12mph America At The Speed Of Sanity

30Aug/100

Weeks 5 & 6 in Colorado (already)!

Honestly, it is mind-boggling to think that we've been in Colorado 5.5 weeks already. At this rate, Steve will be done with his master's degree before we know it! Yet, I should not hurry things too much as there is a feast of activities and experiences to enjoy in Colorado over these two years.

Last week at the persistent insistence of our Montana family and friends, Steve and I took a break following our initial unpacking frenzy and went to the mountains. There is something about the mountains with the beautiful scenery, cooler mountain air, and scent of pines and sage, that is rejuvenating. (Something the Montana folks already know.) Launching a search on Trip Advisor, I came across Frisco Lodge in Frisco, CO. It was reasonably priced and served as just the ticket for some R&R. We slept in until 8, ate the Lodge's complimentary breakfast which included homemade Belgian waffles along with hot coffee, juice, and blueberry topped yogurt, and took time to relax and read in their courtyard, which was lined with colorful flower beds, soothing water fountains, and a gas-log fireplace on the patio. Tuesday night provided a great respite from the AC at home as in Frisco the temps dropped to 38 degrees overnight. With the windows open, we felt like we were camping! On Wednesday we opted for a very pleasant 19 mile round-trip bike ride on the paved path between Frisco and Breckenridge. My goodness that stretch has changed. I recall camping with my parents and siblings back in 1973 at Tiger Run Campground along there. Thursday morning we made our way south of Blue River to a bumpy gravel road that took us to the trail head of the McCullough Gulch Trail. The moderate 2.6 mile round trip hike was perfect, since it wasn't too long nor too strenuous for us. Our destination at the top took us to a lovely glacial lake with blue skies and very few clouds.

Late Thursday afternoon, we arrived back at home, negotiating through some commuter traffic. We walked into the house only to find a very strong sewer gas odor (think methane folks). This was something that we detected within a couple of days after moving into the house. While we notified our property management company, they had not attempted to remedy the situation along with some other maintenance issues. Friday morning Steve contacted them again with no results, so he took matters into his own hands by contacting a plumber. We felt that it needed immediate attention as we are not familiar with the potential harmful affects of methane gas levels. Steve discovered from the plumber that the plumber needed the permission of the management company in order for him to make the service call. Longer story short...the management company paid for the service call and paid for the part on the sewage ejection system that needed replacing. We are sewer gas odor free!

Also on Friday, the Denver Post came and an article caught our eye on resale shops. As part of our commitment to reuse, reduce, and recycle, we decided to pay a visit to numerous shops including pawn shops, furniture resale shops, and Habitat for Humanity ReStore shops. Over the last 4 days, we spent $65 on a small end table, a glass top coffee table, and a 5 drawer legal size filing cabinet. The filing cabinet will house nicely the family genealogy files. Unfortunately, we had no luck in locating bookcases, which we desperately need. Today we went to Target for "easy-to-assemble" $20 and $30 bookcases.

The goal for the rest of the week is to have open our 27 boxes of books. With every box we open, we revisit whether to keep items or to donate them. We now have 4 donation boxes and we're praying that the donations will grow. One of the three churches we have visited over the past 6 weeks is having a rummage sale soon. They will be the logical beneficiary of our donations. Yeah!

Enough said for now. It is wonderful to receive emails and calls from folks. We hope that you are enjoying the last couple of days of August.

Love,

Diane (& Steve)

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22Aug/100

Mathematics: A Story in Downsizing a Household

I've been thinking a good deal about Mathematics the last few days while Steve and I are opening boxes, unwrapping objects, and deciding where these items will go for two years. Math terms such as adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying, sorting, simplifying, reducing, and infinity all keep rolling around in my brain. It hit me that we have a story involving these terms.

Our story began five years ago as Steve and I pulled back into our driveway in Batavia, Illinois following his summer 2005 trans-U.S. bicycle ride and my driving/flying trip across the country. After nearly 3 months away from home that summer, we walked into our suburban house, which featured 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, 2 stories, a full basement, and a 2 car garage with an attic above. We were profoundly struck by how much "stuff" occupied it.

We began asking ourselves: "How did we get to this point?" Following the deaths of my parents, my sibs and I spent time dividing Mom and Dad's household belongings among us. Some antiques, many sentimental items, and the family archives came to our household. Our own family of four already had a knack for keeping and collecting things, so we quickly filled the crooks and crannies of our home. Adding to our own growing household with my parents' treasures was a significant part of our story.

As Steve and I returned to our routine during the fall of 2005, it became all too obvious to us that all of the belongings in our house represented time away from what really mattered to us. Our preferences instead would be spending time in relationships with other people, doing for others, or enjoying interests and hobbies. Our Solution: "Let's begin a 5-year plan to simplify and downsize to a smaller home!" From this point on, subtracting from our household became a significant part of our journey. Sorting took place first and then many loads were donated to Salvation Army and Goodwill. We had two garage sales: 2008 and 2010. Craigslist, free-for-the-taking, e-Bay, and a call to Wayside Cross were also beneficial approaches. Last December, reaching desperate proportions, we even gave white elephant gifts to friends (will they forgive us yet?).

While we played the math game well we thought by reducing our household belongings, a reality check came in September 2009 after we sold our house. We moved from our 2,200 square foot home, with a basement and 2 car garage, into a duplex that we rented for 9 months. The duplex had 1,500 square feet with a basement and 1.5 car garage. Yikes, we still had so much stuff! More subtracting and simplifying measures were taken as we sold, gave away, or donated more things over the next 9 months.

On May 28, 2010, we were ready to move to Denver, Colorado! We hired a crew to load our household into a 26 foot truck. Upon their initial walk-through of our household, their advice was: "Obtain at least another 17 foot truck!" They were wise. We filled the additional 17 foot truck plus our mini-van, which rode on the trailer behind the larger truck. Now we were faced with multiplying the cost of our move due to the cost of a 2nd truck and fuel.

It is August 2010 and now we are settling into our home in Denver. We have been at this endeavor for 15 days. We have a smaller home with 1,400 square feet, which INCLUDES a basement. We have a 2 car garage without a driveway (it's on an alley). Our van must go into the garage and gladly shares it with bikes, camping gear, a lawn mower, and a variety of things. The inventory notebook, which we have kept updated over the last 18 months, notes that we have 206 boxes or Rubbermaid tubs. Along with the furniture that we brought with us, those boxes and tubs represent a downsized household! Yikes! At least 150 boxes need to be opened and unpacked so that we have room for an office, a guest room, and bookcases in our basement.

As each box is opened, we have one of two different reactions. "Yes, how good it is to see this again!" And, "Hmmm...why do we still have this?" We begin to feel there is no end in sight! For at our Denver address, our first donation box is filled and we sense there will be more. Was there something about infinity in math?

Love,

Diane

11Aug/101

It’s settling in time @ “Denver, 80210”!

The last posting seems ages ago so here's an update for you. It's settling in time @ "Denver, 80210"!! As of yesterday, we have moved into our new address. We're on Downing Street and our friend John pointed out that it sounds British & Classy. When he found that our zip code was Denver, 80210, he thought maybe it was like a TV show. But, that show was "Beverly Hills, 90210". Hopefully we'll not be as intriguing and full of drama as Beverly Hills, 90210.

Yesterday the loading/unloading crew was awesome. Chris is the owner of Clockwork Moving. He and one of his employees helped unload our household into storage on June 1. They did such a fabulous job that we hired them again. Chris and Diego, another strong employee, whose nickname is Hercules, met us at the storage unit at 7:30 a.m. They loaded two 17' trucks, followed us to our Denver home, and unloaded everything. They were done by 2 p.m. Everything seems to fit....mostly. We may be creative with some of our furniture as it may take on a different use here. Boxes and Rubbermaid tubs are stacked in the basement office and will be joined by umpteen more of our archive boxes that are still resting in Steve's Mom's basement. The guest room has the queen-sized mattress. Sadly the box springs won't fit down the basement stairway, so the box springs will be stored in the garage. Guess we'll opt for a European bed style that we found popular during our travels and create a platform on which to rest the mattress. The other big bonus is ample room in the garage for the van, bikes, & storage that won't be ill-affected by heat or cold.

Last night we slept in the house in our own bed. This is a big deal for us. Due to the circumstances of the summer, we have slept in 30 different beds since May 28. Yes, it was great to recline on our mattress after 2.5 months away from it. And, we showered in our own showers after experiencing 30 different bathing scenarios: showers and/or baths.

We sold our Toro lawn mower in Batavia vowing to not have to mow grass at our next place. Well, that was the wrong move as we do have a lawn to mow. We need a lawn mower and we need it NOW!! In an effort to lessen our carbon footprint, Steve has found a "like-new" electric lawn mower on Craiglist and at this very moment is en route to retrieve it.  We also sold all of our bookcases, dining room table, and chairs. No book boxes will be opened until we have a bookcase in which to house the books. Our patio table set or trusty Samsonite card table will have to suffice as dining tables until we can do some thrift store shopping. We'll try the reuse method if we can and try to locate something gently used for any furniture that we purchase. If that fails, then we'll head to Costco or Target. There isn't an IKEA here until Fall 2011.

Our cell phone service is weak so Steve just signed us up for a land line and internet service. Hopefully by next Tuesday we'll be up and running in that regard. TV will wait as we sold both TVs. For now my mini-speaker set for my iPod will provide music. Perhaps the internet will actually give us the TV shows and news that we want to hear/watch. The Denver Post arrived on our doorstep this morning. It is good to have a paper newspaper again. Time to be up-to-date on Denver politics, news, and sports.

While we've be in Denver and were waiting for the move, we took advantage of some free days to enjoy family. Steve and I went to Canon City, CO and met my sister, Sue, my brother-in-law, Tom, and niece & nephew, Shauny and Jovonte. We enjoyed dinner one night and breakfast the next morning with them. The kids are at the stage where they are growing like weeds. It's always fun to hear the latest on what they are up to between their interests, sports, music, etc. Sue, Tom, and the kids were in the beginning days of a whirlwind vacation that took them from Iowa to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and back home in about 8-9 days' time. I haven't asked Shauny and Jovonte what they thought of all of those miles in the car together!! Steve and I toured the Royal Gorge while we were in Canon City. As a young teen I visited the Gorge with my family. I ended up being a "fraidy-cat" back then after my first few steps onto the bridge. This time I am happy to admit that I conquered my fears. Not only did I walk across the wooden planks with spaces large enough to see the canyon floor 1200 feet below, Steve & I also took the aerial tram across the canyon and rode the incline railway. Perhaps all of our trips to the Rockies over the years, skiing, and hiking, helped tame my fears.

Last week we drove to Santa Fe, NM to spend a couple of nights and one full day with Steve's sister, Shelly, his sister-in-law Pat, and their two daughters, Emma & Lucy. We had a lovely tour of Pecos National Historical Park thanks to Pat, who is now a ranger there. It was a beautiful sunny day. Santa Fe has enjoyed abundant rainfall this summer, so ironically there is quite a bit of green vegetation there. I have been to Santa Fe in 2000 and 2005. On both of those visits, Santa Fe had a more desert-like feel. Our second evening there was beautiful with stars in between clouds, lightning flashing across the sky deep into the weather front, and the delightful scent of Pinon & juniper. In the wee hours of the morning, I heard a lone coyote barking in the distance. We enjoyed spending time with Emma and Lucy too. We haven't seen them for 1 1/2 years, so it was great to catch up with them and learn more about their interests: art, music, and poetry.

Until later folks, stay happy, stay cool, and stay in touch!

Love,

Diane (& Steve)

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2Aug/100

Patience pays off in abode-hunting sport!

Okay, call Steve and I naive. We were thinking that in a few short days back in Denver we'd be able to locate our next abode. What we quickly realized though, is that it requires patience as the first step. In the sport of hunting for our new home, we had no formal training. While some sports require a trip to a sporting goods store, we were fortunate to have all of the proper goods on hand, except for "The" Denver map book, which we easily found at Barnes & Noble. Our list of essentials for the sport: prayers, the internet, our cell phones, a perfect-sized spiral notebook, a working pen, extra cash for many visits to coffee shops in between showings, and a full tank of gas.

This is how the abode-hunt ensues. Say a prayer that the right place will be found. Check out rent.com, rentals.com, mynewplace.com, & craigslist.com. On cell phones, proceed to call each listing that falls within one's price range which also fits one's needs i.e. # of bedrooms, baths, garage, full basement, neighborhood, mass transit, etc. Leave a multitude of voicemails. (Some return calls, others do not). Talk to one or two real people to schedule a showing. Schedule more than one showing per jaunt to the area to save time. Fill vehicle with gas. Take the Denver map book to locate the addresses. Visit the properties, taking notes in the perfect-sized spiral notebook with the working pen. Do not react to a property until one reaches vehicle with doors closed & windows rolled up, out of earshot of owner/leasing agent. (Abode-hunting does have a way of bringing the worst out in some properties and in a few agents!)

Repeat above process daily for 7 days. One will notice that the process actually becomes more refined with time as one becomes more of an expert. Essentially, we found it was better to just drive up one street and down the other, looking for "For Rent" signs in front yards. We soon realized that many of the homes are managed by leasing companies. After visiting numerous properties, we also came to understand that price usually reflects condition. By the last two days of our search, we found clarity and discernment, when we discovered that our best option was only 1/2 mile from University of Denver, 1/2 mile from the light-rail station, 8 blocks from Washington park with its beautiful walking/biking paths, flowers, lake, and serenity, 2 blocks from a grocery store, bank, pharmacy, coffee shops, and a plethora of eateries. It's a Denver bungalow with 4 small bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, finished basement, washer & dryer, 2 car detached garage, a covered patio, and a small, easy-to-tend lawn & yard. While it is located on a busy street, the garage is accessed via a paved alley, which is typical in Denver.

By Day #7, we again used a prayer, completed our application, dropped it off, and within an hour received a call. (By the way, this home is neither option #1 nor option #2 to which I referred in my last post). The agent didn't see any obstacles to being approved plus informed us that the owner agreed to drop the monthly rent by $105. Yeah!! We gained full approval Friday evening. Today we dropped off the deposit. Friday we will sign a two-year lease. Next Tuesday, 8/10 we have movers scheduled to help us load two 17' U-Hauls and move our household from storage to the home.

I must admit that while the heading says that patience pays off, I have found myself not always patient with abode-hunting. I think the sport is over-rated. Therefore, I am of the opinion that it should not be done more than twice in one year! I am content to have two years in one place for the next stretch. Until then, I will gladly put my handy abode-hunting components back to work in other ways.

Thanks for your prayers. They've been answered.

Blessings,

Diane

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