Thursday, May 5, 2016

Keeping the Spontaniety in Retirement

If you were to ask me the best thing about retirement, the first things out of my mouth would be the ability to throw out the alarm clock, and the ability to act spontaneously. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy so many other things about retirement. I appreciate having the time to give back to others in a big way, to challenge myself mentally, creatively and physically, to do things off season and much much more. But much of my retirement enjoyment streams directly from those first two things.

Sometimes, as we look to become involved in various activities, it can seem as if we are giving that spontaneous lifestyle away, but I would suggest that there can be a happy medium between getting involved, and having that "free as a bird" feeling, and we all need to find our own level.

In my case, I do have quite a few regularly scheduled weekly commitments, with some taking a summer hiatus. On a weekly basis, I take at least one college class. I belong to a knitting group. I volunteer for about three hours each day two mornings a week, and on most Thursday nights I attend a dinner followed by either an educational class or an activity through my church. Not to miss anything, I also have a few "monthly engagements" including two book clubs, two craft groups that meet once a month and my quilt guild.

These are the regularly scheduled things in my life, although life also includes exercising and home improvements and writing and more-those things are just not part of my "regularly scheduled program" if you will.

So how to keep the spontaneity in retirement while being "involved"?  Well first, I always keep Fridays free, and unless there is a senior college class that truly floats my boat, I keep Mondays free as well. Thats right, the majority of my scheduled commitments on a weekly and even monthly basis are mainly on three days of the week. And, since I recently committed to no more than two commitments on any day, that certainly limits my involvement, by default. On Tuesday I volunteer in the morning and take a class at nite. On Wednesday I knit and go to happy hour, and on Thursday I volunteer in the morning and have a regular dinner and social at night.  And so it goes. I'm looking to add an art class for a short period, and will probably have to settle for whatever day is available.

To be sure, this in no way means that I have nothing to do on these days, rather that I don't regularly schedule long term commitments on these two days unless something really, really catches my eye.

Why live retirement his way?  Simple really.  This allows me to have two days (and the weekend) where I can do whatever strikes me (or doesn't strike me) in the morning. These are the days that I can: read a book from cover to cover with just a small break, decide at the last minute to take a drive to the mountains, spend the day working on a big art project, simply loll around, call someone to meet me for lunch, have a weekday brunch by myself, or even jump in the car to head out for a four day weekend. In other words, whatever floats my boat. These are also the days that if someone says "do you want to....", I can almost always say yes!

We all have to find our own balance in retirement including between planned and spontaneous activities, and if you are anything like me, those unplanned times vary widely from week to week (and even from day to day). Tomorrow for example, my kinda sorta plan is to do some serious sewing most of the day, uninterrupted. On the other hand, I really want to see the new Captain America, so might decide to run off to the morning movie tomorrow first. Next Friday, who knows? 

We all have to find what works for us, but trust me, there is a balance between commitment and freedom in retirement. We just each have to find our own level, and be unafraid to say when we've found it.

And so it goes, this Thursday in retirement.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Making Do?

As a frugal retiree, I consider myself to be frugal rather than a tightwad. Admittedly, on some occasions I can be extremely frugal.  However, I pride myself on not being "tight", mainly as that is not how I choose to live my life. You'll never see me wearing my socks after they have holes, or even darning them. While I may re-purpose the socks into rags or anyone of a dozen other things, trust me, they are out of my drawer.

There are definitely things I don't spend money on, that I have identified here on more than one occasion. Some of the things I don't spend money on are things that would be important to others but not to me-expensive make-up and grooming, eating out multiple times a week, and other things. There are also those things I don't buy because there are too many free alternatives-such as my trusty library, where I can get both digital books and old fashioned paper books for free (as well as movies, games, and more).

For the rest though, I simply prefer to find good quality things at the cheapest price, rather than do without. Socks are bought on sale with coupons added and hopefully with gift cards I've earned through rewards. Instead of giving up on the movies I go during the weekday and unashamedly use my senior discount (and also my movie rewards card which gives me both discounted munches and a free ticket every so often). You get the idea.

Which is why I had to laugh recently when my son looked at me and said "Mom, why don't you just go and get some winter nightgowns?".  You see, before I moved from Texas to Colorado, I had purchased a huge amount of sleepwear, all of which are short sleeved knee length silk nightgowns, appropriate for the temperature. Then I got to Denver, where I truly met cold weather again, as I have the past week. Denver weather is psychotic, in that it can be seventy five in January, and yet April is the snowiest month. All you folks elsewhere who say things like "Wait two hours and the weather will change", have yet to live in a place where, because of the mountains, the weather can drop forty degrees in fifteen minutes.

Anyway, to get back to the tightwadish-ness at hand:  In the three years I have lived in Denver, I have bought a whole two pairs of winter sleepwear. Trust me, this is not because I am always warm, I am the girl who keeps her house at 74 in the winter and 68 at night. Rather, I did not want to waste that couple dozen of expensive mild weather night gowns. Instead, I had two long sleeved fairly lightweight sweaters that had been purchased at Walmart and given to me. Having cold feet, I also have a veritable plethora of those fuzzy socks. So up until now, I have slept with a sweater over summer nightgowns and fuzzy socks as needed.  Next year, I'll probably have to actually get some velour or flannel pajamas or gowns. Meanwhile, this works for me, as strange as it looks or sounds. And since I'm fairly new to sleepwear in general  (my late husband was one of those people who gave off  heat like an oven, requiring me to only have something warm for when I got out of bed), comfort is of the most importance.

When I began visiting my family in Denver while in Germany and Dallas, I had purchased my own bed for the guest room. Being a person who needs a really firm bed and lots of pillows, I purchased my own firm bed and basic bed frame without headboard to replace the guest room futon. It worked at the time.  In Dallas, I ended up selling my expensive bedroom set (with large sleigh bed, double wide end tables, and a four drawer wide dresser with mirror) before I moved.  Remember, I thought I was moving into a condo with small to moderate bedrooms. Since then, I have been sleeping on the expensive, firm mattress I bought-on a bed frame with wheels that are blocked. I ended up taking two large sofa pillows from a couch set partially left behind, and pilling up the pillows against them-all against the wall. At the time I thought it was a temporary solution. I still have not purchased the bed frame. Heck, I have not even looked for one. This temporary rigging has been so comfortable (and actually looks so very good) that I have never bothered to date to serious look for a solution.

Now, if you asked me, I would probably not say that either solution is "making do". Rather I would say, "But this works for me". The end result though is that I have avoided a new purchase-whether deliberately or accidentally I'm not sure.

In the end I expect, it goes back to priorities, as does all spending. It is what it is.

Meanwhile, I'm off to get a few more socks. It is sandal weather, but I need them for working out. And while I'm there, I may even look for queen sized bed frames-who knows!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Joy of Dabbling in Retirement

Yes, it's been awhile!!!!

While I have been enjoying my slightly slowed down retirement schedule, the last week has not been in that vein. I've had some full volunteering days due to some special events. On Thursdays my church has a short service, a dinner and presentation, and the current one has to do with multi faith relationships with a Muslim educator and a Rabbi and so on, and I have been engrossed (look for a blog post on this topic and tolerance). Add that to a couple deadlines and I have, literally been running this week. Hopefully next week will return to a more even retirement keel.

Meanwhile, in a post-Christmas post, I previously shared with everyone that I was blessed to receive a serging machine for Christmas. I also received a full set of art supplies after I commented that I would not mind some paints or colored pencils. This set included oil paints, watercolors, acrylics, water color pencils and regular colored pencils-and that was not everything in the box. Basically, everything I could possibly need to draw or paint or color or anything else artistic.

Believe it or not, until this weekend I have not done anything with the art stuff except use a few of the colored pencils on grid paper to design and color in potential quilts. As of this week though, I am ready to begin experimenting with all my fun stuff-but on my own.

No, I am not taking an art class to improve my skills and be truly proficient (although I may eventually).  Right now, I am simply playing, "dabbling" if you will. On my desk, I have paper, water, brushes and all of these supplies and more. I have no plan, I've just decided that each day I will do something that is fun or an experiment. Nothing more.  And if I don't get to my art stuff each day, that's perfectly okay as well.  I don't feel the need to be "artistic" or to "develop my skill" as such, but just to have fun, and possibly learn a few things along the way.

Since childhood, we are taught that if we are to do something, we should do it well (and forever). When our kids drop out after one year of ballet and wants to do tap, we object and say things like "You need to pick one thing and stick with it". If a child wants to play soccer one year and softball the next, we think they are "flighty". What about creativity, experimenting, or even learning what we like through trial and error?

There are some things I like to do that are passions, and I am constantly and consistently learning more, advancing my skills and perfecting. Quilting would probably fall into that category. There are some things that I love to do that I will probably never be more than "okay" at-but that has never, ever stopped me doing them. There are some things that I like to do but do less than passably. I do them anyway, because I love it. Singing is definitely in that category. And finally, there are things that I try and only like enough to do once or twice, as well as things I try at and completely fail at. And of course, as in every life, there are those things that I do poorly or don't love that must be done as part of life (cooking, for me is something that has to be done and I don't do it well. Eating, that's another thing entirely)

All of this is okay. Retirement (and life in general) is about learning and doing and having fun. Don't get me wrong, I am all about learning new skills, improving ourselves and life long learning, as I have shared more than once. But every thing we do in life does not have to be at that level or intensity. 

I did check a couple of art books out of the library and will probably get a couple more. Only, these are kids art experimentation books, which are the perfect level for me. After all, the joy should be in the doing, no matter the result. 

While most of the example above are craft related, I have experimented with many things in my life, most of them temporary. Sometimes the end result was so so, somethings good, and on rare occasions, horrible. But rather than decide by the end result (as long as no humans or animals were hurt during my play time), I judged success by the enjoyment I experienced at the time, rather than the end result.

I am not the queen of the world, as family members regularly remind me. If I were, I would say, go and take that pottery class. If you don't like it, just don't take another. Go out with friends to cocktails and canvas, and darn it, hang that picture on the wall when you are done. Join the 50 plus singing group at the rec center-even if you know your singing is best done in the shower. Think about the fun you will have and the people you'll meet. Take up golf in your sixties, and keep playing even if you are, well, not great. You'll meet other women (or men), have fun, be outside and get lots of exercise.

I don't know about anyone else, but for me life would be pretty boring if I only did what I already knew, knew I was good at, and knew I liked. Where's the fun in that?

Admittedly, I may have more than my share of the dabbling gene.When I see something that looks like fun, I generally want to jump right in. Occasionally I "wait for instruction", but just as often, I jump in with both feet. I learn as I go, and enjoy the process and end result no matter how amateurish they may be. I'm sure more than one of the results from my upholstery attempts qualify as epic fails. On the other hand, I do have the painting I made at Kanvas and Cocktails on my bedroom wall!

So no matter how good or how bad my painting is at the end of this journey, I still will have had fun, and have a full sketchbook of memories to share (or not!)

And so it goes this weekend in retirement. Why is it that on the nicest days, my leg hurts the most from top to bottom??

Saturday, April 16, 2016

One Retiree's Frivolity.............................

I have a confession to make. I live on $2900 a month, and and this month I may well  spend $250 a month on crafting supplies and fabric related items. In fact, I shopped for fabric yesterday during my errand day, and I plan to order fabric online today.  I also have two summer to fall vacations planned, and more. All on a measly fixed income.  Of course, all this is budgeted and planned for, don't get me wrong. Still, as the title of this blog post says, those and other purchases are what many would consider frivolous by some standards.

Bright enough, you think?

A paraphrase of the old saying goes "show me your checkbook and I'll tell you your values".  I suspect my spending, especially on my errand days, show mine. For most of my life I have been the kind of person who prefers to bundle up her errands for a couple or maybe three times a month. I could say that it's to save gas and be financially responsible. The real reasons are two fold-because I want to keep as many days a week as possible for the fun stuff, and because I don't love to shop, even when it is fun stuff for me, especially in store shopping. As a result I tend to look at stuff online first, and then go into the store. The Internet as a money saving tool is something I could go on about for a fairly long time.

I know other people who are just the opposite, and some who are just like me. Some of my retiree type friends simply love to shop for themselves and others. Some make errands part of their daily and weekly routine, in order to bring structure and force themselves out of the house. I have other things that do the latter. 

I tend to do as many errands in one day as possible, and usually include taking myself out alone (yes, alone I said) to breakfast or a nice lunch as part of the routine. Yesterday's errand run is probably a perfect example of my varied spending, from cheapskate to "I don't care how much it costs".

If you watched me go into the grocery store, for example,  you would know that I am a cheap coupon queen. I have a "price book" as to the lowest price on most things.  While we eat very well, my purchases consisted only of so called loss leader purchases that were within that guideline (chicken drumsticks at 99 cents, with one package being frozen and one being turned into slow cooker barbecue drumsticks for dinner as one example), fresh produce, staples and a few sale items such as Skinny Pop. In other words, all the sale items on the outside aisles with a few extras. Admittedly the extras always include soda, wine and chocolate. What can I say??? Still, when it comes to my costs of groceries, we eat really well on hardly any money.

Yes, those walls are still a dull green, but I am working on it. Ive booked my live in handy guy, when he's free.

Next, I explored the local thrift shop on senior day, looking for storage baskets, checking out the clothing and old linens that could be up-cycled.  I also checked out office chairs, and cool jewelry, and looked to see if by any miracle there were patio furniture pieces. I purchased nothing, but later picked up a like new basket set for my sewing studio for a couple bucks that I found on a Facebook garage sale group. I also accepted a free bag of old panty hose, and two bags of odds and ends of yarn. My mantras are that smart women do not pay full price, one should never turn down free stuff out of hand, that and second hand is often preferable. I then used my fuel points at the lowest price Kroger affiliated gas station and filled my tank (you do know about grocery points and gas, right? And the gift card deals for gas points?)

I also got in a free walk around the mall (even in cold weather, I exercise for free at least half the time, and then use the pool and hot tub as my leg needs them the other times), checked to see if there was a waiting line at great Clips (short hair means tiny bills for haircuts), and made a dollar store list for if I had time (I did not that day).

To this point I sound exactly like the frugal retiree should sound, right?  But wait..............

My next stops were the local quilting store and then the local craft store. At the quilt store, I bought a fair pile of fabric, all at $12.00 per yard. At the craft store I purchased craft store (cheaper) fabric, thread for my serger (so many toys, so little time!), scrapbook paper and paints. Now in truth, some of these things will get put into handmade gifts, crafting supplies for the homeless, stuff around the house like fabric napkins, and quilt donations.  An equal amount of my crafting stuff is simply for "play". Project that may or may not have any use depending on how they come out. This works for me. Some hobbies are productive, some are not. Mine are mainly for fun and personal enrichment, first and foremost.

I then waltzed into a clothing store and bought two brand new cardigans. Without much of a second thought. Somehow I have both patterned cardigans and patterned tops, and the two do not mix, so some spending was in order. Other than that one thrift shop, I did not look further. No consignment shops, no sale flyers. I saw the two colors that I wanted and walked in ready to purchase. Now, it was happenstance that these two items were forty percent off, but to be clear, on this day, I would have purchased these two sweaters at full price, then and there. Sometimes you just have to do it, that's all there is to it. I have a fairly small, mainly coordinated wardrobe.

My last purchase  of the day was made online, but only because I could not find the darned thing in a store, anywhere. I purchased this large, gourmet picnic backpack. While I don't backpack, I do road trip all over the country and on many local back roads (yes, you can vacation on a fixed income). The picnic basket enables me (us) to eat well, avoid fast food places and do so in style. It makes the mainly cheap picnic food and the rest stop enjoyable and will last me for a long time (did I ever share what happened to the other one with you all?).

Thankfully, after running from dawn to almost dusk, I am now free to spend my time for the next week or so and not worry about errands, grocery shopping or other of these kinds of to dos (I also pay my bills twice a month electronically, rather than paying each one when it comes in. Probably the only area in which I am truly organized). Except for a "fresh produce and milk run", I am good to go.

Other people doing errands and shopping will spend money in a different way, and that's okay. To know me is to know that my spending priorities are experiences (travel and otherwise), my creative hobbies, church and helping the homeless, my family (and home) and my health. Things that are less important to me include expensive entertainment and culture (there are so many low cost and free things), gourmet food at home, expensive furnishings and having a showplace house, home ownership and its responsibilities, international travel (until I go back to Germany), costly exercise and grooming options, and more.

Recently Kathy wrote and a couple posts over on her retirement blog about "blow money" and apparently the response was overwhelming (and not all positive). I don't have a blow money category, but I obviously spend on what others would consider frivolous expenses. In my case rather than having a blow category or an allowance as such I (and it used to be we) simply have and have had categories for most personal expense areas. 

In other words, my budget includes housing expenses, car expenses, medical insurance and costs, and groceries and household items. There is also a budget for travel and day tripping, small and occasional home decor and improvements, hobbies, the occasional health related perk such as a leg massage, and a category for church donations and charity projects. When my husband was living there was a category for "sports" (golf, skiing, sports officiating). There was also a personal spending category for each person, with each of us deciding for ourselves what these expense areas could include (if he wanted to include happy hour as a golf expense, it worked for me).

Are all these categories huge and unlimited? Of course not. My recent fabric purchase used up more than one month's hobby budget, let's just say. But they all include some money each month to be spent in these areas, and unspent money goes into a virtual envelope. These days, I also have a small "sinking" category for those small once a year monthly items such as next month's car registration. My own very personal philosophy is that my $300 dollar tax bill and my car registration are not emergencies, and as such should not be taken out of emergency funds or savings.

The bottom line is that there is no one way to spend our retirement, or to spend our money in retirement. We all have personal responsibility to pay those basic monthly expenses such as housing costs, food costs and medical bills, although we have more control over many of those things than we realize. There is no perfect plan though, and there are no guarantees-about how long we will live or much of anything else. For most of us, retirement would be boring and unfulfilling without the occasional hobby, trip, or social event. 

After all, retirement is not an "end" it's a beginning of a new life. One meant to be lived and lived as we see fit as much as possible.  So go ahead, spend all your disposable income on plants and flowers, rebuild that motorcycle, or purchase that sewing machine. You can be financially responsible, live on a budget, and do what works for you.

And so it goes, this April weekend. What about you? Whether you call it blow money or something else do you budget at least some money for those important areas? 


Friday, April 8, 2016

Volunteering: Doing With, Rather than To

On two days a week, I volunteer at the front desk area (and other areas as needed) at a residential women's shelter. Different from an emergency shelter, these facilities are long term transitional housing. In order to qualify for this program, women have to have been homeless for more than a year (literally, not figuratively), and have self identified mental or physical issues. Once in the shelter, they don't have to leave until they are ready and they want to, as the purpose is to help them function in society, feel safe, get them the benefits they need and so on.

During these two days, I am officially "at the front desk". Since funding allows for only a single person (caseworker) to be on staff at any given time, my being there allows Courtney (or her substitute) to close a door and have one on one intensive conversations and more with each resident.

At first blush, my volunteer gig is probably the kind that many say that they don't want. There is what some might call "busy work". I answer the phone, I hand out medicine and give out bus passes, I pass out detergent and bleach, I open supply closets with the keys. You get the idea.

Here's the thing though:  I also have long (sometimes deep, sometimes intense) conversations with these women, conversations that are often one on one. Sometimes they are as casual as talking about the last time they saw a family member or something they saw on the bus coming home from the clinic. Sometimes they are deeper, and often personal things are shared.

As I've talked about on this blog before, my late husband got Hepatitis C during a blood transfusion after major surgery almost forty years ago. Two of the women in my residential shelter have hep C. While I suspect they came about it a different way, the fear, the health concerns, the reactions are the same. I'm able to tell them that I lived a normal healthy (including the s word) relationship with someone who had a full blown case for thirty years-and that was ten years before all the treatments and drugs available today that he didn't have.

Another woman sews and knits (and puts me to extreme shame) on donated machines. She has shown me how to do various knitting stitches, and during that time we have talked in depth about her family, including a young granddaughter who gets to visit her grandmother in the shelter now that she is safe and healthy. I also spend a great deal of time talking with a women who has a bad case of diabetes (her blood sugar has measured a thousand), who has never had proper treatment or education, as every time she went for help, caregivers assumed she was exaggerating or trolling for drugs (and as a result she now has end stage pancreatitis)

This kind of one on one conversation, casual or otherwise, serves at least two purposes. It lets these women (most of whom have lived on the edges of society for far too long), know that they are worth talking to, and that they have value. It also enables both of us to communicate on a level that simply does not happen often, or often enough when we do things "for" others.

There are a variety of groups that come to the shelters that provide food (although the women have a kitchen, the food provided is very institutional and repetitive). These groups can be divided into two general groups. The first group provides the food, smiles and stands behind the pass through in the kitchen. The second group smiles as the women grab their food-and then they fill their own plates and sit among the women, eating and talking and laughing. While both serve a purpose, the the second group is longer remembered, and serves a larger purpose overall. They also become more educated about homelessness and the needs of the folks they serve than they ever could have by being in the first group.

This in no way implies that one has to volunteer with the homeless, simply that volunteering with (rather than to or for) is probably both more rewarding for the person doing the volunteering and more helpful overall to the recipient. Certainly there are other times of non-involved volunteering that have value (fundraising for example, if that is your skill and passion), but most of the people I know who do those non involved things are or have been involved on a different level with their cause or issue.

Volunteering with can happen anywhere. I used to have a friend whose six children were in high school or college, and who went to the elementary school across the street and read aloud to the second graders three times a week-while sitting on the floor and giggling, not from a chair or in the middle of the room. A fellow blogger tutors community college kids. Bob over at Satisfying Retirement has embarked on a ministry of talking with lonely and or depressed seniors on the phone. In Texas, my son and I regularly worked with Habitat for Humanity, one of the biggest examples of volunteering with, as the recipient and healthy family members participate with volunteers in building a house.

Even as I write this I am sure that someone is thinking, "but they still need THINGS, and they still need busy work".  Both of those are true, but in almost any volunteer capacity, they are ways to deliver those things and services will still talking to and relating to the recipients as people, and often people just like us.  In order to stop thinking of (students, homeless people, the handicapped, drug addicts) as simply the "others", personal interaction and true listening are of major importance.

So even though I've promised myself to slow down, and tried to only schedule a single project on many days, I keep on with my twice a week visits-knowing that they are just as valuable to me as they are to the women on the other end.

And so it goes, this Friday in retirement.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Instead of Traveling, I'm Taking A Vacation?

As many regular readers know, I have been talking about a long road trip along the gulf coast for many months-at least since August of last year when I put my end of summer road trip on hold. I've even planned, and talked about the planning more than once. Driving to Corpus Christie, then to Galveston, then along the Cajun Coast of Louisiana to New Orleans and so on, until I end up in St Augustine, Florida. All in all, I've done a great deal of planning.

Only..........that's no longer the plan. Instead, I'm going to the beach. To one place on the beach (mainly). And there I will sit for two weeks at least. Gladly and happily. I'm still driving to the Texas Coast, and I will probably spend a single night in San Antonio, cruising the River Walk and checking out the Alamo (again). Other than that though, I plan to settle in with a beach view, and do as little as possible. While I may cook here and there, I plan to rely mainly on restaurants. I'll spend my time walking on the beach, reading, checking out my surroundings, nap on the beach-and probably repeat each day. As someone wrote once on another blog, I want a bar and a beach and a pool and if the bar is on the beach or in the pool, so much the better.

And yes, that is a real aircraft carrier parked on the beach!
I am the first to admit, this is probably not "traveling" as such, but a vacation, which is really not the norm for me. While my road trips usually end with a specific destination, the driving is part of the experience and many and new places are seen along the way. I went to Seattle for a few days, but on the way there I went to Arches National Park, visited Boise and Salt Lake (for the first time) and explored Washington State wine country. On the return trip, I drove east into the Idaho panhandle and mountains, followed the snake river, checkout the beauty of Montana and more-for a total of a couple weeks. That, to me is traveling-exploring mainly new places, having new experiences,  and hopefully learning a new thing or two along the way.

The San Antonio River Walk is always worth a day's visit

With all my years of living in Germany (and on the Eastern Seaboard before that) have plenty of experience in travel, from roughing it in hostels and camping, to staying at five star hotels in New York and Berlin. Put simply, I appreciate new experiences, people and places who are different than what I am used to, and the small off the road adventures that can be truly eye opening.

Sometimes though, we just need plain old down time-or at least I do. Even in retirement, and even when my stress level is extremely low. Sometimes, I just want a chance to "chill", and since I live in a land locked state, enjoy some serious open water (nope, lakes are not the same as the ocean, nope, nope, nope).

So this time, I am going to enjoy some sun, sand, seafood and beach wildlife, for a good couple weeks. I've been looking at VRBO, airbnb, and regular rentals, with an eye to avoiding Memorial Day crowds, and in the next couple of days I will make a final decision. I expect friends and family to join me (surprise!) for at least part of my stay to increase the fun level. So, either the two weeks before that holiday weekend, or the two weeks after, I'll be ensconced on the beachfront, and enjoying every minute of it. Oh sure, I'll still drive there, and appreciate the view, and since I need to stop both ways for the night, I'll be exploring either San Antonio or Austin for at least a day each way. I'm packing three bathing suits, sandals, maxi dresses for eating out, and knitting for on the porch.  

I can barely wait.

And just so that I can say I accomplished at least one thing on this "vacation:, I'm also exploring a local snowbird park or two, right on the water. While I cannot imagine leaving home for four months, if I ever were to consider doing so it would need to be on the water rather than in, say, Arizona. Because you never know. While four months may be excessive, a quick one month break, well, it just might work!