. . .and now it’s real!

Things are moving FAST!

My head is spinning, but I’m taking a break to provide this update.  We never imagined things would proceed at such a pace!  Our realtor met with us on September 10, we signed the listing agreement the next day, and on 9/12 the photos were taken.  The listing was set to go live on September 14.  Then came the big surprise:  on September 13 we received a full price offer!  We chose to interpret that as a sign from the universe and signed the contract.  Now we had to figure out how to dispose of a lifetime’s accumulation of stuff!

                                                     Our buyer’s last name starts with an S so we’re leaving this “S” stone!

We decided that we would not keep any furniture, instead only keeping things that were truly important to us:  my mother’s china, a few of Phil’s paintings, off-season clothes and shoes we would need while roaming, important papers, memorabilia, and some beloved works of art.  We limited ourselves to two boxes each of books; I dedicated one box to fiction and poetry and the other to cookbooks.

 

One of Phil’s paintings that I can’t part with

The next thing, the really, really hard thing, was finding a new family for Baxter.  I made a bio with his photo and we shared it with friends and family.  Our friends network came through!  Baxter is now the CEO of Silo, a local fused glass studio, and the beloved pet of owners Elissa and Chester.  They loved Baxter on sight, and he warmed up to them right away.  Elissa kindly sent us pictures to show us how well Baxter was adjusting.  He will love going to work with them every day, greeting customers, soaking up attention, and observing activity from his kitty condo that went with him.  I cried most of the day he left, but after several days I feel ok and know it was the right decision for him.

                                                                                      Baxter exploring his new office

 

You might be wondering how we’re managing to dispose of everything that won’t fit into a 5′ x 5′ storage unit.  Just in case you ever have to do this, here are the steps we’re taking:

  1. Had our kids identify what they wanted.  We’re shipping a number of items to our daughter in Europe, and our son who lives close will pick up his things.  We also gave away a number of things to friends in the area. 
  2. Made a list of everything to be sold, with information and pricing.  We gave this to our realtor, and the person buying our home ended up buying a lot!
  3. Listed the rest on Nextdoor.  This resulted in several sales to people in our immediate neighborhood.
  4. Listed on Facebook Marketplace.  I’ve been surprised at how much has sold on this site!
  5. Donations, donations, donations.  We’ll donate primarily to Habitat’s Restore, where they sell items to raise money for home building.

                                                         Our home buyer bought almost everything you see in this picture!

We decided against an estate sale due to COVID risk, and we were pleased that everyone who has purchased items has masked up.  The big learning from this experience is that selling all your stuff can be almost a full-time job!  Good thing it doesn’t go on very long.  Also, we priced everything at about 40% of retail, and most buyers paid full price.  We discount things that don’t sell quickly, as our goal is to sell as much as possible.

And now we have 2 1/2 weeks to wind up everything and hit the road.  We’ve decided on Cape Cod for our first destination, with a three-week stop in Raleigh.  We’ve booked AirBnBs in both locations, with a few hotel stops along the way.  I’ll be working, aside from a few vacation days, so we won’t be spending long driving days.  We’ve been pleased to see the extra cleaning our hosts (both AirBnB and Marriott) are doing to protect guests from COVID, but we’ll be bringing along plenty of disinfectant supplies and masks.  

                                                            The cozy cottage that will be our temporary home on the Cape

Seeing our house emptying a little each day feels weird–not bad, just strange.  And of course we miss Baxter (I haven’t broken my habit of closing the bathroom doors to prevent him from playing with the toilet paper rolls!).  And it’s definitely stressful handling inquiries, keeping track of everything, and managing transactions with strangers (all of whom have been lovely so far!).  But mostly?  We’re excited about this new experience.  We’re so glad we’re taking this step.  Here’s to the next adventure!

 

 

 

we’re selling the house!

This is getting real. . .

The pandemic experience has caused us to look at just about everything differently.  We’ve always believed that life is short and moments are not to be wasted, but recently we’ve come to realize that our time on this planet is limited and we must not wait to start our next adventure.  So. . .we decided to sell the house we love.

                                                                                          Our little piece of heaven

A real estate agent came over this morning to look at the house and discuss the listing.  She sold us this house and was eager to see all the improvements we’ve made in our three years here.  No major remodeling was needed, but we added a large patio and pergola, installed custom window treatments, had all the cabinetry painted, installed new lighting, and had a lot of landscaping work done.  This is our favorite house (keep in mind, we’ve moved 18 times in our marriage!) and it will be hard to leave.

                                                                           My raised bed garden.  The sign cracks me up!

But the pangs of giving up our house are coupled with excitement about this next adventure.  Since Americans are not allowed into France, where we plan to begin our roaming, we’ve decided to take this opportunity to roam the U.S.  My job allows me to work from anywhere in the country, which is a huge privilege.  So we’re planning to spend some extended time in some of our favorite places, and to discover some new ones.

 

  • Since it’s likely that our in-country roaming will begin in late fall or early winter, we’re looking at some warmer locations to start.  We love Savannah, Asheville, Charleston, and Raleigh-Durham, so one or more of those locations might be first on our list.  We’ve started researching AirBnB options and would plan to spend several weeks or a month in each locale.
  • Our son had the brilliant suggestion to spend some time in Dallas, where many of our oldest and dearest friends live.  That’s where we raised our kids and where we lived the longest (including our record:  11 years in one house!).  The COVID situation will likely dictate when we do that, as we’ll want to see our friends and not be isolated there.
  • Our original idea, before we decided on roaming, was to do a “grand retirement tour” in a couple of years, visiting friends and family throughout the country and making stops in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, and New Mexico.  We’ll incorporate those locations into our U.S. roaming–at least we could have some socially distanced visits with dear ones.
  • And, assuming we have sufficient time, we’ll want to visit our beloved New England, where we spent eight wonderful years.  Moving to Boston in 2008 was the best adventure of our lives so far, and it’s where we learned that home can be anywhere as long as we’re together.  We love the entire area and look forward to returning to Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont as well as Massachussets, where we’ll also see dear friends.

We are going to miss this adjustable bed!  But not as much as Baxter. . .

So, these are exciting plans.  But a major obstacle remains, one that almost brings me to tears every time I think about it:  Baxter.  We love him and don’t want to give him up.  We debated bringing him with us, especially since he’s very chill and has even done a road trip with us.  But we know cats hate change, and putting him through constant changes, moving every time he gets comfortable somewhere, would be selfish.  So we’re going to have to find him new humans.  That will be the hardest part of this.

                                                                                      How can we part with this fellow?

 

So the first part of our adventure is about to begin.  We’re excited, anxious, sad, and frankly a bit stressed.  But mostly?  We know that now is the time to do new things.  We’re ready.

 

 

 

where will we stay?

 

Wlhen we begin Roaming we plan to stay in each location at least one month.  I’ve never taken more than twelve days off work so this will definitely be a new experience!  We have some comfort with AirBnB and have been dreaming over apartments on that site for our first ventures, mostly in France, Italy, and Portugal.  Having vacationed in rentals six times, we decided to review each place and look for lessons learned.

Our first vacation apartment experience was on a trip to Paris with our kids.  We had a wonderful Palais Royale location, two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, and a tiny kitchen.  It was a splurge, but we loved it!  We discovered a lovely bistro at the end of the block and became friendly with the owner.  We’d love to visit again, but it’s too expensive now!  We used the same company a couple of years later, booking a smaller two-bedroom apartment with a balcony overlooking the Sacre Coeur.  It was just a touch shabby, but it was affordable and had everything we needed–two bedrooms, one bathroom, and beds for all five of us–and a tiny Parisian elevator so we didn’t have to lug our bags up several flights of stairs.

For our next vacation apartment adventure, I decided we didn’t need luxury and looked for something very affordable.  This was our first real lesson (and our first AirBnB experience!).  The ground floor apartment in Berlin looked cute in the pictures–crisp, bright colors, and compact.  When we arrived, however, it was a different story.  The bed, which looked big, was way too small, so I had to sleep on the sofa.  The bathroom turned out to be a wet room, and the shower drain was plugged and flooded the bathroom and part of the living room.  And when we opened the freezer, we found some horrible, very old, frozen food.  The first night, a drunken, angry man serenaded us outside the open windows, which we couldn’t shut because of the heat.  We paid well below $100 per night but spent as little time in this apartment as possible.

So, what happens after an experience like ours in Berlin?  You overcorrect, of course!  Our next trip was to Stockholm, and I was determined to find us a pleasant place–and I did.  Located a stone’s throw from the Old Town, our apartment on the top floor of an elevator building boasted two bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a huge dining room with a piano, and a wonderful kitchen with an espresso machine that I spent an hour on youtube videos to master!  It was more expensive than a hotel, but it was wonderful!  In fact, it was much larger than we needed for only two people.  But it was definitely an overcorrection.

Our next adventure was in California, where we stayed with our daughter and son-in-law.  The place was close to the beach, old, and quaint.  We loved it!  However, we didn’t know that the owners turned lived above us and shared the garden, and they REALLY enjoyed spending time with us, popping in unannounced just to visit.  We, however, craved privacy and family time.  Eventually I found myself hiding in my bedroom to avoid chatting.

Our most recent AirBnB experience was on a trip of a lifetime to Tuscany, in April 2019.  We flew to Rome for a couple of days, then met our kids for the drive to our villa.  The landscape was gorgeous, our host was charming but gave us privacy, the four-bedroom, two-bath villa was larger than we needed but very comfortable, and while it was too chilly to swim, we enjoyed both sitting by the pool and warming up by the fireplace.  And perhaps the best part was cooking together and eating in the spacious kitchen!  But we had to drive 20 minutes to get to any store or cafe.

So. . .what have we learned?  To shoot for a mix of luxury and frugality.  To focus on location.  To look for gracious hosts who are friendly but don’t want to spend lots of time with us.  To make sure the basics (a clean, workable kitchen, a comfortable king-sized bed, a bathroom with a good shower) are there.  And, when it’s booked and we’ve arrived, to remember that no place is perfect, to roll with the punches and make the most of our precious time in each temporary home, and to remember our sense of humor.  And most of all, to cherish the memories!

 

This beautiful Palais Royale apartment has been completely renovated since we stayed there.  Much pricier now!

 

Sacre Coeur view!

 

 

This Berlin bed is much smaller than it seems in the picture!

 

 

I fell in love with the red fridge in our Stockholm apartment–and the espresso machine!

 

The living room of our temporary California home

 

At “home” in Tuscany

 

Roaming–At Home?

 

Like everyone else, Phil and I were getting a little anxious and depressed after more than five months of confinement.  While we acknowledge our privilege–we’re healthy, our family is safe, and we have enough of everything–staying home has become a bit burdensome.  We have one couple with whom we’ve expanded our mutual bubble, getting together occasionally while socially distancing.  On a recent visit we were commiserating about our ennui, and we talked about how anxious we are to start traveling again.  We shared some fun day trips we’d each taken, and our friends mentioned a “painted churches” trip a mutual friend had taken.

The next day, Saturday, we decided to make this trip.  We found a route outlined on The Day Tripper, filled our water bottles, and took off in the late morning.  When we “roam” at home, we like to avoid major highways to better explore the area, so the entire trip took us about five hours.  All but one of the beautiful churches were open, and we encountered not a single other person.  Who knew there was such European-style splendor in the Texas Hill Country?!

                                         

This church looks like a Faberge egg!                                     One of the many beautiful Texas ranch gates

 

More recently we discovered that our friend, alcohol ink artist Tom Wiley, writes for Ride Texas magazine, where he shares interesting motorcycle rides that also entice automobile afficionados like us.  Last weekend we took his “Old 9 Road” ride, with some variations.  What a fun day trip that turned out to be!

This just cracks me up!                                           Post-pandemic, we’ll go inside!                             Best burger in Texas?

 

Having rediscovered day trips sans shopping, other people, and inside dining, we’ve decided to copy our friends the Wileys and have a day trip adventure (“Roam from home”?) every weekend until we can Roam again in earnest.  Time to make lemonade from these lemons!

Things we’ll miss when we’re roamers

 

Wow, where to start?!  During this endless pandemic I’ve been trying to focus on the things that bring joy to our lives, the things for which we are endlessly grateful.  And I’ve realized that some of them are not going to be part of our lives as Roamers.

For example, family and friends.  Sure, they’ll still be in our lives, but we won’t be able to see them as often as we’d like.  And I’ll miss special gatherings, unable to come back to the U.S. without advance planning.  For example, I have a group of high school girlfriends who gather annually for a “Wild Women’s Weekend.”  I will have unbearable FOMO the first time I have to miss that.

We will miss Baxter, our rescue cat, more than I can say.  He makes us laugh every single day.  He is a cat with personality who never met a stranger.  How will we ever be able to say goodbye to him?  We’re hoping we can find him a new home with family or friends, so we can visit him when we’re Roamers.  But it breaks my heart to even think about giving him up.

Dinner parties.  I love to cook and love to entertain.  It doesn’t stress me out and it’s so much fun, especially when we can bring people together to form new friendships.  But when we’re Roamers, we probably won’t stay in one place long enough to form strong friendships, so hosting dinner parties will be a rare opportunity.  I’ll miss that.

Gardening!  I’m the opposite of an expert, but I love growing things, especially food.  Well, to be honest, what I really enjoy is harvesting.  The rest is just effort.  But if we’re somewhere that offers regular farmers’ markets, we can still get close to that joyful feeling of harvesting.

Getting in the car any time we need to go somewhere.  While we love walking and look forward to living in an urban environment, we’ll miss the ability to spontaneously jump in the car and go, often just driving aimlessly to see what we’ll discover.  We’ll have to plan ahead to rent a car when we want to drive anywhere.

Having a home.  This is a big one.  We love our little house and garden, and making it our own over the past three years has been a joy.  We’ve lived in eighteen different homes during our marriage, and this is my favorite house ever.  And we love coming home from a trip, getting back to this comfortable space that’s entirely our own.  I think as long as we’re together we’ll feel at home–but roaming will be the test!

We will miss these things, and so much more.  But one thing this pandemic has taught us is that life is short.  We truly cannot wait to discover new things on this big adventure!

 

 

My “Wild Women”

 

Basket Baxter

 

Gardening!

 

PLENTY.

 

Anticipating that we may be able to begin roaming sooner than originally planned, Phil and I spent our quarantined 39th anniversary weekend (!) going through our house and pulling out things we no longer need.  We’re donating them, trying to do a little good as we lighten our load.  This exercise has been very interesting in several ways:

  1. We have so, so much more than we need. We are serial downsizers, but each time we reduce, our remaining stuff seems to grow.  There is so little we truly need.  This time we pinkie swore we’ll avoid stockpiling stuff—clothing, dishes, jewelry, linens, gadgets—and make sure we acquire only useful and necessary things.  And maybe the occasional treasure.
  2. This is hard. As an English major and former teacher, I’m addicted to books.  Even now that most books I buy are digital, I still love the feeling of holding a real book.  We’ve downsized our books before, but this was the deepest cut ever.  I felt joy as I looked over beloved classics, contemporary novels, memoirs, histories, poetry, and of course my beloved cookbooks.  Phil drove to the donation center with about 600 of my books.  I felt a bit melancholy, tinged with a sense of freedom and joy. 
  3. I’m learning that I don’t need objects to remember loved ones. Parting with treasured books, gifts from family and friends, and some of my mother’s and grandmother’s jewelry at first came with some guilt.  Would my friend Gwyn be hurt if she knew I gave away the meditation figure I’ve kept in my office for over 25 years?  Would my grandma be sad seeing me part with her favorite strawberry brooch?  They both died years ago, but I like to think they’d approve of my decision to release stuff in favor of adventure, knowing that I will always hold the memories close.
  4. Deciding what to keep is becoming easier. There’s a bit of Marie Kondo magic in holding an object, feeling it spark joy, and deciding it has earned its place in the storage unit of our future.

This process is affecting us.  Roaming feels closer, more real than ever.  I wake up excited to reduce more, to plan, to get closer to the time when we can travel again, say goodbye to our house and our stuff, and embark on this adventure.  And thank heaven for technology that enables us to keep treasured images!

 

 

 

Books!

 

She’s been with me over 25 years.

 

Wartime love–from my mom to my dad

 

I found this in my daddy’s treasure box.

This post is not about roaming. 

It’s about racism.  Writing these words I wonder whether I have anything of value to say, and whether I have any right to speak on this topic. 

I’m a privileged white straight woman.  I have a good job, a wonderful family, financial stability, and safety.  I have long considered myself an “ally” but now realize I had no idea what that even meant.

Confronting the poison of racism in myself is scary, painful, and hard.  That doesn’t matter one bit.  It’s necessary, and my pain is absolutely nothing compared to the pain lived daily by BIPOC.

I’ve been reading a lot of comments on Next Door about a racist note left on the door of a vacationing Black family in my small Texas town.  The comments range from horrified and shamed to defensive and belligerent.  I think all the comments have been by white people, who comprise most of our town’s population.  Some of them deny that such a thing as systemic racism even exists. 

I’ve also been reading Glennon Doyle’s treasure of a book, Untamed, and yesterday read the chapter titled Racist.  Doyle, a white woman, has the courage to confront her own racism and acknowledge the way racism contaminates the very air we breathe.  We’ve all been contaminated, and it’s our job to find the poison in ourselves and get rid of it.  Her words are helping me work through this process.  I wish everyone in the U.S. would read her book; if that happened, I believe our country would begin to heal.  She urges us to not perform, as I’ve done for many years, but to transform.  That’s what I’m trying to do now.  Only then will I be a true ally.

I’m working to improve.

Community. serendipity.

 

Late in the afternoon, just as I’d finished my last conference call of the day, I saw someone walk up onto our front porch and ring the doorbell.  It was a neighbor I’d never formally met, one who sat on the homeowners’ association board with my husband.  And she was bringing a gift:  three giant zucchinis.

 

Her boss, she explained, decided to get into gardening—and REALLY got into it.  Not understanding that these are gourds that multiply, she planted ten of these beauties, and now the entire office was at risk of burial by zucchini.  I invited her in, and as it happened, on the kitchen counter was Vivian Howard’s cookbook, open to the squash section.  I’d been reading it and looking forward to later in the summer when zucchini would be plentiful and cheap.

 

My neighbor glanced with interest at the squash glamor shots, and out came her phone to capture several of the recipes.  She left with a promise of more zucchini and possibly tomatoes:  her boss had planted 50 tomato plants in her “garden.”

 

That evening we feasted on squash and onions (I pan-fried almond-crusted tilapia fillets to go on top).  Was it just my imagination, or did the meal taste especially good because it was a gift?  Was I more a part of the community for having accepted the gift, and given something in return?  Perhaps being part of a community where people look out for each other, something our grandparents took for granted, is a balm.

 

When Phil and I are Roamers, we look forward to making connections, even (or especially?) brief ones, wherever we go.  And we hope to spread and receive kindness, and to be good neighbors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zucchini!  Summer!

 

 

The recipe I made with the gift

 

Our approach to spending money has already changed since we made the big decision to roam in retirement.  For example, recently I saw a nice silk forsythia wreath on sale.  My love for forsythia as the first harbinger of spring in Oklahoma, where I grew up, was handed down by my mother, who never met a flower she didn’t like.  I have some of her silk forsythia branches in my house.  And I’ve always wanted a wreath like that.  But nope!  I saw it, wanted it, and then said, “I’d just have to get rid of it in two years, so why buy it?”

My mother’s silk forsythia.  The vase was also hers!

That got me thinking about all the things we won’t buy as roamers:  household goods, home décor, tools, lawn equipment, plants, fertilizer, light bulbs—you get the idea.  So I decided to make a list and see what our potential savings might be. 

Shopping at Target: “I’d just have to get rid of it in two years, so why buy it?”

For that, I turned to Personal Capital, which is where I track all of our financial information.  It’s free and secure, and it keeps me precisely informed of our financial situation —especially during tax season, when I simply download all our tax-related expenses.  I decided to look at the past two years and find expenses we won’t have as roamers.  Here’s what we spent in 2018-19 that we won’t spend as roamers:

  • Home improvement. We invested a lot of money in our home, including furnishings, landscaping, and renovations

A section of our garden

  • Automotive. We bought a used car in 2018, plus regular expenses for two cars.
  • Property tax. (We plan to sell our house before we start roaming).
  • Home maintenance. Every-other-week house cleaning, replacements for things that wear out, toilet paper, etc. Well, we’ll probably still need to buy toilet paper.
  • Electric, water, propane, pool chemicals for the swim spa we never use (Nope, I’m not bitter about THAT purchase).
  • Gasoline/fuel. We’ll still have some of this for times when we’re using a rental car.
  • Homeowners and appliance insurance.
  • Cable/internet.
  • Work clothes.  I won’t need two wardrobes!
  • Pet care. This one breaks our hearts, because since we can’t turn Baxter into a roamer, we’ll have to find him a new staff. More on that later; I don’t want to think about it right now.

Baxter-not a fan of roaming

So that comes to quite a bit that we won’t spend as roamers!  Granted, even without roaming we wouldn’t continue to pour money into home improvement, and we wouldn’t buy a car often.  But even without those items we still would save enough to buy a lot of travel!

 

 

What will the kids think?!

When I told our son we were considering roaming in retirement, his response was “Cool,” followed by lots of questions.  He seemed mildly concerned that we hadn’t thought this through (true), and he had some consternation about our selling a much-loved house that we’d customized to suit all our needs.

Our daughter, who lives in Europe, was excited and immediately offered to help me figure out how to start a blog.  She was not without some trepidation, though. As we discussed it more over the ensuing weeks, she struggled to make me understand her concerns.

“I’m excited for you and think this is a great idea,” she said.  I’m just concerned about you having a safe landing if you need to come home.”  I immediately reassured her about our plans to remain fiscally sound, but I’d missed the mark.  “No, I understand you’re ok financially–I just worry about you,” she explained.  “If something happened I’d want you to be able to get home safely and to have a secure place to stay.”

We went on to discuss things like travel insurance (which will likely be a major monthly expense), our ability to buy another house later if we sold ours, and other “safe landing” plans.  She seemed satisfied, but our conversation highlighted for me an interesting dynamic with our family: role reversal.

For most of their lives, our children have relied upon us–for pretty much everything when they were very young, then for education, guidance, and financial assistance as they entered adulthood. Today they are fully independent, flourishing in their careers, and happily partnered. The interesting, and for me a bit strange, part of this is that we now rely on them, perhaps more than they rely on us! Our son, who lives nearby, comes over regularly to help with household chores that Phil can’t do alone (especially those involving ladders or heavy lifting). He is also our personal help desk for all matters technological, and when we won’t do it ourselves he buys us safety- enhancing things like video doorbells.  Our daughter hosts Phil’s art website and this blog, and she has become a source of sage advice on topics ranging from travel to big decisions to interpersonal issues.

What’s weird is that this echoes our experience with our own parents.  As they aged, they increasingly depended on their children (especially our siblings who lived next door, while we were many states away).  Over the years we stopped relying on our parents for support and advice and started providing more to them.  We became sounding boards for their problems instead of the reverse.  They also gradually became more inwardly focused, showing less curiosity about our lives.  They also began to echo our grandparents– I remember my parents ranting about the expired food in Grandma’s kitchen, but as they aged we began clearing out expired food in theirs.

In some ways, this role reversal with our own children is a somber reminder that we are getting older.  I never want to be so inwardly focused that we lose interest in our children’s lives, our friends and family, and events in the larger world. And yet we are proud and thrilled to have raised these wonderful adults who now nurture us in ways we never anticipated. I hope that roaming in retirement will help us stay independent, keep us interested in things other than ourselves, and cause us to rely on ourselves and each other, delaying the time when we become increasingly dependent on our kids!