I Hope You Dance ~

I’m kicking up my heels and drying out my webbed feet in sunny Palm Springs this week.  There is nothing better than hanging with a flock of silver haired snowbirds to make you feel young.   Last night we met Betty and her two girlfriends at the front desk.  She’s my kind of gal.  Sporting a bejewelled pink jean jacket, a crown of silver hair and a hearty laugh, this lovely lady is a role model for living and loving life.  Betty is looking for fun and I’ll bet she even turns a couple of old foxes’ heads and gets called out for a whirl or two around the dance floor when they bring out the Tommy Dorsey cover band.

Click on the photo below to watch an awesome dance number.  I think it’s time to dust off my dancing shoes.  How about you?

Life is really about grabbing the gusto no matter your age or the color of your hair.  To quote the lyrics of a favorite country song  ~ “And when you have the chance to sit it out or dance… I hope you dance.”

Hanging with Oprah ~

RISK ~ That’s my word for 2013 and as I said, I’m going for it. Damn the torpedoes and all that.

I decided to jump right in and sign up for not one but two creative classes.  They are online and they are both fabulous.  Great inspiration, ideas I can put to use immediately and daily and weekly projects that are already moving me out of my comfort zone.   I’m loving every minute.  Old dog + new tricks = grand new adventures!

One of my goals for 2013 is to step into the blogging world in a whole new way.  I’ve got some big plans to hatch and lots of work to do.  I am excited to go down this path wherever it leads.

Everyday Magic is a photography class led by blogger, photographer and creative living inspiration, Tammy Strobel.  Tammy and my classmates from all over the world are helping me see the magic in so many of the everyday moments I have overlooked or taken for granted as I rushed through my days.  It is just so darned cool.

The second class is called Juicy Blogging with writer, editor and blogging pro, Britt Bravo.  I just started a couple of days ago and I have already learned and tried so many new ideas I am about to burst with enthusiasm.  I know I will be much better blogger as I begin to share our Just a Backpack adventures with a larger audience.

Both classes have daily lessons.  Today at Everyday Magic our theme was  “A Day in the Life”.   Britt’s writing assignment was to do a blog post that contained mostly photos.  Sounded like the makings of a fun blog post to me.

Here’s how it played out…

Oprah was waiting for me when I opened the mailbox

Oprah was waiting for me when I opened the mailbox so we decided to go on an adventure together.  (well I decided)

Driving Ms. Oprah

Driving Ms. Oprah.

Lunch?  Of course.  We both had the apple/goat cheese salad

Lunch?  Why yes.   We both had the apple/goat cheese salad. 

Quick trip downtown to Union Station for a pickup.  Oprah was dash-surfing for a better look

A quick trip downtown to Union Station to pick up a friend.  Oprah rode on the dash to catch a better view.

Even Oprah loves a good sale.  Me too!

Oprah loves a good sale.  Me too!

See's chocolate?  Why yes, let's get a 1 pound box and eat it on the drive home

See’s chocolate? Of course!  Let’s get a one pound box and eat it on the drive home.

Perfect ending to a perfect day.  Starbucks, tea, chocolate and a little bit of Oprah wisdom.  It was my Oprah Aha Moment.

Perfect ending to a perfect day. Starbucks, tea, chocolate and a little bit of Oprah wisdom. It was my very own Oprah Ahhh! Moment.

These classes are gifts I gave to myself.  They fit me perfectly and have already brought me hours of joy.   New sweater?   Don’t really need one.  Meeting new people and making a few synapses fly in my brain?  Now that’s a gift that will last a lifetime.

What gifts have you given yourself lately?  If not…what are you waiting for?   You deserve it.  Just like me.

Those Magic Moments

photoThe mad march through the month of December is winding down at last.  We tried to keep Christmas low-key this year and I think we succeeded pretty well.  This blog is in part about re-evaluating our lifestyle as we approach our next adventure – retirement.    We’re pondering the deep questions like how all the “stuff” we’ve acquired over the years will fit (or not) into our upcoming new lifestyle.   We’re a couple of geezers on a new path and we’re loving the challenge and the change.  This year we began the process releasing our attachment to things and instead looking for the magic in the moments of our lives rather than the next shiny thing.  The most frequently asked question around our house these days is “Do we really need it?  Will it fit in the backpack and rollie?”  It’s a very interesting exercise and I highly recommend it, but it isn’t always easy.

This Christmas, after years of piling the presents high around the tree, it feels good to say that all we really need is family, friends, our health, and a few bucks to sustain us in our old age and keep us traveling.  It’s been a year of exploring “the new/old ways” and the re-discovering the value of moments and memories vs. stuff.   Taking photos with my little digital pocket camera helps me stop and pay closer attention to the tiny details that make our lives richer.  You catch the hope in someone’s eyes, the playful smile in the joke, the hundreds of shades of grey in a Portland winter sky.  Magical everyday moments I would likely take fore-granted and quickly forget.  I’m hoping that in the year ahead both my skill and my camera will improve and my snapshots of our experiences will enrich these posts.

For now, I’m just grateful for the memories.  Here are a few of my favorites from the past year.   Taking a little quiet time this afternoon, I sat with a cup of tea and my laptop and experienced the magic of these moments all over again.  Now that’s a real gift!IMG_3390IMG_0489IMG_0452IMG_0137IMG_3570IMG_3365 May your moments be filled with great joy and grand adventures.

Happy New Year!

Cheers ~  Nancy

Lost Our Virginity ~

Yup, as of this past weekend, the hubs and I are no longer home exchange virgins!  Finally… we found a match… and it was so good.  And so easy.  We are completely hooked.  Mr. Just-a-Backpack is already asking me to do it again.  In fact, he wants to do it any time, any place.  Oh, Baby!

I always get a buzz of excitement when an Inquiry from Home Exchange pops up in my email.   My first thought – Wow, somebody chose us!  What can I say, I have a strong need for people to like me.   That’s quickly followed by the thrill of opening the email to discover what new adventure awaits. And finally, there’s the reality of can we make this one work.  Or in some cases, do we even want to.  Sorry, but the week in Minneapolis didn’t seem worth the cost of two plane tickets.

Anyhow, back to this particular exchange.  A few weeks ago we received an inquiry from Dawn and Ram, a lovely couple who live in Toledo, Oregon (a few miles inland from the Port of Newport).  They were interested in snuggling Mr. Ricky in exchange for our feeding “the girls” – their 12 chickens, and gathering eggs.  Could we work out an exchange weekend?  We could and YES we would!  So, a match was hatched.  We emailed back and forth, exchanged information, made a plan and Voila! at 9:30 on Saturday morning we were off on an adventure.  We left flowers on the table, snacks in the refrigerator, wine on the counter and Mr. Ricky waiting to meet some new friends.  We found a beautiful custom-built, art-filled home on seven acres owned by an artist and a wildlife ranger.

A notebook on the counter gave us detailed instructions for everything we needed to know about their home, right down to the names and descriptions of the chickens “Ginny – Big and brown with white speckles”.  We settled in to enjoy one of the most relaxing and peaceful mini-getaways in a very long time.   That first evening, as we were sipping wine on the big, comfy couches overlooking the pond, hubs looks over and says “Do you hear that?”  I said, “Yes.  Nothing!  What a lovely sound.”

The next day (after feeding the girls and gathering the eggs) we explored the tiny mill town of Toledo, strolled the streets of Newport, barked back at the noisy sea lions, walked out to the fishing docks, ducked into shops, crossed the big bridge to escape the rain for a few hours in the Oregon Coast Aquarium and stuffed ourselves at one of the best seafood restaurants on the Oregon coast – Local Ocean Seafood.

By early evening we were completely tuckered out and headed back to our Toledo retreat to enjoy all the comforts of “home”.  So much nicer than watching TV sitting on the bed in a hotel room.  We put our feet up, pulled out a blanket, turned on the fireplace and snuggled on the couch with a glass of Pinot and a wee bit of chocolate.  We also discovered Netflix and the guilty pleasure of watching How I Met Your Mother.  All-in-all, it was a perfectly wonderful experience and we cannot wait to do it again.

Parked my rollie in this lovely bedroom.

Thank you Ram and Dawn for making our first home exchange such a wonderful experience.  We hope you enjoyed your stay in our home as much as we loved staying in yours.  Mr. Ricky says “hi” and please come back to visit any time.

If you’ve been considering home exchange for future travels, I suggest you go for it.

Now, I’m off to find home exchange number two…

A Pair of Classics ~

Meet Margaret Dunning, at 102 years very young, I’d say she’s definitely a classic and so is her 1930 Packard 740 Roadster.  Yes, Margaret still drives and in fact she is still showing her classic beauty at concours d’elegance.  In a recent appearance at the Pebble Beach Concours, she told the audience that she changes her own oil and spark plugs and that “Before old age overtook me, I could scoot under the car very nicely.”  Margaret owns several classic vehicles.  The Packard may be her favorite, but these days you’re like to  see Margaret driving around her hometown of Plymouth, Michigan in a 2003 Cadillac DeVille.  It’s her “everyday car”.

Margaret, you are an inspiration to us youngsters in our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  A true classic.  Keep on driving!

Both videos are from Utube.

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.