Alysha St. Germain was in Idaho babysitting her niece and nephew when she received the phone call that would change her life forever. Her husband Pete had just returned home in November 2011 from deployment in the Middle East, where he was a U2 aircraft maintainer for the United States Air Force. Alysha was a stay at home Mom to their two young children, Isabella and Lucas. They were only married a few years and had purchased their first home, a 1950’s era house that Alysha had been remodeling in his absence. He was finally home from the service, and life was supposed to get easy as their little family settled into their new life together. But with that one phone call, everything changed. Pete was diagnosed one month after he returned home, with stage IV cancer. Within 15 tumultuous months, Pete was gone. He was 32 years old.
Pete and Alysha met on line in 2006 and they just knew they were meant to be together even though Pete was from Massachusetts and she was from California.
“Pete and I just clicked,” says Alysha. “We were best friends. He adored me to the moon and back. He proposed in a hot air balloon over Napa Valley. I knew I wanted to be his wife and the best wife possible.”
Family was important to them, and they both loved outdoor activities and travel. They had lived abroad in Abu Dhabi, Pete went trekking in Nepal, climbed mountains and was always active. Despite their adventuresome spirit, they both knew they wanted to settle their family in the United States.When his daughter Izzy was born she was the apple of his eye and he was a great Dad. Having returned home to northern California, they were ready to settle in to a new kind of normal. But learning of Pete’s diagnosis and then losing him changed everything.
“It was a total shock, the biggest shock of my life,” says Alysha. “I knew I needed to be with my kids (now 3 and 5 years old). I was a stay at home mom and after he passed, I needed to be there for them.”
She had always been a purger, clearing clutter and excess stuff with ease, while she describes Pete as a “hoarder.” He liked his stuff. Clutter stressed her out and she had learned to really evaluate what her honest to goodness needs were. She came across the tiny house movement on Pinterest, a web based tool for “collecting and organizing things that inspire.” She had the opportunity to meet up with Tammy Strobel, who it turned out went to the same high school as Alysha. Tammy is an author, photographer and blogger at RowdyKittens.com, and one of a growing number of people who are part of a tiny house movement who are living in small spaces in an effort to live large in other ways.Tammy, her husband Logan and their cats, live happily in a 128 square foot house. She invited Alysha to see her alternative dwelling place and Alysha liked what she found.
“They’re incredible,” says Alysha about the tiny homes. “I was blown away by the finished product. It was way bigger than I imagined. Some people don’t think they can live in a tiny space but you totally can.”
With some reservation and a determination to be close to her children, she ordered an Ynez model tiny house from the Oregon Cottage Company (www.OregonCottageCompany.net). She first checked references, fell in love with the design and was attracted to the price, which is listed on the company’s website for $39,000. It didn’t take long before their new home was delivered, fully built on a trailer and ready to use. But these are not your grandmother’s mobile homes. This one was just over 200 square feet including the sleeping loft, filled with style, character, lots of windows and all the modern conveniences a mother could want including a tub/shower and washer/dryer. Alysha made arrangements to settle in her parents back yard at a time when being close to family was a comfort she welcomed. She hooked up her electric and water connections to their house and uses an RV cleanout for the sewer connection. Her greatest challenge has been working out naptime but the kids have gotten used to it and enjoy their loft space.
“It’s all about being together with my kids,” says Alysha. “Life has been in turmoil over the past 15 months. I was the caregiver to Pete. They saw lots of babysitters. I needed to reconnect with my family.”
Within a month of Pete’s passing, Alysha began writing a blog at www.anintentionalfuture.com, where she sought to inspire people who are grieving to celebrate life again. She encourages people in similar situations with this from her blog: “There are those of us that choose to not allow loss to steal our life. We continue to persevere in the face of loss; not only by not succumbing to the devastation of loss, but by using it as in impetus to live well…It is my hope to ignite a passion within the grieving to use their trials as a means to do great things. We are far more than our circumstance. I hope you’ll join me in redefining loss.”
For Alysha, it’s all about living intentionally and living in a small space enables her to do just that. She offers a few lessons on her blog about what living large in a tiny space has taught her:
• It is a lot easier than expected.
• It reminds me that we have everything we need and then some.
• We are more connected.
• We spend a lot less time shopping.
• We spend a lot more time just “being.”
In October of 2013, a widower on the east coast, stumbled upon Alysha’s blog and “fell in love,” according to her. By December Dave had proposed and they married in June of this year. This new family of four, outgrew Alysha’s tiny house and although she is keeping it, they are currently exploring new ways to downsize and live tiny on the east coast.
“I will definitely continue to pursue my blog as grieving is still a huge part of both our lives.
Just like with Pete, when you know, you know.” says Alysha. “It’s quite obvious that God has a plan.”
“People think life is done when they lose someone important to them. They need to know there is hope. And that God has so many good things in store for them. It is an opportunity for people to see it is possible to grieve differently. Life is unpredictable and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Focus on what matters most today and stay true to yourself.”