Monday, May 11, 2009

Middle-aged crazy

We sold our house on Saturday night.

And it was a relief, to say the least, because we had already finalized the purchase of a different house on Friday night.

But while that window of time in which we owned two homes was excruciating (as were the five(!) days of back and forth and failed offers and complications) the fact that we are changing houses is not the full story.

The full story is that we are changing our lives.

But let me start at the beginning.

I was a bit of a hippie chick when I first met Rob. I did not aspire to a big home or expensive things. I always envisioned my future self backpacking the world, tots in tow, based in a little city house surrounded by art and funky, creative friends.

And that's the way it went for a while.

We fixed up a downtown row house just steps from one of Toronto's main thoroughfares and we backpacked through Africa and South America. Even after we moved out of the city's core to our current huge home, with its huge yard and suburban trappings, we continued to travel and even wrote, produced and directed a short film that had some success on the festival circuit.

But that house, our house with all its attendant suburban trappings that at first we loved, started to become a monkey on our backs.

The thing about living in a big house with a big yard in a suburban neighborhood is that, as much as you might fight the transformation, you inevitably start to become the kind of person who lives in a big house with a big yard in a suburban neighborhood.

And I never felt like that person was me.

I am fiercely proud of my small-town roots. Anyone who frequents this space knows I am as comfortable tooling a float plane into my father's fishing camp as I am socializing at a film wrap party in the heart of downtown Toronto. Cities and small towns: I love 'em both.

But it's the in-between places I'm not crazy about.

A few months back when it became apparent to Rob and I that his beloved mother was very, very sick, it caused us to re-examine our priorities and our lives in short order.

And in short order we realized that we were working very, very hard and experiencing huge amounts of stress in order to maintain a home and a lifestyle that wasn't making either of us very happy.

My parents live on a lake and own a motorboat, a float plane and a rustic fly-in fishing camp. Rob's brother has a gorgeous rugged lakeside cottage. We have a ton of camping equipment that every weekend gathers dust in our basement while we rush to complete hours of yard work and home maintenance in a vain attempt to relax and start enjoying weekend activities before mid-day Saturday.

Our current house is affordable, but just barely so. It's certainly not affordable enough to allow Rob to relax and take in stride the inevitable ups and downs that come with being a freelancer in a volatile industry and it's enough of a stretch that we must remain ever-vigilant on the financial front.

Being ever-vigilant? Is tiring.

In addition to the loss of Rob's mom, during the past 17 months we have weathered the sudden and untimely deaths of three work colleagues and friends who were all family men under the age of 50 - two in separate, horrific, freak accidents and one by his own hand.

In the face of so much unexpected, random loss it became crystal clear to us that life is short and so too must be our time spent pursuing anything not directly related to the health and happiness of our family.

There is stress in life that you can control. There is stress in life that you can't control. We can, and we will, seize control of and excise from our lives, the things that stress us out.

This is our new home.


It is a large, new and (I think) chic townhouse.

It is within walking distance to great shops and restaurants and a short bus ride from the subway. It has a tiny, tiny backyard, but loads of style, a fabulous balcony and a great park with a wonderful children's playground just 100 metres away.

Our new home will allow us to live virtually stress-free financially with a modest mortgage, zero debt and a hefty chunk of cash in a savings account.

It will allow us to shut the door and walk away: to be weekend warriors, to possibly travel longer term and to pursue whatever opportunities life throws at us.

And we are working to create those opportunities.

Our ski chalet, an investment property that we rarely use, is next on the chopping block. We don't need more investments, we need more joy. When that property is sold we will look for a small house in the sunshiney place that we love and for where we are currently arranging work visas.

We don't yet know if me or Rob or Graham or all of us will be there three weeks a year or three months. We don't know if it will remain a vacation idyll or the place where we eventually make our home, but the weather and the strong arts and culture community there is extremely appealing.

And that is enough to compel us to dip our toes in the sand.

That is more than enough actually.

And I don't care if our ultimate plan to follow our hearts sounds middle-aged crazy. We are taking control of our lives and our joy before we lose the nerve or the ability to do so.

We are committed to being fully present for our son and to showing him (and hopefully a sibling that, until now, we have apparently been too stressed and too busy to produce) that there is more than one way to organize your life and that the world is an exciting place full of adventure and beauty.

And to showing him also that his parents, for all their foibles, still possess the courage to live their lives with passion.

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64 comments:

Mrs. Chicken said...

Congratulations, friend. You sound so happy. And I am happy for you!

Aunt Becky said...

Many congrats. It's so important to live the way you want to. I'm so glad to hear this. It's a gorgeous new home.

Mary Lynn said...

Yay! Well done. We downsized a few years ago and have not regretted it at all. getting away from the financial burden of our larger house was such a stress relief for us. Moving to a smaller house has given us more freedom to travel, to enjoy life without worrying about money every second, and to start saving away a bit here and there. I shudder to think how deeply in debt we would be if we hadn't made our move.

Enjoy your beautiful new home!

wherewiller said...

You sound really happy - congrats. And also, you've given me some food for thought...

Vered - MomGrind said...

I applaud your decision. I always thought people should not become slaves to their stuff, and that includes their lifestyle.

Life As I Know It said...

Oh, I Love this.
I have been having a similar conversation about the trappings of suburbia making me forget who I am, and the familiar call of the city lately.
Good for you.

sky girl said...

Well I think this is just fabulous!

Good for you!

sky girl said...

Well I think this is just fabulous!

Good for you!

April said...

That's so awesome, DMD!! I'm so looking forward to reading about your future adventures!

Laura said...

it all sounds so very perfect...and wonderful...and so much calmer and stress-free - YIPPPPPEEE for you. Here is to huge life changes...all for the good.

HUGS

Amber said...

Good for you! I am glad that you're following your dreams and seizing the life you want.

I'm currently re-examining my own life. I won't have a job to go back to when my maternity leave ends, and I think I might want to change things up. I don't know exactly how yet, but either way you're serving as an inspiration. :)

ewe are here said...

Congratulations on your new home and lifestyle. ;-)

Elaine A. said...

So happy for you that you are "finding your bliss." To me that is what life is all about. Of course I'm still working on finding how to find mine too... ; )

Angella said...

Good for you guys; knowing that something needs to change, and making that change.

We are in a "Something's gotta give" stage. It won't be our house, but it will be something. It HAS to be something.

a kelly said...

Bravo to you and the whole family!
What a great Mother's Day culmination of what must have been many hours of soul searching and planning.
I hope I am close behind in making good choices for the future.
All the Best!
Alex

Dawn said...

Wow! Good for you! You sound happy, and hopeful. Your new house is lovely.

Nowheymama said...

Congratulations!

karen pery said...

Kelly, I love this! I love this for so many reasons, not the least of which is taking a good, hard look at your lives and doing something big to live consistently with who you want to be in the world and, especially as parents. Good for you!

And having also once been in a buying and selling place, I breathe a huge, deep sigh of relief for you.

Enjoy your next chapter!

mare ad mare said...

A very inspirational post - at least from my POV. I'm of a similar opinion, in-between sucks. I can't stand suburban living - we're thinking very hard about our situation, trying to deal with not pissing off our kids - as we've moved around enough already (U.S, Germany...)
I like that you're taking your life back. I'm trying to do the same, from a different direction - but it's nice to know that others are out there trying to make tough decisions too...

A Crafty Mom said...

Congrats Kelly - I am so happy for you guys! Sounds like this is perfect for you all right now. What a strong family you are to be able to stand up for what you believe in and make it all happen. That place looks totally amazing and very, very "chic" for sure!! Best wishes to you guys :)

Heather said...

Congrats on this new direction of your lives. May it bring you the peace you crave.

metro mama said...

I love it! Where are you exactly?

We're in a town house too, with a tiny yard, and we plan to be here forever. My yard work can be done in under a half an hour; I have lovely neighbours on either side and feel cosy and secure when Sean's on shift; we're well within our budget. And there's lots of cool places for brunch a block away. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Mommy Cracked said...

Can I just say how much I love your fierceness? (Is that even a word?)

This is exactly what my husband and I want to do...but being sensible stops us. I hate being so damn sensible all the time.

I am thrilled for you. I think this took amazing guts and I applaud you and wish you much happiness in your new place.

Teena in Toronto said...

Life's too short to be stressed out.

We have a small condo in a townhouse and that's good enough for me. I don't need a lot of space.

daysgoby said...

This is THE BEST news!!! Congratulations!

Michelle said...

Congratulations!!! What wonderful news :)

Kami's Khlopchyk said...

I love this! I think too many people get hung up on the having of things and work themselves to death to have them. I like your philosophy much better. Life is too short, go out and enjoy it!

Congratulations!

Leanne said...

Good for you! We're stuck here until we clear the high school years, I don't want to move the kids yet again but I think what you did is great. Life is short, fill it with joy and uh, siblings for the little guy. :) That'll be fun to work on at least...

flutter said...

holy crap, that's gorgeous

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

You are an inspiration.

Beth (A Mom's Life) said...

It all sounds wonderful and the condo is beautiful.

Karen said...

Congrats! Doing what you love is something very few people actually experience. Graham has wonderful role models for him, and he'll live an enviable life.

Chantal said...

Oh that sounds so wonderful, I am so happy for you. I wish you all the best!

kgirl said...

Mazel Tov! Sounds like a wonderful, healthy, amazing plan.

We have what we call, 'our suburban wet dream' about twice a year. And then we give our heads a shake and walk down to the Danforth for some good food and a real sense of community.

That said, my small-town husband would give up city livin' for life in the bush (shut up) in a nano-second.

Karen MEG said...

Kelly, your townhouse is totally chic and beautiful, just like you! LOVE IT!

Congrats to you on all these wonderful changes, gutsy, seizing opportunities and living life as it's meant to be lived.

Oh how I wish I were only a walk to city and a busride away from the subway. Sigh.

Graham is going to LOVE it there. As will any future baby(ies?).

xoxo

Tricia said...

Congratulations and it sounds like the trappings of a life well lived. Spectacular.

Expat mum said...

Wow that's a great decision, and a beautiful house. I live in the city and every time I think about the huge yard I could have, I think of the huge amount of gardening it would take to keep it looking nice, etc. etc.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations indeed! It sounds like you made an excellent decision, one that not many people would be brave enough to make. We recently bought a house that sounds like your old house, and it is already making me sad. Maybe I will be brave enough to do what you have done. Enjoy the new place!
- Jody

Eva Robertson said...

Fantastic. Taking the bull by the horns. So nice that you and your husband see eye to eye on these matters and that you are both such adventuring, energetic people in your middle age (did you say? You sure sound and look like a YOUNG parent).

And it is not a lot of people who come back from the suburbs to the city. I think so many folks justify the suburbs as easier and more family-friendly. They don't actually take account of the toll of being so removed and tied down -- the time and expense involved in upkeep and commuting.

Your post makes me miss TO! What a wonderful, vibrant city! Are you going to remain the "Don Mills Diva"? It's funny that your blog name really doesn't capture your essence (in my opinion, anyway). The name makes one expect one more suburban mom's consumer- or fashion-oriented website, but I've never gotten this impression reading you.

Good luck!

Oz said...

I think what you're doing is fantastic. I love the townhouse. Being able to walk to great restaurants is very important, I think!

Pregnantly Plump said...

Congrats on the sale of your old house and purchase of your new home! I think it's great that you guys took stock and followed through. I think the new home looks lovely.

Magpie said...

Good luck with all of your changes. I hope everything works out perfectly.

Parent Club said...

You sound happy - the tone, the words, the looking forward. Good for all of you.

Happy packing!

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

It doesn't sound crazy when you write it all down, does it? It sounds sane! Love the new place. It is beautiful! And good for you for taking charge and finding your happiness again. Congrats congrats! :)

the planet of janet said...

fabulous. fabulous. fabulous.

Kelli @ writing the waves said...

Congrats! It's beautiful. We're working on that right now too...figuring out which stresses we can alleviate and trying to take better control of our lives. So good for you! I don't think it sounds crazy at all. You only live once. :)

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

Dang. You go, hon. I am HAPPY FOR YOU!

Mandy said...

Wonderful news! I am so happy to hear that you are taking steps to fulfill your dreams.

And there will be more adventures to write (and for us to read) about, I'm sure!

turnitupmom said...

I love this post, because you know who you are and what is right for you. Congrats on your new home and a new beginning.

Whitenoise said...

Hey, good for you! Congratulations!
:-)

Kyla said...

That is GREAT! I think it is good that you're able to listen to yourself and make sure the way your living is what you really want.

Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

Good for you! I wish more people would come to this realization and live their lives, instead of trying to live up to someone else's image.

kbreints said...

I am so very happy for you and your family! What an amazing realazation to be able to make a reality.

Jaina said...

Congratulations! This is super exciting. I LOVE the look of your new home...I hope you'll spoil us with more pictures as you get settled in. I admire your courage and conviction, the world definitely needs more of that. Congrats!

InTheFastLane said...

Awesome! Sometimes, you gotta do what works for you. Amazing how we grow and change.

caramama said...

Congrats! The townhouse is beautiful (and very chic), and your new outlook on how you want to live your lives is wonderful.

I was just telling a friend this morning that I wish we could downsize our house and live with less. Unfortunately, we would currently take a loss on the house, and we can't afford that. So we wait for the housing market to improve to consider anything. I my hopes are still to move south in a few years, but south will be somewhere between North Carolina and Georgia, not beautiful Florida. Sigh...

OHmommy said...

bravo!

Sass E-mum said...

Wow. That's very exciting. The new house looks great - but I'm most impressed by your willingness to pursue the opportunities of the sunshiney place you love.

Here's to not being afraid to succeed in the pursuit of happiness.

Angela said...

Congratulations! It sounds like you have really thought this through and made some great decisions for you and your family. What a lovely new home you have, may it always be filled with joy and laughter!

Damselfly said...

Wow. That all sounds amazing. I love your reasons for doing it, too. Even though we live in the 'burbs, our whole area is rather metropolitan and just about everything we need for daily life is close by. We don't feel burdened by our home here.

Don't you love Key West (a half-day drive from my house)? We know some folks with a second home in the Keys. It's a great getaway place.

Best wishes in your fabulous new place!

Reluctant Housewife said...

It doesn't sound crazy to me - it sounds great. Good for you - grab the dream.

I wish every happiness.

the new girl said...

This is so, so awesome. It has the ring of one of those brand-new decisions that, when you put it on, fits like a comfy old sweater.

Congrats for you all!

Clair said...

Congratulations! It's hard to make good things come out of bad times, but you sound like you're on your way.

Mamalooper said...

Belated comment - congrats on the downsizing. The pressure for more and larger and fancier is there but it's harder to resist and stick to your own path.

Thinking of downsizing myself...