Thursday, April 29, 2010

How to Move Gracefully

As I wrote the story, “Moving Coffee” in the book, Coffee Lover’s Devotions to Go, I felt a tear slip down my cheek, then another, and another. Until finally, I just gave in and decided to have a good cry! It felt terrific and I’m finally done with the book (two weeks ahead of the deadline).

But in the process, I learned some important principles about moving and how to do it gracefully. Granted, if you are thinking of retiring overseas, you will have a lot of considerations to make and one of them will be, “What do I do with all this stuff?” Some couples decide they need to bring their belongings with them and will ship a container to their destination. We did that when we moved to Sicily and it proved to be a good decision for us.

This move to Ecuador is different; we’re gracefully separating ourselves from 35 years of stuff. It also comes at a time when our son is getting married (May 30th), and so the sorting out process is more complicated.

Here are some things I found helpful through the process of sorting, sifting, selling, saving and gracefully moving on…

*Learn to let go. This sounds easy, but in reality it’s not. As women we are nurturers. Our home is more than a building with four walls; it’s our “nesting place.” It is where we find comfort; it is filled with memories and a place where we feel safe. Give yourself permission to let go in whatever way feels best: to donate, to give away, or to sell. You still have the memory; that’s yours to keep!

*Let others have a say. Recently my youngest son—who is getting married—came home for the weekend and asked about a paper he had written in high school. I pointed to a cardboard box and said, “It’s in there...I think!” Then I realized, it’s time to hand over all their stuff: school treasures, baby clothes, and pictures. With the exception of their baby albums, I am giving them back their things. They now have a say in what they keep or give away.

*Feel the loss. As I go through boxes, I find treasures, like the boys’ baby teeth. Remember the tooth fairy? Well, all those teeth had to go somewhere and so we saved them (all of them!). I guess I’ll ask the boys if they want them (or not!). No matter how old our children are—they will always be our “babies.” They have memories too and we need to respect them. We have asked our boys (now 23 and 28) how they feel about our move and allowed them to voice their opinions along the way. By the way, it’s all been positive, so we feel we have done our job well (we gave them roots and wings).

*Saying goodbye with grace. If you look at retirement abroad as a new chapter, it’s easier to close the chapter on your other life. That’s not to say that there won’t be moments of sadness, but you will be able to say your “goodbyes” with grace and take your cherished memories with you. And if you’re like me, you’ll find lots of laughter filtering through the tears (like the Mother’s Day cards I found the other day!). My youngest son printed his on computer paper (he’s the saver). The card had a dollar bill printed on the inside that read, “Sorry, I’m poor, so this is all I could afford. Happy Mom’s Day!” Jon was eight years old (it’s a keeper!).

We have moved 29 times in 35 years of marriage, so “moving” is something we do well. But this is also a new chapter in our lives and we plan to do it gracefully. Everyone is different, so do it in the way that is most comfortable for you.

Until next time…hasta luego!

Connie and Mark

Monday, April 19, 2010

We're Getting Closer!

Little red check marks on the calendar indicate that we are that much closer to Cuenca, Ecuador!

The wedding plans for our son are in place and the rehearsal dinner invitations went out last week. We also took some time to visit our son's bachelor pad in Cleveland, Ohio and practiced being "retired." We went out for breakfast, took long walks in the afternoon, slept, and went out to dinner. I think we've got the rhythm down (almost!).

Jon is a marketing specialist for Rosetta Corporation and has an interesting job -- something about being a search engine optimization specialist! The best part of being a parent is seeing them grow up, have careers that they love, and NOT living at home. Jeremy, our oldest is a high school World Cultures teacher and is looking forward to taking a sabbatical in South America next year, so we'll see more of him than Jon.

With the house under agreement and the inspection slated for the end of the month, we are now in the packing stage of our move. With four suitcases to lock and load, we have three distinct piles: to keep, to sell, and to give away. Goodwill runs are now a part of our daily routine along with the storage unit which has the things we will ship to my mom in California (mostly heirloom items). We now have a home for our cat, Bianca, and buyers for our cars (not exactly in that order).

We made an Excel spreadsheet of our household belongings and what doesn't get sold between now and May 30th, will be sold at the "Cuenca or Bust" garage sale.

We still need to make our appointment at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Washington D.C. and we will do that next week. Our paperwork is lined up and ready to go. The only little matter left is my book, which I am happy to report is going to make the publisher's deadline -- May 15, 2010! I'm ahead of my projected goal, so with any luck I'll have it done two weeks before the wedding!

My laptop crashed, so that allowed me to get a Dell PINK laptop (Mark thinks I did it on purpose!). My e-mails still need to be formatted into my Outlook Inbox, but I can live with that! But the thought that my book was almost lost, nearly put me into a catatonic state. Now I have three back-up systems in place!

Mark reminded me last night to enjoy the journey, but he's not the one with the deadline right now (he's totally retired!). So I've found a new writing place -- Elizabethtown College in the library! At this point, I need "quiet with a view" and the college provides me with both!

Oh and there's the little matter of medical insurance. Mark received his retirement package which also included his medical. We have to pay $600 a month for coverage that is not that great, so we're going to pay for it for two months until we leave for Ecuador and then discontinue it. Mark has had three major surgeries in the past two years (all related to his running/biking/triathlon days). A broken hip and two back surgeries have made us realize we're thankful for good insurance, but we were still left with whopping bills! We realize that the health care system in the States is terribly broken and won't be fixed for a long time.

Getting closer to Cuenca also means that we will be leaving family and friends behind, which is another post entirely. Most of the reactions we have received have been positive, but a few have left us totally baffled. But we also realize that the retirement we have chosen isn't for everyone and we respect that.

Until next time...hasta luego!

Connie and Mark

Sunday, April 11, 2010

One Step Closer

On Thursday, April 8, 2010 our house officially went under contract and we are one step closer to Cuenca, Ecuador!

After four showings in two and a half weeks, we finally reached an agreement with a buyer. Phew! I'm so thankful that part of our life is out of the way; we can go back to living in our home rather than having it on stage 24/7.

Hubby finally dragged the coffeepot, toaster, and mop back in the house last night from the backseat of our car and said, "Do you think it's safe to put these things back?" I wish we had a video of us preparing for a showing, including Mark trailing behind me with paper towels after I mopped the wooden floors down with Murphy's Oil Soap.

Thankfully, all the showings on our house occurred on Wednesday night which was Wing's Night at McCleary's Pub, so we made it into a date night. Now all that is left is our son's wedding, the "Go to Cuenca or Bust" garage sale, a trip to the Embassy in Washington DC, editing my book, and packing (that's all!). Four suitcases will fill up quickly, I'm afraid!

Yesterday was my future daughter-in-love's bridal shower and I have to admit a few tears betrayed me as I realized we were one step closer to May 30th (the wedding day!). Jon and Kim will move to Cleveland shortly after the honeymoon and we have a departure date set for Ecuador on June 16, 2010.

Lists and Excel spreadsheets are part of my life: one for the wedding, one for the book, moving and selling, and things to do. My hubby is a list-maker too, so between the two of us at least one of us can tell the other one what is the next step.

Some days I wake up and think, Will this all fall into place? And other days, I wake up and shout, "We're one day closer to our dream!"

Until next time...hasta luego!

Connie and Mark
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