A New Long Term Project

I want to introduce something I began working on this week and that I hope will occupy my time for at least the next six months. This project is a series of personal essays and I will be publishing excerpts here on this blog, hopefully on a regular basis.

I am envisioning the end result to be about one hundred personal essays of about 1200 words each. I do have a title in mind already but I’m going to hold off on publicizing that. I am still working on my cozy mystery novels so will actually have two projects going at the same time. It’s nice to be able to breakaway from memory-dumping and self-actualization to some good old-fashioned light-hearted murder mystery shenanigans.

I won’t be posting any of the really raw stuff here. You’ll have to buy the book to get the real dirt. But I will try to make the bits and pieces I do post here of the highest quality. When one decides to take pieces of a writing project and publish on a blog, it becomes real really fast. You can’t change your mind or continue editing. Well, you can but you know what I mean.

I tried to start a memoir almost two years ago but just couldn’t get through more than a couple chapters. I still had some emotional stuff to work out and I didn’t have a real direction. With the personal essay format, I’m hoping that things will come together with more cohesion than previously. I think this will be more in tune with my ADHD tendencies and my writing style, which is more pantster than planner.

And just for fun, this week I started a free online course at Coursera called Writing a Personal Essay from Wesleyan University. Join me! The first assignment isn’t due until November 30.

Projects

Projects are no excuse for not writing. But there are times in one’s life when the “to-do” list just can’t be ignored. I’ve been quite busy since moving to my new state and my new home this month and though I’ve still been able to get a little writing done, writing is not at the forefront of my expended energy.

When you are writing for pleasure and have no accountability other than self-imposed deadlines, finishing up the chores on the daily list are sometimes an easy out. It takes not just a lot of discipline to sit at a typewriter or laptop all day but it can be mentally exhausting as well.

I remember when I was working on my Master’s Thesis through online courses at National University. I was taking care of a house and animals single-handedly and working full time. There were always things that needed to be done, whether inside or outside. And when those were completed, I was usually too exhausted to do anything as mentally challenging as working on a research paper. I fell into a routine of doing most of my writing on Saturday mornings, whilst still in my pajamas and before the rest of the day got in my way.

I was wondering the other day why I felt so busy all the time considering I retired more than two years ago. The list I came up with gave a clue.

  • walk dog 4x a day
  • feed pets 2x a day
  • cook meals and feed myself 3x a day
  • do dishes 2x a day
  • clean cat box 1x a day
  • make bed 1x a day
  • vacuum kitty litter and anything else that needs vacuuming 1x a day (sometimes 2)
  • laundry sorting or putting away (the w/d does the rest by itself) 2x a week
  • clean bathroom and kitchen sinks, counters, etc. 3x a week
  • go to town for groceries and any other shopping 1x a week

And I’m sure there are a whole host of other things I do on a regular basis.

My latest projects that are interfering with the writing are painting a little she shed casita on my property, supervising a deck building project and then getting ready to stain it. Finally, the little casita will have to have all the carpet ripped out and eventually replaced. Sure I could hire someone but a lot of it is work I can do myself. I really don’t mind hiring someone competent to do the work but I’d like to have someone that can do it quickly and professionally and that seems hard to find out here where I ended up.

I have two writing projects right now that I’m going back and forth on. One of them is not creative but is labor intensive, involving scanning, formatting, and typing. The other is creative but I don’t have enough knowledge of the subject to delve too deeply into it until I’ve spent more time here in my new state.

I don’t have to rely on my writing to earn a living and I really do have all the time in the world. For those of you who have deadlines that aren’t self-imposed, I wish you all the luck in the world and hope your day-to-day doesn’t interfere.

Tributes are Hard

Earlier this week, I ordered a Shutterfly photo book of 31 pages full of photos of the 13 years I had with Poppy. I wasn’t ready before this. She passed away on June 8, 2020. It took me awhile to process the loss to the point that I didn’t even want to talk about it with anyone for the first three days. I’ve lost pets before but Poppy and I had a special relationship.

Poppy and littermate before I adopted her.

I actually first met Poppy the day she was born. I lived next door and so was able to see her and her litter mates with their cute fuzzy roly poly bodies play and grow. I volunteered to take over their care when they were about five or six weeks old and ready for solid food because Momma dog wasn’t letting them eat. They were all cute but there was this one puppy that wasn’t as fuzzy as the others and was black and tan instead of merle. She was actually adopted out but came back the next day because one of the family members had allergies. That’s when I decided I would keep this one.

At training for Canine Good Citizen.

How did a 60 pound Aussie/Husky mix get the name Poppy? Well, when she was a cute little puppy, with a mom that was only about 32 pounds, I had no idea how big she would turn out. I named her after the California state flower. When she was just a few years old, I decided I had to know her lineage, even though I knew her momma dog, and I got her DNA done from Wisdom Panel. She was 49% Australian Shepherd and the rest was a combination made up mostly of Siberian Husky and undetermined. I used to tease and tell people she was a “Hussy,” ie, husky and Aussie. It always took a few minutes and then the laughter would start.

Halloween 2012.

When Poppy was three years old, I bought my own house after renting for many years. She had a huge backyard that she got to share with her pack mate, a stray shih tzu I had adopted the year before. They were soon joined by another rescue dog, a miniature poodle mix. This pack of three had a large back yard with a doggie door into the garage from the dining room. They had no complaints.

At the beach.

She loved the water and so we took many day trips to lakes and rivers in the area. There was even an aquatic center that would open for dogs for one day before closing for the season in October. She attended those events for a number of years. Anytime we were at a lake that allowed dogs, she would be in there swimming and playing. I couldn’t keep her out. Once, I left the other dogs with a babysitter and took Poppy just for the weekend to Dillon’s Beach, a dog-friendly beach in Northern California, for her birthday. We played at the beach all day and then stayed in a nearby motel before returning home.

Carmel dog-friendly beach.

When I discovered that Motel 6s take dogs with no extra fee, we tried to vacation as often as we could. We took a trip to Fort Bragg, a trip to Lake Tahoe, a trip to Monterey Bay, and a coastal trip all the way down Highway One to Pismo Beach. One of our highlights was a 3-hour whale watching tour on the bay, allowing dogs to attend free with a paying customer.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens — dog friendly.

I began taking them all camping, first with a tent and then with my covered pick up truck. It was kind of funny with a 60 pound hairy dog and two little ankle biters but we had some great times. During those years, Poppy loved hiking. The shih tzu would often be in a back pack or stroller but good ole’ Poppy never slowed down. Until she did.

Lake of the Springs campground.

When she was about 7, she was diagnosed with a bad vertebrae that I was told would get progressively worse. Over the years, as her discomfort became more noticeable, she went through many treatments. These included pain meds, acupuncture, laser treatments, CBD oil, and the like. We continued our camping trips, eventually evolving into full time motorhoming after losing the shih tzu to old age and selling the house in 2018. She still loved to hike in the woods but those hikes got shorter and shorter.

Caprock Canyon State Park.

Then she became incontinent and still, I tried to do what I could for her. We found a nice country vet in Texas that prescribed a new pain med and that worked for awhile. But eventually, life just got too hard for her. Every day was a struggle just to get up, allow me to change diapers, get a harness on to take a walk. She would still occasionally play ball for a minute or two at the dog park, giving me hope, but the moments she would smile at me and could walk without pain were getting shorter and shorter.

Her last little hike, Lake Livingston State Park.

It was a very tough decision to set her free and I don’t wish this upon anybody I know. You will always second guess yourself and wonder if you might have been able to do more. And the pain of loss never really goes away completely. I know because I still hurt when I think about my pets from years ago. I try not to think about Poppy too much right now because it’s too new and raw.

She started slowing down.

I like to think she had a good life. I remember my doctor telling me in 2006 that I needed to get a dog because I wasn’t getting enough exercise and I was having trouble getting out of bed except for work. Then I got Poppy and all that changed. She saved my life in so many ways. Rest In Peace, my dear girl.

Author update June 2020

I realized, upon checking stats, that I haven’t posted here since April. So what’s new with me?

My logo says “traveler” and that hasn’t been happening at all this year. I moved in to my current RV spot last December and I won’t be pulling out until the end of July. So, that being the case, I’ve been focusing my free time on indoor pursuits like writing and crocheting.

I got my first haircut since last year a week ago and my first pedicure since March a few days before that. I ordered new glasses online with the same prescription from last year because I didn’t feel I needed a change.

I published #2 in my cozy mystery series in April and I’m about 10,000 words in to #3 in the series. I haven’t done any advertising because I’m waiting until I finish #3. At that time, my goal is to package all three into one book. If you have any suggestions for promoting, please feel free to contact me. I publish on KDP which doesn’t allow cross publishing so I will have to make some decisions when the time comes. One thought is to start sending my manuscript, once completed, out to publishers. But then you do play the waiting game.

I am keeping my writing self busy with 4 blogs. I try to add stuff at least monthly. Here are the links.

I hope this finds everyone still healthy and sane. Don’t get cabin fever but don’t take chances either. Until next time.

How Much Do You Really Need?

This is an editorial. Some strong opinions will be stated and you may agree or disagree and those who disagree may feel they are being personally attacked. For that, I’m sorry but if this also gives you a chance to reflect on the way you live your life and to maybe make some positive changes, yay, I say.

We’ve been brainwashed to believe that we must have “stuff,” and I’ll admit I was one of the guilty party. I spent thousands and thousands of dollars decorating my 970 square foot home. I bought new gadgets for the kitchen constantly because I loved cooking. I put in gardens in the back yard and then re-did it several times as I changed layouts and designs. I did the whole house in area rugs over wall-to-wall carpet with matching furniture, shelves, and knick-knacks and then re-did the whole house in laminate with different furniture when I discovered that one of my rescue dogs had a habit of peeing indoors.

I was a collector too. I had hundreds of books. I also started collecting mid-century American-made figural pottery in the early 2000s and had about thirty-six pieces by 2018. Those pieces also needed display furniture. I love shoes and had about forty pairs at the time I downsized. I had a garage full of tools and who-knows- what because I was a do-it-your-selfer. I refinished furniture, I made shelves and toys for my chinchillas and birds, I did a lot of the house remodeling projects myself. But my goal all along was to travel when I retired and to sell the house. What compelled me to buy so much stuff when I knew I would be leaving it all? I can’t explain other than the fact that we live in a “consumerism” society and it’s drilled in to us to buy more and better.

Here’s what I learned after two years of not having stuff. How big your house is and how much fancy stuff is packed in there does not define who you are. I don’t miss it. Sometimes I wonder how different things would be now if I’d saved all that money instead of spending it. I sure didn’t get much back when I tried to sell everything. Most of the things in the end were given away or donated. I’ve learned that I don’t need a lot of room. I’ve learned that I don’t need to be entertained with a big TV or hobbies. I don’t need to keep busy taking care of a house or yard.

Some people are natural savers and think small types. Can you imagine if most people were more comfortable living small? We would have resources galore. I can’t tell you how to live your life but I can tell you that it is possible to be happy without having a lot of stuff surrounding you. You might think that people who live in tiny houses or motorhomes full time are people of lesser means but that isn’t true. I was surprised to find out recently that one retiree who lives full time in a motorhome has a retirement income that is more than I made yearly for most of my working life. Imagine how much young couples could save if they lived in a nice trailer instead of buying a house and furnishing it?

Here’s the floor plan of my living quarters for the last two years. Of course, I do go out quite a bit for dog walks or just enjoying nature. And when I’m sitting inside, I still try to bring some of the outdoors in by keeping windows and the door open. I get the scent of pine trees, birds tweeting, and the occasional campfire. And at certain times of the year, I have the Gulf of Mexico in my backyard. What could be more perfect?

My words of wisdom to everyone is “don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.”

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Or “How I figure things out myself when there isn’t a helpful man around”

I don’t like to have to figure things out. I prefer to pay someone else to do it. However, that isn’t always practical or available. I don’t necessarily trust everyone to be fair when I’m seeking out a handyman, contractor, or auto mechanic. Thank goodness for the Internet and YouTube. It’s fairly easy to investigate and do some quality research before you pay someone to do something for you. There have been times when I realized doing it myself was a much better option.

I would not say I have ever invented anything, per se, but I have figured things out and found solutions that weren’t suggested to me by those I consult with. A most recent example would be my little car that came from Oklahoma. You see, Oklahoma doesn’t require front license plates. So when you buy a car in that state, there is no front license plate bracket installed. Having to solve this dilemma never occurred to me in my wildest dreams until I registered my Oklahoma car in Texas.

Texas does require a front and a back plate as I realized when I reached across the counter at the Tax Assessor’s office and took possession of the twin license plates that were handed to me. Now what? I went home and pondered the situation. I stood outside and examined the front bumper. Sure enough, smooth as glass and no place to attach a plate. To top it off, my son had installed a tow base plate and an electrical system smack dab in the middle of the front under the bumper and I couldn’t cover that up.

My first instinct was to drill. I called my auto mechanic down the street. Luckily, they were booked up for the next two weeks because I eventually found a much better solution. I was pretty sure that there must be some kind of aftermarket bracket that is made that would fit so I started researching online. I’ve learned to be careful and not just buy the first thing that pops up on Amazon. There are many things, including vehicle accessories, that just aren’t described properly and then you have to go through the whole process of returning and getting a refund. A better system is to go to the websites that provide actual OEM auto products and search for your specific vehicle. Then you take those part numbers and you can search on Amazon or other discount online shops.

As I was learning about front license plate brackets and what’s available, including ones that stick on, I accidentally came across a company called Extreme Online Store that sells a front license plate bracket that attaches where the tow hook would go. They carried one for a 2014 Nissan Versa Note so I was in business. I went outside to check and make sure I had a tow hook entrance on my bumper (it’s hidden by a little access panel) and sure enough, I had one!

It took me awhile to read and re-read the instructions and examine the accompanying pictures but I finally figured it out and it was easy to install once I understood how all the parts worked. I’m so happy I found this and didn’t resort to drilling in the bumper. One more victory for the single woman. Yay!

Across the U.S.A. at 60 mph

This essay was written in the summer of 2019 after I’d been on the road full time for a little over one year.

There’s something to be said for driving at a leisurely pace. Now that I’m retired I really don’t have any deadlines and I’m finding that, at 61, I’ve started driving like an old lady, which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve always enjoyed bird observing and seeing the sites but before I bought the motorhome, I was always on my way to somewhere else. I would slow down as I passed an interesting lake full of migratory birds or tiny waterfalls along winding mountain roads but then I was back up to speed limit, maybe a little faster even, feeling annoyed at slower drivers in front of me, especially if it was a trailer or large RV.

Then I bought the motorhome. That was in 2016. It’s not a large motorhome, only 24 feet, about the size of one of those small specialty busses you see driving around town or to the airport. My motorhome was actually smoother to drive than my little Hyundai car, with a powerful V10 engine and cruise control. And you can really see all the traffic up ahead unless you’re blocked behind a semi. I was very cautious at the beginning. But driving it soon became second nature and I found myself realizing I could go the speed limit, even on the freeway, with no issues at all as long as I had put all my stuff away properly. 

When I retired mid-2018 and headed out after selling the house, all of a sudden, I found that I didn’t want to drive the speed limit anywhere. How can you drive across New Mexico at 75 mph when there is so much to look at everywhere? As I started getting in the habit of driving more leisurely, I found that all those little cars and semi-trucks in such a big hurry would just pass me and be on their way like they’d never even existed. I felt like I was in my own little world traveling down the highways in a different dimension from everyone else and that other dimension changed me mentally too. I noticed that the anger I used to have often in traffic was gone and my concerns for what other drivers might think of me had also dissipated. It was a really freeing feeling. 

Sometimes, my son will call me early in the morning when he’s on his way to work and while we’re talking, he’ll start cussing out the “stupid” drivers next to him and I can feel him getting really worked up. I don’t like him to be in that position but he always brushes it off later as “that’s just the way it is.” I’ve mentioned that there are several country roads that he could take all the way to work and avoid the freeway. It might add fifteen minutes to his commute but it would save a lot of merging, cussing, and aggravation. He does not agree with me. We shall see if things change when he retires.

I was in a hurry once with the motorhome. It was a week before Thanksgiving and I was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I told the folks in Sacramento I would arrive for Thanksgiving, even though I hadn’t planned to be back until closer to Christmas time. They were missing me and my dad even sounded a little depressed on the phone. It’s the least a daughter can do I felt, as they had been very supportive of my taking off and wanting to travel the country. So I allowed myself eight days but was hoping to make it in less. 

It was November so I didn’t want to take I-40 back due to high elevations in parts of the country that might see snow and ice. I decided to take I-10 which follows the border to Mexico. I did 3,076 miles and arrived on day eight of my journey. The longest day’s drive was 518 miles which was my second day traveling across Texas. 

I was in such a hurry to get the whole week over with, I left by 8:00 a.m. every morning and didn’t stop until 5:00 or 6:00 every night, which included at least two stops per day because of the dogs. All I have to say is that I will never do that again. I think it took me a month to recover. From now on under 200 miles per day is my goal and I will take ten days to get somewhere that is 1,000 miles away if I have to.

Recently, things changed again. I am now towing a car. Even though the towing is pretty much seamless, you can’t even feel it and it turns like a dream, I find myself driving very cautiously. It says on the Oklahoma Turnpike (I-44) that the speed limit is 50 to 75, “no tolerance” they add on the sign. So I picked 60 mph, set my cruise control and drove 130 miles no problem. People didn’t get mad at me, they just passed me and I was left alone to enjoy my own little world of scenery and peacefulness.

I’m sure as I get more bold with the towing situation, I will start to feel more comfortable going faster, except maybe on city interchanges, but why go faster? I’m not bothering anyone, I’m not breaking the law, and I’m enjoying a blissful, stress-free retirement.

So when you are behind a slow moving motorhome towing a car and starting to get steamed because you can’t pass, don’t get mad. Think about those retired people in front of you enjoying the scenery and not having a care in the world. And hope that one day, you can be like that.

For pictures and descriptions of 32 sightseeing sites to date, go here.