The Gift and the Curse

Ed says that every gift is a curse and vice versa. All my experience has proven him right.
At this time of downsizing, however, I can see the wisdom of that clearly.

I'm thinking about choices today. When I was young, the grocery didn't offer the overwhelming amount of choices we have today. For instance, we had white bread, more white bread, maybe something like rye and Roman Meal. Go into a store today and take a look at the bread aisle.
Unbelievable! Even narrowing it down to sliced bread is too much. Whole wheat spelt? Organic? 10-grain, 7-grain, 12-grain? Oat? Regular whole wheat or soft? What about extra fiber whole wheat? Hearty whole wheat? Half the calories whole wheat? Half the carbs? Bread made especially for toasting? Sourdough? Bread with nuts or seeds? Pumpernickel? Cinnamon? Not to mention the other kinds of bread - the hot dog buns, hamburger buns, sub rolls, olive rolls, French and Italian breads, pita, tortillas, etc. It must be quite a culture shock for a person from a developing country to walk into an American grocery. That person is probably happy just to be able to eat bread - any kind of bread.

After we decided to probably build a house, we had to make countless choices. I HATE CHOICES! I have always had a hard time making up my mind about anything. Even in a restaurant, I will order what I want, then when the food arrives, look longingly at someone else's plate and I will wish I had ordered that instead. (I inherited that tendency from my grandfather, JW McDonald.) I could never serve on a jury. The prosecution would convince me of the perpretrator's guilt, and then the defense would come along and completely change my mind.

Back to the house. Choice of countertops. Ed's the cook, so the kitchen is his realm and I was along for the ride. Soapstone? Corian? Formica? Granite? Concrete? Tile? Marble? I had no idea there were so many choices for countertops. Forget color choices - it was hard enough to weigh and pros and cons of basic material!

OK, Ed decided on a butcher block countertop. He asked the salesperson to give him an idea on price comparison between butcher block and all the other types of counters. The lady said, "It depends." (Oh, by the way, I hate that expression too.) It depends on what? On what type of butcher block. She opened a humongous catalog of butcher block countertops. She said, "First you choose the wood. Maple and oak, for instance, are cheaper than the exotic woods." (Then she listed a whole bunch of woods, some I've heard of, some I haven't.) She continued. "Then after you narrow it down to the type of wood, you have to make some other choices." She pointed to a picture. "Here," she said, "you see the grain is balanced." She moved her finger down. "Here," she said, you see the grain is different." She showed us more grain pictures. (Looks like the grain in flour is not the only grain messing with my head!!) Then she turned a page. "OK, now right here," she said, "you can see a whole countertop without seams. A little cheaper than that, you can get seams. This picture shows evenly spaced seams. Cheaper still are non-evenly spaced seams." She turned another page. "Then you must choose the edge. We have straight edges, rounded edges, beveled edges..." And on and on she went. Amazing. And that's just for the countertops!

Just when my brain could hold no more information, we walked over to the floor section.
Here again - who on earth deserves to be faced with so many choices??? Pergo, cork floor, tile floor, stone floor, vinyl that looks like brick, vinyl that looks like wood, vinyl that looks like tile, tile that looks like vinyl, wood that looks like brick, vinyl that looks like stone, and - yes - bamboo, currently a popular choice. Then there's carpet.

Even narrowing the floor choices to wood, it's still too much. They have wide plank, medium plank, and one Ed likes which consists of cuts of the end of 2 x 4's made to look like brick. They even sell special wood planks hand scraped by Amish men who signed the back of each plank! There are certain finishes available, too. Here's one web site's version:

Factory Prefinished Hardwood Flooring
Wood floors that have been factory finished before they are installed.

UV-cured � Factory finishes that are cured with Ultra Violet lights versus heat.

Polyurethane � A clear, tough and durable finish that is applied as a wear layer.

Acrylic-urethane � A slightly different chemical make up than Polyurethane with the same benefits.

Ceramic � Advanced technology that allows the use of space-age ceramics to increase the abrasion resistance of the wear layer. See Award Hardwood Floors WearMax finish.

Aluminum Oxide � Added to the urethane finish for increased abrasion resistance of the wear layer, which is becoming extremely popular on the better grade wood floors.

Acrylic Impregnated � Acrylic monomers are injected into the cell structure of the wood to give increased hardness and then finished with a wear layer over the wood.

Good grief!!!!! We have to choose either white oak, American maple, Brazilian cherry, Brazilian teak, American cherry, ash, Appaloosa, hickory, mahogany, birch, pecan, walnut - and each of these woods is subdivided into styles and finishes, e.g., "rustic," and then you have the color variations and tones.

The thing that makes this so hard is that it is different than choosing a loaf of bread. This will be very expensive and whatever decision we make we will be stuck with for a long time.

I just can't stand it! I'm trying to simplify and all these choices do not make it simple!!

Stranger in our Midst

One of my favorite things to do these days when I'm hanging around the house is to watch the cars go by and see if they slow down to look at the house when they see the "for sale" sign. I can't see the drivers' faces, but I consider it a hopeful sign that they slowed down to look.

Late yesterday afternoon Ed was preparing dinner in the kitchen when he commented, "There's a lady who looks like she's turning around in our driveway."
"Really?!" I said. "Is she just turning around or did she stop?"
"She's still there," said Ed, turning toward the stove. "She backed in."
"Is she looking at the "for sale" sign?" I asked.
"How do I know?" he said as he stirred a pot.
I ran to the sink which overlooks the driveway. The window there is a bay window which juts out and I had to really contort my neck to get a good look. The lady (I think it was a lady, could have been a man) was definitely stopped at the edge of the driveway, close enough to read the phone number on the sign. Dang it, I wished I had an easier view!
"I can't see the license plate," I murmured. "I can't tell if it is out of state." (Ed has this idea that the house is too expensive for locals and he thinks an out-of-stater will buy it.)
The lady just sat there. Then I saw a flash of white.
"Hey! She's got paper! Maybe she's writing down the Alex's phone number!" (Alex is our real estate agent.)
Then I frowned. "It could be a map, though. Maybe she's lost."
Ed turned around. "Maybe she'll get out and walk around the yard like those people did a couple of weeks ago."
I stepped back to relieve my neck muscles, then took up my position again.
"She's still there fooling with the paper. Is she interested or not? We don't even know if she stopped because of the "for sale" sign or for something else. Lots of people stop in driveways to turn around for one reason or another."
Ed smiled. "Maybe she'll ring the doorbell at any minute!"
I said, "Maybe she's calling Alex from our driveway!" We laughed.
I looked again. "OK, she's pulling out. She's gone."
Oh, well. It was pleasant little diversion.

Less than 30 seconds later our phone rang. "Hey, it's Alex," he said. "Can I show your house Monday at 8:30? Someone just called me from your driveway."

Mixed Messages

When we first decided to start downsizing, I bought my husband a small sign that says "SIMPLIFY" and he put it where he could see it every day. (I got it mainly to remind him not to order a bunch of stuff from catalogs.)

I saw a different sign for sale yesterday. It simply said, "INDULGE." Isn't that just like our society? SIMPLIFY yet INDULGE. Kind of like the popular women's magazines which feature an article on how to lose weight right next to a recipe for a rich chocolate cake. I laughingly told Ed I would buy the INDULGE sign and he could hang it next to the SIMPLIFY sign and every day decide which sign he wanted to consider his advice for the day.

We are constantly bombarded by the written and broadcast media, who send very clear messages that we are to treat ourselves, whether it's with a luxurious shampoo or a car with a DVD player in it. Our very economy is based on consumption. Didn't George Bush give similar advice to the country after 9/11 - buy, buy, buy to help the economy?

My sister's blog today is bemoaning the media's messages to and influence on our children regarding their bodies and skills. I too am fed up with the media today. I guess our goal is to teach our kids and grandkids to weigh carefully what they are hearing and reading and use common sense and wisdom to help discern the direction their lives should take.

Journey to simplicity cannot be undertaken lightly, for there are distractions at every turn in the road.

Moose nightmare

After our "for sale" sign went up in the front yard, I had a nightmare. I dreamt I was walking down an isolated country road and saw moose up ahead. Now I just love moose! I always look forward to spotting one when we are driving around in that part of Maine. In the dream, as I came closer to the moose, I could see they were menacing with red eyes. They terrified me, as they looked like they wanted to attack, so I turned around and tried to nonchalantly walk back down the road, casting quick glances behind me. When I felt assured they were not chasing me, I started running until they were out of sight.

This nightmare was not hard to interpret. I love the idea of selling the house and moving to a smaller one, just like I love to see moose. But once the "for sale" sign hit the yard, I panicked. Maybe my desire is clouding my reason - what if this move is dangerous? What if it's the wrong decision? What if...what if...what if.... and I want to turn and run.

The subconscious mind is certainly intriguing!