Let’s Talk About Something Else for a Minute

A fellow blogger made the statement this week that “there’s so much to talk about right now that it’s almost paralyzing”. She was mainly referring to the pandemic, but truer words were probably never uttered. I didn’t make a post last week, not because I was too busy, but because I have no clue what to write about right now.  I know COVID-19 is a big part of everyone’s life these days. It’s a daily conversation in our family and honestly, I don’t know what else to say about it. I’m at the point where I just want to put on my mask and gloves and get on with the business of living. And above all, I want – no, I need – to talk about something else, if for no other reason than my own mental wellbeing.

But what do I want to say? I have no clue on that either! Do I tell you all about the garden and how we harvested enough spinach to make a salad? Do I tell you about work and how I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of grants to write this month? Or do I tell you about some of the dumb decisions I’ve made lately regarding work and how frustrated I am because of it? Do I tell you about the book I’m reading and how it’s reaffirming our choice to eat a mostly plant-based diet? Or do I tell you how our neighbor is making us reconsider living in a RV again? There are just too many topics!

So, I’ll start in the garden. We did indeed harvest enough baby spinach on Sunday to make a salad and it was delicious. The potatoes that we planted in grocery bags – well, they are growing like gangbusters. Our first crop of radishes should be ready the middle of next week. And our tomatoes are now in the ground.

But the thing we’re most proud of is what we’re calling the “renegade garden”. Angie and I cleaned out a corner of my mom’s backyard near the creek a few weeks ago. The corner is not technically ours but Judi, who lives next door, has probably not set foot in this corner in years. When we removed all the overgrowth, our original plan was to make a space for our hammocks. As we started observing the sunlight, we realized this was the perfect space to grow something, so we planted a little row of sunberries (aka wonderberries) and randomly placed all of our leftover tomatoes. Oh, and a sprinkle of watermelon and cantaloupe seeds. We don’t plan to tend this garden, except to water it if it gets too dry. It’s an experiment in growing food in unusual spaces and we’re excited to see how it goes.

Our Renegade Garden

Work has been abundant this month, which is great considering the freelance editor job I was hired for has been put on hold and I was beginning to get concerned about our budget. A lot of foundations and government entities are offering emergency funding to non-profits right now so I’ve had a lot of requests for grant writing. In fact, I completed 6 grant applications this month and have 3 more possibilities for May. So far, 4 of those 6 applications have been funded – a nice little fact that plays well for me when trying to find new work. So, I’m pretty happy on that front.

What I’m not happy about is a side-hustle that I agreed to do back in February. I won’t disclose the company but the gig is merchandising mostly seasonal products in a large grocery chain. When I accepted the job, it sounded like fun – 1 day a week calling on stores in/around middle Tennessee – with most of the hours being drive time hours, for which the company paid a gas allowance and a car allowance (along with an hourly wage, of course). The numbers added up on paper to one very important thing –  RENT. Yes, working this easy little gig would pay the rent – and all the gas our little car would ever need in a month. But, not everything that works out on paper works out in real life. The job is easy. It does pay everything it said it would. But OMG! the communication is terrible, the technology fails all the time, and the work is so boring, I don’t even know what else to say. Except that I sincerely hope that this editor gig comes through so I can ditch this one soon.

Even with all the work this month, I’ve had a lot of time to relax, read, and think. Right now, I’m reading How Not to Die by Michael Greger, MD. As a math nerd, I love that it’s chock full of statistics but I also love how practical it is. If you are thinking about going plant-based, I highly recommend this book. It will tell you everything you ever wanted to know (and some things you didn’t) about the food we eat. Like, did you know that 20 servings of fruit has the equivalent sugar content of 8 cans of soda, yet when a group of researchers fed 20 servings of fruit to test subjects daily for 3 months, there was no increase in weight, blood sugar or triglycerides. There was, however, a reduction in bad cholesterol (LDL) by 38 points. Go fruit!! As people who eat fruit like it’s candy, Angie and I both found this study particularly fascinating and a great way to refute all those folks who keep telling us that “too much fruit is bad for you”.

A typical breakfast for us – homemade yogurt with granola and flax, fruit, toast, nuts, and green tea.

What is bad for you though? Noisy neighbors, that’s what! And I can’t even blame this one on the stay-at-home order. Our downstairs neighbor is a single man in his sixties. He’s nice enough when you’re just exchanging greetings but lately he’s been extra invasive (like trying to invite himself up to our apartment invasive). We have nothing in common. He drinks (excessively). We don’t. He’s a hoarder. We aren’t. He eats most every meal at Logan’s Roadhouse or Cracker Barrel. We cook at home. He commonly refers to certain groups as “those people” and uses the N-word (a lot!). We’re a little too gay to be discriminating against anyone. So, we try to avoid him as best we can, but lately he’s made that super hard. He parks a lawn chair in front of our balcony and blasts music from a boombox all afternoon (at least on days when it rains, we have a reprieve). If I can hear the lyrics inside the apartment, the music is way too loud, and yesterday I thought Freddie Mercury was in our living room. Our apartment staff has yet to do anything about this and every day, we find ourselves wanting to move. Maybe this is a sign?? It is lease renewal time, after all.

So that’s the sum of our lives over the past two weeks. Admittedly, I’ve had a bit of the quarantine blues but even just writing this post has helped a lot with that. I’m looking forward to a great garden season this year, looking forward to the re-opening of our parks and Farmer’s Market, and hoping that everyone out there has something they are looking forward too as well.

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A few weeks ago, I asked for submissions from our community on your journey to minimalism or what minimalism means to you. This week, I got one from Ilona at ILONAZBLOG called What is Minimalism or How to Free Your Space? Ilona is from the Ukraine and recently started her minimalist blog. I encourage you to check out her post and show her some community support by liking or subscribing to her blog.

Do you have an inspiring story about minimalism to share with others? Just send me the link at minimalistsnextdoor@gmail.com and I’ll share it in my next post.

5 Adventures To Read During Quarantine

I once heard that if you read five books on any one subject you can consider yourself an expert. Angie and I both are avid readers of travelogues and adventure memoirs. Between the two of us we have read more than 80 such books over the past 5 years, which should give us 16 times the expertise. Ha! I only have to recall the time we spent the night trying to hold down a tent in 30 MPH winds or the time when we nearly froze to death camping in Florida (of all places!) to know that we’re no experts. We are hungry, adventurous souls that love to read about other hungry, adventurous souls.

Of the 80+ books we read, five of them stood apart from the rest and are sure to get you in the mood for an adventure of your own (once we’re free to move about the world again, that is).

Vagabond Dreams by Ryan Murdock

This was the book that kick-started my longing to leave normal behind and just take off for parts unknown. Ryan’s adventure in Central America is punctuated by true tidbits of wisdom about life and the desire to be free. Of all the books that I have read since, this is still the most inspiring travelogue of them all. In fact, we were so inspired that we went to Mexico, Honduras, and Belize soon after reading it.

Freeways to Flip-Flops by Sonia Marsh

Sonia and her husband packed up their family and moved to Belize where one crazy misadventure after another taught them (and us) that paradise is not a place; it’s an understanding and appreciation of the simple things in life. When things don’t go just right, this book always comes to mind and I think, if they survived scorpions falling into the bed and sabotaging neighbors, surely we can hold down a tent in the wind.

Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith

Peanut butter and parks and penning letters to the folks you wish could have come along – that’s basically the story of our travel life, so no wonder we loved this book. Through emails to their friends Bob and Sue, Matt and Karen told of their travels to every National Park in the US and through those stories, I saw my own country with a new set of eyes. (Side note: if you love this book as much as we do, you’ll be happy to know that there are two follow-up books: Dear Bob and Sue Season 2 and Dear Bob and Sue Season 3.)

Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas

“You should read this book and we should get a van.” That was the first thing I said to Angie when I finished Ken’s story. The second was, “Oh my gosh, I think I know his friend.” In Walden on Wheels, Ken works a series of adventurous jobs from Mississippi to Alaska to pay off his undergrad student loans before deciding to live in a van on the Duke University campus. Like Thoreau’s Walden, this one is also full of wisdom. Reading it reaffirmed our aversion to debt and inspired us to approach our adventure in a more unconventional way. And as it turned out, I had met his friend once through my job. That little tidbit helped me realize that the people in these books are real – just like us – and if they can do it, so can we.

Leap of Faith: Quit Your Job and Live on a Boat by Ed Robinson

Leap of Faith speaks a lot to being owned by one’s possessions and letting go in order to experience freedom. I loved the book and soon started following Ed on Facebook. You see, for several years, we only lived a few miles apart – me in a cozy apartment surrounded by pools and an exotic landscape and him on his boat. I never met Ed but I credit him with being the person who provided the swift kick in the rear that I needed to actually do something brave (ie. buy a RV and live in it for a few months). One day on his blog, Ed assailed so-called-minimalists in their cozy apartments proclaiming to live simplified lives, while he lived in a 36’ x 12’ boat with only one pair of shoes. I admit, I was a little offended. Minimalism is a personal experience after all. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there was a kernel of truth in Ed’s words and we still had room for improvement in our own minimalist journey (still do, I might add). As an homage to freedom and a reminder to always live authentically, one of the last things that we did before we left Florida in 2015 was to go to the marina where Leap of Faith was docked and take this picture.

You can check out any of these books on Amazon by clicking the book cover. It is an affiliate link, by the way, and we do get a tiny kickback if you purchase one of them. If you are a member of Kindle Unlimited, you’ll find that most of these books are included in your subscription.

For more great book recommendations, be sure to follow us on Goodreads at goodreads.com/minimal_melody and goodreads.com/greenpeep