Warmest Holiday Wishes to All!

I’m thinking very fondly of my family and friends during this holiday time.  No matter which holiday you celebrate, I hope you’re all in a warm happy place and enjoying your families!

I’m definitely in a warm happy place, but I greatly miss family members who are no longer with us, and that void is especially painful during the holiday season.  I know there are many of you feeling the same way as I do.

The five of us in the early 60's
The five of us in the early 60’s

It helps somewhat to be in a completely different place this year along with unfamiliar holiday decorations.  But there are so many moments when I flash on memories of my parents and my brothers:  my mother baking her apple pie, which we try in vain to duplicate; staying up until the wee hours with my brothers on Christmas Eve wrapping mountains of gifts;  my father lighting the fire on Christmas morning.  These memories bring tears.

Although it’s difficult to accept, those people and those days are gone.  I feel like the only way to get any peace about it is to allow the memories of the many happy times to bring smiles instead of sadness, and to focus on the present and the future instead of the past.  My family instilled in me my love of Christmas, and I bring that to my children and to this year’s holiday.

We’ve truly had an amazing week together!  Our riverfront cabin is charming and quite remote, so we feel surrounded by nature and definitely “away from it all”.

The view from the deck of our cabin
The view from the deck of our cabin

There’s no cell service and wifi access is unreliable.  So we’ve been watching movies, playing games, baking cookies and pies, group-cooking incredible meals, and generally having excellent quality time.  We made one outing to Steven’s Pass where we rode up the ski lift to enjoy the incredible mountain views.  Wowza!!

View from Steven's Pass ski area
View from Steven’s Pass ski area

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, the day we have our Christmas dinner, which will be a turkey dinner like Thanksgiving. The double turkey was my family’s tradition, which I haven’t always followed with my own Christmases.  But this year, I didn’t get to cook at Thanksgiving, and we weren’t with the kids, either – so we’ll all enjoy our turkey and fixin’s!  And then of course my favorite time is Christmas morning….

From our family to yours, we wish you peace, joy and love!

Christmas Cabin Tree
Christmas Cabin Tree

Pre-Christmas in Seattle

I LOVE Christmas – it’s by far my favorite holiday, and was always an incredibly magical time for my whole family. One of the best parts of the season is the anticipation of the day itself, and the preparation for the festivities. Christmas 2016 will, of course, be completely different from our Christmases in the past.

Christmas 1981, Pennington, New Jersey
Christmas 1981, Pennington, New Jersey
Christmas 2009, Newtown, Pennsylvania
Christmas 2009, Newtown, Pennsylvania

For the very first time in my life, this year’s Christmas holiday will be celebrated in a vacation rental instead of at home.  I’ll miss many of our traditional activities over the past twenty years, such as going to McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey to see the play A Christmas Carol.  And, I’ll miss all of our familiar ornaments and other decorations, which are in storage in Pennsylvania.

But there are welcome differences this year as well.  In the past, I’ve been working full time, and the kids have been the ones with the time off and traveling over the holidays.  This year, it’s the kids who are working, and I’m the one with the time off and traveling.  I like that role reversal!

Eric is arriving in Seattle on Monday, when the four of us will drive to the rented cabin in Index, Washington.  So I’m here in Seattle for a week prior to that, to spend extra time with the kids, and to prepare for Christmas week.  Here’s a picture of the cute place where I’m staying:

Lodging in Seattle - in a different season!
Lodging in Seattle – in a different season!

It’s nice and crispy cold in Seattle, which definitely helps to make it feel like Christmas!  This week, I’m shopping for gifts, wrapping them, and ensuring that we have a tree, lights, stockings, and everything else we need to decorate the cabin.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit in public that I spent $150 on Christmas decorations at Goodwill.  Can you imagine how much stuff that is at $1-$5 for each item??  That’s in addition to the artificial tree and ornaments that I bought on Amazon and had shipped here in advance!

Our tradition has been that we put the Christmas tree up on the day after Thanksgiving, so we can enjoy it for the whole month of December.  Since we didn’t get to do that this year, we set up the tree in my little apartment this week – I didn’t want to wait until we get to the cabin next week.

Christmas 2016, Seattle, Washington
Christmas 2016, Seattle, Washington

Even though it’s not the same as our typical huge live trees of the past, I love this tree just as much.  I think the secret is the lights – as long as it’s sparkling with lights, it works for me!

I’m SO glad that I came to Seattle for a pre-Christmas week!  We’re all really excited about next week, when the four of us can just relax, knowing all the preparations are complete and the kids don’t have to work.  We’ll decorate, bake, make fires, watch movies, and play in the snow.

I hope you’re all enjoying the season as much as we are!!

Winter 2016 Schedule

My original vision for the winter was to stay in Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida for three solid months, December through February, with a quick trip to visit my kids in Seattle for Christmas.  I pictured myself processing all the research I did during the fall, catching up on the genealogy documentation for my tree, developing new genealogy presentations, creating a marketing plan for attracting new genealogy research clients, and taking long walks on the amazing powdered-sugar white sand beaches at sunset.  Ahhhh, sounds perfect…

Siesta Key Beach, #1 in America!
Siesta Key Beach, #1 in America!

My winter isn’t shaping up the way I originally envisioned it, but I’m not complaining!

As was always planned, Eric and I booked a week in the Seattle area at Christmas so we can spend the holiday with our two children.  We rented a cabin in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains so it’ll be a white Christmas.

Snowy scene in Index, Washington
Snowy scene in Index, Washington

Once that was booked, I decided to add a week in the City of Seattle to spend extra time with the kids, and to prepare for Christmas.  And why shouldn’t I?  I’m retired!! So, I’ve got two weeks booked in the Seattle area beginning December 11th.

Then, as I’ve blogged about before, Eric and I are going to New Zealand for twenty three days directly from Seattle the day after Christmas.

After that trip, I’ll have about three weeks in Sarasota before I take off in early February for a week at the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City.  I got an amazingly low air fare, and I’ll be sharing a room with a friend I met there last year, so the cost is low.  She and I are on the same page regarding the balance between conference activities and genealogy research at the Family History Library – we go to the FHL as often as possible before, after, and in between sessions!

Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah - the candy store for genealogists!
Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah – the candy store for genealogists!

Then in late March, Eric and I are going to China for 15 days.  Eric found a tour for $1,400, all inclusive, including air fare and a four day river cruise, so it was hard to pass up!  And, we’re leaving from Seattle, so I decided I may as well go a week early to visit the kids.

Yangtze River Cruise, China
Yangtze River Cruise, China

The RV will be in storage here in Sarasota for about 4 months (until early April), but I’ll only be in Florida for about six weeks of that time.  Although I hadn’t originally planned on these international trips, I felt that I should take the opportunities as they presented themselves.  It makes a lot of sense to do some bucket list traveling now, while I’m still healthy and mobile.

So it should be a very exciting winter, going from one adventure to the next, with some down time in Florida at the beach in between.   I’m really liking this retired life so far!!!

End of the Road for 2016

It’s the beginning of December, and time for another change in my life! Last Thursday, I put my RV into storage in Sarasota, Florida, and I’m renting my cousin’s Siesta Key house for the winter.

The past few months have flown by and have truly been a time of transition. Here’s where I’ve been:

Fall 2016 RV Route
Fall 2016 RV Route

I’ve driven about 2,650 miles since leaving  New Jersey on September 20th, and spent $750 in gas.  Campground fees averaged $1,000 per month, even with some “free” time in there for visits with friends and family.  I’ve learned that it’s less expensive, both in gas and campground fees, to stay put in one place for a month at a time.  The per night monthly rate at a campground is often half the daily rate.  And why not?  I’m certainly in no hurry!

On the genealogy front, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the work I need to do.  At the beginning, I thought that a week of genealogy research in one place would be oodles of time. After all, a week was the length of a normal vacation from work.  As it turns out, a week is no time at all. Another reason to stay put in one place for a month!

I found that after a week of research in Washington County, Pennsylvania, a week in Cattaraugus County, New York, and a week in Cortland County, New York, all back to back, and then a couple of weeks in Walton County, Georgia, I have accumulated masses of papers and digital photos which have not been processed.

My pile of papers is similar to this!
My pile of papers is similar to this!

All the papers and photos need to be uploaded or scanned, cataloged, abstracted, and/or transcribed.  Someone once told me that she doesn’t do any more research until she’s processed what she has.  Smart.  Clearly, I didn’t have time to process the first batch of research, when all of a sudden it was time for the next.  Lesson learned!

Obviously there were many lessons learned about RVing, especially since when I started, I hadn’t ever driven one, or towed a car, either.  When I look at the rig, I think it’s amazing that I am actually comfortable behind the wheel.  What a ride!

I remember reading a blog which was recommending that a single person NOT try to hitch a car up to an RV alone.  If anyone reading this is considering towing a car,  my advice is that it’s a necessity to have a vehicle to drive that’s separate from the RV, and a single person can hook it up in a snap.  It’s a non-issue.

Hooking up the Cooper
Hooking up the Cooper

I was also told that managing the awning is a two person job; I’ve mastered that task on my own as well.  It’s been quite a learning experience finding that all these new things are completely do-able!

It was sad to say goodbye to the RV for the winter – I’ll miss it!  It has been my little home, and I’ve grown to love it.  I’ll write more about my winter schedule soon, but for now I’ll just say that I’m planning to get back on the road again in early April.  Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy having a full kitchen, reliable internet, a bathtub, and a laundry which doesn’t require quarters!