Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lessons from a Humble Cottage

This morning on Facebook, a young woman who is a grad school friend of my daughter posted a link to an article on Buzzfeed, 30 Things To Start Doing For Yourself.

I read through the list and started thinking about the ones that really struck a chord with me and how they related to where I am in my life right now. A lot of them also made me think about our little beach house and how it's changed our lives.

Start making your own happiness a priority, and start creating your own happiness.

I put these two things together because if you're going to make your own happiness a priority, you have to also take charge of it. 

When you have kids, your focus is on them and what they need--new soccer cleats, travel soccer fees, laptops, bicycles, prom dresses, lacrosse sticks, books, hockey pads, running shoes...the list goes on. 

Like most mothers, I never begrudged any of this -- I wanted them to have what they needed to succeed in school, on the playing field, and in the social arena.  I thought nothing of paying a couple thousand dollars for a band trip to England or a soccer trip to Hawaii.

But when it came to myself, I choked at spending large sums of money. My main indulgence was new running shoes three times a year.

But after my kids were grown and out of the house, I started to realize that it was OK for me to think about my own happiness (and of course they're a big part of that happiness now that they're adults and I have a great relationship with both of them). So I decided that it was all right for me to take money out of my retirement fund to buy this hot little mess at Kitts Hummock Beach almost two years ago:

Start noticing and living in the present.

It was hard to take $50,000 out of my retirement account, but it was so worth it.

I don't mean to sound irresponsible here--it's important to save for retirement, and I've been doing it for more than 30 years.  But it's also important to live for now and enjoy things in the present instead of always living for some distant day in the future.

The present is awesome, and we need to enjoy it:

Start giving your ideas and dreams a chance.

I grew up just 10 miles from the beaches in central New Jersey and have always LOVED the beach. For most of my life, I have dreamed about what it would be like to own a beach house.  But the prices made this an unrealistic dream ... or so I thought.  

Every once in awhile, I would visit the website of a beach-based realtor in Delaware and look longingly at two-bedroom cottages listed for $475,000.

But one day, I found a listing for $49,900, and my dream finally had a chance of coming true. 

With the price bargained down to $38,000, we were in business, although Doug still tells everyone how appalled he was when we went to see the inside of the modified 60-year-old trailer for the first time. He was pretty sure his fussy wife would NEVER want to buy a place that looked like this:

But he was wrong because I had a dream, and I was finally starting to believe in it. 

Start looking for the silver lining in tough situations. 

It's sometimes hard to see the silver lining when the only thing in front of you is a pile of junk in the yard and an order for a Dumpster to be delivered the next day.  

But even in that first week, we had some silver linings, like getting the Dumpster completely loaded and ready to be hauled away.

 Start noticing the beauty of small moments.

We have had an abundance of beautiful small moments since we bought our beach shack:

Start accepting things when they are less than perfect.

Well, this was essential with the cottage because everything there is less than perfect--but it's also perfect in its own funky way.

The floors are crooked, the bedroom is so tiny that I have to climb over the bed to get in it, and the kitchen ceiling is so low that our tall friends can barely stand up in it.  

But what's not to love about this adorable little place?

Start focusing on the possibility of positive outcomes. 

Nuff said.  We got our positive outcome even though there was a lot of sweat with some blood and tears thrown in for good measure.  Now, scenes like this are just steps from our front door.

Thanks, Alicia for pointing me to some great life lessons....


  1. The transformation of your special place is amazing! And these are great lessons. I still have a few more years of being a mom first--and I plan to savor every bit of them--but I'm also starting to think about what life might look like when that changes. I think your lessons are wonderful, and I don't have to wait to think about how they apply to my life. Thanks.

  2. It's funny, Rita, I actually thought of you when I was writing this post because it reminded me of some of the themes you write about. I wish I had been thinking this way when I was younger--but better late than never!

  3. Hi there Diane,
    I originally came here to say thank you so much for the comment on my blog this morning! And now I see that I've found another blog to follow ;) I am in awe at what you've done to your cottage--it looks amazing! I wish I had your eye for decor.

  4. Thanks, Katie, we had a lot of fun (and blood, sweat, and tears :-) doing it. As for the comment, I absolutely hate it when people put negative or nasty comments on blogs--my philosophy is if you don't have anything nice to say to the blogger, move on and follow another blog.