Rethinking the Dream Chronicles – Amy

Rethinking the Dream Chronicles is a special feature that highlights people that have rethought their dreams in some form or fashion.  This might mean they rent instead of own, homeschool instead of public school, hold a small quaint wedding over a big expensive gala, or choose a simpler life over a life full of buying stuff and keeping up with the Joneses.  Today’s special guest has done all of these things.  Please welcome Amy to Rethinking the Dream Chroncles.  Read on to get a glimpse into her life.

I know you guys probably aren’t interested in the long back story of my life so I will give the readers digest version of the first 28 years. I was raised in a military family #5 of 7 children. When my Dad retired my parents bought a house, I was 12 years old. That house had a lot of issues and we called it a money pit. When my parents divorced my Mom got the money pit. Eventually after a lot of time and money the house was remodeled and put on the market with a cash offer made with in 2 days of listing thankfully!

I’d spent the last 2.5 years of undergrad commuting 3 hours round trip a day Monday through Friday to attend school and still have my son be close to family. I knew that I didn’t want to continue that during graduate school so I moved my almost 5 year old son and I four hours south to where I had been accepted to a Master’s program in Exercise Physiology. I’d been personal training since 1999 and teaching group fitness classes since 2003. My Mom moved with us to make the transition easier for my son. She lived with us for 2 years before moving on to help another sister who was in school and her husband with their children.

During that move I realized just how much we had. I had enough clothes to wear a different outfit daily for 9 months and 40 some odd pairs of shoes. After a few weeks I was able to cut that down to 2 weeks worth of clothes and I think 4 pairs of shoes. I hit my books next getting rid of almost 1,000 of them. I did not buy all that stuff people were always giving me things they didn’t want and I’d just take them. I did buy a lot of things though, just not all of it. After I’d gone through my things and gotten rid of most of them I asked my son if he wanted to get rid of some things. He did get rid of a bunch of clothes, toys and books. Our life was pretty simple we had school for both of us, most of the classes that I took and taught were during the daytime while he was in school. I would work on my thesis writing after he’d go to bed.

At the end of my third semester of graduate school I met Michael. He lived a fairly simple life as well. I proposed to him 7 months later and we moved in together. You’d think combining households of two adults who’d been living on their for several years would make for a lot of stuff. For us it did not though because we’d both led simple lives. He didn’t have a car so we shared my car. We had work, school, a 7 year old that we were raising and trying to plan a wedding. In February I was tired of wedding stuff and realized it was a Leap year. I asked Michael if he would rather get married in a small ceremony on Leap Day, when I reminded him that meant we’d only have an anniversary to remember every 4 years he was in. We told our families that we were getting married in 3 weeks on Leap Day instead of in May like we’d planned. I’m sure many people thought I was pregnant, I wasn’t. I was just tired of the added stress of a wedding.

We had a simple ceremony at a local church. We had a filled sheet cake, I made some mini cheesecakes, we had sparkling grape juice and we took the 37 people who attended our wedding to our favorite Chinese restaurant for dinner. Altogether between the first dress I bought which I ruined while trying to alter it, the second dress, a suit for my husband, a suit for my son, dinner out, desserts and decorations we spent $800. It was over and done. After dinner my son went to stay at the hotel with one of my sisters who was able to come. My husband and I went out to some bars with other family members. We even went to a drag show on our wedding night!

Since we’d just gotten married it was suggested by many people that we buy a house. We were unsure of where we’d be in a few months let alone a few years and had seen several houses that had been on the market for a very long time. We decided to keep renting since we didn’t want to get stuck with a house that we couldn’t sell if we found jobs in other areas. I even was interviewed by Business Week about our reluctance to buy a house at that point in time.

A few months later I graduated with my MSEd and got an adjunct position at the university. Michael was working full time, had a TA position and had advanced to candidacy for his PhD program. Our son was 8 and in third grade. He was having some problems at school with bullying and we became increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of the public education in our location. The last straw for me was when his teacher insisted that the physical and vocal tics he had were behavioral and I thought otherwise. We pulled our son out of public school and started homeschooling him. He was later diagnosed0 with Tourette Sydnrome.

For us homeschooling made our lives simpler. When I had to teach he would come with me to campus and do his school work in my office or sit in the class and work on it. At the end of the semester I was told there weren’t any classes for me to teach the following semester. We bought some school things but mostly used our local library so that we didn’t have to store school books. When we did buy something we’d donate it to the library when we were done or give it to another homeschooling family.

In March 2009 we had another son. At this time people suggested we’d need a home with 2 children. We kept on renting because we didn’t want the cost of having to do major home repairs should something happen. In November 2009 we did however decide that we did want the expense of a second vehicle so the boys and I could go to homeschooling events more easily. Since we live in Southern Illinois the homeschooling community is a bit spread out. For us to attend classes we felt like we needed a minivan. That gave the boys and I freedom that we hadn’t had before. We went to homeschool PE, we were able to go on field trips. We were able to schedule appointments for the boys when it was convenient for us instead of having to plan around my husband’s schedule. Not that his schedule was hectic but we lived in a 735 sq ft 3 bedroom 1 bath cabin in the woods just outside of the Shawnee National Forrest. It was 30 minutes from town and I didn’t like having to go into town in the morning with him and staying in town all day until he was done.

That cute little cabin that we were living in started having major electrical issues because of the old wiring that wasn’t done properly. The owner was out of country and left no contact number for someone to contact him for us. We hired an electrician and were told that the house was condemnable and it was unsafe for us to continue to live there. I was finally able to reach the owners daughter through Facebook and she had an electrician come out who also said that the wiring was not done properly and it was unsafe. The quote we’d been given by the electrician we’d had come out said it would cost almost $10,000 to get it up to code. That made me so glad that we didn’t own the house. The repairs were never done and after 2 months of waiting we decided to move out since we were told by 2 electricians it wasn’t safe. Had we owned the home ourselves we would have been responsible for the repairs and mortgage still. Since we were renting and the landlord didn’t fix it our lawyer said the term is constructive eviction. We didn’t get our deposit back or our last months rent. We could have pressed it and taken him to court but decided to just be done with it and move on.

The place we moved to was in town, near a park and walking distance to several restaurants. The complex had trees and areas for children to play. It was still a small apartment, 700 sq 2 bedroom 1 bath, but it was more than enough space for us. We still didn’t have many things and our homeschooling supplies fit one shelf of a small 3 shelf bookshelf that you’d buy at a big box store. We were closer to the local Science Center as well which we went to frequently. We used the library a lot more since we were closer and had a vehicle. Having a minivan made life easier for us and we were able to do all sorts of fun educational things.

We found out I was pregnant again and people started suggesting that we would need a larger place for 3 children. A few people suggested buying a home but most people realized by this point that we were unsure that we wanted to live here long term so they just suggested a larger place. We did find a larger place. It was a 3 bedroom, 2 bath duplex that was 1400 square feet and had a 2 car garage we signed the lease 2 days after our daughter was born. Since we didn’t have a lot of stuff moving to our new place was easy. We were able to do most of it with our van since it had stow and go seating. Our new place was 2.7 miles north of my husband’s work on a rural road that was hilly and had no shoulder, either side of the road was ditch or a hill leading to a either a field or wooded area. It was a beautiful area closer to town than our last out of town rental but I hated having to clean such a large place. We weren’t using all that space but I still had to vacuum it all and dust.

On 28 November 2011 our lives were changed forever. The kids & I headed into town to get some tortilla chips and drop some medicine by my husband’s work because he’d mentioned he wasn’t feeling well. A mile away from our house a car came onto our side of the road and struck my van head on. The young man driving didn’t have a drivers license. He was driving his girlfriend’s uninsured car. When his car stopped spinning it was facing the same direction as us and burst into flames. The engine block of my minivan landed on my right ankle. We were all very lucky that night. The universe saw fit to keep us around longer and no one died. The children all recovered from their injuries with in 6 weeks of the accident. My ankle still gives me problems that’s to be expected though with the extent of the injuries. I was told I wouldn’t be able to run again. About 9 months after the accident I was running around playing with my children again. I won’t be able to run long distances anymore and will most likely develop arthritis in the joint eventually but for now I can play with my kids!

We’ve always lived a fairly simple life focused on family instead of things so I didn’t have the major change experience that some people do when they go through a life changing event like we did. I did notice though that my views on some things started to change. I started leaning towards child led learning, allowing my son to pick what he learned about. I used to tell my children that they would go to college that is just what people do in our family. Now I tell them that they can go to college if they want to. If they do go to take as long as they need to pay as they go. If there’s an alternate route to their career goals they should look into that. I want them to learn for the sake of learning and not to get an A or earn a bunch of money.

I no longer feel like I fit in academia . I agreed to adjunct this semester again this semester. I have given my students my all this semester and it’s been a good learning experience for both them and I. I feel that it’s time to leave on a high note though. I don’t think the university system is something that I want to be part of anymore. I don’t put as much value as I once did in a university degree. I see a lot of the classes as a waste of the students time and my time as an instructor. I am hoping to find a new way to use my love of health and fitness since I can no longer be the type of personal trainer and group fitness instructor that I once was. I would hate to have wasted 10 years of education and taken out $104,000 just to have it all ended by the poor choices of another. My husband even resigned from his PhD program this year since didn’t feel it would add value to his life to finish it.

I really do like renting. We are able to save a little more than half of what my husband earns after taxes each month. If something breaks I don’t have to fix it. My husband and I both hate yard work and are allergic to grass so when we find a place to rent we find one with yard care included. We have the option to move to another location fairly easily. Last year we moved for 9 months to be closer to one of my sisters while she was in an educational program. My husband’s employer allowed him to work remotely so that we could be there to help her with her children. We decided to move back here before our lease at the other place was done since she withdrew from the program and just had to find someone to sublease. If we wanted to move for a new job we’d just need to pay 2 months rent to end the lease early. If our neighborhood suddenly became over run with crime we could move easily.

For me the life that we led isn’t outside of the norm. We make the choices we make because it works for us. We don’t need to buy a house because we have children. We won’t buy a house until we have found the place that we want to make our forever home.

Here are pictures of some of the places Amy and her family have lived including shots of some very happy kids and her minimalist Christmas tree.



  1. says

    Thanks for being a part of Rethinking the Dream Chronicles. I loved reading the story of your life and seeing all the decisions you made to live the life you chose rather than the life other people think you should live.

    • Amy says

      Thank you I enjoyed writing about it. I have seen a trend over the past 5 years of more people making conscious decisions instead of just going with what is the “norm.” It makes me happy to know that people are thinking about their options and making the choice that works best for them instead of just doing something because that’s what we do as Americans.

  2. says

    Hi Freedom and thank you so much for featuring Amy in this wonderful series!

    Amy – I thoroughly enjoyed your story and it mirrors my own in some aspects…especially the renting and academia aspects. And if I had little ones, I would most likely opt for home-schooling rather than go the “norm”.

    Thanks again you two and take care. All the best.

    lyle @ The Joy of Simple´s last blog post ..2014 – Time To “Git ‘er Done!”


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