Friday, December 31, 2010

The night before the new year

My ten-year-old twin granddaughters are making believe in the next room, as they've exhausted their two-hour "screen time" limit for the day. My husband Art is reading his latest Lee Child book. In a few minutes we'll start our agreed-upon events for this New Year's Eve: we'll watch "Neverending Story", new for the girls, and "Up", new for me. And at midnight we'll go outside and wake the neighbors with our horn tooting - if we're all still awake by then.

This year was when I started my blog and stopped working. When I took eight trips in six months and read every magazine in my wicker basket. When I had my eyelids lifted so I could see again. When I set my first-year retirement goals and started working on all of them, albeit slowly, with a sense of purpose but no sense of urgency whatsoever. When I started living on my husband's income after decades of financial independence. When I learned how to snowshoe, made friends with my neighbor across the street after 15 years, saw David and the Pieta, offered to join the planning commission in my town, joined the neighborhood gym and started improving my balance. When I bought a Kindle, an iPod nano and an iPad but not a flat-screen television. When I renewed or deepened friendships, and found new ones in the blogging world. When I started remembering my dreams when I woke up in the morning.

It's been a very good year. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Yellowstone photos

I'm pretty new at taking photos - it's been years since I haven't relied on my husband Art to do the visual things on our trips. But this new venture is fun. The combination of a digital camera and iPhoto on my Mac make my efforts look better than they might otherwise.

We were fairly snug and warm in the snowcoach, and the temps were in the 20s on the day we spent in Yellowstone. What I notice most is that these photos almost look like they were taken in black and white. But they weren't. The park looks desolate, but not deserted. It's stark and beautiful at this time of year

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lessons from Island Park, Idaho

We chose this timeshare resort because we'd banked our own three years ago and it was "use it or lose it" time. Brier, Washington to Island Park, Idaho is about 800 miles, a reasonable two-day drive. And I wanted to spend some winter time where it snows.

We spent Monday on a snowcoach tour in Yellowstone. If you only get to the park once, it should be in winter. The roads are closed, so you go with a guide on a snow vehicle. Our group of nine was alone at all the stops in the park. It was beautiful. I'll be posting the rest of the photos I took when I'm not using wi-fi in the resort's laundry room!

We start driving home on Saturday, Christmas Day. Here's what I've learned so far this week:

1. It's all about layers. Through experimenting I know that, to walk or snowshoe when the weather is in the teens or twenties, I need, on the bottom, silk long underwear, jeans, snow pants, gaiters, wool socks and snow boots. On top I need silk short-sleeved underwear, a knit shirt, a vest, a heavyweight sweatshirt, and a hat. If it's windy I also need a scarf and maybe a snow coat. I own all these things, but until this week I had never worn some of them - and certainly not all of them at the same time. The idea is to be room temperature wherever I am - or, at least, not to be wet or cold.

2. Snowshoeing is easy. Easier when walking behind someone else or in the tracks of a snowmobile. Otherwise, excellent aerobic exercise. And, while a groomed trail in a state park may be nice, if you don't feel like driving 15 miles to get there, you can use the resort's golf course as your wilderness.

3. A new IPad will do just about everything except operate a blog, so you only need to go to the clubhouse for the wi-fi when it's blog time.

4. If you're in a remote area and it's snowing, you can get a lot of reading done. I have read two issues of Atlantic, one of Yes, one of Habitat World, two of The Sun, three of Smithsonian, two of National Geographic Traveler, and seven of Time. I brought all these magazines with me and I am proud to say that my magazine basket at home is empty for the first time in 15 years. That's the first retirement goal I've met so far.

5. If there's five feet of snow on the ground, and you keep the blinds open, it's bright enough in the condo that no light box is necessary in the morning. And you need sunglasses to walk outside even when the sun isn't out.

6. If the climate is moist where you live and dry where you're visiting, you need a lot of chapstick and you should have brought some kind of moisturizer for inside your nose.

7. If you bring soup ingredients from home and make a huge pot on the first day, you can eat it for lunch every day. When you're looking at three-foot-long icicles outside your window, the soup tastes good no matter how many times this week you've eaten it.

8. It is lovely to have your living area heated by a gas fireplace.

9. When you wake up in the middle of the night, you could swear your cat has jumped onto the bed, even though she is at home with her paid companion.

10. If you are staying in a remote area, but the terrain is flat and wide open, it doesn't feel nearly as isolated as when you're in the country in the middle of a forest.

11. If you've put all your snow clothes in the washer, you can be assured that's when your husband will call and say there's a sleigh ride in 15 minutes and do you want to go?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

We're done!

December 15, and Christmas at Linda's is done! We had our family gathering last Sunday night. Of our eight grown offspring, five of them attended (the others live in other parts of the country). Our meal was lovely - prime rib this year, rather than our customary Costco lasagna. The gift exchange (generic gifts, draw a number, select or steal) was especially fun because everyone had given some thought to their gifts - not a Starbucks card among them. And then...everyone stayed for an hour and a half more. Art and I were quiet, listening to snippets of conversation and grateful everyone was comfortable enough not to dash off to their next event.

Now we're getting ready for Friday's departure on a two-day drive to a timeshare in southeastern Idaho, 22 miles from West Yellowstone. We have snowshoes - purchased two years ago during our last snow, but never used. I found our snow pants, missing for at least eight years - Art moved them out of the hall closet at some point and hung them elsewhere. He denied I ever asked him where they were. No matter, though - we've got them now. We've got our Kindles, our magazines, our scented candles, our AAA maps, and our snow chains. We're looking forward to the four feet of snow currently on the ground in Island Park, Idaho - and hoping we can get there.

I've been using my dawn simulator, thoughtfully returned by my sister, and sitting in front of my light box for 30 minutes a day. I feel really good. I've been going to the gym and doing my balance exercises faithfully. I can see improvement already.

I've been sending out feelers for home exchanges in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont for next September. So far I've gotten one tentatively positive response. And we're exploring our first Road Scholar (used to be Elderhostel) class, in South Dakota in May.

And next week is the solstice, and then the days start getting longer!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Almost winter thoughts

I was wakened this morning by a long, very loud clap of thunder followed by a torrent from the sky. Very unusual for our part of the country. Within an hour, the clouds had moved on and the sky was momentarily blue. But it is raining again, and it will be for at least another six months. Or so it seems.

I get cloudy this time of year. And sometimes then I eat. Yesterday I joined the gym that took over the gym I belonged to before but never used. And I talked to a trainer and got his assessment of what I need. I'm very flexible but I need to increase my strength. And I need to change how I eat. The trainer recommended a book which I downloaded onto my Kindle and started. So far, I've been reminded of the terribleness of obesity and bad eating habits, and all the diseases, and the life-shortening possibilities. And the three tiny pieces of biscotti I ate last night started to feel like poisonous little chunks. So today I'm eating fruit and not sugar and not much dairy, and I'm hoping the pants that were a bit tight three days ago will loosen up by the end of the week.

I gave blood this morning. My blood pressure was 110/80. I said to the lady, "Isn't that great? Thank goodness for Lisinopril." She looked at me and said, "Do you have a cough?" I said yes. She said, "I had that cough too until I stopped taking Lisinopril." So when I got home I looked up when I started taking that med - about two years ago. And when I got the cough - also about two years ago. Duh! I sent an email to my doc asking for a change to the medication. He responded by suggesting I split the dose for a week, then get off for a week, and see how the bp looks. That had been my suggestion a couple of months ago, actually, but he said then to wait until we got back from Italy in November after we'd eaten all the salt there, and I said okay. I'd really like to not need the meds. But then I thought, well, I've gained a few pounds since we got back from Italy and I started sitting around instead of walking because I had jet lag and then I caught the two-week cold that's going around, so my bp will probably be high when I go off the meds, and I always get nervous when I take my bp and it's high. But then I figured, at this point at least I can go back on meds, if necessary, that don't make me cough! So I'm sitting here, feeling fat and slothful and pre-nonmedicated.

My neighbor across the street has become a friend now that I'm not working. Today she called and asked me to take her to the doctor on Friday morning so she can get a tissue biopsy. Of course I said yes. But now I feel fatter, and guilty because I'm healthy but slothful.

And there's a tinge of sadness in me today because one of my favorite blogging friends is taking a break from blogging and I know I will miss her posts and her comments on my posts. I sent her an email and said if she travels to our part of the country she's welcome to stay with us. She responded with a lovely email, but I still feel sad because I'm not nuts about change. I want all the people I care about to stay around forever, and for some reason they all insist on having their own lives instead.

I guess I should turn on my light box! It's winter, after all.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Present (rather than Christmas Past)

Art and I have eight children between us. Until we got together, my two sons and I celebrated on Christmas Day. Once we had a blended family, for many years we all gathered on Christmas Eve for a meal and gift exchange. Then they all grew up, half of them moved away, and Christmas Eve wasn't a good time for the other half, and then there were grandchildren. So we changed the tradition several times.

This year we're having a family meal on Sunday, December 12. We'll have only three of our offspring but will also have a wife, a significant other and two to four grandchildren. We buy gifts for all ten of our grandchildren, stepgrandchildren and grandchildren's halfsiblings. For the family gathering, each adult brings a generic gift with a value of $20 or less, and we do the "draw numbers, choose a gift or steal" routine. That works well for our family's current configuration.

Once the 12th has past, Art and I are finished with the family Christmas. In previous years this has been hard for me. Last year I decorated a live tree with all the old ornaments - the ones I collected when my two boys were growing up. When I finished, I felt so sad I started to cry. I was thinking about and wishing for Christmas Past. So I took down all the ornaments and put the live tree in the yard.

This year we drove into the country to buy a dozen poinsettias, as usual. Today we put up 19 stockings on the banister, set out the nativity set and put up all the decorations except a tree. It looks good, and I don't feel sad.

On December 17th Art and I will attempt another road trip - this one to Island Park, Idaho, where we will be in a two-bedroom timeshare 22 miles from West Yellowstone. One of the days we're there we'll take a snowcoach trip inside Yellowstone. We're taking the snowshoes we bought two years ago that we've never used, plus our Kindles, a dozen magazines, a jigsaw puzzle, my laptop, and half of the poinsettias. I expect it to be cold, with snow, and I think we'll have a quiet, comfortable week before Christmas. On Christmas Day we'll start our two-day drive home.

This plan sounds good to me. It lets me live in Christmas Present instead of pining for Christmas Past. Which I now remember as being wonderful sometimes and just wretched at others (like for two or three years after my divorce). Christmas Present is what we make of it, and I like the one we're making this year.