Even though we made it to our RV resort in Yuma Arizona and immediately enjoyed all that our park and golf resort had to offer, we wanted to get to a remote area for an overnight in the desert. About a week after we arrived and attached our luxury motorhome to full hook-ups, we loaded up our Jeep with tent camping basics with the intention of roughing it.
We packed a cooler, pots and pans, sleeping bags and bedrolls, a cook stove, cots, rocking camp chairs, gas fire pit, and a tent. After all, we’re retired, we don’t want to rough it too much by sleeping on the hard ground.
We drove about 25 miles on a rough gravel road from the farmland and desert to the hills of Picacho State Park just across the Arizona-California border. Then we set up camp, pitched our tent, and went on a hike through the abandoned mining camp and town along the Colorado River.
The area is steeped in history and there are still working mines in the area. We enjoyed the interpretative signs that brought the ghost town to life. It was easy to visualize what life was like in this remote area just after the turn of the century.
We enjoyed a hearty dinner and settled into our comfy chairs and our cozy blankets around the gas fire. Our reason for coming was to see the stars in the dark night sky, but unfortunately just as we sat down, the clouds blew in and we were sprinkled by the rain. So much for seeing the stars! In January, the desert gets cold at night and the sun goes down around 6 p.m.
We put on headlamps and read for a while and went to sleep early. But part way through the night, around midnight, things got noisy and bright. I woke up to the sound of coyotes howling, lots of them and they were very close. Then I realized that someone was shining their car headlights right into our tent and it was completely lit up.
I got up and went outside the tent to see what was going on and realized that no, it wasn’t a car, it was the moon. A gigantic full moon! Which of course didn’t help with seeing the stars. Then we heard the hee-haws of feral burros. Hundreds of them! We were surrounded and they seemed to be everywhere.
I quickly went back inside the tent, zipped it tight, climbed into my sleeping back, and listened to the midnight concert in stereo of coyotes and burros under the bright light of the moon. I’m not quite sure if the burros were sounding the alarm that they and their babies were in danger or whether they were braying because the coyotes were howling at the moon.
But either way, I’ll never forget our night in the desert. While this type of experience was never on a bucket list, being retired and experiencing the sights, sounds, and even smells that night, especially those that were so different than what I’m used to at home in rainy Washington, made for an unforgettable memory.
Say what you will about social media such as Facebook and Instagram, but for retirees, it has been a portal for us to connect with old friends. Following a class reunion, way before the pandemic took hold and many of us retired, we shared our contact information or invited each other to be friends on Facebook.
In the intervening 46 years since graduation for the Class of ‘76, it was really hard to connect or know where people landed. But through the magic of having the ability to search for “friends finding friends”, we have been able to reconnect with people that we attended elementary school, junior high, and high school together. This has been a huge source of joy for us.
We reached out to two friends that retired much earlier than we did. We set up phone dates, asked them lots of questions, took our maiden voyage in our motorhome across the mountains to their home and spent a fun weekend golfing and planning for the winter.
There is something about reconnecting with people that have a shared life experience during retirement. We were in awe that it seemed like no time had passed since we had seen each other, even though it was many, many years. We caught up on family news and retold stories from our childhood. Mainly we laughed and laughed.
They wisely left a month earlier in mid-November than we did. Pro-tip in an RV: head south before the heavy rains and snow is flying. We followed them to Arizona and they were so great about sharing their travel wisdom. When we ran into travel challenges, it was so nice to be able to text them to let them know where we were and what was happening.
When we finally arrived, we were welcomed and shown around. Recommendations on where to eat, go golfing and sightseeing made us feel like locals. It was so nice to have friends in this new city we were trying out.
We met for dinner a few times and spent time sharing about classmates we have lost during the past nearly 50 years and shared some of our own health concerns as well as plans for the future.
If you are retiring soon or are recently retired, I encourage you to reach out to old friends if you can find them now, before it is too late. While it is wonderful to make brand new friends, and you definitely will, the richness of reconnecting with old friends, who know your story, share the same dating and family experiences, and usually have a similar perspective on life has been one of the most rewarding parts of retirement. How often during your working years did you have the time or ever make the time to reconnect? Find someone today and see what happens!
Shortly after purchasing our brand new motorhome all of our plans for touring the Oregon and California coast on our way to Arizona quickly fell apart. For 21 days we were in limbo as five different technicians worked to diagnose and fix the problem, namely that our motorhome wouldn’t start. Not even a click when we turned the key in the ignition.
Never mind that it was the middle of winter in the Pacific Northwest, including ice and snow storms and relentless rain. All of our plans to start our snowbird adventure were suddenly canceled.
What I learned during this time is that in retirement, flexibility is key. Keeping a positive attitude, choosing to view challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow, and sticking together as a couple when the situation is tough helps you endure some hard days.
I also learned that it is possible to live very simply without the many creature comforts we’ve come to enjoy. While we were living in a beautiful motorhome, we were essentially “boondocking.” We had no power, water, or sewer hook-ups for seven days. We were in survival mode and resorted to getting through this time by taking it one minute, one hour, one day at a time. Focusing on how to get through the day and keep smiling was often a challenge. Meals, showers, and sleeping took more effort than we expected.
We both decided to take the high road and not take out our frustration on the people who were trying to help us. We discovered that having patience, encouraging each other when we were discouraged and feeling a little hopeless, and even laughing about our situation helped make the time go by faster.
When the problem was finally diagnosed we still had to endure. Due to weather, supply chain issues, and delivery challenges we waited five more days for our parts to arrive. During these days we looked for chances to make the best of the situation. It was fantastic that in spite of not being able to head south as planned, we were able to unhook our Jeep and went out on two local hikes when the rain stopped and the sun finally came out. A big highlight was when we decided to take two days and a quick overnight to see the Redwoods in Oregon and Northern California.
We were truly grateful that we were able to make the best of our situation and check off one of our bucket list National Parks. Before we knew it we were finally on the road again, heading to the sun. While we will never forget this time, we are proud that instead of turning on each other, or worse, turning on the people whose job it was to get things fixed we endured and chose forgiveness and grace. Now when we sit around the campfire at various RV resorts and share our story with other RVers we are able to laugh about it.
What makes it even better is that we have now learned that “everyone” has an RV story to share. When a house is built on top of a truck chassis and then you roll it over potholes and bumps down the Interstate and highways, things break, appliances vibrate and nuts and bolts come loose. It is just all part of the adventure. Now that we are on the road again and our first round of warranty work has been completed we are loving every minute of our retirement journey in a motorhome!
Back in the 1980s, there was a thing called “Getting your colors done.” I never had an analysis formally completed but I’ve always thought with my dark hair and light pink skin I was a “Winter.” My favorite and most complimented colors were jewel tones, deep shades of blue, purple, and fuchsia and my signature color is black!
My daughter asked for her birthday gift to be a color analysis and wanted me to join her. We coupled this experience with a Mother-daughter getaway and I’m so glad we did. This was something we could do together, all while learning how to look our best in this stage of our lives. For her, working as a professional educator at a college currently from home and raising her two school-age boys and me, as a new retiree.
With my pandemic silver/gray hair and completely new activities, I’ve struggled a bit with decisions on my retirement wardrobe. When I was working, it was easy to know how to dress for staff meetings, speaking engagements, and conferences. A uniform of black pants, a black blazer, jacket, or sweater coupled with a top in my favorite colors, add some black shoes and silver earrings and I was done.
On Instagram, she found Nicole Kaczmarek at the House of Colour in Ballard, a neighborhood in Seattle not far from the University of Washington. (houseofcolour_ballard) A former pharmacist, Nicole has pivoted like many working moms to a career that gives the flexibility to spend more time with her adorable son and husband while providing a service to her customers. Her new career increases her joy, makes her happy, and gives her life! She took a risk starting a new business during the pandemic and hasn’t looked back.
I went first and was draped with countless fabric swatches as Nicole analyzed the colors that made me look my best. Once she established that I was in fact a “Winter” on the color wheel she found my best “wow” colors. We took before and after photos and the difference was striking. One takeaway is that in my zeal to have a new life and a new identity I had departed from what I learned I looked best in. I have concluded that I have started spending time and money on clothes that were in style and on-trend – but just not right for me. While I still have lots of my best colors in my wardrobe I realized that completely missing were the hot pinks, fuchsia, and a bright red. I guess I thought those colors went out of style in the ’80s and forgot about what works best for me.
Next, it was my daughter’s turn. We both had no idea where she would land on the color wheel. The fabric draping process started again and the conclusion was that she was a summer. The entire process for two people takes about two hours each for a total of four hours. The time flies by!
It was amazing as her mom to watch how her face became almost airbrushed and her eyes popped as her best colors were draped. One thing she learned is that highlighting her naturally dark brown hair with golden highlights doesn’t make her look her best. After covering her hair and seeing only her roots, Nicole recognized that she needs cooler Ash tones if she is going to highlight them. But we all concluded she would look her best to let her hair return to its natural color and fill her wardrobe with Summer colors.
In fact, during both of her pregnancies, she let her hair go back to its natural color and the clothing she chose at that time was in the Summer part of the color wheel. Her glow in those photos wasn’t only from the pregnancy, she looked her best because the colors she naturally wore at that time were her “wow” colors. This was a huge takeaway for her.
At the end of our session, we tried on three sets of lipstick that complements our natural look. One for daytime, one for evening, and that one special red for those special moments. In addition, we received a customized set of color swatches to keep on hand for the next time we are shopping or ordering clothing online.
We were both so excited to get home and go through our closets and compare to our swatches. During the entire drive, we were excitedly talking about what we learned and then when we were home we did a FaceTime call and showed each other our wardrobes. It was so easy to discard those items that were just hanging in our closets unworn. We didn’t love them because they weren’t our best colors. I have a big bag now to donate to the Thrift Store at the Senior Center.
Then it was fun to arrange our clothes in the colors of the rainbow and compare them to our before and after photos and clearly see why these items were our favorites. What I learned was many of my most recent post-retirement purchases not only weren’t my “wow” colors but they were entirely wrong for me.
I think this is a great gift idea for your wife, daughter, or friend. It is even a gift to yourself, there are lots of men that do this as well. After this experience I have concluded that as a retiree, life is short, so why wear clothes that make you look ill or washed out? Why not find your best colors and then make a few strategic purchases to round out your wardrobe? Buy the lipstick that makes you feel amazing, after the masks come off you’ll look your best.
My suggestion is to take some time in 2022 as a new or long-time retiree to really figure out your new lifestyle, your activities, and the colors of your wardrobe. I think you will be happy you did!
When I ask my kids, “Do you want a “thing” or an “experience” for your birthday?” their answers these days are an experience. We are finding that in the days of online shopping, we all have so many “things” that spending intentional time together seems to win out every time.
In the past, my daughter and I would take a weekend or a night for an annual “Mother-daughter” getaway. This started when she was around eight years old and we would go somewhere with her best friend and her mom. Whether it was to Canada to visit Whistler Village, Seaside, Oregon at the beach, or a play in Seattle we always enjoyed our time together. This continued for many years right up to the time they both turned 21 and wanted to go to Las Vegas with their mothers!
This year (after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic) we finally felt safe enough to explore Tacoma, Washington, and resurrect our getaway. After booking a room at the Hotel Murano on the “Black Friday Special” we arrived in a torrential downpour. We enjoyed a cup of seafood chowder and a charcuterie board of local meats and cheeses before visiting the Dale Chihuly Museum of Glass.
While the wind and the rain lashed the building, we were warm and cozy as we watched the resident artists make amazing glass art in the demonstration area. Then we leisurely strolled the exhibits and learned about the history of art glassmaking in the Pacific Northwest. Spending an entire afternoon together with no schedule and no agenda is just what we both needed.
By the time we left at closing time, it was completely dark outside and we looked at the lights and the glass of the fountains and then crossed the Chihuly Glass of Bridge back to the downtown area.
We walked and walked arm in arm, enjoying the lights of the city and the Christmas tree near the Pantages Theatre, and finally turned into a highly rated little boutique restaurant called the “Over the Moon Cafe.” My daughter is obsessed with the 1920s, Downton Abbey, Art Deco, and restaurants decorated like speakeasies. Finding the perfect place for our dinner, we were thrilled that even though we didn’t have a reservation there was one little table that was reserved for walk-ins. We felt so lucky and blessed.
We shared an entire bottle of wine, a cheesy Brussels sprouts appetizer, dined on an amazing winter squash lasagna and prawn fettuccine, and capped off our evening with the bread pudding full of bits of peaches, pecans, and a bourbon sauce for dessert. Delicious!
Returning to the Hotel Murano, we put on our Christmas pajamas and cuddled up together, and watched a Hallmark movie. The next morning we got our coffee at Starbucks, drove to Ballard for our appointment at a studio to get our colors done at House of Colours, and after an amazing four hours ended our time together at the iconic Dick’s Drive-In.
As we each drove in a different direction, my daughter south and me north, we talked on our hands-free devices and reflected on how wonderful it was to spend two days and a night together! I think during the pandemic we have all become accustomed to pausing the things we used to do. Hopefully, we will all once again be even more intentional about spending time with our kids, enjoying each other’s company, learning something new, and sharing a meal together. If you have a child you haven’t spent much time with as a result of the pandemic I hope in 2022 you will find a way to “get away”, you’ll be so glad you did!
Last year, with the pandemic raging, hospitals overflowing, no vaccines available, and a lack of understanding of how this virus was spreading, we chose to follow the guidance and essentially cancel our holiday. It felt really sad and bleak to be home just the two of us while many members of our extended family still gathered. Not seeing our kids or grandkids in person had us resorting to communicating via a sad little video that we sent to the grandkids telling them how grateful we were for each of them. At the end, we were both teary-eyed and prayed that 2021 would be better.
This year with all of the adults fully vaccinated and some of us already obtaining our booster, we decided to go ahead with the holiday. Washington and Oregon State all have mandatory mask mandates for any indoor activities and some counties require proof of vaccination to enter a restaurant or bar. All were careful leading up to the holiday so we decided the benefits outweighed the risks.
It was our “turn” to have all of our kids and grandkids together at our house. (We alternate years so that our in-laws also get to enjoy everyone together, so next year we will be alone again.) Planning was in earnest weeks before the day. Finding a turkey this year proved to be a challenge but I had ordered ahead and the truck came through.
Our oldest granddaughter helped with decorating the table and I made hand-painted watercolor place cards. We created a long table for fourteen people, embellished with two overflowing cornucopias and native ferns, cedar boughs, and pine cones from our backwoods. She carefully placed the cards and gave specific reasons for where she chose to seat everyone. Great-grandma near all of the great-grandkids, parents nearby and uncles, brothers, and nephews at the “taller table” so they could fit their long legs, and me near the kitchen so I could get up and get things for the meal.
On Thanksgiving morning after we prepared the sides, we all got dressed in color-coordinated outfits and braved the rain to snap some family photos. Due to the pandemic, our annual photoshoots just didn’t happen. It was shocking to realize it had been over three years since we had been altogether to snap a picture. The kids are growing up so fast and now I have gray hair!
At mealtime, my husband read the presidential proclamation declaring a national holiday and a day of thanks. Then our nine-year old granddaughter read a Thanksgiving essay that she had hand-written, edited, typed, and printed along with gorgeous crayon illustrations of a cornucopia. With emotion, she shared her Thanksgiving blessing with the large circle gathered around our kitchen island. Then we prayed as a family, thankful that a dear niece had been spared after being hospitalized for eight days with the virus, asking for a miracle for a young friend who had been diagnosed with leukemia, and finally asking for God’s blessings, health, and safety for our family and friends in the New Year.
After our delicious meal, the Nerf “war games” among the grandkids began in earnest. The teams they had established last summer during Nana Camp continued and they were chasing around the house until bedtime. Playing a modified form of paintball with soft nerf bullets instead of paint with ever-evolving rules, it was a blessing to the adults hearing their laughter, seeing their sweaty little bodies fly by, the loud pounding of their feet upstairs and down, and the shrieks and screams as they were frozen and then tagged. I had flashes of my own holidays as a kid doing the exact same thing.
I felt so thankful for the delicious meal, the precious minutes of catching up with family news, recognizing that the time we spent together was positive and free of conflict, and laughing over the card games we played. I think that had we not had the Thanksgiving of 2020 with its quiet, sadness, I might never have appreciated the raucously crazy, fun-filled Thanksgiving of 2021. I hope that you and your family had a different kind of Thanksgiving this year as well and that you are able to recognize the blessing that being together as a family will be in 2022.