Saturday, March 29, 2014

The voices of the children

You know what you rarely hear when you live in a 55-plus place. The voices of children.

I like to hear kids playing outside. At home in Washington, we have about eight neighbor kids who play together when the weather is good. They shriek and giggle and run from imaginary burglars and shout as they descend a slide into a pool of water. They tattle and argue and whine. I love listening to them through my open window. I remember the long days of my own childhood and those of my children.

My next door neighbors Jennie and Jason and their children Kaela and Jesse are my special friends. Baby Elsa was added to their family just before we left for the winter. When we get home on Wednesday evening I may walk over to hear the voices of these children and exclaim over how much they've grown in the last three months and how Elsa is nearly crawling and has some hair now. I have missed that texture of our lives.

I am thinking of our grandchildren - four teenagers and a six-year-old. I haven't heard their voices in a while. I see the teens' posts on Facebook from time to time and I read about the first grader's first report card. I miss those voices especially.

I'm reminded about these voices by the children visiting the Sedona timeshare resort where we've spent the last six days. Usually we come here in the winter, when it's colder and the trees are bare and the kids are in school. This year we chose the week between our departure from our winter home in Tucson and our four-day drive home. It's spring break, and we've seen children here, from toddlers to teenagers. We can hear the smaller ones playing by Oak Creek and in the courtyard. We see the teens stroll by with their giant sodas, casual in their shorts and summer tops and bright hair. I remember spring break!

I like the voices of the children. All the voices.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

We bought it!

After spending two winters in our park model rental in Tucson, we decided to make an offer to our landlords. The place had been for sale for over two years. We got a very good deal. They were asking $22,500 for a place they paid $40,000 for seven years ago. We got it for $18,500 including a year of space rental. The space is $4700 a year - a small savings over renting for three months in high season - but much cheaper for longer stays.

Now, instead of getting ready to pack everything we brought down in December for our upcoming departure, we're deciding what we'll leave here: water aerobics equipment, sun visors, canned goods, bird feeder. And what changes we'd like to make: window coverings, Arizona room lamps, recliners, table and comfortable chairs for the deck. What we'll bring down next year: more plates and silverware and towels, framed pictures - and Larisa, our cat! We live in the no-pet section of this large park, but cats are known to live indoors. 

Here's how I described our winter residence recently to a blogging friend:

"We found the Voyager RV Resort two years ago. We were at our timeshare in Sedona and an old friend and her husband, who were already staying at the Voyager, invited us to come and look at the place on our way back to the Tucson airport. We did. They gave us 'the tour' and I said, 'Art, I want to spend time here next winter.'

The winter population of the Voyager is about 2,500. There is a myriad of activities - discussion groups, physical activities (dancing, biking, hiking, pickleball, tennis, swimming, golf, you name it), a book group, two writing groups, crafts (quilting, silversmithing, leatherwork, lapidary, etc), music (bands, choruses, handbells, ukulele, etc), shows, field trips, spiritual studies, games (bridge, dominoes, mahjongg, poker, etc).  Ages 55 to over 90.

I like to be busy so I do multiple activities. Sometimes Art goes with me. But many people are quieter. A friend in water aerobics told me this morning, 'I do this and read, plus bike and hike. That's it.' So whatever you want to do, you can.

The community is strong and very friendly. We wave to everyone as we walk or bike or drive down the street.

We have been here nearly three months. We have had two days of rain, three days of wind and about three days of clouds. Otherwise it has been sunny. Daytime temps range from 50s to 80s, depending on the year (this year has been quite warm, last year was colder than average). It's the sun I'm after, so that's fine.

People live in RVs or park models (trailers) or houses. Some people own their residences and others rent, either from the resort or from a private owner. Our landlords used to live in our park model, but they bought a larger manufactured home on the other side of the resort. Our place is 13 x 34 with an Arizona room and laundry shed, so we live in about 650 square feet.

This place is full of life and energy. A great community of seniors from all over North America." We feel very much part of the community. We got a lot of support in January when Art had a cardiac arrest. Here's what I wrote in the March newsletter:

"A very large 'Thank you' to all the people who helped my husband Art when he experienced a cardiac arrest on the pickleball court on Saturday, January 25th. To the person who called 911, the men who lowered Art to the ground, the man who used the AED to revive him, and those who stayed with him until the EMTS arrived. To those who asked about him, visited him in the hospital, and greeted him on his return, and to the many who supported me. We are grateful to be part of this community."

We leave on Monday for six days in Sedona and then a four-day drive home. It will be very good to be back in Washington. But in the winter, there will be no seasonal affective disorder for me, no arthritis for Art. And he won't fall on icy stairs (two broken ribs) or a slippery driveway (torn rotator cuff). A good deal all around!

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Our next-to-last week in Tucson was a good one.

Sunday - we went to the "4th Street potluck". About 50 people there. I only knew four of them. Apparently our street is quite long! I've recently learned how to have a conversation with a stranger I'm sharing a dinner table with. You ask them about themselves, and then you listen! I'm grateful to have learned how to do this, finally.

Monday - Our last session of "Reimagining God." This year's new activity has been such a gift! I'm finding long-held questions being answered and feeling very comfortable in my own spiritual search.

Tuesday - line dancing. Two dances for 45 minutes. Such good exercise. 

And in the afternoon, a massage. We've treated ourselves every week since we got here. There's a Massage Envy in Tucson we especially like - including getting the employee rate. 

Wednesday - Art sat in a vendor booth for four hours selling our book. We figure we have sold 25 books since we got to Arizona in December. It always surprises me when people ask to buy a copy. I wonder why that is? I'm looking forward to hearing from someone what they thought about the book. Is anyone reading it? 

And in the afternoon, I walked out of the current events discussion group for the first time. There was a substitute facilitator who used the occasion to pontificate on his own very conservative views about climate change, and another conservative person picked up the topic and said some unkind things involving "wacko people from Seattle". I thought, well, no, I don't have to listen. It felt good to comment with my feet!

Thursday - Our last session of Great Decisions, a foreign affairs discussion group. I was a new facilitator this year, and the enthusiasm of group members was encouraging. Almost everyone plans to attend again next year. They've decided they want to limit the amount of a time a person can talk when it's their turn, and they want to discipline themselves to stay on topic. This group jelled really well and I learned a LOT about foreign affairs. 

And then, in the evening, our last session with a covenant group at the local Unitarian church. The topic was hope - not a word often used in our daily lives.

Friday - In the evening we met my ex-husband John's sister Patty's daughter Bridget (24) and her fiance Gilbert at a Tucson restaurant. This young woman was not even born when John and I divorced, but I've met her a couple of times and had a good conversation with her her at an Oregon funeral (John's brother Paul, Bridget's uncle) in November. Good food (enormous T-bones their specialty), campy cowboy entertainment and a shoot-out show afterwards. As usual, the two women talked and the men listened. What is that about?

Saturday - An extra handbells practice to prepare for our Sunday concert. I thought I got the last few spots worked out.

And in the afternoon we took desserts from resort folks to the Salvation Army in Tucson. Along with a dozen other people, we put 90 desserts on plates, set out silverware and napkins. As people came in, I took 90 plates from Christine, each with a bowl of chili, added a piece of cornbread, and handed it to Hannah to add cheese and avocado. We fed women with small children, women alone, and men. Most of these people sleep in the facility and leave for the day in the morning. Some receive job training and coaching. I was pooped by the time we got home, but what a cool thing! First time for me, to feed the hungry. 

Sunday - another handbell practice and then our concert. I couldn't believe how many mistakes I made!  So did others. Our director, Bette, said no one in the audience would have noticed. The beginning handbells group played first. Their music was simpler than ours, but I didn't hear a single mistake. Good to remind myself to be humble.

I thought off and on this week about buying the place we're renting. It's our second winter renting, and we'll be signing a contract this week for next year, assuming the place doesn't get sold. We're considering offering to buy it in September for a lower price than the owners are asking.

Blessed are the 55+ folks, for they may be free from the obligation to work.
Blessed are the volunteers, for they share themselves with others.
Blessed are the new friends, for they listen and want to be heard.
Blessed are the opportunities to serve, for they remind me to be grateful!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

It's getting to be time

We leave Tucson two weeks from today. We'll spend a week in Sedona and then begin our four-day drive home.

The end-of-season gatherings are beginning. Today we're going to a "4th Street" potluck. We'll be spending time with neighbors we've met  - Dar and Betty, Ronnie and Bill, Jodie, Selma, Michael and Michelle, Don and Betty - and meeting some we don't know. I'm not keen on gatherings of this sort, but we've been waving to them all as we walk or ride our bicycles - everyone does that here - so the faces are familiar. The potluck will celebrate our neighborhood away from home.

On Thursday my Monday/Wednesday/Friday water aerobics class is going to lunch at the RV park's restaurant. I used to think an 8:00 a.m. class was too early, but here I usually wake up on my own at about 7:15 so it's been a good way to start my day. The class is full of familiar faces now: Carol, Susie, Mike, Hannah, Laura, Bill, Marilyn, Billie and a dozen others. We laugh a lot. When we meet at other times, we say we don't recognize each other with our clothes on! Carol teaches the class as a volunteer and there's a card and an envelope going around for her.

A week from today my handbell group gives its concert. We're in the usual "not quite ready to perform" state, but I expect the rough spots will be ironed out at Tuesday's rehearsal - or we may need an extra practice. It's been a pleasure to meet up with these folks for the last ten weeks to make music. There's also a card and envelope going around for Bette, the director.

Next Monday there's a gathering for the Reimagining God discussion group. This has been an unexpected gift for us - we didn't participate last year because we knew we'd be leaving before the end of the season. Everyone in the group is on a spiritual journey. Storytelling has been a big part this year - Art and I told our stories, and so did Betty, Mer, Eve, David, Sanjay, Bob, and a few others. The trust among group members has been very special.

The luncheon for the Great Decisions foreign affairs discussion groups is a week from Thursday. I was asked to facilitate the newest, fifth group this year.  Group V started out with six participants and grew to thirteen: Alex and Nancy, Lou, Al and Bette, JoAnne and Dick, Marcia and Jerry, Jim, Pothan, and Art and me. We're from Canada, California, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington. All winter friends. The luncheon speaker is a woman talking about the current status of women in Afghanistan.

Two weeks from today there's a potluck for participants in our Tuesday evening 12th step group. We may decide to stay one more night so we can attend that gathering.

There are no gatherings that I know of for our line dancing class or our current events group. We have two more sessions of each before our departure.

We started the season with the intention of regular attendance at two-step dancing and the Native American flute circle, but other circumstances prevailed and we only attended those events a couple of times. We still dance, though, and we're still working on playing our flutes. We hope to take the flutes on a hike in Sedona and see how they sound among the red rocks.

A few of our friends have already left the resort for home. Others will stay a little longer than we do. The winter community will dissolve and come together again next year. We're signing a contract with our landlord for another three months in 2015. Our park model is up for sale, so we risk not being able to come back to the same one if it's sold before next year - but we're not ready to buy a place.

Sun, wonderful sun! Arizona in the winter!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Knowing what to do

Sometimes I get it right, knowing what to do.  And sometimes I don't. And sometimes I don't know.

I have a an old friend currently undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She and I had coffee months ago, when she'd just received her diagnosis and was making her plans. She is fairly young, full of energy and anger at the unfairness of a cancer diagnosis. She had blue wristbands made for supporters. Each one has "Believe" engraved on it. On the days of her chemo I wear the blue band. And every morning I send her a Facebook text: Believe, or Believing, or Believe!, or I'm a Believer, or a similar phrase. I have been doing this for the last 60 days or so. I can tell when she's feeling good because she reads my text within an hour or so. Some days it takes her 12 hours, or until the next day, and then I know she's struggling. I'm a texter, and so is she, and this communication works. I know what to do.

I have a newer friend who sat with me in the hospital for five hours the day Art had his cardiac arrest and checked in with me for a couple of weeks afterward. She doesn't text or Facebook. She calls. Last week her partner had a stroke. I knew about it when I saw her on Monday, but I didn't talk to her until I saw her again on Saturday. I thought about her every day, wondering how she and her partner were doing. But I didn't call because I didn't want to be a bother. I didn't know what to do. I told her that when I talked to her on Saturday. She said what they most needed was positive energy and prayers for her partner's full recovery. I can do that, now that I know what to do.

I have another newer friend who is helping her ailing, aging father. The father is getting a divorce from his wife of 20 years. There is a lot of conflict in the household; the father, the daughter, and the stepmother are entangled in the anger and stress that is so often present in these situations. My friend asked me if I would go to the house as a "neutral third party" on the day the stepmother came over to go through the household possessions. I'm a mediator, so I did that. In the four hours we were all together, I did a lot of listening, some coaching, and some affirming. I really was neutral. I think my friend expected me to be more of an advocate for her, but we had discussed my role and she said she wanted my neutrality. I'm pretty sure the day went much better with me than it would have without me. But it wasn't a "happily ever after" day. We were all very tired at the end. I did my best, but I don't know what the outcome will be for my friend or her family.

I wish I knew what to do every time, but I'm thinking that's unrealistic. I just need to give each situation my best shot.