Saturday, January 30, 2016

Our Timeshare Dilemma

We bought our first timeshare fifteen years ago. It's in Whistler, British Columbia at Whiski Jack at the Cascade Lodge. It's a one-bedroom place that we can use for a week each year in either the spring or the fall.

We have never used our Whistler timeshare. Instead, we have traded it through one of the international timeshare pools. You "bank" your week and then you have access to everyone else's banked week for a nominal exchange fee. Through our Whistler timeshare we - or someone in our family - have spent time in Vermont, Hawaii, Williamsburg and Shenandoah in Virginia, Baja California, Las Vegas, West Yellowstone, the Washington coast, and Sedona. At the present time, we have three years of our Whistler timeshare banked. We are trying to figure out how to use the weeks, because they expire after three years.

We bought our second timeshare, in Sedona, Arizona, about nine years ago. With one of our banked Whistler weeks we traded into the Arroyo Roble Resort, on the banks of Oak Creek. We loved the place. When we got home, we bought a week of our own there, in what's called the "aftermarket"; someone wanted to sell their week, so we bought it for an excellent price.

At Arroyo Roble, we get seven days each year in a two-bedroom, 2.5-bath condo. Plus, during January and February we can combine last year's week and this year's, for a two-week stay or the use of two units in the same week, like for a group gathering. We have never banked our Sedona timeshare; in fact, we're there this week, with friends John and Joan visiting for three days and our daughter Melissa and son-in-law Scott for another three.

Then we have timeshare points through Shell Vacations Club. We can use our points at numerous resorts; usually we go to the Big Island in Hawaii, but we've also visited Kauai, Whistler, Napa, Las Vegas, the Oregon Cascades, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and Ontario, Canada. Right now we need to use about four days of time by the end of March or we will lose them or have to bank them.

We have too many timeshares. For one thing, we like to travel rather than going to one place and staying a week (except Sedona, which offers endless opportunities for beauty and experiences). For another, we now have a park model (trailer) in Tucson, where we spend four months in the winter. These days it feels like the timeshares are an obligation - a burden, almost - and we have to keep track of dates by which we have to use the timeshares to avoid losing them. For example, right now we're using last year's Sedona week. We'll need to come back again by February 2017 to use this year's week. As we get older, keeping track seems more complicated.

Then there are the maintenance fees. We pay about $2000 a year total for our three timeshares. We set an amount aside each month during the year to pay the fees, which all come due in December or January. This year our mail hasn't been forwarded to Tucson consistently by the USPS, so our payment to Shell was late and we got charged a late fee. From now on we'll be sent our bill electronically, but still....

So, we're thinking about what to do about our timeshares.

Originally I thought we should divest ourself of the Sedona timeshare, since we're already in Arizona in the winter, when we have customarily used it. But we've enjoyed ourselves so much this week with friends and family, we've decided we want to keep it. Even daughter Melissa says, "This is a great place. Don't sell it." So I suspect this is one we'll want to pass along to the next generation. She and Scott have visited us here twice, and so has our daughter Laura.

As long as we enjoy Hawaii, the Shell points are the best way to go. We have a place on the Big Island where we live quietly for a week or two. We've explored most of the Big Island, and we often have guests with us, so we get to show them around.

That leaves the Whistler place. We've decided to let it go, but we have to find a buyer. Timeshares are a depreciating asset, which is not a problem. But the maintenance fees are a continuing expense. If we use the timeshare it's worthwhile. If we don't, it's not. And if we simply decided not to pay the fees, it would affect our credit.

So we will be looking for a buyer for the cost of the transfer of ownership - about $500. There are places we can advertise, and services that will do the work for us. Selling our Whistler timeshare is near the top of my project list for spring.

Once we have only the two timeshares we use, our dilemma will be resolved. For now.

We have several trips planned for this year: to a wedding in Oklahoma in March; to Buffalo in July (just me); to Maine in September (our wonderful schooner cruise); to the Big Island in November. We'll feel better if our Whistler timeshare belongs to another family by then.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016

Snowbirds in Year 4

Everyone I've met has a story about how they came to spend their winters at the Voyager RV Resort in Tucson. Here's how it goes, usually. 
  • They stop in for a couple of nights on their way to or from someplace else. The next year they stay two weeks, then a month, then two months, then a season.
  • They know someone who lives here in the winter and come for a visit. The next year they stay two weeks, then a month....
They may begin as RVers but eventually want a little more space. Or they begin as renters but eventually want a place of their own.

They drive to the Voyager for a few years, then decide to leave a car here and fly down.

We visited friends for an afternoon, then rented for two months, then three months, then bought the park model we'd been renting. And this year, my son drove our Prius down in November and we flew down in December. Next month I will register the car in Arizona.

I used to think of snowbirds as old people who came south and spent their days reading by the pool, maybe playing bridge or bingo in the evenings. You know, the women with their coiffed hair and the men with their comb-overs. Now I know different.

Where we live, people in their 50s to their 90s live lives as full as they want. Some people hike and bike and ride motorcycles. Some go to live shows or dances every week. Some do crafty things like leatherworking or lapidary or silversmithing or woodworking or quilting. Some do music or theatre. Some thrive in discussion groups or Bible studies or memoir-writing groups or Spanish classes. Really. Whatever they want.

This year my husband Art has a lead in the Voyager Light Opera Company's production of Oklahoma! He also co-coordinates box office sales with me. I facilitate a foreign affairs discussion group and enjoy an almost-rowdy current events group. I do water aerobics three times a week. We go into town once a week for a massage.

I walk to the activities center and say hello to people I know and people I don't. We wave. We comment on the weather. Everyone does what gives them pleasure.

We are busier here than we are at home. We entertain here but rarely at home. People stop by without calling beforehand and it feels fine. We live contentedly in 620 square feet.

Front room

Arizona room


I flew home to Seattle last week for a meeting. It rained almost the whole time. The sky was dark. People drove during the day with their lights on. When I arrived back in Tucson, it was sunny. The sky was blue. I loved it.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

It's not what I had in mind

When I bought my 1998 Honda Accord in 1998, I added a license plate frame that reads "Make God laugh - tell Him your plans". I replaced that Accord last year. And I moved the license plate frame to my new car. Some things don't change, I guess. And I still need to be reminded.

I'm a mediator in Washington State. I donate my time to the Dispute Resolution Center in my county, and I'm the lead of a team of mediators in small claims court every other Tuesday. So this year, when it was nearly time to leave for our winter place in Arizona, I spent a little time online to see if I could find a place to volunteer in Tucson. I figure, after four winters in Arizona, it's time for me to contribute to the larger community instead of just having a good time every day at our 55+ resort.

I called one place that looked promising - a social services agency providing multiple services, including mediation by volunteer mediators. I called the place and the woman I talked to sounded excited and encouraging. "Call back tomorrow, when Catherine is here." I did. No response from Catherine. A week later, another call, and no response. So I figured I wasn't supposed to mediate in Arizona this year. I wondered what the Universe had in mind for me. Maybe finish my book, maybe finish my Rosetta Stone Spanish. I looked forward to both those things.

We arrived in early December, before high season, and spent the month fixing up our place. A couple of weeks in, I was approached by Dee M, who produced last year's Voyager Light Opera Company's version of "Guys and Dolls". My husband Art was in the cast of that play. I asked Dee what I could do to help with this year's "Oklahoma!". She said, "I would like you to be in charge of ticket sales. The Activities Center will not sell tickets for us this year, so we're setting up our own box office and staffing it four hours a day, five days a week with volunteers."

I don't know what possessed me to say yes.

Oklahoma! is running on the nights of March 10 and March 11. Five hundred seats each night. One Thousand Tickets to sell.

Volunteers were rounded up for two-hour shifts for the ten weeks of sales. I planned to train each new volunteer, as we're doing manual sales and also entering information into an automated system to see if that might make the job easier next year. That was my plan. Art would be busy learning his lines and his songs.

What actually happened is that I had a houseguest for six days right around the start  of ticket sales. I wanted to spend time with her, so Art got called in to help. I said, "Art, if you will take over these sales until January 15, I promise to do all the rest from then on." Art said okay.

Then I got sick, before my houseguest left. For two days I didn't even get out of my pajamas. My houseguest spent three days with another Tucson friend. Art went to the box office every day, balanced the money each day, made the bank deposit.

Then I flew to Seattle for three days for a meeting in Olympia. Art continued to bail me out.

I had people I didn't know calling to volunteer. We winter residents are from all over the country and Canada. Incoming calls came from numbers in Texas, New York and Michigan. I suspected telemarketers but I was wrong. I ended up not answering so I could check voicemail when I got back to my scheduling calendar. One time I did answer; I was at the dentist in Nogales, Mexico, and told Fran W I'd call her as soon as I got home. I completely forgot about her for a week and then had to apologize for my senior-brain thoughtlessness.

On Monday it's my turn to take over the ticket sales from Art. But he has apparently enjoyed this activity sufficiently that he says he'll balance the cash every day. What a guy!

I like to meet up with friends for lunch on the resort or in town. I've got a couple of invitations but every weekday is marked with volunteers, and I am the backup for every one of them. When you're dealing with seniors, you never know when a doctor's appointment will crop up. So I'm living in a state of uncertainty about exactly what time will be my own.

I have worked on the book and the Rosetta Stone Spanish for about one hour each in the last two weeks.

This is not what I had in mind for meaningful volunteer work in Tucson. However, it's got its benefits. I'm meeting new people, resurrecting my organizational and planning skills from when I Worked For Money, and analyzing worksheets to see what mistakes are being made by the volunteers (seven errors out of 250 transactions isn't too bad). People know my name even when I have no idea who they are (good thing we all wear name badges to identify ourselves as residents!) In the first two weeks, we have sold about a third of all available tickets. The Voyager Light Opera Company is solvent. These are all good things and I'm glad for the part I'm playing.

I'm grateful to have my old license plate frame. It reminds me that I shouldn't be making too many plans, because they may change big time.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Boomers Speak

This is a weekly compilation of the blogs of five Baby Boomers, of which I am one. I've not met any of them yet, but we're a congenial group. Check out their contributions this week!

Ever wonder what it's like to wake up after a lovely snow in the Colorado foothills? Laura Lee Carter wants to share!

Tom Sightings reports on the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute which involves "communities where the participants not only take on challenging subjects but also seek to engage more deeply with their fellow students." And this week's post he reflects on his own educational efforts and recalls a young student who reminds him Why We Write.

Meryl Baer was on the road again this week. Actually, she and hub were in the air on the way to a week grandsitting the grandkids. Anything can happen traveling nowadays via air. Meryl's flight to Florida was one more in a series of Spirit Air escapades. Read about her trip in In-flight Entertainment.

It's been a busy week for Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writing at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide. Robison writes about the new Dietary Guidelines, how the skyrocketing amount of advertising that teens see on e-cigarettes is causing a huge increase in teens using the product, the president's executive actions on gun control, and the federal lawsuit against Volkswagen over faulty emission software. Head over to her blog to take a look at these action packed consumer stories.

My post is very much at home, with The Designer Cat Decides - my own take on the feline mind.


Monday, January 4, 2016

The Designer Cat Decides

We bought our park model in Tucson after renting it for two winters.

Owning the park model meant we could bring Larisa, our Designer Cat, with us. We call her the Designer Cat because she is a hypoallergenic, purebred Siberian Forest cat, mother of 26 kittens like her before she came to live with us. Larisa thinks she deserves to be Capitalized.

Last year when we arrived, I went to PetSmart and bought a cat condo and a covered cat bed. I placed the condo near the window so Larisa could watch the birds outside. 

Cat condo
Cat bed
For four months I placed treats every day on all three levels of the condo and in the cat bed.

(The treats are in the bag)
Larisa caught on quickly. At least five times every day she checked out the condo and the bed, even though she only got the treats once a day.

But she slept elsewhere.

Cat on the bed
Cat on the front room couch

Cat on the Arizona room couch
At the end of the season the 55+ resort where we live has an all-park yard sale. I put the cat bed out, asking $20 for a new (except for entry to retrieve treats) bed. No one bought it. At the end of the day we took all other unsold items to the Salvation Army truck. The cat bed was so nice, though, that I couldn't give it away.

Then we went home to Washington State for eight months. 

We returned to Arizona in December. When I let Larisa out of her traveling bag, she knew where she was. She found and used the litter box in the Arizona room. She took a nap on our bed, on the back of the loveseat in the front room, on the back of the sofa in the Arizona room. I don't know whether she remembered the place visually, or by smell, but clearly she knew she was home.

For the first three days she checked the condo and the cat bed for treats! Finding none, she stopped looking.

And then - a year after the cat condo and the bed were offered, the Designer Cat decided.

Cat in the condo - year 2
Cat in the cat bed - year 2

She still slept in all the old places, too, of course. But the condo is close to me when I'm working, and the bed is behind the couch in the Arizona room - private and near the sunny window on cold mornings.

Apparently Larisa found another private space all on her own. Last night I was awakened by a cat's meow. I searched the place but couldn't find her. I even peered outside to the deck. No cat. So I woke Art up and asked him to look.

It didn't take him long. 

Cat in my pajama drawer
Apparently the Designer Cat can open drawers from the outside now. But not from the inside.