Baby it’s Cold Outside ~

Excuse me, but “What the hell happened here in the Pacific Northwest?”  Two weekends ago it was practically balmy.  So warm and sunny that I actually got a bit of a sunburn on one of our weekend treks.  I guess I was hoping I lived in San Diego and our glorious weather would last forever.  Apparently not the case as the cruel hand of winter swept in last week and now here I sit – warm woolie socks, slippers, my favorite cords, not one but two sweaters and a scarf.  This morning when I went off to Starbucks, it was still dark and I had on my winter coat and my GLOVES.   I didn’t want to risk hat hair all day, so I let my ears fend for themselves.   Pretty soon we’ll have to actually turn on the heat.  I’m cheap…so we’re holding off until we can actually see our breath when we’re sitting in our recliners watching TV.  I think that day is coming – maybe Friday.

No, it’s NOT snowing yet in Oregon.

Really, I’m not sure I can take change that comes so fast.  Is it advancing years?  I’m wondering if a few people didn’t actually get whiplash it all changed so fast.  And, I feel the cold.  In my bones.  In my arthritic fingers actually.  That’s new and I’m not totally thrilled about it either.  I used to look forward to winter – at least for a while.  Snowy days.  Driving up the mountain to take the kids skiing and snowboarding.  Putting on the chains.  Not being able to get the chains off. It was all part of the FUN.  I’m a Canadian.  I know cold and snow.   Apparently I lost my cold tolerance when I finally lost my accent.  Just thinking about being cold makes me a wee bit cranky.  I finally understand why old people move to Florida or Arizona for the winter.  Old bones need heat.  I won’t be going south for the winter this year so I guess it’s time to do some serious attitude adjusting.  Is that covered under Obamacare?  I think cranky qualifies as a pre-existing condition.  Better yet, maybe I’ll start with hot chocolate + a shot of something warm and sunny in it.  I feel better already.  Now this is my idea of a great winter day.  Sleigh ride with my girls on Mt. Charleston near Las Vegas.

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Five Fun Things to do before I Die ~

Or twenty or one hundred …whatever.  What I’m really talking about and what I have been thinking about for quite a while is creating a bucket list.  Maybe part of the reason I haven’t taken any action on what I believe is a really good idea is because I don’t like the name.  Bucket List just doesn’t do it for me.  Nor does the the expression “kick the bucket”. I’ve tried thinking of other names – Life List, To Do List, Before I Die, It’s Now or Never.  Ok, I’m not doing any better.  So I realized I need to just get past the name and get on with the pondering, dreaming, and creating of my very own list of things I’ve always wants to do while I still can.

For some people (me), that’s not as easy as it sounds.  It’s easier to say, “Oh, I don’t know.”  or pull out a few standard issue ideas like “I want to travel.”   So, how do you get started on something like this.?  How about with a quiet place, a comfy chair, a glass of wine, a notepad and a nice pen.  And then?  Well, according to the wikihow-Make Your Bucket List, you just start asking questions and see what comes up.  If you keep asking long enough, I’m sure lots of interesting and long buried “I’ve always wanted to” ideas will begin to pop into your mind.  Write them down.  No judgement allowed here.  It’s not too big, too expensive, too crazy or even too small.  It’s just an idea that tickles your fancy.  A glimmer.  But that’s often how things start.  Then they have to bubble.  It’s amazing, but you start to see these places or things everywhere you look.  Then one day, you think. OK.  I’m going to make this happen.  And you do.  That’s how so many things have happened for me.   So far it’s always been random.  One day an idea pops into my head – I want to start an organization for women, or wouldn’t it be fun to live in San Miguel this winter, or most recently, I want to challenge myself and walk the Camino de Santiago.  Once the idea has lodged, look out because something’s gonna happen!  But, I’ve never had a plan or made a list and had the visual satisfaction of taking a big marker and crossing things OFF the list.  Been there!  Done that!  Now that I have more free time, I also know time is running out.  I want to make sure I have all the adventures and experiences my mind can conjure up and I think the Bucket List is one way to make that happen.

Walking the Great Wall of China – on the List

Geocache? On the list!

Fortunately, when I turned to the internet for insight and a little guidance, I found no less than six bucket-list websites where you can compile your own bucket list and share it with all your friends, family and the rest of the world.  Bucketlist.org users have posted nearly 16,000 lists containing over 300,000 items, ranging from climbing a volcano to learning to play the oboe.  For more inspiration you might check out Lifed.com’s list of 225 Things.  The other fun thing to do on these sites is make a mental list of ALL the amazing things that others hope to do that you have already done.    Watch out.  It can be addicting.

So, what are my Five Things?  They will probably change as I keep honing my Bucket List but so far ~  1.  Live in small town in France (or Italy) for six months.  2.  Learn to play golf well enough to play for fun with my hubby and join a ladies team (hit and giggle golf is ok).  3.  Attend a TED talk.  4.  Visit every National Park in the United States.  5.  Win the Lottery and start the Nancy M Thompson Charitable Foundation.

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming… “WOW – What a Ride!”  (anonymous)

What’s on your Bucket List?

Everything I Know I Learned from Knitting ~

Ok, this is not a true statement.  Especially since I took my first knitting class ever exactly one week ago.  But, what IS true is that being in that beginner mind again, did bring up a few very important life knowings that I apparently need to keep learning over and over again.  I’m a lifelong learner.  I step with great anticipation and high hopes into each new learning space like a blank white canvas just waiting for paint.  I am a creative soul still searching for my medium.  And believe me when I say I have tried a whole bunch of creative mediums – photography, collage, water color, drawing, pottery, and more.  I have the one pound, three inch high pots as my badge of honor.  But, here’s the rub, and apparently the lesson that is tied up somehow in all of this learning… I am not good at being a beginner.  I want to be an artist, but I have a problem with making beginner’s art that might not stand up to the creative output of some third graders I know.  I love the process but I want to love the end result just as much. Right away.  I’m not a fan of the do over (and over and over and over).  I try.  I’m not good.  I move on.  This routine does not lead to success.

So, imagine how it played out this week with my knitting.  It started out as it always does.  I’m casting on, grasping the knit and the purl.  The teacher keeps coming by and telling me I’m really doing great.  I’m catching on very quickly.  I beam inside and I’m filled once again with hope.  I’m on my way!  All it will take is a lot more rows of knit and purl and my fingers will start to work automatically and everyone will be the recipient of my gorgeous and unusual scarfs for Christmas.  The very next night, eager to propel my mastery, I pull out my knitting and sitting next to the hubs, ignoring the TV, I’m in the zone – a knitting fool – for about 15 minutes.  That’s when I notice something is wrong.  Really wrong.  I don’t know how to fix this wrong.  Now what?  I decide to rip out the rows back to the first mistake but having done that, I have no idea how to get everything back on the needle.   Hmmm.  Maybe I should just rip it all out and start over again.  Great idea but at that point I realize I don’t remember how she showed us to cast on.  Less than 24 hours and I’ve forgotten everything.  That’s scary in itself.  I try watching one of the 100+ Utube videos showing how to cast on.  Nothing works.  I’m done.   Stumped. Stymied.  Throw it all in the bag defeated.  And here’s what I’m learning from knitting.  It is art.  It’s not easy.  I’m all thumbs and that’s OK.  It is not relaxing and in the beginning it is stressful, not stress reducing.  And, I WILL keep at it and I WILL master at least the basics.

I may never be the artist on the outside that I feel on the inside, but I’ll keep playing and learning.  For me, it’s the dabbling that is the most fun.  Perfectionism and art are not good partners.  I love the art.  The perfectionist in me has to take a long hike.  The older I get, the more I realize the need to just slow down.  Take my time.  Let things ripen on the vine.  Why am I not applying this to the creative process?  It turns out you can’t rush knitting.  I’m walking back into class tonight a complete beginner all over again.  And, I am good with that.

Oysters and Pearls ~

Want to hear a secret?  I love to rock out in my car.  CD blasting, hands drumming, head bopping and lips moving in an all out sing-along.  And I know all the words too.  Tune?  Well let’s just say people prefer that I sing alone.  Yep, I’m that crazy old lady singing to herself in her SUV.  You know the one.  Oh, I know what they’re thinking when they pull up beside me at a stoplight and I do not care.  I’m in my own little sound booth on wheels and laissez le bon temps rouler.

Today it’s warm and sunny.  The sky is a brilliant blue and when I went out at lunch it just felt like a Jimmy Buffet kind of day.   I slipped Beach House on the Moon into the CD player, turned the sound waaay up and we were rocking it all the way to the post office.  Its been a while since Jimmy and I shared a song and I had forgotten that the old guy really is a poet – with his crazy lyrics that speak right your heart.  Just when you need to hear them.   The song Oysters and Pearls is one of my all time favorites. Thanks Jimmy for reminding me to get out there and go for all the gusto this Life has to offer.  “Some make the world go round.  Others watch it turn.”  Guess which one I’d rather be.  You too, I’m thinking.

* * * * *

Some people love to lead
Some refuse to dance
Some people play it safe
Others take a chance

It’s something more than DNA
That tells us who we are
Its method and magic
We are of the stars

Some never fade away
Some crash and burn
Some make the world go round
Others watch it turn

Still, it’s all a mystery,
This place we call the world
Most are fine as oysters
While some become pearls

I chopped the song up a bit to shorten it for this post. (sorry Jimmy) But, here’s the music and all the lyrics if you want to pour yourself a margarita and sing along. 

Juicy Tomatoes ~

It’s September and everyone around here is knee high in ripe tomatoes.  My friend and I got a jumpstart a few weeks ago and already canned 40 pounds of Early Girls.  Lovely little jars of sweet/tart red juicy goodness.  I’m planning on picking a bunch more now that the local heirlooms are down to 85 cents a pound.  One night this week I’ll be steaming up my glasses and cooking up a big batch of spicy salsa!

All kinds of ripe deliciousness is happening, and for some reason that reminded me of a book I read a couple of years ago called “Juicy Tomatoes – Ripe Living after 50”.  Since I’m well past 50 and it is my plan to live juicy well into ripe old age, this book called to me from the shelves of Barnes and Noble.  It’s filled with stories of women in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond who have discovered their own juice later in life and are changing the landscape for the rest of us.

Sometime in my mid-50’s I started asking myself “What’s Next?”  Not so long ago most women my age would have been putting on their support hose and sturdy shoes and settling in to retirement.  Shrinking into a smaller life.  Instead, like so many other women I know, I’m enthusiastically searching for new adventures.  I’ve been auditioning Second Acts for the past ten years.  I read a great blog post a couple of weeks ago about the joy of being a “flitter”.   That’s exactly what I’ve been doing, but I’ve decided to see myself more like a pollinator.  I’m learning from each endeavor and sprinkling my new-found knowledge as I go.  For many of us, somewhere around 50, our lives begin to transition.  We become restless and some of us feel a deep yearning.  (I’m talking to the women here.  Men, you’ll have to speak for yourselves.)  We know that there is something more; we’re just not sure what that looks like for us.  We need time to explore, to learn, to look closer, to test the waters, and of this can be a wee bit scary.  Treading into uncharted territory doesn’t feel safe and let’s be honest, most of us (me for sure) spent our lives building safety and security for ourselves and our loved ones.  Why rock the boat now?  I’ll tell you why. Because we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Because Life is short.  Because there is still so much left that we want to try, to do and to become.   We’re not done yet, dammit!   As for my own flitting –  some of you know that at 57 I decided to become a certified personal fitness trainer.  This, after years of being a certified professional couch potato.  I joined a gym, was inspired, and wanted to share what I learned with other women.  From there I moved on to creating an organization for mid-life women to connect and learn and share in a fun social environment – in short to flourish.  Flourish grew into a great network enjoyed by hundreds of women each month.  I loved every minute of that time and all the amazing women I connected with.  Then one day I woke up and I was done. Time to flit on.  Lately, I’ve been researching retirement and travel on a limited income and I’m trying my hand at blogging.  Who knows what’s next?  I don’t.  And I’ve stopped worrying about it.  With each new endeavor, I’m discovering “juice” I didn’t know I had.  I’m keeping my mind active.  I’m feeding my creative spirit.  I’m becoming the ME I always wanted to be but didn’t know it when I was so busy being what I thought I needed to be or who everyone else wanted me to be.

Tomatoes are hardy.  They don’t require a lot of pampering.  Give them a little water and encouragement and they always deliver, even in bad dirt.  If you add a dash of salt and a pinch of pepper, they really come alive.  The longer they’re on the vine – the sweeter, saucier and tastier they become.  All the green tomatoes want to become them.  That’s my definition of a Juicy Tomato.  I ought to know.   I’ve spent enough time on the vine.

On Foot and Close to Home ~

In all my travels, I have one no fail rule.  When the rest of the country is taking to the highways for a three day holiday – that’s the perfect time for me to stay at home.  I’m not a lover of crowds, or traffic for that matter, so joining millions of people fighting for a camping space or a hotel room at the beach, or sitting bumper to bumper on the interstate…not my cup of tea.   I’m probably missing out on something, but so be it.

What I really wanted to do this weekend was take advantage of these last few gorgeous late summer days.   I know that any week now, it will start raining in Portland and it won’t stop until sometime in 2013 – say around June.  So, when Saturday morning brought us a beautiful sunny day, cloudless blue skies, and the masses out of town, we had the perfect opportunity for an in town adventure.  Hubs and I headed over the bridge and across the river into Washington State to explore the City of Vancouver (The ‘Couve) on foot.   Urban walking is my new thing since I bought the book “Walk There! 50 treks in and around Portland and Vancouver”.  My goal is to do all 50 at least once.  I’m up to four, but I only bought the book a few weeks ago so I’m feeling pretty good.

Today’s route had lots of historical points of interest.  Our walk was a 6+ mile loop that started  at Fort Vancouver.  We walked by the beautifully restored homes on Officer’s Row where Hubs stopped to read every one of the historical markers.  I bounced around trying to keep my heart rate up. 

Following the map, we wound our way over the Interstate and on into downtown Vancouver to Esther Short Park where the Saturday Farmers’ Market was in full swing.  We’d worked up an appetite and homemade tamales were calling us, so we stopped for lunch.   That’s when we stumbled into the middle of a Kumoricon convention.   Thousands of young people in the streets and the park, each dressed as the character they have created for online fantasy role-playing games.  (the simplified explanation that someone gave me).  We had stumbled into the world of Animé and Mange, and  it was absolutely one of those fabulous serendipitous moments that I love!   We reluctantly left the revels in the park and headed down to the shores of the mighty Columbia River where our path followed the shoreline for a couple more miles before turning inland and back up the hill towards the barracks of Ft. Vancouver.   We stopped to watch several small planes take off and land on a tiny air strip.  That’s when we discovered the best surprise of the day.  The Pearson Air Museum – two airplane hangers filled to the rafters (literally) with vintage planes, flight simulators, amazing old photographs, assorted gear… and Gordon, aviation buff extraordinaire.   Gordon knew everything about these beauties and had stories to share.  I chatted him up a bit and then went in with the big question (and a big smile to match).  “Uh, Gordon, do you think my husband and I could sit up in that plane and you could take a quick picture of us?”   “Sure, not a problem,”  said my new best friend.  He showed us how to climb into the plane and explained that this baby was a WWII era training plane.   I put on the headphones and learned how to move the rudder and the flaps and all kinds of cool stuff. Thank you Gordon! 

We spent an hour at the museum, and a return visit is definitely in order so hubs can play on those flight simulators.  Next, a short hike up the hill from the original Fort Vancouver.  It was a Hudson Bay Trading Post in the early 1800’s.  It’s now a National Monument filled with living history.   We crossed the expansive parade grounds, stopping to look at each of the old wooden barrack buildings – home to thousands of troops until the 1950’s.   If you stood still and closed your eyes, you could almost hear the footsteps of all those young men as they marched across the grass so many years ago.

Sometimes you don’t have to travel to the other side of the globe or even the country for adventure.  We had the backpack, but no rollies were required on our close to home sightseeing trek.  Four hours on foot + $15.00 for lunch and a donation to the museum + warm sun on my face + time spent outdoors with my walking buddy and partner in crime = a perfect Labor Day Weekend getaway.  And, we managed to get home in time for hubs to watch his favorite Saturday afternoon show, Trout TV.

Life IS Good.

Somtimes it really is about the destination ~

“Life is a journey, not a destination.

So said Ralph Waldo Emerson.   I wholeheartedly agree with this idea, but I’m pretty sure Ralph never spent the night in one of these truly unique destination hotels or he just might have changed his tune.  Sometimes the destination is worth the journey…especially when you are sleeping with the birds 40 feet above the ground or under a star-filled sky in the Utah desert in a trailer that could have been used by Harrison Ford while on location for Indiana Jones.

What’s not to love about the Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Park.  This place is a baby boomer paradise!  Owner Mark Gudenas, married his three passions – Drive-ins, shooting movies and Airstream trailers to create this unique vacation spot near Escalante, Utah.  Mark’s mission is “to provide our guests with a fun, unique and luxuriously comfortable vacation experience in one of the most scenic places in the world”.   The campground boasts eight custom designed and luxuriously equipped airstream trailers that pose as Hollywood star’s dressing trailers.   With names like “Ann’s Cabana” The Kid’s Hideout, Cary’s Cabin and The Duke, you’ve got some very interesting options for a fun night or two.   At dusk you can just slip into a 1964 red Cadillac convertible, one of the many great convertibles provided for your movie-viewing pleasure at the Shooting Star Drive-in.  Pass the popcorn!

Next stop?  How about a night in a tree house?  No kidding.  And there several right here in my own Pacific NW backyard, but the Treehouse Treesort caught my attention a while back.   If you’re looking for back to nature at it’s most quirky, here it is.  This place is loaded with very rustic charm and comes with a great story of one man’s ingenuity, perseverance and love of trees.  It’s definitely a backpack only place.  One of the cabins circles a Douglas Fir 47 feet off the ground.  You have to walk a swing bridge to get to your room and use a pulley system to deliver your luggage.  It’s not for the feint of heart or those with a fear of heights, but it would be a great adventure next summer when my granddaughter comes to visit again. (hint!).

First of all, who wouldn’t want to visit a town called Nice?  Add to that, the opportunity to sleep in a lovingly restored antique railroad caboose and I’m pretty sure we will have to add the Featherbed Railroad Bed & Breakfast Resort to our travel bucket list.  Located on Clear Lake in (yes) Nice, CA, each of the nine cabooses has a different theme.  You can spend the night in La Loose Caboose, Orient Express, Lover’s Caboose or perhaps the Easy Rider which boasts motorcycle handlebars on the headboard and a fringed-leather easy chair.  The grounds are lovely, there is a dock and lake access, feather beds, and a gathering spot in the historic Main Station that’s “a comfortable place to sit and watch nothing happen”.

And last on this list, but certainly not least – here’s your chance to sleep in an  airplane – comfortably.   In 2009, some wild and crazy folks opened Hotel Arlanda, a hotel/hostel in a 747 jumbo jet that is parked at the Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, Sweden.   There are 27 rooms, flat screen TV, internet, bathroom/showers down the hall (let’s hope they’re bigger than the standard airplane bathrooms) and a lounge.  For the real enthusiast, they offer you the chance to “sleep like a pilot”.  The cockpit has been converted into a deluxe suite where you can lie in bed and watch the air traffic over the Arlanda airport.  You might need noise cancelling headphones if you actually wanted to sleep, but it would be fun.

Ok, now I’m worried.  Do the pilots really sleep up there?  Is that why they lock the door?  So they can turn down the beds and turn in for the night?  Makes you wonder doesn’t it?