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The Jeep Wave

A few days after purchasing our motorhome which is allowing us to start this new chapter of our retirement life, we realized that it would be really convenient to have a towing vehicle.  What we didn’t think about before we made this monumental purchasing decision is that my Ford Explorer can’t be flat towed. When we found out that my husband’s F-150 could be towed, but it would need significant modifications involving welding, we took a minute to think further about it.

Some extensive research and talking with friends revealed that one of the best vehicles that can be safely towed behind a motorhome is a Jeep! We went on the search and it was almost too easy to find our Jeep and trade nearly straight across for our Ford. She has some big knobby tires and looks like she is ready for desert adventures!

In one afternoon I went from a quiet, smooth comfortable ride to the loudest, bounciest, and most uncomfortable vehicle I’ve ever driven. But I absolutely love it!  I feel like I’m driving a fun toy.  When I park now, I always look back as I walk away because she looks so awesome.

Driving home in our Jeep Wrangler JK after the trade was completed we were surprised that other Jeep drivers were waving at us.  We looked at each other and wondered, “What is this all about? Why are people waving?”

Unknowingly, the day we bought our “toad” (towing vehicle) we also joined an international club of fellow Jeep owners. A quick Google search revealed the origin story of the Jeep Wave.

The roots of the Jeep Wave have a few different origin stories, two of which seem to stick the most. The first theory of the Jeep Wave was that the wave began during WWII as a way for U.S. soldiers to differentiate an ally from an enemy. Jeeps were often driven by soldiers during WWII and the wave was used to greet fellow soldiers when transporting supplies and carrying wounded soldiers.  The second theory is similar to the first, but that it started after the war. Many civilian Jeep owners during this time were most often returning veterans and the wave was a way for citizens to acknowledge the service of veterans and for other veteran Jeep drivers to greet a fellow soldier.”

I had no idea this would be such a blast!  Our Jeep has now been modified so that she can be towed and even has a hitch for our bike racks.  Since we joined the world of Jeeps I’ve joined a few facebook groups for Jeep Beginners and Jeep Life and I continue to learn more about Jeep culture. I’m loving the proud photos, the stories and commentary.

Jeep owners have a unique identity. They name their Jeeps, make all kinds of modifications, help each other if there is a break down, go out of their way to park near other Jeeps, sometimes leave little yellow ducks (called “ducking”) and have clubs that go on adventures together.

What started as a convenient way to have transportation while we are “snow-birding” has turned into a learning experience that is exciting and makes me smile.  I’m learning to watch for other Jeeps in my travels (something I never did before) and am perfecting my Jeep Wave!

Joining the Snowbird Migration

After a summer of fun following my retirement earlier in the spring, the weather has changed suddenly and Fall arrived one rainy weekend in the Pacific Northwest at the end of September. It was so sudden it caught many of us off-guard, including my husband and me.

With the cool, crisp days and leaves falling on our lawn, (just now starting to go from dead grass to lush green following a record hot and dry spring and summer,) we started revisiting our many conversations about winter plans.

Many of our international, already-booked trips have been canceled, a few getting full refunds, some not.  Any of our other ideas for future trips have been shelved for now and into the foreseeable future. It is too hard to keep booking adventures that never come to pass. With the Delta variant taking its toll on friends and family, canceling our plans seems like a small price to pay. 

As a couple, we are grateful for our health and the ability to retire earlier than many of our longtime but still working friends.  However, we believe that life is short and for us, the time to travel is now.  Every month we receive news that someone we love is suffering from a health event that will likely curtail their ability to enjoy the retirement lifestyle they have dreamed of. Or worse, classmates and even people younger than us are passing away before they are able to retire.

For the past thirteen months, we have weighed and considered what we should do this winter season. We have contacted property managers to find out about short-term rentals in warmer places, finding out we are “too late in the season” to be trying to book.  Countless hours conducting searches on the internet for places to fly or drive to in the US has resulted in more frustration.  It seems that travel is beginning to return to normal and the pent-up demand means that it is increasingly difficult to make arrangements.

We’ve looked at fifth-wheel trailers which require a new truck with more towing capacity.  We considered a tiny trailer light enough that our existing pickup could tow but we don’t fit. A few weeks ago we spent an entire day evaluating Class C motorhomes, online. We even called some dealers but no one had 2021 on the lot and the 2022’s are experiencing supply chain issues and won’t be available until mid to late spring.

Tempted by the idea of just ordering one and flying somewhere in Texas to pick it up, a kind and honest salesman said, “Never buy a motorhome until you’ve sat in and driven it.” Great advice!  We found a local dealer that had a few older used Class C motorhomes (they are on a truck chassis) and was shocked when I didn’t fit in the passenger seat.  My legs were too long and it was uncomfortable.  At 6’6”, my husband didn’t fit behind the wheel and his legs extended 6” past the end of the RV queen size bed.

We walked over to check out some used Class A motor homes (they look like a small bus) and it was an eye-opener.  We both fit in the seats and behind the wheel. Armed with that information we went home a bit dejected because the difference in price between a Class C and a Class A is significant, especially if you choose diesel models. We continued to talk throughout the day and night. Analyzing, researching, watching YouTube videos, reading blogs. It is notable that in some states you could purchase an entire new home on a piece of property for the same price as a motorhome.

Joining the Snowbird MigrationThe entire rainy weekend we looked at brands, models, and floor plans online.  We found an “Empty Nester” motorhome set up perfectly for two but also with the capacity to sleep our grandkids.  We loved her on paper but sometimes reality is something entirely different. 

We analyzed our finances, knowing that an RV is never an investment.  Rather it is a luxury lifestyle choice that allows you to have your own bed, bathroom, and kitchen (essentially a second home on wheels) that you can drive to state and national parks and park for a day, a week, or a month. We still weren’t sure what to do.

We continued searching and came up with nothing. Over and over again we hit dead ends.  Just when we nearly gave up, suddenly we found the make, model and year we wanted at a dealer about an hour north of our home. With the idea of just going to take a look and see if we fit, we called ahead to make sure we could walk through and maybe take a test drive. 

Less than ten minutes after arriving, as we were sitting in the living/kitchen area listening to the salesman, we both looked at each other and nodded.  After 41 years of marriage, we didn’t need words to communicate that we were “home.” We both got to drive her around the surrounding farmland on narrow country roads, the interstate, and the parking lot. My husband even fits in the king-size bed. We put our deposit down on our new home for the winter.  When we returned home that day, we both had different reactions.  My husband didn’t sleep for four nights. I slept great, dreaming of where we would go.

We have now officially joined the Snowbird migration south.  We have so much to do to get ready to go but from after Christmas through the middle of April 2022 we’ll be in California, Arizona, and Utah. Let the RV adventure begin!

Writing a Memoir

One of my favorite birthday gifts this year was the one I received about 8 months ago from my daughter.  She paid for a subscription for me to something called “Storyworth.”

I received an email that explained the gift I was being given and what was involved.  The concept is deceptively simple but I’m finding the experience incredibly rich and rewarding. The idea of writing a memoir is daunting but just like any big project, this one has been broken down into bite size pieces or manageable elements. 

Each week on Monday morning I find an email in my inbox with a question.  These are “story-starter” questions; they are open ended and thought provoking.  The questions were chosen by my daughter so I’m finding it interesting to think about what she wants to know.  

The simplicity is that I don’t need to think or prepare or struggle.  I only respond to the question with my answer and hit reply and send.  Then each of my questions throughout this year are collected and at the end of 12 months a book will be published and mailed to me.

Sometimes I can write an immediate response because the question is easy and brings to mind a story or a situation I can share.  Other times I’m stumped and need to think about my answer.  A few times I’ve even asked my husband how he might answer the question and it seems that as we talk it through something amazing comes to me.

After I hit “send” the system automatically shares my answer with my daughter in real time. This way she can track my memoir journey with me.

What I love is that I can go back at any time and edit or rewrite my answers and there is a feature where I can add photos to make my memoir more interesting.  While I haven’t done this yet, I know that if I take some time to snap some pictures stored in old dusty photo albums I can actually share them in a more meaningful format.

If you are the gift giver you can choose the questions you want to be answered by your recipient.  Or if you choose to join on your own and write your own memoir you can make up your own questions or choose from the list they provide.

Some of the questions were thought provoking, others brought back fond memories, still others feel like I’m sharing our family history.

Here are a few examples of some of the questions I’ve already answered.

How did you feel when your first child was born? 

Which fads did you embrace while growing up? 

What is one of the most selfless things you have done in life? 

Describe one of your most memorable birthdays. 

At what times in your life were you the happiest, and why? 

What is one of your favorite trips that you’ve taken? What made it great? 

What is one of the bravest things you’ve ever done, and what was the outcome? 

Are you more like your father or your mother? In what ways? 

What is one of your favorite memories of your mother? 

What is some of the best advice your mother ever gave you?

Since I lost my mother to breast cancer over 25 years ago (she was only 57 years old when she died), I have been realizing that by answering these questions and publishing them in a book,  she can be better remembered by my children and grandchildren.  For that matter, when I pass away, future generations will have the answers to these and many more questions. 

I’m enjoying this so much that I’m finding that I don’t want it to end.  How often today do we take the time to write things down? In a frantic world of social media, screen time and blaring electronics I think we have lost our ability to tell stories and share our family history.  “Storyworth” has been an unexpected delight and a pleasure.  How many gifts that cost so much more than $99 ultimately end up in the trash or donated to the thrift store?

This opportunity to write my memoir, during a pandemic in 2021 has been life-changing in many ways.  It has caused me to slow down, think and tell my stories in a written format. I have found it relatively easy to do, because after all who doesn’t have time to write an answer to an email? 

I’m so grateful for a gift that reminds me how much my daughter loves and me and how much I love her, every single week!

Go to www.storyworth.com if are interested or wish to give an amazing gift this holiday season. I think you’ll be happy you did.

 

Butterflies in a Windstorm

A dear friend wanted to take a last minute get-away to Mexico at the end August.  Since this is my year of “Yes!” I went with her. But I’m learning that traveling during a pandemic is a much different experience than previous trips.  The noise, music, laughter, and crowds were all missing. Added to traveling continuously with a mask from airport to hotel room were questionnaires, QR codes, phone apps to complete and COVID tests.

To stay safe we chose a private shuttle with a vaccinated driver, re-sanitized our clean room, donned our masks constantly and only ate outdoors.  We never left the resort, didn’t travel to town or eat at a restaurant.  What was striking to me was I have never before experienced a resort at only 30% capacity.  While this was required by the Mexican government guidelines, it felt strikingly empty.  

Many days we had the beach nearly to ourselves and the pools had very few people.  Yes, it was relaxing and quiet for sure, but there was a sameness to each day of that week. I found it to be an almost isolating experience. 

There were no fun groups of people to watch and even the wait staff and beach vendors maintained a distance giving you a wide berth. What I missed the most was not seeing anyone smiling.  Usually in Mexico the happy welcoming vibe with lots of smiles is my favorite part. Every local I saw, from construction workers, landscapers, truck drivers, to employees of the resort, they all had on a mask at all times even inside their cars. I never once saw someones full face.

Every morning I would wake up early and take a really long walk around the property. When the news said that Hurricane Nora was headed our way with a predicted direct hit in a few days, I noticed that everything was changing both at the resort and in the nearby area. I saw windows and doors boarded up on the local homes.  Even piles of sandbags were placed in many areas to prevent water damage and divert the expected floods. 

At the resort, the beach chairs and chaise lounges were put away, light fixtures, ceiling fans and televisions were taken down from the open air restaurants and employees were asked to bring two days worth of clothes in a backpack, just in case they needed to stay at the resort. Even the plants and trees were tied up so they had a chance to survive.

The night before Nora was predicted to hit Cabo its trajectory shifted.  For the first time in many years she made landfall in Mazatlan, but did the most damage to Puerto Vallarta. Watching the news was shocking to understand the impact on these tourist dependent communities.  Less people come during a pandemic and even less want to come during a hurricane. The stress and tension I saw on the faces of our servers was evident. They want us to come back because their jobs and the local economy is heavily dependent on tourism.

Without activities of any kind, I had lots of time to lay on the beach and at the pool and read.  I had worked my way through each and every book I brought within three days. I went to the place they give out towels and chose a book from the box by Jody Picoult called “The Book of Two Ways.”

https://amazon.com/s?k=the+book+of+two+ways+jodi+picoult&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

I read this huge hardback beach read in a day and a half. It is a well-written story but what I found notable is the main character is a “death doula”.  Unlike a birth doula who helps a new mother with the transition from being pregnant to delivering her child, a death doula helps a terminal person with the transition of being alive to accepting they are dying.

In one part of the story she explains the Nine Contemplations of Death and how it can be used as a meditation while we are alive. It is a way for us to understand how to be more fully present for the time in our life we have left.

http://www.allbeingseverywhere.com/the-nine-contemplations-on-death/#.YU9FeS-canE

On the morning after the hurricane just a day before we were to return home I was a bit melancholy.  I had just finished The Book of Two Ways, was feeling sad about the realization that I needed to cancel yet another dream trip, word that more people in my life were suffering health issues and the pandemic numbers in Washington and Oregon were distressing.  That morning the wind was howling in Cabo San Lucas.  The trees and plants were being whipped around with a vengeance.  But I still went on my walk that morning and mediated on the Nine Contemplations.

They are:

1     Death is inevitable.  No one is exempt.

Holding this thought in mind, I abide in the breath.

2     Our life span is ever-decreasing.  Each breath brings us closer to death.

Holding this thought in mind, I delve deeply into its truth.

3     Death will indeed come, whether or not we are prepared.

Holding this thought in mind, I enter fully into the body of life.

4     Human life expectancy is uncertain.  Death can come at any time.

Holding this thought in mind, I am attentive to each moment.

5     There are many causes of death – even habits, desires and accidents are precipitants.

Holding this thought in mind, I consider the endless possibilities.

6     The human body is fragile and vulnerable.  Our life hangs by a breath.

Holding this thought in mind, I attend to my inhale and exhale.

7     At the time of death, material resources are of no use to us.

Holding this thought in mind, I invest wholeheartedly in practice.

8     Our loved ones cannot keep us from death.  There is no delaying its advent.

Holding this thought in mind, I exercise non-grasping.

9     Our body cannot help us at the time of death.  It too will be lost at that moment.

Holding this thought in mind, I learn to let go.

I walked and walked and walked. I saw the whirling clouds in the sky.  It was as if they were in a circle around me.  Leaves and branches were falling and sand from the road was flying and hit my face. For a moment I felt immense gratitude that this town and community had been spared and I began praying for those in Puerto Vallarta that were experiencing wind damage and flooding.

I clung to the idea that when I returned home I needed to focus on the positive, to embrace the life I have, to enjoy what ever time I have left on this earth and remember that nothing is guaranteed. And then it happened! 

I was walking on the entrance road near the golf course and came to a section that was filled with flowers.  Purple, orange, yellow and red blooming flowers for a quarter of a mile were on both sides of the road. Swarming these flowers were hundreds, likely thousands of beautiful butterflies.  Huge orange Monarchs, pale yellow medium size, little almost neon green butterflies and the strangest looking insect I’ve ever seen.  It looked like a skeletal bee, but was much larger and came in and out of the flowers like a hummingbird with the colors of a butterfly.

The wind was howling but the butterflies were living their purpose. They were traveling from flower to flower and valiantly trying to hold on for a brief moment before moving to the next in the midst of a raging windstorm. It occurred to me that since butterflies only live for a few hours or a few days, what were the odds of being born the day after a hurricane?  Yet they weren’t complaining, they were doing what they were created to do in spite of the raging windstorm.

I watched in awe as they fluttered around me and immediately came away with a sense of peace and happiness.  I know that I have a purpose.  My life has a beginning and an end. A day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. In spite of the storms of life, I can choose to fully live each day completely aware that “every breath brings me closer to death.” If we only had one day to live would we live it like the butterflies?

After this unexpected trip to Mexico and my encounter with hundreds of butterflies, I have a renewed appreciation for living in the moment. I am committed to finding ways to experience a different kind of life during retirement. I want to strive to be mentally present now, instead of regretting the past or being anxious about the future. 

I’m striving to hold the image of all those butterflies in the windstorm, living for only a day, in the front of my thinking and continue to ask myself, “How do I want to live each day that I’m blessed to have?”

Nana Camp – Part 2

Nana Camp Part 2After two days of learning about our Viking Heritage, it was time to change it up and have a cousin’s day!  For Day 3 of Nana Camp, we invited my niece’s three kids to participate in a day planned just for them. All seven cousins worked on making tie-dyed T-shirts – our first time!  Then after they ran through the woods, we played field games and created an obstacle course we dubbed the “Front Yard Olympics”.  It was hot so we set up a big table in the shade and everyone painted with watercolors and we did “art class.”  It was so fun to have them all together doing things that everyone enjoyed.

For Day 4 of Nana Camp, we focused on our Pacific Northwest Native American history and talked about the people that have been here for thousands of years before us.  We read them the story of the Maiden of Deception Pass the night before when we went to bed.  The next morning, their Amazing Race clues directed them to pack their backpacks and we drove 90 minutes north to Rosario Beach.  We planned for this day because of the low tides at the beach.  Earlier in the spring, my husband and I experienced what I deemed a Perfect Day and I wrote about our day in an earlier blog post.  We decided to take the grandkids back and hoped the weather would be good. The air was warm, the sky was blue and it was gorgeous.

Because we had just been there, it was easy to write the clues for this leg of the race in advance.  We had them hiking and searching for the Maiden, finding rocks and shells on the beach, and working together to locate a survey monument on top of a big rock looking out across Puget Sound to the Olympic National Forest.

After our morning of racing, we returned to the picnic area for a break. We packed a lunch, brought a portable barbecue and my husband cooked hot dogs right on the beach.  After lunch, we walked toward the south and found a sandy beach and built sandcastles together.  It was a long day but really memorable.

For Day 5, our last day of Nana Camp, we learned about our Scottish Heritage and added more to our family tree.  The race took them to the Snohomish Valley Golf Center in the morning where they had a private golfNana Camp lesson with my instructor Val. We all played a round of Putt-Putt golf and then had lunch outside on the patio.  

For the grand finale, we purchased tickets to the Everett Aqua Sox game and all wore our tie-dyed t-shirts.  This team is affiliated with the Seattle Mariners.  They are our local minor league team and play in a small venue, perfect for kids. Their race clues included tickets to the game, money to buy food, drinks, or whatever they wanted. While I assumed we could leave at 9 p.m. and during the sixth inning, the kids were having so much fun that when I suggested we leave there was shock and horror.

“Nana, we can’t leave until the game is over!” The Aqua Sox almost came back after being down and we went into an extra inning.  We stayed until 10:30 p.m. What a way to end Nana camp week.  They ate loaded nachos, pretzels, cotton candy, “dippin dots” ice cream, hot dogs, kettle corn, and drank gallons of sodas. Parents, you can cover your ears!  The baseball game was one of their favorite highlights of the week along with being Vikings.

The following morning their parents started arriving and we spent the weekend together.  By Sunday afternoon, it was time to say goodbye after a rewarding, exhausting but super fun week.  As they were packing up, there were a few tears though.  My youngest grandson said, “But Mommy, I don’t want to go home!  You and Daddy go back to Oregon now and come later to get me!”

I love that now that I’m retired, I have the desire, energy, and the privilege to spend so much time with my grandchildren. Planning for several months kept me focused and occupied with creating memories and thinking about ways of teaching my grandkids about our family and our values. Pulling my husband into all of this was a bonus.

Nana Camp-Rock Your RetirementYes, it was exhausting and probably a bit over the top but with grandkids, my philosophy is, “Why do anything halfway?”  They’ll be grown and on their own sooner than I want to believe.  In fact, I’m already thinking ahead to what we will do next summer for Nana Camp!

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