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The kids couldn’t ride with me in the truck because I couldn’t figure out how to disable the passenger-side airbag. So I got had to drive cross country by myself. I know each of the kids would have enjoyed some time in the truck, and my Wonderful Wife would have appreciated a bit of a break. I, on the other hand, really enjoy my time alone on the road. It always gives me time to process.

(this is the missing piece from last week’s post found here)

After dealing with the ordeals of liquidation, packing, moving, and leaving our Oregon life behind, I had two huge fears. First was the fear of mechanical failure in the truck and van. The other was my fear of traffic, motor vehicle crashes, and the loss of my family.

The truck was overloaded. In fact, we left several nice items behind based purely on weight (I kept thinking about all the covered wagons on the Oregon Trail that tossed out prized possessions along the journey). The radiator leaked, I wasn’t too sure about the engine – with over  250+k miles, and the rear tires don’t have much tread left on them. I was actually “OK” with a breakdown, though the prospect of unexpected financial costs were somewhat daunting. It was the fear of a catastrophic accident that frightened me – and leaving my family fatherless.

I read recently that “all emergency responders are wounded.” The PTSD is cumulative. We, paramedics, firefighters, EMTs, and police officers, see things no sane person should see – and few of us remain sane after seeing all of this. Whenever I see loved ones get into a car, a twinge of fear goes through my heart. This is the fear I had for my family driving cross country. Despite my own paranoia, driving does remain on of the most dangerous activities any of us will participate in. I never feared death until I had a family – now, I fear their deaths, and my own.

After realizing the fear and sorrow of this whole ordeal, confessing and admitting it, I was better able to hit the road – but the above fears continued to haunt me. But a few days into the journey, I experienced a breakthrough.

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Several years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Larry Crabb speak at a conference in Denver. I was impressed with his views on community and God’s love. I bought a couple of his books and MP3 audio presentations, but due to our hectic life over the past six years, I never really took the opportunity to explore his material – until last week. After two days of driving, I pulled up the audio version of his book, Finding God.

I love the synchronicity of perfect timing. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the book before, and I’m certain it would have spoken to me, but the healing power of this book was made more powerful after the perfect storm of fear I experienced during our exodus from Oregon.

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capitol hill yard saleRiding up the chairlift at Mt. Hood Meadows, I looked over just as someone took a high speed fall and tumbled down the hill. Gloves, skis, poles, hats, and stuff scattered all over the side of the hill. Three chairs up, some punk yelled: “Yard Sale!” And I laughed. It was the perfect description. That was in the early 1980s, and the term seems to have stuck.

It’s a badge of honor to fall hard enough to scatter one’s gear across the slope – especially under the chairlift! When it happens to me, I usually leap to my feet and throw my fists in the air in a triumphant Gold Medalistesque pose. I figure, as long as I’m in danger of looking foolish, I might as well make a joke out of it.

Yesterday, and the Friday before, we staged a real Yard Sale. Forced to move, and with no place to land, we decided against storage. Nothing we own is worth enough money to justify a couple thousand dollars in storage fees. Neither is it worth enough to spend a couple thousand dollars to haul it in a truck and take it with us. It just doesn’t make sense. So, we’re liquidating.

When it comes to furniture, tools, or the myriad of carp we have, I don’t mind selling it. However, when it comes to antiques, family heirlooms, and sentimental items – that’s different. Photos, keepsakes, and important documents are being put into storage, as are a few things that are irreplaceable. But as I look at the stuff we have, I realize there is a spectrum between being valuable, useful, and worth keeping – and those items which are purely carp. Sometimes, often, especially for me, it’s hard to know the difference.

To make it easier, we’ve set limits for ourselves. We only rented a small storage shed. We are limiting ourselves to two boxes of clothes each. We are limiting ourselves to one box of books each – far less than the 38 boxes we moved when we left Grad School.

My last post is a cathartic processing of the need to let go of my stuff. Working through that was important and necessary. It’s still painful, but I continue to fake it as I learn to make it.

Here’s what I’ve learned this past week:

1.  People come to garage and yard sales to get bargains.

They aren’t buying things they need, or necessarily want. The price has to be a small fraction of the original value, or people won’t buy. They don’t need more junk, stuff, or carp – but they do want to think they got a real steal. Buying a $20 rake for a dollar is a great example. Could I get $5 for it? Probably, but only if I’m willing to wait for the right person to come along. If one wants to liquidate, quickly, cheaply, and with the least amount of time and energy, it’s best to just price it low and let it go. This is what we did.300/365 My first Brownie.

Yesterday we sold a formal dining room table and eight chairs, for $190. It probably cost close to $10k new – but I didn’t get a single call on it until I lowered the price to $190. Most likely, the right person would have paid $500-1000. So, it feels like I gave it away. On the other hand, it would cost a lot of money to store it, and a lot of time to sell it for what it’s worth. Looking at this correctly, I realize I could have spent more time and more money to get a better price – but my net gain would have been the same. It’s a commodity.

2. Our neighbors didn’t appreciate our sale.

I notified our next door neighbors that we’d be having a sale. They are nice people who have been really generous and nice over the past five years. However, on the morning of the sale, he put signs on the grass beside our shared lane, instructing people to not park on the grass. Unfortunately, the signs looked like garage sale signs, with fluorescent orange arrows, and they confused people. Those coming to the garage sale ignored all the stuff in our driveway, and drove right up to his signs. Then, when they started turning around in his driveway, he parked his cars to block the driveway and made it really difficult for people to turn around.

Mixed MessagesThe next neighbor down then followed suit, blocking his driveway with his car, and posting a hand drawn, cardboard sign, demanding people to get off his land and “USE REVERSE!”

All of this created a huge bottleneck on our narrow lane, plus, because of the slope and loose gravel, they couldn’t go back up the hill. Tires slid, gravel flew, and ruts were dug into the lane. It was a sad, disheartening, and almost funny (if it wasn’t so weird) spectacle.

The people paying the highest cost for this are the very neighbors who blocked their driveways. Now, the lane in front of our house is a mess – and they’re the ones who have to drive on it – or will have to repair it.

One neighbor even took the time and energy to create a fake G-Mail account and send me an email, just to call me a body part that is usually only used when I sit on the toilet. As if I didn’t already know that I’m a jerk – I mean, people have been telling me all my life. Did he think this would be a new revelation to me?

This is the first time I’ve had a garage sale when the neighbors didn’t come over and buy most of the stuff. If I had known it would be an issue, I would have shared some of the proceeds with them. I guess, next time I’ll check.

3. It’s very freeing to get rid of this stuff.

No, as I said, it isn’t easy – but really, we don’t need this stuff. I’m sending 40 pounds of books to a friend of mine in Michigan, giving a couple hundred dollars worth of books to a pastor friend, and we’ve passed on a ton of stuff to others. Yesterday a fellow homeschooler came by with her half-dozen kids. We gave them an inflatable 2-person boat, backpacks, tennis racquets, and toys. It was awesome. The value of that stuff was substantial, but we would have only recouped about $10 in the sale.

So much of our stuff has been passed on, or handed down to us. We feel free to be as generous to others, and our house is starting to look like the moving van has already been here.

Seriously, we don’t need this stuff.

4. The majority of stuff we have left fits into three categories:Donate books poster

A) Carp. The crowd has spoken and this stuff needs to be taken to the dump. Nobody wants a 10-year-old computer, VHS movies, or my cassette tapes from the 80s.

B) Donation. We have a lot of stuff that needs to be donated. A crib, changing table, and breast pump – to name a few. We’ll probably take this to a pregnancy center, or women’s shelter.

C) Craig’s List. Our desks, couches, mattress, and dressers were too big for a garage/moving sale. We’ve had a much better response in online classifieds and I’ll continue to promote that stuff there. If it doesn’t sale quickly, I’ll continue to drop the price until it fits into one of the two above categories.

The journey isn’t over, we still have much packing, sorting, and hauling left to do – but the good news is, we have a whole week to finish. It’s amazing how the crucible of time forces us to make the crucial decisions.

I wonder if there are any spiritual lessons to be learned here?

(Continued from here: For years we have been trying to do more with less. We, as employees, entrepreneurs, and parents seek to multitask and get more done in less time. The Great American Dream was to increase productivity and leisure time – but that hasn’t worked out so well. We thought we could systematize industry and agriculture, and allow ourselves shorter work weeks and more time to pursue self actualization.)

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Being a paramedic has helped me in this area:

Fire Department paramedics, 2000As an emergency services responder, I often have to multi-task. I’ve found however, that I can not multi-think. There’s a difference and I believe it applies to other professions and to parenting.
When I’m treating a critical patient, I will often try to be as efficient and quick as possible. This may mean simultaneously setting up an IV, applying EKG leads, and directing my partner in tasks. Yet when it comes to assessment, I have to narrow my focus. When I listen to lungs, I have to concentrate on that. When I’m reading a 12-Lead EKG, I have to focus on a systematic method of interpretation. If I try to listen to lungs, while calculating a drug dosage and reading an EKG, I’m likely to do one of these very poorly – with very negative outcomes.

If I don’t arrive, I’m not doing anyone any good”

It’s the same when I’m responding to a call. From the time the call first comes in, my first task is to determine the address, map it (whether on paper, the computer, or in my head), then to respond to that address safely and quickly. Certain calls will compete for my attention and distract me from arriving safely and quickly. If I don’t arrive, I’m not doing anyone any good. I have to arrive – which translates into safety – and the quicker the better. But distractions reduce my odds of arriving.

When the dispatcher tells us there is a baby not breathing, or another terrible event, it is easy to let one’s mind get ahead of itself. I start thinking about the tragedy unfolding, the parents, the child, the crying, the pain – and suddenly, I’m not watching traffic like I should, I make navigation errors, and I’m not being safe, or quick. I have disciplined myself to think instead about the task right before me – responding safely and quickly. Then, once we are on the road, and the traffic and geography allow, I will think about treatment options, review drug dosages, and plan for rapid assessment and treatment of my patient. But until I arrive on scene, I always make safe and rapid response my priority.

Here’s how this applies to parenting:Vader geeft baby de fles / Father feeding the baby

You work so you can provide for your family, not the other way around. Your family does not exist so you can have a career. You do chores around the house for the sake of your family – your family is not the cause of your chores. Everything you do is for you and/or your family. Your family is not a distraction from those things – you do those things for your family.

your kids are the reason you’re running these errands…”

So, if you’re at a soccer game, be at the soccer game. A Quick call from a coworker is to be expected – but keep it quick. Set good boundaries with your colleagues and don’t let them dominate your time with your family. The same with evenings and weekends.

When you’re in the car and running errands, remember, your kids are why you’re running these errands – they are not making your life harder – they are the reason you are here. Don’t subordinate your kids to your tasks, prioritize your kids above your tasks. Be available for them as you run your errands, drive around, and take care of household tasks. There may be times of silence, but you will be amazed at how the quality of your times together improves.

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(to be continued…)

Part 1 – Multitasking

Part 2 – An example from a paramedic

Part 3 – Don’t say, “I’m just too busy.

Part 4 – What we did

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