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“This place looks like a crack house.”

a minimalist journey, a family of four and sweet freedom

Bird Point, Anchorage, AK 

 “Well, this is it. What do you think?” with an uncertain smile, I asked. “This place looks like a crack house.” I accepted this perception from an insecure and conditioned modern day sixteen year old boy, eye roll and all. What I saw however were the chains of a life of anxiety, financial burden, limited engagement and excess being snapped, link by link. Now, I struggled with this transition as well, of course. I too had been conditioned from birth to never be satisfied and those Jones’…. I had rebuilt my life for the second time from the ground up and was proud. At one point just a year before, everything I owned could fit comfortably into a hot water heater closet and I was sleeping on a futon in a rental leased to someone other than myself. I drove a junk Honda Civic with nearly 200,000 miles. It filled with the smell of gasoline every time it started and I was scared to drive it. Literally, I braced for explosion at each ignition. This was more effective at getting the heart pumping than a full pot of Folger’s Columbian Brew. Fast forward a year and I am shiny, pretty, and in a trap financially. I am now leasing a four bedroom brand new home in a brand new sub division at one thousand three hundred dollars per month with five utility service payments; gas, water, sewer, trash and electric, each with its own account number and monthly account “statement”. We call those bills where I come from. We had three cell phones with costly major carrier cell service, wireless internet, and satellite television in several rooms. This home had two bathrooms; one with a shower AND a Jacuzzi tub. My closet was the size of a small bedroom and it was bursting like the seams of my designer jeans struggling to cope with my hearty diet. This wardrobe could only be reasonably described as enough clothing and shoes to outfit a rural community. We were up to three vehicles at this point. We hosted every celebratory event at “OUR” house. I cooked, I cleaned, and I planned, lavishly. I would go all out. I wanted everyone to know that I was good enough, even better. Are you following?

Both boys had their own brand new bedroom with brand new furniture. Actually, everything in the entire home was brand new and was being financed; completely reasonable, right? I mean, who could afford to pay cash to furnish a four bedroom home? This was my rational. It was a mere three hundred dollars per month at 18% interest. That was nothing compared to how much everything else was costing me. I financed three beds, three queen mattress sets, a sofa, a loveseat, a trendy raw wood and iron television stand with its very own matching coffee table, a six person bar height off white dining set, a chests of drawers, and dressers with full length mirrors. This all made perfect sense to me. This was the best year of my life because it gave me the ability to see what I was capable of and gave me a heavy dose of reality. I got to feel obligation and stress and experience the physical manifestations of said stress. I realized that I could act. I am an actress. I could set the stage and show everyone a good time. When the curtain closed, I collapsed in despair and worry. This exhausting façade was not something I could sustain long term, not and keep all of my hair anyway.

“But what if I just want a small, slow, simple life. A mediocre life. A beautiful, quiet, gentle life. I think that is enough.” I saw this quote on Pinterest one day while I was shopping for answers to how to be happy and also how to make everyone else happy and it absolutely changed my life. I am grateful for every experience I have had on this wild ride. I am a firm believer that the universe provides what we need, when we need it, to get us to where we want to go and what we want to do if our intentions have been made. I have always been a go with the flow kind of girl. I don’t fight the changing winds. I love adventure. I trust that everything tends to be for a good cause. The good cause in this scenario was that this home allowed me to reconnect with my now husband at a pace and space that I was comfortable with. We had been separated for a good length of time and at the decision to move forward in our lives together, I still needed a little room to grow. This chapter gave me physical comfort, security and confidence that I had lost a little of in our time apart. It helped me feel good about myself again. If only for the fact that I knew now that I could whip together a life; that I was capable and strong. I needed him to know how capable I was now too. And maybe I needed to be able to say “Do you see what I’ve given back to you?!” Sometimes I am an arrogant and I feel like I am the reason this earth keeps spinning, at least in my own little world. This home and this space and this period of time forced me to complete my undergraduate education and to feel like just enough of a badass to barrel into graduate school; Marriage and Family Therapy, ironically. They say those who can’t do, teach. I find this to be spot on. I knew I couldn’t maintain this existence without some solid income behind me. Quick fast and in a hurry, I finished that one math course that had stood in my way; bastard math, a term of endearment. Did I mention I work in social services? Insert well-deserved “LOL” at the solid income statement. I would even say a good “ROTFLMAO” would be in order. I think it should be pretty clear now that I lived beyond my means; WAY beyond my means. But, I meant well.

I am now the proud owner of a crack house. In all of its apparent faults, it is honest and giving. It is small, slow, & simple. It is mediocre. It is beautiful, quiet, and gentle. It is a 30 minute country commute to work for both of us. It is farm land and livestock. It is winding rural roads just long enough to let you prepare mentally for the day and to unpack the day’s events before returning to the calm of this new and simple life. I swear the sun shines brighter here than anywhere else in the country. When it rains, it is cool, dark, and forgiving, washing away whatever you need washed away. No confession necessary.

The first time I walked into this home, my immediate reaction was “NOPE”. It looked like it would be better off knocked down. I mean…ONE BATHROOM. It needed everything; floors, windows, walls, full kitchen and bath, paint, and a roof. But the entire cost of the home was six thousand dollars less than the cost of renting, for one year, the home I was considering leaving. We are talking ten thousand dollars for a whole home. So, we said yes…while I said (in my head) “absolutely not”.

For six months, we built this home. We learned as we went. We got injured. We felt old. We spent money. We became friends. And when the crack house could support life, we moved in. I became so impressed with our combined abilities, far beyond throwing together a life. WE could build an existence that no one could take away from us and that we were in no jeopardy of losing; an our valuable peace of mind, well stocked at this point. Nothing in this place looked like anywhere else I had ever been. We trusted our instincts and let creativity lead the way. We learned a few things. Hanging chicken house lights in a small kitchen is adorable and sweltering. Also, winter comes barreling at you when you put off the wood burning stove and roof repairs. Dollar store heaters melt wood laminate flooring and make me a nervous wreck. I had visions of my pug doing that weird butt thing that pugs do, pushing his bed into one of the heaters and burning the whole place to the ground. I could finally see the light. It was coming from the hole in the wall but I could finally see it and I understood what it meant for my family.

We let go of a lot of things. We went from three cell phones to one. We nixed the satellite television. We are so rural that Wi-Fi wasn’t an option anyhow so forced compliance to this lifestyle…check! I donated 80% of my wardrobe to Goodwill. I let go of 80% of our household possessions. Knickknacks, decorative pillows, things of this and that…fillers of space, back into the abyss you go. I bid you a grand farewell. Everything in our lives was risking eviction. We sold the truck we didn’t drive. We stopped offloading our income to financed furnishings and shiny pretty things. Everything in our lives from this point on was intentional. It served a real purpose and had to feel like a necessity. I decided that I could no longer have so many marriages because I wanted a real one. I needed to make room in my life to support a union of true significance. A simple existence was allowing twenty years of living in sin as my mother in law so gracefully denounced us, to transition into marital bliss’ish. Alaska was calling and I was answering. Take me to the earth. Show me beauty and make me small. I wished to exist beneath towering spruce trees, glorious mountain terrain & sharp coastal landscape. We were saying “I Do” to a life worth living.

This meaningful experience ushered in by a shift in perspective is the foundation for which all other life decisions moving forward will be made. Does this or that or they make me feel as though I am in the great Alaskan wilderness? Does it steal my breath or allow me to close my eyes and feel wonder and amazement? Is this situation or person so powerful and meaningful that I will devote every second to active and attentive engagement? If not, it does not get to stay, occupying my mind and energy. If these things or people cannot by way of sheer significance, convince me to give it a place and space, then it is not for me. And that is okay. Being free and intentional allows genuine purpose to manifest. I still have bills and responsibilities but they are so specific and few that the thought of it will occupy less than 20 minutes of one day, once per month. All other days of the month are for living this life, planning for the next adventure and for true experience. One day soon, this crack house will be a modest Oklahoma farmhouse occupied by a modest and happy family; a small, slow, simple family, a mediocre family, a beautiful, quiet, gentle family. I think that is enough. 

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