The End of My Sheloshim – Well, If I was Jewish

IMG_0359  My husband and best friend, Mason, passed away right before the New Year and today marks the first 30 days that I have lived without him, grieved for him, missed him and experienced the saddest days of my life. 30 emotionally charged, draining, poignant, friends and family filled, challenging, lonely, horrible days.

June 3rd was that day for Sheryl Sandberg, celebrated COO at Facebook, and she wrote a very moving post on her Facebook page about what she has learned from the loss of her husband and her search for meaning in all of it during her first 30 days. I had actually read her post over the summer while my husband was in the hospital, it had been circulating on Facebook and several other outlets and I was moved to tears when I read it. I was carrying on a vigil at my husbands bedside willing him to get better and watching the doctors and nurses like a hawk. I was emotionally drained, but I understood every word she wrote about losing the love of her life and trying to get through it. And at the time I was just so thankful I still had my beloved.

My mother phoned to check in with me over the weekend and mentioned Sheryl as someone who’s writing I should consider, she wasn’t sure what I might be reading or doing to help me get through my grief and she thought I could relate to Mrs. Sandberg. It triggered my memory of her post from the summer.  Thanks mom for thinking to mention her; I can relate very well to much of what she has written; in particular this passage struck a cord when I read it again:

“I can’t even express the gratitude I feel to my family and friends who have done so much and reassured me that they will continue to be there. In the brutal moments when I am overtaken by the void, when the months and years stretch out in front of me endless and empty, only their faces pull me out of the isolation and fear. My appreciation for them knows no bounds.”

My family and friends have been and continue to be amazing and I could not have made it through these 30 days without them. Thank you to my little brother for driving 3 hours to stay with me that first night. Blessings to my sweet friend Rebecca for bringing me coffee and something to eat the next day and staying with me until my parents arrived.  And to my parents who dropped everything to spend the next several days with me; helping me cope, comforting me – even oddly at times, making sure I ate and helping me care for my dogs. I don’t know what I would have done without you. And to my sisters and brother who sent their love, stopped their lives, traveled from near and far to come and celebrate Mason’s life  – Thank You – that meant so much. And to my step-daughters and grandchildren who have all sent love, checked in on me and helped me plan the celebration of Mason ~ I will forever love you like my own. To so many friends and colleagues at work and in life who reached out via text, email, phone, Facebook and through cards and letters to remind me of happy stories of Mason and tell me about the positive impact he had had on their lives, it has helped me smile and meant more than I can ever express and I truly appreciate your ongoing love and support.

I couldn’t really imagine one day without Mason, he was my best friend, my champion, my confidant and my companion for my entire adult life. I shared everything with him and no one in the world knew me better or more intimately. During these 30 horrible days, this is the part of my broken life that brings me to tears, the loss of my other half, the keeper of my stories, the shared jokes, the little things that made us happy everyday.  A hug and a kiss at the end of a tough day, a “don’t let the bastards get you down” when life got hard, a reminder to look at a beautiful sunset, a chuckle and a point at something silly our puppies were doing or a belly laugh at something funny Tony Kornheiser said on PTI.  It is all irretrievably lost and I am sure I will feel that loss forever.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life:   it goes on.”  Robert Frost

I loved him so very much and I know he loved me unconditionally and with everything he had and I was so fortunate to have 30 amazing years with him. My life will never be the same, but I also know he would want me to be happy, to make him proud and to go on and live a good and fulfilling life. And for him and for me I will live that life.  I will count my blessings everyday, I will take care of myself and my family and friends the very best that I can, I will smile at that sunset and think of him, I will find ways to laugh and find joy and I will take every opportunity to tell those that I love and care about how much they mean to me.

If I have gained any wisdom through this loss, it is to always love with all your heart even if it might break one day, because it was so worth it.

 

 

 

Health Care Cost Rant

Another health care cost rant. I wrote late last year about the high cost associated with a hospital stay and this is another high cost situation that really ticks me off.

Since the issue that put my husband in the hospital was a bad drug interaction between an anticoagulant and a heart regulating drug, he had to be taken off the heart drug and be put on an old-fashioned anticoagulant – Warfrin. This requires frequent blood tests and regular visits to a clinic which is a pain in the butt in and of its self, but the part that really makes me crazy is the bill for it.

The test takes place in what amounts to a small office with a desk, a computer, 3 chairs and a tiny tray of test items and takes a total of about 5 minutes, for the use of this room they charge our insurance $195.13 – you gotta be frickin kidding me!  $195.13 for the room only, the technicians time and the test are a separate line item. Our total co-insurance cost is: $25.04 and our insurance company actually pays them $141.86. So a $232.67 bill gets adjusted down to $176.90. $176.90 for a 5 minute test that involves pricking his finger, seeing where is anticoagulation level is and giving him his pill schedule for the next two weeks. So conservatively, they turn that room over 10 times in an hour or let’s even say 5 times in an hour, that is nearly $750/hour for that room or easily $7,500/day for a 10′ x 10′ room alone. For 4 days in ICU they say the bill was about $15,000 “retail” or about $3,600/day and that is a room with tons of equipment that is 4 times the size and a bathroom.

Ok, my rant for the day, but still don’t these things seem out of whack? Or am I wrong?

The Lack of Assurance with Insurance

A recent NPR story about a couple, Jennifer and Jeffrey Hopper from Austin, Texas, who ended up in an emergency room after Jeffrey was hit in the eye with a baseball got my blood boiling again about our experience last year when my husband became ill we went to a hospital emergency room to seek treatment.

In the story, Jennifer tried to do what was best for her husband’s health and their families pocket-book at a very stressful moment;

“Even in that moment of panic, Jennifer Hopper realized that there are rules when it comes to using health insurance that can hugely influence the size of the medical bill. Care providers who are “in network,” she knew, cost much less, so she made absolutely sure to drive Jeffrey to the emergency room of a hospital in Austin that is part of their insurance network.

That sounds straightforward, but, as the couple soon learned, it doesn’t always work out that way — some patients still get slapped with big bills, even when they try to play by the rules.”

It is kind of hard to play by the rules, when no one wants to tell you what the rules of the game are at any given moment. The night my husband was wheeled by ambulance into the emergency room(that arrived after I did by-the-way) he was met by one doctor that went off shift shortly after our arrival, then another doctor took over, then another doctor evaluated if he should be admitted to the hospital and then yet another doctor did the actual review and hospital admittance. He then was finally assigned to the hospitalist on-duty once he was admitted to the hospital. He then went on to have care by multiple kidney specialist, pulmonologists, a substitute cardiologist(his was on vacation as it was the holidays) and on the second day he was assigned to a hospitalist doctor that luckily was the one constant during much of the remainder of his stay.

But, just like the Hoppers, I wasn’t going to stop care and check to see if these doctors were in our insurance network, I wanted them to save his life and get him well and I would figure out the bills later. Or, so I thought. Like Jennifer we had a few surprises along the way;

“Jennifer, however, was surprised by what happened next. After she’d already settled with the hospital, paying the copayments for the ER, the ER doctor sent the couple a separate bill for more than $700.”

“It felt kind of random,” she says. “How do I know who’s going to charge me, and who’s not going to?””

We started receiving bills right after we got my husband home from his 8 day stint in the hospital, with four of those days in ICU. Some of the bills were for doctors I don’t even remember, some of the doctors bills came with the hospitals bill, and then the lab test and X-rays came from yet other providers with separate bills. Then there are the “itemized statements,” I use this term loosely, from the insurance company outlining what they have been billed, what they adjusted on the bill(no information on when and why they do that), what they paid and the amount of the bill that is our responsibility. I would try to match the insurance statements up with the actual bills we received from the providers and very little matched or added up. It was really chaotic jumble of numbers, dates and information.

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Last years stack of documents, with more in 2014

It is nearly a year later, and we just finally got the billing straightened out for the ambulance ride. The provider double billed and the insurance company mistakenly double paid. Then the insurance company tried to get us to pay them back for the double payment, not the service provider who received both payments. I feel like we should bill them for the time we spent trying to get that straightened out.

And despite informing the four, yes at least four, billing people who visited my husband’s room and got copies of our insurance and billing information that my husband does not have Medicare Part B insurance because he is still working and has insurance coverage through his work; some providers still billed Medicare Part B. Six month after his hospital stay we start getting bills from doctors because of non-payment by Medicare. Seriously, it was crazy.

Overall, the care seemed to be very good and people were very kind and helpful with the exception of one very annoying nurse and he is home and doing better.  The whole event if I went by the “retail” or “sticker price” was over $75,000. Now, I can’t tell you the exact amount the insurance company actually paid, but of the just shy of $65,000 bill from the hospital alone(on the insurance statement is says this includes; rooms, ICU, lab work, pharmacy, ER, respiratory, radiology, etc), they adjusted off $41,000 and paid roughly $23,000.  With all of the different bills we received and had to pay I am guessing our out-of-pocket cost was in the $2,000 – 3,000 range and that is a bargain considering what it could have been. But that is the scary part too, $75,000 worth of health care and it is very difficult for the consumer to account for it other than our loved one healed and came home or in some cases received lot’s of end of life care and the person passes away and the family is left in sadness and major medical debt. I think I read somewhere the that majority of bankruptcy filings are due to medical debt.

Maybe that is why we continue to put up with this system that seems so broken, because we are just so happy our loved ones came home or were at least taken care of well until the end no matter the cost.

Do you have a pro or con health care story that you would like to share?

 

What Keeps You Together?

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Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade (Picture from http://discoverblackheritage.com)

I was filled with both sadness and happiness while listening to the story of Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade with Elizabeth Blair on NPR this week and hearing about their 59 years of love, partnership and marriage. You might remember him from the Roger Moore, James Bond days playing the villain in “Live and Let Die” or 80’s 7UP commercials and she has been a dancer for most of her life, dancing with Alvin Ailey, the Metropolitan Opera and on Broadway.

Mr. Holder passed away earlier this month on October 5th. He was 84 years old. Ms. de Lavallade spoke to Ms. Blair about going on with the show, she has a one-woman event at the Kennedy Center called “As I Remember It” where she is dancing and reminiscing about her life and a little bit about her life with her love. I was really touched by this quote from the story;

“De Lavallade says she wasn’t counting the years they were married, but she’s pretty clear on why they stayed together for so long.”

He allowed me to be myself,” she says. “He was my champion, he was my biggest fan, and I was the same way with him.

The story had me reflecting, as I approach my 25th wedding anniversary early next month, on what has kept me and my husband together and what I love about my him in no particular order;

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  • He always let’s me win – just kidding – we know when to compromise
  • We never go to bed angry
  • He tells me I’m pretty, even when I am feeling anything but pretty
  • I cook the food and he cleans the kitchen or vis-a-versa (I usually cook) – we share the responsibilities around the house
  • We enjoy a lot of the same things – travel, food, reading, etc
  • But we don’t enjoy all the same things – and that’s ok – having our own interests keeps it interesting
  • I can talk him into things he thinks he won’t like – and then he does like them – our sweet puppies are top of that list – 3 years to talk him into one, now he can hardly stand to be away from them
  • We allow for each others bad habits – his for leather jackets(sorry to my vegan readers) and mine for bed linens – we both have enough for two lifetimes.
  • I know he has my back and I know I have his back
  • We make each other laugh
  • He drives and I navigate – it works – we get where we need to be in our car and usually in our life.
  • We love each other no matter what!

Have you been married or with your significant other for a long time – what are your secrets to marriage longevity?

What Keeps You Going?

My husband just turned 77 this month and he is still working full time, my 75 year old step-father still works at various money making ventures including his profession as a Chiropractor and my 86 year old grandfather, who officially retired more than 20 years ago, still works harder than most people I know even with his daily catnap. I have spoken to my husband several times over the last couple of years about whether or not he has any desire to retire yet and he continues to tell me “No, not yet.”  What keeps them going when all three of them could sit back, not work and “enjoy” their lives? Or is it the “keeping going” that “keeps them going?”

I know, for my husband, he definitely doesn’t want to sit at home and wait for me to get home from work. He doesn’t have a bunch of hobbies that he participates in or really too many regular friends around where we live now so I think work is his hobby and where his social interactions and friendships take place. With my step-dad and my grandfather they just both have always been busy with work, friends, fishing, chores, golf and other activities that keep them active and engaged.

I was inspired by a recent New York Times Magazine article “Old Masters at the Top of Their Game” with interviews by Camille Sweeney who spoke to several of the 70 and 80 plus active artists, writers, business people and one supreme court judge about why they are still working;

I loved this comment from Frederick Wiseman the filmmaker who is 84 about being in  denial about his age and how useful that is to him;

“Early on, did you ever think you’d still be making movies at your age?
I didn’t think about it at all. I have a hard time recognizing that I’m 84, almost 85. I’m in complete denial, which I think is extremely useful. Of course from time to time I allow myself to be aware of it, but it’s not something that I dwell on. I like working. I work very intensely.”

The amazing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who is 81 had this response when asked about what has been the most surprising thing about her 80’s;

Nothing surprised me. But I’ve learned two things. One is to seek ever more the joys of being alive, because who knows how much longer I will be living? At my age, one must take things day by day. I have been asked again and again, “How long are you going to stay there?” I make that decision year by year. The minute I sense I am beginning to slip, I will go. There’s a sense that time is precious and you should enjoy and thrive in what you’re doing to the hilt. I appreciate that I have had as long as I have. . . . It’s a sense reminiscent of the poem ‘‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.’’”

And this one, from the wonderful actor Christopher Plummer who is 84 and the oldest actor to win an Academy Award, when asked what besides staying in shape past a certain age is important;

“…..so is doing the work. It uplifts you. The idea that you’re doing what you love. It’s very important. It’s very sad that most people in the world are not happy with their lot or with their jobs and they can’t wait to retire. And when they retire, it’s like death. . . . They sit at home and watch the television. And that is death. I think you’ve got to continue. We never retire. We shouldn’t retire. Not in our profession. There’s no such thing. We want to drop dead onstage. That would be a nice theatrical way to go.”

And this answer, from the great architect Frank Gehry who is 85, about what has changed the most for him about his work since turning 80 made me laugh out loud;

Buildings take seven years from the time you’re hired until you’re finished. There’s always that pause in my mind now when we get a new project. And then I think about it for a few minutes, and I say: ‘‘Ah, screw it! Full speed ahead.’’”

I love it, “Screw it, Full speed ahead” that is what life should be – get out there, do it and don’t let anything deter you from doing what you love, having fun and creating things.

Another recent article in the New York Times by Bruce Grierson “What if Age is Nothing But a Mind-Set?  got me thinking about some similar territory. The story looked at the work of Harvard Professor Ellen Langer, who has done dozens upon dozens of studies about how the mind affects the body, including idea’s about how it feels and heals. A study that she conducted in the early 80’s, the Counterclockwise study, looked to reverse some of the effects aging was having on a group of generally healthy 70 something men;

“…eight men in their 70s stepped out of a van in front of a converted monastery in New Hampshire. They shuffled forward, a few of them arthritically stooped, a couple with canes. Then they passed through the door and entered a time warp. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan welcomed guests on a black-and-white TV. Everything inside — including the books on the shelves and the magazines lying around — were designed to conjure 1959. This was to be the men’s home for five days as they participated in a radical experiment…”

They were asked to “inhabit their younger selves” during the stay, to make a psychological attempt to be the persons they were two decades earlier and they were treated like they were younger with expectations for taking care of things for themselves. They were tested on several things prior to the study and then again after the study;

“At the end of their stay, the men were tested again. On several measures, they outperformed a control group that came earlier to the monastery but didn’t imagine themselves back into the skin of their younger selves, though they were encouraged to reminisce. They were suppler, showed greater manual dexterity and sat taller — just as Langer had guessed. Perhaps most improbable, their sight improved. Independent judges said they looked younger. The experimental subjects, Langer told me, had “put their mind in an earlier time,” and their bodies went along for the ride.””

The study has been “replicated” for reality T.V. purposes a few times, including “The Young Ones,” a BBC documentary that sought to recreate the experiment (Professor Langer was a consultant) with six aging former celebrities and showed similar results as the study.

The power of positive thinking or positive psychology or the placebo effect have all been shown to help many people live better, but this experiment with some hotel house keepers was even more interesting;

“A few years earlier, Langer and one of her students, Alia Crum, conducted a study, published in the journal Psychological Science, involving 84 hotel chambermaids. The maids had mostly reported that they didn’t get much exercise in a typical week. The researchers primed the experimental group to think differently about their work by informing them that cleaning rooms was fairly serious exercise — as much if not more than the surgeon general recommends. Once their expectations were shifted, those maids lost weight, relative to a control group (and also improved on other measures like body mass index and hip-to-waist ratio). All other factors were held constant. The only difference was the change in mind-set.

Critics hunted for other explanations — statistical errors or subtle behavior changes in the weight-loss group that Langer hadn’t accounted for. Otherwise the outcome seemed to defy physics. “To which I would say, ‘There’s no discipline that is complete,’ ” Langer responds. “If current-day physics can’t explain these things, maybe there are changes that need to be made in physics.””

The housekeepers were primed to think differently about their work and it seems to have had a pretty powerful effect on them.  I have not read the study to understand the full details, but now I want to know more. I love this stuff when it is used to help people be better and do better, but I also hate it when it’s used by advertisers to manipulate me into buying something and I know that does happen all the time.

The article also taught me a new word, “nocebo” and it’s described as the opposite of placebo, as in “the placebo effect”;

“The nocebo effect is the flip side of the more positive placebo effect, and she says that one of the most pernicious nocebo effects can occur when a patient is informed by her doctor that she is ill. The diagnosis itself, Langer says, primes the symptoms the patient expects to feel. “You change a word here or there, and you get vastly different results,””

This definitely hit me, but more from the aspect of how my environment effects me. I work in, at times, a very negative place; customers are negative about my very existence (I’m a public servant), most of the interactions with people are about negative things and complaints and my co-workers tend to be very, very negative about work and this I believe is influencing how I look at and respond to the world. I think I am generally a positive person with an attitude that almost anything can be fixed, relationship repaired, error corrected and people taught; but some days I find that everything I think and many of the things I say are negative and in direct contrast to that positive attitude.  And I really notice it once I get home and away from the workplace; I recognize how I was speaking or reacting to a situation that normally would not get me upset.

I will have to work up my own experiment to conduct in my workplace to see if I can turn the tide of negativity with some positive psychology or maybe a placebo Prozac for everyone in the building.

I will leave you with a lovely quote from the “Old Masters at the Top of Their Game” article from naturalist and writer T.H. White;

““You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.””

What keeps you going?

 

Do You Think About Death?

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My great-grandmother Kate standing near the grave of her late husband. (picture from a relative who uploaded it to Ancestry.com)

Death

It’s something I think about occasionally; a fleeting thought, a sad reminder or at times it comes when thinking with regret about something I wish I would have done before a loved-one passed away. I do think about how I hope to die; peacefully in my sleep after a nice meal on a beautiful summers day spent with friends and family when I am really old.

After I’m no longer using this body I have considered donating it to science, but I am kind of hoping it is old and used up before that happens. Maybe I can put an age clause on my after life disposition; If I am “X” years old and in a state of interest to science please donate, but If I am old and have used my body to the fullest please cremate me. I think that is reasonable, don’t you?

The right to die or “Death with Dignity” is also on my mind. I live in Washington state, one of only 5 states that allow for “death with dignity” along with Vermont, Montana, New Mexico and Oregon. Oregon has been in the news recently because of the story of Brittany Maynard, the young woman with an terminal brain cancer who has moved from the San Francisco area of California to Portland, Oregon so that she can have the right to choose when she is ready to die. From a CNN interview;

“”I’ve had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms,” she wrote on CNN.com.

“Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain.””

I hope I am not faced with that choice or need to choose, but I am thankful that my State does allow for that option if I were to become terminally ill. I have watched a couple of people deal with the end of the lives of loved ones, who are having little to no quality of life, yet they have been medically kept alive because they are holding out hope or because the medical system just does not allow for an assisted end. Just because a life can be extended does not mean it should be extended. A rational adult in control of their faculties should be able to make a decision about how they want to live their life and how, if necessary, they want to stop living their life. They should be able to do it humanely and peacefully rather than being forced to end it in trauma because the medical system isn’t set up to treat humans humanely.

During my husbands 10 days in the hospital last December, right before he was moved to ICU, a nurse asked me if my husband had a living will and told me to bring it into the hospital. My husband and I both have completed living wills and have made it clear to each other what the other is to do if we are facing making that decision for the other. The nurses request was frightening at the time, but I was glad that I did have an answer even if it was one that I didn’t want to face.

In a recent “Fresh Airinterview conducted by Terry Gross on NPR’s she speaks with Caitlin Doughty, a mortician, who has written a memoir and has a series of uTube videos about death, dying and some other pretty weird stuff. Her memoir is “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory.” An excerpt from the interview;

“On how she once romanticized crematory work, and how that compared with reality

I think it was probably more romantic than it actually ended up being. I thought of the idea of … the open-air pyre and leading the body to it and placing it on the pyre and everybody’s weeping and it’s beautiful. But the reality that I found is that modern crematories are really industrial environments and the body goes into large industrial machines and oftentimes I was the only one there. And it’s hot and it’s dirty and you get covered in dust [ashes] as you’re working.”

I have never had a romantic or mystical view of cremation or dying, but I guess that is because our western culture just doesn’t do that sort of thing and my family is a rather stoic lot. Several members of my immediate family have been cremated, my father’s mom and dad, my father and most recently my mom’s mother. My father’s parents, my grandparents, were cremated and their ashes were spread in area’s that meant something to them. My grandfather was spread in a field he used to love to go with his dog to hunt duck and pheasant and my dad and I spread my grandmother’s ashes around their home on the lake.

I took care of my fathers final arrangements and picked “him” up from the funeral home after he was cremated. I remember the person at the mortuary warning me before  giving me the wrapped square package that it was heavy so that I wouldn’t drop it when they handed it to me. It was heavy, the size and weight of a large brick, but wrapped in paper that looked like it could be used to wrap a wedding gift. It took us a couple of years to decide what to do with his ashes. Finally we decided, my little brother, my grandfather(my mom’s father) and I, to pack into the North Cascade mountains on horses and spread his ashes in a place that we thought was special to him. That is a day I will always cherish and remember.

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Grandpa Chuck and my little brother Andy sharing a drink on top of the mountain after we spread my father’s ashes.

My grandmother, who passed away on mother’s day over 6 years ago now(wow time does fly by), was cremated and set in a mausoleum at the cemetery where her mother is buried. There is a spot for my grandfather to be beside her when it’s his time to go. I like the idea that they will be together someday, hopefully a long time from now, for eternity in their little spot on the wall.

Today, my wish is to be cremated and my ashes spread in Clear Lake near my grandparents home and around the lake where I spent many happy years as a child. I say today, because things can change, life goes on and some other place may develop that enduring impact on me that that place of my early childhood had on my life. In fact, I hope it does; that will mean that I have been truly living my life, tasting what it has to offer, enjoying it, finding pleasure and other places to be myself.

Do you think about death? Do your loved ones know your wishes after you are gone? Do you have a living will? Do you want the right to choose if necessary “death with dignity”?

Charmed by Simplicity

I have been stressed out by a good many things in these past couple of years; including by job, my husband’s health, the poor economy and the state of the world. As some of you readers know I had been giving meditation a try; but not faithfully or successfully or I wouldn’t be so freakin stressed-out. Right? I have also been working on being less negative and “snarky,” again with the best intentions but not my usual follow-through, as demonstrated by the last two sentences. Oh well, I’m a work in progress.

Simplicity articles and stories fill me with envy and a desire to sell everything and find my simplicity path, but which path there are so many, it’s not very simple.

This story by David Wallis, Increasingly, Retirees Dump their Possessions and Hit the Road, in the New York Times talks to several retirees about how they sold everything and are now permanently traveling. One couple has been spending the last two years living in a tent in different parts of the world, another couple stays in short-term vacation rentals in different countries every few months and yet another woman lives on something like $150 per month by working on organic farms for room and board or couch surfing around the country.

A comment from one of the traveling couples;

““We simply traded the money we were spending for overhead on a house and garden in California for a life in much smaller but comfortable HomeAway rentals in more interesting places,” Ms. Martin said by email from Paris.”

Sell everything the house, the cars and the possessions that weigh us down and travel the world with just the necessities of life seems like a pretty awesome way to spend your golden years.

A Sandy Keenan article in the New York Times, “Freedom in 704 Square Feet” featured this quote from a neighbor of the featured couple who, to have more time to live rather than maintain a home, live in a small house in Portland, Oregon;

None of this has gone unnoticed by the neighbors. Kim Conrow, 65, who lives next door, marveled: “On weekends, they actually go places and do things. They’re not tied to the projects most of us are tied to. I’m so charmed by the simplicity of it.

A smaller house with less overhead, less to clean, less to worry about and maintain. We purchased our townhome during the market dive, but of course we were not close enough to the bottom when we did buy and are still underwater, even if not quite as bad as some of our neighbors. This adds to the stress, because if we did want to sell it, it’s going to cost us even more money to truly get out from underneath the obligation. And we may need to sell because living in a house with two sets of stairs doesn’t work all that well for a guy that is on oxygen. But he does climb the stairs several time a day like a trouper.


I purchased a book, Secrets of Simplicity – Learn to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno about 6 or 7 years ago. It has lots of helpful lessons about how to curb your wants and focus on your needs, help you realize how much you have already in the way of family, friends and things and how to appreciate them now, and how to change a habit like “shopping” and start a new one like “exercising”. One particularly funny passages in the section on “Focus” she is telling the reader about being in a yoga class and her teacher was talking about Prana, which means breath.

“One day my teacher, Laurie Goldstein, was talking about Prana, which means “breath” or the “life force,” arguably the most essential part of yoga. In my distracted state, I heard “Prada.” Suddenly, instead of taking deep cleansing breaths, I found myself mentally wandering through Saks purchasing high-end designer goods. Though I cannot liken my shopping addiction to a chemical need like that of nicotine, alcohol, or even caffeine, the battle to avoid shopping is one I fight every day! As evidenced in my yoga class, sometimes the temptation creeps up even when I have the best intentions.” 

For me this was funny, but also, sadly a little too close to home; because I do find my mind wandering to a beautiful new coat from Barneys or some pretty bauble from Nordstrom or just some random shopping for something at Target. And I need nothing right now, absolutely nothing, yet my brain still starts thinking about when I will have the next opportunity to shop. When the urge starts to get too strong or I have fallen off the wagon I pull out this book and it helps me re-focus on what’s important.

Do you ever long for a simpler life? Or are you living one? What is your secret?