Saturday, March 30, 2013

Restless in spring

It's a beautiful today in the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures in the 60s, sunshine, trees and flowers blooming. Days are getting longer. There's no place better.

But I get restless in the spring.

I think it's because this is the time of year when I want to declutter, make lots of trips to Goodwill to drop things off I no longer need. Clean up the yard. Go through closets and thin out the excess. I did that for many years of my life. But not so much in the last twenty or so.

My husband is a collector of things, a saver. He's a handyman with multiple ongoing or potential projects, a man with many tools, lots of wood and PVC pipe and corrugated metal sheets and parts and gadgets. He never knows when he's going to need something - so he keeps it all. I love that he's a fixer, a repairer, an assembler of Adirondack chairs, a washer of trucks. I don't love it that every scrap of wood gets kept, every old nut and screw and bolt is retained, every ancient sponge and squeegee stays with us.  The boxes climb haphazardly in the garage, or they spill over the metal storage racks.

I think about the possibility of downsizing sometime in the next few years. I can't imagine how that will happen. We have so, so much stuff. Well, not really. My husband has so, so much stuff. We may have to get several storage units. Or a small house with an enormous garage or shed.

There are lots of things I'm grateful for about this husband. He's generous and hard working. He does all the shopping and cooking. He's a wonderful traveling companion. He's smart and, most of the time, good company.

In the springtime, though, I could use a little order.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Slip sliding

When I spent the winter in Arizona I developed some new habits: fewer lattes, fewer meals out, more exercise. I resolved to bring those habits home with me; you know, things to do to feel as good as I did in the sun.

Today I felt not quite myself. I had a busy day: hosted a board meeting at my house in the morning, had surprise visits from two family members in the afternoon, took care of some financial paperwork. Still, I  felt a little off. I wondered if I was getting sick.

Then I realized I have consumed a box of Girl Scout cookies and two bowls of ice cream in the last three days, but minimal protein or vegetables. Plus, my swimming class on Friday was canceled due to inclement weather. Instead of walking two miles instead, I chose to have two lattes.

What on earth?

It's so, so easy to get back to old ways when I'm in the old place! Now that I see it, I can change it. Tomorrow!

On the good side, it's been lovely this week to have a St. Patrick's Day meal with family, have coffee with my business partner, find a water aerobics class I like, and weed the strawberry bed.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Road trip surprises: Sedona to Seattle

We got home yesterday afternoon and were greeted by a sulky sky, a few drops of drizzle, and a mossy driveway.  Welcome to Washington!

Our road trip home was an eight-day affair, with multiple surprises:

Day 1: Sedona, AZ to Las Vegas, NV. Within half an hour of leaving Sedona, where we'd spent a week, it was 32 degrees and snowing on the freeway to Flagstaff. What worked for me was driving slowly and in the tracks of the vehicle immediately in front of me.  I observed four cars spun out in ditches, being assisted by tow trucks. I was grateful to be behind the wheel; my husband Art is a more assertive driver in less than ideal weather conditions. I was very careful but I was not afraid.

The interstate between Flagstaff and Kingman has some rough road. I wonder whether the funding has been cut for our beautiful national highway system.

Day 2: In Las Vegas with friends Tom and Shirley, members of one of the travel clubs we belong to and our hosts for one night on our January trip to Arizona. They took us to the Valley of Fire, Nevada's oldest and largest state park. A beautiful drive, an interesting interpretive center and a short hike. I was surprised I'd never heard of the place.

Day 3: Las Vegas to Bishop, CA, via Death Valley National Park and Manzanar National Historic Site.

I thought Death Valley was a low valley between two higher places. I didn't know it was a narrow mountain range then a low valley then another narrow mountain range then another low valley then another narrow mountain range. Drops and ascents were 6,000 feet or more in a space of just a few miles. Along narrow, winding roads with chasms just beyond the skimpy guardrails. I was grateful to be the driver, but I was terrified. Heights, you know. Well, really, falling from them. Not a fear shared by Art, but he was kind to me as I crept along at about a quarter of the legal speed limit.

I had visited Manzanar 30 years ago, when it was just an old building and some blockhouse remains. Now it's a fully functioning interpretive center and an auto tour through the site. In the center we heard the voices of some of those who had been confined to Manzanar during World War II. The interment is a good reminder of what fear can do, and how American citizens can be suspected of sinister activity in times of conflict.

I'd found the Trees Motel in Bishop on the internet. The reviews said it was clean, the staff friendly, and the price very good. All true! Our room was small but it had everything we needed. We sat on the front porch in white molded plastic chairs and watched children play in an adjacent grassy area. I talked to the men staying in the next room - three catch-and-release fly fisherman who had driven six hours to this place to fish for three days.

Day 4: Bishop to Napa, CA.

The drive on 395 up the east side of the Sierras is majestic and interesting, with occasional terrifying drop-offs. Most of the roads across the mountains were closed until May 15; we didn't find access across until we got to South Lake Tahoe. By that time Art had had several heated arguments with the voice on our GPS. The east side of the Sierras is a quick, steep rise and the west side is a more gradual downhill, through Placerville and Sacramento and other communities.

Our Napa timeshare, Vino Bella Resort, was a beautiful upscale place with multiple amenities. We needed to use up some timeshare points so we stayed two nights here. We lounged by the pool and ate five-star meals and slept in a canopied bed. We agreed we'd preferred the homey comfort of the Bishop motel but really appreciated the Napa food.

It was in Napa that we got a call from my ex, who told us our granddaughters' mom and stepdad are moving for a new job and that the twins will be living with him and my son (their dad) until the end of the school year. A big change for everyone, but probably a good one overall. I realized then that our snowbird season was ending. We looked forward to checking in with the girls when we spent a night in Roseburg, where they live.

Day 5: Napa

We're not drinkers so we passed on the wine tasting and took a hike in the Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa. The hike was about three miles and 600 feet of elevation gain; it's a good thing we'd practiced hills on our Sedona outings! Art got good close-up shots of a small herd of mule deer, a flock of turkeys and an eagle riding the currents above the valley.

Day 6: Napa to Ferndale, CA

Highway 101 is another magnificent drive. I'm grateful the area has been left unlogged. The road varies from freeway to two-lane road, from coastal driving to mountainside hugging over river-created chasms. A little scary in some spots, but I'm an experienced Death Valley driver, so I was okay. We stayed at the Victorian Inn, a bed and breakfast place, in their least expensive room at the top of a long, steep staircase. Another excellent dinner across the street and a fine breakfast in the morning.

Day 7: Ferndale to Roseburg, OR

Another glorious drive. My thoughts moved ahead to my visit with my granddaughters. I was curious whether I should stay in Roseburg a couple of extra days, to be of whatever use I could during the residence transition phase.

Day 8: Roseburg to Seattle and home

All was well at my son's house. Everyone looks content and they're getting organized into their new living pattern. Grandma is free to go home.

Ah, traffic. The drive from Roseburg to Brier took eight hours. Four bathroom stops, two phone calls with my sister Alyx about an elderly family member nearing the end of her life, four onramps near a military base right at quitting time. I recall with longing the empty desert roads.

But here we are, snowbirds back home. Our cat is warming up to us again. The car got its emissions test and new license plates today. The refrigerator is stocked. The laundry is nearly done. I am eyeing our many, many possessions at home and thinking we can do without most of them; the downsizing, decluttering process may not be far off. And I have four mediation events scheduled during the next two weeks; I've missed the business of being useful.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sweet Sedona, Again

We've been at our timeshare on Oak Creek, in Sedona, for a week. It's our fifth visit to this place, and we still love it. Nice large condo, creek view, quiet. As it turns out, this week has been a good transition between Tucson, where we lived for two winter months in a 55+ resort, and home, where we'll be a week from tomorrow after a weeklong road trip.

In Sedona, we hike every day. This year four out of the five hikes were short ones, about two miles. Art had his knee replaced last summer and he is still practicing. Actually, he sometimes overdoes and then has a setback, so he's trying to be careful. Today we did my favorite hike, Cathedral Butte, which is over four miles with some elevation. I am gratified to note that the exercise I got in Tucson - water aerobics three times a week, line dancing at least once a week, and two-step dancing once a week, plus a couple of miles of walking each day around the resort - has increased my fitness level. I had plenty of energy for the hikes with minimal soreness afterwards. So cool!

I love taking pictures in Sedona, even though most of them look the same as the ones I've taken on previous trips. Here are a few examples from this year.

We had a cool experience on the trail yesterday. We were hiking in a wilderness area when we heard the sound of a Native American flute drifting across a valley. For 15 minutes we listened as we walked.  Then we saw the musician. Art recently bought a new camera for our upcoming trip to Kenya, and it has a telescopic lens. Here's what he saw.

Note the musician sitting on top.

 And the listeners below him.

Tomorrow morning we drive to Las Vegas. We'll spend two nights there with friends. Subsequent nights will be in Bishop (in a mom-and-pop motel after a visit to Manzanar), Napa (two nights in a timeshare), Eureka (in a B&B), Roseburg (staying with a friend while I visit my granddaughters), and home. 

By tomorrow morning, I'll be ready.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Leaving Tucson: Snowbird Souvenirs

We didn't buy a thing in Tucson that we've packed in a suitcase to take home. But we have acquired several things: new habits.

When we're snowbirds, life is simpler than it is at home. We live in a smaller space, so cleaning is quicker - or at least, in my case, housekeeper free. We have a tiny lot which is taken care of by our landlord and consists mostly of raking up the palm fronds that come down when it's windy. No vegetable garden, no lawn to mow, no drains to keep clear of debris. 

When we're snowbirds, we have no community obligations. We're not home for our regularly scheduled meetings or volunteer activities. We don't even have a cat to feed! 

Freed up like this, we did some things differently for almost 60 days, and they became habits. We have decided to take them home with us. Here are our snowbird souvenirs:

1. I haven't had a latte since January 3. When I'm home I probably stop by my local espresso stand four or five days a week. Usually I'm in the car, on my way to someplace, but sometimes I'm on foot, walking to the library a block away from the espresso stand. I've been a Jason's Java customer for almost 15 years. At $3.75 for a triple tall split shot mocha with half the chocolate, that's a lot of money, and almost as many calories. Here in Tucson, where the nearest Starbucks is eight miles away, I have been fine with the coffee Art makes each morning. It's comfortable to buy a latte and chat with Jason at home, but it's not a necessity. I'm going to reevaluate my latte consumption. I will still meet my niece and friend Colleen at Starbucks every couple of months for coffee and talk, though. For sure.

2. In two months, Art and I went out for dinner five times. At home, we usually go out two or three times a week. That's expensive and also unnecessary. We can stay home to eat way more often, save a bunch of money and not a small amount of guilt at the excess.

3.  For the last two months I have gone to an aquatic exercise class three mornings a week at 8 a.m. It is a habit now and I will be doing that when we get home. It will take me ten minutes to drive to the pool at home, but I can do that. I found a deep water aerobics class that meets at a time convenient for me. 

4. Art hasn't read the newspaper in two months. He says we can cancel our subscription to the Seattle Times. He's been going to the gym three mornings a week. He says when we get home he'll continue doing that, at the gym we belong to already but haven't used often. While he's exercising he'll watch the morning news on television. It looks to me like he has lost some weight with the exercising.

5. In Tucson we didn't have a dishwasher. I actually enjoyed washing the dishes by hand and I think I will continue that when we get home. It's a nice tactile experience.

6. We learned how to line dance in Tucson.  Last week I looked for line dancing lessons at home and found them at the local senior center. I joined online and we will be continuing to line dance. I have avoided the senior center, but having spent two months with other people my age I think it will be a good place to meet people with common interests who don't work during the day. I really enjoyed the social contacts we made in Tucson and I would like to do more of that when we get home.

7. I didn't do any volunteering in Tucson and I am taking home a recommitment to do more of it. I like being useful, and two months without it was enough.

Next year we will be staying in Tucson for three months, instead of this year's two. We like the sun, the activities, and the friendships. I'd like to try a few new things next year, maybe pick up some more habits to take home as souvenirs.