This is summer camp for adults

princess-cruises-sapphire-princess-balcony-galleryWe’ve been home from that long cruise for a few weeks now. The unpacking and reacquainting ourselves with real life has taken more time than I thought. Hence the long gap between posts here. Why has it taken so long to slip back into everyday life?

I think part of the reason cruising is so hard to come home from may be the same reason it’s so popular. Cruising is like the best summer camp ever. For adults.

For one thing, your meals are prepared and you don’t have to bus your own dishes. In fact, you have no chores at all. No making beds, no washing dishes, no scooping litter boxes. I remember my mother complaining that she had to retrain me every time I returned from camp.

There is at least one pool. I don’t remember my summer camp having hot tubs though. Or an indoor pool for inclement weather.

And, just like at camp, you can meet people from all over. On a cruise that means the world. Literally. Australia, Portugal, the Ukraine, Indonesia, the Philippines.

All the cool kids wear a lanyard with their ID badge–your Sea Pass. You carry no cash. All financial transactions are handled by swiping that card. That bucket of Coronas you had delivered to you at the pool every afternoon? The pricey massage? The candy bar at the gift shop? At the end of camp, your parents settled up. Sadly, on a cruise, settling up is your responsibility.

Camp counselors (your Cruise Director’s staff) lead tons of indoor and outdoor activities. You get to try activities you’ve never tried before. Every day the long list of events included trivia contests, bingo, bridge, belly dancing, knitting, yoga, rock climbing, gambling, a chorus, a flash mob, sushi making, and more.

Of course, the major difference on a cruise is that you are free not to participate. Want to lie in your bunk and read all day? Or drink yourself silly? Or nap beside the pool? Or just hang out and smoke with your friends? Totally your choice. No one will bug you, except maybe your traveling companion.

And there is no “lights out” or “reveille.” You set your own schedule.

Pretty nice. I’m now wondering if an Assisted Living apartment might be similar. Meals prepared. Helpful staff. Scheduled outings to malls or museums. Like a cruise ship that doesn’t go anywhere, you know? It certainly makes the possibility more appealing. I’m now beginning to consider a long cruise as a transition to such an arrangement when/if the time comes. Costs are comparable, I imagine. Getting rid of everything and cruising for a month or so before moving into Happy Acres would certainly soften the blow of giving up my independence.

For now though, I enjoy sitting here, drinking my coffee, and waiting for the stateroom attendant. The bed needs to be made and we need some fresh towels. Then I remember I am home. Crap.

Real life is overrated. I want to go back to camp.

 

Advertisements

You gained HOW MUCH on that cruise?!

FB_IMG_1485373261825While being interviewed a few days ago, one of the ship’s food and beverage managers said that passengers gain an average of one to two pounds per day on a cruise. Per day! Not bad if this were only a weeklong cruise. But this one lasts eighteen days.

Could I actually gain thirty-six pounds? Not that I don’t like a challenge, but that’s how much I lost fifteen years ago and promised myself I’d NEVER have to lose again. Besides, I gave away all my fat clothes.

So this is one area in which I am determined to stay well BELOW average.

I do expect the scale to be up a bit. After all, I’m on vacation and the food is delicious and plentiful. The dining room offers modest portions of delectable dishes, appetizers, and desserts, all included in what you already paid for the cruise. So, it’s practically free.

Or one can choose to eat at the buffet. It’s a more casual atmosphere and there are more choices.  Besides, you don’t have to share your table with eight strangers as you do in the dining room. That’s helpful if, like me, your traveling companion resides at the extreme end of introvert spectrum.

Trouble is, at a buffet you can take as much as you like of anything and go back for seconds. Or thirds. Or— you get the idea.

And then there is room service. Food, drinks, whatever you want, brought to you. Day or night.

To counteract this increase in intake there is a well-equipped gym, a running/walking track, fitness classes, and stairs. So many stairs. Yoga, spin, belly dancing, and boot camp give passengers plenty of opportunities to burn off a few of the extra desserts and cocktails. 

However, I’ve learned you can’t out exercise a bad diet. I can eat way faster than I can run.

I just have to make good food choices and move my lady-like keester. You know, that motivation thing. Overcoming excuses–too hot, too cold, ooh look, ice cream! And setting priorities– I really ought to finish reading that book, or work on my novel, or check my email… You know, that stuff.

That being said, I’m at the gym the other morning, using the elliptical when I notice a middle-aged Asian gentleman on a stationary bike. He finishes, reaches for his collapsible cane and feels his way to the towel rack and the next machine in his circuit. Yes, he was blind. By himself. On vacation. On a boat. And did I mention he was blind?

My excuses paled in comparison. I hung my head and powered through a few more sweaty minutes and a 30-minute stretch class before climbing the stairs to breakfast. Then I strolled right past the sweet rolls and pancakes, the biscuits and gravy,  and the explicably ever-present baked beans on toast. I selected poached eggs, wheat toast, and as much fresh pineapple and melon as I could fit on my plate.

Day 15 and I can still zip and button my capris. I’ll take that as a win.

Seriously, what are you complaining about?

untitled gratObservation of my fellow humans is a hobby of mine. And maybe the teensiest bit of quiet judgment. But honestly, the endless variety in shape, size, color, language, mode of dress, experience, and expression fascinates and amazes me. Every day.

For context, at the moment I’m on a cruise ship with 400 of my fellow Americans and 1000 Australians. (Sadly, not one of them is Hugh Jackman) The other 500 passengers are from just about everywhere else. One thing we have in common though, in spite of our differences: We’re all on vacation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a big beautiful boat that will dock in Tahiti tomorrow. So, you know–life is good. Very good.

Nonetheless, it appears that some people can still find something to complain about.

  • One recent morning, after a particularly rough night of twenty-foot seas, I overheard a young man complaining at Guest Services. It seems his stateroom was creaking a lot, and that he (or his pretty young wife standing next to him) couldn’t sleep. Could the Captain do something about it?

Personally, I was grateful that the ship hadn’t capsized overnight and that the Captain was getting us past the storm as quickly and as safely as he could. I was also grateful I packed earplugs. And Dramamine.

  • A New Jersey gent noticed me eating a chocolate ice cream cone and commented that he was glad they finally had chocolate again. He really didn’t like strawberry.

I’m grateful for the self-serve, soft-serve available all day, every day, as well as the forty-seven other desserts to pick from. I’m also grateful for the freedom to not eat strawberry ice cream.

  • This morning, in the ship’s library, as I sat rereading and revising the beast I like to call my “novel,” a woman came in looking for the Sudoku puzzles that are placed there every day. She lamented that the previous day’s puzzles weren’t there. She’d gotten behind.

I’m grateful that the puzzles are placed there, just in case I run out of other things to occupy my time. I’m also grateful that there are entire books of Sudoku and crossword puzzles available (not to mention mobile apps) that one might carry along, say, on a long ocean voyage.

  • At the breakfast buffet, a woman poked at a huge pan of lovely poached eggs trying to determine which ones might be done to her liking.

I’m grateful that poached eggs are available without having to order them special. And that the toast and English muffins are already done and that someone has made Hollandaise. Those facts alone are enough to allow me to overlook the precise degree of doneness that I prefer. That and the fact I don’t have to do the dishes.

Yes, the Internet onboard is a little slow, but again, we’re in the middle of the ocean. And even though the breakfast buffet doesn’t open until seven, they do put out tea things every afternoon at three, including scones and cute little sandwiches. And there is always room service. And did I mention not doing dishes?

There’s plenty to be grateful for. Especially here.

 

Learning to read Australian before breakfast

20170417_072828While the language is the same (mostly), my dearly beloved (db) and I were in for a few little surprises when we arrived in beautiful Sydney, Australia after a long flight on our way to a long cruise. I’m not complaining—who can complain about a chance to travel so far and see such beautiful places? No, I’m merely noticing.

The first thing we discovered was the electric tea kettle in our room instead of a coffee maker. Several varieties of tea and an Arrowroot Biscuit (!) were provided along with a couple of packets of instant coffee. Instant coffee.

Yes, I can–and did–drink instant, but you see, db and I are accustomed to early morning coffee before we attempt communication. Certainly we would survive, but seriously, how do people function and remain married without real coffee? We’ll celebrate our 44th anniversary this year and I know part of our marital longevity is due in no small part to the consumption of a couple of cups of coffee before we speak each morning.

At least they’d have real coffee at breakfast. Right?

Of course, a few of the menu choices at the hotel’s breakfast buffet also reminded me I was no longer in the USA. There were packets of Vegemite and Nutella to spread on toast, broiled tomatoes, muesli, baked beans, and boiled eggs in the shell–served hot! Still, I found enough creamy scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and raisin toast to fill my plate.

Now to find the coffee before I sat down to eat. I looked around but found no giant urn, no thermal carafes… Oh, wait, there’s a machine. I read my choices. Espresso or long black. What about regular coffee?

Espresso is a shot, right? Not enough. But would a long black overfill the cup I held in my hand? I weighed the risk of going another moment without the requisite amount of caffeine I needed for basic social in interaction. I pressed the button for a long black and hoped for the best. Blessed hot black liquid poured forth from machine.

When I tasted it, it was stronger than an Americano, but definitely “real.” Later, with the help of google, I learned that “long black” is a term used in Australia and New Zealand for a double shot of espresso poured over hot water.

With that long black coursing through my veins and my jet-lagged brain now firing on most of its cylinders, I could face the puzzling items that would appear on the lunchtime menu: rocket salad and cos lettuce with capsicum.20170417_072638

Adding a little goodness back into the world

We’ve been in our new house for a month now and we’re still unpacking the mountain of boxes filled with our accumulated material wealth. The good news is that garage no longer looks like that warehouse at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie. Two cars fit in the three-car garage. My husband even has the beginnings of a small workshop out there. Even so, there is much to do. I’m still on the injured list, the holidays are upon us, and the world seems to be in a constant state of grief, anger, violence and fear-fueled hate. What’s a girl to do?

Then last week this appeared in my Facebook feed: Fifteen Things for When the World is Shitty and Terrifying. Reading it made me feel a bit better. There are things I can do in my own little corner of the planet.

light a candleYou may remember that before we put our old house on the market, we filled a couple of dumpsters, held a garage sale, and made multiple donations to a local thrift shop. You’d think we were done shedding stuff. Not quite. Many of the things I saved and packed up last summer now have me saying, “Meh,” when I open the box. Extra linens, towels, and surplus kitchen items.  All still usable. Still pretty clean even. Things I simply don’t need.

Fortunately, I discovered a Catholic Charities/St. Vincent’s (Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada) donation drop-off just a few blocks away. When they sell my usable items at one of their thrift shops, the profits help purchase food that they give to those in need–without regard to faith, race, or circumstance.  In Reno alone, they feed an average of 500 meals each day to hungry men, women, and children.

So while I may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the chaos that exists in my home and in the world, I can do something. I may not have a lot of money to share, but I do have an overabundance of stuff. Giving it away declutters both my house and my heart.

We can all seek out helpers in our communities and join them. Maybe, by adding our own goodness back into the world, we can help it heal. It certainly can’t hurt.

happy holidays

Notes from the (temporarily) disabled list

20151120_062658
Still life with claw on moving day.

Way back last summer, in order to tempt fate and speed up the long-delayed sale of our home, I scheduled surgery on my left hand for the fall. An arthroplasty, for those who are interested. In my case, removal of an achy, arthritic thumb joint. Yuck. I would be on the disabled list for about six weeks, splinted or cast with pins sticking out for much of that time. I knew what was involved. Nine years ago I had the same procedure on my right hand. The good news is my strategy worked. The house sold, we found another, and set a moving date—precisely one week after my surgery. Yay?!

My war with drugs. (Warning: TMI)

For the first twenty-four hours, I was under the influence of lots of lovely numbing agents as well as the remnants of a general anesthetic. It was only after those wore off that I needed serious pain meds. I have an unhappy history with Percoset and rarely take opioids (narcotics.) I tend to break down in tears for no reason at all. My brain turns to mush. They also slow my—ahem—“digestion” down, basically grinding it to a halt.

I tried to get by without them as much as possible. Pain, however is taxing. It makes me tired and sad and cranky. So after trying to limit myself to just a few small doses, I realized I needed to take more. My third day consisted mostly of Percoset, nap, Percoset, nap, Percoset, nap…

That couldn’t continue. Besides, that “digestive” issue I mentioned was growing increasingly troublesome. I cut down the Percoset in half and added Aleve twice a day. Pain was now manageable, but my gut was still stalled–completely–in spite of all the water, fiber, Miralax, Colace, and Milk of Magnesia I had ingested. What finally worked? Stopping the darned Percoset. Or almost. I settled on one-half of one tablet at night to help me sleep. Aaahhh.

What (not) to wear.

Having gone through this before, I planned ahead. I knew that dressing myself would be a challenge. You know– zippers, hooks, buttons, shoelaces. With that in mind I stocked up on sports bras, yoga pants, and slip-on shoes.

Yes, I have a darling and helpful husband, but how many times a day (think trips to the bathroom) do I want to bother him for a zip-up? FYI, as sweet and supportive as my husband is, he is much more adept at undoing a bra than hooking it up. Perhaps it’s motivation?

As luck and El Nino would have it, wintry weather arrived the day of my surgery. I discovered that NONE of my long-sleeved shirts, jackets, or coats fit over the giant claw at the end of my left arm. No long-sleeved shirts and no coats meant I mostly stayed inside for a week. Or I wore numerous short-sleeved layers and tossed a not-very-warm and anything-but-chic poncho over everything. And I hoped I didn’t run into anyone I knew.

The second and third dressing changes resulted in a somewhat smaller claw, but I still can’t fit it into my big snow coat.

Keeping it clean.

The dressing can’t get wet so I secure a plastic trash bag over the thing with large rubber bands. All with one hand, mind you. Luckily I do have the use of four fingers, but without their buddy the opposable thumb, they aren’t much help. Squeezing shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel is accomplished by holding the bottle against my slippery chest and exerting pressure with my forearm, squeezing the goop into my right hand. And I’m using disposable facewash cloths to remove my make-up. Yes, I’m still wearing make-up most days. I wouldn’t want anyone to scare any small children or be mistaken for a corpse.

olivia pie 2015
Pumpkin pie making with my right..er, left-hand girl.

Feed me.

Sure, I can get food to my mouth, but have you ever noticed that containers of yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit, and soups all require two hands to open? Yes, my darling husband would help but he’d likely have to climb down from the ladder, or crawl out from under a sink to do so. Not fair. He shouldn’t have to do all the fix-it projects AND help me. Sad to say there have been a lot of take-out meals, just to make things easier. I can still make toast. I can still butter it and squeeze on the honey.

I apologize for whining, but at four weeks out from surgery, it still hurts at times and is testing the limits of my sunny disposition. I find it difficult to focus, let alone write. HOWEVER–I am grateful to be in my new home, married to that sweet guy, and half-way through my confinement. I’m especially grateful for the skillful surgeon who–in the end–will make my old hand feel like new again.

20151204_083054
Merry Christmas from me and my thumb!

Ch-ch-ch-changes of address

Full-MailboxWe now officially own no property. None. And until that check clears, we have no money either. Fingers crossed, breath held until Friday when we (hope to) sign on to the next house.
Now we’ve begun the monumental task of changing every address, utility, credit card, membership, DMV and voter registration, every insurance policy. Again. We just did this when we moved into the apartment in July, just not EVERY little thing since we knew (hoped) it would be temporary. For example, we didn’t order new checks with the apartment address. And since the next election isn’t until next year, we didn’t change our voter registration. We’re in a new county now too. So everything changes. I guess I even need a new library card.
This part isn’t fun. It’s tedious. There’s a reason we don’t do it very often.
In the first few years we were married (when we owned nothing, had nothing), we used to joke that we moved every time the apartment oven got dirty. In the forty years since, we have owned just three houses. Our joke has become that we stay until the house doubles in value. That’s held true so far, starting with the tiny $35K townhouse we bought in San Juan Capistrano that we sold two years later for $70K in 1977.
Whether or not this house can double in value is probably a matter of how long we can stay healthy and hold onto our marbles. I figure we’re good for about twenty years. That would take us to our mid-eighties. By then one or both of us will likely need to move into assisted living. Or memory care. Or the cemetery. But at least when that happens no one will expect me to fill out another change of address.

Honey, I’m home!

For those of you who’ve been following this downsizing-and-moving-closer-to-family adventure, the end is in sight! To recap, we had several reasons for starting this process. We are in our sixties, retired, and our old house no longer suited us. It was too big and hard to maintain. We wanted to move before we had to be moved. We wanted to be closer to our daughter and her family. We actually like our family and have missed being nearby. No, we aren’t quite ready for the old folks home, but to be honest, there will likely come a time when someone needs to check in on us. So close is good.

My wish list for this next house was pretty specific and included:
• Close to some shopping and other services, perhaps walking distance
• No steep hills which can be treacherous in winter
• Single level, no stairs, no basement
• Space for an office
• Guest room
• Sewing and craft space
• Space for husband’s workshop so he build and fix stuff
• Two baths. No more, no less
• Stall shower and double sinks in master bath
• Space to park our motor home
• Low maintenance landscaping
• Covered patio
• Open kitchen/family room combination
• Plantation shutters on windows
• Gas fireplace that lights with a wall switch or remote
I figured I’d have to compromise on a few things, but a girl should know what she’s looking for. Otherwise, like the late Yogi Berra says,

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

ISdgd5y2sjvh430000000000So when my daughter told me about a nearby open house last month, I went by myself, figuring I’d know pretty quickly if it had possibilities or not. As I followed the signs, I noticed that it was just a couple of streets away from our granddaughter’s school and around the corner from a playground. Not to mention walking distance to the drugstore, the library, and a couple of restaurants. As I parked I noted the three-car garage and no lawn, just lots of mature trees and shrubs. Nice.
The agent hosting the open house was one I’d met and liked at another house a few weeks before. That’s a sign, right?
The front room had a vaulted ceiling and big windows with plantation shutters. At the back was the open kitchen/family room combination with more plantation shutters and a gas fireplace. From there I stepped out onto a covered patio and a huge deck surrounded by more trees adding both privacy and shade. The big master bath has a stall shower, garden tub and double sinks. There were also two smaller bedrooms (guest and sewing!), a second bath with tub & shower, and an office. The laundry room led out to garage with plenty of space for my husband’s workshop in that third garage. And there was room for the motor home in the side yard.

I tried not to act too excited. The place wasn’t perfect and the price was at the top end of what we wanted to spend. It needed some paint (they loved forest green!), maybe new carpet, linoleum, kitchen counter tops and probably a list of other things that wouldn’t show up for a while, but I could actually see us in this house.
However, we were waiting for several contingency dominoes to fall on the sale of our old home. We couldn’t really make an offer. Still, I obsessed about this house. I lurked on Zillow for other houses, but found nothing even close. At long last our buyer firmed up and I felt like my husband should see the house. He agreed. He saw what I saw and wanted to start the offer/counter-offer dance immediately. Long story short–we got it! We’ll be home for the holidays. Whew.
So in the end we sold, donated or dumpstered about half our belongings. We found a lovely, one-story house with one-third less space on a smaller lot that pretty much met every item on my wish list. If I needed a sign that this was the right move, I think this is it.
Next steps? Coordinating the workmen installing new carpet and counter-tops and deciding what color paint will cover up that forest green.

Downsizing: How low can we go?

hand-holding-tiny-house-cartoon-illustration-securing-30676278Now that the house looks like it might actually be sold– and without any contingencies–the next round of decisions are keeping me up at night. That and the iced-coffee yesterday afternoon. And trying to finish The Martian before the movie comes out. It’s always something.

Anyway, I’ve been stalking houses on the Internet for months. I’ve walked and driven through neighborhoods. I crossed anything with two stories off my list as well as those out of my price range. I’ve been to open houses. I’ve probably seen hundreds of houses that simply won’t work for us.

The apartment we are in now is 1250 square feet, with two bedrooms and two baths, a great room, a laundry room and a single garage. Not bad for an apartment, but not for the long term. I find myself needing one more “away” space. There is neither space for our hobbies nor the little fix-it projects my husband likes. Places for sewing, scrapbooking, model trains, DIY-ing, and writing all go into figuring out just how big the next house should be. How many bedrooms and bathrooms? How many square feet? How much garage space? Is there space to park the motorhome?

Simple_Houses

We’re (only) in our sixties. This should be prime hobby-enjoying time. And even after 42 years of marriage, we are two different people with very different interests. We’ll need enough space to accommodate those activities. And enough personal space to avoid divorce.

The 3000 square feet of our old house—with its three levels and huge sloping lot– was just too big. This apartment is too small. So maybe something just under 2000 will be the sweet spot.

Stay tuned. I have a hunch that the Goldilocks of houses is just around the corner. Literally.

goldilocks