Archive | December 2022

Farewell 2022: The Great Reset

2022 has been a different kind of year for me, so this will be a different kind of year-in-review.

It wasn’t a year full of travel to new places, or hikes to gorgeous mountain peaks, or lots of girls’ weekends.  It was a year full of hard work, stress and planning for some incredible rewards at the end.

I’ve been pretty quiet about some of my goings on, for various reasons, so this might be the first you have heard of them!  That said, I’ve never made a secret about my intention to retire early.  In fact, when I first started working with my financial advisor at the age of 27, I told him (jokingly) that I wanted to retire at the age of 33.  He told me I could make that work, but that I would need to revise my expectations about my standard of living – like, maybe a cardboard box.

But after working with him for the last 20 years, things had started to come to fruition.  A few years ago I was able to pass all the financial modeling for a retirement at age 50.  Woot woot!  What got me there?  Hard work, making use of my master’s degree in business and human resources, and a decent income.  Add to that living within my means, not chasing after all the latest toys and pricey things to do, and saving over 50 percent of my gross income for several years.  Oh, and ditching the spendthrift husband…  My car is paid off and has been for over 10 years, and my home was financed on a really low interest rate. 

I was still planning for age 50 at the beginning of the year.  But things started deteriorating quickly at my work.  I was in the position of having to tell my boss no a bit more frequently than I felt comfortable with, or else do things that I was not ok with doing.  It was getting me on the wrong side of him and I could see the writing on the wall.  That’s the trouble of a job in Human Resources when you have a boss who is towing a line on ethical behavior…

In February I went on a vacation to Minnesota to see the boyfriend and had my employees calling me to tell me what my boss was saying and doing behind my back.  UGH…  Minnesota in February was fun, but frigid, and it was kind of a test to see if I could indeed tolerate the winters here…  I’m not sure I’m convinced that I can, but we’ll give it a try.

So I went home and spoke with a real estate agent friend to see about selling my home at the peak of the market, as inflation was really starting to fly and the prediction was of a new real estate bubble that was soon to burst.  She gave me what I would need to do, a fix-it list that was actually really manageable due to the hot market out there.  The most cumbersome part of it all was packing at least 75% of my belongings.  Decluttering to stage the home.  I am not, and have never been, a minimalist… 

So I got to work, cleaning, purging, taking trips to Goodwill, and trying to do my best to downsize my life at least a little.  I did a lot!  I mean you would still look at all my stuff and see a whole lot of stuff, but it’s a lot less than before!  Trust me on this.  My boyfriend came out quietly in April to help me and another friend get the yard in shape and paint the deck and do some of the fix-it stuff on the list.  We made a huge dent in it!

Then, there came the packing.  My best friend Shelley was a godsend, helping me pack and purge and clean and purge and pack and clean and purge…  Evenings and weekends for a few frantic weeks (but it felt like months).  Thank you! 

After what seemed like three years of backbreaking labor, I listed the house on May 11, with an offer review date of May 16.  Well, hot market that it was, I received two offers over my asking price.  I accepted the cash offer, with no inspection or contingencies, of $75,000 over my asking price.  That was four days after the home hitting the market.  So now that the house was sold, I had to move.  So that’s where the big news comes in! 

A few days later in May, I filed a formal retaliation complaint against my boss; the first complaint I have filed in my career.  I had seriously considered it for weeks, had consulted with colleagues and waited until the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In June, after packing all my things into a 26 foot U-Haul (yes I’m crazy for doing the move myself, but the boyfriend is a powerhouse, and have you priced moving companies lately!?!), I moved quietly to Minnesota.  My close friends and family knew, but I mostly kept it quiet because of my complaint and the subsequent investigation into my boss at work (which they still haven’t finished).  My boss was looking for excuses about why scores of people were leaving, and I didn’t want to give him any.  In Minnesota, I could take the profits from the sale of my house and purchase a larger home outright – no mortgage! And have quite a bit left over!

So, my boyfriend and I drove from Washington to Minnesota, and I even drove over the Rockies with that U-Haul!  I was nervous coming down that huge incline, but I did it!  And the sunset in Miles City, Montana was stunning before an all night drive across North Dakota.

After moving most of my things, I held back a small set of belongings in Washington, moved in with my mom, and went back to work.  Due to the investigation, I wasn’t quite ready to make the decision to quit, but after things dragging on for a while and nothing being done, I decided that life was too short to be walking on eggshells with a toxic boss everyday.  I put in my notice and my last day was September 20, 2022. 

I did have a couple of trips already planned.  I took four days to go down to the Oregon Coast and walk the beaches, eat some good food and look for agates.  It was a nice post-retirement getaway.  I had hoped that a friend could come with me, but that didn’t work out so I went solo. 

Then I went home, packed the car and the cats and moved the rest of the way to Minnesota. Let me tell you, two LONG days driving solo across the country with two cats is… interesting.  Cora meowed for a few hours each day and then mostly snoozed.  Yellow mostly lay quietly, terror-stricken, looking as though he had lost all will to live.  But they were good.  An hour away from my new home on the second day, Cora just couldn’t hold it anymore and unloaded a giant pee in her carrier.  I had to pull over and mop it up with paper towels so she wouldn’t have to stand in it.  Poor girl!  

Then I was finally able to work on unpacking some of my things and resettling my life.  It felt good to have all my books around again, and my knick-knacks, and to have time to do a puzzle or go for a hike!   

In October, my mom and I took a 10 day trip to Knoxville, Tennessee.  My mom had been wanting to go to a jewelry-making convention for a few years, but it got postponed due to my dad’s death and then COVID.  So this time, it was on!  I spent the days touristing and hiking on my own while my mom attended her classes.  It was very enjoyable for both of us.  I loved that area of Tennessee and will certainly go back! 

For the last couple of months, I’ve been lying low and relaxing.  I have been catching up on reading, and working on puzzles.  I have been having fun with our new flock of five chickens.  They are terribly photo-shy, but we have three Buff Orpingtons and two English Orpingtons (a black one and a white one).  In the photo, left to right, they are Harriet, Creamsicle, Scout, Winter and Ofelia (I can’t really tell the Buff girls apart though so they might be in a different order…).  We got them in early July, and we just got our first two eggs on December 29! 

I’m getting used to the cold in Minnesota, but am appreciating the lack of rain, which is very different than winter in the Pacific Northwest.  I’m looking forward to ice-fishing too!  Maybe next time I go I can actually catch a fish!  In the spring, I’m planning to do another long road-trip, taking my time to see some of the other areas of the US that I haven’t been to yet! 

So that’s my year in review.  It wasn’t the typical year, but it has certainly been memorable!  Moving to the Midwest is certainly one of the biggest life changes I have ever gone through, and although I was really nervous, things are working out well.  I hope all of you have had a wonderful 2022, and are blessed with a happy, healthy and productive 2023! 

Book Review: The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams

The Glass Menagerie is the play that brought Tennessee Williams his first critical acclaim on a playwright.  He would later go on to write A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, among many other works. 

The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie is the story of family.  A mother, and her adult son and daughter; the husband/father abandoned the family years before.  The mother is a has-been socialite, stuck in memories of her glory years being courted by multiple suitors and regrets of having chosen the wrong man.  To make up for her wasted life, she pours her efforts into her daughter, trying to ensure she finds a man to marry.  However, the daughter has an unnamed disability and social anxiety.  Her son exists to support the family, although he is miserable and dreams of fleeing his boring warehouse job and family responsibilities.

Williams has a talent for character development, weaving a rich story using the most mundane of situations and only two rooms of an apartment scene. 

A quick read, but an excellent play. 

4 stars.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve.  It has been a quiet few days around the house, with the cold limiting my time outside.  That’s something I’m not used to in Minnesota.  Negative numbers.  I don’t think I will get used to it. 

I wish I could say I were doing something exciting.  A trip to Mexico or Hawaii or Spain.  Camping in Arizona, which seems like it might be the only place in the country that is warm right now!  Sadly, nope.  One day, I hope that’s my Christmas plan – travel.  It sounds lovely.

Meanwhile, a book, a puzzle, movies and lots of time snuggling with the cats will have to suffice. 

I’m happy that we have passed the winter solstice, and it will start to stay light longer.  But I wish it weren’t quite so cold! 

May you all have Christmases that are Merry and Bright!

Book Review: The Red Pony

The Red Pony, by John Steinbeck

Did every kid read this book in elementary school, or did we just all watch the movie?

The Red Pony

At any rate, if I did read it, I couldn’t remember, so I picked it up off the to-be-read shelf and gave it a quick read.  It’s a story of four episodic chapters in a boy’s life, growing up on a small cattle ranch in California during the 1930s. The book is named for the pony Jody receives from his father, an afterthought purchase at an auction.  He’s excited to care for the pony and nurture him back to health.

Sadly, the pony doesn’t fare too well, but the boy cares for him admirably until the end.  The other stories are in the same vein, showing life on the farm for a boy coming of age.  It’s Steinbeck, so they have his typical emotionless, and slightly depressing prose.  All in all, I imagine it is an accurate depiction of life during the Great Depression.

I never really understood why Steinbeck is so critically acclaimed, but it is a quick read, and he does have a knowledge of horses and ranch life that shows. 

3 stars. 


Seems like the whole country is in the middle of a cold snap.  Temperatures are forecast in the Pacific Northwest going down to -10 degrees with the wind chill.  It was 15 yesterday morning.  Where I’m at in Minnesota, it is -8 with a wind chill of -25.  I haven’t gone outside yet today.  It’s sunny, but I don’t think I should allow that to mislead me.  It’s a trap. 

I did a beautiful hike in the snow the other day.  I love how snow makes the whole world go quiet.  We humans could learn something from quiet, but most people don’t stop and stand still long enough to really listen.

It’s been three months since I quit my job and retired.  I’m not regretting it.  I’ll admit I have been a bit lazy lately.  I haven’t done anything to save the world, or end hunger; I’ve been resting.  I did visit Duluth, Minnesota for the first time the weekend before last.  I saw Lake Superior and one of its small lighthouses, and even went to a walk through Christmas light show. It was unseasonably warm – about 31 degrees, which made walking around tolerable for me.

I have been doing some puzzles, and reading lots, and I watched all the episodes of Yellowstone!  I’m really enjoying the show, but now that I’m caught up, I’m going to have to find something else to start watching.  Outlander is in the running, and The Crown (that one has a backstory for a different day), or maybe picking up where I left off on This is Us.  So many options for someone who watches as little TV as I do!

I watched Going My Way the other night, with Bing Crosby.  It had been a few years since I saw it, and I loved it all over again.  It seems like life used to be simpler – I could go for that.  I have two more books to read before the end of the year to meet my goal of 38 books.  Admittedly, I’ll read a couple of shorter ones to squeak by.  Then it will be back to the beefier history books after the beginning of the year.  That’s not cheating, right?  I just started The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams.

There has been a lot of change for me this year.  Mostly good, some really hard.  People don’t necessarily do well with change, and I’m not any different.  As for Christmas, well I’m not any better this year at getting into the holiday spirit.  For some reason, I always struggle with being the Cindy Lou Who…  I still say that my perfect Christmas would just be to travel.  To spend the day hiking in a National Park, eating a picnic lunch, and heading back to a warm shower, a dinner of cheese and crackers and a bottle of wine at the hotel.  I have yet to have this dream Christmas. 

So we’ll just postpone any more positive change until next week.  Maybe the New Year.  I did get my ornaments made for the family homemade ornament exchange, so I’m feeling pretty productive.  That might be all there is. 

I do want to start planning a spring trip, and figuring out what new section of the country I want to visit!  I have been googling distances, but I haven’t begun any planning in earnest.  Who knows, maybe I’ll just set off without a real plan again like I did in 2018.  I have the ability to just go with the flow! 

I hope you are all safe and well and enjoying the holiday season. Merry Christmas!




Book Review: Exit Wounds

Exit Wounds, by J.A. Jance

I know a lot of you probably read J.A. Jance, including several of my aunts, which is probably where I got this book.  Jance has several series with different main characters, which provides a bit of variety for the reader.

Exit Wounds (Joanna Brady, #11)

Joanna Brady is the first female Sheriff of Cochise County; she is dealing with multiple murders and the deaths of 17 dogs in four separate incidents in the the Arizona heat.  All this while running for Sheriff during an Independence week heatwave.  The clues are hard to come by, and Brady is concerned that more murders will follow if the killer(s) aren’t found quickly.

It’s a typical mass market murder mystery, but it was an interesting quick read.  It was nice to see a capable, intelligent woman in a position of authority, and her creative problem solving skills made the book more interesting!  Of course, the book wraps up with a “happy” ending (as happy as an ending can be in a murder mystery).

I enjoyed the book and would probably read another one if it dropped into my lap, but I probably won’t rush out and buy any J.A. Jance books.  Just a bit too formulaic for me. 

3 stars.


Circus Trip 2018: Garden of the Gods

Day 78 & 79, Monday & Tuesday, October 1 & 2, 2018
Colorado Springs and Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado

I’m rarely if ever sick, but when I do get sick, I go all in.  Thankfully this time it wasn’t for long!  I had stayed at a La Quinta the night before, because the price difference between camping and a hotel in Colorado Springs is not significant.  So when I woke up the next morning feeling dizzy and nauseous, it was easy to just stay for another day.  I slept, and relaxed and watched television for the day. I also had the gyro platter from the Caspian Cafe next door; it was so delicious! 

The next day, October 2, I was feeling better, and got on the road again.  My stop for the day was at the Garden of the Gods, in Colorado Springs. The Garden of the Gods was discovered by white settlers as early as 1859, when two surveyors were in the area.  One of them announced that the area would be a perfect place for a beer garden!  His companion exclaimed instead that it was the a place for the Gods to assemble, and therefore it should be called the Garden of the Gods.

The park’s natural rock formations were caused by the upheaval of a fault line millions of years ago.  Native Americans are known to have been using the area as early as 1330 B.C.  Several tribes, including the Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee, Shoshone, and Ute people, all claim a cultural tie to the park, and petroglyphs that are similar to Ute styles have been found in the park.  In 1879, Charles Elliott Perkins purchased 480 acres that included sections of the current park.  When he died in 1909, he donated his property to the City of Colorado Springs, with the stipulation that it become a free park. 

This free park is amazing!  There are paved and gravel trails, and plenty of rock formations to wander among.  It is so stunningly beautiful!  There are 21 miles of trails winding by rock formations, rock overhangs, and scenic views.  I really enjoyed hiking in this park and taking photos.  The views are amazing, and I had so much fun hiking here.  There is something incredible around every corner.

There was a rock formation called the Siamese Twins, where you can see Pike’s Peak through the arch in the rock. 

Kissing Camels is on the main trail.  The Sentinel and the Three Graces both have huge fins. 


And Balanced Rock is right off the parking lot.  There is a lot to see and do here. 

After leaving Garden of the Gods, I drove through Old Colorado City, which is the historic section of Colorado Springs.  I would love to go back and do some exploring there someday.  Upon leaving Colorado Springs, I drove on Highway 24, which was very scenic.  The aspens were starting to put on their show and I was lucky to see some!  I passed through several cute towns, including Divide, and would love to see more in that area too.

I stayed that night at a KOA in Buena Vista, Colorado, with a very good view! 

Book Review: Coast to Coast Ghosts

Coast to Coast Ghosts: True Stories of Hauntings Across America, by Leslie Rule

Who doesn’t like a good ghost story!? 

Coast to Coast Ghosts: True Stories of Hauntings Across America

Leslie Rule takes a smattering of ghost stories from across the nation (and even a few from overseas).  She researches each story by interviewing witnesses, by finding historical accounts of murders and sudden deaths, and even going to the site to experience it for herself. The result is a fun dive into the land of beings from the other side. 

Of course, writing about ghosts is always a bit of guesswork, because ghosts are notorious for not clearly identifying themselves or telling us why they are there.  But Leslie Rule does provide plausible explanations for the hauntings, and the identity of the departed.  In many cases, she is able to dig up more information than long-time historians in an area.

Her matter of fact writing style and background research makes for a book that is more informative than scary, and I enjoyed the stories even when I was by myself after dark. 

4 stars.  

Book Review: The Coast of Good Intentions

The Coast of Good Intentions, by Michael Byers

Having grown up and lived most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, I was intrigued when I picked up this book of short stories that are all set in the Northwest.  There are eight stories in all, with a collection of characters that are diverse in age and background.  

The Coast of Good Intentions

I enjoyed the stories, and appreciated the character development present in the stories.  It isn’t easy to achieve reader engagement in your characters when each story averages less than 20 pages.  I also loved recognizing some of the places that I have visited and seen in my travels around my state of Washington.

The stories touch on grief and aging, love and loss, and quirky people moving through their lives.  I was interested in all of them, and enjoyed them. The only thing I didn’t appreciate was some of the endings were abrupt; I wanted to know more about how their lives turned out!

3 stars.

Circus Trip 2018: Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Day 77, Sunday, September 30, 2018
Paint Mines Interpretive Park, Calhan, Colorado

I made it to Colorado! 

I gotta say, I was pretty excited to get to Colorado, and even more excited to check out Paint Mines Interpretive Park.  I first learned about this park in 2015 on another trip to Colorado, but we didn’t have enough time for a visit.  But this time I did!  Plus the weather had gotten much better since I left Kansas, and it was now a beautiful sunny day in the 60s. 

This 750 acre park is filled with colorful rock formations and hoodoos, created by iron rich soils that stained the rock in different colors.  The softer clay eroded faster than other rock to form the hoodoos.  You can walk among these spires and explore the slots and shallow caves that were created by this erosion.

I found a bunny who was kind enough to pose for me too; so I was able to get a good shot of him. 

All in all, this small out of the way park was a great one; it was about 30 minutes from Colorado Springs.  It was so fun to explore!  I absolutely loved just wandering, and felt so at peace among the rock formations.  It had been a while since I had really been on a hike, and I really enjoyed it!