Extra Credit

Dear Readers.   I wrote about a cabinet in Simplicity’s kitchen months ago in a blog called The Indispensable Cupboard. My writing coach challenged me to describe it differently and this was the result.  My writing friends say this is their all time favorite blog about Simplicity and to please post it. Enjoy!

kitchen cabinet2


The tall blonde stands quietly in the corner.  The light from the long kitchen windows suits her, enriches her ash blonde coloring. Both she and the windows fit well in the space. Don is the first to greet her in the morning, often before daylight enters the room.   The coffee maker snuggles onto one of her shelves.  This is where she and Don meet, in the mornings, over coffee, while I still sleep.


When we purchased the tall blonde, I had no idea that she would favor Don over me.  While that happens with chairs, his and hers, different body types needing different comforts, this was unexpected from a cabinet. They bonded from the beginning.


She came into our life when we moved into an apartment, in need of a most efficient place for our computer needs. She was perfect! I now know that I was naïve to think of her as only a computer cabinet.  Did Don see more in her at their first encounter or was it a gradual affair? Either way, it took place right under my nose and totally without suspicion.


When we moved from the apartment to Simplicity, the tall blonde came with us.  Don reworked her job description and she was soon employed as an entertainment center.  With her long lanky doors, she could easily hide things. At the time, I saw this as was one of her virtues.  Now I see the progression of her patient plotting and deliberate ploy into Don’s life.  Did he not see her coy manipulation?


As the years passed, the tall blonde was no longer needed as an entertainment center.  Don was quick to suggest her valuable contribution to the kitchen.  His plan included simple cosmetic surgery with hooks installed to hang pots and pans.  Pullout shelves were used for trays and griddles.  Behind those lanky doors, the coffee maker and blender had special places to live.  Wine bottles and glasses, became an easy reach within her interior world. This was worthy work, assisting our day to day kitchen routines of preparing meals.  The loud banging and cumbersome sorting to find a pan or a blender were gone, problem solved.  Once again, the tall blonde’s diverse resume and dependable service were impressive. Surely, I could see that, Don insisted.


The two of them must have worked together, developing this well-conceived accommodating role in our home, in our kitchen, in my space.  She knows we depend upon her and that has been the plan all along.  Don defends her.  I have learned to live with this odd relationship of husband and cabinet.



The tall blonde stands quietly in the corner. We never speak of her by name.  Does she have one, I wonder?  The three of us have an unspoken understanding, each doing our part in the day to day routine of life.  While Don may greet her first thing in the morning, I remind myself that I am the one he kisses Good Night.



(The Rest of the Story . . .  When we knew we were selling Simplicity, I suggested to Don that surely it was time for the Tall Blonde to be placed on Craig’s List.  “Let’s wait.  We might need her,” was his response.  The Tall Blonde came with us to the new house.  Is it ironic that she now lives in MY studio holding MY art supplies with consummate grace?  Even I must finally admit, her versatility is amazing.)

Post Script

(Dear Readers.  I thought my Simplicity stories had ended, but I gift this one last one. Enjoy.)

The Green Bay Packers were playing the Cleveland Browns on this wintery Sunday afternoon.  Don and I were returning from a family Christmas gathering, traveling along Interstate 90, listening to the game on the radio.  As a Packer fan, every play relayed by the sportscaster was one disappointment, one frustration after another. We had endured mile after mile of road weary listening. As I exited the interstate into our village, the Packers scored a touchdown and the game took an exciting turn.


“They might pull this off,” my hopeful voice shared with Don who doesn’t share my excitement over professional football. Turning to look at him, he indulged me with a nod and pointed ahead.  The on-coming lane had a stopped vehicle with flashing blue and red lights.


“Is that about me?” I asked Don with confused thoughts. If this were about me, wouldn’t the flashing lights be behind the car? Again, Don pointed his finger, indicating that I should pull onto the side road. Totally baffled, I felt my thoughts scrabbling to make sense of this odd occurrence. There was the game. Then the flashing lights. What happened in-between?   I followed Don’s finger and parked the car on the side road.


“Was I speeding?”  I admit to being unaware of my driving as the game had captured my full attention. Certainly, I had done nothing wrong. Or had I?


Slipping my driver’s license from my wallet, I was ready for a stern face and the news it brought. I rolled down the window.


“Had you on radar.  Twelve miles over the limit. Was there a reason for your speeding?” the state patrolman inquired in a soft spoken but intentional kind of way.


“Yes,” I replied full of confidence in what I was about to say and with curiosity as to how well it would be received.  “The Packers just scored. We have been listening to this frustrating game since La Crosse.  I guess my enthusiasm is to blame. That’s all I can say.”


An ever so slight smile came across his face.  The kind that is both amused, yet trying to keep composure as a serious on-duty professional.  “You are right.  They did just score,” he responded letting me know that he, too, had been listening to the game.  Politely, he asked for my driver’s license and proof of insurance.


No problem.

Except that there was.

He noticed that the insurance card I had with me was for our other car, not the one we were driving. As he returned to his vehicle with my driver’s license, we dove into the papers and manuals in the chaotic glove box.  Not there.

Shortly he returned with an official looking paper.

“Did you find it?”

“We did not. It’s Sunday, but we could try our insurance company to verify information.”

“Not necessary. I have written you a warning for both your unreasonable and imprudent speed, and operating a motor vehicle without proof of insurance.”

He paused.

I took a deep grateful sigh.  Lucky me.

Then he added.

“Have you moved recently?”

“Yes, just last month,” I replied in a matter of fact tone.   The old address on my driver’s license did not match the new address I updated on-line. Is this what he was talking about?  Little did I know what would come next.

“My wife and I went to your open house when it was on the market.  It had a name, your house. What did you call it?”

“Simplicity,” Don and I responded in unison.  Unbelievable! Were we really having a conversation about our house with a state patrolman who pulled us over for speeding after a Packer touchdown?  Curiosity and amusement started to take over my jumbled mind, releasing the panic of being caught as a speeding criminal. The worry lines on my forehead were turning into a smile on my face.  This conversation had taken a turn for the better.

“Yes, Simplicity. That’s right.”  He changed his gaze, previously focused on me, to include Don as well.   “We loved your house.  Especially the porches. We began dreaming of how we would live there.  You guys have created a beautiful home.  It is exactly what we will be looking for in a few years.  Would have put in an offer that day if the timing had been right.”

We thanked him for his kind words.  Were we friends, I wondered, now that we shared a mutual admiration in a house named Simplicity?

Before he left, his gaze returned to me.

“In the future, when the Packers are playing and you are driving, be mindful of your enthusiasm.”  This time there was a smile on his face.

Don and I sat alone, without moving, without talking, taking in what had happened in the last few minutes.  A touchdown celebration was jarred into reality by flashing lights, followed by the awareness that our proof of insurance wasn’t where we thought it was, resulting in a story about Simplicity.

As I turned the car around for the final leg home, more mindful of a respectable speed on the familiar village roads, I turned to Don and spoke in a way that felt like an exclamation point, like a conqueror of impossible odds.

“What a story! This would have been totally worth it even if we were given a ticket.”

“A great story and totally NOT worth a ticket,” was his most practical reply.

But most certainly a story that deserves a P. S. on Simplicity’s blog.

Good Bye, Simplicity 

empty simplicity


We shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us.  Winston Churchill


“I think of Simplicity as a gift.  A gift we were given. A gift we are giving to another.” Don’s words bounce off the now empty floor.  “I see all the ways we have made this home.  How strange it will be to have another family living here, calling it home,” he adds.  I take a long loving look at this tender-hearted man, a man who I feel I have known a lifetime, and intimately sense his every word.


When we met Simplicity, we were at the beginning of our marriage with new careers. We had hopes to grow both our love and our talents in a place we could call home. Simplicity’s emptiness was a white canvas on which to paint our dreams.  She allowed us to challenge her spaces in creating our life here.  Her empty rooms transformed into humming offices and studios. Her many doors challenged our furniture arrangement. Her unique floorplan became the charm we learned to love.


Today, she is empty of furniture, but not of memories.  While the wooden floors are swept of dust bunnies, the stories remain in our hearts.  How quickly I remember the day we first set eyes on Simplicity. She looked a bit awkward, having been moved to that site a few months before. No grass, no trees, nothing but a big yellow house in the middle of the block.  We loved her instantly. Such fun days were before us as we planned our arrangement of furniture and how we would live our life in her boxy spaces. As I walked through each of the now empty rooms, the memories quickly spilled from my heart.


The grandchildren’s countless adventures in discovering Simplicity’s nooks and crannies. The overnight stays of so many as each one rested in the corner guest room. The faces and voices of friends and family who shared a meal at the dining room table. The hours of concentrated study, research, and writing in my small office developing my master’s thesis.  The planning and preparing for our first art shows.  The clanging of the pots and pans in the tall blonde cabinet in the kitchen as they readied for yet another meal.  The smell and sound of the coffee brewing, awaiting our morning chats.  The porches where we took deep breaths with our thoughts, watching the squirrels at play in the trees and hearing the birds call to each other. No room, no space, was truly empty as each memory resonated like a prayer of gratitude.


Walking past the refrigerator, I released a magnet that held a small slip of paper. The words, a reminder of our hopes for this move.  “May our decision to leave Simplicity be clear and respectful.  May our decision to purchase a new home be wise and adventuresome. May we be at peace.”  These words have been our mindful intentions.


One last sweep with the dust mop and we close the door. The sound of the latch is final and there is a tightness in our hearts. Simplicity will sleep the night alone, in silence.  In the morning her new owners arrive, and she begins a new chapter of life.  Just as we will.   Good Bye, Dear Simplicity.  We have grown our hearts and souls here.  Don and I know each other better, love each other more. Here we have supported and honored the other’s becoming.  Difficult and playful conversations have held both laughter and tears. Your spaces have gifted us and many others with memories that have shaped lives. You have been a respectful witness.


Now, we take all we are and all we have to our next house. Remembering the lessons learned here, Simplicity, we will create home once again.  It is time to go.


P.S.   Thank you, dear readers, for your journey with me these 53 weeks!  When I started this blog about our house, Simplicity, I wondered how it would end. Little did I know then, that a year later my last blog would be about saying Good Bye to this old house that has loved us so well.  And here ends my story of her.   I plan to take a blog-break until the new year and then return with this same address ‘about simplicity’ with a new format and intention.  Hope to see you in the new year!

Downsizing? Not Us.

all rights reseved

What do you pack to pursue a dream and what do you leave behind?      Sandra Sharpe

An assumption as to why we are selling Simplicity is that we are downsizing.  Ever so quickly that word lands in the conversation and sits uncomfortably.  Somehow downsizing makes our move understandable.  It seems to be a norm and even an expectation that at a certain age, one changes the size of dwelling space and amount of possessions. While downsizing may make sense to people about our reason for moving, it is not accurate.


Downsizing frequently means a letting go, a simplifying, a lessening of the household responsibilities, a smaller space.  I must admit that some of this is true for us.  We are letting go of furniture and household items.  Craigslist has been a helpful partner.  With each sale, we have sent off a part of our former lives where it is given new life with new owners.  Family heirlooms that have been well loved in Simplicity, but do not fit our perceived life at Rumley Run, have found family members who delight in their opportunity to enjoy them. There is something very satisfying about this kind of letting go.


Sorting through stuff has also been a time of sorting out life.  Stephen Paul’s words give support to what we keep and what we don’t. “The space for what you want is already filled with what you settle for instead.”  We are letting go of many previous lives we have lived to make space for the life that is before us. Unless an item has a useful purpose or brings energy to this new life, it will not take up space in Rumley Run.  As each item leaves our possession, a space opens to dream in expanded ways.


Our recent morning conversations about what we leave behind, do not take with us, include emotional habits.  I will try to leave my extensive box of worries and competitive comparisons behind.  Don is committed to not rushing through life, but living in the moment. Naming these is helpful and clarifying. While an old habit is hard to break, at least we will give each of these our mindful attention and best effort.


Simplicity has also given us her best effort, reaching her limit to handle our future needs and requests. I, too, have reached my limit. The difficulty of fitting life in these boxy rooms and how to add more light has exhausted me. To ask Simplicity for more light and flexibility would mean knocking out walls and changing her very character. Years ago, I promised her that I would never change her basic bone structure. Both of us have reached the capacity of our ability to honor the other.


The word downsizing can also be attached to a lifestyle that is quieter and less involved. From some, I have heard the pain that a part of life has been taken away, even diminished, by this act of downsizing.  Perhaps this is where I feel the rub.  Everything about the move to Rumley Run is about growing ourselves and expanding our possibilities. When we walked into Rumley, instantly we felt its spaces ready to assist, support and encourage our next stage of life.  This home opens a whole new world for our creative energies, our marriage, and our opportunity to explore other parts of who we are.


As Don says, “This move is almost like changing cultures.”  Going from an American Four Square to a twenty-first century ranch, is a dramatic change of living environments.  In nearly every way, the new house is the exact opposite of Simplicity. What awaits us on Rumley Run?  A life where the simple daily patterns will be influenced by our new spaces. Where we have coffee, how we answer the door, hang up our coats, do laundry, what we see out the window, how we place our furniture.  Everything will be different than it was in Simplicity.


“It is likely that our conversations will change in Rumley from those in Simplicity,” Don adds.  I understand exactly what he means. No longer will talk be spent on how to make changes in Simplicity to fulfill our needs or where we will live next or will we ever find a place that fits us well.  The space will fill us with new energy, new thoughts, new understandings.


Within days of moving into our new home, we begin our twentieth year of marriage.  Another re-set of life. A threshold moment that holds both the gift of a known history together and an unknown future before us.  Where the unknowns are wrapped in a package of wonderful wild adventures to be lived and discovered.  We have found the perfect place waiting for us on the bend of Rumley Run.  Nothing about this feels like downsizing.


(Photo Credit:  Don Mendenhall)

Living In-Between 

ivy and buddha

Your problem is to bridge the gap between where you are now and the goal you intend to reach.                                        Earl Nightingale


We are living in the land of in-between.  Not yet in our new home.  Not fully here in Simplicity.  Boxes surround us.  Lists are endless.  Tasks seem overwhelming.  We cannot help but imagine our lives in the house on Rumley Run. There is both excitement and curiosity in the many unknowns before us.


In dismantling Simplicity, we are also dismantling our current life.  With each box we pack, we find ourselves letting go of her.  Experiencing Simplicity’s walls without artwork, floors without rugs, shelves without dishes, we wonder how best to live in this land of in-between?


This morning, Don and I snuggled into the two ends of our sofa with mugs of hot coffee.  The two upholstered chairs where we used to sit for our morning chats are no longer in the room.  They and the rug that tied everything together is gone, sold on Craigslist. There is an absence of the familiar, replaced by stacked cardboard boxes. Living this way is unsettling for us.  As we sipped coffee, our hearts and minds found a temporary solution.


We decided to create one room, the living room, that keeps us grounded, at peace, and has a sense of order.  Here artwork remains on the wall, just enough lamps and end tables find a common purpose, the room is tidy.  The neighboring dining room has turned into a staging area. A standing screen shields our view of the growing stacks of boxes.


The dining table moved and now hugs a wall in the living room. A small lamp spills light onto the table and the painting above. This is a favorite positioning of the dining room table for me as I often think of myself sitting in the dining car of a train or at a grand hotel. With the absence of our kitchen table, also sold on Craigslist, all meals and many a conversation happen at the table in the living room. This practical setup exudes a cozy feeling for the entire room.


An ivy plant and our black Buddha are the only two accessories in this room.  The rest have been packed away.  Something about a plant grounds me, gives me peace, and speaks to the new life that is before us. The Buddha with his calm demeanor, toes sticking out from his frock, has always brought humor and delight.  Both offer good reminders for living in this land of in-between.

From Katharine Hepburn to Phoebe!



KH chair

(a look at Katharine Hepburn . . .  Phoebe is on order)

A house that does not have one worn, comfy chair in it is soulless.  May Sarton


One of my constants in life is snuggling into the worn and comfy chair I call Katharine Hepburn. When I was first divorced and moved into a house that held me well, I purchased this chair.  An admirer of Katharine Hepburn as a strong and independent woman, this house and this chair were symbols of these qualities.  For twenty some years, Ms Hepburn and I have lived well together.


I call Ms Hepburn the do-nothing La-Z-Boy.  Most La-Z-Boys recline or swivel or have buttons that do things.  The Katharine Hepburn chair does nothing.  She simply sits beautifully.  One’s legs can be tucked underneath, thrown over the arms, or crossed in a yoga pose.  She offers space to get comfortable with a book, a journal, or a conversation with a friend.


As we prepare for this move and make decisions of what goes and what does not, we noticed her worn comfy body.  She needed some help, like a new cushion and fabric.  Our plan was to have her reupholstered, but then discovered that to do this was twice the cost of a new chair.  Being practical people on this issue, we began our search for her replacement.


We visited the La-Z-Boy store and asked for a do-nothing chair.  This required an explanation for our puzzled salesperson. After an amused smile and agreement that this was a pretty good definition of such a chair, she acknowledged there were only a few from which to choose.  This was how we met Phoebe, a name given by La-Z-Boy.


To look at her is to feel your body say ‘ahhhhh’.  Sitting in her is like falling into the most comfortable bed.  Plenty of room to tuck legs underneath, to rest, to read, to ponder life. Immediately, Don and I gave her the most comfortable chair award.  She was the one!  The right size, the right shape, with plenty of fabric choices to suit our new house decor.  Who knew that Grass would be in our color vocabulary, sharing a room with Kiwi and Crayola?


The house on Rumley Run will have a different vibe than Simplicity, but one thing is for sure, a comfortable chair will welcome one and all, whether short or tall, old or young.  Just like her predecessor who has given years of her life, Phoebe will grow into a well-loved and soulful presence in our home.


Waiting Anxiously

moving boxes


Waiting makes me restless.  When I’m ready, I’m ready.          Reba McEntire


Two companions, Waiting and Anxiety, have joined us during our days of house selling and house buying.   Both Don and I take responsibility and make things happen. Don prefers to connect by phone.  I prefer email.   Yet, much of this current situation is out of our control.  Documents go to underwriters or to third parties or to somewhere in the internet family. Then we wait for their approval or signature or return with additional information.  Everything has a process, a known protocol, in the real estate community.  This is a new neighborhood for us to navigate with ease and assurance.  With each transaction in the sale of Simplicity or the purchase of the new home, we are grateful for a gifted real estate agent.  Without her we would be sitting on a whole bunch of questions and moving nowhere.


Still, we wait.  We wait for the right moment to tell our neighbors. We wait for an offer, then a counter offer, then the results of the house inspection. We wait . . . anxiously.



Timeliness has never felt more important.  A hail storm in May damaged our roof. We did not rush to replace.  We had no idea we would be moving.  With the sale of Simplicity, a new roof and gutter covers were mandatory.  Instantly, an inspector, an insurance claim, and a roofing outfit that had an opening before the end of October was crucial to the sale of the house.  It seems all will happen in the designated time, but not without anxious waiting.  Yesterday, the insurance check arrived and that item on our  list no longer receives our anxious waiting. Instead, restlessness transfers its energy to the many more still deserving of such diligent worrying.


Deep breath.


Due to the quick pace of Simplicity’s sale and a backlog of available appraisers, the appraisal was completed after our sale price was agreed upon by the buyer.  Our familiar friends, Restless and Worry, wondered if our selling price had been too high and if so, what would happen next?  The appraisal arrived this week. Once again, all was well, but not without our minds dashing back and forth with projected problems and possible delays.


Another deep breath.


I remember early on in this process, (only four weeks ago?) we worried whether this quirky older home would even sell.  Being an unusual house, finding the right buyer could be difficult.  Once again, timeliness was of importance.  We required a buyer who was not needing to sell a house, had been pre-approved by the bank, and was ready to move in October.   That very scenario happened in a timely fashion. This process continued to find the magic.


Our nights since August 28th have been restless. That’s when we fell in love with our new home and said YES.  The ball started rolling, taking us with it.   Everything about this move feels right, timely, and perfect.  Our excitement borders on being giddy.  Our energy explodes with creative thoughts.  Still, these days of waiting anxiously is where we live.  In this land of in-between.  A land where we are not in charge, but trust and rely on the expertise of Monika and SueAnne and Fred and Tyler and Becca and the many voices we have come to know over the phone.  They are the ones who steady our nerves, handle our barrage of questions, and remind us that this is nothing out of the ordinary.  Well, their ordinary is our extraordinary.


Deep Breath!


More boxes to pack. I see we are running low.  A quick call is made to my new friend, Ryan, in the produce department at Pick n Save.  He saves the sturdy fruit boxes for me. I pause to think of all the new people we have met since the end of August.  Their smiles and helpfulness have tempered our anxiety, calmed our fears.  The phone rings.  Tyler, the roofer, says the crew will be here on Monday. Another worry finds relief. Such good people working on our behalf.


Deep breath.


Deep gratitude!