526,600 Minutes ~

It’s January and like almost everyone else, I’ve been thinking about the year ahead.   All day the song 526,600 minutes from the musical Rent has been playing in my head.  That’s a whole lot of minutes – a whole year’s worth to be exact.  What a gift.  And an awesome responsibility as well – to make the most of each and every one of those 526,600 minutes.

Every January I like to take a walk down memory lane, review the previous year (the good and bad and the I can’t believe that really happened) and then set my my intention for the year ahead.  I’ve given up making new years resolutions, but I do like to have a goal or two and a bit of a road map.   I chose  RISK as my guiding word for this year.   As hubs and I continue to move deeper into uncharted waters, my willingness to embrace risk will be key to the success of our backpack and rollie retirement adventures.  I’ve never been a big risk taker.  It’s time.  I’m going for it.

Here’s my 2013 Wordle.   I know it will be a great visual reminder of where I want to keep my focus and intention as I move through the year.
l3A1NQ

If you want to play with your own Wordle, check out their website.  it’s easy and lots of fun.

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Have you seen my glasses?

Or my car keys, or my book, or, or, or…   Oh yes, we’ve entered a new era at Casa Sims.  The one where you can’t remember what you did two minutes ago.  Like where the hell did I put my car keys because they certainly are not in the special car key compartment in my purse where I always put my car keys.  Except, apparently not this time.  So, the search begins – feel around in the giant purse I use because it holds all of the important things I must carry with me at all times.  Pull out the seemingly endless stream of tiny paper receipts, semi-used but still good in an emergency napkins, glasses (several pairs), wallet, phone, camera + + +.  It’s all there, but not the keys.  Search some more.  Upstairs.  Downstairs.  All over the house…no keys.  Try the purse one more time.  Voila.  They were there all the time.  Hiding from me in the one tiny corner I missed.  Hubby gets that certain smile on his face but keeps his mouth shut.  Smart man.  He knows.  It’s the same thing with the glasses.   Keys, glasses, glasses, keys.  Lost then found.  Only to be lost again.  Repeat daily.

Then there are the new and interesting conversations.  They go something like this…
Hubs, sitting in his recliner chair watching TV:  “What’s the name of that guy I like?”
Me: “What guy?”  Hubs:  “You know, the one on that TV show”  Me:  “What TV show?”  Hubs:  “The one with the guy I like.  I don’t remember the name …”  Me:  “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about!”  Hubs:  “Ok. Nevermind.”  Rinse and repeat.

It gets even better when we are both on the same wrong track.   Off we go to the grocery store.  Hubby and I.  Park the car.  Walk into the store having an animated conversation.  That’s when we suddenly stop, look at each other and, in unison:  “What was it we came in here for?”  I kid you not.

Is it just us or does this happen to everyone at some point?  Does grey in your hair automatically lead to mass dropping of functional brain cells?  Maybe…a little.  But I’m convinced that all this forgetfulness is Mother Nature’s not so subtle reminder to slow down.  Pay attention.  And for God’s sake, find our sense of humor.   Because it is funny.   We can’t control getting older.  Like it or not, it’s out of our hands.  But we can sit up, slow down, pay attention, live the details of every moment and savor the things we do remember.  Laugh out loud.  At ourselves.  Laughter is medicine.  And quit worrying about not finding the car keys.    The time to worry is when you can no longer find the car.

Now, where did I put my glasses?

Honey, I’m off to the gym ~

No, not me…the Old Guy, my newly retired hubby who recently turned 66…HE’s off to the gym.  Every morning, you can set your clock by him.  Out the door by 9:00 a.m. – walking up the street to join the rest of the retirees, housewives and non 9-to-5ers who are lucky enough to spend their mornings plugging in their earbuds and “pounding it on the treadmill”.   That’s what the hubs calls it.  While he’s pounding it and cranking weights, I’m at my desk solving the travel problems of one small piece of the corporate world and thinking about my next blog post.  What the heck?

Here’s why this is such an interesting phenomenon.  Until three months ago, his main source of physical exertion (besides getting out of bed in the morning) was walking up and down the stairs to his office, doing the cocktail hour arm lift and bending over to pick up the remote when it fell.  Oh, and the once a year trip with his lifelong buds (other Old Guys) when they get together to hike and play as many rounds of golf as possible in three days.  Other than that – nada.

So, what’s the deal?  Retirement.  It’s that simple.  He is a new man.  He is HAPPY and he is relaxed and he has a whole lot of time on his hands.  Hours and hours and hours.   As the Chief Entertainment Officer (CEO) in our house, I have to admit I was more than a little concerned when retirement suddenly struck.  My office is upstairs and that part of the house was immediately designated off limits from 8am-4pm.  He’s handled it surprisingly well and I am thrilled to discover this seemingly new ability to entertain himself.

Here’s to Old Guys Learning New Tricks – knowing how to let go of the past and move on to new adventures.  Here’s to the fine art of learning how to fill all of the hours that used to be your working day with activities that are healthy and entertaining and new.  Now, if only he’d take a sudden interest in running the vacuum.  He tried it once, but it takes away from his gym time.

Home Exchange ~ An intriguing offer

Don’t you love it when you go in to shut down your laptop for the night and you take one last peek at your email and there, glowing in your inbox, is a message that you just have to open – and read – and read again.  And now your mind is buzzing with possibilities and excitement and fear and what ifs?   Sleepy?  No, not now.  That was so five minutes ago.

Well, here’s the short story on my enticing email from Heidi.  When I signed up for Home Exchange three weeks ago, I had no specific goals other than to test the waters on some short stays closer to home and otherwise figure out how it all worked.   A shakedown cruise of sorts.   Plus I would get to peruse all the offerings and dream.  Well, my friends, Heidi came a-calling with a pretty interesting offer… Heidi, her husband and five year old daughter live in Century City, a very nice suburb in LA between Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.  I worked there back in the days when I lived in LA so I know it pretty well.  (I’m sure a lot has changed since 1987, but still.)  Turns out they are thinking about moving to Portland and are looking for a home exchange from August 2012 through June 2013.   Nowhere in any of my thinking was the idea of a long term stay like this a possibility right now.  That was for way off in the future.   And frankly, I’ve lived in LA and while I do like to visit from time to time, it is definitely not on my list of places to live permanently.  Too busy, too crowded, to expensive, too L.A.  But, for a few months…say January or February through June…when it’s cold, gray and gloomy to the max in Portland, well I have to say I perked right up at the idea.  Hubby, Mr. “let’s become Citizens of the World”, was seriously not enthused.  In fact, he was kind of a wet blanket on my initial enthusiasm.   Big Bummer!   And it raised a few very interesting points for future discussion.  Apparently the move from talking to doing is not going to be as easy as my Pollyanna mindset had led me to believe.

Obviously, there are logistical questions to be considered and worked out in any kind of long term swap, but, it would be so much easier to do between Portland and LA than say Portland and Prague.   First, (again) what the hell do we do with Mr. Ricky?  He and hubs are a team – the dynamic duo, and I fear that Ricky might fare slightly better than his human half if they were separated.  Second – August?  Leave Portland during the one or two months of really lovely summer weather?   After I waited a whole year for summer to come back?  And third, we would have to actually pull the trigger and do something so far out of the comfortable box we currently live in.  Whew.  Not so quick or easy as it turns out.

Actually, if it were just me, it would be an easy decision.  But it’s not, we’re a team.  So I’m going to move us through this slowly to see where it might lead.  Here’s my tentative plan:

1.  We have to take the cat.  Will they be amenable to a handsome well mannered fur boy moving into their “gorgeous, art-filled, 3-level contemporary town-home with a grand piano in Century City”?  If no, end of road for now.  If yes, take one step forward.

2.  Heidi indicated she was flexible in her dates and might consider multiple swaps to get the full year.  Ok!  How about Les and Nancy from February through mid-June?

3.  If 1 and 2 fly, then it’s time to start working on my armchair based and very comfortable there world traveler.    Baby steps.  Stick and Carrot.  Sexy lingerie.  Time to bring out the full bag of tricks!

4.  If 3 flies and the hubs climbs on board, then it’s time to negotiate with the LA swappers to see if we can work out a lovely FREE winter vacation in sunny Southern California.  If so,  here’s where you’ll find us on the weekends…

And here’s where you might find Heidi and her family…

Yep, this is definitely worth pursuing.   Words of wisdom from the Old Grey Haired Guy I live with ~ “Keep saying Yes until you have a reason to say No”.  Words I now need to remind him of.   I’ll keep you posted.

When Fear Slithers in ~

Ok, I admit it, there’s a reason why my retirement dreaming has been more in the direction of Alsace Lorraine than some place in the Amazon.  One word – SNAKES.  Oh yes. I have a big time, full on, beyond all reason, fear of snakes.  Any kind, and size is not a factor.  I know it makes no sense.  I’m an educated and generally intelligent woman but this is one of those totally irrational things and, let me just say, this kind of REALLY BIG FEAR is not what you want to take with you when you become a citizen of the world.

Snake Charmers

As a kid in Canada, I grew up spending summers at our cottage on Balsam Lake and there were snakes but I don’t remember worrying about them.  We did all the crazy kid stuff and sometimes we’d see one.  No big deal.  But, sometime between those carefree summers at the lake and high school in Southern California, this crazy fear slithered into my mind and has grown into a green eyed monster.  In high school, I  paper clipped the pages of my biology book together so I wouldn’t touch the snake pictures.  True story.  But wait, it gets worse.  In 1996 I took a trip to Belize and Guatemala.  I was fearful of the jungle and what was lurking there, but I thought the best way to overcome my fear was to face it head on.  Right!  We were in Tikal hiking through the jungle to climb the Mayan pyramids.   It was dense and humid and we could hear the howler monkeys and parrots up in the trees.  I was pretty sure there was a big ole snake up there too, but we didn’t see any.   When we met a local guide/professor, I mentioned my fear of snakes.  He said “Don’t worry about snakes, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them”.  Ha!  Wrong-o!  And, then he said “Besides, you can smell them.  They have a very distinct and not pleasant smell.”  Really?  I did not know this.  I made it through the day and enjoyed every minute of this truly amazing experience.

Yoo Whoo! Any snakes down there?

But, the next morning, my friend Don and I decided to take an early walk.  We followed a dirt road just outside of the park.  We walked for a couple of miles and every now and then we would see a large sign, in Spanish, that said “Danger Venomous Reptiles”.  Okay, a little concern started to creep in.  My friend said it was just to keep tourists out.  Hmmm.  Wouldn’t it be in English too?  We kept on going, but then without warning – a really bad smell.  I lost all reason and control.  I screamed SNAKE! then turned around and ran as fast as I could in the other direction leaving my walking companion standing there shaking with laughter.  I was terrified obviously, since I still remember it like it was yesterday.   It’s embarrassing to say the least, but truth be told, snakes represent all the ways that I let fear stop me from living life full out.  And there are plenty of them.  I won’t bore you with the list.

How do you suddenly become brave at 63 1/2?  I’m not sure really, but I’d like to figure it out.  Actually, I’d settle for braver.   I’ll probably never jump out of an airplane and I’m OK with that.  But, there are a whole bunch of places in this world that are really worth experiencing and I’m not sure I can go because there might be snakes?   Am I really saying that?  It sounds crazy even to me, but it’s kinda true.  For now.

All I know is that life is short and I want to live every minute with all the gusto I can manage and so, somehow, the fear has to go.  You can’t pack it in the rollie.  It takes up way too much space and it definitely weighs you down.

Oh, and by the way.  Snakes don’t smell.  He was just messing with me.

Got Stuff? ~

I see so many signs like this when I’m walking or driving around town.  Extra Storage – it’s a booming business.  It got me wondering ~ When did we begin acquiring so much stuff that we can no longer contain it all within the walls of our own home?  What do we do then?  Apparently, we go out and rent our stuff it’s OWN STUFF CONDO.  Really, think about this – and I have lately with all of the attention on reality TV shows like Storage Wars (which was so successful that it has a spin-off Storage Wars: Texas).  In fact, I just checked the local TV Guide Listings and on Tuesday, May 22nd, the A&E channel ran nothing but Storage Wars from 6pm until Midnight.  That’s 12 half hour episodes of people trying to out bid each other so they can become the proud owner of someone else’s unwanted stuff.  Not even their good stuff – no, this is the stuff they crammed into a 6’x6′ cement room, rolled down the metal door and apparently walked away and forgot about!

Here’s a photo (courtesy of the website) of the players on Storage Wars.  These people are now huge stars and everybody and their uncle is running out to storage auctions trying to strike it rich.   The land of the free and the home of the brave has become the land of the super-sized and over-stuffed.  Come on people.  Really?  No wonder the rest of the world thinks of us as “those crazy Americans”.  When did we become so stuff addicted?  If one is good, why is 3 or 4 or more better?  Maybe I can get a government grant to study this.  In the meantime, it is something else to think about in our quest to radically downsize our life and take it on the road.

Ok, soapbox packed up and put away for today.

Captain of my Own Cruise Ship ~

Retirement is when you stop living at work and begin to work at living…

I don’t know where this quote came from, but I could not have said it better.  I am so ready to be there.

And, let me add – “Thank God there is cocktail service on this cruise!”

Enough said.