Monthly Archives: April 2013

De-Possession of Clutter

by Keith Turner on April 30, 2013

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The Declutter of Possessions Party was a success.  I have moved many times.  It feels like there is so many more things to deal with than in times past.  In the past if there was things I did not want to deal with I would put them in a box, tape the box shut, and often the box would never get unpacked.  If I happened to look into the box I would often find if full of junk.

Vanim and I were able to socialize with our friends.  In the process we sold or gave away things.  The best part about the party was socializing with people and meeting people I had never met before.  Everyone left with something that they needed or wanted.  We even got to know one of our neighbors better.

A couple of days ago I watched a documentary called Happy directed by Roko Belic on Netflix.  One of the people interviewed talked about studies that looked at extrinsic goals and intrinsic goals.  Those with intrinsic goals were much happier then those with extrinsic goals.  Helping others, feeling good about what you do, being social are all intrinsic things.  Everything I own is all extrinsic things that can be measured in some tangible way and yet are not adding significantly to my happiness in life.

In The Minimalists blog post for today “You Are What You Desire” they touch upon this issue.  They write “we desire the meaningful experiences and the stuff. But usually the latter gets in the way of the former. That is, too often our material desires get in the way of a more meaningful life.” The extrinsic things in life often interfere with the more valuable intrinsic things.  The Declutter of Possessions party was a success because of the intrinsic things we recieved.  The good feelings of helping others and the good feelings of socializing with our friends, those things that can not be quantified or measured.

 

image of cats sleeping on chairs
Maggie & Seth tired after a morning of party preperation

Declutter Possesions Party

by Keith Turner on April 27, 2013

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image of shelves with books and videos

Van came up with a great idea to pass on many of the items that we can no longer keep.  Tomorrow we are having a party at our apartment where we can pass on or sell our things.  He has created a Facebook event.  Here is what he posted:

Van, Keith, Seth, & Maggie are moving to a land far, far away. They want to meet a lot of people they’re gonna miss. And they can’t really take everything with them so they are offering up a lot of their stuff as things their friends might want. So this Saturday, when almost everyone is done with their semesters they are having a “come socialize, bring some beer or wine, and buy or take (depending on what it is) stuff home with you”-event. Does it sound like fun?”

I have tried in the last couple of months to sell things on KSL or on Craigslist.  It has not been a positive experience   I had two people who tried to con money out of me.  I had three people who wanted to trade an lesser value item for a more valuable item.  I had someone who attempted to steal my couch.  I really did not like having to answer questions about my personal belongings that I had listed online. It felt like my personal space was being violated.

I have to confess that I am not a deeply committed capitalist.  I am never comfortable attaching a dollar value to things.  I find that there is often an intrinsic value that can not be quantified by money.  In the post “Objects of My Possession” I wrote Upon returning to Utah the first apartment I moved into I had a suitcase of clothes, a blanket, and a pillow.  Everything else that ended up in that apartment was given to me by someone else.  When I had nothing it showed up and now is my opportunity to return the favor.  To be able to contribute to my friends in meaningful ways makes more sense to me than trying to extract the maximum amount of money for everything I own that I need to get rid of.

If you would like to come to our Declutter Possessions Party, please do come.  It will be fun.  No one will leave with empty hands.

Time: Saturday April 27, 2013 3:00 p.m. till whenever
Place: 545 W 500 N Apt 5
Salt Lake City, UT 84116


Moving with Cats

by Keith Turner on April 26, 2013

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image of cats in carriers
Maggie and Seth trying out their new carriers

Moving Maggie and Seth with Vanim and I when we move to Sweden at first looked like a pretty simple task.  We understood that we needed a health certificate from our veterinarian ten days or less from the date of travel.  They also needed to be microchipped.   There were a few other items that we were unaware of which proved to be major issues and have required us to rethink our original plans.

It all started out when I read that some European cities require advanced notice of your pet’s arrival   Copenhagen just happens to be one of those cities.  The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services has the information that we needed.  Guess when I discovered this information? TODAY!  Below is the information that we previously missed in our less than detailed search for answers.

Microchip implantation must occur PRIOR to rabies vaccination. Any rabies vaccination that occurs prior to microchip implantation is not considered valid regardless of whether the animal was up-to-date on its previous rabies vaccines. In this case, the animal must be revaccinated.”

You can also find similar information at the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.  If the cats were going to travel with Van then we needed to have them micro-chipped and a new rabies no later than 21 days before traveling.   It turns out that even though the cats are current on all their vaccinations it is not considered valid because they did not have microchips at the time.  After a call the the Federal veterinarian from the United States Department of Agriculture in Utah I was able to get even more information about exporting our pets to the European Union including the requirement that they have to put their stamp of approval on the health certificates or the certificates will not be accepted by any European Union country.

The consequences of this are both more money and more time in travel for Maggie and Seth.  The first leg of the trip is on United.  They require that the pet arrive two hours before the plane leaves.  Their facility in Salt Lake City that deals with pets opens at 6:00 a.m.  My plane leaves at 7:41 a.m.  The facility is not open on Sunday.  So in order for them to arrive at the Washington Dulles International Airport on time for me to check them into my flight on SAS they have to leave on Saturday.  They will fly to Texas where they will stay at a kennel for two days. On Monday morning they will be flown to Washington where I will pick them up.

I am usually better at researching and finding relevant information.  This is a case where I failed to do my due diligence.  The definition of due diligence according to the investopedia website is: 1. An investigation or audit of a potential investment. Due diligence serves to confirm all material facts in regards to a sale.  In this case I failed to do the proper investigation into the requirements to export my pets to Europe and all the material facts involved.

Lesson learned.

Earth Day and My Birthday

by Keith Turner on April 24, 2013

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image of flowering plum
Flowering Plum

Yesterday Earth Day turned 43 and today I turned 41.  Seven months ago I decided to stop driving my car and use public transportation.  This required that I changed my lifestyle.  For me this is what Earth Day is all about.  To change my life in ways that allows me to be more responsible for my actions and how my actions affect the Earth.  For some people relying upon public transportation is not an option.  Each of us though can contribute to a better Earth in our own little way.  For me it made both economic sense and fit better with the kind of lifestyle I wanted to life.

I looked at the cost of driving my car a year ago.  I own my car and therefore did not have any car payments.  I spent $233.76 in gas, insurance cost $54.15, and if I average out the total payments in repairs that adds another $114 to the cost.  That brought my total cost to operate the car to $401.91 for the month of April last year.  This month I spent $83.75 on my bus pass.  That was my total transportation bill for a saving of $318.16 compared to last year.

According to American Forests in their article A Carbon Conundrum a car released an average of 17.68 pounds of carbon for every gallon of gas burned.  Last year in April I estimated that I released 1,180.85 pounds of carbon into the air.  I am reducing my carbon footprint by using public transportation.  If you want more specific formulas for calculating carbon emissions for yourself can find them on the EPA web site (United States Environmental Protection Agency).  You can also find a carbon emissions calculator there as well.

image of north temple TRAX stop

Since I have stopped driving my car life has slowed down.  I no longer feel I am rushing from place to place.  I now notice things around me that I use to just see in passing or miss completely.  While riding the bus to work or back home I have time where I can contemplate life, study Swedish, or read a book.  I walk a lot more allowing me to enjoy the environment around me, enjoy the  fresh air and get some exercise.

There are things I miss about not driving.  Public transportation is not the prefect solution, but I have yet to find a perfect solution for anything in life.  This is something I have chosen to do because it enhances my life more then it detracts from my life.  I am doing something to help lower my impact on the earth.

What are you doing if anything to contribute to a better Earth?  If not what small contribution can you make to a better Earth?

image of yellow tulips
Yellow Tulips

Swedish On My Brain

by Keith Turner on April 23, 2013

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Image of Swedish flag

The other day a friend was over and requested I say something in Swedish. “Jag talar svenska un lite grann” I said. There it was the Spanish un seeping into my Swedish when what I should have said Jag talar svenska lite grann (I speak Swedish a little). When I was in high school, college, and university I took Spanish classes. Now that I am trying to teach myself Swedish all those Spanish words that I forgot are swirling in the sea of this new language I am trying to acquire The place in my brain where Spanish is stored is the same place that my brain is putting Swedish. At first it was very difficult to put barriers between the two. Sometimes I felt like my brain was going to explode as both languages were continually colliding together.

While responding to Van’s sister on Facebook once I wrote Jag talar svensak lite gran which means I speak Swedish a little spruce. I have said roof when I meant thanks, and wall when I meant road. I am forever struggling to pronounce the Å Ä Ö. I have asked what tree (ett träd) is so many times that it is almost becoming a joke. And yet I have no problem remembering jag älskar dig (I love you).

I bought Complete Swedish a teach yourself guide but was having difficulty connecting to the format of the material. I discovered online an older version of the United States Foreign Institutes Swedish language course which worked better with my learning style. (The web site that was hosting it has disappeared so recently I had to download it from BitTorrent). I have discovered www.svt.se which is Sweden’s television network. I try to watch Sydnytt every day, the new station for Skåne County where I will be living. Sometimes I can even get the basic gist of the subject matter being discussed.

Even though my brain feels like a war zone at times between Swedish and Spanish I am exercising my brain muscle. It feels as if my brain might actually become stronger. Perhaps this time I may acquire proficiency in another language besides English. Now if only I could learn to speak cat but at last Alexandra Seller,s book How to Speak Cat an essential primer of cat language only resulted in me making silly noises, laughing hysterically and getting strange looks from my cats.

 Image of cats Maggie and Seth

 

Bought by Brett Childress

by Keith Turner on April 22, 2013

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“Bought” t-shirt
Bought is a performance art piece by Brett Childress.

On Friday April 19, 2013 I attended the annual University of Utah’s Bachelor of Fine Art exhibit along with the Alternative show.  Brett was doing a performance art piece which I participated in.  It fit very nicely into my last two blog posts about objects.  He posted his video of it on YouTube.  Prompted by Van I felt a need to contribute to the discussion.

I rarely if ever consider the consequences of what I purchase.  I joke about shopping at Walmart and loosing part of my soul.  Often employees of Walmart are not paid well and struggle with the basic costs of living.  Yet I still find justification to shop there.  I never think about who makes the objects I purchase or what conditions they are made in.

In my conversations with Van he has told me that a store like Walmart would not do well in Sweden.  According to him Swedish people in general would not support Walmart because it does not provide a wage equivalent to a basic standard of living to its employees.  This is not a hate Walmart post. Walmart would not exist if we the costumers did not support it.

I can not change the world.  I can however change how I interact with the world.  As I start to change my relationship with the objects that are in my life it is time I start thinking about where and how those objects are made. I would encourage you to watch the video (http://youtu.be/Z2A48gGCj_I) and then find a way to continue this conversation.

Demon Possessions – more decluter

by Keith Turner on April 22, 2013

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IMG_1222

I have been through this process before. When I moved last year I took three truck loads to the local thrift store as well as a number of things that ended up in the dumpster. Ten years ago I was introduced to the work of Karen Kingston and her book Clear Your Clutter with Fung Shui by a good friend. At that time in my life I started to see a connection to my life and the clutter accumulating in my life. I have begun seen clutter as an outward expression of my inner world. For ten years I have been in the process to declutter my life only to find that it is full of clutter again. I have really taken a serious looked at the relationship I have with the things and objects I keep accumulating in my life, that is until yesterday

 

With each object I am selling, giving away or throwing away I have asked myself what is my relationship to this particular object. So far I have identified three different relationships I have with the objects and things in my life. I might need this thing or object someday so I hang onto it. I have a memory that is associated with the object or thing that I do not want to forget. And last of all the object is something I use in an activity that I really enjoy.

I might need something someday so I hang onto it. Most of the objects in this category were not even fit to give away and should have been thrown away when their usefulness ended. I had a pair of dress shoes that had holes in the soles and were no longer fit to wear. This is a relationship about the fear of scarcity, that I will never have enough.

I have a memory that is associated with the object that I do not want to forget. I would like to believe that I will never forget those memories but I know better. I have worked in nursing homes before and seen many old people that have very little memory before they pass on. Once again this relationship to objects is based in fear, a fear of loss.

The object is something I use in an activity that I really enjoy. It is not the object that I enjoy but the activity that the object is used in. In this case the relationship has been one of misplaced connection. The true relationship is in doing things I love.

Consumerism has become a demon that haunts me. It consumes me with my possessions. Understanding my relationship to objects and things helps exorcize the demons from my life. This is the beginning of shift from the perspective of objects possessing me to one of me having objects for a specific purpose.

Objects of My Possession -Declutter

by Keith Turner on April 20, 2013

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Today’s subject to declutter my life of possessions is a bit more mundane.  But it is a subject that currently looms large in my life .  It comes with it this vast emotional landscape, one that I had not really been conscious of until confronted with the reality of what I posses and how it possesses me.  I will be returning to this subject in future posts. It has become apparent that I have a strong emotional attachment to my things. It is not something I will resolve in just one day.  When I fist decided to move to Sweden I tried to figure out a way to move most of my possessions with me.  I ran into two problems the first being the cost. It is extremely expensive to shipping anything to Europe.
The second is the matter of where I would store things until we had our own place to live. I am learning that Sweden is not full of storage units unlike America. I was determined to keep all my things and ship them to Sweden.  Vanim kept asking me where are we going to store all of these things while we are living with his mother.  We will just put it in a storage unit I would reply.  Vanim explained to me a few times that store units were not very common in Sweden. I finally accepted the idea. Even if I was able to get my things to Sweden it would be an enormous challenge to find a storage unit where we could keep them.
Perhaps the two realities have finally collided together. I have finally accepted the limitations of my financial resources. That means that anything I bring to Sweden will have to come with me on the plane. That creates quite the limitation and the requirement to declutter my life.
This is not a new concept in my life.  I moved to Atlanta for almost six months in 2005.  I left Utah with very little and I returned with even less.  Upon returning to Utah the first apartment I moved into I had a suitcase of clothes, a blanket, and a pillow.  Everything else t was given to me by someone else.  I was able to survive just fine with very little.
What I have noticed though is that my relationship with things and objects has not really changed.  As my dissatisfaction with the consumer culture I live in has continued to grow I have done very little to take myself out of it.  I find great difficulty in letting objects go even though I try regularly to declutter my life. It usually amounts to nothing more than just staying on top of the enormous amount of things that find their way into my life.
The time I have spend going though my things deciding what to keep and what to get rid of usually fills me with anxiety. It becomes an exhausting process.  Realizing that most of the objects I have been keeping have been tied to a memory is a big breakthrough.  Since than I came across a website called The Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Reading their posts have started to give me some more insight into this anxiety I have been confronting as I start to declutter the things that possess me.
In their essay called Decluttering Doesn’t Work Like That they write  “When you get rid of the vast majority of your possessions, you’re forced to confront your darker side: Why did I give so much meaning to material possessions? What is truly important in life? Why am I discontent? Whom is the person I want to become? How will I define my own success?”  Today is a Saturday and now it is time to dive into my darker side and confront my demon possessions.   

Immigration and the Boston Marathon Bombings

by Keith Turner on April 20, 2013

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Because the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings were war refugees of Chechen ethnicity, immigration and terrorism have once again collided in the public discourse and the political landscape.  Some members of the Senate Judiciary committee used the events in Boston in what sounded like an attempt to derail the current immigration bill.  There is this implied notion that proper immigration legislation could and would have prevented this tragedy from happening.  I began exploring that notion and this post is about my explorations of this notion and the twisting path that it lead me down.

I concluded relatively early in my research that  this notion of having “proper” immigration laws would protect us from would be terrorists, in this particular case is false and misleading at best.  The very fact that they were war refugees and immigrated to the United States as asylum seekers before they were adults suggests to me that no legislation would have prevented the Boston Marathon bombings. The International Business Times has a basic timeline of the lives of the suspects Tamerlan and Dzhakar Tsarnaev which I found helpful.

The Washington Post blog post by Max Fisher gives a simple basic overview of the Chechnya and Dagestan region where the Tsarnaev brothers were from.  I found a little bit more in-depth history of the area up to 2000 in an article The Chechen Refugees by Johanna Nichols in the Berkeley Journal of International Law.  As the media and public conversations try to grapple with why these two suspects planted the bomb in the first place I have found in the midst of this a heartbreaking story of a group of people continually forced to immigrate either by government mandate or war.

This whole concept of immigration has started to take on a more complex and nuanced life for myself.  In the past immigration was just a blip on the historical radar.  At different points in history one of my ancestors immigrated to American culminating in me.  The only physical connection I had to immigration was as a young child with my great-grandfather who immigrated from England as a young child himself.  Something I did not know until I was much older and he had passed on.  I am choosing to immigrate to another country.  This is a choice based out of love of another person and out of the love of adventure.  On the other hand the Tsarnaev family was forced to immigrate along with many other Chechen people.  What are the effects of forced immigration?

A few years back I was nominated to be a delegate for the Utah State Democratic party in my voting precinct along with two other people.  We were each asked questions by other people in the precinct who were present.  One of the questions was my view about immigration.  It was at that moment that I realized I had either a for or against attitude.  I was unable to articulate a clear position on immigration that I truly believed in.  All that I could think of was news media sound bites.

When I hear the current rhetoric coming from politicians it leads me to see them as ignorant as I was a few years back.  Fear sells. Connecting the Boston Marathon bombings to immigration sells the fear of immigration.  It effectively derails a meaningful discussion about immigration if we buy into this fear.  Immigration is a human endeavor.  For immigration to be a human process I propose it requires us to get past the either for or against media soundbites and actually become educated about immigration and its effects.

Introduction – How immigration is affecting me!

by Keith Turner on April 20, 2013

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In December of 2012 it become clear that my partner Vanim Zetreus, would have to return home to Kristianstad, Sweden.  He is currently here in a student visa. So January 8, 2013 I submitted my application to become a resident of Sweden to Migrationsverkets which is the Swedish Migration Board. They handle immigration and residency applications.

Because Van and I have an established relationship and one that can be recognized by the Swedish government I am able to immigrate to Sweden.  It would not be possible under current U.S. law for Van to obtain a work visa or residency status here in the U.S. based on our established relationship.  We live in a state where same sex couples are not allowed to get married. Even if we were legally married under U.S. Federal law we would not qualify as married under the definition of spouse because of DOMA .

 From the Travel.State.Gov web site defining a spouse for purposes of immigration to the United States.

What Is a “Spouse”?

A spouse is a legally wedded husband or wife.

  • Merely living together does not qualify a marriage for immigration.
  • Common-law spouses may qualify as spouses for immigration purposes depending on the laws of the country where the common-law marriage occurs.
  • In cases of polygamy, only the first spouse may qualify as a spouse for immigration.
  • Same-sex marriages are not recognized by immigration law for the purpose of immigrating to the U.S.

Immigration has become a big issue in both Sweden and the United States in the last few years.  Anti-immigrant sentiment has become stronger.  The United States Senate is currently debating a new immigration bill called “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity & Immigration Modernication Acto of 2013“.  The Human Rights Campaign in a email two days ago stated “by amending the immigration reform bill with UAFA, the same protections given to opposite-sex binational couples will be given to same-sex couples. Simple as that.”  Immigration issues and issues of equality for LGBT community have collided together.  A headline for the USA Today Senator: Boston terror case reframes immigration debate.

Those aforementioned parts of immigration are just part of the complications that surround the issues of immigration and the immigrant here in America.  The issue of immigration is also part of the Swedish political landscape of which I am just beginning to understand. I am now becoming one person in the sea of immigrants that have changed the landscape of nations and the world and will continue to do so as long as humans continue to immigrate.  It is my intention to provide my perspective on the various issues I run into through the process of immigration and integration in my new home country.

I had considered doing this blog for a couple of months but keep deciding against it.  Yesterday Kat Phillpotts shared an article in Scientific American by Maria Konnikova “Why grad schools should require students to blog.”  After reading this article I felt encouraged to share my experiences and thoughts about my new adventure in life.  So thank goes out to Kat Phillpotts and Maria Konnikova.  I also owe thanks to my writing group The Tip Top Tellers of Tall Tales for their encouragement and the fun times we have had together in our writing and non-writing adventures.