I spent last week at my cousin Betsy’s, which was almost like a week at a spa. We ate luscious, healthy meals, lounged around the pool, slept late, drank wine on the peaceful front porch, enjoyed the bucolic views of the sheep and horse pastures, and read novels. And I gave myself a pedicure. I literally felt like I was at a fancy resort!
Betsy is a shepherd, and her sheep gave birth collectively to about 20 lambs earlier this year. She also has chickens, so we had farm fresh eggs every day. Here’s a picture of the smallest lamb, “Tom Thumb”:
The companionship with my cousin was the best part – we talked for hours on end. We realized that we’ve spent very little time in the past being together, just the two of us. Usually we’ve had family all around, but this time, her wonderful husband was away most of the week, and we had a real girls week. It’s such a treat to be with family and to reminisce with someone who knew and loved my parents and brothers. I love Betsy like a sister!
I did all that fun stuff, but it actually wasn’t all pampering and relaxation. I had an agenda (as I usually do!) of tasks to complete: did several large loads of laundry, got Betsy’s DNA sample and mailed it in to Ancestry, bought three turkey breasts to roast and freeze in serving size bags (my RV has no oven and I like to use real roasted turkey in sandwiches and salads), completed my scanning of two tubs of genealogy files so I can leave them in storage, and washed both the car and RV. My online genealogy classes were on the list, but I never got to those this week – and that’s fine. My new motto is “No Stress”, so if I don’t get to it, I don’t get to it.
I’m so lucky to have this little oasis to visit when I’m traveling up and down the east coast! Now I’m in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, my former home, for two weeks of socializing, going to doctor appointments, and re-shuffling stuff in and out of storage – more on that soon!
When I think back to where I was a year ago, so many feelings come up, but mostly relief- I’m SO GLAD I’m not there! If I had known then that I would be here now, it would’ve been easier, but I didn’t know when I would sell my house. I was in the middle of another winter where I was often snowed in by myself, and unable to afford a proper snow removal service for my extra-long, steep driveway. Any time we had a winter storm, I was outside after work in the dark with my snow shovel, trying my best to keep the driveway from freezing overnight, so I could get to work the next day.
Every day, I saw my mother’s dark empty house at the top of the driveway, which created a pit in my stomach each time. It certainly could have been worse, but it was a friggin’ nightmare compared to where I am today. And it was a nightmare which had been preceded by several other nightmares. It’s so true that “we do what we have to do”, and we surprise ourselves when we live through it.
I had completely forgotten what it feels like to be this happy.
I am LOVING my winter in Florida! The weather has generally been in the 70’s, with lows in the 50’s – quite perfect. Every time I go outside, I’m extremely aware of how incredibly lovely it is, and how fortunate I am to be here! I don’t even bother to put the top up on my car, because I never need to – which adds to the overwhelming feeling of freedom I have. Driving around town in the open car in shorts, sandals, and a sleeveless top in January, with the sun shining down on me, makes the smallest errand feel like I’m on vacation.
I’ve joined the YMCA, I’ve joined the local genealogical society, and I’ve joined Meetup to get together with people for different activities – walks, movies, bowling, happy hours, all sorts of things. The people here are generally relaxed and happy. Many are retired and single, and, like me, they’re also looking for new friends. So I feel like I fit in.
Staying at my cousin’s house makes me feel like a princess in a castle – it’s a lovely, comfortable home, still full of my aunt’s unique possessions, including family pictures everywhere. My mother’s sister had the house built in 1989, when she was 57. She was a creative thinker, and had custom features installed, like an electrical outlet under the couch in the middle of the living room so no one would trip over the lamp cords, a Murphy bed in the third bedroom, a built-in ironing center in the master bedroom, a fireplace which is rare in Florida, a window seat, a custom spice drawer and slide-out drawer cabinets for pots in the kitchen. It’s not a big house, but it’s classy. She knew what she wanted.
My Mom and my aunt were just 15 months apart and were very close friends. Mom visited her sister here often, and every day I hear their laughter as I’m cooking in the same kitchen – they were both over-the-top fun to be with! So being here feels comforting. It feels like I’m with my family. I feel so grateful to my cousin for letting me stay here.
So it’s not surprising that I started to think that maybe I’ve found my “happy place.” Maybe this is the place where I should settle down. I like that it’s easy to get here from the northeast, and that Florida is a place where many of my friends will retire. I LOVE that it’s near the beach, and there’s lots of water everywhere. I LOVE the west coast, because one of my favorite things to do is sit on the beach and watch the sunset over the Gulf. I could actually afford to buy a home of some sort here – maybe not in Sarasota, but somewhere close. And of course maybe eventually my cousin and her husband will retire here – I’d love to live near them.
So I made an appointment with a real estate agent.
And then I canceled it.
After a heart-to-heart conversation with myself, and some budget scrutiny, I realized that I’m just not ready to settle down. I’ve barely begun my RV life, and I miss it. There are lots of things I still want to do, including doing my genealogy research overseas. It just doesn’t make sense to buy a house before I do all or most of these other things.
And then I started brainstorming with myself, made a list of the most important things I still need/want to do, and created a plan for the next 22 months. All planned out. And none of it involves buying a house, or being in Florida. Stay tuned!!
It’s Friday the 6th today, our ninth day in New Zealand. When we arrived on the South Island on New Year’s Eve Day, we felt like our trip had really begun, because the guidebooks say that the most beautiful natural sights are here. Without having seen much of the North Island, I can’t really compare, but let me just say that we’ve both been stunned by the spectacular scenery around every corner.
It seems like everywhere we turn, there’s a waterfall, a turquoise river, jungle-like woods in every shade of green, wildflowers like lupine and foxglove in bloom, lakes, oceanfronts, and towering mountains with snow-capped peaks. New Zealand has it all. Oh, and add a glacier or two.
We spent New Year’s Eve in Nelson on the north coast of the South Island, and then drove along the shore to the Abel Tasman National Park on New Year’s Day. Much of the huge park is accessible only on foot or by boat, so we took a ferry ride along the coast for a bit.
Over the next two days, we drove down the west coast to Franz Glacier, via Westport. The view from our motel:
There, we did three separate hikes to two glaciers and a lake:
That was an exhausting but amazing day! It felt like we never got a chance to put the camera down – it was one incredible view after the next. And it just keeps going! When we left Franz Josef and headed for Queenstown, this was some of the scenery:
After arriving in Queenstown and checking into our Airbnb, we took a drive along the lake up to Glenorchy:
And this was the view on today’s hike:
Are you on sensory overload yet?? Couldn’t handle looking at one more beautiful thing? Join the club! And we still have twelve more days….
[This was written a few days ago on New Year’s Eve – access to wifi during the trip has been limited, so today was the first opportunity to post it!]
Even though this New Year’s Eve is our fourth day in New Zealand, and I’ve worked my way through the jet lag and shock, I can still hardly believe that I’m actually here! Traveling to NZ has been a dream since I first became aware of the country’s natural beauty when I was in college, and I feel so fortunate to be finally experiencing it.
This post is a little longer than usual, so in case you don’t make it to the end, I’ll say first that I wish you all a Happy New Year and the very best in 2017!
I remember this time last year, saying to myself that 2016 HAS to be better than 2015 was, and that hope certainly came true. 2016 was a year of many happy changes, and for the first time in a long time, I’m truly excited about the future.
The flight from San Francisco to Auckland was about 13 hours, and here we’re 18 hours ahead of the east coast of the United States. So when the ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, it will already be 6 pm on New Year’s Day here! It’s summer here, but the weather is wonderfully comfortable: 60’s – 70’s during the day, 40’s – 50’s at night. And the days are long, with sunrise at 6 am and sunset at 9 pm.
We’ll be in NZ for 22 nights, so the trip has only just begun. Auckland is on the North Island of NZ, but we’ll spend the bulk of our time on the South Island. So, we’ve spent our first three days trekking south from the airport. We spent the first night in Turangi, the second in New Plymouth, and the third in Wellington:
One of the highlights so far was the drive on the Forgotten World Highway, which will never be forgotten as far as I’m concerned! It’s considered the #1 scenic drive in NZ, with about 100 miles of twisty-turny road through some gorgeous, and quite remote, hilly countryside. We drove it on a cloudy, drizzly day, so unfortunately it wasn’t the best for photos, but a few are below:
It may be the most scenic drive in New Zealand, but we read that it’s also the most dangerous drive. In many areas, where part of the road was washed out and fallen down the cliff, you have to drive in the oncoming lane with blind curves; in other areas, rock slides have left debris in the road which you encounter by surprise when rounding a bend.
Add to this the driving on the left side of the road and the lack of any guardrails – well, let’s just say I was extremely glad that Eric was behind the wheel! Definitely a white knuckler: the drive was exhilarating and we’re glad we did it, but we both needed that cocktail when we arrived safely in New Plymouth…
Another highlight of the first few days was delving into Eric’s father’s history in World War II, when he was injured in the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, and recuperated in Wellington for several months. During that time, he became engaged to a NZ woman named Joan Hay. Although they never married, Eric has numerous letters from Joan to his grandmother and aunt during the war.
Unfortunately, Joan died last year, but we had breakfast with her son yesterday in New Plymouth, and then found her parents’ house in Wellington where Eric’s father courted her. We also found the location of the Marine barracks where he would have stayed during his convalescence. I think Eric felt very satisfied to track down his Dad’s path here, and I certainly have enjoyed that touch of family history on our trip.
As I’m writing this, we’re cruising on the Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton, where we’ll jump in another rental car and begin our South Island tour. It’s a three hour stunning ride across the Cook Strait to Picton on the South Island.
After a few hours of driving this afternoon, we’ll be clinking glasses in the town of Nelson tonight as we say a fond goodbye to the wonderful year of 2016, which brought multiple significant milestones to our little family.
Cheers to family and friends – here’s to a happy, healthy and adventure-filled 2017 for one and all!!! xoxo
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.
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”.
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!!
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!
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.
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:
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.
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!!
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:
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 halfthe 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.
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.
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!
Happy Thanksgiving to all!! I hope you are in a safe and comfortable place, enjoying good food and good company.
Like just about everything else in my new life, the holiday season this year will be completely different for me. Typically, I cook Thanksgiving dinner at home with the help of my son Kyle, and our small family gathers, sometimes including a local friend or two.
This year, my family is either gone or scattered, my only home is my small RV with no oven, and I’m in an unfamiliar place. I’m not feeling sorry for myself – just stating the facts. It’s an adjustment.
It is, of course, a time to reflect and give thanks. Sometimes it feels like it’s easier or even more natural to focus on the negatives in life, and all the complaints we might have. One of the many wonderful aspects of the Thanksgiving holiday is that it reminds us to be thankful and focus on the things we do have, rather than the things we don’t have.
So I’m very grateful to my ex-in-laws, Eric’s mother and sister, for welcoming me into their home in Cape Canaveral, Florida for Thanksgiving. I’m staying at a campground which is directly on the beach, and a short walk to the condominium complex where they live. It’s wonderful to be with extended family, and I look forward to enjoying our turkey dinner together later this afternoon.
OK, here’s the best part. Early this morning, I walked a short way from my RV to the beach:
I walked barefoot, in shorts and a T-shirt, thoroughly enjoying the smell of the ocean, and the feel of the sand. I’m thankful for the beach. Sometimes this adjustment thing is pretty easy to do!!
But seriously, I’m so thankful on multiple levels this year.
I’m thankful for my amazing children, who both live in Seattle, I’m thankful for their health, I’m thankful for their love for me, and I’m thankful that they both grew up to be bright, caring and thoughtful individuals.
I don’t know why I’ve outlived the rest of my nuclear family, but I’m thankful for every day that I’m healthy and able to enjoy life.
I’m thankful for my ex-husband and close friend, Eric, and so grateful to him for all he has done for me this year.
I’m thankful that I sold my house, and I’m extremely thankful that I was able to retire from my job.
I’m thankful that I was able to buy the RV which has been my home, and I’m thankful that I succeeded in learning to operate it and live in it.
I’m thankful for my passion for genealogy, because it’s one of the many things which make me excited to get out of bed every morning and start my day.
I’m thankful for my closest friends Carol, Denise and Cindy, and for my cousin Betsy, all of whom I love deeply.
I’m thankful for the amazing folks running the Bucks County Genealogical Society, and especially for Mary Butash, who happily took the baton from me and allowed me the freedom to move on. They are all second to none.
I feel like I could go on and on! I am truly blessed.
Happy Thanksgiving, and all the best for the holiday season! Enjoy!!
I’m so happy to be here in Washington County! As we drove in last Friday evening, crossing the Monongahela River, I experienced a great rush of familiarity, and even an awe of the place. It is magnificent country, lush green everywhere with rolling hills, and expansive views around every other corner. And I recognized so many place names, many from my family history research, and some from my childhood visits here to see my grandparents and extended family.
For the first time in over a month, I slept like a log, right through the night. There’s something about being here….
The last two times I’ve been here have been with my mother; the most recent was five years ago. I’m so thankful for those visits with her because she was able to show me the location of her grandparents’ farm, which is still standing.
As I’ve said before, the main reason I came here is to bury the cremains of my parents and my two brothers in the family cemetery. I wanted to take care of that right away, so that’s what we did yesterday. It was certainly a difficult and sad task, and brought back the pain of losing them all. But at the same time, it’s closure for me, and a satisfying completion of a task which my mother asked me to do. So the sadness is mixed with a sense of relief. My family is finally home, and my mother is near her beloved grandparents, which was her wish. May they all rest in peace together.
Now I feel like Washington County, Pennsylvania, is more my home than ever before.
The campground where we’re staying has everything we need, including terrific wi-fi, which is why I’m posting so much all in one day! The sites are close together and there aren’t many trees, but we have full hook-ups, we’re sitting on level gravel, and the grassy areas between the sites means we aren’t tracking dirt or sand into the rig. We have a picnic table between our two rigs, which we’ve set up with a checkered tablecloth and a large citronella candle. Add two chairs and a fire pit, and we’re very comfy here!
I’m going to take some time today to plan my research trip tomorrow to Washington, the county seat. I’ll be starting with the land records, to see what information I can track down about my great-grandparents’ farm.
Did you ever have the strong feeling that things are working out exactly as they were meant to work out? That’s how I feel about this transition in my life. I desperately wanted to sell my house in 2015 and move on with my life. I listed the house in April, and by November, I was beside myself with frustration, knowing I would have to spend another winter there, and then who knew how many more?
Well, I am convinced that the timing of it was all meant to be, and mostly because of the way Eric and I have been able to help each other.
On a parallel track, Eric has been going through his own life transition. He’s five years older than I am, and he had for many years planned to retire when he was 65, and travel the U.S. full time in an RV. Proceeding on his path, he put his house on the market in early spring of 2016, and closed on his house and retired by May. He planned to do some traveling internationally before buying an RV, so asked me if he could use my house as a home base during the time he was traveling. He moved in to my house in May of 2016, and I received the offer on my house in June.
I really have no idea what I would have done this summer without Eric. He immediately put his own plans on hold, and became my partner in packing up the house, buying our RV’s, and strategizing everything from how we would receive our mail while traveling, to how we would get the oil-based paint from the house to the hazardous waste drop off on the correct day. There were a million details over almost three months that we worked through together, some of which of course involved our children’s items.
All of Eric’s contributions have been huge, but his help with buying my RV was probably the biggest, on the “what would I do without him” scale. I didn’t even know how to drive it, much less evaluate it for purchase. Eric rented a car and took two full days with me to drive 7 hours to Buffalo, NY and back to buy it.
What a coincidence that Eric and I both sold our homes, retired, and bought an RV in the same year! How terrific that we can support each other and go through the same transition independently, but together!
I really think it was all meant to be. The timing has worked out too perfectly.