Monday, January 30, 2012

Thoughts from home

We're between destinations this week, so I've had some time to reflect on other things as I catch up with everything needing to be done at home.

In a blog last October I talked about priorities to guide my life, as opposed to goals, which were the driver for my first year of retirement. See the post here:

I identified my priorities as spirituality, health, community, purpose, and curiosity. I know those are the primary movers for me. But what I noticed recently is that I was working mainly in the areas of purpose and curiosity - in the #4 and #5 order of things - which I would have done anyway if I'd never made a list! And I was not working so much on the top three. And I was feeling restless.

So, while we were in Arizona, I considered what spirituality and health look like for me, and I got into the habit of a discipline for each of them, which I have now done every day for two weeks, usually before I attend to everything else in my day. And for community, #3, I made a commitment to see a friend, talk to a friend, email a friend, or blog my community, every day. So far that's working for me.

We leave on Wednesday for three weeks in Ecuador. We're doing a home exchange with an American couple who retired there from the east coast. I'm a little nervous about this trip, because it's the first time we've ever traveled internationally, except in a guided group, to a country where English is not widely spoken. I'm not too adventurous, either, so I've done a lot of reading and note taking. We'll be picked up at the Quito airport by a driver from our first-night hotel. We'll be picked up at the hotel the next morning by a driver from the town we're going to. And when we get to our house, there will be a large binder full of information. I'm thinking by that time my initial hesitation will have dissipated.

My next blog entry will be from South America!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Arizona thoughts

After two and a half weeks in Arizona - and going home tomorrow - we're seriously considering spending January and February here next year. It's been a beautiful, leisurely trip. In fact, I think it's been too much leisure for me. I'm ready for more to do.

I wish that weren't the case. I'd love to be able to say I'm most content living quietly at home. I'm actually better off when I have the chance to have people and activity around me.

In Sedona we took seven short hikes, just the two of us, in the first ten days. And then we had old friends come for three days. That was fun. Conversation, a day trip to the Grand Canyon, meals with company.
Grand Canyon, South rim

View from our Tucson condo

We looked at three possibilities for spending part of the winter in Arizona:

1. A large daylight basement studio apartment in Sedona. We met the owners and they'd be very glad to have us there. Advantages: lowest rent of all the places we explored - though not cheap; in Sedona, which we love. Disadvantages: Sedona is a year-round community, and for people like us coming in for a couple of months, we'd have to find our place. People are already living their lives there.

2. A manufactured home rental in Tucson Estates, on the northwest side of Tucson. We stayed in this 55-plus community for one night, with a couple we contacted through Evergreen Club. Advantages: midrange rent; lots to do; our friend would keep an eye out for rentals for us between now and then. Disadvantages: none, really, except it looks a lot like a 55-plus community and the manufactured homes are fairly close together - quite a contrast from our neighborhood at home, with its larger treed lots. About 60 percent of the population in the winter leaves in March or April, so we we'd have that in common with them.

3. A park model rental in Voyager RV resort, on the southeast side of Tucson. We spent yesterday with our old friends there, looking around. Advantages: enormous number of activities; multiple pools and ball courts. Very friendly people who walk right up to you and introduce themselves. Disadvantage: highest rent. About 90 percent of the population is winter-only people. This is the place I like best except for the rent.

The rent. But then I look at what we've done this year to get away from our Pacific Northwest winter: flew to Hawaii for ten days in December and rented a car to get around; flew to Arizona for 18 days and rented a car to get around; flying to Ecuador for three weeks and paying a driver to get around. We did Hawaii and Arizona using timeshares, and Ecuador is a home exchange. But still, when I consider airfare and car rental, the rent to stay in one place for two months doesn't sound as bad. Not to mention we'd go there once and stay.

I've realized quiet time is good, but I'm not a hermit. I need activities and people around me - and the option to participate.

Who would have thought we'd consider being snowbirds in Arizona?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Arizona happenings 3

We're still hiking one to three miles every day in Sedona. We sleep in, open the curtains onto Oak Creek, and read or work quietly until lunchtime. Right after we eat we choose a trail and take off. We're back by late afternoon for more quiet time.

On the Llama Trail.

On the path to Submarine Rock.

View from the Mystic Trail. I'll stick to the pathway, thanks!

An overcast day. We walked the Jordan Trail and the Cibola Pass Trail.

Yesterday, bright and sunny again. This is the Andante Trail.

Friends arrived yesterday, a college roommate of mine and her fiance. We drove to the top of Airport Butte at sunset for photos, then had dinner at Jose Cafe, our favorite place here in Sedona. Tomorrow we'll drive up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We leave for Tucson on Friday for three days before flying home on Monday the 23rd.

I logged into Amazon last night looking for my book. There are two reader comments! One is from a Seattle friend of mine but I don't know "Geezer", the author of the other one. I thought it might be my ex, who has referred to us all as geezers for the last 20 years, but my last name is misspelled, and I think he would get that right. So someone has read the book and thought enough of it to comment. It is oddly thrilling to see a positive comment out there.

There is a snowstorm in Seattle this week. I love snow. I wish I were there. Well, not really. I wish it had held off until we got back. Oh, well.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Arizona happenings 2

We have had sunny weather for a week now, and I am nowhere near bored with it. The opportunity to go outside and squint into sunshine, or put on hiking boots and go for a walk among Sedona's red rocks, or to watch a sunset (I am never up early enough to watch a sunrise, though I hear they are beautiful too) - is such a treat for this Pacific Northwesterner.

I'd avoided putting on my hiking boots since I hurt my back last May. But the doc I saw most recently said, "You had an injury. You're recuperating from the injury. Nerves take a long time to heal." Then he said the magic words. "Don't be afraid of your symptoms." He told me to do whatever I want. Even if the symptoms temporarily worsen, they'll go back to their baseline within hours, which is slow recovery.

So I put on my hiking boots for an introductory hike on Tuesday. We chose an easy trail - just 2.5 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of 400 feet. I stocked my daypack with water and trail mix and sunscreen. I collected my hat, a zip vest and a midweight hoodie. We found the parking area and set out.

At 4500 feet, I was breathing a little harder than usual for the first half mile or so, but then my body remembered how to work exercising at this altitude. We walked to the Coffeepot Rock formation, had a snack, and came back down. It was wonderful! Thanks to the doctor's words, I was encouraged to take that hike with no consequences.

We took another hike today, in a different area of Sedona. We were looking for the Llama Trail, one of many between Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek. Somehow we missed a trail marker and ended up on the Trail With No Name, where we wandered for a mile or so before coming upon a main trail again. Tomorrow we're going to make attempt number two to find the Llama Trail.

We're planning a hike every day for the next week. None of them have to be long. Our favorite is the 4.5-mile one around Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock. We've done it on two previous visits. These early ones are warmups. After all, I haven't been hiking recently, and I've got to get back in the groove.

I decided to resubmit my book manuscript to correct some typos I found after it was published. It costs more when you don't catch them before sending the manuscript in for the first time! I kick myself as I work my way through the book and find discrepancies (like "US" five times and "U.S." seventeen times, or like "Viet Nam" 50 times and "Vietnam" 9 times). I want this work to be the best it can be before I start sending it out to places that serve vets. As a friend pointed out, I want people to read about the vet's story, but the writer has to be credible. And with typos or inconsistencies that credibility is compromised. Arizona evenings are a good time to fix those things.

I looked up cost of living comparisons between Brier, Washington, which is where I live, and three Arizona cities: Tucson, Prescott, and Sedona. Not that we're thinking about moving; a winter destination is a more likely outcome once we've checked out all the places that look interesting and have sunshine in the winter. It turns out that Tucson is 31% cheaper than Brier, Prescott is 18% cheaper, and Sedona is about the same. That's surprising! I should probably check out Ecuador, too, since we'll be there next month for three weeks.

This bird was standing on its rock in front of our condo for half an hour this morning!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Arizona happenings

We've left the dark, rainy Pacific Northwest for 17 days in Arizona. We made a day trip to Houston in November to gather the last of the 20,000 miles we'd need to have our Alaska Airlines MVP status renewed for this year. And we were delighted to be upgraded to first class on our flight to Tucson. An MVP benefit on our first flight of the new year! How cool is that?

We'd made arrangements in Tucson to stay with a couple we contacted through Evergreen Club, an online network whose members are couples over 50 who travel and host other travelers. Nancy and John were most welcoming - we felt right at home immediately. They took us to a favorite restaurant in downtown Tucson where we spent nearly four hours eating and talking. In the morning they fixed us a hot breakfast and we took a walk through their 55+ community. We're now considering renting a place there for a couple of months next winter.

We now prefer Evergreen Club to Couchsurfing. Evergreen has an annual membership cost (about $65, I think), and a $15 nightly cost, per couple, paid to the hosting couple. We've had eight experiences with this group - two as travelers and six as hosts - and generally we find them to have values similar to ours. Couchsurfing, the other online group we belong to, is free to join and free to stay; we've hosted a single professional man and a pair of traveling German grad students, among others. We've only had one negative experience, but it was enough of a negative that we're considering dropping out of this group.

It's a four-hour drive from Tucson to Sedona, where we are now for the next couple of weeks. Here's a picture I took this morning from our bedroom balcony.

We bought a timeshare at Arroyo Roble Resort five years ago after trading into this resort with a week from another timeshare. We liked the place so much we looked around for an after-market week. You're entitled to use of the resort for seven days a year, but in the months of January and February, you can string together last year's and this year's weeks and get two weeks. Which we've done three times now. It's like living in Sedona for two weeks. We've explored most of the area on previous visits, so this time we'll be mostly walking and reading and hanging out. I love that the sun comes over the rock outside our condo, and that we can hear Oak Creek just outside.

The day we left home, 30 complimentary copies of our book were delivered. We'll be sending some of them to Veterans Administration clinics in Washington and Oregon, suggesting that the counselors read them and perhaps recommend them to the vets they counsel. In Seattle there's a group for vets of each war. We want to reach all vets, but especially those from Viet Nam, and sending a copy to the clinics was suggested by a former clinician who's read the book. Since we're in Sedona and the books are in Washington, I've made arrangements with a friend to ship them to the clinics for me. So here I am, in Sedona, on a sunny day, writing letters to 11 VA clinicians, which I'll attach to an email to my friend. I love how technology helps us. On the other hand, the technology means I stay busy even when sitting in the sun. Oh, well! I can live with that.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Bag Lady and the Former Tenant

I evicted my tenant the week before Christmas. We'd been in Hawaii for ten days, and she was living in our house rent free, tasked with caring for our cat, the mail, the paper, and the plants - and with notifying us when the first complimentary copy of our book arrived. When we arrived home, the cat was fine, but the rest of the tasks hadn't been done. She apologized, saying she'd been very busy with new part-time jobs, but it was the last straw for me. I asked her to leave - and she did, the next morning, for her brother's house. The last two loads to her car were in plastic trash sacks.

I usually try to look at the part I'm playing when there's a conflict. In this case, it occurred to me that the tenant reminded me of my own fear of being a bag lady. To me that meant poverty and homelessless, and it led me to minimize risks in my life whenever possible. These days I'm pretty sure I'll be okay, so I'm willing to be a little more of a risk taker.

The tenant is a free spirit about my age, widely traveled, a teacher and actress who likes to live without being tied down. Living in various places and picking up jobs catch as catch can appears to appeal to her. But it's risky. If she gets evicted by a person like me, she may have to leave the house with the last of her belongings in a plastic sack. A bag lady of sorts.

We met on a website for travelers who provide free lodging for each other. She had cared for house and cat a couple of times before. We'd made arrangements for her to stay with our cat in January when we'll be in Arizona. But I considered the omissions and decided to ask a friend to stay at our house. I let the former tenant know with a couple of weeks' notice. She was surprised and angry in an email to me, and she posted a negative reference on my page on the travelers' website. It took a couple of days for me to respond in a neutral way, being as factual as I could. But that reference remains, with a neutral rather than a negative rating, on both our profile pages.

Now I'm looking at accountability. A good friend tells me to let it go and move on, that not everyone is going to like me. And I am doing that. Still, I feel a bit victimized, my reputation besmirched by someone who's angry with me. On the other hand, when you belong to a travelers' website that offers free lodging, you take a risk. Or when you state your mind and hold others accountable.

I took that risk, didn't I? And now I'm moving on.