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The Stuff Nightmares are Made of

What is that stuff? Whatever it is, it is haunted. It may only be an ounce, then another ounce, then another until suddenly it is a ten ton monster on your back. Maybe the danger is in the box full of all those things that were so cute back when, you wanted them for the coffee table, the hearth, or a center piece on the dining table. Or maybe it is in the joy sticks & spare hard drives, the old computer in the garage. Maybe the danger lies in the first picture your baby drew, or maybe the first piece of art or some other project you created and were proud of, maybe it is an old photo collection. What ever it is, it’s the stuff that breaks our heart, the things that if we were to lose everything including that stuff, it is the stuff that breaks your heart and causes emotions of confusion. It’s the stuff that makes us sick to our stomachs at its disappearance, and yet it is just stuff.

We collect stuff for 10, 20, 30, 40, or more years. Some eventually getting packed in boxes and stuffed in a garage. If we have to move, it becomes enough stuff to require the need for several volunteers and other family members, to help you move this stuff from one 5 year storage area to be piled in yet another corner to again be stored for another decade or two. What is all that stuff, and why do we just need to have it.

I wonder, how did man survive 100, 1000, 4000 years ago? In the pioneer days as well as probably milleniums went by with man building small sheds or log cabins which were one or two rooms, and families were raised without the nick-nacks and all the neat little stuff to look at, no television to feed our hungry minds, no radio to spur our imaginations, what we had to look at was our children, our spouses, our parents. Conversation was the spark, not radio or TV that fed our hungry minds. We grew together, we talked together, most families I think were very close. It was common for the adult children to support & care for their elderly parents, and now more parents are stuffed into nursing homes and the kids visit one or two days a week. So much more convenient, so much less hassle. How could people have lived in the old days, we need all this stuff we have.

Today on the other hand, children are in their rooms for the most part during the time they are home, with their own TV, their own computer, their own "Stuff" to look at and fill their minds. Dad is in his den, working on his stuff, or watching the football game on TV, mom is scampering around being a mom to a family she rarely see’s, and maybe she even has a job of her own. We get together as a family for 30 minutes per night to eat dinner, then it is off to our own things again. Families are split by different interests instead of talking about them, we are split by different educational teachings and values, we are split by another world of people on the internet email groups and chat boards, (which are good for the right reasons and in moderation), and we are split by our own interests on different channels of TV.

About 8 years ago, I was fairly arrogant. I didn’t understand how people could not do well. I remember someone faulted on their mortgage for their home and the bank was foreclosing on them. I said to my wife, how can people get in that problem, if they couldn’t make the payments, why didn’t they sell the house? How could this happen to anyone intelligent. About a year later, I suddenly I learned that God can change your position in life nearly overnight. I lost my job, my good paying job. I was a favored employee, how could I lose my job? No matter, God will provide, I’m not like that other guy you know, I immediately landed a job my wife and I could do together, and we started investing what little money we had into our online business, travelling auctions and selling stuff on Ebay. It rapidly grew into twice the income my job had been, then the next hit happened. I came down a short flight of stairs like a man wearing a younger mans clothes, and injured my back. The injury was severe enough to lay me on my back for nearly 3 years. The Ebay job was gone, I couldn’t work, had no insurance, and lots of medical needs. The SS system failed me, medicaide denied me, even though my Orthopedic surgeon said I needed an operation and I was disabled. With lots of bills to pay for all my stuff I had acquired, medical bills, and living expenses, suddenly I found myself in the place I could never see or imagine, like that other man. Don’t fault a man for his misfortune, it can happen to anyone at any time. This was a hard lesson I was forced to learn.

That was the first time we lost all our stuff as a family, the second time was when the house we moved in to had mold growing between the walls, invisible to the human eye, yet it was there. After a period of 5 years, the exposure to molds like Stachybotris, fusarium, aspergillus and others, it took its toll. Our son ended up in the hospital one night, my wife was developing Fibromyalgia, and painful bumps were growing on ther leg bones, our daughter had an ear infection the doctors could not cure and I had a 2 month persistent fever and just felt like I was living in a fog. Once we discovered what the problem was, we sealed off as much of the house as we could and lived in a small corner of the house until we could afford to move. I was getting around better with my back, but it was and still is flakey and always in wait for he wrong twist, bend, or step to lock me up in pain again, but I was in no condition to work to support my family. We both, my wife and I learned how to make money from home and have always managed to make just enough to pay our rent and bills. We learned that when in a moldy situation like this, you become sensitized and once sensitized you also develop allergies to pollen, any amount of mold exposure however little it might be will make you sick all over again, and life in general becomes difficult. So when we moved from that moldy house, we left just about everything behind again. Family photo albums become contaminated, furniture, clothing, everything except dishes and a few other non porous items. So this was the second time we lost everything, this time we didn’t lose our house, this time we lost our all important STUFF that we just could not live without.

We found a newer, mold free house which we moved in to, and over the next year we developed a mind set that we would be better off living in an RV because they don’t have hollow wall construction, and if they are taken care of properly, they don’t leak and therefore won’t grow mold. We also searched areas of the country where there is less mold and pollen in the air, and drier climates, and set our hopes in getting and RV and hitting the road to the American Southwest. Also while we were in this house, we discovered that the ventilation system not properly installed and when the furnace or air conditioner was running, it was sucking insulation and attic dust into the house, reducing the air quality, and we began having breathing problems. The owner refused to repair the work because of the expense and hassle it would be, he simply said he would not resign our lease and wanted us out when the lease was over. The area we lived in was somewhat of a flood plain, it was humid most of the year except for the cold winters, and every house we looked at during that year had a mold problem. We tried to get an RV, but because of our financial history over the past few years, we could not finance an RV, we couldn’t make enough to pay cash for one, and we had to be out of the house. We did the only thing we could do, we purchased a tent, a camping stove, some other gear for camping, and we headed for the southwest. In so doing, we once again had to leave stuff behind. We had a mini van and there are 5 of us, so we packed all the stuff we could into the back of the van and our clothes in two cargo carriers on tops of the van, and headed for the Southwest.

For the next 5 weeks, we travelled and lived in a tent. Yes, all 5 of us. Something amazing happened during that 5 week period though, our autistic son who doesn’t speak, began to talk. He doesn’t speak a language anyone can understand, but he was talking. Our son and daughter would go on nature hikes with me, and they would go off in the lead holding hands. Yeah, not fighting, they were holding hands! The kids were helping to clean up camp, set the tent, pack the van, wash dishes, etc. We had become a family instead of a pack of people trying to share one roof with all our own stuff.

Six months have passed now, and the funny thing is, all that stuff doesn’t seem to matter. We really don’t miss it. We have found a large RV which we are purchasing from the owner, we live in the beautiful mountains, and we take hikes almost every day AS A FAMILY!!

Since our stuff is gone, we are actually happier together, the burden of all the weight of our stuff no longer weighs us down, and you may not think it does, but it does. We have each other to look at and talk to, yes we have a TV, but our watching habits have changed drastically. Something else I’ve noticed since all our stuff is gone is that we get so involved in our stuff, and the next piece we need to add to our stuff, that we didn’t always see the man two doors down who was hungry, or needed help patching a wall, or the widow who just needs someone to be nice to her and talk to her. In fact, we get so wrapped up in our stuff, we don’t even see the needs of our own family members. This is when stuff becomes the thing nightmares are made of, because we were meant to be loving, caring, giving, social creatures. Instead, we love and care about our stuff, we give our living room a new TV because the old one wasn’t big enough or didn’t have a flat screen, and we socialize with the news and sit-coms and chat boards, and not even realizing we have done it to ourselves, we closed our eyes and minds to the reason we are here. To love each other and to love others. All that stuff we think we own, we don’t. Everything belongs to God. I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy the fruits of our labor, God wants us to do this much I believe, but by the same token there is a line that should be drawn when something of stuff becomes more important than another human, who also belongs to God. God created us and watches over us, and he puts people in your path for a reason, so we can reach out to them in their need, or so they can help us in our need.

So, do you have a lot of stuff in your life? I don’t wish you find the value of it the way we did, but rather hope that you find the real stuff of value.

Dano -


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