Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year Blessings

From our home to yours - bright blessings for a wonderful 2015.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Huge Piece of the Puzzle Moves In Place

Don't have the keys, and haven't signed the last of the last documents - but we bought our motorhome on Saturday! 
Although the Tiffin Allegro 33aa was still on the list, after our introduction to the Thor Tuscany 34ST in October we have really thought that was the rig we wanted. I've been "checking out" the photos of a 2014 at Giant RV here in SoCal for weeks, thinking it was near perfect for us. Didn't like the red stripe on the exterior and the couch looked uncomfortable with little option for changing it out. Everything else was great.
Like so much of our journey, this piece just sort of fell into place. The rep we met in October stayed in touch, and Bill got an email about a dealer "show" back at the Pomona Fairgrounds starting on the 26th. The timing was good and we made plans to head over there on the weekend "just to look". Uh huh.
I called the rep when we got there and found out he was in Quartzsite preparing for the big show next month. He gave me the name of another rep to find on site. We headed to the diesel pusher "section" and walked up to the first reps we saw. Yep, one of them was the guy (turns out he was a sales manager), and one of them was the factory rep. Score!
So we have "the" guy, and two units over is "the" rig. The one I've memorized online. It's the only 34ST. Naturally the "red" stripe is really a beautiful brown/wine color, and the tan is the exact color of the Jeep (I think the serial number is a code that spells our name). Bill and the sales manager head inside while the factory rep and I discuss some possible options for the couch. Good to know. 
But is anyone surprised to hear that the couch is really comfortable? Of course not. 
Tessa-Approved Comfort
From the darker leather upholstery to the larger bathroom and bedroom to the more efficient storage to the 360 HP engine.......everything we want. It's big though. Not big like the 45-footers next to it, but it's still intimidating. Yes, we want to take it for a drive. The weather is Chamber-of-Commerce perfect. 
Bill goes first as my passenger skills are much more in question than either of our driving skills. He handles it like a boss. On city streets, on the freeway, into a parking lot, all good. No shaking, no rattles, it glides on every surface. I only make a fool of myself once in the passenger seat. The reps were warned ahead of time. We all survive it.
When it's my turn I'm actually wondering if my feet are going to reach the peddles well enough to drive it safely, but the seat does everything but lie flat so I get situated comfortably before "engaging" the behemoth. I've driven a 29 ft Class A with a small toad. This 35 ft baby handles ten times better! Out the parking lot, down small streets (do have to remember those trees on the side), and then on a dead end street. No problem, just make a U-turn! Because the rig doesn't just turn tight, it pivots on a dime - so cool :-) 
Bill and I don't even have to discuss it. He says "Are we going to buy it?" I respond "Yes we are." We spend some time alone in the coach while the rep meets with the mysterious office people, and start to get pretty excited about what we're doing. Tessa has made herself at home , and she clearly approves. In about 20 minutes he returns. We have a deal. We have a motorhome!

Everything on our list
A couple more signatures and instructions in the office and we're back in the Jeep headed home. Never looked at another rig. After just five weeks to sell the house, I guess less than five hours to buy the rig is about right.  Again, we are VERY grateful for our good fortune!!! 
We made one stop for Juanita's burritos. My favorite burrito for the last 30+ years, and the perfect celebration for completing this very critical step in our plans. I try not to spill rice all over me when I occasionally start giggling. Geez, I am REALLY excited!
There are a couple storage places nearby that I'll look at in the next week, and find a good spot to keep the coach for the short time we're here. We take possession in a few weeks. As much as we want to "play with it", the longer they have it, the less we pay for storage it so there's no real rush.
Two big steps left - Bill retires and Richie graduates from high school.  Nothing to do but just wait for those to happen, so we're both feeling that the dream has become reality.  We can easily see ourselves on the road, can see fitting comfortably in our new home.  Bill is driving it in his sleep and setting up his music both inside and out.  I'm looking at a more colorful bedspread and searching for spots to boondock nearby. 
2015 is already looking very good!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holiday Musings.....Room for Everyone

Even the act of not celebrating by Jehovah's Witnesses is a form of spiritual celebration. While all around them are the colors, music, events and decorations of many different faiths, the absence of these things in their lives defines their beliefs. I find it wonderful in its simplicity.

That is, I now find it wonderful. I spent many years thinking it was weird. Those poor kids never believing in Santa Clause or getting gifts for the eight days of Chanukah or celebrating Yule in a sacred circle or attending a beautiful Christmas Eve Mass! I knew they must be so miserable.

Likewise I spent many years aghast at the excesses of those with over-the-top lights and trees and parties. Stores that began their hype before Thanksgiving were disgusting. Extreme consumerism turned my stomach, making me feel quite smug at my more reasonable approach (although looking at photos of past Christmas mornings I don't know just how reasonable it was). People who go into huge credit card debt to bury their tree in packages were stupid and short-sighted. I knew they were just trying to fill some huge emptiness in their lives.

When I worked for the government I understood the prohibition against decorating for the holidays. Even if your intent is Santa Claus, some will claim the law requiring separation of church and state is not being followed with Christmas decor. However, when I went to work for a private organization we were encouraged to decorate for the holidays, and all beliefs were welcome by the employer. Our official greeting was "Happy Holidays". I knew they were just being politically correct.

There are some real eye-opening moments when you are called to a path that includes taking responsibility for yourself. Among those moments for me was realizing I didn't know squat about any of this stuff. I didn't know a single Jehovah's Witness, let alone how their childhood was. I had no clue what motivated  gigantic light displays. I never noticed how many fellow shoppers were singing along to carols in October. I was unaware of the reduction in the use of sick leave at my job during the holidays.

In the past few years I've come to realize, and enjoy, that there is plenty of room for every type of holiday celebration, including the simplicity of non-celebration. Multiple religions hold this time of year as holy - how great is that?! I'm grateful for those who go to the trouble and expense so I can just drive around the neighborhood to enjoy all the beautifully lighted homes. Christmas displays beside ghosts and jack-o-lanterns is a bit silly. But silly is just funny, not something horrible. Many reasonable and organized folks are delighted to have their shopping done before Thanksgiving, and I think they're on to something there! I don't have to pay anyone else's credit card bill, so why do I care if the amount is high?

Wow.  Thanks for all your hard work!

Finally, being "politically correct" is like so many things that start out with good intentions, and get abused by a few over-zealous folks. Not using slurs to describe someone or their religious beliefs or cultural practices is common courtesy. Giving up any non-harmful practice because someone might be offended isn't even common sense.

A loving greeting is not offensive

It's easy to find fault with the actions of others without taking a look at our own. I was certainly guilty of that for years. Today I find myself blessed with a broader perspective, one that allows for more holiday joy. Sometimes that joy even starts in October.........

See?  Lots of room :-)

Even the shortest day of the year is a big deal, a holy day, and reason for celebration.  Blessed Yule everyone - may the lengthening days bring light and love to your life.


Friday, December 19, 2014

The Power of Photos

Lifetimes at your fingertips

Is there anything more powerful than a photo?  Songs and smells can take me back to a particular moment, even seeing an old movie will stir up times I'd forgotten. Returning to a place from my past evokes memories of good and bad times, good and bad people. But those kinds of memories I have to "see" in my head, having to guess at the color of the sky and the size of the bicycle.  With a photo it's all right there.  Still right there.  Powerful stuff those pieces of vellum.

When asked what someone would take if their house caught fire, the number one answer is still "my pictures" or "the photo album".  It's interesting to me that given this common response, almost no one keeps photos in safe deposit boxes. Apparently we want them safe and close by.  Photos are very important to us.

Like many traits, keeping photo albums skipped a generation in my mother's family. I have my grandmother's albums, black paper with little glued corners holding each black-and-white photo, description written in white ink. One album is the "baby book" for my mother and her older brother Charles.  My mother kept no albums, so the photos of her teen and adult years, along with my baby and youth years, are loose in boxes.  I, like Grandmother, kept albums and scrapbooks from my teens through my youngest son's teens.

Uncle Chuck

Grandmother's "whole blooming family"

Mother on her first day of school

Dad kept an album of his Navy and post-discharge years - more black paper with white writing, but took (or kept) almost no photos in the years following. Most of the ones I have of him are those I took myself. 

Navy buddies, WWII

Dad always loved working on engines
Numerous times over the years I have taken out the very old albums and loose photos, and enjoyed "seeing" the life my parents and grandparents lived. A few repairs have been necessary, some of those black pages are flaking away.  Some are a hundred years old now.  Amazing photos of the beginning of the last century that I can hold in my hand and imagine in some detail. Different than memories, these are the stories of where I came from.  Very powerful indeed.

My last purging project - the one I've put off until the last - is all the photos and albums.  Both Bill (yes, of course he has them too!) and I did a first sorting last year, tossing duplicates and unidentified subjects, of the loose photos. When I first moved in with him a few years ago I made an album of all his boys' photos, so that made a good dent in his boxes and folders. 

Just  part of the "project"
Over the years my sons enjoyed looking through the albums of their lives - most often with a new girlfriend (I don't remember doing that as a girl, but it seems to be a "thing" with the girls they've dated).  I'm very glad I took the time to save a chronology of sorts for all those wonderful years.  Watching the faces of my children react to the memories of a photo, hearing them tell the stories, or laughing at their swearing "that never happened!" - that too is a special kind of powerful.

Still, I hadn't gone through my albums with "a critical eye", and I knew it needed to be done.  Because what I didn't do, in any of the albums, was label the photos.  Not even with dates :-(.  I also didn't use much discretion in the choice of photos to keep.  If it came out of my camera, it went in the album.  This made for very many pages of sometimes very similar (if not identical) photos of the same subject.  It also meant that even if you can't actually see what I was photographing because it was so far away, it still made it in the album. 

It was also my habit to order duplicate prints of every roll so I could send my parents photos of their grand kids.  Naturally I didn't send them every one, meaning I had lots of duplicates left over. Rather than tossing them, I put them in the ever-growing "box of photos".  Why?  No clue. 

So I knew it was very likely I could purge a lot of photos (unknown subjects, unidentifiable subjects, duplicate copies), both from the albums and the boxes.  I just had to commit to doing it.  I have put it off because quite frankly it's scary.  Love and fear are the two most powerful emotions, and the act of keeping or tossing your photos calls both to your heart! 

My first plan was to have every photo scanned to disc and get rid of all the boxes and albums completely.  Now that I'm actually doing it, I've changed my mind.

Although there is some fading and flaking in the very old albums, part of their amazing charm is the black paper and white ink. Yes, I could take photos of the album pages and save those to disc (which may be necessary eventually), but I'm not yet prepared to give up the "feel" of the real thing. I'm taking steps to preserve each page, as well as the albums themselves, and will store them in a climate-controlled place for now.

After I go through and purge the more current albums, I'll condense them to fewer books and label each photo - and keep them in storage (where the boys can easily access them if they want).

The remaining loose photos will be scanned to disc where I can sort and label them as an on-going project either this Spring or after we get on the road. 

Plenty to put on disc
I started yesterday, and made a big dent in the tossing phase.  One just doesn't need photos with old boyfriends and ex-spouses no matter how great you looked in that dress!  I think my favorites were several pages of photos of a little spec of water-spray in the middle of the river that I know was someone on a Seadoo at the Colorado River, but even with a magnifying glass I can't tell who!  These were not so hard to discard :-).

One of four identical pages
Now that I have a plan that feels right it's not so scary.  I will take my time (which is different than procrastinating - really!).  I will enjoy seeing all the memories.  And I will certainly enjoy feeling the power that only looking at a photo you hold in your hand can give.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Neverending Story - Purging

I spent over 18 months purging our stuff in preparation for our new life on the road. Many of the things I kept through one purge didn't make it through the next - or the next. So certainly by the time we finished our last yard sale, and the final pieces were picked up by Freecycle members, there was nothing left but the absolute essentials! 

Moving into the 2-bedroom apartment the last few days has been an excellent reality check. No bathroom drawers, no linen closet, smaller kitchen, tiny garage for the bikes and tools, etc. Although much bigger than the RV will be, we still have more stuff than space! 

It's not the furniture and small appliances either. Not the TV's and the big barbecue. Not the extra dishes and flatware and large serving bowls for "company". Those we brought with us knowing we would get rid of them at the end of our time here.

The stuff of drawers and cupboards is the culprit. But I didn't bring a dresser when we moved, and downsized to a small plastic piece with three drawers, so it's not clothes. We only have one extra set of sheets and a couple extra towels and no more tablecloths, so it's not linens. 

The stuff of kitchen and bathroom drawers and cupboards is definitely the culprit! If I have a bottle of "all-purpose" cleaner then how do I also have at least six more "cleaners"? We don't drink wine so why the space-sucking opener that is only used for corks? I can't use "boy" razors and shaving cream? 

What is particularly troublesome about this ongoing stuff vs space battle is that we have several "RV" boxes in the tiny garage - what the hell is in those?

So the purging continues even as I'm unpacking the things that made it through the last year and a half. We have six months here and I can't wait to see what we unload during that time, and what we think will actually fit in the motorhome when it's time for that final move.

I like this story better!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Still Crazy After All These Months.....

We know how fortunate we are. Truly.

We found an experienced agent, listed at a good price, did the up-front work of getting the house ready, buried St Joseph with the prayer, staged it for all the viewings. But 36 days from listing to closing escrow and moving out is incredible! And we don't take it for granted. We are very grateful.

I looked back at my October 30th post and realize I didn't even have time to "just chill".  However, I still think it's a good plan following the move this weekend. With very few boxes to unpack, nothing to hang on the walls, and minimal furniture/electronics to set up, I suspect we will be completely moved in by Monday morning. Once the "cable guy" shows up on Tuesday, and I do a little (small tree, a couple Santas) Christmas decorating, there will definitely be time for that delayed chilling!

There is still the rig to buy - a very important piece of the puzzle. There is still getting comfortable with driving it and learning all it's systems. Bill has 15 more Mondays, and then he has to learn how to be retired. Brian and Shalise have a wedding in March. Richie has to finish his senior year. We have to move out of the apartment and into the motorhome.

Throw in a high school reunion, a family reunion, an RV-Dreams Spring Rally, several birthdays and two more weddings, and I think the next six months are going to go by VERY quickly!

Last night Bill said "I'm so excited!" Not unusual, we've been excited about the dream for a long time. What struck me was not the excitement, but the lack of anxiety, sadness, fear, second-guessing or hesitation for both of us. We just sold our house and got rid of 90% of everything we own! We have no idea where we'll be at this time next year - we don't know where we'll be in August! And we're excited!!!

Some will think we're crazy, and that's okay. If crazy means being grateful and excited then it definitely works for us!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Family at the Table and Friends at the Beach

Our Thanksgiving celebration was last Saturday so all the kids (less Jeff in Seattle) could be with us for one last "big table" dinner. Every year Bill barbecues the turkey in the Weber, and makes amazing dressing. This year was Richie's turn to learn the process and help make the magic. 

Learning the secret of the bbq'd bird

If he can cook as well as he chooses football teams.....

Yes, you have to touch the nasty, naked bird

Corey and Nick sharing stories with their dad

It was a fun day of cooking and visiting - and getting everyone to take still more of our stuff! 

Nick taking his turn going through the tools

The dinner was perfect, and our table was beautiful. Of course I forgot to take a picture of this very important gathering so we will have to hold it in our memories - and our hearts.

The next morning we were up and out the door early, headed for the beach at Cayucos. Bill had many friends during his college years at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, but he was especially close to three of them. Two, Steve and Laurie, got married immediately after graduation, and moved to Orange County, where they live today. We've gotten together with them a few times over the last few years. But the third, Bob, moved to Costa Rica and his last visit to the states was over ten years ago. So when he contacted Bill several weeks ago about being in Morro Bay with wife Monica for their son's wedding over the Thanksgiving holiday, there was no question that we would make arrangements to get together. Steve and Laurie felt the same, and Sunday afternoon found all of us together in a lovely little cottage in the middle of Morro Bay (the town, not the water).

Pier at Cayucos under cloudy skies

I had not met Bob and Monica, but it was instant affection. For the college chums it was as if no time had passed, and the stories and laughter continued through a walk on the beach with the dogs, a wonderful home-cooked meal, and a perfect bonfire. They were off to San Francisco on Monday morning so we said our good-byes at our hotel with promises to not let another ten years go by.

College chums
Bill, Bob, Steve, Monica, Laurie and Java

We stayed another day with Steve and Laurie, and just enjoyed a slow and easy day relaxing at the beach and exploring the little towns of Cayucos and Morro Bay. Tessa and their dog, Java, were nearly oblivious to each other, playing independently on the sand, and hanging out with their respective people on the patio.
So much room to run!
Java and Laurie

Java loves the camera
Our patio at sundown
While Java prefers the safe familiarity of her crate, Tessa went everywhere with us. She's such a pleasure to take along :-)

Tessa out for a stroll with Daddy and his pals

Morro Rock across the bay

Great views with a few brews on the deck

The star is actually on the glass :-)

Our dinner at the Shanty in Cayucos was excellent, and after a day of walking all over in the fresh air, we were back in our room stretched out watching the football game before 8:00.

Rain was forecast for most of the state so it wasn't a surprise to wake up Tuesday morning to a downpour. A downpour that followed us all the way home. Strong winds added to the excitement of the drive around Los Alamos, and sections of Hwy 101 were flooded in Santa Barbara. Three accidents in 10 miles punctuated just how nasty it was. We ended up driving all the way home with one pit stop.

It was a wonderful few days away from the full-time focus of escrow, packing and last minute details to finalize the sale and move. Everything is coming together smoothly with the buyers completing their final walk-through today.

Yesterday was our LAST yard sale. No more purging. No more pulling boxes and tables of stuff out in the driveway. No more saying "I'll take a dollar for that." for everything from candles to power tools to avoid having to haul it all off to Goodwill. The house and the garage both echo's lovely.

No more signage!!

No more stuff to sort and sell!!
Empty garage, garage, garage.....

Next week at this time we will be in the apartment. And we will be six months from realizing our dream. Wow.

Soon to be one of many back yard views.....

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why I'm Thankful

How great is it that we have a non-political, non-religious holiday focused on gratitude? And that we are free to celebrate it as we choose.  Just the day is a lot to be thankful for! 

My personal list would fill the page and overflow, so I looked back for something in my past that most influenced my overall happiness - what might have been the first thing? Certainly most of us are grateful for where, and to whom, we were born. Most of us enjoyed a good education, a safe environment for growing up, some good friends who enriched our lives. We are all the product of our pasts, and if we are happy today most likely it is because of gifts or challenges, or probably both, we were given over the years. But was there one thing, one event, one person, one value, one lesson - that most contributed to my living this happy/grateful life?

It's funny how the mind and heart work. I was truly thinking in an analytical way, just to see where my memory would go. Yet my emotions were not having it! My mind would settle on one thing, and my heart would be all "But what about ______ ? You'll hurt their feelings, dishonor their memory, etc, etc, if you don't "pick" them." Geez heart, it's not a competition! The mind also has its interfering moments known as "the reality check". You know, those things you really want to remember going a certain way, but you have to admit they didn't :-( Since I'm an only child I need an internal reality-checker. I know that those with siblings (like my sons) have their reality checked on a regular basis!

So with mind and heart making a simple stroll down memory lane into a much more complicated expedition with maps and a sound track, I did eventually settle on something that felt (the heart usually wins) right.

Not surprising given that I went back as far as possible, it is something from my mother. I believe I am so happy today because I am responsible for that happiness. I don't get to assign blame to any one or any thing else. Ultimately I am responsible for choosing a path, an action, a response, a person to be in my life. My earliest memories include my mother saying "I'm telling you that if you pick up the cat she will scratch you. If you get scratched, you don't get to be mad at the cat." 

Every time I would say something like "He/she/they/it makes me feel so ______ !", Mom would correct me. It always came back to me. She didn't discount the hurtfulness of words and deeds, but she instead focused on my response to them. Did I want to keep that person or thing in my life when they were the source of pain, or did I want to remove them? It was my choice and therefore I was responsible for the results. Of course I usually chose the pain, and blamed the other party, and ignored my mother's sage advice.

But the lesson was still there, repeated by my mother, and building some momentum in the back of my mind. I was probably in my late 20's before I really gave it a serious try. Damn if Mom wasn't right! The more I took responsibility, the more I made conscious choices for my own happiness, the less I gave others the power over my well-being - the happier I was. I didn't "give it up" to a higher power, I didn't get to blame it on a demon. I had to live with the decisions I made about me.

Today I don't watch the news, I accept that others don't share my opinions and beliefs, I scroll past those Facebook posts I know I won't agree with, I don't take someone else's bad day personally,  I believe that most people are good, I expect my dreams to come true, I know the consequences of being unkind and dishonest are of my own making. 

I don't always get it right. I fall off the no-blame wagon. I get depressed and angry over the actions of others. I become fearful over the "what ifs". I openly question the sanity of Raiders' fans..... 

Still, I come back to what my mother gave me all those years ago, and am a blessed and happy person. I am a grateful person. 

It was a good exercise for me to look back at what most influenced my happy/grateful life.

You know what you're grateful for - but do you know why?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Escrow - Coming Soon to an Amusement Park Near You!

Sign the contract (buy the ticket), buyers make a change that saves you hundreds in fees (move to the VIP line), wait for "those" people to schedule appointments (click, click, click, click), pest inspection takes 15 minutes and house is cleared (weeeee-haaaaaaa), buyers' inspector cites a potential ginormously expensive problem with the electrical (scary fast turn, stomach sinking, heart racing), electrician finds nothing - NOTHING - wrong in that area (weeee-haaaaa), counter buyers' repair request (click, click, click, click), they accept (woooo-hoo), electrician comes to complete repairs, could still be expensive (blind turn ahead, hold tight), electrician and his crew are really angels in brown uniforms {and have known Bill for years} and charge us zero - ZERO - for their work (pass by gate and take a free turn)........

We still have the appraiser coming tomorrow with buyers' loan approval due on Wednesday - and a four-day holiday to wait through - before we can safely step out of the little cart hurtling down the track. 

Anticipation!  Exhilaration!  Terror!  Excitement! - yep, I could totally sell tickets to this ride!