SUPER UN-SIZE ME!!!! Retired by 37… Catalogue of the Downsize…

The American order of operations: graduate high school, go to college, meet your potential mate, start an awesome career, work, work, work, get a new car, a super apartment, an awesome wardrobe, get married, buy a new house, start a family, get a master’s degree, get a promotion, upgrade to a bigger house, have more children, get a bigger car… (out of breath) WHEW!!!!! Work, work, work. Get more and bigger and better and higher and more and more and… (PANTING…)

Maybe not in that exact order, but it seems the pot of gold at the end of the of the rainbow is the biggest house, with the nicest car in the driveway, the highest level of employment, with a wardrobe filled to overflow. Often times it comes at any expense.

The Rat Race

I admit, and for no selfish or keeping up with the standard type of reasons… I genuinely couldn’t wait to graduate high school and complete the necessary requirements for becoming a high school English teacher. The year was 1999. I graduated college, got married, started my first teaching job, bought my first house all by the age of 22!!! I was ready to GOOOO!!! I started having kids; an awesome boy and two years later, our sweet girl!!! (CHECK!!!) I got my Master’s Degree AND earned a 4.0 GPA.  (CHECK!!!!) I became lead teacher and soon after named Teacher of the Year. (DOUBLE CHECK!!!!) We built and bought houses, had 3 cars to fill our 3 car garage, sunny vacations etc… By all typical standards, after 15 years, I was fairing pretty well in the race to “the great.”

However, I found out pretty quickly that as I was conquering my checklist, I was missing out on the elements of this life that really brought me joy. At least at it’s true depth.

Contrary to popular standards, after careful prayer and consideration, my family and I made the decision to downsize. I completed my final year of teaching. We put our beloved 5 bedroom 5 bathroom home in the suburbs up for sale. Sold all of our furniture, donated most of our clothing and accessories. And prepared for a totally new life.

The Great Downsize

Less than a year ago, we had a home built in the Northern mountains of Georgia. It was a place we vacationed regularly. It was a place where we found peace. A place we could be free of the rat race and enjoy the most important things in life. I must say, it has been a major change, but the greatest promotion of our lives.

First of all, though I miss teaching a TON, I now have time to put my family FIRST. My days are filled with peace. Instead of working hard to build another man’s industry/visions and dreams, I am helping to build my own legacy right in my own home.

We start our days off pretty calmly. My husband makes breakfast for the whole crew. Thereafter, I take the kids to school while calling him on speaker phone for our family morning prayer. After dropping the kids off, I am able to read my bible, pray and get before the Lord uninterruptedly. I get to exercise, enjoy lunch or short shopping dates out. A couple weeks ago, I spent my entire afternoon planting new flowers and grass for the backyard. I am able to volunteer at church, school or wherever is necessary. I have time to plan and prepare healthy meals for our family. Thankfully, we never have to eat fast food, school lunch, microwave or prepared meals. We grocery shop each Sunday based on the food we will cook for the week. I am available to help with projects and homework, practices, performances, fieldtrips and games. I am so much calmer than when I was attempting to juggle it all before. Not to mention the time, love, energy I am able to devote to my marriage.

As for the kids, they attend the public high and middle schools in our county. Both schools have less than 700 students, which allows for smaller class sizes and a more personalized education. Our town is small and yes, it takes 15 minutes to get to the grocery store, but the pressure to wear name brand clothes and perform, compete, or exist in a crowded school or town where you are a merely a number, has been eliminated. We all are forming meaningful relationships and exchanges. People value each other and family is a priority.

Financially, though we decreased our income by eliminating my salary, our needs and desires have been recalibrated and our plight for “MORE” decreased right along with it. Of the 6500sq ft of house we sold, I think we truly only occupied 1,500 of it. It was unnecessary and wasted space that cost more to heat, furnish, clean etc… So, our new home is indeed smaller, but it is a little slice of heaven for us and we use and enjoy every inch of it daily. We have 2 cars that we own outright and refuse to acquire debt of any kind.

True Abundance

I could go on and on. But overall, the clichéd idea of quality over quantity reigns supreme in our home. I plan to stay happily married to the same man that I made a promise to God on my wedding day. I only have one chance to raise and enjoy the time I have with my children. I can’t think of anything more meaningful or worthy of my devotion than that.  Ultimately, I wouldn’t change a thing. Who knows, I may go back to teaching someday, however, I am open to the ways God will allow me to use my teaching gifts in greater capacities. Recently, my husband and I had breakfast one morning in the middle of the week. I couldn’t help but notice the restaurant filled with senior couples and friends there enjoying themselves.  I noted then, that no matter what, I refuse to wait until I am 65 years old to take time to enjoy this life… and at age 39… and one year in, that is precisely what I am doing… enjoying every moment of this incredible, once in a lifetime journey…

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John 10:10 “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

#1. MOMS… SLOW DOWN!!!! A Superwoman’s Surrender…

Moms: Are you slowly getting to that place where you:

  • Sleep less than 5 hours?
  • Eat fast/microwave meals more than you cook?
  • Spend more energy being AMAZING for your boss and his/her visions and dreams than you do your own husband’s?
  • Can’t seem to find the time to exercise, read a good book, take a peaceful walk, have an unrushed meal with an old friend, bake cookies from scratch, or have a day at home in your pajamas?
  • Stress through your child’s homework? Causing them additional stress because of the seemingly ludicrous requirements that don’t fit into your plan?
  • Sit through dance practices with half the attention?
  • Too tired to truly love on your husband?
  • Work tirelessly on your job each day only to enjoy those 2 free weeks of vacation out of the year?
  • Regularly drive past the speed limit in order to make all the items on your crowded agenda?
  • Are you perpetually late?
  • Skip breakfast; race, fuss and rush everyone to their destinations each stressful morning, finding yourself exhausted before you even get started?

 

WHY??????

SLOW DOWN!!!! SIMPLIFY!!!

Don’t allow the norms of our culture to force you to believe you have to wear alllllll these hats at the sacrifice/expense of the people/things in this life that truly matter. You are the keeper of your home. I know you have a TON on your shoulders, but often times, YOU/WE put it there. Often times, our lives don’t require the complexities we are investing. We set standards for our own selves that are completely unreasonable and we never stop to come up for air… which ultimately is a complete disservice to everyone involved. So let’s break this down.

First of all, you need to take care of YOU. We need to recognize that our spouses and our children need a peaceable woman in the home. We can’t be peaceful if we are not taking care of ourselves. I know, you’ve heard this all before. But I am reducing this down to the lowest common denominator. I am not talking about a spa day on your birthday, or a girl’s weekend twice a year. I am simply talking about a good night’s rest. A hot bath. A hot cup of coffee in the morning before everything gets started. A few minutes to read the bible and pray. A 30-minute walk in the evening. You owe yourself that. And before you take on all your responsibilities, you need to find time EACH DAY for YOU. THEEEENN, you can start working on EVERY THING ELSE.

Next, you must prioritize and or simplify. What has to be done? What can you live without? I remember when my kids were one/two years old, I ironed their clothes every day. Made sure their outfits matched their shoes, socks, bib and hair bows (for Kennedy). REALLLLLLLY????? WHO DOES THAT???? Or a better question…WHY?????? Unfortunately, often times, we are the complexity culprit. WE are the ones with ridiculous requirements that make EVERYTHING difficult. What can we eliminate from the schedule, the task list, the check off list? Perhaps dinners can be less complex. Perhaps you can cook wings in the crock pot with a simple salad for dinner. Tuna sandwiches and steamed broccoli etc. Perhaps the kids should only do one/two activities per year and become excellent at that one instead of running somewhere every night and weekend while burning out the entire family in the process.  Whatever the case, you can’t cram a size 10 foot in a size 8 shoe. Prioritize. Reduce your schedule down to what is necessary and beneficial and be careful not to complicate the family’s peace with many of your idiosyncratic methods.

The last step is to organize/structure your life. Your time needs a budget. Your day requires structure. I have my family on a regimented time schedule. The vision has been made plain, (you can even create it together) and everyone works together to execute the plan.

Mornings: Accurately evaluate how much time you need to COMFORTABLY get ready each morning? Comfortably means, everyone has breakfast, no one is racing, the expectations are reasonable, easy to follow and reduced down to what NEEDS to be done. There is a clear wake-up time. Enough time is allotted for a CALM breakfast. Everyone knows their specific responsibilities and there is an established leave time. Kids especially need a peaceful morning. They, like you, are preparing for a very rigorous and demanding agenda. They can’t successfully fulfil their day’s tasks starting their morning off with a deficit of balance.

Evenings: Once you and they finish school and work, evening time should be peaceful. Whatever you need to do to decompress…do it. After teaching each day, I would treat myself to a Starbucks coffee and Joel Osteen on the radio as a way to calm down and prepare for part 2 of my busy day. We have to be excited and even more attentive to our children and husband’s needs than anyone else in our day/life. We say our family is our number one priority. Be sure they FEEL that. Purposefully and intentionally greet each of them with peace and love. Share the evening experiences as a family if possible. At my house, we all help out with dinner. I often cook, my daughter helps get all the ingredients and my husband and son help with the cleanup. Everyone is involved and we are sharing time together. Make dinner a set and purposeful time. Sit down together and share your day’s highlights; no phones, no TV, no distractions.

Recreation time: There should be time slotted for homework, showers and chores, but there should also be time for recreation; to watch a movie/show together, take a walk, play Uno (our favorite J) etc… This time is SACRED. Everyone feels important. Loved. Relaxed and included.

Bed time: Finally, the kids need a set time for bed (ours’ is 9pm) EVERY NIGHT. After that,  it is a great time for you and your husband to spend time together; our time is 9-11.  We are intentional about this. We watch our favorite shows, talk, make homemade popcorn etc… It is the vacation for each day and it helps keep our marriage happy.

Finally after everyone is fulfilled and is fast asleep, you may need a few additional minutes to prepare for the next day, reflect, read, decompress or the like. However, you HAVE to put a cap on that time as well. YOU NEED REST. You HAVE to finally take the cape off and retire for the day. Your body and mind need to rejuvenate. You will find that you perform SO much better, you are less grouchy, you look and feel AMAZING with at least 7 hours of sleep. Though we think it is strong and noble to carry such heavy loads, meet our capacity, stay up to finish just ONE MORE THING, it is actually slightly selfish to complete our responsibilities on a half tank of gas… GO TO BED!!!!! 🙂

I pray you consider surrendering some of these undo pressures you carry and put the microscope on the beautiful elements in your life that matter most. At the end of the day, THEY are your greatest source of fulfilment and happiness and deserve your best YOU!!!!