Downsizing: Get On With It!

Downsizing: Get on With It!

Reprinted from Personal Safety Nets
PSN e-Newsletter—August 2015, Issue 80

At Personal Safety Nets (PSN) we’ve downsized. For individuals, downsizing has often been undertaken to make life smaller, less cluttered, or more affordable. In the business world, it’s often been connected to reducing immediate expenses by decreasing the operating payroll. For PSN, though it does have these aspects, the downsizing is intended to expand usefulness and access by moving to an online format. This correlates with research showing that, today, both individuals and businesses are downsizing in search of results that say a lot about a desire to live a better life. In this column we focus on personal downsizing.

Blogger Nina Nelson calls downsizing the opportunity “to focus on those things that matter most to me.” Nina’s downsizing focuses upon time and time management. As a result of re-prioritizing her work and life schedules she found her life and that of her family improved in several different ways.

First: Her health and that of her family improved. With time to research and implement the things she learn about, her family “rarely gets sick now. And when we do, it doesn’t last very long.”

Second: Extra time also fuels her creativity, “Which, for me, fuels joy. And I find that I become so much more creative in other ways – I’m not just making new things, but I’m also more creative with parenting problems.”

Third: Downsizing has given her a look at her and her family’s stressed, overworked and exhausted life. “Maybe your kids don’t need such a busy schedule. Maybe you don’t need to volunteer for 50 different organizations. Maybe you need to take a nap every once in a while without feeling guilty about the things you aren’t doing while you do take said nap.”

Fourth: This new outlook has provided much more time for fostering relationships. Now she and her family are more able to interact with those who are important to them and not have to one day ask, “Why didn’t we spend more time with them?”

Fifth: Downsizing has also meant meeting with a financial planner to pay off debts faster which “lifted a giant weight off my shoulders and now our living situation allows us even more freedom to travel, save money and put more time into relationships.” Cutting expenses certainly helped too.

Remember, this is a process, but you have to start somewhere. Do you need to downsize? Decide. Get some help if you’re uncertain. If you do make the decision to downsize, make a plan and start taking the steps you need to take back your life.

Rodney Harrell of AARP also says that while older Americans often equate downsizing with changing their housing arrangements, they are quickly finding out that the decision has wider effects. Issues related to financial hardship, health, taxes, insurance, upkeep, public transportation, opportunities for social interaction and entertainment will all arise and should be part of what’s considered.

David Friedlander of LifeEdited suggests not waiting for a good time to start. Once the decision is made: START NOW … maybe by downsizing possessions. “The time to start something is – and always will be – now. Don’t worry if the changes are tiny – maybe throwing away a pair of old sneakers you never wear – make them as soon as possible.”

While it may sound easy, Friedlander knows it’s not. “The unfortunate fact is a certain amount of sacrifice is necessary for simplification.” However, the more you change, the easier it will be. “Remember, simplicity is the path to a downsized life, and simplicity and manageability are contagious.”

The Power of LessLastly, for this column, Leo Babauta, in his book, The Power of Less, also echoes Nina as he talks about streamlining life – identifying the essentials and eliminating the unnecessary – thus freeing you up from everyday clutter and allowing you to focus upon accomplishing goals that can change your life for the better.

Babauta gives us goals to follow:

1. Simplicity: identify what’s essential, then eliminate the rest. Focus on what’s essential to your goals and your personal satisfaction. Choose to pay attention only to things that matter the most and instead of spreading yourself too thin. You’ll be able to focus on the essential which will help you accomplish the things that matter most.

2. Limits: Set limits – they don’t set themselves! Without setting limits, it’s very easy to waste time and energy working beyond the point of Diminishing Returns.

3. Focus: Only one thing at a time. Multitasking – don’t even try it. Every time your focus shifts, it takes your mind a while to load the information it needs to operate effectively.

4. Goals: No more than 3-4 active goals and/or projects at a time. Do these well.

5. Prioritize: Have three Most Important Tasks (MITs) every day, and do those before working on anything else.

6. Batch: Batch similar tasks together to preserve your focus. Practice grouping similar tasks together, then tackling them all at once.

7. Positive Habits: For best results, focus only on installing or changing one habit at a time, and start with small increments. Practice that habit until it becomes second-nature, requiring no thought or willpower to do every day. Then, and only then, should you choose another habit to install.

8. Minimize Your Active Commitments: Don’t be afraid to say “no.” your time, attention, and energy are finite. When you overwhelm yourself with commitments, you’re shortchanging the most important activities that will contribute the most to your productivity, satisfaction, and success.

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What Makes a City a Good Place to Grow Old?

Walkable neighbourhoods and feeling part of the community, for a start

(photo via The Vancouver Sun)

By Erin Ellis
August 15, 2015—The Vancouver Sun

When one-quarter of British Columbians are over 65 in about 20 years, where will they be living?

Cities are an obvious choice for people who want to ditch the car — or are forced to do so — with ready access to shopping, transit, parks and health care.

Plenty of B.C. communities are magnets for retirees who already make up more than 25 per cent of residents in Parksville and Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island, or Penticton and Peachland in the Okanagan.

Around the world, municipal leaders are looking at ways to make cities better for an aging population: New York has re-installed many of the bus benches it had removed to stop homeless people from sleeping on them, this time adding strategically placed arm rests to make lying down impossible. Walk signals at wide intersections have been lengthened — or medians added — to give slow-moving pedestrians a fighting chance of making it across the street.

New York is one of 258 cities and towns in the World Health Organization’s network of age-friendly cities. Sixteen are in Canada, with Saanich on Vancouver Island the only West Coast entry.

Read the rest of this article in The Vancouver Sun

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AmeriCorps Opportunity

Are you or do you know a college grad living at home? Under age 25? Tired of temping? Join AmeriCorps!

• Build your resume with hands-on non-profit experience
• Develop your professional network
• $5,730 Education Award can be applied to college loans or grad school (loan forbearance while serving) upon completion of service

Why AmeriCorps with the PNA Village?

AmeriCorps“I served as an AmeriCorps member with the PNA Village from 2012-2103, and in that time I learned much more than I expected. I was given a high level of responsibility and ownership over coordinating the program’s volunteers and developing the new program. My supervisor was incredibly helpful in ensuring I understood program goals, but also trusting in my ability to coordinate successfully. Our weekly check in meetings and goal setting sessions provided the opportunity for us to communicate effectively and to build certain skills that would make me a competitive applicant for future jobs. Most importantly, I really just had so much fun in this position. I met wonderful members of the community who touched my life and who made a notable impact on me. I highly recommend applying for this fantastic AmeriCorps opportunity.”

Americorps 2“I completely credit my time as an AmeriCorps member at the PNA Village for allowing me to find a career and job I love! I served as the Village Volunteer Coordinator during the 2013-2014 term and can’t imagine a more fun place to spend your AmeriCorps year. You work with incredible co-workers, amazing volunteers, and wonderful members and you get to learn and grow while doing so! The skills and relationships you develop during your time at the Village will help you to do whatever you want to do in life. I am being completely honest when I say: ‘If I could have served a second term with the Village, I would have in a heartbeat.’ ”

To review a detailed position description, please see:

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The House V

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Instead of photos, these poems use words to tell of the phenomena while I sit on the deck drinking it all in.

For Pico Iyer, whose thoughts about silence and the sacred I have borrowed.

In the distance
someone is beating a rug
or wet laundry,
children’s voices shouting
then fading away,
their cries muffled
as though under water.
Overhead a silent plane
its lights flickering like stars,
a crow cawing,
a train whistle.
Everything flowing
within this irresistible silence
while I lay splayed on the lounge chair
like a TB patient
when suddenly the sound of traffic
soars like the growling of a storm cloud
far away—
and the deep silence returns
that first empties your mind,
then brings you to the true self
that lies trembling beneath your heart.

Sunset by JMW Turner (Tate)

Pictures at an Exhibition

like a Turner painting.
The sky’s afire
and we are looking
into the hot heart of a furnace.

Thick clouds streaked with Blakean light
streaming through, as the sun slips down
to the other side of the earth,
leaving a rosy shadow of itself
silhouetted behind the mountain
as black-cloaked night falls

·    ·    ·

These poems form the fifth installment in a sequence about the construction of my home—read the first hereRead the second here, the third here, and the fourth here.

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Interview with New President of the Board, Terry Cook

By Liz Bjorkman


Our current President of the PNA Village Board is Terry Cook; following is an interview with her.

How did you become interested in PNA Village?

I read several articles about Villages and thought Villages were a great alternative to a formal retirement home. It appeals to me because it allows me to live in my own home and community very much like my grandmothers and father did. I like the idea of expanding my relationships beyond the people on my block. I called Lee Harper and asked if the PNA had considered doing something like this, and she said “funny you should ask” and gave me Ed Medeiros’s number. I went to the next meeting and signed on to help create the PNA Village.

How did you become President of the Board?

The truth? I missed the meeting where they nominated people so I was it. I am more comfortable working behind the scenes so this was a big challenge for me. However, I am enjoying being president as this is an exciting time as the Village looks to expand membership and move into new services. We have great members and volunteers that make this a wonderful organization to belong to and work with as we move forward. The Village is their creation.

Have you served PNA Village in other capacities?

I started with the steering committee early on as well as working with the Business Vendor committee until I became president. Currently I am a volunteer and volunteer driver, and I sit on the finance committee.  

What is the future for the PNA Village Board?

We are looking to expand our board membership to include people in the Seattle area who work in areas related to seniors. The next three years will be challenging and exciting, and we need people who share our commitment to aging in the community. We have been very fortunate in our board members to date, and I am grateful for their enthusiasm and energy.

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Enjoying a Parade With Less Hassle

Greenwood Seafair via Seattle Times

By Alyssa McFarland

Do you enjoy a parade? Perhaps you used to go to the Seafair parade or Fremont Solstice Parade, but now it seems like too much trouble? Annoyed by the crowds and the sun in your eyes? Since my daughter is a member of a drill team, I went to a lot of parades last summer and now feel qualified to help you get the most out of any parade you attend.

  • The best place to sit is by the judges’ stand. This is where any group in the parade who has an act to perform will be strutting their stuff. You’ll get the most entertainment value for your time by sitting here, because otherwise you might find all those drill teams, drum lines, comedy skits, and dance troupes just marching on by you. The judges’ stand is typically near the middle of any parade route, and is demarcated by a tent or canopy or a raised platform of some kind. If you are coming close to the start of the parade, you’ll know the judges’ stand by listening for the sound of the announcer’s voice. During the parade, you can learn more about each group that passes by listening to what the announcer has to say about them.
  • If it’s an evening parade like our Greenwood Seafair parade, put out a seat early if you can, like by noon at the latest. Think about where the sun will be when you will be there, so you can avoid having the sun right in your eyes. Put your name on your chair with a Sharpie pen. I’ve been leaving my chair out for years and it’s always there for me later.
  • Dress in layers, as it can be sweltering at the beginning and quite cool by the end. Put on sunblock if you are sensitive to the sun. And don’t forget your sun hat and sun glasses.
  • If you’re like me and base your activities around bathroom availability, you should know there are normally portable toilets at parades. If this doesn’t appeal to you, some stores and restaurants are gracious enough to open their facilities to the crowd. In Greenwood, you can count on Fred Meyer to have its doors open for you, and Fred Meyer is typically where the judges’ stand is too…bonus!

The next parade in our neighborhood is the 65th Annual Greenwood Seafair Parade, July 22, 2015 from 6-8:30pm. This year’s theme is “Don’t Rain on My Parade”. The parade route is Greenwood Avenue between N 95th & N 85th, then west to 6th Ave NW.

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If the Moon Came Out Only Once a Month

Full Moon photo via Wikimedia Commons

By Cathy Ross

If the moon came out only once a month
people would appreciate it more. They’d mark it
in their datebooks, take a walk by moonlight, notice
how their bedroom window framed its silver smile.

And if the moon came out just once a year,
it would be a holiday, with tinsel streamers
tied to lampposts, stores closing early
so no one has to work on lunar eve,
travelers rushing to get home by moon-night,
celebrations with champagne and cheese.
Folks would stay awake ’til dawn
to watch it turn transparent and slowly fade away.

And if the moon came out randomly,
the world would be on wide alert, never knowing
when it might appear, spotters scanning empty skies,
weathermen on TV giving odds—“a 10% chance
of moon tonight”—and when it suddenly began to rise,
everyone would cry “the moon is out,” crowds
would fill the streets, jostling and pointing,
night events would be canceled,
moon-closure signs posted on the doors.

And if the moon rose but once a century,
ascending luminous and lush on a long-awaited night,
all humans on the planet would gather
in huddled, whispering groups
to stare in awe, dazzled by its brilliance,
enchanted by its spell. Years later,
they would tell their children, “Yes, I saw it once.
Maybe you will live to see it too.”

But the moon is always with us,
an old familiar face, like the mantel clock,
so no one pays it much attention.

why not go outside and gaze up in wonder,
as if you’d never seen it before,
as if it were a miracle,
as if you had been waiting
all your life.

·    ·    ·

Title poem from If the Moon Came Out Only Once a Month, by Cathy Ross (Seattle: Forsythia Press, 2012). Posted here with kind permission of the author.

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Johnny Cash & Global Warming

220px-JohnnyCash1969By Dick Gillett

Heading up to Phinney Ridge the other day on my morning coffee run, I grabbed a Johnny Cash CD as I went out the door. The inimitable, deep voice of this old singer and his wonderfully uncomplicated music flowed from my car’s stereo to the bottom of my soul as he sang “When the Man Comes Around”. This song is chock full of apocalyptic verses from the bible’s Book of Revelation—doom, the end of the world, judgment, good and evil, choice—not a book many people read nowadays, including myself as an ordained minister.

But the pathos of Cash’s music took me immediately back to the conference I’d returned from last week. Called “Seizing the Moment: Toward an Alternative Civilization”, this Pomona College gathering of over 2000 people from around the world included about 130 participants from the People’s Republic of China. The conference topic was global warming—and what to do about it. The mood was somber, if not downright apocalyptic at times. “We live in the midst of perhaps the greatest crisis the world has known,” warned environmentalist and keynoter Bill McKibben, “and it has come upon us very fast.” He called for a “global grassroots movement” to address the global warming generated by the trillions of tons of carbon dioxide we collectively put into the atmosphere each year.

…on this morning, Cash’s apocalyptic music and global warming came together for me.

Theologian John Cobb suggested that “it may already be too late” to save the planet.

So it was on this morning, on my way to coffee, that Cash’s apocalyptic music and global warming came together for me.

Despite the seriousness of the conference’s topic and our global situation, determined participants engaged in several dozen workshops over three days, focusing on specific aspects, projects, and models needed to address the huge complexity of a global society that must eventually move from an expanding economy to a “steady state” economy. Could we imagine a society whose ethic would affect sharing with others instead of unlimited consumption and rampant individualism?

By the end of the conference there was hope in the air as well as the hard recognition of the lateness of the hour. Johnny Cash’s song was for me a call—an inspired call to pay attention! Pay attention today to what can and must be done by all of us who share this precious Space Ship Earth.

If you’d like to know more about the conference and its follow up, please visit:

·    ·    ·

Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. His previous works for our PNA Village blog include, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”, “”Generation Nice’ at Herkimer Coffee”, and “Monthly Book Group at Couth Buzzard”.

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Village Member Survey


The results are in!

The 2015 PNA Village survey showed that 84 percent of our members are very satisfied or extremely satisfied with Village membership.

Check out the “Top Ten List” and read the full report

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Off the Cushion: The Eternal Care Unit

Chester Arnold, A Hawk’s Attention, 2015. Catharine Clark Gallery.

To what shall I compare
this life of ours?
Even before I can say
it is like a lightning flash
or a dewdrop
it is no more.
Sengai (1750–1837)

By Pamela Gayle White 
(Reblogged from

When I was in retreat, death and impermanence—death’s harmonic base—provided the background tone of every practice, from preliminary contemplations to yogas focusing on the dissolution of the elements and aggregates that occurs when we die. For months, maybe years, my beloved retreat master, Gendun Rinpoche, answered virtually all my questions (even the most abstruse) with a laugh and the suggestion that I delve deeper into impermanence.

I’m still burrowing. Here at the hospital, we witness the dark side of impermanence every day. The hemorrhage that floods the brain on the eve of a long-anticipated cruise, the tumble from the ladder, the drive-by shooting. The stillborn twins, the metastatic rampage, the overdose. As chaplains, every day we tend to the dying, their families, and their caregivers—and still it is difficult to fathom that we too are really, truly going to die.

Even in Buddhist circles, traced on the ever-shifting ground of birth, aging, sickness, and death, many of us have neglected to sign advance care directives or even designate someone who can make decisions for us when we are no longer able. My own form needs updating; it awaits somewhere on my to-do list. There’s always tomorrow. Until there isn’t.

At work one evening a nurse asked me to see an elderly woman whose husband’s health had taken a sudden turn for the worse. In intensive care, Claude was sedated as machines ensured continuity of his essential bodily functions. Willie, his careworn wife, broke down and sobbed in my arms; they had been married for six decades, and she wasn’t prepared for widowhood. We prayed.

The following afternoon I approached Claude’s room with a sharp pinch of dread; clearly he would not recover, not even enough to go home to die. But the atmosphere was unexpectedly welcoming, with music playing softly in the background and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. Claude had transitioned to “comfort care”; he was awake and alert. Gone were most of the tubes, beeps, and bustlings. The priest had been through. Family members were en route.

“I’ve been blessed by the love of a good woman, and I have no doubt where I’m headed,” Claude told me. His serenity and faith enhanced the room’s warm glow. Willie’s grief had become deeper, yet more accepting. Later on, as his family surrounded him in love and song, Claude did go gentle into that good night.

We’ve been programmed for life since beginningless time; programmed to use our perceptions as the building blocks that make existence seem solid.

It was as “good” a death as can be imagined. What made it particularly poignant is that Claude knew he was about to die. Most of the dying people here are too sick to truly take stock of their situation; few are as lucid as Claude was. Some go in gratitude for how their life has blossomed and for the seeds they have left behind; others depart in agony or anger, praying for a miracle of healing to the last breath; yet others, seemingly unaware, simply slip away.

What would it be like to know that death looms? Last autumn, at the Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium in upstate New York, I attended a workshop during which we were invited to close our eyes and imagine our funeral. The workshop leader asked who was having the hardest time dealing with our own death. I was surfing that one pretty comfortably until I pictured a memorial of sorts and there was Moune, my sweet shaggy dog, whining softly and looking around for me. That’s when my anguish cracked open. My Moune without me.

There was a discussion after the exercise. A young woman said that even though she’d spent a good deal of time contemplating and practicing with the subject, she still couldn’t imagine being dead. Her comment was left dangling, but it had weight. Death is uncharted territory for this unlikely, transitory medley we think of as “me.” We’ve been programmed for life since beginningless time; programmed to use our perceptions as the building blocks that make existence seem solid. How could we imagine not perceiving? How could the world possibly continue to spin without us?

Since it doesn’t make sense, it may seem easier to just pretend it’s not there. The Voldemortish “That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named” aura doesn’t help. Euphemisms abound: pass away, croak, meet one’s maker, bite the dust, shuffle off this mortal coil. . . . A nurse on one of my floors calls it “heading for the ECU: the Eternal Care Unit.”

But it is, inescapably, death. It can be a great relief to embrace the inevitable, to give voice to it, to hold it, and, finally, to leave the mystery unsolved. In The Cancer Journals, the poet Audre Lorde wrote, “What is there possibly left for us to be afraid of, after we have dealt face to face with death and not embraced it? Once I accept the existence of dying as a life process, who can ever have power over me again?”

Naturally, I wonder what it will take for me to be able to die, like Claude, unafraid and in peace. I’m praying that I will be ready, inspired, and awake. That I will not be hampered by too many burdens of regret or unfinished business or important things left unsaid. That curiosity, connection, and gratitude will get me through. Though he died almost two decades ago, I can imagine asking Gendun Rinpoche for advice on how best to prepare for death. And I hear him urging me to reflect on impermanence, now, and laughing.

Pamela Gayle White is a dharma teacher and translator in the Bodhi Path network and a Tricycle contributing editor. She is a chaplain resident at the University of Virginia Medical Center, “on sabbatical” from her regular activities.

Chester Arnold, A Hawk’s Attention, 2015. Oil on linen, 46 x 54 inches. Image courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery.

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