Friday, April 27, 2018

Home. Really?

I flew home to Seattle yesterday after six months in Tucson. Our house here is large; we bought it 23 years ago when our eight-kid blended family was growing up. Our place there is small; a park model (trailer) we bought four years ago - after two years of renting it - when we decided we wanted to spend our winters at the Voyager, a 55-plus RV resort.

The autumn transition to Arizona is always easy. We're returning to a simple but active life, with friends who are doing the same. Everyone is glad to see each other.

The spring return to our town, Brier, isn't so easy. I'm always amazed and overwhelmed by how much Stuff we have, and how little of it we use. I love the green beauty in this part of the country, but not the traffic. Our friends here have gone on with their lives without us for six months, and we need to kind of ease back in.

This year it's a little different. We have begun to think about selling our Washington home and relocating permanently to Tucson. Seriously thinking. Art is "still listening", but he says I can ask him once a week whether he is shifting from listening to thinking to planning. There will be a lot to do if we make the decision to sell and move.

Over the last six years we have come to think of our Tucson place as our second home. Not just a winter getaway. We love the little place we've fixed up to our liking. We love the Voyager community. We love the city of Tucson. Except for the beastly hot summers - which I think we can avoid - and the more conservative politics - which I hope we can influence.

Of course we love Seattle too. The physical beauty, the friends we have made here, our volunteer activities, the knowledge that four of our grown kids live in the area.

The family home here in Brier has stairs. Two sets. And a steep driveway. And a big yard. Too much for us these days, I think.

I'm pretty sure there's a family looking for a house like ours. And the Seattle housing market is sizzling right now. So next week, when I ask Art, I hope he'll be moving into his planning phase.

When we moved into this house I was 46 years old. I had never in my life lived in any house for longer than six years. This Brier place has been home, and part of my heart will remain here.

The other parts of my heart are ready to move on.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A woman of influence!

I never thought of myself as a woman of influence, but I guess I am. Here are three stories:

1. I have a friend named Ellen. I met her at a Habitat for Humanity build seven years ago in Lafayette, Louisiana. We became Facebook friends. She visited us briefly in Tucson several years ago. Then, last spring, Art and I decided to go to Greece for a month to volunteer at a refugee camp there. We decided to leave Larisa, our Designer Cat, at our place in Tucson while we were gone, since she'd already been there with us for five months.

I posted on Facebook that we were looking for someone to stay in our Tucson place to keep company with Larisa while we were gone. Ellen said she would like to do that. She drove from Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she has lived for the last 12 years. Before we left I introduced her to one of my friends. By the time we got back from Greece, Ellen had bought a place in our community! She said, "I have made more friends here in the last six weeks than I did in Fayetteville in 12 years." She went home for the summer, preparing to return in the fall, but decided to sell her Fayetteville house and move to Tucson permanently!

Ellen says she wouldn't be living here if it weren't for me. It is very nice to have her here.

2. We have friends named Shirley and Tom. We met them through a hospitality exchange group; we stayed with them twice at their place in Henderson, Nevada, when we were still driving between Seattle and Tucson for the winter. We became Facebook friends. Shirley and Tom sold their Nevada place and became housesitters for a year or so, then decided they'd like a permanent base from which to travel. They checked out the Voyager, the 55+ resort where we live in the winter, and looked online at all the places for sale here. They found one they liked and watched, hoping the price would drop. It did. They made plans for Tom to fly down to see it.

Shirley texted me to tell me about the plan. I said, "Would you like me to go over and check it out?" Shirley said yes and I did. A neighbor was watering the yard and had a key. I went in and looked around and asked the neighbor lots of questions. I texted Shirley and suggested she call me. She did. I told her what I thought and she asked the neighbor some questions herself. Then we hung up.

Two hours later Shirley texted me again. She and Tom had made an offer on the phone without even seeing the place, based on our conversation and pictures they'd seen. They arrive next month.

It's a little intimidating being a woman of such influence!

3. I've been thinking for several years that it might be time to sell our family home in Washington and find something smaller, and without stairs, and without a steep driveway and a big yard. My husband Art has not been at all ready for that. For the last six years we have spent the winter in Tucson. The first year we were there two months, then three, then four. This year we will have been here five months and three weeks when we fly home next Saturday.

Yesterday we looked at a resale manufactured home about three quarters of a mile from where we live now in our park model. The home is in the same 55+ resort. It is on one level, with an open floor plan, a great kitchen and a small low-maintenance yard. Actually, I looked first with my friend Ellen, then took Art over. We spent 45 minutes talking to the current owners.

Then Art and I talked. We still want to spend our summers in Washington. Several of our children and grandchildren live there, and the summer weather is glorious, with long daylight hours and very little rain. We had considered buying a smaller place, but housing prices in the Seattle area are very high. Then we considered leasing. In either case, though, the residence would sit empty for most of the year (a winter away and travel at other times can do that).

Then I thought about Airbnb and checked it out. We could rent a place for three months. Not just in Washington, but just about anywhere. That would get us out of the most daunting months of Arizona's summer.

Then I thought, well, what if one of us dies? Which is a certainty. And just this morning I remembered: there are always independent living or assisted living places if they're needed. And they could be in Washington.

So, if we sold our Washington home, we wouldn't be exiling ourselves from Washington or from our family. We would be freeing ourselves from our financial and upkeep obligations to a house we are, more and more, not living in.

This is not quite dreaming. Because we could either buy the place we looked at yesterday, or we could stay in the park model, which has been our winter residence for six years and which we like very much.

The most important thing, to me, is that both of us can see where we might step next. It's no longer "Let's rightsize and then maybe move to a smaller place." Instead, it might be "Let's get ready to move."

We may not move physically. But we are moving forward toward a lighter lifestyle. It's no longer me nagging a reluctant husband. It's both of us looking at the possibilities.

Does that make me a woman of influence?

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Bag Lady reviews the snowbird season

Two weeks from today I fly from Tucson with my husband Art and our Designer Cat, Larisa. We are going home to Seattle after six months in the winter sun. It rained here about seven times in six months. The sun shone most days, even when the temperatures were less than warm.

We're leaving soon because we're close to the sweet spot: Tucson is less than 100 degrees during the day, and Seattle's rain is getting close to its springtime end. 

This is our sixth season as Arizona snowbirds. We've lived in the same park model and driven the same car. We've expanded our friendships, lost a few friends, taken up a variety of activities, dropped some of them. Each year it's a little different.

This year I continued with activities I've enjoyed before. I played handbells in Oregon when my children were small, and I picked them up again as a snowbird. I love the camaraderie and teamwork of playing bells. I play the lowest bells because I'm one of the younger ringers and don't have arthritis in my hands yet. We performed half a dozen times in the nondenominational church services at Voyager. 

I continue to enjoy the current events group that meets on Wednesday afternoons. This week we talked about Facebook's current data problems and about the potential impact of tariffs. The current events group used to be contentious - it has a diverse political mix - but these days it's a wealth of thought and wisdom, and I'm grateful to be part of it.

I've facilitated a Great Decisions foreign affairs group on Thursdays for the last six years. This year I eased myself out as leader as my friend JoAnne stepped in to replace me. She has been my backup for several seasons now. Next year I'll stay in the group, but without the responsibilities of the moderator. 

Two years ago I was responsible for ticket sales for the Voyager's theatre group. Last year I assisted the producer. This year I was in the cast. I've also served as the treasurer and room scheduler. Next year I don't plan to do anything with the theatre group. There are a couple of other possibilities, but time will tell. Twice a week rehearsals and a production meeting every Thursday were a big responsibility, and I like the idea of being a little less busy.

New to me this year was volunteering at Keep Tucson Together at their every-other-Saturday asylum clinic. We work with immigrants seeking asylum, helping them to fill out their paperwork and fleshing out the stories they tell in explaining why their lives will be in danger if they return home. It's not too far removed from the volunteer work I did in Greece in the last couple of years. I don't speak Farsi and not much Spanish, but I find I can communicate in other ways. It's very rewarding to make a connection with someone whose life is in danger or chaos. Whatever difference I can make, I want to do that. One of my current goals is to learn Spanish so that, within two years, I'll be conversant enough to talk to the asylum clients without an interpreter. I spend some time most days with Duolingo on my phone and Rosetta Stone on my laptop, and I'm looking into Spanish classes while I'm home this summer.

Someone asked me last week if I'm glad to be coming home. I told her that it's a transition, and it will take time. The people I know at home have been continuing on with their lives without me, and I'll need to ease myself back into that environment. It's much easier to come to Tucson in the fall, because everyone is arriving and glad to see each other again. Still, we have two homes and I love them both.

I have a friend, Ellen, who drove from Arkansas last spring to keep company with Larisa for the five weeks Art and I spent in Greece. By the time we got back Ellen had bought a park model (trailer) at Voyager! She said she'd made more friends in six weeks at Voyager than in several years in Arkansas. That's the kind of place Voyager is.

As I was writing this, my friend Bev called from home. We talked for 45 minutes and we're getting together for coffee the first Wednesday I'm home. So the transition is beginning already!

Lucky, lucky me. Such a life I get to have.