Downsizing: How low can we go?

hand-holding-tiny-house-cartoon-illustration-securing-30676278Now that the house looks like it might actually be sold– and without any contingencies–the next round of decisions are keeping me up at night. That and the iced-coffee yesterday afternoon. And trying to finish The Martian before the movie comes out. It’s always something.

Anyway, I’ve been stalking houses on the Internet for months. I’ve walked and driven through neighborhoods. I crossed anything with two stories off my list as well as those out of my price range. I’ve been to open houses. I’ve probably seen hundreds of houses that simply won’t work for us.

The apartment we are in now is 1250 square feet, with two bedrooms and two baths, a great room, a laundry room and a single garage. Not bad for an apartment, but not for the long term. I find myself needing one more “away” space. There is neither space for our hobbies nor the little fix-it projects my husband likes. Places for sewing, scrapbooking, model trains, DIY-ing, and writing all go into figuring out just how big the next house should be. How many bedrooms and bathrooms? How many square feet? How much garage space? Is there space to park the motorhome?

Simple_Houses

We’re (only) in our sixties. This should be prime hobby-enjoying time. And even after 42 years of marriage, we are two different people with very different interests. We’ll need enough space to accommodate those activities. And enough personal space to avoid divorce.

The 3000 square feet of our old house—with its three levels and huge sloping lot– was just too big. This apartment is too small. So maybe something just under 2000 will be the sweet spot.

Stay tuned. I have a hunch that the Goldilocks of houses is just around the corner. Literally.

goldilocks

A Series of Unlikely Events

unlikely event

“Life is a series of unlikely events, isn’t it? Hers certainly is. One unlikely event after another, adding up to a rich, complicated whole. And who knows what’s still to come?”

Judy Blume’s latest book, In the Unlikely Event, is the story of a young girl, Miri. Like Blume herself, Miri is in junior high in the early 1950s when three planes inexplicably crash into the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey within two short months. Miri witnesses the horror of the wreckage and burning bodies. The fallout from those disasters make for a compelling read as Miri, her family, her neighbors and her young friends at school all cope in different ways. One can’t help but be reminded of 9/11, a similar tragedy of our generation.

Not everyone gets a happy ending, but life does go on, and Blume reminds us to face it with hope and courage. She writes, “…unlikely events aren’t all bad. There are good ones, too.”

What’s more important, where you are or who you’re with?

You’ve heard that the three rules of real estate are Location. Location. Location. I submit, however, that it’s not where you are, but who you’re with that’s most important. It’s the people with whom we choose to share our lives, the ones we see most often, that impact our happiness most.

So as my husband and I ponder our next move, one of the biggest decisions we face is simply where—as in which city—our next house will be.  And because Nevada cities are widely spaced with miles (and miles) of open highway between, we’ll need to choose and not split the difference.

There are pros and cons for each choice.

carson tahoe aerial long
Aerial view of Carson City, NV with Lake Tahoe in the distance.

Our doctors are in Carson City. My hairdresser. My friends. Our work history. As well as other connections like the Tamale Lady, my yoga class, masseuse, nail shop, book club, and walking buddies. We know the town. It’s small enough to negotiate north to south or east to west in 10-15 minutes. And at this stage of our lives—without jobs or the PTA–we’re not as likely to make new friends. Possible, yes, but not as likely.

reno tahoe aerial
Aerial view of Reno, NV with Lake Tahoe in the distance.

Our daughter and her family have moved to Reno. (Add bonus points here.) We can help out with our granddaughter, volunteer at her school, share meals, day trips, and special events. Not that we see each other every day, just a couple of dinners a week, an occasional sleepover or shopping trip. This neighborhood is convenient to shopping, good restaurants, and the freeway. It’s closer to the airport. And seriously, we only see our doctors a few times a year. It’s easy enough to see friends or make hair or nail appointments on the same day.

I feel the scale tipping toward Reno. Today. Fortunately, we aren’t arguing about this. Yet. Northern Nevada has been our home for nearly forty years and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. We love the big blue skies over our heads, the Sierra Nevada out our windows, the change of seasons, and the companions we’ve chosen for the journey. Not a bad place to be. Not bad at all.

Hemingway’s Paris Wife

paris wife

When Hadley Richardson marries Ernest Hemingway he is 21. She is 29. Both come from families with domineering mothers and a history of suicide. Their vibrant and poignant love story is made all the more compelling because it’s true.

Author Paula McClain once again dives deep into the workings of the human heart and mind. The contradictions and idiosyncrasies are painfully wrought as she immerses the reader in the unconventional lives of the literati working in Paris in the twenties. Among the Hemingways’ friends were F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein.

McClain also gives us insight into the tragic genius of Ernest Hemingway himself, who most of us remember as an old man, not as the handsome young hunk he was back then. ”He was such an enigma, really—fine and strong and weak and cruel. An incomparable friend and a son of a bitch. In the end, there wasn’t one thing about him that was truer than the rest. It was all true.”

paris wife young ernest paris wife wedding

“No one you love is ever truly lost.”

At its heart this is a love story though. Hadley and Ernest never stopped loving each other, even after the break-up of their five-year marriage. As Hadley says, “I believe Ernest was his best self then. I got the very best of him. We got the best of each other.”

If you enjoy reading Hemingway, are fascinated by that time period in Paris, or are simply intrigued by the complex workings of the human heart, you might enjoy this book. It kinda makes me want to watch Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” again.

Have you read The Paris Wife? What did you think?

The challenge and hope of a clean slate

In our twenties we moved from our home near the ocean in Southern California to Carson City, a lovely town at the base of the Sierra Nevada. We were 500 miles from our friends and families, including our siblings and our parents. We knew no one. Our slates had been wiped clean of commitments and responsibilities, other than those required of new parents.

In the nearly forty years since, we made friends, raised two wonderful daughters, built a house, our careers, our lives. Together, we constructed a web of routines and relationships that supported us and bound us to a place. So this summer’s move to Reno, even though it’s less than an hour away, has disrupted things in somewhat surprising ways. The move once again wiped my slate clean, as if a zephyr had swept through and blown away everything we didn’t hold tight. Each other, our family, a few friends, a comfortable bed with those pricey, high-thread-count linens, and regular appointments with my hairdresser. You know, critical stuff.

We keep our two reasons for this move in mind: downsizing our home into something more manageable as we age and being close to our daughter. Okay granddaughter, but you understand. Still, I’ve had to let go of some things I enjoyed. Like the two-decades-long habit of weekly coffee with my pals. Or weekly walks with a friend on the trails around Carson. And leading Weight Watcher meetings and several volunteer gigs. But by giving up those things, I have time for others. As I did when I retired eight years ago, I’m rethinking priorities. I’ll try to only add back in the most important things. That’s the challenge. That’s the hope.fresh start

Here’s a partial list: Volunteer at my granddaughter’s school and have regular sleepovers with said granddaughter. Weekly family dinners and long walks most mornings. More reading. More writing. Coffee with friends now and then.

You know what? I can actually see daylight in my schedule. Breathing space. Elbow room.  Except this Wednesday, of course, when I’ll drive down to Carson for coffee with my friends, have my hair done, go to yoga, and be back in Reno in time to pick up granddaughter from school. Yes, my life is still full, but only of the best possible stuff.