Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Can a Boat Show give us guidance?

"We bought a boat!" - said a couple we met at the RV resort this week.  They still have a house in Canada, but they're taking the plunge. They are not at all experienced, but they seem confident that they can make it work.  They knew what they were doing when they came to the Miami Boat Show this year, and it seems like they were ready to buy.  Another couple admitted to being more excited about living on a boat after attending the show. Yet another spent all four days of the show excitedly taking classes and preparing themselves to move aboard.


I too felt confirmation. I am not ready to live on a boat full-time. Not even close. A lot of the reason is simply not knowing how much different it will be from RV living.  There's still a lot of traveling - but there's a lot less traffic, and things move a lot slower. It's still a fairly cramped space - but it's probably twice as big as the RV we're living in right now.  We still couldn't have people come and stay with us - but we've found ways around that in the RV lifestyle, so I have to imagine we'd do the same on a boat. It's still going to break - and I can find no positive in that.  The RV always has some little (or big) issue that requires Henry's attention.  As I type this, our kitchen sink has decided not to spew water and the bottom of our RV appears to be falling off. I don't see that getting any better with a boat.  Then there's the intermittent threat of motion sickness. I occasionally get carsick - and I occasionally get sea sick.  Oh, and did I mention hurricanes? We'd have to take our boat out of the water each year OR get out of the hurricane zone. So there is that to consider. It's no different in an RV. You have to avoid certain weather. I mean, there is no insulation in this thing, people. It's a tin can on wheels.

I guess what I am saying is that unless whatever we do next has some major lifestyle upgrade that I can fully appreciate, I'm not sure that I'm ready to give up our RV.  I don't want to move again, that's for sure. 3 times in 2 years really should be enough for anyone.  So. Thank you, Miami, for helping me to decide that this is pretty great. We are happy, and we're still having fun.

Our plan right now is to move into Orlando for the next month. There is so much to do there, and we're hoping to do as much as we can. The cheap lifestyle we've been leading allows us now to splurge on a few big ticket experiences, so we're looking forward to Disney and Universal.

Meanwhile, the East Coast awaits. We have made reservations up to New York in June. We're working on finishing out the summer as we head north. The plan is to spend another month in D.C. So our goal of slowing down seems to be working.

And then? Buy an RV spot and a small boat to play with? Or buy a big boat to sail away in? Or maybe we should buy a condo somewhere warm. Or maybe we should just stop in the RV for a few months at a time in our favorite hangouts.  We have 3 months reserved in Port Aransas, but now we're wondering if that's long enough.  Maybe it should be 5 or 6. Then we can reassess. Ultimately, we are happy and grateful to have these choices. We are fully aware of how lucky we are. We're content to soak in these experiences and decide not to decide on anything more.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Decisions Made Easy

Funny how everything can change in the course of one short month. Sometimes, things change in the course of one short hour.

We recently returned from our trip to St. Lucia. We had decided to go there, because our graduating college senior will no longer have month long winter breaks. We decided a last hurrah was in order. And what a beautiful country it is.  I'm in awe of its scenery (and its weather).  This is what's known as foreshadowing.



We returned to Atlanta where the temperatures were in the freezing range. Then, it snowed. Then, the roads iced over. In case you have never had the pleasure of towing an RV on an icy road, let me assure you that it is not to be missed.  For sheer suspense and even terror, the experience is unparalleled. Our decision-making moment came when we attempted to go up a hill. It was not even a big hill, but it was enough.  The tires skidded, we slid, and then were stuck. Brave, gallant Henry tried to back down the hill an inch at a time. But he quickly realized the futility of this plan as the RV slid closer and perilously closer to the ditch.  So, we stopped. And we waited for the thaw. I think we would still be there if not for the miracle (more foreshadowing).

It was around this time that Henry made his declaration. "I do not want to RV anymore or even sail." My first response was instant agreement. Then, I felt something akin to relief. Interesting, I thought, that this should be my first response.  But as I sat and contemplated, I realized that being at the mercy of the weather is particularly difficult with this lifestyle.  There will be times when you will be completely out of your own control. Mother Nature is bigger and meaner than you, even if she isn't smarter.  No matter how well-prepared or clever you think you are, she can kick your butt. And I'm talking about without even trying. Like, with her pinky.

I mean, come on! We were in Atlanta! We thought we were being so smart! Surely, it would not be 19 degrees in Atlanta! Did I mention that our tanks froze and we had no water for about 24 hours? I realize that this isn't an epic catastrophe, but we are both really tired of this type of surprise.  We made adjustments and survived, but it wasn't our finest moment.

So, the decision.  If we still sail, it will be sooner rather than later. We will need to commit to this while we both have some adventure left in us. The last couple of days have zapped some of that wanderlust energy from us. If we're going to take a bigger leap, it will have to be while our minds and bodies can still hack the challenges. I think a lot of people envy us this freedom, to retire and do what we are doing. So, I'm here to show you that it's not all fun and games. Sometimes, it's even quite dangerous. It's nothing less than shocking to me that someone didn't slide into us while we sat there. Not only were we unhurt, but there's not a single scratch on the truck or RV.

Oh, how'd we get off the hill? An angel - well, a Good Samaritan, whose life I hope is happy beyond all reasonable expectations henceforth, stopped, got out some chains, and pulled us up the hill.  I want his truck. While ours was backsliding, his was towing our truck and RV up an icy hill!

This is why I blog by the way. At the end of my rambling, I figure something out. And here's today's lesson.  Go ahead. Take the adventure. Because when you get stuck, another kind human being will stop and get you out of your mess. People are much nicer than Mother Nature, thank goodness.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Decisions, decisions, decisions

How do you make big decisions?  Do you make lists?  Pros and cons? Do you weigh out all of the risks and benefits, do research and then come to a careful decision?  Or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants decision maker? Do you take trips on a whim? Change jobs when you're tired of them? Or do you worry over decisions and change nothing?

I live with a man who is notoriously wishy washy, even by his own admission. He doesn't make big decisions quickly, or sometimes at all.  And the answer I often get when asking what he wants is, "Do whatever you want."

And how do you figure out what you want? For me,  process of elimination works well. I have been starting from Everything In The Whole Wide World and working my way backward. What don't I want? The idea is that this will eventually illuminate the right path.

In case you haven't been following our saga, I'm talking largely about the decision of what to do once we've finished RVing.  We made a huge (for us) decision this week when we reserved an RV spot for ourselves in Corpus Christi. For three whole months next year! A commitment of that much time a year from now is huge for us. It'll be the longest we have stopped anywhere since we started this adventure a year and a half ago.  We love the park, so it's a great way to buy ourselves some time.


But where do we go from here? How close are we to getting the sailboat? Do we even still want that?

These are the questions that run through my head, and YES, they are good "problems" to have. Since I tend toward anxiety, I find myself stressed out when there are no resolutions. And living in an RV is nothing if not unsettled. The idea that we would have a more permanent location (say, a condo) is extremely tempting. I'm way, way out of my comfort zone moving as much as we have been.  So I find some comfort in the deciding, eliminating the things that we definitely do not want. And comfortingly, the list is growing.

In a nutshell:
- We don't want winter. Ever again. I don't miss it, and I certainly don't miss driving around in it. 
- We don't want to work, though we both would if it came right down to it. The freedom of retirement is such a gift. Our schedules are our own, for the first time in our lives. Neither of us is ready to part with that yet.
- We don't want to be landlocked. We both really like the water, especially the vastness of the ocean.
- We don't want to stop traveling, at least not entirely. There is so much to see and do.  But we don't need to drive. We can sail or fly or walk or bike. We are feeling the passing of time in our knees and shoulders and are determined to be as adventurous as we can...until we can't.

But above all else, we don't want to be pinned down on any one decision! We are trying to stay open to all of the possibilities, including eliminating all of the previous desires listed above. This is not an easy thing, to stay open. Living with arms wide open and and resolving to joyfully accept all that happens is constant effort, constant growth. The decision I make daily, even hourly, is to keep my heart and mind open.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Making our way South and other challenges

If you're a morning person, you can probably skip some of this. You won't understand. If, however, you're like myself, it takes you a little while to feel functional after a good night's sleep. Personally, I require coffee and at least 15 or 20 minutes of solitude before I'm fit for human conversation. 

My child, however, wakes up WIDE AWAKE and in full color. The morning "conversation" goes something like this:

Ethan: Erin! Erin! Erin! Come play with me. Erin! Wanna play on the Wii?  Erin!
Mom, did you sleep well?  Dad, did you sleep well?  Erin, how did you sleep?  Did you sleep well?  I slept okay.  Mom! How much longer until we go on the plane?  (in November) How many weeks is that? Will we see Reese?  Who else will we see?  Are we going to dress fancy to go to Murray's?  What time do we have to get up? 3? 3 in the morning?  I'm so excited!
Mom! What's for supper tonight?  You're going to see your friends?  What are daddy and Erin and me going to have for supper?  Dad! Dad! What are we having for supper?  Should we go to Burger King?  Do you love Burger King, dad? 
What do you think Reese is doing today?  He has school, right?  What are we doing today?  I want to stay here.  We did something yesterday.  Are you guys going for a walk?  Can Erin and I play together?  Mom! Make Erin play with me. Erin! Erin! Erin! Play with me. Erin!

Whew, right?  Yeah, this is all within the first 5-10 minutes of him being awake. This was a bit different in our "before RV" life.  I was a floor removed from the kids.  But beyond that, we got up at 6am.  I set an alarm and was up before they were.  I had those moments to myself, as tired as I was.  Now, Ethan is always the first one up and the stream of consciousness verbal tirade begins.  We can all hear it.  Heck, so can our neighbors, I'm sure. 

There are a number of things that have changed for us since we downsized. But mornings and bedtimes are among the most challenging.  Cooking in a tiny kitchen was an adjustment, but I have managed it.  Making the beds in an RV is an exercise in futility. It's only surprising when I don't pull a muscle. And subjecting your home to the equivalent of an earthquake every time you move to a new campground means not trusting any unopened cabinets once you've arrived.  But these obstacles have easily been overcome. 

Mornings and bedtimes, though, still try my patience and fortitude.  I'm so glad we've done this for our kids. I'm reasonably sure they will look back on this time in our lives fondly.  But I'm not too proud to admit that there will be things I won't miss as they get older.  Certainly, I don't miss diapers and the screaming of toddlers.  I won't miss mornings in the RV either. 



In the realm of other challenges, we've now had only our 2nd official breakdown! We pulled up into a gas station in Texarkana and didn't get out.  The truck refused to start.  It actually does this a lot, something to do with it being a diesel engine.  Nothing wrong with it. It just needs to cool down for awhile after working hard.   This time, it just wouldn't cool down. So it got a ride on the back of a tow truck while its family and its RV got a ride to the local KoA.  A few hours later, the Ford dealer called to say that the truck is now rested and happy to start up!  GAH! So, yeah, basically, $360 to cool down our truck for a couple of hours.  Meanwhile, though, the ants found us and invaded.  Apparently, there are quite a lot of them on the Arkansas/Texas border.  We've never had a bug infestation like it in the RV, though I certainly remember how many there were on the 10 acres in Shakopee, MN.  I'll admit that in a tighter space, it seems like a LOT more of them.  We are poisoning them as I type this.  I don't even feel slightly guilty. 

We'll be in Dallas for another week and then it's on to Houston and Corpus Christi.  We will stop there for a month, which I suspect is going to feel like a big, fat vacation.  I'm so tired of the driving part. I hated it before we started this adventure and, a year and a half in, that hasn't changed.  This challenge is at least as great as mornings with Ethan. 



Overall, we're still enjoying ourselves.  We are seeing museums and attractions that we never would have seen if not for this craziness. Arkansas was a revelation. We spent a beautiful afternoon at the Garvan Woodland Gardens.  Their chapel is one of the loveliest buildings we've seen anywhere. So far, the benefits still outweigh the challenges.  Onward, ho!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Cowardice and Social Anxiety

I may be a coward.  You can decide.  I've been writing this blog in my head for a few weeks now.  I'm hoping to strike the right balance between gratitude and brutal honesty.  My goal is to hurt no one's feelings.  I may not succeed.

The last few months have been a lot of fun for us. We've gotten to see so many friends and most of our family members.  We tried to cram a year's worth of socializing into 12 weeks.  Is it possible to have a socializing hangover?  If so,  I have one.

Here's the truth. I'm an introvert and suffer (sometimes greatly) from crippling social anxiety.  But Christi, you might say, weren't you on the radio? Yes! But, you see, I had a character to play. It was an exaggerated version of myself.  But Christi, you might protest, weren't you a theater major in college?  Why, yes! Again, I always had a role to play. That was not precisely me on the stage. Rather, it's a fairly clever way of hiding.  But Christi, you might scold, didn't you host parties at your house whenever you could and teach dog training classes to groups of people on a daily basis?  Yep, and I'm pretty sure "teacher" and "hostess" are roles with well-defined parameters.

The culmination of a very full social calendar in the Twin Cities was a surprise 50th birthday party for me at a friend's home.  If you are introverted, you might understand the horror of being the center of attention without clearly defined boundaries for an indeterminate amount of time.  Luckily, I was able to refrain from hiding in the bathroom for the entire party.



As I started to question why such a thing would happen to me, I realized that it is completely my responsibility.  I am far, far too good at masking my social anxiety.  Many of my closest friends admitted that they'd had no idea that such a thing would make me nervous.  That's on me. And that's why I might be a coward. Why mask at all?  Why not just come out and admit that parties take a toll. My husband, of course, knows this. He's seen me completely shut down after a party.  Entire rides home pass in total silence, recuperating.  And there are a few other people who know about my sensitivity only because we've directly discussed it (not because they see me freaking out at a party).

One could argue that it's not necessary to show off one's weaknesses all the time to everyone.  However, I feel that I need to come clean about this one, if only to make sure that I'm never the target of such a well-meaning, thoughtful and lovely gesture ever again!  I'm an Introvert. And I suffer from social anxiety.  If pushed too far, I will self medicate with cocktails.  And I will pay for the effort of seeming upbeat and cheerful later.  I will require lots and lots of quiet, sometimes for days.  The last few months of socializing have left me feeling the distinct lack of silence.  When we move on from Chicago, our last social stop for awhile, I suspect I'll soak in the silence like a hot bath for weeks before needing so much as a phone call.

So, cowardice?  Self-preservation?  Maybe it's a bit of both.  Either way, I'm done hiding it.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Kindness of Strangers. Yes, Period.

There could have been several titles for this post.  Among the front runners were: I Love My Husband, Side Trips are Stupid and I Hate the Internet.  But ultimately, given the recent events in Virginia, kindness won out (as it always should).

I rarely have so much to say.  My entries generally, I think, scream "Brevity!"  But today, I find myself brimming with words.

We had one of our very worst days on the road today. Before I go any further, let me assure you that by "worst day", I mean a pretty excellent day by the standards of most people.  I mean, let's not forget that we are retired.  We were not in a hurry.  We didn't need an expensive repair on our rig or truck.  And we didn't have to be to work the next day.  I really do understand how lucky we are, and I am grateful that our bad days are on a small scale now.  Anyway, this particular day was completely unnecessary.  It is a side trip to see the solar eclipse, an event that I am assured will be well worth our struggles.  But to my mind, the teeth-rattling, bone-jarring, head-shaking roads that make up Minnesota and Iowa are among the worst we've experienced thus far, and no amount of moon-blacking-out-the-sun greatness can overcome that headache. I truly can not do this sensation justice in this post.  It was as I imagine a shaken toddler must feel when its parents are overcome in a fit of fear and anger right after it has run directly into traffic in the Target parking lot...except for 6 hours straight. At least the toddler gets a secure, bolstering hug to stabilize it after the nerve-wracking strain.

Besides the incredible discomfort, the bike that we had stashed on the back of the RV came loose. It did a fair amount of scratching and flailing around back there before we lashed it back on its moorings.  I can't yet assess my husband's frame of mind on that score, because there are bigger fish to fry.  When we arrived at our destination, I experienced a bit of Deliverance. Our host for the week struggled with the basic facts of where we should put our rig and how we should hook it up.  It was a 7 hour day, so my patience with Billy (oh yes, that is his real name) can only be described as heroic. I even smiled at him encouragingly. Where the heck is my Oscar? When we finally backed into our spot, our leveling system was so thwarted by how steep the hill was that it bowed out of the negotiations completely. I think we're level now, several hours later, but only by the sheer force of my husband's will. Our RV had nothing to do with it.

As all of this was going on, recent events in Virginia permeated our air space.  I tend not to lash out at hate groups on social media, nor do I feel the need to cast blame on our President or my fellow citizens.  These pitiful little groups were here long before any one President took office.  And they, sadly, will be here long after I or any one President will.  I do not wish to make light of the events in Charlottesville. In fact, I won't comment on them at all here, because it's far too large a topic. What I will do, however, is take to task those who have scolded anyone who won't engage in the dialogue on social media.  I have been passively admonished this week for being quiet.  A few of my friends, and a few "news" outlets have suggested that Silence Implies Consent.  How I have gritted my teeth over this attack!  Silence does NOT imply consent, any more than it makes one complicit.  I don't throw my thoughts about a great variety of topics out on social media, but that doesn't mean I condone evil. The reason I, and I think many others, have refused to jump on the latest train of fear-mongering is that we see that it gains nothing.  Fueling the fire of division and hatred makes it stronger. The fights I choose are smaller, more personal. And dare I say it? They're more effective. If I can change one person's mind about their thought process, I win.

So why this title?  Why kindness?  Well.  Remember the bike making a break for freedom?  The reason we caught that at all was because of the generosity of a stranger in his truck, signaling for us to pull over.  Not only did he alert us to our bicycle's escape attempt, he actually got out of his own car, on a busy highway, to make sure that we were able to secure it.  Oh, and that leveling system?  Our next door neighbor in this park helped us to level our rig manually. What's in it for him? Not a darn thing, except perhaps the knowledge that he did what he could on one day.

We have been doing this, traveling across the United States, for well over a year now. And I can say without any doubt, because I have experienced it first hand, that more people are kind than are not.  People are, by and large, inherently good.  They don't need to be bullied or scolded to be so. They simply are. And today will be a better day.  


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The grey line between Vacation and Retirement

Early retirement is a bit confusing when you throw homeschool into the mix.  There are definite obligations that need to be met.  We do homework every morning from 9am until around noon.  The question of whether we are doing a good job at this remains to be answered.  I guess we will find out when the kids try to get into college.  There are assessments we are trying to use before then, but until they take the ACT, I don't think we'll have an accurate idea of where they fall in with their peers.

Besides homeschooling, though, retirement looks an awful lot like vacation, especially lately.  We've been fortunate to meet up with friends from Minnesota over this summer. We had playdates in Minneapolis, shared Yellowstone with my daughter's bestie and explored Banff and Glacier with people we've known for over 15 years. 



We went out to eat a lot more than we would if we were on our own, most likely. But other than that, sharing our friends' vacations looked an awful lot like our normal life as it is now.  I don't say that to glorify it or to brag. It's just the reality of our lives now.  It's pretty tough not to be grateful on a daily basis for the scenery we've been able to enjoy.  It was clear to us that when our friends left us, they were going back to their jobs.  We were going on to our next destination.  I was so relieved not to be returning to my job.  I remember taking vacations like this when we were working. And it was exhausting in its own way!  At the end, I often felt like I needed a vacation to recover from the vacation. 

If there's anything that truly separates this version of retirement from vacation, it's the amount of driving we have been doing. And on this matter, we're all in agreement.  It's way, way too much. All four of us are getting burned out by the road. We have been changing locations about every two to six days.  The routine of setting up and tearing down the trailer has become rote, and we can do the whole thing in about half an hour.  The trips themselves have fallen into a routine. We start with quiet acceptance but that's quickly followed by progressive crankiness, senseless bickering and finally sullen silence.  The discussions lately have centered around stopping, as in "Please when can we stop for a month or two?"  We talk about being burned out on being tourists.  With each new location, we start over, check in to the latest campground where we know no one and find our way to the nearest services.   The month we have scheduled in Corpus Christi, TX is looking like nirvana at this point.  The month that we were stationary in San Diego seems like a lifetime ago.  I can see why so many RVers choose two or maybe three favorite locations and simply wander between them.  We may get there, but it won't be any time soon. We have the next year planned out. After Texas, we'll be making our way up the East Coast in the Spring with the goal to see Nova Scotia by Summer.  I am praying that the roads get less bumpy as we travel East, but I am doubtful. 

People are always saying that it's the journey, not the destination. But I am starting to think that the destination is pretty darn nice.