How we did it

by | Daily Life, Haven, Us

RING BUMPing started so many years ago we don’t rightly remember. Decades wouldn’t be a lie. We do it for many celebratory reasons. Through more than two score and eight years of marriage we have lived, laughed, and loved.


Then Steve wanted to retire. Sitting in front of the TV all day was his goal. 

Dawn said, “NO. We are not going to rot in place!”

The new furnace replaced ‘The Beast’   the original boiler installed in 1910.

Our kitchen before the remodel. Many a good meal was cooked here. Ask Steve.

Episode 1

The big decision

We decided to seek advice and met with a financial planner. Through the magic of pie charts and investment strategies Charlie showed us we could accomplish a lifelong dream (well, my dream, which Steve later signed on for) of moving to Italy with one catch. We would have to sell our house. SELL OUR HOUSE?!?! We had the American dream! We couldn’t do that! That was crazy talk. The very thought made us queasy. 

That alone earned him the nickname UpChuck. And for awhile, every time we met with UpChuck, he would ask questions that made us crazier. 

We talked about it, and talked about it, and came around to thinking that that might not be a bad idea. Once we began to embrace the possibility of selling our house and his financial plan, he became good ole Charlie again. Thanks, Charlie.

We started prepping the house for sale: we put in a new heating system and remodelled the kitchen like I had dreamed about for 24 years. Bittersweet, still, a RING BUMP. We loved our home so much that we had several love it or list it moments. We could keep our home and still travel, right?

“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”

 ― Margaret Mitchell

We kept Dawn’s beloved Chambers stove. It was where her design started.

“But that shadow has been serving you!

What hurts you, blesses you.

Darkness is your candle. 

Your boundaries are your quest.

You must have shadow and light source both. 

Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.” 

― Rumi

Episode 2

Then I got real sick. Deathbed sick. 

It was a nightmare. I couldn’t breathe! My lips would turn blue just getting up the stairs (which I had to do every time I needed to use the bathroom.) I was using an inhaler three times a day. I couldn’t teach yoga any more. I was sleeping 20+ hours a day which was difficult while living in the midst of a kitchen remodel. I was so ill I lost about 30 pounds and ended up weighing about 107. When they couldn’t find my lungs on the x-ray, the hospital staff called in the Chief. They ordered an oxygen machine for the house, I had travel tanks with me whenever I went out, and I had to check my O2 levels on the hour. (Lung biopsy aren’t fun. GOT A STORY ABOUT THAT) After what seemed like ages, Dr. Z had his diagnosis: an autoimmune disease, sarcoidosis. Once the Chief diagnosed me, he put me on prednisone. 

That tiny little pill turned me into 10 ranch hands with insatiable appetites. I ballooned up to 180. The timing was terrible (although it made it much easier to get rid of clothes). We were trying to figure out what to do about Steve’s imminent retirement. When you get close to death, you tend to not hang onto things. That’s when we fully committed to selling everything and moving to Italy.

He’s a free man! To celebrate the first day of retirement Steve had his favorite breakfast eggs sardou at Sassafras.

Steve’s alter ego, the Kat.

Episode 3

Hurdles, hunger, and problem solving

Prednisone works wonders. We were constantly facing all types of obstacles. We had no idea how much effort and sacrifice it would take to turn our lives upside down. The timing was terrible. We were trying to figure out how to handle Steve’s imminent retirement. By this time, Steve was being feted by his office mates as his retirement day was coming up quickly. I started my treatment (prednisone) the day of his luncheon and dinner. The medicine worked quickly. So with travel oxygen tank in tow, I was delighted and grateful to attend Steve’s farewell tour. Judging by the heartfelt sentiments they expressed, his mates deeply love and respect him. He was going to be missed. It was clear that Steve loved and respected them as well. 25 years is a long time to work for the same company.

And then Steve was around. All the time. In the house. Around.

Since we decided to sell everything and move to Italy, questions arose: How does one sell 40 years of accumulated stuff and a house? Where we could live during our 8-month transition to Europe? A myriad of other challenges appeared as we moved toward our retirement dream. 

AN ASIDE: Turns out, Steve is the life of the party when routine isn’t weighing him down. Or when he isn’t trying to get out of work. Or napping. Or smoking a cigar. All he wants to do is go out for breakfast or lunch or go drive around. Other things, too, but we’re trying to keep this blog mostly PG.

Trust me when I say Steve is a charmingly handsome rascal who is way too much fun to resist for long.

Dawn’s kitchen Buddha has watched over her cooking since her Mom made it for her when she was 17. It is usually one of the last things she packs and the first to be unpacked. Yes. It’s here in Italy now.

Preparing for our estate sale. We’re both glad someone else was doing the heavy lifting. Plus it’s difficult to put a price on things that hold memories.

“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”

― John Maeda, The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life 

Episode 4

There’s catharsis is in the letting go then living large.

Did I mention that prednisone made me feel better? Instead of sleeping 20+ hours I was wide awake. Between a gentle home yoga practice, free flowing oxygen, and a mission, I got online and started searching for solutions. An estate sale company solved the first problem of what to do with our accumulation of stuff. Hiring the firm that helped us buy our house solved the second. Looking for an apartment that made it possible to walk around downtown Denver solved the third. 

We moved from our beloved home one day in June, and then celebrated our 42nd anniversary the next day at our new apartment. We selected Venice Ristorante & Wine Bar for our celebratory evening. 

The estate sellers were emptying closets, drawers, and pulling the sale together and our realtor was lining up cleaners and window washers. Condensing down to a tenth of “your stuff” meant a lot of letting go. Our home held our memories. We had overcome numerous hurdles. We were exhausted! Nonetheless, RING BUMP! Now Steve and I shared an apartment with a grocery store in the basement in the same neighbourhood as Coors Field and Union Station.Yeah. RING BUMP!

AN ASIDE: It was great fun getting to know Union Station and downtown Denver in a whole new way. Shout out to Snooze! We miss your pineapple upside down pancakes. And to Hopdaddy Burger Bar, too! Miss your fries.

Right: New apartments were springing up everywhere in this reclaimed part of town. Colorado embraced historic preservation and it opened up a boom in reclaiming what were once throwaway neighborhoods. That’s Union Station in the center.

Chicago is a toddlin’ town. This is where Route 66 starts.

First thing in the morning we headed over to the Italian Embassy in Chicago. We drowned them in paperwork and they gave us the OK!

We shared our plans with the hotel staff over breakfast. They were so enthusiastic with their well-wishes. When they learned of our success, they treated us some to celebratory champagne.

Steve had to say goodbye to his dream car. We traded dreams for dreams; the day of departure was coming.

“Happiness comes when you overcome the most impossible challenge”

– Unknown 

Episode 5

Drowning in paperwork and Lowes boxes.

We thought the transition to Europe, specifically Italy, wouldn’t be a problem. Then we met THE ITALIAN BUREAUCRACY. We discovered that one could not just go to Europe and hang around as long as one wanted. Look up the Schengen Agreement – it limits US citizens to 90 days in and then requires them to leave for 90 days. A big monkey wrench that kept revealing more monkey wrenches. We learned we needed a Visa. At first, we thought we could get it done with a friend of a friend who happened to be the head of the embassy in Denver. We soon learned that she only handled student visas and that we needed to go to the Italian Embassy in Chicago.

We foolishly thought we would have some downtime to visit family and friends and relax before our big move. But more hiccups kept coming.There was still stuff to move or give away. I don’t think that we lived in that apartment when there weren’t boxes in it. 

Most hiccups came from the Italian Embassy. Their convolutedly intricate application conjured up many tasks as we began the process. Guess what? First we needed to get fingerprinted by the FBI! Then we learned that birth certificates and marriage licenses can technically expire. New ones had to be obtained and notarised. We also needed financial documents to prove we could afford to live in Italy without being a burden to the state. EVERYTHING had to be apostled, and translated into Italian. We had to make an appointment and go to the Italian Embassy 90 days before our departure date with this gigantic pile of forms (the red thing). Before they issued a Visa we would have to buy the tickets to Italy. Bureaucracy demands its roundabouts.

The Italian Embassy won’t answer questions if they feel the answers are somewhere on their labyrinthine web site. But they did answer our most important question, they shared that they would only issue a visa for the length of our lease. We had a tentative offer to rent a flat for four months, but that wasn’t long enough and the landlord was not open to an official lease.

We got THAT plan-stopping email on Friday mid-September and panicked! We intended to look for a more permanent place in those first four months. After spending all day Saturday and part of Sunday looking for someone willing to take a risk on an unmet tenant who lives in America, the Universe brought us Marco. We had a few email exchanges, a brief phone call and we all decided to take a risk. Thanks to a determined effort, we finally had a signed and sealed lease (not easy in Italy), and had it in hand one week before our October appointment with the Embassy in Chicago.


Then all we had to do was to endure one more Colorado storm.

Three suitcases were all we were taking. We were determined to travel light into our new life.

The countdown was continuing. Departure was eminent. Saying goodbye is the hardest thing to do.

Hanging out at DIA. We were waiting for our plane. An Agent had stopped by to tell us that our one bag was way overweight. We told her our story and she not only waved off the overage, she also seated us in the emergency exit row. Like being in First Class!

“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye. Life will reward you with a new hello.”

– Paulo Coelho

Episode 6

Goodbyes and Ciao!

On January 22, 2016, we boarded a plane and took off for our new Italian home. Through all of this we boldly (but not without some trepidation) took each and every step with a focus on our goal. Nothing was allowed to derail us. Not even when we had to find a flat in Italy in two day’s time, signed a 3-year lease on that unseen flat, in an unexplored city, an ocean away from everything we knew. 

When our official guardian angel, Marco picked us up at the airport we knew everything would be allright. He has been our lifeline through each crazy, confounding step. He helped us get our Permesso, cell phone service, a bank card, and settled us into our new home. His amazing parents even helped us get on the Italian health exchange! 

The Universe manifested our desire to turn this chapter of our lives into a fairy tale of love, travel and new adventures. Then it topped it off with an amazingly talented friend who has our backs at every hurdle.


Now, five years later, we’ve been having the time of our lives. (Well, there was a plague … still.)

We’re here! So many new adventures lay ahead.