay area – an unexpected turn of events!

Sunrise in Northbeach, October 2010.


My last memorable bay-area world series took place in Oakland at precisely 5pm, October 17, 1989, when the “big one” hit and took out the bay bridge, the Cyprus highway, and melted the ground under our feet for 15 seconds. I was just leaving work on Stuart Street, as the building swayed around me, and brick facades tumbled into the street. As the facilities manager for the Jewish Federation, I returned to the building where the security guard and I camped out until the electricity came on several days later.

Then there was my first move to San Francisco, back in 1987, on Super Bowl Sunday. Do not move on Super Bowl Sunday. You will do it alone. I’d been living on a sailboat in Sausalito since I’d arrived from Omaha, following college graduation. Sausalito was picturesque, but a bit isolated for this city-loving-lesbian. So I networked (how did we do it back then, before Craigslist and google groups???) and found a lesbian couple with a spare room in the Haight. Twenty-three years later, one of them is like a sister to me, and the other is about to become my roommate again, upon my return to the bay area after a 5-year hiatus on Bainbridge Island, outside of Seattle. Truly a full-circle moment.

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve become pretty focused on the topic of minimalist living, being-over-doing, and as my friend, Terri coined the term, avoiding the “acquisition lifestyle”. After being offered a lucrative dream job in the bay area, I really struggled with this concept, because the bay area represents anything but minimalism (in my mind). In fact, it pretty much represents sitting in traffic. I worry that moving back to that environment will be too distracting, and I’ll lose the grounding I’ve gained while living a relatively simple, quiet life these past years. But I’ve also felt isolated as a single lesbian on this sleepy little island, and working mostly from home has exacerbated that feeling of loneliness. My son is getting older, and fewer hours are spent parenting these days, and my Aries nature does not care for strict routine!

I’ve had a lot of painful endings during the last year or so. My mother died of cancer, soon followed by my step-father. I had to put my mom’s dog down (after she had so lovingly entrusted her to my care). Then, my beloved dog, Gracie died just last week. My son had a couple of hospitalizations. And I made the very difficult decision to end a not-all-bad, 8-year relationship. It’s been a tough go, and a time of deep reflection and striving to create a beautiful life for myself, despite the pain of these losses.

Mom and Klaus' headstone in Memphis


Despite the excitement I felt about the job opportunity (a fun and perfect next-step in my career), I wondered if I could still fit in with old friends, since I’d stepped off the city-dwelling-rat-race years ago. However, as I thought about my old friends and the lives they had created for themselves living in the heart of big cities, the anxious voices in my head ceased.

Rita, the CEO of an investment banking firm (and my honorary auntie), lives about 1/4 mile away from her financial-district office. She has lived in a 3rd story walk-up flat in North Beach for 19 years, doesn’t own a car, and hikes most weekends with her adult children and friends. She is an artist and writer, with a small group of very close friends.

Cousin Joe lives in a gorgeous Golden Gate Victorian, which he has owned for decades. Retired, he and his partner John enjoy a quiet life when they aren’t traveling the world. Joe’s house looks like it has since I first visited in 1986.

Tamara lives on Alameda Island, just minutes from her job with the Oakland school district. The modest property has two little houses, so she’ll rent one out for income, and live in the other with her 9 year old son. She lives just a five-minute walk from the beach, where she goes to meditate each evening after work.

Terri lives in co-housing with her two children, and life revolves around a bustling, creative, loving community of like-minded individuals. She drives an old Honda she’s had for years, and enjoys traveling whenever she gets the chance.

Stack has been living in the same apartment for years, where she raised her nephew, and is now a yoga instructor.

I could go on, but you get the idea. These are all people I know and love, who don’t necessarily subscribe to typical big-city-acquisition-lifestyle. They have each carved out beautiful, meaningful lives for themselves.

This is all to say that I felt reassured about my decision to take the job in California, despite my initial misgivings. My “slice of life” will include paying off old debt (talk about simplifying), connecting with the local SGI (Buddhist) community, walking around Lake Merritt (where I will live in one of my very favorite neighborhoods), cooking with fresh ingredients from local markets, taking classes at Oakland’s Studio One Arts Center again, and socializing with dear friends.

Beautiful Lake Merritt - my new neighborhood!


I don’t regret moving to Bainbridge Island five years ago. I have forged deep relationships and will remain forever connected to them. I found a loving and supportive Buddhist community, I raised my son in a safe and nurturing environment, and I learned how to entertain myself in ways that didn’t involve recreational shopping. I’ve mellowed and hopefully, matured. I’ve become a great cook. I met sweet Noel, and we will continue our shared and individual journeys.

At the same time, I’m the consummate adventurer, and this will not likely be my last move. So stay tuned!

“When an adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it”. Amelia Earhart

I dedicate this post to my devoted companion of 9 years, sweet Gracie. You are so very missed.

Gracie

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