Monday, June 29, 2015

Travel planning

I quit my last job five years ago this week. Since that time I have taken 38 trips. But very few in the last year and a half. After my husband Art's cardiac arrest in January 2014 we decided to take it easy for a year or so until we knew he was stable. Which he now is. Both of us have been committed to separate exercise programs for the last couple of months so we're sufficiently fit to go.

We have two major trips planned for the summer; we leave in two days for two weeks on the east coast, and we're taking a 16-day trip to Eastern Europe in late August. Easy for me to summarize in that one sentence. The hectic is in the details.

Here's what I've done as travel planner for these trips:
  • The east coast trip - found lodging through Airbnb for five nights in Atlanta and three in Charleston, SC. Made reservations at the hotel in Jacksonville, NC for the reunion of Camp Lejeune High School graduates for classes 1965-67. Sent a check for the Saturday night dance. Arranged for a weeklong car rental. Got a ride to the airport for our 10 a.m. flight and made arrangements to have our cat cared for. Let the small claims court coordinator know I won't be at the July 14 session to lead the mediation team.
  • The Eastern Europe trip - chose a date that corresponded to airfares slightly lower than average for incoming to Prague and outdoing through Munich, even in high season. Bought the travel  book for Prague (we'll get there two days early to recover from jet lag ahead of time). Wrangled with British Airlines to get rebooked after we canceled our April trip. Pestered the travel insurance people for the refund for our canceled trip in time to get the money to pay for the one we're taking in August instead. Let the small claims court coordinator know I won't be at the September 8 session to lead the mediation team. 
I used to like the planning part. As I get older it's more of a nuisance. I know what needs to be done and I am a good list maker, but making the calls and sending the emails and sifting through the options is not as much fun. I'll work on it for an hour and then lie down to take a nap or read. Then I'll get distracted and won't get back to it until the next day. I'll look at my list and the task will still be there and I'll feel a little guilty that I didn't finish taking care of it the day before.

Here's what's on my list for tomorrow, the last day before we leave: Lead the mediation team at small claims court in the morning. Get a pedicure to remove the month-old polish and replace it (I'm wearing sandals or flip-flops on the east coast). Pick up a prescription I forgot to order until today, which will run out before we get home. Do two loads of laundry. Pay the bills. Pack. Not too bad.

Here's what's on Art's list for tomorrow: Read the paper. Work the crossword puzzle. Work the Sudoku puzzle. Pack. In all fairness, Art does all the shopping and all the cooking, and he doesn't have any of that before we live. Still.

On Wednesday night we'll be sleeping in our first Airbnb ever. It's in a working class neighborhood in Atlanta, where locals sit on their porches after work in the evening. Our choice. Our hostess suggests we be friendly as we walk home from the bus stop. We will! That's why we chose Airbnb instead of a hotel. We'll be at the place for five nights. Maybe we'll make some Georgia friends.

It will be hot and humid on the east coast. Right now we're in a Seattle heat wave, so it's like we're ramping up for our travel. I have lived in Virginia and North Carolina and Georgia so it won't be new but it will be sweaty. But I'll meet new people at the convention in Atlanta and at our place in Charleston and probably even at the all-class reunion. Art and I will dance a few times. We'll take walks. We'll ride buses and trains. It will be fun!

We're lucky. I know that for sure. We're 66 now, and 72, and we can still be on the road.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Solstice and beyond

Today is the longest day of the year and I love it. For the last several weeks the days have seemed endless here in the Pacific Northwest. It's light two hours before I get out of bed, and there are nights when we go to bed when it's still dusk. Used to be I'd get discouraged right after the solstice because I knew the days would be getting shorter and then the shadows would get longer and then the rains would start and it would be dark. Now that we live in Tucson in the winter, I'm able to just enjoy the long days of summer light.

Our garden is at its peak for vegetables and the fruits are coming along. We're picking bowls of strawberries and raspberries and blueberries, and the grapes will be ready in a month or so. Unbelievable numbers of grapes this year.

We've been home for two and a half months with only an overnight trip to Spokane for me. In ten days we leave for two weeks on the east coast. It will be hot and humid there, I know, but fun. We're attending a very large convention in Atlanta over the 4th of July weekend (65,000 attendees or so), and the following weekend we'll be at my all-school reunion in North Carolina. I haven't been back to Camp Lejeune since my 20-year reunion in 1986.

We'll be going to Oregon for four days in late July to attend a wedding. The bride is the daughter of my ex-husband's sister Patty; Bridget was born after my ex and I split up. I'd never met her until last year, in Tucson, when she and her fiancé Gilbert met up with us for dinner. Art calls us "outlaws" since we'll be spending time with my ex's family, but they are good people and it will be fun too.

And at the end of August we're flying to Prague for a 16-day tour of Eastern Europe with the Rick Steves (Europe Through the Back Door) travel company. We had to cancel our April cruise because of Art's medical appointments. He's stable now and the doctor has said it's fine for him to travel. I spent hours this week making travel plans for before and after the tour (want to get there a couple of days early to get over jet lag before the group meets up), trying to get British Airlines to give us credit for our cancelled April flight, and deciding on how much and what kind of travel insurance to buy. Last week my energy was quite low and I didn't get around to much of this, but it waited patiently for me and now I'm nearly done.

I love the traveling. Summer is the best time of year, weather wise, where we live, but sometimes the timing isn't perfect. And once we get to Tucson in late fall we will probably stay put for the winter.

I have finally started watching Downton Abbey and I am hooked!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Bag Lady considers some shortcomings

There is a sadness in me this week. One of my friendships has ended suddenly and I am doing some grieving. It has been many years since I've lost a friend this way. Usually I move away, or they do, or our interests change, or our jobs. I have friends I've known for decades, but since I've moved frequently in my life (I think I'm living in my 49th house) they do not live close by. Mostly I keep in touch through Facebook. I have several friends I see for lunch or coffee every few months, and I thrive within those conversational connections.

Of course, I'm thinking about this current ending and wondering what I might have done differently.   As is usually the case, I've got some character traits that kick my butt now and then. Here is my true confession:
  • I am usually an optimistic, upbeat person. I tend to take people at their word. I haven't gotten burned often enough to change my approach to life and trust a little less. So I go further down the road of uncomfortable situations because of my tendency to be gullible.  
  • I am assertive and direct. Sometimes to a fault. I rarely intend to hurt people with what I say, but sometimes the words that come out of my mouth astonish even me. And sometimes I don't realize the impact my words have had on other people. I can remember hurting people's feelings 40 years ago with things I said. In conflict situations, though, my directness often vanishes and I get downright wishy-washy.  I've yet to master the magic of diplomacy. I can do it as a mediator, but not as myself.  
  • I expect people to behave the way I would in similar circumstances. For example, if I make an agreement I will keep it even if it's to my own detriment. I'm not tolerant of others who don't. This one bites me frequently - not the keeping an agreement part, but my expectation that others will behave as I do. I've been told I have high standards for other people's behavior. It's not a compliment.
  • I am what's called an external processor: I think out loud. When there's a disagreement or misunderstanding between me and another person, I want to sit down and talk it out right now. This doesn't sit well with people who need to process silently, in their own time. My husband Art and I often postpone the resolution of a conflict for 24 hours. By that time he will have had a chance to think about his position, and I may have forgotten what the problem was! 
  • Sometimes things happen for no apparent reason. I always look for a reason anyway. I tire myself out. 
No one is perfect, and for the most part I'm content with the person I am. Every now and then, though, in disappointing situations, I wonder what would have happened if I'd been a little different.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The voice of my sister

The events of this week were a mixture of very good and not so good at all. What made it all turn out okay was the voice of my sister.

Alyx and her husband Virgil live in their motorhome on our property. Alyx works four nights a week so we only see her on the weekends. So it feels like we have our own place during the week and share it on the weekends with them.

The good parts of the week were my usual lunches and coffees with friends - always a favorite thing for me - and my regular Monday afternoon massage. And a mediation which, though difficult, was done with Karen, a talented co-mediator I'd met at a recent training.

The not-so-good parts of the week were sad news from friends of ours, a hiccup in our business, and a misunderstanding with a friend. All three of these happenings were a jolt and threw me off my usual optimistic, upbeat game.

Fortunately for me, my sister Alyx spent time with me and listened. She commiserated with the sad news, supported me in my business concern, and gave wise counsel and sympathy around my friend situation. The two of us sat in the adirondack chairs in our garden, marveling at the raspberries and strawberries and blueberries and grapes and lettuce and spinach and baby bok choy and beets and radishes, and sharing our thoughts and then, eventually, laughing at the parts we could derive some humor from. And shaking our heads at the parts we couldn't.

Then we went to dinner with our husbands and, the next day, spent several hours geocaching and then more time in the adirondack chairs and then a family meal on the deck with our son Pete and Alyx's friend Linda.

What could have been a wretched week was lightened somewhat by the voice of my sister. It's a good voice to have around.