Friday, May 16, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Simply Living or Living Simple

In 2009 Cory was laid off work.  We had endured 2 years of held paychecks (for months at a time), long hours and a promise that the company would recover.  We lived the rich man/poor man life.  We learned to stretch every dollar and penny and then finding ourselves holding a check for $25,000 dollars.

Promises, promises, promises! We put our faith in a company that he had worked for, I guess a total of 10 years.  He had developed a line of business that made them millions.  They were our family away from our relatives.  We trusted them.

Our lives were about to take twists that we had not planned for nor expected.  I remember laying on our brown leather couch.  My feet were propped on the arm rest and I was reading.  It was an early Friday morning and our weekend was about to begin.  We had plans to work in the yard.

Cory walked into our living room at about 8 am and said, "I am being laid off".  At first I laughed and told him to stop joking.  After the last two years this statement was not funny.  

He promised that he was not being funny and this was now our reality.  My stomach felt like it had turned into the ball of a volleyball game.  Bump, set, spike. repeat.  I felt sick.

TWO EFF-ING YEARS of being toyed with and lied too.  The day they let him go was the day they had secured the necessary financing for them to stay afloat.  We thought we were finally going to see the light at the end of this long tunnel we had been following.  With each turn, over the last two years, we thought the light was getting closer-- only to learn, that it was a match burning its last flame.

I will admit that I was dazed and shocked.

And then, I was pissed off.

Until finally, a few days after, we decided that we would survive.  Together we started figuring out what we would do to stay afloat.  Being a grown-up with responsibilities and kids kind of forces you to think clearer after a short time.  As much as I wanted to scream and throw a fit I knew that I had to hold it together.

What I miss the most about our Midway home...the flowers.  I hand selected ever flower for the yard and had a rainbow of blossoms through our short season.  This was a favorite of mine.
We lived in a small town and there was not going to be any work for Cory.  He had worked from home for years and this allowed us to live anywhere we wanted and this was the downside of living anywhere we wanted.

Over the next year (2010-2011) we experimented with several businesses.  Cory joined forces with a friend but the reality was that the business could not sustain to families comfortably in a small town. We decided that it was not going to work for us.  He found work with a company that took him away from home for months at a time.  He turned back into a "road warrior".

It was work and it was paying the bills.  I will admit that being a single Mom was not fun.  I longed for my partner to be by my side.  I craved his companionship.  I wanted our kids to have their dad at home--not traveling, calling in on Skype, parenting through text messages-- but with me.  HOME.

Through this process we learned to live on a budget.  A tight budget.  Every penny was being watched and all extras were being cut.  Our family was in a transitional phase of life.  We were seeing everything around us through different lenses.

I started seeing everything from a perspective of survival: friends, family, our religion, our   I reverted back to the early days of marriage.  We thought about three things: food, housing and work.  Our life was changing and we could either watch it from the bleachers snacking on a hot dog OR we could step onto the field and throw the next pitch.

We had to decide.

We made  a big decision.  We did so as a  family.  The decision was to leave Utah.  This was a decision made with a heavy heart.  Not just because we were leaving behind family, friends and faith; but because we were also leaving our planned future in the dust.  We tore up the blue print of our current life and picked up an Etch-a-sketch.

We had purchased our home 5 years before this time and thought it would be the home of our kids graduating from high school, hosting wedding parties, welcoming grandkids and golfing through our retirement.  We sank our savings into saving it.

Then-- we lost it.  We eventually lost our home.  That story will be told later.  This is about our decision to live simple and how we came to that point.

In one year, we turned off cable, stopped the paper, cut out any extra outings, stayed close to home to save on gas, adjusted my meal planning, gave less to charity and cataloged every single thing I owned.

I went through every single box, envelope, pouch, handbag and plastic bucket.  I had two piles.  One to keep and one to donate/sell.

WHY?  In order for us to following one dream we had to rethink and configure the dream of our past.
Our future was not going to be anything like our past and in order for that to come to fruition we had to retrain the way we saw our life.

Are we willing to give it all up to see what the future holds for us?

Could our kids handle this extreme change?

What will friends and family say?

Can we do this without failing?

The questions never stopped. Cory and I sat for hours discussing every single possible thing that could or would happen.  We savored our safe life, and yet,  felt the desire for change and adventure.

We wanted to simplify.

When everything was said and done this is what we wanted the most.  Our lives had become over scheduled, over worked, over structured...over everything.  We wanted it to all stop.

We only had ourselves to blame for this situation.  When it was all said and done, we were the only ones that could change it; the only ones that could pull us out of the mire and get us back on the path of our new life.  We sensed our future was bright.  We held on to the hope that this little pothole was just that..a small divot that required a slight course change, but not enough to divert us from being happy.

Our family, together, decided that we needed to start over.  We needed to down size.  Our budget was going to take some hits and we needed to be prepared for those days of living lean.

And we did.

We sold pretty much everything.  22 years of collecting stuff.  22 years of building the perfect family room,  saving for our baby grand piano, living in a place that was a play land for the rich and famous.

Our life, when it was all said and done, occupied a small storage unit.  I kept photos, scrapbooks, awards, a few baby things, the letters that Cory and I exchanged during his time in Iraq, wedding stuff, artwork from family members and a few pieces of furniture that were important to our family.  The rest was just stuff.  Stuff that I would eventually replace as we settled in our home in Maryland.  I learned that almost everything I sold could be easily replaced.  I learned a lot  the six months leading up to the estate sale and that year on the road. I learned what was truly dear and important to me.

Our home for one year. This was taken in Austin, Texas.
Cory and I decided in January of 2011 that we would live simply from that moment on, instead of simply living.  We had been living the supposed American dream: big house, lots of toys, multiple cars, nice vacations, fancy clothes, yadda, yadda, yadda...blah, blah, blah.

But who's dream was it?  Our parents, our generations, our warped sense of what it meant to be successful?  A dream that in the end left us feeling confused, used, like failures, and defeated.

Our new dream started in July of 2011 when we set off in a 30 foot travel trailer with everything we would need for one year.  We had our kids and our pets.  We had each other.  Life felt so good.

I remember the felling of freedom that I felt as we pulled away in our white truck to start this new phase of our lives.  I felt tired but achieved.  We had done it.  We felt complete, validated and new.

We changed the course of our life with a little bit of hard work, long hours, a change of mind set and the expectation that nothing was set in stone.

Life was about living to us. It was not about the never ending bills, staying in an unhappy place, pretending to be something that we were not.  We learned that this story was ours to tell and we would have the final say in how our story would end.

The ending is still being written as we live each day to the fullest.  We are striving to teach our kids about what is really important, hoping to achieve some financial recovery for our retirement, learning to stay well under our budget, and hoping, that when it is all said and done, we can say we did it our way.

Today we are living simply.  Our hope is that we do so with mindfulness to our current situation.  We want to live each day to its fullest and within our set budget.

I hope that my kids know that simply living has choices and consequences.  We made some bad choices and we are living with those consequences but we are doing so in a happy state of mind.

Our attitudes through this process evolved from anger and fear to joy and happiness.

My final thought--we are happy.  Our choice to change our destiny and live a simple life has brought us closer as a family and for that I would endure this trial of faith over and over again.

When the ride was over and we landed in DC we felt a sense of renewal.  We were starting over and it felt amazing!

Written by Sherron Watson


  1. Wow you guys are brave. It is scary to just leave everything but at the same time I would like the challenge too. Life is so hectic sometimes a great change like this opens our eyes.
    Lovely blog enjoyed reading it. Also the post on the trailer make over was nice.
    Thanks for following me. Following back.

  2. Wow! I had never heard what prompted your year on the road -- scary! But I love this message. It is one that I am continually trying to achieve: concentrate on the important things, simplify, enjoy the kids... Great reminder!

  3. Beautifully written. Sending love and support to you and the family.

  4. Beautifully written. Sending love and support to you and the family.


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