Sunday, March 25, 2012

In between time

In between what time?

Seems some people - including me - view my time as planning a trip, going on a trip, or being between trips. My sister once suggested that we're taking all these trips because I'm running from something. I don't think that's the case any more, since my visit last year to the Nebraska cemetery where my mother's grandparents are buried. However, I know we'll slow down. We're getting older. Our energy level has diminished. We have aches and pains. At the moment my husband is looking at knee replacement. I have a chronic back issue. We're probably not going to be doing any more inn-to-inn hiking as we did in Ireland 13 years ago, or any more group hiking trips, as we did in the UK and in Iceland ten years ago. I have a niece/friend who's 41. I read her Facebook page and I am exhausted by the pace and number of her activities. I used to do that myself!

Now that we can see our elder years coming along, the trips we take are sweet and special. Whether a road trip to see where my family came from, or a weeklong adventure with my sister to California to visit an old and dear friend, or a flight to Cancun to celebrate the wedding of a daughter - none of them are idle ventures. I make my list of places I want to see, and the ones that float to the top are the ones that might be too much for us a few years from now. Like Australia and New Zealand, Antarctica, and Africa. Maybe they're all too much now. I can't muster up the enthusiasm I once had for these more exotic destinations. I used to have disparaging thoughts about elderly people on cruise ships in harbors, taking day trips. Now I can see to a place down the road where they'll be just right, maybe.

What defines me still, though, is curiosity. For one of our Kentucky nights next month, we're staying in a lodge in a state park rather than in a motel in town. Why? I expect I'll meet more Kentucky people in the park. To talk, to see how we are different and how we are the same. Maybe to meet someone who's related to me, since my grandmother's family were coal miners in Kentucky for generations. On six of the fourteen nights, we'll be staying with other empty nesters, members of the Evergreen Club. One night, at the request of our host, I'll be speaking to the Lions Club of Shelbyville, Tennessee. On the topic of my choice! I'll probably combine the Evergreen Club, the genealogy, and our book into some theme called "community". See where curiosity gets me?

Our book sales are coming along. We're getting good comments, especially from vets. We're taking copies to seven Vet Centers in Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. Art comes home with $17 and says, "I sold another book." Who would have guessed a retired "lineman for the county" would be doing this?

I'm thinking my life is still interesting, just different. I'm probably entering the "wisdom" part of my life. I've got no regrets so far about the part that's gone, because new stuff comes up constantly.

Isn't that great?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Another Sunday morning

I keep telling myself I'm going to take Sundays off the computer and just read, or putter, or something else. This is the third Sunday since I decided to be computer free that I haven't followed through.

Here's what's on my agenda today, computer-wise:

1. I'm planning our upcoming road trip to Appalachia. Originally we were going to fly into St. Louis, rent a car, drive to our endpoint in Charlottesville, VA, and fly home. That was when I'd checked airfares and car rentals; you get penalized with a car when you don't drop it off where you picked it up. Originally, St. Louis had very reasonable car rental rates, and that was why we made one-way plane reservations to that city. But yesterday, when I'd planned each of our 12 days - activities and lodging and mileage calculations - I went to reserve the car and found the rate had increased from $400 to $1200! Too, too much, I decided. So I spend a few hours rerouting us for a round trip into and out of St. Louis. That meant changing reservations and motels and B&Bs and finding other Evergreen Club people for the dates we needed. EC is an online club we belong to where you stay with other empty nesters, getting a bed and breakfast for $15, plus good conversation and maybe a Dutch treat dinner out. I've heard back from Evergreen Clubbers in two of the five cities we've requested, so I'm getting there. By later on today, hopefully, I'll have enough positive responses to make the reservations for the car and the return flight from St. Louis. We'll get four extra days of exploration for about $500 less.

We're traveling in April because our Ecuador home exchange partners will be in our house for ten days to attend their daughter's wedding. Otherwise we'd be staying home. Our days are getting longer, and the darkness is much harder for me to deal with than the rain and wind we often get in March.

2. I've signed up to take an online course called Living Well with Chronic Conditions. I'd heard about a volunteer opportunity to teach the class, but the signup person told me they prefer trainers who have already taken the class. At present the only chronic condition I have is tingling feet from nerves in my back that got compressed last May when I sat down wrong in a chair. (I don't count cataracts, since I'm having one of them removed on April 3.) Still, I'm expecting to learn from the class - particularly about adapting my attitude to my less-than-perfect body. It's a six-week class, online, starting each Sunday.

3. I've committed to blog at least one day a week, and it's been a week.

Otherwise, I've got other things going on today off the computer.

4. Making a list of the places I could have lost my credit card this week. I noticed yesterday it wasn't in my wallet. Olive Garden on Tuesday is the last place I remember using it. But I'll call around this afternoon to other places I've been. I lose my card from time to time, and I always find it. In the meantime, I check online every day to make sure it's not being used by anyone else.

5. Four loads of laundry.

6. One trip to the gym.

7. If I find an hour, I'd like to lie down and finish "The Hunger Games". Originally written for teen readers, this one is being picked up by grownups as well. I hear it's been made into a movie opening very soon. I'd always prefer to read a book rather than see a movie. This one is really engrossing - I stayed up until 1:30 a.m. this morning reading it.

I feel bad when I don't get around to my blogging community during the week. That's the last computer activity for today.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

On being home again

We've been home for over two weeks now, and we're not leaving again for another five weeks. Here's what I've noticed:

1. It's such a pleasure to be able to catch up, at my pace, with the mail and the magazines. And to have time to do the income taxes, prepare the budget for the year, and repot the root-bound plant.

2. I'm noting the hours of daylight are longer and wonder what happened to the darkness. Then I remember we were gone for 48 of those days. That's why we went! It was a wise decision, the being gone. I feel much more grateful about living in the Pacific Northwest this year, having missed much of the darkness.

3. Even if I take a laptop when I travel, there are some things that aren't on it - like the genealogy and the finances. At home, I have everything I need.

4. I'm walking a couple of miles a day on most days, and getting to the gym most of the others. I'm pacing myself, but already I can tell I'm stronger and have more stamina than I did a month ago.

And on the just-thinking front:

5. The filing cabinet is losing some of its folders - everything related to work and work benefits and L&I claims from working, and everything related to Bud, our pig, who died in November. I like that we're getting simpler.

6. I'm a good grandma when my grandkids are around. I'm not the lunging-type grandma. I sit there on the couch until the kid starts putting his toys right next to me, and then I teach him how to twist the dimmer to turn on the tall lamp, and then when his mom says it's time to leave he says, "I don't want to go home. I want to stay here." And I'm grateful to have these grandchildren and I'm glad the kind of grandma I am is fine with them.

7. I'm grateful my husband trusted me to manage the finances and investments when we were working, because now we're not working and we have everything we need. I'm also grateful he does all the grocery shopping and all the cooking, because I get a treat for dinner nearly every night without having to do a thing myself.

8. We have a daughter getting married in October, near Cancun. As our gift, we're contributing to the airfare for four of her siblings. One of them wants to stay with us in Mexico rather than finding a different place. That means we're good company for 30-somethings. That means a lot! I've been delegated the job of making sure all the siblings get passports. That means I'm considered trustworthy. I've also been delegated the job of buying a tropical wedding outfit for the father of the bride. That means my opinion is valued.

It's all good.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I just logged on to AuthorHouse, the publisher of our book Return to Viet Nam: One Veteran's Journey of Healing. It was published in December. We earned royalties of $96.27 for the 39 copies that were sold by December 31. I am totally thrilled.

Art and I have decided to send complimentary copies to the team leaders of veterans' clinics, at first in the Pacific Northwest. These clinics, part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, are all over the country and directly serve the veterans. Art attends a weekly group meeting at the vet clinic in Seattle. We provided a copy of the book to the group's counselor; next week he'll be taking half a dozen copies of the book to sell, at a discount, to the vets in his group.

At the end of the book Art says, "I hope that talking about this journey of healing and how it has helped me -- if even one person can get some good out of it and stop the nightmares and gain some peace, it will be worth it." We're hoping that will happen."

It is very cool to hear from people who have read the book and made comments to us. Family members who had no idea what Art had gone through; friends who bought extra copies to give to friends. Signing a book is an honor for both of us.

Today I sent my approval of the second version of the book. I decided I wanted to make it as good as it could be, rather than just "good enough". The "retech" cost more, but I'll be proud to have the new version out there. Most people wouldn't have noticed the changes I decided to make, but picky readers would have. I don't want anyone distracted from the story by a small inconsistency or a quotation mark on the wrong side of the punctuation mark.

Once the retech is ready, I'll be taking copies to the bookstores in our area and to the library. On our April road trip, we'll make a point of stopping by vet clinics and dropping off a book.

With this book, it's not about the money. It's about the vets.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Waking up too early

It happens from time to time. I wake up at 5 or so - early for me - with thoughts running through my mind that keep me awake. It's usually not a random worry, but an issue I need to resolve.

This time it was about our travel budget. My husband Art and I have decided to travel when we can, while we can, but we're not expensive travelers. We put away a certain amount every month for travel, and if we don't have the money in the account, we don't go on the trip.

Our 10-day trip to Hawaii before Christmas was to a timeshare, as was our 18-day trip to Arizona in January. We bought these timeshares a while back, when we were both still working and when I was a sucker for timeshare presentations. Now and then I think about selling them, but not yet - we'd take a very large loss and all we'd get out of it is freedom from the annual maintenance fees, which are doable, and we're still enjoying using the timeshares. Our February trip to Ecuador was actually pretty inexpensive - we used miles for our airfare and the lodging was a home exchange. We were gone three weeks and spent a total of $700. Not bad.

These trips got us out of the discouraging Pacific Northwest weather for a good part of the winter.

For the rest of the year, I'd lined up a trip to Appalachia for April, a schooner cruise in Maine for August, a week south of Cancun for October, and a week in Hawaii with our 12-year-old twin granddaughters between Christmas and New Year. Plus, we're still planning on renting a park model in Tucson for January and February of next year.

And that was what kept me awake. The travel plans exceeded our budget. So, for the first time since we retired, I prioritized the trips as to feasibility.

The Cancun trip is a necessity. Our daughter Laura is getting married in a town south of there. The wedding will be only siblings and parents and a very few close friends. We have agreed to split the airfare for eight siblings and spouses. That commitment takes a chunk out of our travel budget but it's very worth it.

The April trip is a necessity in that we have to be out of our house between April 15 and April 26. That's the time when our home exchange partners from Ecuador will be staying in our house to attend their daughter's wedding in Seattle. We could go anywhere, of course, but we decided on Appalachia because (1) we've never been there and (2) I am a genealogy buff and in Kentucky and Tennessee there are several cemeteries full of my relatives and (3) there's a "Crooked Road" in southwest Virginia offering numerous Appalachian music and craft venues and (4) we want to visit Polyface Farm in Virginia, site of one of the discussions in "The Omnivore's Dilemma". I've whittled down the cost pretty well by having us fly into St. Louis and depart from Charlottesville, staying with couples who belong to the Evergreen Club (online group, you call and make arrangements with fellow empty nesters and pay $15 a night).

The Maine trip is a treat. This will be our fifth cruise out of Rockland in the last ten years. It's profoundly relaxing and beautiful and is probably Art's favorite time of all. We've already paid the deposit. We'll use a companion fare certificate from Alaska airlines so one of us will pay only $100 for our ticket. We'll stay with friends for a couple of days before and may be able to set up a home exchange for a week afterwards.

The Hawaii trip was something I've wanted to do for my granddaughters, who live quite locally in Oregon. I'd gotten permission from their parents, but when I checked out airfare I found to my distress that each seat costs $800. Then, when we get there, I'm pretty much on my own managing the girls, because when they're with us (in July and in December), Art does the cooking but pretty much relaxes and lives his own life when they're visiting. I realized I'd be paying $3200 to wear myself out. I thought about inviting the parents, too, but then I'm paying $4,800. Too much money for our budget. So, reluctantly, I decided to forego the Hawaii trip until a year when we don't have much other travel scheduled. Maybe 2013.

Once I realized Hawaii was the budget buster, and let the trip fall out of my mind, my sleep issue went away.

All this travel is our extravagance. We drive old cars and wear mostly old clothes and have only basic cable and our TV is a 27-inch box rather than a 47-inch flat screen and we only see movies when they come out on Netflix and we get our books mostly from the library rather than a bookstore. There will come a time when the energy required to travel will be too much, or we'll have a major expense that will wipe out the travel budget, or one of those other life things that happen. For now, we want to go and see and do.

Now I'll get back to the income taxes. For some reason, they're not keeping me awake.