Saturday, February 23, 2013

Watching out for each other

We leave Tucson in five days. I've said the first of my goodbyes with a promise to be back next year. But I've been seeing this RV resort a little differently in the last couple of weeks, as our departure approached.

Lots of physical activity, as much as I want. Swimming, walking, dancing. Lots of mental activity, also as much as I want. Discussion groups about current events and about foreign policy. Conversations with people of varying political opinions. And lots of social activity, as much as I want. Dinners with new friends, outings with people I've known for years, dances with groups.

At this resort, we're all ages from 55 up. Some of us are even younger, if we live with someone who's 55. Some of us are in our 80s or even 90s. We are a community, a neighborhood. And we watch out for each other. The staff is here to serve us, their customers. They are not here to take care of us.  

Yesterday I was picking up the mail and a much older woman smiled at me and started talking about the weather. Always a good starter topic, but especially since it snowed here three days ago. I smiled and listened. And the day before yesterday we were reading the "park models for sale" ads on the bulletin board. An older man said, "See anything interesting?" Then he pointed at one of the ads. "That's my place. Want to take a look? I have the key with me." So we did. We walked three blocks with the man and looked at his park model. Beautiful little place, very clean, very inexpensive. We actually considered it, even though we're not looking to buy. It was such a nice little place, and the man wanted us to buy it. He told us he had lived in it with his wife, but he was a widower now and lives with his "lady friend".

Three Sundays ago, we were walking home and came upon an older couple who'd left the church service early because the man wasn't feeling well. He thought he might be coming down with the flu so said he was going to lie down. I felt a twinge of concern, but didn't think much more about it until today. On the community bulletin board was an announcement of a "celebration of life" being held this afternoon for a man. I'm almost sure the last name was the same as the one on the sign in front of the house the couple went into that Sunday. When we went by this afternoon, a car was stopped in front of the park model, and a woman was coming down the stairs. I thought she might have dropped off a casserole for a new widow. But again, I'm not sure.

In this place, people watch out for each other. Like in a neighborhood at home where people aren't gone to work all day. Like maybe they used to, in places we lived in when we were younger, or when we lived in small towns instead of cities and suburbs.

I talked yesterday to the woman who leads my swimming class. She was using the resort's wifi when we were leaving the cafe after breakfast. I hardly recognized her with her street clothes on! I told her we were leaving next week and she said, "I will miss you, Linda. I hope you'll be back next year." I said we would. 

Art and I are beginning to think about where we want to live when we get older. In the house where we raised our kids? In a smaller place closer to public transportation? In a 55-plus community or an independent living facility? Someplace else?

I want to live in a place that's a community, where we watch out for each other. So we'll be coming back to Tucson, to this winter neighborhood.  For the rest of the year? Time will tell, I guess.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Snowbird and the Bag Lady

We're six weeks in to our first snowbird winter. We leave our Tucson RV resort in two weeks. I am feeling nostalgic already.

I have made friends here while doing activities I like. When I walk up to get the mail I usually see a familiar face. I notice people on bicycles and remind myself we will be bringing ours down next year. Thanks to swimming three mornings a week and dancing a couple of times a week and all the walking I do around the resort, I am in better shape physically than I was when I got here.

I did a presentation in one of my discussion groups yesterday and have been asked to moderate the group next week, and "Will you consider being the permanent moderator for the group next year if you and Art come back?" I have taken a walk with a distraught woman whose feelings got hurt in a heated current events discussion.  See, I'm being useful. My mediation training, taken in Washington State, is coming in handy in Tucson.

Our mail is being forwarded, so I'm keeping up with bills and business. I have my laptop, so I'm able to  do my internet stuff and blog. I have my Kindle and all the magazines I brought along.

We're not on vacation, is what I'm seeing. We're living here in the winter. There's a difference.

The Bag Lady has some thoughts about this situation. She knows it's expensive to rent a park model in high season. But the Bag Lady approves of this expense, because the sunshine is so healthy for my spirit that I'm not taking any homeopathic supplements for seasonal affective disorder, I'm getting the exercise I need, and best of all I'm not worrying about ailments, real or imaginary. All these good things mean less money spent on medically-related stuff.

The Bag Lady also notes that I have not bought an espresso since January 2, on our way out of Reno. My daily espresso at home is a big budgetary item. I have not missed it. My husband Art makes good coffee, and for some reason, here in Arizona, I do not feel a pressing need to walk or drive to an espresso stand. No matter that it's eight miles to the nearest Starbucks.

The Bag Lady also sees that in the last six weeks we have eaten dinner in a restaurant only three times. As compared to two or three times a week at home. We're living very locally here, and there's time to cook.

The Bag Lady observes that, though I brought more than a suitcase full of clothes, I am wearing less than half of them. It's been unseasonably cool in Arizona this year, so I've worn jeans almost every day, with assorted T-shirts. Life is casual at our RV resort. I do laundry three times a week here - right after I get home from swimming I toss my bathing suit and towel into the washer and add whatever laundry needs doing. Forget the sorting into whites and colors, cotton and permanent press. With laundry getting done that often, I need only a couple of outfits. No trips to Chico's for me, no ordering from LLBean online. I'm good with what I've got.

At home we have two cars and a pickup. We need both cars because our activities are often at the same time, in different directions on the freeway. Here we have one car and we share, using less gas.

The Bag Lady's observations are being confirmed by the amount being charged this month on our credit card. We put almost all our spending on the card and pay it off each month to get the air miles. This month the bill is lower than in recent memory.

I think about the park model rental. It is cheaper than we'd spend on a month-long vacation.

It's a matter of perspective. So the Snowbird and the Bag Lady can be friends.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

What I'm not doing as a Snowbird

We've been in Tucson for five weeks now. We leave in three more. Time is going faster than I wish for. I've talked about my activities as a first-year snowbird. What I haven't talked about is what I'm not doing. Here's a list.

1. Playing cards and games. Offerings here include bingo, bridge, bunco, canasta, cribbage, Mexican Train dominoes, euchre, mah jongg, poker, pinochle and scrabble. I have played everything but bunco at one time or another, but not here for some reason. Maybe it's because they're evening activities, and I like to be home then. I heard some ladies in my morning swim class talk about someone winning both blackout prizes at bingo the night before. How wonderful for them, I thought, with no desire to buy a couple of cards next week.

2.  Doing arts and crafts. I could do calligraphy, ceramics, glass fusion, lapidary, machine embroidery, oil painting, quilting, scrapbooking, silver craft, stained glass, watercolor, wire wrap, woodcarving or woodshop. Thinking about most of these makes me feel like curling up in the fetal position. Actually, next year I may try Watercolor for Absolute Beginners, but even that is a little iffy. I'm probably a pre-Absolute Beginner, and I don't think there's a class with that title.

3. Ballroom dancing, clogging or square dancing. I figure line dancing and two-step dancing is enough.

4. Playing pickleball. It looks like a fun game, really, but I haven't signed up for some reason. It's quite popular, and I'd need to play with strangers at first. Most of the players I see are lithe and trim and I am not. Besides, I take a beta blocker for blood pressure and it slows my heart. I wonder if I have enough lung capacity for all that running around. I can use my husband's knee replacement surgery as an excuse for why I'm not doing it, but it's a bad excuse. I suspect next year I'll be a regular on the pickleball court.

5.  Multiple other kinds of exercise. I do aquacise three mornings a week but skip aerobic dance, aquafit, deep water aerobics, easy stretch, guts and butts exercise, lap swim, pilates, tai chi, yoga and zumba. I'm actually pretty happy just with the aquacise. I would never have guessed I'd get up for an 8 a.m. exercise class, but I can get out of bed at 7:40, throw on my suit with jeans and t-shirt over and walk to the pool in time for the class.

6. Other stuff I don't do are American Sign Language, astronomy, back road scenic drives (time conflict), memoir writing, photography group, Red Hat Society luncheons, conversational Spanish or writers' workshop. Just never had the interest.

7. I don't ride a bike here because I didn't bring my bike. I wish I had. It's a great way to get around on a resort like this. No one locks their bikes at home or in the central area racks. That is really nice! Next year.

8. Go to the laundromat. We have a washer and dryer in our park model. It was a requirement.

9. Sightseeing around Tucson. I really should do this. I know there are interesting places. But my schedule of activities leaves only Saturday wide open, and that's the day I make a casual effort to clean. Just today we had an invitation to go to a festival at Tubac, about an hour and a half from here. When I woke up it was chilly and drizzling, so I decided to stay home instead.

10. Going to lots of restaurants in Tucson. We've only gone out for two meals in the city in the last five weeks. We do that a lot more often at home. Maybe it's because we're about eight miles out of the restaurant area. Or maybe because I don't want to drive at night. Or maybe it's because simple meals at home are easy here.

Tonight, though, I am looking forward to. We meet up with new friends at 5:30 for potluck hors d'oeuvres before heading over to the dance at the community center. We have learned how to two-step and line dance, so we'll be out there with all the other overgrown teenagers, having a fabulous evening until the dance ends at ten!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Week 4 Thoughts from a Snowbird

The only thing I miss is the cat. Larisa is home in Washington State with two companions. I wish she were walking on my keyboard here in Tucson.

Otherwise I am as content as it's possible for me to be. I can keep in touch with family and friends by email or Skype or phone. I prepared well enough for this trip that I can pay bills and take care of correspondence from our little park model. I did forget to bring envelopes and stamps, but they're replaceable here. Our mail is being forwarded so I can take care of business. The tax documents are arriving and I'll have plenty of time when we get home to take care of that project.

At the end of four weeks here, I am as busy as I am at home. No, busier. I've even added a little stress to my life, just like I do at home.

Here are my current snowbird thoughts.

1. There is nothing, absolutely nothing better than sunshine. We have many windows and we open the blinds first thing in the morning. Right now temps are in the 60s most days.

2. I love almost every activity I'm doing: handbells, line dancing, two-step dancing, current events discussion group, political events discussion group, Apple user group, and aquacize for an hour, three mornings a week, in an indoor pool. Once a week I leave the resort and go into Tucson for a massage. We have an ownership interest in a Massage Envy clinic in Seattle, so we get the employee rate here for massages.

3. I am making friends. When we got here we knew only Ann and Larry. We soon met their good friends Ken and Judy, and last Tuesday we went out for dinner with Ken and Judy for Mexican food. Yesterday we lingered after a discussion group for a lovely conversation with fellow participants Kris and Mark. I've had several interesting talks with our landlord Chuck. We say hello to other residents when we pass them, we wave to every car that passes by. So does everyone else.

4. I am having conversations with people who have different political views from me. I am curious as to how people think and how they form their opinions. As I listen, I see how their views came to be. Mostly. I am finding common ground with some of them. Not all. But one of my goals was to have articulate conversations with people more conservative than I. That has been one of the best parts so far. I'm still not a conservative, though.

5. One part of my stress is that I'm working on a written piece about this snowbird experience, including why almost everyone at this RV resort is a non-hispanic caucasian. I've concluded the reasons are primarily economic and cultural, and I've gotten past feeling mildly guilty at my good fortune to be here, to the point where I'm happy and grateful about it. I've only written half the article, though, and I'm in my usual spot about whether to write it so the article would be appropriate for a magazine like AARP, or whether to write it from my heart and then try to find a market for it. At the very least I want to finish the article. It would be much easier to chalk up my exploration to a learning experience and let the idea of an article fade from memory, but so far that hasn't happened.

6. Another piece of my stress is that I'm in a discussion group called Great Decisions - one of five such groups here. We have written material we read each week and then discuss. The first two topics were the euro and the situation in Egypt. Each topic has a group leader, and I foolishly signed up to lead the topic on humanitarian intervention - so I have two and a half weeks to read and prepare. I am actually interested in the topic, but I know virtually nothing about it, and I hate to lead discussions where I'm not knowledgeable and might look like an idiot. And frankly, I'm on vacation. I just don't want to work that hard. But I signed up, so I'll have to grin and bear it.

7.  My husband Art broke his rib on December 21, so he is still recovering and not as physically active as usual. So he is reading. Every day, for hours. He always does this on vacation, but it continues to be a surprise. At home he doesn't read as much because he's gone or working in the garage or the garden. Here, he reads. It makes me a little nervous. I think he has read eight books since we got here. He is not a fast reader, so that is saying a lot. I know. I need to mind my own business.

8.  There is a vendor and farmer's market every other Wednesday. We have made arrangements to set up a table and display our book next week. We have never done this before, and I am a little nervous about it. But the resort has many veterans, so I think it's appropriate to sit there with copies of our book. Even if we only have conversations, it will be interesting. Still, it's adding a little bit to my stress.

9. I have more going on in my life than I have time for. I am evaluating, as I do from time to time, what I should do less of or drop. I love that I'm being more physically active, and that I'm meeting people and having conversations. I don't even mind that I'm responsible for keeping the house clean here. I suspect the stuff I should drop has something to do with the internet. Haven't isolated it yet, though. It's probably surfing. 

10. We've decided to delay our trip home by two weeks. We'll leave the resort on February 28, spend a week in a Sedona at a timeshare, and then take a week to drive home, stopping for a couple of days to visit new friends in Las Vegas, then exploring the Owens Valley in California, staying at Napa for a couple of days to use up expiring timeshare points, then heading for Eureka and the coastal drive back home. It will probably be sunny most of the way, and by the time we get home there will be a few more hours of daylight than when we left last month.

Time to walk up to the mailbox, say hello to people I meet along the way, and watch the sunset. I am so, so lucky to be here.