Triggering everything 

I’ve avoided using my blog to enter into all the social justice and political debates. Twitter has been my outlet for this but it can be a pain to navigate because of all its limitations. But now I’ve decided to make increased use of this blog. 

America has become a really weird place. According to many, most of the values I embrace are antiquated, bigoted, racist, sexist and fit into one or more phobias.  There are many voices of reason though with whom I agree, ie Ben Shapiro, Steve Crowder, Gavin McInnes and many others.

It’s a good thing these people exist and have a voice. Unfortunately I don’t have their platform because, honestly, no one cares what I think or have to say. So at the risk of inviting a few scattered hate comments from those who allege to be the most tolerant of all, I’m throwing my opinions out there for all who might be interested in one more person to dislike.

There are so many topics to address it’s really difficult to choose one. I think I’d like to dive into the one about gender. Why not? I’ve heard it said that gender and sex are not the same. And yet, they really are. If you are born male, you’re a boy and if you’re born female you are a girl. When you visit the newborn nursery at a hospital you see boy babies and girl babies. You never see a sign marked, undecided or to be determined. There are many things in life left up to choice. A career, a place to live, a spouse. Sex is not one of them. Just like you cannot choose your parents or the location of your birth you do not get to choose whether you are a boy or a girl, a man or a woman. You can pretend but your body knows what it is.

It is a shame that so many people have decided to live in a fantasy world and are trying to get everyone else to live there as well. I am perfectly fine with reality. All the surgeries, cross dressing and weird names are not going to change the truth. 

Males are males and females are females. I don’t even need to prove this. Penises and vaginas have made the difference very clear.

Advertisements

Minimizing my minimalism 

Since starting this journey I’m learning a lot. My most recent revelation is that I do not want to live my life according to a term.  I am a member of a few groups defining themselves as “Minimalists” and have found lots of interesting people and useful information. But I have come to believe that many are living within this set of quotation marks who seem almost afraid that they won’t be true to the title if they don’t quite fit the mold.

Let’s go back a bit further. 

I’ve been a Christian for many, many years. More than half my life. For a long time I tried to make sure that I fit the term. I used all the right jargon. Made sure I called everyone brother or sister, said amen a lot. You know what I mean.  After many years, saying and doing all the right things almost seemed more important than the goal. The Bible is my handbook, the written source of all I know about God. But just reading it and carrying it doesn’t create a personal relationship with Christ. I have that now.  But it isn’t because I fit the mold. It’s because of the relationship that I have developed with Jesus over the years. Like marriage, the commitment takes a second but the relationship can take a lifetime.

Not my house

Back to the present 

I took a dream job on a ship where I would have very little space for stuff. I planned to be gone for 6 months and it didn’t make sense to keep paying for an apartment and utilities and so I left it all behind. The monetary value of my possessions was less than the cost of keeping them in storage for 6 months. At first I tried selling things. I did sell a few items but the clock was ticking and I had to be on a plane by a specific day. After distributing the most sentimental items to my kids I had to figure out what to do with everything else. I’ll admit it was difficult. There was nothing that I could not eventually use again in the future. But my plan was to be at sea for a couple of years. Little did I suspect that this would change and instead I’d be back in less than 3 months. You can go back and read about that another time.

And so, minimalism, was thrust upon me. But I embraced it. I took it to the utmost degree. One day I dragged my old sofa outside and not having a truck, hacked away at it with a hammer until I could haul it away in tiny pieces in the trunk of my small car. I removed every item from upstairs and brought it downstairs. The clock was ticking faster. If someone came in to buy a chair, they left with a bunch of other stuff as well. A hoarder would have been devastated by my wonton disbursement of all that I’d  accumulated. 

Not my house

I was by no means a packrat. Before the kids grew up and before my wife passed away, we had already downsized to move from our house into an apartment. But that is another story.

My goal was to only have what would fit and could be stored in my car, which would stay in storage at a family member’s home.

I met that goal. 

Now here I am just a few months later with much less than most minimalists. What is not in my car is in the room where I am staying. I recently went on a road trip up north and literally had all that I own with me. 

Not my house

As minimal as I have become,  I am avoiding the definition. I’ll admit that when I first started I embraced it wholeheartedly. I watched the videoes, joined the groups and took pride in this new identity. I made sure my Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other profiles all specifically identified me as a “minimalist” with extra large quotation marks!

I suddenly realized that I was doing the same thing I had previously done with Christianity. I was making sure I had the fish symbol on my car, went to every service, was on several church boards, etc. It was not until after I’d lost my wife that I realized that seeking God was the goal, not just talking the talk. 

Not my house

The same is true of what we are calling minimalism. I seek a simple, happy,  uncluttered lifestyle. I’m getting pretty darn close. It’s a bit late in life but sometimes you must lose a lot to figure out what is important. There is still a lot of tweaking to be done.  Ultimately,  satisfaction will not come to me be because I only have a chair and a tv and one piece of art on the wall. It won’t because I have less clothes than everyone else. It will be due to finally figuring out who I am and what I want my life to look like. With God’s grace I am going to get there.
Comments, questions and subscribers to this blog are appreciated. 

A word about Christmas, Minimalism and Gifts. 

The time is coming. It’s not even Thanksgiving and stores are full of trees and decorations for sale. We have not even had the opportunity to be thankful for what we have before getting ready to make a list of what we want.

For many, the spiritual aspect of Christmas is all but gone. No, it isn’t Giftmas. What once was a sacred occasion is nothing more than a time for stores to make as much profit as possible.

Now that I’ve ventured into the world of minimalism I’m getting to see a whole new side of Christmas that had really not been so much of an issue for me. But for many, it’s a big deal. And not just Christmas. It’s about birthdays, anniversaries and any other holiday, religious or not, where gifts are involved.

As minimalists desperately try to purge unwanted possessions, many dread situations where they are in danger of receiving unwelcome clutter in the form of a gift.

While I am no expert of etiquette and relatively new to minimalism I will offer my opinion, right or wrong, for you to consider and glean from it any portion you deem useful. What I have to say is not only for minimalists.

The conversation that arises is how to let others know that you don’t want any gifts or at least none that you won’t appreciate. Why let others waste money, time and effort on something that you don’t want? This is not an unreasonable mentality but there is much to think about on both sides.

For many, Christmas, birthdays and such are times for giving and many enjoy giving. And so picking out gifts for loved ones is a great pleasure. As the potential receiver you can’t take that away from them. It’s not your responsibility or place to tell others how to spend their money.

At the same time, gifters have some opportunities here. Since the last time they went shopping they have had an entire year to learn about what loved ones value and what their lifestyle is. Hopefully, as a gifter you know enough about your loved ones to show that not only did you take the time to shop, but you also took the time to learn about that person. Shopping for a minimalist can be hard work and frustrating because they seem to want nothing. Often whatever you get them might be regifted, exchanged or returned. Worse yet, it might get tossed in the trash. That is why, having a whole year is plenty of time to figure out when a gift card is a much better gift than a cheese slicer.

I am not a fan of Christmas lists. They are self indulgent and teach kids to think of themselves. It creates an air of expectation and entitlement. Parents have a whole year to learn what their kids like and don’t like. They shouldn’t need a list.

As receivers of gifts, no one, minimalists included, should fear the undesired gift. It is not your responsibility to make sure that your loved one is spending his or her money wisely. If they have not learned enough about you to know the best gift for you, take whatever it is, be grateful you were thought of and say a sincere thank you. So what if you end up giving it away, it didn’t cost you anything. So what if you didn’t get what you wanted. Go out and buy it yourself. You are entitled to nothing. You didn’t earn it, it didn’t cost you anything. A gift is just that, a gift. The giver has no obligation to give it or to make sure it will be appreciated. Receive it in the spirit it was given and say that you.

So stop worrying about getting the word out that you don’t want or need anything or that you have a list that others should adhere to. The world will not end because you got something you don’t want. Your life will not be ruined.

Merry Christmas

Get rid of all the things – Part III

Little things count. Bags of clothes sent to Goodwill, community centers and drop boxes count. Seldom used household items and non-sentimental trinkets are all candidates for the downsizing process. Garage and yard sales lose their attraction. Instead of looking at them with the thought of what treasure you might find, you long for the day when you can have your own sale. Everything I see now causes me to question its long term utility. It is a change in my thinking that I wasn’t expecting.

One must be a bit careful. It can become easy to look at everything as expendable. I’m not quite ready for that. Getting rid of something only to find I would need it will cost me in the end. That is one benefit of starting a purge while there is no hurry. A time will come when I am ready to move into a smaller space and the need to get rid of stuff will be more urgent. By that time, I expect to have much less than I do now so that the process is not overwhelming.

The last things you should get rid of are clothes, tools and cooking items. At least that is what I am thinking right now. I am not following a particular plan but taking bits and pieces of what others are doing. Some of the people I’ve read are over the top and into lifestyles that are not of interest to me. I am not a vegan, yoga practitioner or tree hugger. I am not interested in eating bugs, hunting my own food or growing a garden. The nomadic lifestyle is somewhat alluring, offering the opportunity to see different places and not be tied down to one location and climate.

Having lost my wife has made it easier to get rid of material things. When you no longer have the person who means the most to you, everything else’s value decreases. Of course I am not talking about people. Inanimate objects no longer hold the appeal they once did. And so we can more easily part with them.

Stay tuned for more on my path to smallness.

 

Finding my happy place.

20160317_192457_Richtone(HDR)

I finally did it. After spending a great many years working in positions where I couldn’t wait to go home and dreaded waking up in the morning, I made a huge change in the type of work that I want to do. I’m not sure if this something we can all do. “They” say to do what you love and success will follow. That is a much easier plan for those who start life with some idea of what they want to be when they grow up.

Back in the day, as my son would say, I had a notion of what interested me. Although I got off to a decent start, I failed to follow through. I have no one else to blame but myself. Sure, I could rattle off a list of circumstances that legitimately caused some changes in my life. Ultimately, we are all responsible for the choices we make, or that we fail to make.

I have not had a bad life. I married a wonderful woman and I wish more than anything that she was still here with me now. We raised four fantastic children who are smarter and more talented that I ever was. I had a career and jobs that, regardless of my complaints, kept a roof over our heads and food on the table.

Now I am in another season of life where my lifestyle and choices affect only me. And so, I gave up my search for the highest paying jobs that were geared toward my accumulated experience and turned in a completely different direction. In the past year I left a position that paid better that I could have hoped for at my age and with my limited skills. I gave up the security of earning enough to pay my bills. But, most of all I gave up work that I did not enjoy. And that, my friends, in the point of this story.

With a few dollars saved and much trepidation I began a search for “fun” jobs. This was not an easy way to look for work. Career builder, Monster and the other job search engines apparently consider quite a variety of jobs “fun”.  I beg to differ with their opinions. So it was up to me to figure out what a fun job really is. I knew I wanted to work with happy people. In a nutshell, I needed to avoid unhappiness. All my previous jobs seemed to be in the arena of serving disgruntled consumers who were victims of unfortunate circumstances. After many years of working in this type of environment I began to assume that everyone is basically unhappy and angry. This is not what I wanted.

I tried to imagine places where everyone was happy. Disney World? Too far away.  Fitness centers? One look at me and any potential member would find another facility. Entertainment? I can’t sing, act or dance.

I started to consider tourist attractions and other fun places such as vacation resorts. I even considered the travel industry. After all, who is happier that someone going on vacation?

After many fruitless searches I found a position as photographer with a vendor associated with none other than one of the most famous and long standing entertainment venues, tourist attractions and historic places in the world. And so I became a photographer at the Grand Ole Opry House right here in Nashville. Everyone who goes there is excited. No one is upset. No one is angry. No one is disgruntled. If ever there was a group of customers, actually they are guests, who are happy about where they are, it is these folks.

In the short amount of time that I have been in this position I have interacted with tourists and vacationers from just about every state in America. I have also met people from many other countries. Young people, old, and every age in between. I have learned much about photography and am learning more all the time from my teammates. Everyone I work with has been kind, welcoming and helpful.

Everyday that I am scheduled to work, I drive to the Grand Ole Opry House. I walk into a place where countless country music artists have walked. I stand on the stage where they perform. I take photos of people standing on a world famous, priceless, 6 foot circle of oak that was cut out of the Ryman Auditorium many years ago. I have walked on that same spot countless times since working there. I look out from the stage at the same seats and lights that the artists see. Best of all, my job is to tell people to smile and let me capture a moment that they will never forget. Some guests have become overwhelmed and actually cry as they stand on the circle while I take there picture.

20160317_172558

Some bend down and rub their hands over the wood. Others just stare at it in wonder. I have seem pnople lay down photos of friends and relatives who passed away before they could make the pilgrimage here. The guests are babies, parents, high school groups, senior citizens. People have come onto the circle with walkers and wheelchairs. The wood creaks when walked on telling, how old and seasoned it is. Everyone is respectful and aware of its significance.

20160317_172755.jpg

And so right now I am at the right place and at the right time in my life. I have other plans for my future but this is a big part of it. I am not going to get wealthy doing this but happiness has its own value. I’ve learned that doing something you enjoy sometimes means you have to scale down and make your lifestyle fit your paycheck instead of trying to make as much money as possible so you can have lots of stuff. At least that is the case now for me. I am past that time in my life where I need a large house and fancy car. Now I just want to enjoy each day.

20160317_192441_Richtone(HDR)

Get rid of all the things!

get rid of

I never imagined myself as one of those people who could eventually want to only own a minimal amount of stuff. When I lost my wife back in 2012 I started to change. After my initial period of grief I eventually rearranged the furniture, and made some small changes to the decor. Soon the last of my children will leave the nest and there will only be me.

I have never lived completely alone. This will be a first for me. It was not part of the plan. I expected to have my wife with me for an indefinite period of time. Not only did losing her change who I am but it also seems to be changing who I want to be. When you have your whole family around you, the home and all that is in it takes on a personality, sort of an extension of who everyone is. You must have enough room for everyone to have his and her own space to the extent you can afford. You’ve got to have beds, closet space, bathrooms enough for everyone. Even with sharing these spaces there is only so little you can get by with when there are two adults and 4 kids. There has to be a place to prepare meals, do laundry and well, live.

Now that it is getting close to being just me everything is starting to feel like clutter. Just when I thought I had arranged everything just the way I would like it, now it all feels like more than I need. My overall plans for the future have changed too.  Because of this,  I have started looking at what is around me and wondering if I really need all of it. Do I really need any of it?

In the past couple of months I have started selling things. A couple of the items were some that I searched long and hard for before buying them, looking for exactly what I wanted, finding the best price and making sure it fit in my budget. Wanting is often more fun than having. Instead of shopping at garage sales I am constantly looking around for what I can get rid of.

It has been interesting reading blogs and watching videos about living minimally. Getting rid of a few bigger items wasn’t that difficult. I sold a tent, bike, picnic table and a few other items with no regret. It’s the little things that are the hardest. You don’t realize how much junk can accumulate. I often will look at something and not know why I have it. It was part of something bigger but I can’t remember what it came off of. I have been afraid to throw it away because I may suddenly remember how important it originally was. This is one of the habits that is difficult to break when trying to get rid of superfluous stuff.

This morning my daughter showed me an item that she planned to send to the local community center along with some clothes. I looked at it and was about to take it from her and stash it. It had no utility at all. I had to really fight that urge not to keep the item. It was a small conquest to win out over the urge. I have to do that with lots of other stuff. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a hoarder. My apartment is not crammed full of old newspapers, magazines and collectibles. In my future I do not see room for anything but the necessities. And so I am taking little steps to get rid of all the things that are unnecessary and have the least amount of emotional significance. There will always be some things that cannot be parted with. I will get these down to a manageable number though and see what my kids might be willing to take possession of.

I am actually excited about doing this. The less I have the better I feel. I have even gone through photos to see what can be discarded. I cannot believe how many pictures there were of inanimate objects that I could not place and people I don’t even know. And so these are gone.

I am looking forward to see how much I can really remove. When my oldest daughter moved to a new apartment I had her look around my place and take whatever decorator items she liked. I thought it would be hard to part with them but it wasn’t. I am looking forward to getting rid of even more. If any of my kids drop by, I’ll do the same thing, have them look around, see it, claim it and load in into the car.

In future posts I’ll share more of my plans for what is next and why I’m getting rid of so much. You might be surprised to see how minimal I’m willing to be. I might be surprised as well.

 

An open letter to my wife on what would have been our 33rd anniversary.

Jeff and Fawn4

Today would have been 33 years of marriage. It’s hard to know when to stop counting. The words “Happy Anniversary” have lost their meaning. Soon you’ll have been gone for 4 years. Of course the 1st one was the most difficult. They have become easier as time passes. But, easier is not the same as easy. It will never be easy.

Getting accustomed to life without you has been an ongoing project that will never be finished. Reading about others in the same boat and encountering those who have recently lost a spouse reminds me that this is part of life. Not a good part but a part never the less.

After a while I have begun to develop and fall into new patterns. Or perhaps I am just falling back into some of my patterns from when we were not yet married. It is difficult to remember that far back. That was another life. And now, this too is another life.

When a couple marry, we become someone different than the person we were previously. So much changes. And now, being alone again, I am once again becoming someone else. At least that is how it feels. Whoever I become, it is just another part of life. The circumstances that brought us to this point were beyond our control. Now many things are in my control, though not all that I wish. Whatever comes now, be sure that you were, and are a part of who I am. I hope that side of me that you helped make is always a part of me.