House-iversary 4

August 30 is our 4 year anniversary of being in this house. We bought it on what would have been Ted Williams’ 100th birthday. The sole purpose of this house was to keep Jude, Simon and I together. Our apartment had been taken over by a new landlord who doubled the rent and stated the building needed to be pet free. We had to leave or be evicted. All other rentals in the area are either no pets or one pet only. What parent is going to choose between their children? I’m not. We had to stay together.

This house keeps us together. For Jolene, it is the only home she has ever known. Simon has been in the house longer than he was in the apartment. Jude will pass that milestone this winter. It will be another decade before I reach that milestone.

As grateful as I am that this house keeps us together, I don’t want to be here. I wish I could pick up the house and move it someplace else due to the bad neighbors. I can’t even use my living room or my front porch (both reasons why I even bought the damn house) due to the neighbors driving into the front of it twice now. Every day I live in fear that I will be murdered in my own house. 

Selling this house will be difficult, as I will have to do the bad neighbors disclosure. It is also possible that by the time I sell, there will no longer be a garage and there will be many things that needs to be done to the house. I’m expecting that I will lose money when it comes time to sell. On top of that I will have to pay back $10k to the low-income program that helped me. 

This will be the only home I ever own. I was repeatedly denied a mortgage due to my student loans. I am in PSLF. I had applied for forgiveness after 10 years of teaching. The only reason why I was approved for this house and my mortgage is that the bank thought my student loans would be forgiven through PSLF. Boy, were they wrong. Here I am in this house and about to enter year 26 of student loan repayment with no end in sight. I have been denied student loan forgiveness twice now. Brandon refuses to forgive student loans, instead choosing to simply waive a few months of interest.  I know I will never be approved to buy another house due to my student loans. Once I sell this one, I will be stuck as a renter for the rest of my life.

This house is what is keeping us together. You can’t have pets in apartments here. 

Once the cats pass away from natural causes, I do intend to sell the house. I won’t need it anymore. I don’t want to be here. I will be leaving the country and moving someplace more affordable that also has healthcare. I will, after all, be paying my student loans until I die. I need to decrease expenses as much as possible,

So, while we celebrate the fact that we have been in this house for 4 years and that it is keeping us together, I am also looking forward to the day when I can sell it and leave the country permanently. 

My only goal is to outlive the cats. They need to be together, cared for, and loved. This house keeps us together. 

We are so grateful to be together in these horrible times we live. Thank you for this house keeping the 4 of us together. Here’s hoping it holds up long enough to keep us together for the rest of Jude, Simon and Jolene’s natural lives. I just need to outlive them and keep us all together. This house keeps us together. Happy house-iversary. 

Happy 8th Birthday, Jolene!

Happy 8th Birthday, Jolene! The queen of our castle brings so much life and love to all of our lives. We are so fortunate that she chose me to adopt her. She had no way of knowing that Jude and Simon awaited her at home.

Jolene was 5 years old when she was found dumped in the parking lot of the animal shelter with a box of her kittens. She was quite literally dumped – when shelter staff arrived for the day, they found her trying to put kittens back into the box that had bounced out when the box was presumably thrown from a vehicle.

Jolene nursed her kittens and raised them well. One by one, Jolene watched her kittens be adopted. Everyone wants a kitten. They are fluffy and cute. Jolene was in the shelter for 5 long months before I came in. I wasn’t even looking for another cat. I had been looking for a cat friendly dog.

I had been visiting the animal shelter for about a year in search of a cat friendly dog that I thought would work well with Jude and Simon. I even had a name picked out – Benny. It was going to be Benny and the cats. Each time I visited the dogs, I would also visit the cats to socialize them. 

One particular day, I walked into the cat room to socialize them when I noticed a tiny orange cat in a lower cage in the corner aggressively pawing the glass. That cat wanted attention. To be honest, I tried to ignore the tiny orange cat for two reasons. First, I am heartbroken over the passing of Kip in 2013, who was orange. I had been avoiding orange cats because they reminded me of Kip. Second, this orange cat was tiny. I thought the tiny cat was a kitten. I was purposefully trying to socialize and pay attention to the shy cats and the older cats who tend to be overlooked more at shelters.

Well, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. That tiny orange cat in the corner was persistent. I walked over to see what all the fuss was about. Much to my surprise, the tiny orange cat was not a kitten at all, but a 5 year old mother whose kittens had all been adopted. I was surprised to see an orange female.

I took Jolene (known in the shelter as Mamba for how good a mother she was to her kittens), out of the cage. She hugged me immediately and would not let go. I took her to the front desk and they were surprised to see me out of the cat room with her. That is how tightly she was holding onto me. We were given a private room for some socialization and together time. I put her down – much to her protest. She did not want to be down. She wanted to sit in my lap. She just wanted to be with me. She wanted to be held. She wanted to be loved.

Jolene picked me out. I never planned on a third cat. After raising 4 boys – Kitty (OTRB), Kip (OTRB0, Jude, and Simon, I never expected a girl. Here was Jolene. Jolene has my girl baby name. 

Jolene had some health problems. Specifically a genetic disorder that effects her teeth and some issues with her ears. She had three surgeries before I brought her home. Due to the surgeries, her introduction to the boys was much slower than we normally do. We favor the slow introduction for new cats to the home to set them up for success for the best, loving relationship possible. We typically spend several weeks working on the slow introduction process.

With Jolene, it took several months to introduce her to the boys due to her surgeries. I wanted to be sure she was fully recovered before introducing her. I didn’t want the boys to play too rough with her or for the introductions to go poorly and for it to effect her recovery. We took the introductions very slowly. 

I’m glad we did. The boys both love Jolene and are very gentle with her. Jolene is truly the heart of our household. She brings so much life and joy to all of us. Jolene is exactly what we needed to complete our family. We didn’t even know it until she arrived.

Jolene is our head bird watcher and loves chattering away at the chickadees. She is with me constantly. She knows her name and comes when called. She is constantly bringing me her babies – stuffies that look like small kittens. She makes a noise when she is “transporting” her stuffies to my location. If I leave the house, I come home to a stuffie near the door. When I wake up in the morning, I find she has put her “babies” in bed with me.

Jolene is loved by both Jude and Simon. Jude and Simon can play rather rough with each other at times. However, they are both gentle when interacting with Jolene. They play and chase her, but do not tend to be as rough with Jolene as the boys are with each other.

While Simon is bigger than Jolene, he is younger. Sometimes it seems like Jolene tries to mother Simon. The way Jude interacts with Jolene reminds me of how Jude was with Kitty when Kitty had cancer. Jude will play with Jolene, but not rough, and leaves her alone when she has had enough. Jude is loving but respectful of Jolene. Jude may be the man of the house, but Jolene is truly the Queen of the castle.

I’m so glad I took a chance on the “orange kitten” who turned out to be an older mom. Jolene brings so much love and joy to all of us. She truly picked me out that day at the shelter. Yes, it’s possible she just wanted attention. Maybe she would have pawed and acted all freaked out to anyone who had walked into the room that day. Yet I can’t get over the way she hugged me when I took her out and would not let go.

I am so blessed to have Jolene in my life. The boys and I both love her. At age 5, Jolene was the oldest cat at adoption for me. I am so glad I did not overlook this older mom who has so much love for us.

The next time you are in the shelter looking to adopt, please take time to consider the older ones, the shy ones, the mothers. Everyone wants a kitten. They all have so much love to give. I’m so glad this older mom picked me out to be her forever home. 

Happy 8th Birthday, Jolene. We love you so much. 

Please remember that until August 30, you can use our code JSJR10 at happyandpolly.com to save 10% off your purchase. For every purchase using our discount code, 5% will be donated to our local rescue to help other cats just like Jolene. 

Support Animal Shelters

Most people want to make a difference in the world and for their life to have meaning. This has become especially poignant in the pandemic with so many people dying. For me, the best thing I have done in my life is the cats. I like to think that I gave Kip and Kiity good lives with lots of love. I am trying to do the same for Jude, Simon and Jolene.

Since losing the majority of our humans in the pandemic, we have been fortunate to have many friends on Twitter. The COVID situation in American is bleak, dire, and the worst it has ever been at any time in the pandemic. It is a struggle to survive and be able to realize my goal of outliving the cats so I can keep them together. 

While the government may have my name on a euthanasia list and says my life is meaningless, my personal goal is to make the world around me a better place for pets. I do my best to be a good cat mom. I keep Jude, Simon and Jolene together and strive for them to be healthy, happy and loved.

Each month I also try to do a donation to an animal shelter. I am unable to adopt any more pets. I am not able to volunteer. I want to help as much as possible, so I try to make a donation to a shelter each month.

As the result of our Twitter presence, we were approached by pet luxury company Happy and Polly to take part in a promotion they have. We received a free item, a post box cat toy. We post photos on Twitter of the cats playing with the postbox tagging Happy and Polly for a month. We have a discount code, JSJR10 that people can use for 10% off their purchase from Happy and Polly.

There is more. For every purchase made using our discount code JSJR10, we receive 5% for helping to promote the company. We have entered into an agreement with local non-profit volunteer rescue CNY SNAP. Our 5% from the Happy and Polly promotion will be donated to CNY SNAP.

CNY SNAP is the shelter from which I adopted Simon. They are the cleanest, kindest shelter I have encountered. Simon was well cared for when I adopted him. CNY SNAP is also the shelter that helped me trap two of the outside cats this past winter. We were able to get two of the outside cats off the streets in the winter and away from the dog fighting ring. They have since been adopted into loving homes. 

There are still three outside cats that need to be trapped and taken into shelter to be adopted. I am waiting for CNY SNAP to have room to be able to take them in. CNY SNAP is run 100% by volunteers and is the largest cat rescue in my area.

Jolene’s birthday is coming up on August 24, and our Happy and Polly promotion runs through the month of August. In addition to using the promotion to raise money for CNY SNAP, I am hoping to use this opportunity to highlight Jolene during her birthday month. I want to bring awareness to mother cats.

Jolene had been dumped at the shelter in a box of her kittens. She was 5 years old. When I say dumped, she was literally dumped. Some of the kittens bounced out of the box when it was thrown out of the vehicle. The shelter volunteers found Jolene trying to get the kittens who had bounced out back into the box with her/the rest of the kittens.

Of course, Jolene loved and nursed her kittens. I have a photo of her nursing her kittens in the shelter. All of the kittens were adopted. Kittens are cute and fluffy. Everyone wants a kitten. 

The moms take longer to adopt. Jolene watched all of her kittens be adopted. She waited at the shelter an additional 6 months before she picked me out to adopt her. I was not planning on a third cat. I was at the shelter to adopt a dog. I was not finding a dog that would be a good fit for Jude, Simon and I, so I volunteered to socialize the cats. Jolene was in a cage at the far end of the room, at the bottom in a corner. She threw a fit when I walked into the room, making her presence known. 

Jolene picked me out from the moment I walked in the room. 

Jolene is the first girl I have adopted. She has my girl baby name. I am so blessed to have her. She may be spayed after having her kittens, but she still carries around her stuffie “babies.” She often brings them to me where ever I am in the house. 

Mother cats and older cats have so much love to give. Everyone is drawn to kittens. Please take time to look at the mother cats, the older cats, the shy cats. They all have so much love. They all deserve a loving home.

Since my life is going to be short in the pandemic, given the government’s desire to see me dead, my only goal now in life is to try to help pets as much as possible. I need to care for Jude, Simon and Jolene. I am trying to help animal shelters and homeless pets as much as I can.

Money is tight now for all of us. Even if you cannot donate right now, consider putting an extra can of cat food in your shopping cart, or even some extra paper towels. You can donate old towels and sheets to help animal shelters as well. 

If you are financially able, please consider our Happy and Polly promotion. Happy and Polly has items for both cats and dogs. They ship to difference countries. You get a fun item for your pet and save 10% using our code JSJR10. The 5% of your purchase that comes to us will be donated to CNY SNAP to help the homeless cats in rescue. Everyone wins! Our code is good through August 30. Go to http://www.happyandpolly.com

There is so much evil in the world right now. Please be the good human your pet thinks you are. Try to make the world a better place by helping the animals and animal shelters around you. 

A Kind Soul


It’s been well over 5 years now since Afshin died. I was working my dream job at the time. I was the human resources / training supervisor for a prestigious American research firm that worked projects not only across the country but also internationally. I supervised over 50 employees.
 
There are many people and moments during the course of my time working my dream job that stick out, and one of them is Afshin. We will use his first name to respect the privacy of the deceased.
 
I remember Afshin as a good worker, but even more importantly, as an amazing human being. He was one of those people that when they pass, you wish you had the opportunity to have more conversations with them. They just brought so much joy and life to those around them and had so much to give.
 
In fact, I remember Afshin’s work as exceptional. He had even been offered a management position, and turned it down. He said that he preferred to remain in the job he was doing. We were always hopeful that he would change his mind about the management position, but he never did.
 
Afshin was highly educated with an engineering degree, yet he stayed in an entry level position at a research firm. I remember in some of my conversations with Afshin learning that he was brought to the USA by his parents from a very young age. Unfortunately, I do not remember what country they immigrated from, just that it was a war-torn country and they had come here for a better life. Afshin said both of his immigrant parents worked hard and sacrificed so that he could get his engineering degree from an Ivy League school.
 
Both of his parents had already passed away by the time he started working for us. The rest of his family in their home country had been killed. Some of the family members were confirmed dead. Others were presumed dead, as he was never able to locate any living family members. Afshin was truly alone in the world.
 
He had many friends at work. Everyone loved Afshin. We always made sure he had invitations for holidays.  People enjoyed spending time with Afshin. He was just a great guy.
 
So it was extremely unusual when Afshin did not show up for work two days in a row. No one could get ahold of him. This was not normal. 
 
The day that Afshin died, he had been out to a movie with a friend from work. The friend remembers they talked for a little bit after the movie, then went home.
 
Afshin lived in an apartment alone and did not show up for work for two days. We contacted police to do a wellness check. Afshin was found dead and alone in his apartment.
 
The coroner determined that there was no foul play involved in his death. However, there are questions as to whether it was intentional or accidental. As a friend who valued Afshin, I like to think it was accidental. As someone with experience performing psychological autopsies, I’m afraid it looks intentional.
 
Whether accidental or intentional, his death was a horrible tragedy. There was not a single employee in our company who Afshin did not touch in a positive way. The entire organization was in grieving.
 
As Afshin had no family and no will, his body became a “Ward of the State” in New York State. This means that the Adult Protective Office was responsible for his corpse and in charge of his remains. 
 
Did Afshin want to be buried? Did Afshin want to be cremated? No one knew. As a Ward of the State, it did not matter. His life, death, and corpse became just another piece of paper that some bureaucrat in the Adult Protective Office pushed across their desk.
 
Do you know what happens when a corpse becomes a Ward of the State and the Adult Protective Office is declared the guardian? 
 
I will tell you.
 
First off, heaven forbid you have any friends that care about you. Friends have zero legal standing when you have no will and no family. The State does not care. You are just a dead body they don’t want and are now responsible for disposing.
 
As his employer, we fought for information about Afshin’s corpse and what would happen to him. First off, how many employers would fight for a dead employee like that? We did. We cared.
 
Deceased Wards of the State are buried in an open field. There is no funeral, no graveside service. There is no stone or grave marker. The deceased body Is quite literally given latitude and longitude coordinates of where it is buried. That is it. These latitude and longitude coordinates are marked in a file. The file is placed in a drawer for 7 years. After 7 years, the file is shredded. You are gone, dead and buried with no grave marker and not even a human that knows the latitude and longitude coordinates of where your body is located.
 
We fought tooth and nail to get those latitude and longitude coordinates disclosed to us. Would the Adult Protective Office let us know when they planned the burial so we could have a small group stand there with respect and offer prayers? No. They refused to release that information. Graves are dug at night and never announced. The Adult Protective Office does not want anyone there. They don’t want anyone to know they are burying some poor person who died with no family, no will, and no money.
 
We were able to obtain the latitude and longitude coordinates of where Afshin was buried after he was buried there. Of course, that’s assuming he actually is buried there. They could have just provided us with random coordinates. Maybe they provide the same set of coordinates to any friend of a deceased person who inquires. 
 
Once provided the coordinates, of course we visited. It took a GPS to find the location. There was no marker. It was just an open field. Families could have picnics there. Children could play tag. No one would know they were playing on a mass grave site of poor people who have been buried as Wards of the State.
 
My employer paid for a marker for Afshin. We had to go through several hoops to have a marker placed at his coordinates. The marker was so small, we could only put his name. There was not enough room for dates. We were allowed a small phrase. The phrase we chose was “A Kind Soul.” There is a small marker with his name that says “A Kind Soul” and nothing else. That is all that remains of Afshin. 
 
I have a feeling that the only reason at all why we were able to get coordinates and other information we did from Adult Protective Office was because we were the employer. Also, this happened in a relatively small city, where you could get people to show some compassion in certain situations. I’m sure if this had happened in a much larger city, we would not have gotten the coordinates or any other information we did.
 
Both Afshin’s life and his death is something that I’m sure will stay with me for a very long time. I have never before known someone whose corpse became a Ward of the State under the supervision of Adult Protective Office. 
 
Afshin should be remembered for his life. He was A Kind Soul. He was an amazing person. His death was a tragedy. The way his corpse was treated as a Ward of the State was horrific. There has got to be a better way to honor the dead than burying them unmarked with just a latitude and longitude coordinate to mark the body. 
 
I’m not sure what the answer is here. I just know that Afshin deserved better.
 
To be completely honest, I do not want a death like Afshin’s. I want to matter. I want someone to care. For the record, we cared. We were his coworkers. We were his friends. It was just a challenge that as friends, we felt completely helpless when he died because we had no legal ground to be able to have a service or handle any arrangements. The last thing anyone wants in death is to become a Ward of the State. 
 
Afshin was a kind soul, and he was my friend.  

Reducing Water Use by Half


The average American uses about 60 gallons of water per day, or about 5,400 gallons per quarter. That is a lot of water. Our water bill arrives quarterly. I am usually in the 4,000 – 5,000 gallon range. I thought I was doing pretty well compared to the “average” American.
 
One of the benefits of being home all the time in the pandemic as a permanent remote worker is that I am actually home and have more control over my environment. I am not in a rush to get out the door, tearing through the house and throwing things around just trying to make it out the door. Being home all the time, I am more mindful of the resources I am using. 
 
Being home all the time, I am better able to manage things like the temperature in my home. I can open and close windows when needed to cool off the house and not rely so much on the air conditioning unit. I can do things like reuse the grey water from the dehumidifier for flushing the toilet and for washing clothes. 
 
If I had to work outside the house, I would not have the time or energy to do these things that are not only saving me money, but also reducing my energy use and helping the environment. 
 
I have been trying to reduce my water usage by reusing grey water. I take the water from the dehumidifier and use it when flushing the toilet to refill the tank. This way, I am not using “fresh” water to fill the tank. I am reusing the water the dehumidifier took out of the air. 
 
For the record, dehumidifier water is NOT safe for drinking water.
 
I have also been taking dehumidifier water and pouring it into the washing machine to reduce the amount of water the washing machine needs to use to fill to launder clothes. Reusing the grey water from the dehumidifier are little steps that I have been taking to try to reduce water usage. Many areas of the United States are in a drought, after all.
 
Reusing grey water made a small adjustment in my water usage. It was not very noticeable in my quarterly water bill.
 
However, there was one water changed this past quarter that made a HUGE impact in not only the amount of gallons I use, but also my bill.
 
The amount of water gallons I used dropped almost in half.
 
What did I do?
 
Well, it’s more what I have been forced to do. This was not a choice and it was not something I thought to do. It was an adjustment made out of necessity.
 
Back in March. Shortly after my birthday, the hot water heater died. I am still on a waiting list with two different plumbers to have it fixed. It is hard to do anything around here because the covid rates are so high. Of course, covid is affecting the plumbers, as they have to go into people’s homes.
 
So for the past quarter, I have had to find work arounds for hot water. I have been heating water in a pot on my stove to use to wash dishes and for bathing. This means that instead of water just running down the drain, my water use is now measured.
 
Did you know the average American uses 50 gallons of water to shower? That’s all water down the drain. 50 gallons is the size of my hot water tank. Since the hot water heater is not working, I have to heat water on my stove and have been taking bucket showers. This means that I am using about 1.5 gallons of water to take a shower. It is more than sufficient. 
 
Yup. You read that right. I have gone from using 50 gallons of water for a shower to 1.5 gallons.  That is assuming that the average American shower uses 50 gallons of water statistically. That’s a huge savings. 
 
In addition, when washing dishes, I am only heating about a gallon of water. Prior to the hot water heater breaking, I would just turn water on and let it run down the drain waiting for it to heat up. Now, I just turn water on, fill up the pot and heat it on the stove. There is no lost water going down the drain. 
 
Of course, I am using cold water in my washing machine. However, I was primarily using cold water in the washing machine prior to the hot water heater breaking. Occasionally, I would do a warm wash, but for the most part, I am washing clothes in cold water. 
 
Of course, I am privileged in that I am home and have time to heat water on my stove to use for dishes and bathing. I can tell you right now that if I had to work outside the home, it would be a hell of a lot easier to just turn on the shower and bathe than it is to take a bucket shower. 
 
The shower does work, by the way. I just can’t bring myself to take a cold shower. This is why I have been heating water on the stove and taking bucket showers.
 
I am still on the waiting list with two different plumbers to have my hot water heater fixed. Worst case scenario, it will be fixed this fall when my furnace is serviced. Heat is a necessity. Hot water is not a necessity. Hot water is a luxury.
 
Yes, I do want my hot water heater fixed. Life would be so much easier if I could just get hot water out of the faucets again. However, it is hard to believe that I have literally cut my water use in half since the hot water heater broke. It’s all because my water use is now measured. I only heat the amount of water that I absolutely need to use. I am using less water overall. It is not just needlessly and mindlessly running down the drains anymore.
 
It is possible that I will get the hot water fixed, and then still use the heating water on the stove method. I will probably use both. To be honest, I would love to take a normal shower again. However, having to make do without the hot water heater these past few months has not been all that bad. Sure, it takes more planning. However, I am home and able to implement the work arounds. 
 
What tips do you have for reducing water use? Do you try to lighten your environmental impact? I am only one person, but I do what I can to be earth friendly. I am privileged to have running water, even if the hot water heater is waiting to be repaired. 
 
 
 

Minimalism – How It Started

There are hints that I have always been a minimalist from a young age. It’s possible it comes from a childhood and youth of homelessness or from living with a mother who is a hoarder or both. Research is evolving that says that responses to homelessness can be either extreme of hoarding or minimalism. Many people tend towards hoarding. I tend towards minimalism.

My childhood was rough, and there were many times when I had to move someplace or flee with only what I could fit in a single backpack. You learn fast how to make decisions and what is important or not important to take with you when you are given 20 minutes to pack a single backpack.

As an example, we will flash back to the year 1994. I had been tossed around homes and foster home situations due to abuse. I had a law guardian. The “child welfare system” worked a lot differently in the 80s and early 90s than it does now. To make a long story short, I was in abusive home in 1994 and was reporting the abuse to my law guardian. The school I was attending was reporting it too.

In the mornings, I was left home alone for roughly 30 minutes. The abusers I was living with went to work. I was left standing in the driveway waiting to be picked up for school. On one April morning about 10 minutes after the abusers left, the phone rang three times and then stopped ringing. I was never allowed to answer the phone. However, I knew that three rings that stopped was my signal that someone was coming for me and it was time to flee.

I quickly dumped all the books out of my school backpack and ran around cramming everything in it that I thought it was important to have to leave. I walked out the door, same as any other morning and stood in the driveway to be picked up. However, instead of being picked up to go to school, I was going to be picked up to be taken to a safe place – and it all had to be done before the person arrived to pick me up for school so nothing would seem amiss. The person picking me up for school would simply notice I was not outside and assume I was home sick for the day.

The car tore into the driveway. I jumped in the back seat and laid down on the floor behind the front seats with my single backpack. I was covered with a blanket to hide me. We tore out of the city. I had to stay hidden in the backseat with my backpack covered with a blanket until we were a safe distance away for me to be able to sit up and move around in the backseat properly. 

This is a true story and it is how I escaped one of many abusive situations in my lifetime. 

That one backpack held a few changes of clothes and some keepsakes. When I arrived at my safe destination, they took me shopping for more clothes so I would have more than two or three outfits. I did not pick out many clothes. I didn’t think I needed that many. I don’t like being responsible for lots of things in case I need to leave quickly due to an emergency situation.

Many months after my exodus from that abusive situation, all of my belongings that I had left behind were brought to me on a small tow-behind trailer. My books, the rest of my clothes, the music I had left behind, was all returned. At that time, I didn’t feel like I needed any of it. I had left it all behind and lived without it for many months. It was all creature comforts. None of it was needed to survive. What I needed was to be in a safe place, free from abuse.

At times in my life when I have been in safe places, free from abuse, I have accumulated things. I have accumulated LOTS of things. Most of this accumulation of things has been the result of convenience. When I was working 80 hours a week at three jobs, it was easier to have duplicates of items because I couldn’t find something or was too tired to wash or clean an item for reuse. In a nutshell, it was laziness.

My first big foray into the minimalism journey I am now on started about in 2010. I wanted to move. I had been wanting to move for a decade. You see, I moved from Massachusetts to New York in the late 90s. I had said I regretted the move and wanted to go back to Massachusetts. I knew that to go back I would have to downsize from a 2-bedroom apartment to a single room. Rent in Massachusetts is about 9 times higher than rent in New York.

My initial declutter into minimalism was with the goal of a move in mind. That, and I had been in a safe place free of abuse for a few years and had accumulated a lot of stuff. Honestly, it was making me anxious to be surrounded by so much stuff. What if I needed to leave? Yes, I know what I would grab to take with me. What about all the crap left behind? Besides, now that I am an adult, there is more responsibility than when you are a child.

I started downsizing with an inter-state move in mind. The move never happened, as I was not financially able to find a job that would pay me enough to even rent one room in Massachusetts. I’m still in New York. While I do not want to be in New York, I have no regrets about my failed attempt to return to Massachusetts.

I digress.

I have been on this minimalist journey for about a decade. Each burst of minimalism or decluttering has basically been a response to some traumatic life event. I decluttered A LOT when I moved from the apartment to the house. We were literally 3 hours away from being homeless when I bought the house. I knew we had to leave the apartment. I knew we were moving. I just didn’t know where we were moving to. I was prepared to live in the car with the cats until the house actually came through. That is how close we were to homelessness at the time.

In the pandemic, I am staring down the real possibility of death. Everyone around me has died. I will die eventually too. No one is going to want to go through my crap when I’m dead. I’m going through it now. On a more positive note, I would like to move internationally. I like to think I am now downsizing with an international move in mind. We will see if my wish to move internationally becomes a reality or a pipe dream. For now, that is what I am planning to do.

Combine my wish for an international move with the reality that I do not feel safe in this house due to the neighbors, and I am in the perfect situation to declutter. I am not in a safe space. I need as few items as possible. I need to know exactly what needs to go with me if we need to flee from here for safety. I don’t want to be responsible for a bunch of crap left behind.

To be honest, being surrounded by fewer things reduces me anxiety. I have enough to worry about taking care of the cats and keeping all of us together. I don’t want to have to worry about or be responsible for an entire house full of stuff too. So, I am getting rid of the stuff. I am only keeping what I use or what truly makes me happy. I am trying to reduce my things to only what is necessary so that I can focus on what is truly important in life.

I don’t want to spend hours cleaning this house or all of the stuff in it. I want to spend my time enjoying my life with the cats, as my life and their lives are so very short. 

I’m pretty sure I have always been a minimalist since I was a child, but I did not have the vocabulary to express it at the time. When you grow up poor, you only have a few items because you can’t afford to buy things. However, the longer you are alive, the more stuff you accumulate. If you are in a safe place, you tend to accumulate stuff as well. 

If you have lived through multiple emergency life situations such as I have, then you realize that you just can’t be responsible for a boatload of stuff. You need the necessities and that is all. 

Before I started minimalism, I had a lot of clothes. Taking after my hoarder mother, I had 3 closets and 5 dressers full of clothes. Now that I am a minimalist, I have one dresser and 10 hangers of clothes. That’s it. I have everything I need for 4 season of weather conditions. 

Some people marvel at how much I am able to pare down, however, this did not happen overnight. It has been a journey of stops and starts well over a decade. It all depends on where I am in life. 

Right now, in the pandemic, I am acutely aware of how short and precarious life is. I am more ruthless at this point in my minimalist journey than I have been in the past. Whether I die or actually achieve my dream of moving internationally, I am going to go someplace. I know that there is no one on this Earth who is willing or able to go through my crap after I’m gone, so I’m going through it now. You can’t take it with you, whether that’s in death or to some other country.

That is how my minimalist journey started. I started this blog to keep myself accountable along the way. I don’t want to go in the opposite direction of my hoarder mother who literally has her house packed full wall-to-wall and ceiling to floor of just STUFF. Her house is so full, you can hardly breathe in there. 

I want more time to spend with the cats and enjoy my life. I do not want to spend the little precious time I have here on Earth cleaning my house or taking care of my stuff.

What was your prompt to start minimalism and what does it mean to you?

The Tale of Tom

Tom, an older tabby, starting to go white with age.

My grandfather immigrated to USA from Austria. In America, he had a farm when I was little. All cats on the farm were outside cats and all cats, regardless of gender or markings, was called Tom. Of course, Tom was short for tomcat. I’m not sure if it was the language, the need to emotionally distance from the multitude of farm animals or what, but every cat was Tom.

When I bought my house a few years ago and moved into the village, it was the first time I remember actually encountering homeless cats first hand. Of course, one of the very first stray cats I encountered here at the house I have named Tom.

Tom is an older tabby. I am pretty sure from watching his habits that he is an unaltered male. Tom is starting to go white around his face, much in the way that Kitty did in his later years. Tom knows that my house and garage are a safe space. He can show up here for a meal and a nap. No one will bother him. 

Over the past few years, I have been trying to trap the stray cats and get them into shelter off the streets. I have a feeling that Tom may be either the last or one of the last ones that I am able to trap to get off the streets. 

You can tell that Tom is very street savvy. He has to be to be able to survive on the streets in this neighborhood as long as he has. I look for the three outside cats “in my care” every day and worry about them when I do not see them.

Tom will watch me if I am outside, but he always keeps a good distance. Any time a newcomer cat comes into the neighborhood, Tom is the one who fights the newcomer and basically tells them this is his territory. I saw Tom fight with a cat who wandered here from two blocks away once. That cat now stays in it’s own area.

Tom gets along well with the other two outside cats I help, Flower and Kenny. Tom seems to know that they need help too. It’s as if Tom knows who belongs here and who does not. That cat from two blocks over has a home. Tom, Flower and Kenny do not have a home. They come here as their place of refuge. I am waiting for the local shelter to have more space so that I can trap one of them and get them off the streets.

I worry about what will happen to Tom, Flower and Kenny if something happens to me. Of course, my priority is Jude, Simon and Jolene. I need to be sure someone takes care of them if something happens to me. But if I was away from home for a few days, there would be no one to feed the outside cats. I worry they would starve. I’m sure Tom would find a way to survive, the scrapper he is. I worry most about Kenny and Flower.

Kenny was thrown out of a pickup truck in our neighborhood in January. He has taken up residence in one of the cat shelters in my garage. He is shy, but friendly. He would definitely be a good adoption with a patient kind person. 

Flower was kicked out of a neighbor house when they had a new baby. Last fall Flower had a broken leg and walks with a limp ever since. Flower tends to stay in this neighborhood. I worry how Flower and Kenny would survive if I was not here to feed them.

I am pretty sure that Tom may wander outside of the neighborhood. There are times when I do go a day without seeing him. I think his range is larger than Flower or Kenny. I would really like to trap Tom, Flower and Kenny and get them into loving homes soon before something happens to me. I cannot imagine leaving this house without being able to find homes for them. 

Flower and Tom are two of the original strays I noticed here when I bought the house. I’m sure that when I am able to trap them and get them into shelter, it will be an emotional time. Every time I see Tom, I think of my grandfather, and how every cat is “Tom.” 

Being on my grandfather’s farm as a child, there were many cats who were “Tom.” However, now, when I think of Tom, I know I will always think of this aging tabby who has defied the odds and not only survived a very rough life on the streets but thrives as well. 

I am grateful for the opportunity I have to try to help Tom in what little ways I can. I provide fresh water and food daily. There are three insulated cat shelters for them to use to have safety from the elements and be warm in the winter. I hope that the local shelter has space soon so that I can get Kenny, Tom and Flower into good, loving homes. 

Every cat deserves a loving home. God bless Tom. 

Tom with Flower
Tom with Kenny

Bad Neighbors 2

Flower, the cat the neighbors kicked out when they had a baby that I have been trying to help.

Bad neighbors 2 sounds like a movie, but it’s not. It’s my life, and it is not funny. In the past 3.5 years I have owned this house, here is a short list of what the neighbors have done to me: taken a baseball bat to the siding on my house, repeatedly left dog shit on my front porch, repeatedly run over my mailbox, blocked my driveway with their vehicles so I am unable to leave for medical appointments, played their drums so loud during work hours I lost one of my jobs, played their drums so loud I had bleeding ears and doctor confirmed permanent hearing damage, repeatedly waived a gun in my face and threatened to shoot me if I asked them to move their car to stop blocking my driveway so I can get out again. 

I know, I know. You’re saying I did something to deserve this, right? What did I do to them to make them do this? 

Well, I feed the stray cat outside that they kicked out of their house when they had a baby. I called animal control on them when they left their dog outside on the porch with no food and water for three days surrounded by it’s own feces. I reported them for running a dog fighting ring in the village and using stray/neighborhood cats as bait. 

That’s what I did that pissed them off. I guess I’m a bad person and deserve to be harassed. 

This month, they not only ran into my mailbox, they drove their vehicle up on to the sidewalk and into the bushes in front of my house. This house has been here for over 100 years, but apparently all of a sudden, it is “in the way.” They are not able to back their truck into the street unless they cross the street, drive on the sidewalk and into the front of my house.

I have had the sheriff out numerous times to make reports. This was the second time they have driven on the sidewalk and into the bushes in front of my house. It was so bad that both the sheriff and I are now worried that the next time they do this (which will be the third time), they will actually drive into the front of the house and kill me.

I can no longer use my front porch. It’s not safe. I could be murdered.

That front porch is one of the reasons I bought this house. I love the front porch. Now I can’t use it because it is not safe for me. The neighbors need to drive into it because it is “in their way.”

I had to completely empty my living room and rearrange all of the furniture in my house. It is too dangerous for the cats and I to be in the living room. If the neighbors decide next time to hit the mailbox, drive on the sidewalk, drive into the bushes and into the front of the house, I could be killed in my own living room.

Again, the living room is a part of the house I love and part of the reason I bought the house. I now have two areas of my own house I cannot even use because I could be murdered by the neighbors. 

The house has been here over 100 years. I’m not sure why it’s in the way now. I don’t understand why the neighbors are not able to back their truck into the street. I guess the street is not big enough. They have to drive it across the street, over the sidewalk and into my house.

The sheriff seems to think they are either driving illegally without a license, driving while drunk/high, or all of the above. However, the sheriff claims they are unable to do anything until the do more damage or actually kill me.

I live in fear in my own house. 

I told the sheriff how they blocked my car and I could not get out for a doctor appointment and had to reschedule the appointment. Do you know how hard it is to get medical care in the pandemic? If you reschedule an appointment, you may be waiting a year before they can see you. 

However, if I even look at this neighbor sideways, they threaten me with their gun. Apparently, this is all legal in the USA. It is legal to threaten your neighbors with a gun. Their vehicle was on my property, but I’m not allowed to ask them to leave my property. They can waive a gun iin my face and there is no consequence.

Welcome to America.

The sheriff has said that when I do sell this house, I will have to do a “bad neighbor” disclosure when I sell. That means that it is driving down the value of my property and will make it harder to sell this house due to being in a bad neighborhood. There should have been a bad neighbor disclosure when I bought this house. However, the person who owned the house died here at age 90 and left the house to family who did not live in the area. I’m sure when they sold it they knew nothing about how bad this neighborhood truly is. Plus, to be honest, we were on the brink of homelessness when I bought this house. We need a place to live. As bad as it is here, we have no place to go.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this house. It’s just in a horrible neighborhood. Unfortunately, real estate is all about location, location, location. It’s just hard for me to love this house, have parts of it I cannot use, and to have to live in a state of fear of being murdered in my own home by the neighbors. Here we are. 

The sheriffs office has all of my reports. If something happens where the neighbors drive into the front of my house again, or I am murdered, at least they will know who did it. 

By the way, the neighbors may be mad that I reported their dog fighting ring, however, nothing has been done to break up the dog fighting ring. Apparently, it “brings in too much money” to be broken up. 

I’m still feeding three outside stray cats and waiting for the local no-kill rescue shelter to have space so I can trap them and get them off the streets. This is what I do that causes the neighbors to terrorize me in my own home. 

One good thing coming out of no longer being able to use my living room or front porch is that I am drastically downsizing in anticipation of a move. I have no idea where we are going or when. I just want to leave. Unfortunately, I bought this house as part of a low-income first-time homebuyer program. If I sell it, I have to pay a penalty of $10,500 in addition to whatever money I lose when I sell the house. 

We need someplace to go first. I bought this house to keep us all together. We were less than 24 hours away from homelessness when I got approved to buy this house. This house is the only thing keeping us together. We can’t leave without someplace to go where we can not only be safe but all stay together.

I’m not sure what to do about the bad neighbors. My goal remains the same as always: outlive the cats so I can keep them together. If that means I have to completely empty my living room and am unable to be in / use that room so that I do not get murdered in my own home when the neighbors drive into the house next time, then so be it.  

The cats and I have to stay together. Right now this house is keeping us together. 

Power of One: One Subscription

The cost of living is rising all over the world and many people are adjusting their budgets. The pandemic has seen a rise in the use of subscription services as people seek entertainment options at home instead of going out. 

For me, going out to a movie has always been a treat. I only went to see a movie on the big screen if it was something I really wanted to see. If I had to guess, I would say I saw a movie in the theatre maybe once or twice a year. Often, I wait for movies to come out on DVD and check them out of the local library.

My entire workday is spent sitting at a computer. When I am off work, I do not want to spend my personal time in front of a computer as well. I need a break. I have never gotten into streaming services for this reason. For me to sit at the laptop and watch a movie for 2 hours feels too much like work when I just spent 8 hours at the laptop for my paid employment.

Television was a luxury growing up. We never had cable. We always had bunny ears. The TV set got maybe three or five channels. I grew up on radio. Radio was free. It was everywhere. It was a constant companion. I love music. I always have music playing in my house and in my life when I am not working. 

As an adult, I have never paid for cable TV either. I just don’t have the money for it. I grew up poor and as an adult am working poor. I don’t have money for TV. For years when I was in the apartment, I got 10 channels for free on bunny ears. The TV was nice to turn on for an hour or so when I got home from work at night to watch something funny or brainless before going to sleep.

When I moved to the house, the bunny ears for the TV set do not work. There are too many hills and this is a rural area. We cannot pick up any television signals here. Even the radio signals are limited to just two stations. 

The past few years in the house has left me with using my DVD player with the TV set since I cannot get any channels by antenna. I still do not feel like subscribing to any TV or movie streaming services. I would not use it enough to justify the cost. There are too many things going on in my life as a homeowner with a disability. I don’t have hours a day to watch a streaming service.

However, I do still listen to a lot of music. I can listen to music as I go about the house doing my chores and what needs to be done. Only being able to reception for two radio stations is quite frustrating. I like both of them, but sometimes I just want to change the dial. I do enjoy my CDs.

Last fall, I needed to do something to break up the monotony in my life and wanted to treat myself. I decided to totally splurge and get a subscription service – to radio. I downloaded and subscribed to Sirius XM on my phone.

Sirius is the only subscription service I have. It was one of the best treats I have ever decided to splurge on. I use it every day and it is a constant source of entertainment while still allowing me to do what I need to do in my daily life. 

At first, I subscribed because I wanted to listen to radio without being subjected to all the fake news about COVID I was hearing. By subscribing to satellite radio, I can listen to music with no commercials and no fake news. There are no news breaks. I do not have to hear about how COVID is “over” when I am mourning yet another fully vaccinated friend with no pre-existing condition who just died of COVID.

If I do want to hear news, there are news stations I can listen to so I can hear what Is going on in the world. When I have had enough of the news, I can change the channel back to one that plays music only with no news. Satellite radio allows me more variety and more control over what I hear. When I have had enough of the gloom and doom news, I can choose to just hear music.

Satellite radio is also amazing because I can use it to hear sports. I hear baseball, hockey, and soccer/football games on the radio. I can hear all of the games without the market or blackout restrictions they put on TV sports. Even streaming TV sports has restrictions and the packages are very expensive. By listening to games on the radio, it saves me money. I also have access to international games that are not available with TV packages.

While the news tells of people tightening their budgets and cutting back on streaming services, my life is simple. I have one subscription service. For my lifestyle, subscription radio gives me more enjoyment and more bang for my buck than a subscription movie or TV service would. 

If it happens that I need to decrease my expenses drastically, I would only have one subscription service to cancel. I could go back to the two radio stations that are available here and my CDs. However, I get so much enjoyment from satellite radio that I think the $12 per month cost is worth the service. It is my only subscription and is the biggest splurge in my everyday life.

If you could only have one subscription service in your life, which one would it be? I hear of households that have 4-5 subscription services that are now trying to cut down to save on money each month. Would you be able to cut down to just one? Would you be able to live with no subscription services?

For me, my one subscription service is a luxury. I have never had a cable bill in my name. I’m pretty sure this is the first time in my life I have a monthly bill that is purely for pleasure and not a necessity like the mortgage, electric, phone, etc. For me to cut back my expenses due to the cost of living increase, I would cut my subscription service. Beyond that, I would be cutting necessities like food or utilities. 

As many of us are looking to reduce expenses right now, what can you decrease or cut? What one subscription service would you keep if you cancel the rest? Find your one. 

Happy 6th Birthday, Simon!

Simon wearing his rose scarf made for us by our friend Petunia.

Happy 6th Birthday, Simon! Simon is the baby of the family age-wise. He is the “middle child” when it comes to adoption order and length of time with our family.

Simon has the sweetest disposition. He bonded quickly with Jude after adoption. He keeps me entertained with his antics. Simon plays frequently with Jolene. Simon is known as our Chief Cuddler. Everyone loves Simon. He is the glue that holds our family together.

All three cats are very well bonded. However, Jolene and Jude are both extremely bonded with Simon. Jude and Jolene have a bond as well. However, I do not think the bond Jude and Jolene has is as strong as the bond that Jude has with Simon nor as strong as the bond Jolene has with Simon.

Simon is terrified of thunderstorms and vacuum cleaners. He is the only cat I have ever had that is completely scared of thunderstorms. He is a very brave hunter when it comes to bugs in the house. He is gentle, even pointing at and playing with ladybugs as opposed to squishing them.

A phrase frequently heard in our home is “Simon is a good baby.” Even when Simon is being “naughty,” he is adorable. Simon likes to steal marshmallows. He does not eat them. He carries them off and plays with them. Whenever I have marshmallows in the house, I have to be sure to hide them in the microwave so that Simon does not take off with them.

Of the three cats, Simon is the quietest. He does not often meow or make any noises. It is always a surprise when he does make noise. On the few times Simon has vomited (it happened with a change in food in the pandemic), he cries / yowls right before vomiting. Typically, a noise from Simon means something is wrong. Jude and Jolene meow and talk all the time when they want food or want to play. Simon only meows when there is something wrong.

Simon waits patiently for his breakfast and dinner, as opposed to Jude and Jolene who run around prancing and begging. Simon is truly very sweet. He is tolerant about being dressed in bandanas and scarves. 

Simon loves sleeping under the covers with me. I am so blessed that he sleeps with me every night. Simon is also typically the first to wake me up in the morning to feed them all breakfast. 

He enjoys his banana phone toys and the cat tents. Simon is truly an indoor cat. He loves watching outside. However, when offered the opportunity for outside time in the dog cage, he makes it clear he wants nothing to do with being outside. He loves being indoors where he is safe.

Jude, Jolene and I all love Simon and are so glad he is part of our family. He is such a precious soul. Simon was quick to welcome Jolene to the family when we adopted her, and was gentle in his interactions with her after her surgeries. 

As the baby of the family, Simon is rarely in the office as a coworker for the work from home. I’m sure as the youngest, he doesn’t think he needs to “work!” Simon is definitely a loveable homebody who enjoys peace and quiet and time on the human bed.

We are so blessed to have Simon as part of our family. He is definitely the baby, as he is the youngest and these three are the last cats I will have. Happy 6th Birthday, Simon. We love you.