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Circus Trip 2018: Hovenweep National Monument

Day 83, Saturday, October 6, 2018
Hovenweep National Monument, Montezuma Creek, Utah

Hovenweep is one of the most amazing places I have ever been in my entire life.  I know people say things like this a lot, but it is truly incredible.  When people ask me what my favorite place on this trip was, Hovenweep always comes up at the top of the list.  It is a hidden gem for sure!  It is also remote; I drove for miles down farm roads and gravel roads, even wondering if I was going the right way, but I was.

Hovenweep was first discovered by white men in 1854, when William Huntington came across the ruins while on a missionary trip for Brigham Young.  It was designated as a National Monument on March 2, 1923, President Warren Harding after years of concerns about the artifacts being stolen and destroyed by explorers, ranchers and others.  Despite a long history of protection, archaeological studies really weren’t done here until the 1970s. Visitation now is still very low, 39,970 people visited in 2017.

When I was there, camping was first come, first served; there are 31 campsites and there is a length limit for campers.  That said, it is soooo worth it to camp there!  It has flush toilets but no showers, and when I was there it was only $15 a night.  I got there about 3:30 in the afternoon and my first stop was at the Visitor’s Center to get some postcards and my National Parks Passport stamp. 

Then I did the loop hike of the Tower Group – it was 2.5 miles and went along the edge of Little Ruin Canyon and past several dwellings, tower and other structures built by the Puebloan people.  It was sunny and warm!  I was so fascinated by the dwellings, which provide a peek into a different style of Puebloan building.  These structures were not built into alcoves of the canyon, like the ones at Mesa Verde.  They were also not pit houses, although they were mostly built on the mesa top.  A few structures were built in the canyon itself, and many were built over the seeps and springs that are in the area. 

These people were certainly expert builders; they didn’t level the ground to build their structures, instead they shaped their construction to work with the topography.  They often built on top of large stones and outcroppings that already existed at the site.  Historians believe that the people who built these structures lived here around 1300 A.D, although there is evidence of human habitation in this area as far back as 8000 B.C.  These towers and stone houses are very well preserved.

As you walk the rim of the canyon, you pass by multiple towers and stone houses; I was in awe of these beautiful structures and once again found myself wondering what the lives of these people were like.  When you hike out here, there is almost no external noise.  I was completely alone for most of the hike and it was so quiet, save for a few birds.

I saw lots of lizards because of the warm temperatures too – I loved seeing them! 

At the end of the hike, there is a section where you climb down about 80 feet to the canyon floor and cross over to the other side to climb back out.  It wasn’t too tough though; 80 feet is nothing! 

I made dinner and sadly missed most of the sunset, and then I got a text from Carol saying she had changed her plans and had arrived at Hovenweep!  We ended up sharing my campsite that night, a bottle of Michigan Marquette wine from 12 Corners Winery.  It was a bottle I had purchased when I spent the day with my cousin back in Michigan; it was delicious!

Carol and I sat at the picnic table talking, and watching the most incredible dark skies.  You could see the Milky Way spread out across the dark sky and it was huge.  I have never seen the Milky Way pop the way that it did that night; it completely filled the sky with bright stars.  I can’t even describe how beautiful it was.  I need to get back into timed exposures with my camera and night photography!

Having a bottle of wine with a friend while watching the Milky Way that night was truly one of my favorite life experiences.  Simply incredible! 

 

 

 

 

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! 

New Life!

And so it happened!  The day finally came; my last day of work was Tuesday.  Today is my second day among the ranks of the (intentionally) unemployed!  I’m not quite there yet with the whole relaxation gig; I’m still not sleeping very well and am still worrying about work stuff.  That just how it goes for me… 

I tried my best to do what I could before my last day, but there are always things that are left undone.  It felt rushed from a work perspective, trying to hand things off, but I don’t think that could be helped.  I will say that I have rarely felt such love and appreciation from my colleagues when leaving a job.  I got so many hugs, and an appreciation lunch, and a few kind gifts, and so many kind words from those who were sorry to see me go, but understood and supported my decision.  That felt really good.  And they more than made up for the fact that my boss didn’t even say goodbye.  Not that I was surprised by that – it just reiterated why I made the decision to leave.

I am leaving for a camping trip, but got a little bit delayed because Jesus is looking out for me!  In late June I had an MRI for some weird symptoms (loss of speech) which are probably associated with migraines but who knows.  The MRI revealed three small most likely benign brain tumors, so I was scheduled for a neurology consult.  The appointment wasn’t until the end of October!  So I’ve been on a cancellation list, because I was hoping to get in before I lose my current insurance at the end of September.  I’ve gotten a few calls where I couldn’t take the call fast enough, or it was an appointment time I couldn’t take.  And I got the call again this morning, just before I left town; they can get me in today at 1:40! 

So fingers crossed that my family doctor is right, and it is just a weird and rare symptom of my migraines.  And I can head down to the coast and brave the traffic for a few days of agate hunting, relaxing, and letting the “stink blow off of me,” as the old saying goes…  I’ll keep you posted! 

May you all find blessings today.  Happy First Day of Fall!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Alexandria, Virginia

Day 63, Sunday, September 16, 2018
In and around Alexandria, Virginia

My last day in D.C. was a relaxing day with friends.  In the morning, I went horseback riding with a friend of mine in Silver Springs, Maryland.  Alexis rides at a stable there and was able to use two horses for the morning!  Mine was a 16.1 hand mare named Rosie.  She was very sweet and we had a great trail ride. 

Later in the afternoon Alexis, Jason and I went to a place called Vola’s in Alexandria for drinks and appetizers.  The day was warm and the outdoor seating was lovely.  I had a Whiskey drink and it was soooo good!  It was fun just catching up with friends.

On the way home, Jason and I stopped to check out the George Washington Masonic Memorial.  It is such an impressive memorial!  Construction was started in 1922, and it was dedicated in 1932.  However, the interior was not completed until 1970!  It is designed to look like the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt.

It is such a beautiful building!  We were there in the evening, so we didn’t have a chance to go inside, but maybe one day.  The interior is supposed to be pretty interesting, with murals and displays honoring George Washington.  We did get to walk up the stairs, so at least we got some exercise!  It was a nice, relaxing final day in the Washington, D.C. area. 

Goodbye 2021: Another Year in COVID

I had such high hopes for 2021 at the beginning.  Surely it had to be better than 2020, which basically delivered a whole steaming pile of death, destruction and mayhem (and some significant savings on commuting).  But in fact, 2021 has given us a crazy roller-coaster of whiplash moments that frequently left me feeling like I was a cat watching a game of ping-pong, quietly muttering to myself, “make it make sense…”

There were some silver linings in 2021 though, mixed in with some heartaches.

In May my heart broke when a long-time friend and ex-boyfriend died of a massive heart attack after spending ten days on life support.  Although we were no longer that close, there was a time when he meant the world to me and it was so hard to see him taken so soon.

I also caught Yellow in May, a stray cat who my old neighbor had been feeding, and brought him inside.  Over the last seven months, he has decided that the indoor life is really pretty good.  He sits on my lap, sleeps on the bed curled up with me and doesn’t even mind Cora.

In June, I took a vacation to parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and even a bit of Wisconsin.  The weather was hot and sunny, and good company made for a great trip.  The lakes are warm enough that you feel like you are swimming in lukewarm bathwater!  And the little sunfish come up and nibble on your legs…  

I worked almost exclusively remotely until July, when we all spent 2 months back in the office on a full-time basis.  Now, I’m back working two days a week from home, which is nice as gas prices are crazy with inflation lately.

In August a girlfriend and I got away to the Oregon Coast for a week of agate hunting, trying new restaurants and breweries, and sightseeing.  It wasn’t that warm, but it was still glorious!  We had such a good time!

I took two weekend getaways to the Washington Coast, one in May by myself and another in early December with a girlfriend.  Beach-combing and sightseeing were on the agenda, and were good for the soul.

I did several Sunday Fundays with girlfriends, weather permitting, and found new places close to home to explore.

Sadly, 2021 saw people be viciously mean to others.  A lot of people have stopped living by the Golden Rule, and somehow feel that they now have a right to judge others they don’t agree with.  Unfortunately, the internet helps with this, as people feel more comfortable sitting behind their keyboards and expelling their verbal diarrhea on others.  It has been hard to see.  In the end, we will all be judged by God and him alone, so I hope people take a step back and move back into kindness in 2022.  I have had to step back from people like that, as it just isn’t worth my sanity.

With so much time at home, I finished 11 puzzles and read 38 books! 

We are closing out the year with two big snowstorms and frigidly cold temperatures.  As I write this, the 23 degree temperature is warmer than it has been all week!  Which isn’t a big deal other places, but it is rare that we deal with the threat of frozen pipes and black ice here.  It really is pretty though when you aren’t out in it…

Given that 2021 did not indeed turn out to be the comeback year that I was hoping for, I must now cast my gaze towards 2022 and sternly notify it that it must, indeed be better.  May 2022 bring you blessings…

COVID Diaries: Day 431

I had a great weekend.  Friday was my day off, and I ended up being kind-of lazy.  I did walk to the store to pick up fruit to make fruit salad for book club on Friday night.  We were able to meet on the rooftop of a downtown building, with fabulous views!  I love the company of these smart, compassionate women, and our topics of conversation ranged from COVID, to jobs, to love.  The love part makes a lot of sense, as the book, my pick, was about healing from a broken heart. 

 

Saturday was chores day.  I did get quite a bit done that I intended.  I did a deep clean vacuuming, including the stairs, the corners with the wand, and the hardwood and linoleum.  I did a lot of laundry (sheets and blankets and jackets), and folded most of it.  I did dishes, and put things away and broke down some boxes to recycle.  I mowed the lawn and raked up the heavy clumps of grass that were left behind.  Even better though, I had a chance to spend a couple of hours sitting in the sunshine, reading.  Heaven! 

Today, Tiffany and I went to lunch at a place a bit south of us, that has excellent food.  My elk burger was so delicious that I ate the whole thing! 

 

Then we went to check out a state park we had never been to before.  Rasar State Park was well worth the trip!  We spent a couple hours walking the few miles of trails, talking, and were mostly alone the entire time.  The trails take you down to the river, which is a feeding ground for bald eagles in the late fall and winter.  I’m going to have to come back in the winter…  They have a small campground with camping cabins that look like they would be fun to stay in too! 

We came home happy; there just something about nature that is so good for the soul.  And our timing was wonderful, since it started raining about a half hour after we got back.

In COVID news, our Governor FINALLY announced a full reopening no later than the end of June.  Yay!  It’s about time!  Of course, there’s still a chance that he could move away from that, but hopefully it happens.  I guess that means you have 5 more weeks of COVID Diaries, before I’ll have to abandon it for a new series! 

COVID Words of Wisdom: It is not your job to make other people comfortable with who you are.  Be wary of those who don’t want you to change or grow.  Grow anyway — there is no alternative.  Keep Moving.  -Maggie Smith

 

COVID Diaries: Day 420

This past weekend I took a brief trip to the Washington coast.  It was full of solitude, but realistically, that’s basically the same as being at home.  Except the sandy beaches. 

I found a little, cute motel in Ocean Shores, and spent a few days walking on the beaches, looking for sand dollars and agates.  I got up before dawn to get to the agate beach at low tide, and barely saw another soul in the hours I was there. I found several agates and lots of interesting jasper rocks.  I also found one gorgeous, large red agate (not pictured)!  I can’t wait to see how they look after getting polished in the tumbler. 

I also found a ton of sand dollars, as I wandered all by myself on a windy, on-and-off rainy Saturday.  Going to the beach in the Pacific Northwest, at any time of the year, isn’t for the faint of heart.  I was cold and tired by the time I got back to the room each time, but on Saturday I got 20,000 steps wandering along the beaches.

Cora issued stern looks when I got home.  How dare I go away…  It was good for me to get away, but I’m lonely.  That part never really goes away, whether I’m at home or away.  I haven’t quite learned to settle into that skin. 

I started a new puzzle; one I received as a gift for Christmas from my aunt and uncle.  I made quick work of the border Monday, but haven’t done more yet.

Somehow we got a reprieve from going back into a tighter lock down.  Our governor “put a pause” on rolling back counties that weren’t meeting the metrics, including my county.  It’s almost as if he’s just making it up as he goes along…  Yes, I’m being sarcastic…  I guess we’ll see what happens in two weeks.

COVID Words of Wisdom: I found myself thinking about you last night and about everything that was lost.  But it was different this time.  My heart reminded me that I still have everything.  You are the one who lost it all.  — Alfa Holden.

COVID Diaries: Day 316

Another long long week…  Another weekend!  Except I have a meeting in the morning on my day off because I wasn’t quite able to get to everything I needed to get done.  Sigh…  Cora doesn’t mind; she just likes that I’m home.

The COVID cases here continue to be high, so unfortunately the lockdown continues, even as most other states are lifting theirs.  Our surge started after the new lockdown went into effect, so let’s just think on that for a moment…  I’m tired.  The vaccine rollout is a mess; our county has literally no vaccine at all.

We got about a flake and a half of snow this week before it petered out and the sun came out.  I think I would have preferred a foot of snow!  I mean I work from home anyway, so why not?

The weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day my friend and I went on a little Sunday Funday jaunt nearby.  We found an old ship from 1917 that was scrapped and turned into a breakwater in the 1960s.  The trees growing out of it are pretty tall!  I’ve lived here all my life and had no idea this was close by until I was searching around for fun oddities to go see.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, and we had a great time!  It was so refreshing to have good weather in January! That made lunch outside tolerable, maybe even nice?  The fish and chips certainly lifted my spirits!

We also spent some time exploring a nearby state park that I’ve driven by a million times, but rarely stop at.  We walked the beach and hiked to a view of the Deception Pass Bridge.  What an incredible day!

I started a new puzzle, but haven’t made it very far.  The panorama format makes it look so small, even though it is 750 pieces!

I was thinking on life the other day and came up the idea to pass along some words of wisdom.  I mean, I’ve done a lot of living; it’s nice to think I might have learned something along the way.  Some will be mine, but I might share snippets from others too (attributed of course).  So here you go!

COVID Words of Wisdom:  If you are lucky enough to have a woman who tells you what she needs, make sure you listen and at least try to deliver. If you don’t, she won’t stop needing it, but she will stop needing it from you.

Circus Trip 2018: Birthday Lobster

Day 52, Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Beal’s Lobster Pier, SW Harbor, Maine

When you are alone, holidays can be hard…  So I wasn’t sure what to expect from my road trip birthday.  Did I want to mark it in any way, or just let it slide by unnoticed?

Being in Maine at my birthday was fortuitous.  I had always wanted to try whole lobster, and what better place to experience it for the first time than Maine, where I could have fresh whole Maine lobster right at the source!

I asked around that morning and learned that Beal’s Lobster Pier was recommended as the place to be for Maine lobster.  It was near Acadia National Park, so when I finished my days’ touristing, I headed over to check it out.  I arrived fairly early; if I remember correctly it was just before 5, and it wasn’t too busy yet.  I let the man at the counter know I had never had whole Maine lobster, and he set to work picking out a good one for me.  And the sides, you can’t forget the sides…  Coleslaw, corn on the cob, and cornbread…

After I paid, I wandered out to find a table with my glass of Vinho Verde, and had the most incredible view of the harbor from my seat.  It was a warm evening, and I felt so at peace on the water, seeing the occasional boat come in.

My lobster came with instructions on how to crack and eat it, and I was so grateful!  I made sure to take a photo so I could have it in case one day I needed them.

My meal was amazing!  So fresh, and so simple, and easily one of the best meals I have ever had.  It was delicious, and I felt like it was a birthday dinner done right!

Note: For those of you in the know, this was the day before my actual birthday.  It still counts!

COVID Diaries: Day 199

Well lookie there, we are almost at 200 days of this “new normal.” Blech.

I went clothes shopping in the new normal last night. Which consisted of me buying four pairs of jeans, taking them over to my friend’s house, which is closer to the store, trying them all on, and returning the other three to the store. Someone please tell me how this makes sense.

It has made for some quiet weekends and busy work weeks. I did have a great little day trip over to the island with a few girlfriends on the last weekend of summer. The boat ride was incredible, the weather was perfect, and we had fun poking around in shops and laughing so hard we cried. We even saw porpoises from the boat! Girlfriends are the best.

Then the weather turned to fall with a vengeance. High winds and heavy rain for several days. Fun. It did clear out the smoke though! In the last couple of days the smoke has closed in again, but not to the same degree. There’s hope that it will go away starting tomorrow. It irritates my eyes and my throat…

I’m definitely not ready for winter. With everything being so messed up this year, it feels like we shouldn’t even have to count it! We should get to skip winter and start in the spring! It seems like a good idea to me, but I doubt I’m going to be able to get this plan off the ground.

At least it is the weekend!