Welcome to Middle Age Mark

Our Journey Begins, and boy are we excited!

It’s always nice to welcome someone when you first see them, especially when they come to your place; so, Welcome! Come in! I’m glad you’re here! Kick off the shoes, set down the load, rest the dogs.

Us!

I’m Mark, and that little hot thing I’ve got my arm around is my wife Rachel. Our full time home, or “The Big House,” is in the high-desert northwest. We’re on one-heck-of-a-cool journey, and I thought I’d enjoy writing about it as we go. 

Blogging is new for me, like so many other things these days. I’m at a stage in life where documenting our adventures sounded like fun. The aforementioned adventure-journey is one of self-discovery, self-improvement, the pursuit of financial independence, and just plain figuring out who we want to be and what we want to do for the 3rd act of life.

Teaching an online class

A bit about me: I served 20+ years in the U.S. Coast Guard, and then had several shorter stints like hospice, insurance, and building cell towers. I now enjoy working in online public school education as a Master Teacher. After 13 years, it’s still a fascinating profession and always earns me the “…huh?” look when I tell people what I do. My “classroom” and meetings are virtual, and I get to work from home.

How cool is that? Yeah, I know. 

I divide my time when not working between maintaining The Big House, reading, mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, riding my cool vintage Shadow, staying fit, enjoying a good martini (gin of course, and yes those last two can go together), drumming, and summers in our better-homes-and-garden back yard. I have a small side project in fitness coaching, too.

Resort De Plummer. We spend much of our summers here

Rachel is in medical management / consulting and she’s really good at what she does. She’s a consistent reliable source of good ideas, wisdom, healthy cooking, and killer one-liners. She gets jazzed by numbers (?) and loves spreadsheets (??), which comes in very handy when we’re strategizing on finances. 

Rachel started a little side project a year ago, making personalized greeting cards in the renovated basement / art studio. We’re getting ready to do a few small trade shows to test the market.

Check out the creative talent!

We spend most every evening talking. Rachel gets home from her commute and I get out of the home office, we make a drink, and depending on the time of year, we either float in the pool or sit in front of the fire, talking about our day, things we read or heard, things we’re learning, hopes, dreams, plans, appointments – you get the idea. It’s our thing and my favorite part of the day (not just because of the martini, but I can’t say it’s not an aspect).

In January of 2019 we joined the ranks of the Financial Independence (FI) (FIRE) movement. That term can wear many hats depending on who you talk to, but for us it means being debt free with the exception of the mortgage and being able to leverage that freedom. Debt sucks and it’s a drag on life, literally. 

We recently purchased a small vacation home in Mesa, Arizona (read: 640 sq. foot “Baby House” with a nice porch and our very own grapefruit tree). It’s in a cool resort where the people are even more cool and there’s tons of things to do. We’re in the beginning stages of downsizing. We sold the boat, the camper, and the roll-top desk. It was all part of our move towards being debt free, which we are aggressively pursuing.

The Baby House!

Once we achieve zero debt, which is scheduled for September 30, 2020, our plan is to invest more heavily and be able to make some really cool decisions about the next phase of our adventure. (And by cool decisions, I mean a week for two on a chartered catamaran sans shoes, shirt, and worries. Or maybe a big fifth wheel, pulled by a big Ford 350 diesel, with a giant air horn, exploring the country. All prepaid in cash of course).

Retire is not a word that Rachel or I like. We both picture a crumb-filled recliner that tilts to one side and daytime TV. We like better the idea of being free to choose cool new ways to live life. We get jazzed about the thought of doing what we want to do, when and where we want to do it (like chartering a catamaran). It might even mean still working, doing something we’re passionate about. When it comes down to it, we’re happiest feeling useful and engaged.    

Aside from financial achievements and cool dreams, my perspectives on things are changing as I enter mid life. At 57, some might say old age (do we even use that term any more, or did I just illustrate my old-age?), but people are living longer and staying healthier (both of which I plan to do), so I’m choosing to view my 50’s, 60′ and 70’s as middle age. Who’s with me?! 57 is the new 33!

Age brings with it experience, and experience hopefully brings reflection and learning. Learning allows for better choices and more cool new adventures without the “oops,” or as least with fewer and less painful “oops’s.” 

Age also helps sift life down to the essential and important things, and it’s easier to focus on direction. It allows for a better sense of who I am and who I want to continue to be. 

As Rachel said recently during one of our talks, “I like who I am. It’s working pretty well for me right now. I like where it’s taking me.” I could not agree more. 

So, that’s kind of where we are and where we’re going. Thanks for reading; your time is valuable. Writing makes me happy, and maybe I can use this venue to help share some cool ideas and discoveries as we wend our way along this journey. I welcome you in. Lose the shoes. Stay as long as you’d like. 

A Martini with Jesus

Most people that know me know that I like Martinis. And then they smile in disbelief that I used the word like. They know that I have elevated the Martini to an art form (which, of course, it is). There should be Martini art shows and orchestral arrangements to Martinis and a National Martini Day and a museum.

Further, those same people that know me know that all Martinis are gin Martinis, they are shaken (violently), are so dry that the vermouth and gin are mere acquaintances (Hello over there), and they are not mixed with sissy things or given sissy names like Strawberrytini (this is offensive and should be listed as a crime against humanity).

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation should list the word Martini as a proper noun (which I’m sure they will once they receive my letter).

You can’t walk in to just any place the serves alcohol and get a Martini (trust me on this) any more than you can just walk in to any doctor’s office and get a spinal fusion. Martinis are nuanced and rare and can only be crafted by highly trained experts.

There’s one of two looks that bartenders give you when you order a Martini. The first is a sneaky smile and twinkled eye because someone has finally asked them to avoid the Huge-Breasted Swedish Woman beer tap and employ their limitless artistic talents, and the other is something that might resemble being hit in the face with a board. This latter group should be run out of town after being tarred and feathered for false employment and lying on their resume.

I’m passionate about Martinis. I only enjoy them in the evenings, after a very full day (so, every evening), and they are to me the signal that the day’s labor has ended, that it has ended well, that there is much to be thankful for, that I am safe, and that I am now ready to relax and wade into the deep and philosophical end of the conversation pool.

Which brings me to the title.

Almost.

I’m reading a book that my realtor friend recommend (if you ever need a realtor, seriously, contact me), and it reminded me of something while I was at the gym this morning that I’ve often thought about (I think about weird things at the gym. It tends to be my creative place while I listen to screamo metalcore and grunt alot)

Which now really brings me to the title.
I wonder if Jesus would have a Martini with me.
I bet he would and I’d like that alot.

I think some people have the wrong idea about Jesus.

He might wrinkle up his face and make the fake gagging sound like alot of people do when they try my Martinis (you actually drink this?) I’d give him the good chair like I do with guests and family that I like. He might recline and tell me it’s a good chair and I’d say yeah I know. I might say how ’bout those Pats and he might say how bout those Niners and then I might ask him to move out of the guest chair and he’d laugh but keep the chair. He might ask about my mom’s extra heart beats (though he’d already know) and then tell me he really loves her and gets a kick out of her.

While we sipped I’d ask if he thought the 180 gallons of wine he made at the Jewish wedding was overkill and he might say have you ever seen a Jewish wedding? We’d laugh more and I’d ask if his wine tasted anything like Martinis cause it should have. I’d also ask if he ever heard back from that lady at the well and if people totally freaked out when Lazarus came out. I think I’d also ask what’s the deal with goat heads and what he was thinking there because my mountain bike tires keep going flat and it’s getting old and expensive.

I bet he’d ask some bomb questions about my life that would take us really deep and have all sorts of layers and would be hard to answer.

Of course we’d talk about Martinis and that they’re on the drink list in Heaven.

Then he might tell me he’s got an amazingly cool super crazy wild adventure ride for my life if I’ll just quit taking over control so much and let him write my story and that I need to stop running away from all the hard parts. Then he’d zing me with something like since I made you and knew you before time existed I think I kinda got this.

He’d probably compliment my bed making skills and tell me my condo is really cool and relaxing and so is the Baby House and I should stop letting barking dogs bug me so much and let the past be the past.

I bet we’d be easy. And laugh too much. And I’d get a ton of new insight and be able to thank him for a really cool life. I’d thank him for his life and his death and his life again.

I wouldn’t want him to go.
He’d thank me for the Martini and give me a hug and smile.

I’d probably never wash his glass.

Middle Age Optimism

Now that I’m coming out of the stage of life that has been a major focus for that past several months (getting debt free), there are other things that I’ve been itching to write about. Financial rightness is certainly a component of a well-loved and well-lived life, but it is one component; it’s certainly not the end-all-be-all.

Life has foundational pillars; necessary substrates that we gather and erect to support and create a fulfilling and satisfying time here in this realm. There is no one right mix. Too much of one and not enough of another can topple the structure of our life. Each person can and will have a different life-pillar support arrangement; some smaller, some larger, but my contention is that there are some common ones. I’m on a mission to label the pillars and get them upright and justified in my life.

Health is a significant pillar. It’s not something that I paid much attention to when I was younger, for obvious reasons. I was bullet-proof when I was young(er). I ate things and drank things and did things that might put me under the covers for a day or a week now. I don’t recover as fast as I used to. I’m teaching myself new ways to maintain fitness and well-being, and as a long time trainer, weight lifter, and strong guy, it’s tough sometimes to talk myself through new (lighter) strategies. Tough, but still fun.

Purpose is another major pillar and also one that I didn’t give much thought to when I was younger. Purpose? I worked. I loved my family. I paid my bills. I went on vacation. I was the drummer. The cycle repeated. It’s not that I felt I was lacking purpose, it just wasn’t anything I thought about. It’s a major one now as I look forward to solid support for the 3rd act of life.

Faith is one of my big life-pillars. I like knowing that I’m not It, I’m not Him, He gets a big kick out of me, and I’m part of Something alot bigger than me.

Optimism has been on my mind and heart these days as a life-pillar. Among it’s definitions, it’s an overall attitude of belief or hope that life in general will be positive, favorable, fulfilling, desirable (and fun). It can be called different things: hope, expectancy, anticipation, enthusiasm, gusto, positivity, zest.

Whatever it’s labeled, I’ve met people with it and people without it. I’ve met positive people that brighten the room and cynical people that suck the light and life out of it.

Being cynical is an easy trap to fall into. We don’t want to get too far out over our skis lest the landing not go as planned. There’s drama in being cynical, and there’s power in drama. Cynicism can be a safety measure, a protection. It can create a “Hey look at me and how hard I’m battling against life; it must mean that I’m important.”

Let’s face it, “My day was blessed and fantastic,” is not nearly as dramatic or intriguing as “Oh my God, you won’t believe the day I had.”

I talked to my mom yesterday afternoon. I call my mom about 5 times a week. She’s 83 and lives in Maine and told me the cardiologist said she has “extra heartbeats.” She’s scheduled for a heart surgery this week and might need a stent. She doesn’t see the point and thinks extra heartbeats should not be a concern.

After we hung up I thought what a magnificent time to be on the planet when doctors can roto-rooter your heart and give you back quality of life.

I’m not advocating for not being honest when life becomes a bumpy ride. Serious things happen and they suck.
I am advocating for refusing to succumb to a negative perspective.

My dad was cynical. He still can be. That alone might cause extra heartbeats. Every bright hope had potential awfulness, every adventure more risk than reward, which he was quick to articulate.
I resist that with every fiber on my being.

So this morning, as the sun overtakes the foothills and the coffee is hot, I needed to write an ode to optimism. To me, optimism is like air and an absolute must-have life-pillar. It might not be in metrical form, but my ode is certainly full of enthusiastic emotion, and I might even make up a song (sorry neighbors).

I started my day at 6am in the hot tub. Rachel is home sick and I thought I’d better quick disinfect myself. While in the hot tub, I sent two emails, watched a jet with 250+ people fly overhead into a great new exciting day, ordered and started a book, watched an early morning hawk, ordered a movie for the weekend, checked my calendar, did my hot-tub-yoga-stretches, prayed, and checked the agendas for two meetings.

How awesome is life?

After I got out of the hot tub I spent a few minutes in my part-time living room. It’s a cool place and allows for a different environment while still having access to all things professional. Sometimes ideas flow better when I change environments. I can get a new perspective on a challenge that I’m overcoming. It even has a glass conference room (I sit at the head of the table).

How even awesomer is life?

After that I crossed the parking lot and came back to the condo. The sun had just crested and our little home was almost blinding in the morning sunlight.
I was suddenly overcome with gratitude.
I let it take me and thought about how much I love my life.

I have so much to be thankful for.

I love and am loved.
I have great friends that set a high bar.
I have a good bed and a good pillow.
I am warm, safe, well fed, and healthy.
I love my 30 year old mountain bike.
I love the way we give.
The Patriots are 5-0.
I love sitting on the balcony at the end of the day with a fresh martini (gin of course) and reflecting.
My phone is waterproof if I move really quickly.
The morning sunlight pours into our home and makes me emotional.
I love my work and my team and every once in awhile feel like I really made a difference.
I love Sunday nights and Al Michaels’ voice and homemade french bread pizza.
I have a new red couch and a glass coffee table and I put my feet up and watch cool things when I can get the rabbit ears right.
I love my morning chores and learning new ways to make the bed.
My garage door goes up and down with a button.
I have a garage.

I never want to miss the little things.
There are no little things.

I’m going to continue to invest in optimism and keep surrounding myself with optimistic people. Why would anyone not?

I’m standing that life-pillar up and cementing it in place for ever.
I’m willing to bet it helps support a really fantastic life.




Get Debt Free or Invest?

Sometimes we can’t really know a thing from a distance. Often, it’s impossible to really experience the truth of a thing until we get close, or even all the way inside it.

When we start to really get inside something, we start to see it for what it is, not what we thought it would be. Sometimes that’s really cool and amazing and we love it. Other times it starts to get dark and awful. Sometimes we push through because we’re going to finish what we started. Other times we reevaluate and make new decisions. It can be hard to know which way to go; to know if we should hold ’em or fold ’em.

I had a dream of being an attorney since I was a kid. I like to argue and wrestle with abstracts (Ok I like when people listen to me talk too). But being a lawyer is probably nothing like the lawyers I see on the TV shows. I’ve heard and read enough stories of attorneys walking away from practicing law that I probably would not have been happy. Maybe some things are better left dreamed about.

This blog post will be a little different in some ways. It’s a bit of the same in that I’m putting out there our financial plans and where we are so far. It’s a bit different because I’m hoping to get a bit more personal. I’m going to be a little more open about how we fared on selling the House of Wales; not in an attempt to boast as much to help anyone else that might be following.

So let’s just dive right in. Through years of hard work, consistent upkeep, smart upgrades, and market timing, we did very well selling the House of Wales. It’s been one of the major decisions in our lives; not just because we sold the house but also because we changed lifestyles. When all was signed and done, we sold for about $130K more than we owed.

That’s not counting paying off the Baby House, which took about $40K from that profit (debt free Baby Howwwse!) That’s also not counting fees, some upgrades, and other associated costs from the process of selling (If you ever need a realtor, seriously, please contact me), so we put about $70K in a money market fund account until we could settle on the exact plan.

Our current plan was to be debt free by October 1st 2020. We made this plan before we decided to sell the House of Wales. We were killing it. We had our debt whittled down to just three more loans: the car ($20K), the truck ($20K), and my school loan ($25K) and were throwing gobs of money at them every month.

We had originally planned to invest the entire profit and leave it for 10-15 years while we added to it slowly and continued our October 1st 2020 debt free pursuit.

A few weeks ago, like we always do, we began checking down the action plan and reviewing the timing. In other words, we got a very close-up view of our options. One of us (not sure which one) said, “And we’re sure we’d not be better off finishing the debt free journey and then starting to invest?”

Sidebar: You know how when someone asks a question and it’s more than a question and then the person says something like what? I’m just asking only you know their actually not just asking and everything kind of starts to unravel?
Uh huh.
Like that.
(Insert open can of worms).

We started reviewing our options again, making sure of our choice. It really came down to two options: invest 100% of the profit or get clear of 100% of the debt. Right now.

We talked about it alot.
A-lot.
The cool thing about talking about something alot is that often it serves as a catalyst to review other areas of life: plans, dreams, the future (and to have another martini. Gin, of course). It helped us boil down what we were really chasing.

Paying off debt cuts stress and creates a sense of freedom. It takes away some of the “have to’s” of life. Living expenses don’t go away, but the financial drag of payments and interest does. It also creates a really cool sense of accomplishment.

Someone once told me that it’s not how much money we make; it’s how much debt we have. If we don’t have any debt, we don’t need much money. (Just enough, really, for a 1-week trip on a cat in the Bahamas. Every year. With martinis).
Being debt free makes good sense and is never a bad idea.

We also knew we could use the $70K as a quick-start towards creating passive income through investing that would add to my two pensions; one from the Coast Guard (already drawing that one) and one from the state when I eventually stop full-time work. I plan to add another 5-7 years of state employment before taking that step.

Those pensions will create a bedrock income for retirement for the rest of my life (~$3K per month) before any passive investment income and before social security (no plan yet on when to draw). A cool additional benefit of my Coast Guard service is lifetime healthcare (huge, I know).

Rachel also has a 401K that’s worth about $40K right now that we’re also deciding how best to grow.

The investment idea was intriguing because we’re late to that game. I’ve let the awareness of my pensions make me lazy. I also liked the investment idea because I wanted to ride up and down the condo elevator checking my portfolio and saying cool things like “oh yeah, diversified” and “market share” and “Dude this ROI is toasting my nuggs.”

Yes, we would still have time time to invest but we’re losing the amount of wealth a $70K chunk could jump start (and my elevator trips wouldn’t be nearly as cool). It might take us a few years to build that core amount back into an investment with our income. Although we really don’t see ourselves coming to full-stop retirement until we’re really old (like 116), it might be hard to hold down full time work from a 40′ cat in the Bahamas.

When it came right down to it and we could really see everything up close, we decided to bring home the prize that we started chasing 9 months ago:

We’re Debt Free!
Happy Birthday to me!

When we started our debt free journey in January of 2019 we had NO idea what would become of this adventure. It’s been quite the ride!

It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I keep going to the school loan website and flipping it the bird while laughing and dancing around in little circles (I also have a little song I made up but it’s mostly naughty words). It’s fun to keep seeing zeros. It’s a huge chapter finally closed. I might keep doing my dance for awhile (probably close the shades next time though).

It’s the same with the vehicles. That’s not as fun though because we paid by e-check (and I don’t have a song made up for those). Still, the sense of there, that’s finally over feels really good (I might drive past the dealerships and flip them a bird too).

I think we’re going to live in this for awhile.
Small, quiet, 4th floor balcony celebrations are the best.

I guess I’m going to have to find something else to write about.
I don’t think that’s going to be too hard.

I’m proud of us.

Debt free Middle Age life feels really, really good.


Middle Age Actionating

I turned 58 this weekend. Happy Birthday to me! I purposely asked for it to be a very quiet, non-celebrated event. Not because I feel old, or embarrassed, or bothered by either my age or my birthday. It’s mostly because it’s 58. 58 is a boring number.

I ate alot of cake. Alot. I got a whole one and I ate alot of it until my lips went numb. And none of that cheap whippy-fake frosting either. This was the real 80 proof cane sugar right into the blood stream frosting. I really like (fantasize about) birthday cake.

I also opened the bottle of Bardenay gin that my realtor and friend Mike gave me when we closed on the House of Wales and made a top shelf martini. It’s really good gin. That night I dreamed of Genie on I Dream of Genie. She had a little yappy dog and wanted me to take it.
I said no and she was not a happy Genie.

Some people use birthdays to look back at the year that was. I’m not a person that looks back alot. I don’t see much value in it. It’s depressing. I almost hate looking back.

I threw out alot of pictures when we sold the house and downsized to the condo. Pictures are all about looking back. I’m not a big picture keeper. Mostly people look at pictures and talk about how young or thin or hairy everybody looked. Then they say things like how fast life goes by or how little little kids were or how long Grandma has been dead and get depressed. Throwing away pictures is like criticizing the Pope or Mother Teresa (and I’m not even Catholic); it’s just not done. I still remember the look on Rachel’s face. Kind of like I might be a guy that runs over kittens or pushes old ladies into traffic.

I suppose if we looked back and used the past to teach us actionable lessons there might be some good use for that. That’s if we’re actually going to actionate (yes, that’s a thing. And if it’s not it should be). But hardly anyone wants to actionate. Mostly they say something wishful or depressing and put the pictures back in the box and the box back under the bed. For year 58 I want to take less pictures and actionate more.

I don’t feel 58. I tried to think about how old I actually felt when I woke up this morning and I decided 38. 38 seems like a good age even though at 38 I think I could still see the alarm clock. I’m not sure how a 58 year old is supposed to feel because I’ve never been 58 and I don’t have any friends that are 58 and I don’t remember how my parents acted when they were 58.

I have tons of energy, tons of optimism, take the stairs to and from the 4th floor even on leg day, am pharma-free, and still gym and mountain bike every day. I don’t have as much hair as I did when I was 38. I think my feet might be bigger than when I was 38.

I felt like I wanted to go out and do something to commemorate becoming 58. When you’re 24 months away from being 60 you should make a statement about not going gently into that good night. More than eating alot of 80 proof frosting cake. I thought about a chest tattoo of a roaring Bengal tiger or going for a ride on the motorcycle while wearing an eye patch or shaving my head again. I asked Rachel about the tiger tattoo and she looked at me like I had thrown more pictures away. I decided to ride my mountain bike to the gym and do a chest workout.

I crossed on the no walky guy sign though.

Reinventing Myself

One of my mentors is the dad of a close friend (who is also a mentor) who once told me that his secret to a happy and successful life is that he keeps reinventing himself. When one door closes he opens another. It’s not always easy. But then again easiness is not one of the foundational tenets of a happy life.

He now lives most of the time with his uber-energetic wife in Mexico and always has a list of things that need to get done. His nickname is Machete Mike (I don’t ask). He’s probably got 20 years on me and is a fiend on a mountain bike. I can only hope to maintain the energy and vitality of that guy. It’s a very special treat when I get to see them. His prescription for life has stuck with me and I think about it alot, as I do about his concept of reinventing himself.

Rachel and I have been undergoing stages of reinventing for several years. She’s moved up corporate ladders and grown her abilities to manage groups of people. After the Coast Guard I entered the new-to-me field of education and grew there as well. We both went from holding no degrees to several each as we sought out new directions.

One of my favorite authors wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

I want to be a man who lives deliberately. Makes purposed decisions. Takes calculated risks. Isn’t afraid of change or tough calls.
I want to be a man who continues to reinvent himself. Even when it’s scary. Even when it’s uncomfortable.

In his book I’ll Show You, NBA point guard juggernaut Derrick Rose talks about covering some of the league’s most famous and skilled players. He said he got “comfortable being uncomfortable.”

I won’t say my most recent reinvention has been easy or comfortable. It’s different going from house-living to condo-living. I wake up many nights around 3am and read for an hour. Not sure why; I just wake up and the brain starts. I hear people moving sometimes in adjacent condos. It’s not loud; more a presence. The garage is alot smaller. I have to walk a little farther for Amazon deliveries and when I put trash down the chute. The e-lights in the living room seem to be magically controlled sometimes.

We’ve still got a little more stuff in storage that needs to be placed. Still have furniture to buy.

But there are also Plus Ones. The pool is huge and someone else takes really good care of it. Same with the hot tub. There are no barking dogs. We’re really close to the church we love. I feel like a big shot at the end of the day riding the elevator to the 4th floor (sometimes I sneak down the stairs and come back up the elevator to impress the neighbors. I think the flip-flops give me away). I feel like a bigger big shot enjoying my after-work-day martini (gin of course) on the balcony overlooking the grounds and pool. I can ride my bike to the Big Gym, or go to the one here.

I’m sure there are people who would have bet alot of money that I would have never sold the House of Wales. The enormous river rock fireplace, wood floors, pool, hot tub, gardens; we made it a special type of home, one project at a time. Many many hours of labor went into making it an enviable home.

My parents are still in their same house after 62 years. My dad hand-dug the foundation.

Maybe I haven’t reinvented all domestic life. It still takes me about 10 minutes to make the bed (What! Shams are hard!) I still do my morning chores of trash, dishes, floors.

Sometimes it seems like we’ve been reinventing for years. Downsizing. Donating. Trashing. Preparing. It felt a little different when we bought the Baby House in Mesa. That felt like (and is) a resort. It is (for now at least) our vacation home.

But our condo is our real home now. When we say home, we mean here. Even though we love it, there is an awareness of change, difference, learning, and getting used to new things.

We recognized the process of change the last time we were at the House of Wales. We paused after wiping down everything one last time to hug and remember all the lives we touched there. We talked about memories, cried, laughed, and I said a prayer of blessing that the new owners would find as much adventure there as we did.

We said goodbye and thanked it for being a good house.
It felt like the right thing to do.
We’re on to a new adventure.

Time to open the next door.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m a bit nervous about what comes next. I can feel it. It’s out there. Vibrating. And moving toward me. It might be what’s keeping me awake at night. My next purpose, my next reinvention is already on the way. I have no freaking idea what it is.

Yikes.

Downsizing Life

“Geeze we have alot of stuff”

If you’ve ever moved, you know that it’s a “considerable undertaking” (I originally had a much more profane term), and is usually punctuated with aches, pains, a mountain of boxes, a lot of moving parts, and intermittently questioning one’s sanity (ok, and not a small amount of gin).

The statement at the top of the blog is one that Rachel and I have said back and forth to each other over the preceding year as we began downsizing, and ever increasingly over the last few months. It’s usually accompanied by some sort of verbalization of discomfort (grunt, groan, sigh) as another box is hefted, along with a breathy cuss-word either before or after (I’ll let you fill that one in).

On this blog post, I’ve invited a sexy guest writer to help me unpack the moving adventure (all real blog authors should have sexy guest writers). My wife, published author, and Life-Adventure-Sidekick Rachel is going to help me on this one. She was, after all, the first one to speak the foreboding message: “I think we should sell the house,” so this is all kinda her fault (I try to do a pretty good job of reminding her of that when we’re lifting heavy things and making aforementioned cuss word noises).

Rachel serves as the Middle Age Mark blog editor already, and I’ve asked her to go through and add her thoughts in italics. We’re not so much conversing back and forth as we are just sharing our thoughts. I have no idea what she’s going to write, and have agreed to not edit or revise (like a blogger trust fall. Lord).

Thank you for the invite to be a guest blogger. This is another first in my life, Mr. Plummer. 

It’s one week ago today that the movers came and removed all of the furniture we were keeping from the House of Wales and delivered it to the 4th floor Condo.

Really? Just one week ago?

Even though we’ve been in reduction mode for a year, it’s been surprising how much stuff we still have. But now (thank God) we’re almost out of the House of Wales and it’s on like Donkey Kong.

What does that phrase even mean?

We’re getting everything ready for the new owners, and we naturally want them to be proud of and thankful for their new home.

Ah, the House of Wales. We’ve made some wonderful memories there.

I’ve lost count of the number of trips, boxes, and times we’ve eaten awful fast food in order to keep on the move (how do people eat like that?).

Right?

We’ve been through appointments with A/C guys and furnace guys, a hot water tank guy, a stager, two home inspectors, a handyman, a window guy, and one CT scan team (I SO can move this couch by myself. Watch this).

I’m pretty sure I remember asking if you wanted help. 😉  To be fair though, MP has been through a lot of appointments with all of those people, because at the same time we decided to sell the HofW, I started a brand new job…exact same week. So he has been the one to meet everyone and get the good and sometimes not so good news. Thanks Cowboy.

I came into the House of Wales kitchen last Saturday morning as we were emptying closets and found Rachel standing at the bar eating half a banana and a pickle.
At the same time.
I stopped. I stared.
She said it was all she could find.
Her face was pure rapture.

That was for sure a first. Pickles (think it was three actually) and a banana for breakfast. Minus the sodium, you can’t say it wasn’t healthy. And we had sh*t to do…no time for eggs and bacon. Chop chop….lets’ go!  

We’re selling, downsizing, living smaller, getting out of debt, and moving forward into what we’re calling “Cozy Minimalism.” When we started this debt free adventure last January we had no idea what it would become (probably a good thing), but I’m proud to say we’re still on track to be 100% debt free on October 1st 2020.

It’s been a fun undertaking. Deciding what’s really important shines a light on everything in your life. It gives clarity and appreciation for people and time and a clearer view of what’s not that important after all.

We’re making the hard decisions and erring on the side of frugality. We kept the bed, one recliner, two deck chairs, my work table, Rachel’s art table, and two bar stools. The rest went to a yard sale (gag) or to the Idaho Youth Ranch as a donation.

Much of the impetus has been that not only are we moving and downsizing (which is always a good time to evaluate possessions), but we’re also changing lifestyles. The myriad of possessions that were needed to maintain a home inside and out are no longer required. We’ve reduced our clothes to items that we wear at least twice a month with the exception of the essential seasonal stuff (like all my Tom Brady apparel).

And some incredibly comfy lounge pants.

We’ve also reduced kitchen ware and clothes by more than half (we increased the gin and wine though, so that’s a plus one).

This was a big one for me. I Love to cook. So really looking at what I used and how we eat was important. Just because it was a ‘cool’ kitchen gadget, didn’t mean I needed or used it. Time to donate! Maybe someone else has always wanted a zester.

I even took the side wings off my Man grill so that it would fit on the balcony.

We have definitely sold or donated more than we have kept. The process of downsizing has at times been an emotional journey. I’ve been encouraged along the way by The Minimalists and their view on “things” and how they affect our lives. Listening to their story/podcast most mornings on my drive to work has aided in the processing of how and what to let go of, including photos, family heirlooms, and 45 purses/bags.

We each have our own Baby Garage (his and hers splurge) so that’s kinda fun. The Man Rig just fits (I’ve only run into the back wall twice).

I share my baby garage with the motorcycle. We both agreed it was a must keep. It provides fun rides to the gym for MP, and incredibly enjoyable date night outings.

She meant to say Man-Cycle but that’s ok. Through it all we’ve had no fights, and not really even any bad moods.

He’s being very kind here… I’ve had a couple of cranky moments. One night I got held up late at work, and when he suggested salad for dinner, I snipped something like, ‘Unless I don’t want salad!’. He just smiled. I took a deep breath, apologized for being cranky and we went to dinner. I had a French dip. 

We’ve been very careful to check with each other about arrangements of our new spaces. Since our new home is much smaller, we’re going to be sharing every room. We got good practice doing this in the Mesa Baby House, so now our Condo seems spacious.

I think this might be one of the biggest things to consider when minimizing. Do you like the other person enough to share almost all your space with them? Lucky for us we do. Things like MP’s office was a big consideration as we made this transition. He is VERY tidy and likes his space neat and organized. His office is his domain. I like my space neat too…mostly. Ok, kind of. I am an artist. I make things and create. Scraps of paper on the floor and a little paint on the table make me feel like I’m free and open to create anything that comes to mind. I don’t want to worry about making a mess along the way.

It’s a “growth opportunity” for me. (Lord teach me patience). It is kind of true though; I take 10 minutes every morning to make the bed and fold all the towels and blankets so the tags don’t show.

So, we have a plan to make the space sharable, and an open forum for discussion if either of us isn’t feeling comfortable. We’ll be fine, and good to know we can talk about it if we need to.

As you can tell, we’ve decided to have fun and make it a successful adventure. It does take a lot of communication, allowing for your spouse’s desires, compromising and remembering what’s important, and wanting your spouse to be just as happy to come home as you are.

Smaller life is good. We still end each day on the 4th floor balcony, overlooking the pool, with an adult beverage, and have even ended a few of the late August warmer days with a float in our new pool (and accompanying adult thermos martini beverage) and then a short repose in the new 30-person hot tub.

And here’s the best part: I don’t have to take care of either one of them.              

Debt Free Update

At the time of this writing, the For Sale sign in the front yard got a spanking new upgrade: Sale Pending! (Ok, it doesn’t really have an exclamation point, but it should!) We’re very excited! Our latest adventure is proving to be every bit as exciting as we thought it would be.

The graphic above isn’t really the date that either Rachel or I are considering retiring (we are both blessed with jobs that we love), but we couldn’t find a debt free countdown app so we borrowed a retirement app. It’s fun to watch the date get closer and anticipate the feeling of being debt free.

When we originally decided to get out of debt, our intent was to be debt free minus the mortgage, and continue to use the home as an investment. We started last January with monthly financial goals and took aim at the smallest debts first; furniture, credit cards. We held monthly goal meetings and knocked them out in a few months.

Then we focused on the first school loan, which was about 8K at the time, and this coming Saturday night we have a Student Loan Victory Party date planned! (I might get a gladiator costume and drink from a bronze challis). Death to student loan #1! (Exclamation points everywhere – masses cheering) That will be a very good celebration!

Next in the cross hairs will be the second student loan, which will take us out to September 1st of 2020. One added month to finish the car loans off, and if all goes as planned, we’ll have no debt as of October 1st 2020 and begin a cash-only lifestyle.

Zero financial drag.
Lots of possibilities start coming into focus.
Lots of fun possibilities.
I think I might want to catch a swordfish.
On Jimmy Johnson’s boat.

Throughout this process we’ve kept talking, dreaming, reading, sharing, learning. As we continued to talk about our goals and dreams, we started to really drill down into what we wanted our life to look like and who we wanted to be. Our version of being debt free changed to include the House of Wales as well. We decided it was time to make the decision, do the hard thing (pack / move 713,000x boxes, yard sale (gag)), take our earned equity, and begin investing in earnest.

It’s a life rule: You have to do the hard thing before you get the good thing.

We’re behind in investing. Although I have one federal pension that I’m currently receiving (Coast Guard), and at some point I’ll have the state of Idaho pension (two lifetime pensions = dream), we have some really big plans for our future (have a I mentioned a week on a Cat cruising the Bahamas or the fifth wheel and monster truck with the train horn?) so we want to make sure we’re funding our dreams.

And we’re doing just that.

We’re learning all we can about investment options so that we can add more revenue streams for retirement. There are lots of ideas and choices, and we’re learning about liquid assets and index funds. The equity will be a really nice lump sum investment to get us started. If all goes as planned, we should do very well.

I know the planet suffers the occasional naysayer and joy-sucker. To them I say we’re using all the information we have to do the very best we can with what God has given us. The rest is up to Him. In the meantime we’re on the adventure of our lives.

Becoming non-homeowners is not for everyone, but it’s right for us at this point. Although it’s true I may miss getting tangled up in the rose bush (pokey F’er) or attacking the wood pile bees, the fact is we’re becoming more mobile. We have the Baby House in Mesa and we like being there as much as we can, especially during the Idaho winters. I’ve also reacquired my love for Naples Florida and Vermont cabins. It’ll be nice to know that we can turn down the condo heat, close the door, and go get some real maple syrup sans worries.

Our rent, even with all of the amenities, will be similar to what our mortgage was, and since we’re investing all of the profit, we’ll still be leveraging the compounding effect of our money in much the same way (8% annually?) a home might appreciate.

That’s exciting.

At 58 and I-robbed-the-cradle, Rachel and I are looking forward to being a little more unburdened. Without the duties of keeping a beautiful home beautiful, discretionary time will come back. There’s a mountain bike in the garage that’s been missing me, and a drum kit as well (get the band back together?). There are books I’m waiting to read, places I want to volunteer, side hustles that need hustling, and good non-bottom-shelf gin that needs ‘scrutinizing.’

Moving is hard (!) and funny (!), and there’s another blog coming about that with a guest author (!).

Lord the things we get ourselves into. What a ride!

It’s hard to imagine a better and more optimistic life.
Let’s gooooo!