Saturday, October 26, 2013


Paul and his wife arrived at my house early on a Saturday morning prepared to repair the barrel paper box, the front deck and a couple birdhouses. 
House 2008. Deck holds old fashioned pump fountain and birdhouses. Barrel Paper box to the right of the gate.
After we walked around viewing the needed repairs, Julie said, “In my opinion….”

Not everyone is comfortable voicing their opinion to others—especially when it involves tearing down instead of repairing. But Julie’s opinion carried weight—lots of weight. I walked to the paper box—a cute little barrel with a roof husband put together years ago.
“You know I don’t use this anymore.” I pushed on the cute paper box and the whole thing fell over. The base had rotted—yes, the rest is good, but the roof needed repairs. Why not demolish.

It didn’t take long to remove the Old Fashioned Pump. Years before my mom bought it for husband’s birthday. The pump has Beatrice NE printed on it. Husband was born there so of course he wanted the pump. He thought himself super funny when he said, “I just love old things, that’s why Mook is still with me.”

Yes, he tagged me Mook years before. We grew old together like the aged pump out front. When I suffered with vision problems and needed to rest my eyes, husband turned the red pump into a fountain. Soothing sounds to my weary soul—but a few years back something happened to the electrical mechanism and now the once beautiful red treasure just sits peeling paint. 

The deck came down faster than removing the pump. Paul used a sledge hammer, Julie and I packed pieces to the pile out front.  The more Paul took apart, the more I could see we made the right decision. 

 Now what will happen to what once served as a cute deck that held a wonderful old-fashioned pump husband turned into a fountain? I put a FREE sign on the wood, some of it is quite usable—but no takers yet.

Today's photo, Oct 2013, shows the naked house.
No deck.
No birdhouses.
No old fashioned pump.
But then none of it was here when we bought the house nineteen years ago.

And God says to all downsizers:

Don’t panic. I’m with you. 
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.  
Isaiah 41:10 (msg)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Refined by Fire

The idea of moving from my home threw me into a burning fire--
a fire-in-my-heart issue for sure.
Greg Jordan from Flickr

After three days, I developed a mindset, “You can do this Kat. You’ve moved before. Left things behind. Gave away and sold stuff. It only hurts for a little while—and look to the future.

You have a freedom to start over again. Less to maintain and another new beginning.  

The idea isn’t new to me. I’ve talked about moving since husband died almost four years ago. Always when the subject came up I’d say, “As long as Paddy dog is with me, I can’t move. He needs his yard.” Now Paddy is gone.

One day before his fourteenth birthday I had him put down.

“Although I can’t feel it, I’m pretty sure we are looking at cancer. His body is already shutting down,” The vet said.

After a few days of grief and rehashing Paddy memories with friends, I chose to prepare for future days.   

1. Leave green and white garbage bags in each closet. If I touch something in that closet that I haven’t used in the last year—pitch or give away.

2. Organize the basement by what needs to stay with the house, what I can sell and of course, those pitch or giveaway things. (I have one ledge completed. Great feeling.)

3. When I find cards from husband, children or grandkids remember the good times—but don’t save it. Either copy into the computer or pitch.

          What about the chess table
and other prized furniture husband built for me or the precious framed photos taken on our trips? For now, they remain where they are—
I don’t need to do everything in one day, one week or one month. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
~Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, October 21, 2013


My family tagged me the garage sale quarter lady years ago. It seemed I could find whatever we needed or I might think we needed cheap. Often when I arrived home with my treasures husband rolled his eyes.

“Mook, do we really need that?”     
Of course, I felt we did.

On my drive home one day, it started to rain—one of those summer storms that hits Nebraska. Two men were holding a garage sale.

“Anything for $1.00,” one yelled when I slowed down.

“We’ll even load your van for you.” The other one grinned.

They didn’t need to offer twice—my huge purchases cost me only $10. I pulled into the garage, drug stuff to heavy for me to lift to the corner. Then threw blankets over the top to hide my treasures from husband. I knew for certain he’d question my sanity on these great finds.

When he parked the pickup in the front of the house, I greeted him with a big kiss. Excited, I almost told him, but then he was tired and I kept quiet.

The next week husband offered to help me clean house. I never say no. After we finished the major cleaning and sat for coffee, I asked for more help.

“Sure, whatcha need.”
Come with me.” One item at a time I uncovered my treasures. An old fashioned washtub I wanted for a planter—I couldn’t move it and it needed soil.
The top of a hutch to put on the top of the bathroom dresser—no way could I lift it very far and then…and then—

Two hours and lots of paint, varnish and elbow grease later even husband said the rained out garage sale blessed us—even if I spent more than quarters. 

Can't find the photos for all those fun finds, but here is the washtub. Its one thing I plant for me every year. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Memory Shared is a Memory Enjoyed

Last week I said I’d start downsizing tomorrow. The old cliché “Tomorrow never comes” seemed to lurk in the back of my mind—even when I typed that sentence. Only now it must be here. I’ve pulled out and uncovered more stuff than I knew I owned.

In 2008 I said, “Hon, you’ve got to move me to Oregon before you die. I won’t be able to manage this house.” A few weeks later we listed our house and husband set to downsizing.

I’m sure men that men by nature aren’t as emotionally attached to things as women. Soon after the house listed I searched for something I’d stored in the basement. That’s when I discovered husband had hauled truck loads of my treasures to the Salvation Army.  

“You said we needed to get rid of stuff,” he said. “Looked like junk to me. You certainly can’t take it to heaven with you.” His being right and his winsome grin lessened the tension. 

Wish husband were here. We could tackle a few memories and pitch them. I can just see the evening slide by.   

“Oh, Hon, do you remember when you sent me this card?” We’d read the card, smile and then talk about what happened that year and then pitch the card in the green garbage bag. 

When we pulled out the photo albums—now falling apart because of the glue gave out—we’d start at the beginning.
Talk about marriage. Our first dinky apartment. The first house we bought. When we found pictures of Husband, Me and our first daughter, we laugh about how we scrounged enough change to buy just one ice cream cone—a little bit for each of us.

“We didn’t have much but love back then,” husband would say and kiss me.

By the time midnight rolled around we might have emptied one tiny corner of a closet.

Well husband isn’t here and tomorrow has come—it’s time to do more than remember.    

Monday, October 14, 2013


Opened my email this morning—found a note from my friend Shirley.

You have been heavily on my mind the last few weeks....I wondered why. Now I know. Downsizing must be the most dreaded geriatric malady next to shingles. Recently I have peeked into overflowing closets, extracted a coat hanger and said "enough for today."

Florida was our 9th move. The other 8 were less traumatic because I packed everything with me. 

Twenty-two years ago I left my treasures in an Iowa ditch. Up to that time Early American everything had been my life.  My consolation the neighbor, watching from her upstairs window, swooped in to forage things the moment we drove out of sight.

The same thing will happen when we leave Florida except I will not be angry. I am accustomed to seeing personal contents from other people's lives stacked on the curb by angry faced adult children. (Shirley has worked as a caregiver for ten years or more. Most of her clients are elderly or infirmed. She has seen many die.)

On the upside, our daughters-in-law will send their husbands. Those three will pitch and make baskets with my K-mart vases and their baby pictures. In anticipation, I am going to draw some beards and moustaches on the latter just to let them know that once again old mom is one step ahead of them. 
clothes closet from freedigital photos

Don’t you love Shirley, even if you don’t know her, the wisdom and humor she stuffs in a short email are priceless—a good reminder—I need to forge through photos this week or maybe copy them into the computer for future reference. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Let Go of the Cards

The weird Phyllis Diller type woman on the front of the card yelled, “I’m having a personal crisis.” It looked like something I might purchase to give to husband. After all, menopause flips women end over end.

But no, the card is from husband to me. Bless his heart.

“Dear Mook,” he wrote. “I understand your chemical struggles creates an imbalance….” He added a lot more and then wrote, “I didn’t mean to cause you any stress this morning. I love you. Just look forward to coming home. Don’t overwork.”

He closed with, “Remember, we will forget what is past and press on to this one thing…to be like Jesus.”
He signed the card, Luke.

Why did I keep it? I don’t remember the situation—but the card is silly-ridiculous and the sentiment he wrote so very sweet. It is amazing we both lived through my menopause.

It’s a good thing husband isn’t here now. The follow up treatment for breast cancer is Tamoxifen. The number one side effect of the drug is hot flashes…worse than I ever had while menopausal. Since I don’t live with anyone and my medical oncologist is wise, she found me medication to tone down the sweats—and I’ve learned that yelling at anyone doesn’t help at all. 

Phyllis didn't always look weird, but neither do I. It's only those moments in time--thankfully, I husband understood--most of the time. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Me? Procrastinat-Never

There is a sign hanging on my office wall, “I have not yet begun to procrastinate? To those visiting my home now and then, they might think I’m well organized and neat. But if they lived here a bit, they’d know better. I can put off a lot of stuff.

Years ago, before the steam iron, I’d gather the laundry from the clothes line and sprinkle those that needed ironing. I found out if you left those damp garments in a basket too long they mildewed. It didn’t take me long to figure out if you sprinkled, rolled and placed them in the refrigerator, they didn’t mildew and you could almost forget the need to iron.
Is that procrastination? And if it is, what does it have to do with downsizing?
Like sticking damp laundry in the refrigerator until tomorrow, I’ve attempted several times to clean out a drawer or closet this past weekt—I end up moving ‘stuff’ from one place to another—haven’t disposed of one thing yet.
In the process I found a treasure of my Grandma Dee’s. It hung on her wall from the time I gave it to her—about Christmas 1951—until died in March 1985. Some grandparents would be embarrassed by the simple gift written by a ten-year-old, but not my grandma. She loved me and my effort to create something just for her.

Over the years the glass in the frame broke. Grandma improvised with what looks like waxed paper. The hook on the back came off. Someone glued another one in its place.
In her later years, Grandma labeled all her belongings. When her heirlooms were divided up, I received my gift from thirty-five years before. It’s never hung on my wall, it’s been in the cedar chest? I had to keep it—well until now.
It’s only one thing going out the door, but that’s a great beginning for me—no procrastination here—took the photo, wrote the story and now it’s gone.
Wow, this downsizing is going to take a long, long time.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Five Downsizing Suggestions

Paddy ready to chase a squirrel 

When my Border Collie died I figured I needed to sell the house—after all, nothing tied me here. No husband and no Paddy dog. I met with Joyce my realtor friend. The next day grief slapped me in the face. Reality rained down my face. “Leave all my memories behind—once more?”
It isn’t the first time I’ve packed up to move. One week after the birth of our first child Husband moved us a  hundred miles away from family. Not fun—eighteen years-old with a new baby, no car and no phone. Yes, more than a few years ago.
I survived that move and ten more before we bought our present home. This is the longest I’ve lived in any of the homes. It’s also where husband invested his time and our money. He spent hours replacing ceilings, leveling floors and adding his texture/touch/paint to every wall in this house. To move means leaving all that behind.
Most people don’t let all their grief hang out for the world to see, but I’ve come to a place where I depend on my friends for support through times like this.
Last week when I sent out a “rather tear drenched” email, I received several suggestions on how to handle the necessary downsizing and preparation to move.

1.     Jami and Charlene said to take pictures. “Take your memories with you.”
2.     Deb said, “Give your prized possessions to people you know and care about.”
3.     Jan said, “This is a good thing. When you are done you’ll find a new freedom from those things.”
4.     Karla said, “You know Mom walked away from everything. It bothered me more than it did her when she gave everything in her house away.”
5.     Teresa said she’d talked with her husband and they were willing to store furniture husband made until our grandchildren might need or want them.

I’m thankful for friends and their wisdom. Now I’ve got to tackle the necessary—I’ll start tomorrow. 

This is husband reporting to work--I asked for his help more than once. He thought himself really cute. 

Let's face it, he was. 

He kept me laughing.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


 When husband died I wondered how I could manage to stay in my home by myself. Yet, with Paddy dog, I didn’t think I could move to an apartment. This past summer while traveling in Oregon people often asked if I’d thought about moving to Oregon where my siblings are. My usual reply, “I have a thirteen-year-old Border Collie. He needs his yard.”

Four days after I returned home, cancer took Paddy dogs life. Does this mean it’s time to sell and move, I wondered?

Last week I met with a realtor—after two hours of reality check—possible need of a new roof, the market isn’t the best in our neighborhood and, “Kathy” the realtor said, “think downsize. You want to empty your house. Make it look as big as possible.”

Many people may not find this a problem, but by Friday morning the old ‘fear and anxiety’ overwhelmed me. “How can I….”

When I called a Von, my Georgia friend, she listened to me wail for awhile and then said, “What is your Bible verse for the year.”

“Romans 15:13 is one of them,” I said and then read her the verse:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Think about it. In December 2012 God knew the exact words to keep me centered in Him. Did peace come immediately? No, I composed an email filled with my grief about downsizing. I sent it to several friends and asked them to pray. I’m truly selfish. When I’m wading through grief once more I invite my friends to walk with me.

Still Lionhearted, Kat