New Year’s Eve 2017

We now have 3 nights under our belt on our journey. The first night was spent at a casino dry camping lot where we didn’t win anything. They call it gambling, not winning, lol.

We crossed into California on our 2nd day. And were met with frosty trees and cold enough temps I had to put my hat on. To be expected.

We (well, the cowboy that is) joined the Elks club, the old B. P. O. E., the benevolent protective order of elks. So we stayed at a couple elks clubs with RV parks with more to come. One had live music in their lounge, with the “gray hairs” (people our age) dancing, partying and whopping it up. It’s like we’re part of a cool kids club now, lol.

Tonight on night 4, we’re in Indio, CA at an elks club RV park. It’s basically a gravel parking lot with power and water. But it was 70° at 4 pm when we rolled in and the neighbors in their enormous motorhomes came out to welcome us. So I’d say it’s a win (unlike casino gambling)!

A big shout out goes to the cowboy, who has driven 5-6 hrs everyday, plus stops equaling 7-8 hrs. He’s hardly complained (well, ok maybe a little) and has wrangled our Helen, the 5th wheel through tight fuel stations and narrow RV spots, all to get me here.

Here being: warmth from the sun, needing to find the flip flops tomorrow, picking a lemon off a tree, a fabulous sunset with pink mountains (too busy setting up to get a picture but I will!), and just an overall sense of ahhh.

2017 was a big year for us with the purchase of Helen, losing our last horse, me retiring and the me making the cowboy quit working at least for a couple months to do this travel thing.

In 2018 I hope you find a sense of gratitude and hope, love for the people in your life, and that all important sense of ahhh.

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Helen goes south

How does one pack for a 3 month RV trip? That is the question. Weight and space are driving (pun intended) the answer. Some things don’t weigh much but are bulky and can take up valuable space. Other things are small in size but are heavy. There are things that are heavy and big. Those things a reasonable debate can sort through, virtually because you either have room or you don’t. The problem I ran into was with the smaller things that didn’t weigh a lot so I thought, “ok, why not?”. Well, I probably over packed cuz that’s how I roll. While it’s true that I could buy what I might forget or need, it kills me to buy something I already have. I’m a bit miserly. Understatement.

Next aspect to my initial question, is how do I know what I might want to wear? We all go through this when we pack for a 7 day vacation. Typically were able to anticipate our activities and pack clothes accordingly. But 3 months? My brain was about to shut down over this!

But here we are, driving south. What’s done is done. I either have it or I don’t ( in my case I probably have it plus some or I completely missed the boat) This is an adventure that’s been in my heart for years. If in most of the pictures I show up in the same clothes, then you’ll know the boat was missed packing wise. But look closer into my eyes, you’ll see into my heart and my soul, that this is a dream being fulfilled.

Buckle up, buttercup, because we are rambling!

Southern Exposure

As Fall has fallen, we had an opportunity to get away for 2 weeks in November to the Cancun area of Mexico. It was warm, bordering on hot and quite relaxing. We partook of lots of tequila and cervesa, went fishing (uh ya, I caught all the fish, BOOM!)

made some nice friends who cooked MY fish (yes, I AM rubbing it in)

both of us had hour massages just off the beach for $16 each (ahhhh), fresh fish tacos for $1 each (I think I could live here part time)

rode the local buses like a jefe (boss).

Wow, came home and it was time for Thanksgiving. Time goes fast when you’re in travel oblivion. Trekked across state to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter.

Then BAM, it was time for her birthday so a surprise meeting was engineered at the Bavarian themed town of Leavenworth. While I’m not a cold weather fan, how could you not love this place?

And now, we prepare for an early Christmas gathering with our sons and their families. Blessings of the them and the 6 grandchildren, possibly 8 if our daughter and family makes the voyage.

It’s strange to have no work Christmas party to attend in my first retirement year. People who want to see me will reach out, I guess and people are busy. The pre-Christmas time will be about nothing but the grandkids. We have reached out to a few couples to share a meal with and catch up because….

Helen is going south.

We have wanted to try being Snowbirds. We don’t know where we’re going. We don’t know when yet. We don’t know for how long. We may not like it (riiightttt) but we’re going.

Don’t touch that dial! More to follow….

September

September. It conjures up images of back to school and buses, fall leaves, and shorter days beginning.

For me, September belongs to summer. It starts as August ends and lulls you into thinking it’s just another sunny, summer day. But because of those previously mentioned school buses, it becomes more of an adult summer day. The stores are no longer full of moms with kids in tow, just moms. Recreational areas once teeming with both happy and annoying noises, are now quiet. A time for retired folks like me to soak it all in.

But then (insert dramatic music here), there’s a change. A heavier dew on the lawn. A chilly beginning to the day. Ever so slightly, day by day, the sun drops a little faster. Thoughts of pulling out the crock pot for that comfort food.

The calendar says fall, the air says fall but my heart says no, not yet! And I wonder if September isn’t a metaphor of life. Let’s face it, once you’re in your late 50’s, the autumn of your life is upon you. Regardless of how fit, active or mentally sharp you are, like a September day, one cannot be assured of the warmth of that summer day. That dew on the lawn? That’s my aches and stiffness as I get out of bed. I accept these things as the new normal just as we accept those shorter days.

September.

Ugh, don’t get me started on October……

A Work in Progress

wp-image-1281352492Today is Day 67 of my retirement. The first 28 days, I only spent 3 nights in my own bed at home. Before, when I was gone, I felt like I was just on vacation. Now the reality of retirement is, well, real.

Being a creature of habit, I had to create new habits. Several were easy: Stay up till I felt like going to bed, get up when I felt like it (of course who can sleep in?), drink a leisurely cup of coffee and watch the morning news. Others habits are a work in progress. Like trying to healthier, blog more, learn spanish. The problem here is motivation. I’m motivated, just not right now, or maybe tomorrow. Is there such a thing as too much time on your hands?

But still my house is no more clean or uncluttered than it was when I worked. I’ve not lost weight (actually gained) even though I have time to exercise. I still can’t speak spanish except “Donde es banos?” and “cervesa, por favor”. There might be a correlation there: weight and cervesa……

The moral of my story is I am who I am, retired or not. Will I change? Absolutely. Will I lose weight or learn spanish? I don’t know, I hope so. If I do, yay for me. If not, oh well, I accept that.

We have stayed in state for our travels, visiting friends (hey Snows, in Birch Bay!), camping with our grown kids. Its been nice cuz you can’t beat the summers in the great PNW.

Mosquito-gedden 

As the retirement tour rolls on, we did too. By everything we had seen, the cowboy, in hunting season and me, online, Palmer Lake might be nirvana. It was in a remote part of the state, a small campground, quiet for us and the dogs. But as the title might reveal, nirvana it was not.

It was a beautiful sight as I jumped out of the Ford, ready to get Helen backed in. Before he even had it lined up, I was in full swat mode. I’m pretty tasty in the mosquito world but I seriously felt like the jungle guide in the pot of boiling water, surrounded by the natives. I was ready to jump in the truck and go. Now.

Of course I’m overreacting. Until……wait for it, now the cowboy is swatting at the beasts. We definitely didn’t have strong enough bug spray. Note to self: deep woods off please. And some serious citronella-something cuz the damn candle wasn’t working. We ended up cooking inside for dinner and in the morning we bundled up with long sleeves and long pants and broke camp asap. Literally opening the door to quickly get in or or out meant dozens of unfriendly fire entering.

So the moral of this story is, you can research as much as you want, and the best laid plans have to change. We rolled on, passing Bonaparte recreation area, pulled over, turned around and stayed here for 2 nights. It’s a forest service campground and very quiet. We even had visitors

 We had a few of the other kind too, but too much of my blood had been sucked away by the devils at Palmer Lake so I was passed over like the bargain bin at Goodwill.

Those of you who know me, know that I kinda like some semblance of control. But I’m rolling with it, trying to shed that part of me. The benefit of our house on wheels is to change our minds. But as fun and freeing as that sounds I’m learning that I’m not as flexible as I hope to become.

The retirement trip rolled on and came to an end. Back to the responsibilities of home ownership. The cowboy spent a whole day cutting the grass, and I wrestled the laundry and the cleanup of Helen. I’ll end with the question of the day: how many dead mosquitoes fit in a 30 foot 5th wheel? 

The 12 days of Retirement 

I loved my job. It was who I was. I had passion to love my patients, treat them as I would want to be treated (golden rule), and give them my all. Here I am, 5 days into my retirement, and I’m all out. I keep wondering was I really all in? 

I think I was. But when I left, my heart moved on. It had to. I couldn’t hang on to what had been. I gave that over to my successor. Rightfully so. Ann, you beautiful soul, you have to take over but do it your way, ala Frank Sinatra. It’s how things change for the better. 

It might seem like I’m jumping around but bear with me. My husband sent me a dozen roses on my last day of work.  2 days later, we were leaving in “Helen”, the 5th wheel for 10-12 days (no schedule for retired people). So I brought them. It’s hot. They are wilting. But aha! An idea (actually not mine, but his) to cast one out each day to mark the 12 days of retirement. 

And so, I’ve cast the petals into 2 rivers so far.  I will continue each day until I’ve sent them all along their way, with my love, my gratitude and my hope. Both a casting into my future and a release of the past. Kinda cathartic. 

If you see some red rose petals float by, or a scattering of such on a mountain , bow your head, give thanks and pass a blessing on. It’s just me, growing.

The Countdown

One month. Only 14 work days. And then……

That becomes the question. I have been an R.D.H., a registered dental hygienist for 37 years. Oh sure, I’m other things too. I’ve been a mom for 35 years, a wife for 36, a grandma for almost 12. But I’ve been a hygienst the longest. It’s crazy: am I really this old?!

Yes. I am. And it’s time to hang up my loupes, scalers and syringe. While I know it’s time and I have absolutely no second thoughts about stepping away from my career, I know that I have some mental work to do.

I’ve been in the same office for 28 years. At 58 that’s almost half my life. (Gah, maybe I shouldn’t say that!) Please indulge me while I tell my somewhat boring story.

I started at my office when I was 30. I’d already been a hygienist for 9 years. For the first 7 years I worked for Dr. John (Kapust) in his pedo office, doing restorative as Washington state licensure allows. I learned things school just doesn’t teach you, or other offices either for that matter. How to work on children, how to talk to children. I was hooked. I worked with a fabulous team of dental assistants who lead me, taught me how to work miracles. They led me. I blossomed. I then led them as my little wallflower-self became a confident young woman. His son, Dr. Andy took over in 1996. We became an even more potent team, with his incredible skill and marketing vision. I will always be proud to say I was part of this team. Over the years, teammates have come and gone. Some have left indelible marks (in a good way!) on me. They’ve blessed me with their skill, their friendship and I’m grateful for all the souls that have crossed my path, over the years, counting my current team as well.

And the families we’ve treated. So many kids I have looked forward to seeing, catching up on what their next step is as they graduate and hit college with a smile we helped create. The previous patients who now bring their kids in. Ultimate trust.  The parents of children who genuinely hug you after you’ve gotten their crying child through a scary visit. How do I replace that love and gratitude?  I don’t replace it. I will relive my memories and move on, trusting my team to take care of MY kids.  And they will. It’s me that has to adjust. Dental life will go on there without me.

My future, while less cut and dried, is now open to the excitement of the unknown.  We are prepared financially. It’s that darn unknown. We will navigate into this with Helen, the 5th wheel,  selfishly throwing caution to the wind, (ok, those that know me, know I can’t be too wild), letting life unfold. “Where’s Gramma?” may be the grandkids mantra for a time,  like “Where’s Waldo”. I may never feel as important as I did in a career capacity but as I watch a sunset sinking slowly behind a natural wonder, or a dynamic river coursing through a canyon, THAT will be important, giving  me a new focus of discovery.

“What are you going to do when you retire?” That is what everyone asks. It’s a valid question. People want a grand answer. They want to live vicariously through you. Travel is my usual reply. My new response?  Whatever I want!

And here we go…….

Learning Curve

We just returned from our maiden voyage in “Helen”, the 5th wheel. The best way to sum it all up is: learning curve. 

I like the smoothness of the 2nd graph but our trip was more like the jagged first graph.

First of all, we are not novice campers. We started with a tent, raising our kids to love camping (well, ok, the boys not Meghan). Almost 20 yrs ago we upgraded to a truck camper, which served us well. So well that I kind of became a princess/queen who refused to sleep on the ground ever again. With a wet bath, it was as rough as I got.

As we prepare for retirement,  Helen became our answer for an extended period of time on the road. So here’s what we learned:

1. I realize how poor our “walk through” was when we got her 2 months ago. I remember asking, “What about this? How does that work?” and not getting a real straight answer. But we are students of life (wisdom, ya know) if nothing else, so we figured it out. 

2. Pull through sites are our friend. When you’re 30 feet long, well, you get the picture. 

3. However long you thought it would take in travel time, add, add, add. The old Ford f350 can pull Helen just fine but hauling 10,000 lbs, you’re not going anywhere fast. But hey, in retirement,  we’ll have lots of time, right? *insert gray hair here*

4. When the cowboy asks a question about distance to say, a gas station, a rest area, etc, as the navigator you better already know. See last blog post referencing patience with humans.

5. There are some things you can’t prepare for and you just have to roll with it. One night, high winds shook us at 45 mph. It wasn’t predicted in my research. Scared the bejeebers out of me and my dog. *insert more gray hair* We were stuck there as the wind howled throughout the next day. We were safe, warm, and well-fed. Lesson here: the cowboy promises to ALWAYS put the x-chocks on the tires that super stabilize the rig and I promise to take my anxiety down a notch. It may require sleeping pills or vodka, but hey, a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do, right?

I feel like we got a lot of the bugs worked out in our first trip out. We didn’t kill each other and we saw some incredibly beautiful sites. 

Hmmm, I think we can do this.

Adios

My cowboy had a plan. And although it was a little vague, this wasn’t it. The plan was to find a place for his horse Rio, one where someone could care and love him, while we travelled about in “Helen” the 5th wheel, exploring our United States. 

Last Saturday eve, Rio had to be let into great green pasture above. He had Cushings disease, which itself had been managed. But Saturday, another horsey condition befell him and the only humane thing was to euthanize him. 

Rio and the cowboy met almost 20 years ago, when Rio was less than 2. He needed a home but hadn’t been worked with much and was mostly wild. The cowboy drove an hour to him, with truck and trailer and proceeded to spend 2-3 hours in the pasture getting acquainted.  Rio didn’t trust people so he wasn’t about to let the cowboy put a rope on him, let alone put him in a trailer. So the cowboy went home alone that day. Not to be bested though, he returned the next day. And after another couple hours, they became friends.

Now what you have to understand about the cowboy is, he’s a stubborn man but patient beyond belief with animals. As a carpenter all his life, he has always done everything around our home, including building it. And as his helpmate, I’ve tried to assist. Suffice it to say, his patience doesn’t really extend to humans and more than once we’ve been “at odds”,  lol. But if you’re an animal, the patience this man has is greater than anyone I’ve ever met.

As the cowboy and Rio got to know each other, they built quite the bond. They spent a lot of time alone together in the mountains hunting,  other times with other groups of horses and friends. 

Rio was always a good boy, getting along with others. A horse we could put our daughter on, then grandkids. 

The cowboy is lost. Having spent most of 20 years with Rio and the other horses, his day to day routine is forever changed. No longer is his old friend waiting in the morning for his breakfast, a few carrots and a nuzzle.  

It’s like retiring. Your identity has changed. The way you describe who you are, what you do. A life change.

As Spring breaks hopefully into the gray, wet Pacific Northwest,  the cowboy will get busier with outside projects and his mood will lighten a bit. But Rio will always be in his heart. 

Adios, old friend.