Retirement for Dummies ~ Go Big or Stay Home

A few weeks after I officially retired I  found myself pacing the cage with a serious case of cabin fever and more than a wee touch of the crazies. I was Bored with a capital B. And that always spells Trouble with a capital T.

What’s a recent warrior fresh from the corporate front to do? Well there was Donut Thursday, a couple of classes at Vanderbilt, trivia night with the girls, a few art projects that are now on the shelf and then…BINGO! Right back to the original plan that hubs and I talked about when I began writing this blog five years ago. Backpack and Rollie. It was now or maybe never. Time to walk the talk. Go big or stay home.

We started to hatch our plan back in March when a request came through from Home Exchange. Would we be interested in exchanging with a couple from Madrid in August? We mulled it over for about three minutes and, as we are not people who spend too much time contemplating the big decisions in Life, we said Yes indeed we would. So, that led me to thinking that maybe we could put together a few house sits and extend our trip. I applied, and applied, and applied and came up empty handed. Second best but never the chosen one. I was frustrated and ready to throw in the towel when a request came through from a mother-daughter team in Barcelona asking if we might be interested in house sitting over Christmas? We did think a few days about this one before deciding that it was a sign and we should go ahead and throw caution to the wind and say Yes again.

Now all I had to do was figure out how to fill in our time between August 28 and December 20. No problem. Or maybe a big problem. I wasn’t sure at this point.

I applied for three house sits in England over September and October and bingo, bango, bongo (or whatever) they ALL said Yes! On the same day. Yikes. It was getting very real now.

Our home away from home just outside of Barcelona

I once again had a full time job as I took on figuring out how to fill in the time between house sits and our home exchange. Good thing I had lots of time on my hands. I dug right in. Those who know me well know that I was in my element. Happy to be creative and busy again.

Overlooking a canal from the tiny living room of our airbnb in Venice

Hubs and I decided that if possible we would do all of our travel from location to location by train. I’d heard the trains in Europe were excellent. I’d also heard that they can strike without warning leaving you late or stranded. May the train gods be with us. I have now booked almost 17 different train trips as we wind our way from Madrid (home exchange) to San Sebastian (where I will celebrate my 70th) to Bordeaux then Paris, through the chunnel to London, on to Grantham, Thorne (house sit), Dunstable (house sit), Edinburgh, (airbnb), Cheltenham (house sit with a cat named Freddy Mercury), back across the channel to Paris (hotel), Turin (overnight on a long train journey), Venice (airbnb overlooking a canal), Rome (airbnb), Florence (airbnb), Nice (again breaking up a long train journey) and Arles, France (airbnb). Finally down to Barcelona (housesit) and then fly to London for New Years Eve and back home to Nashville.

How cute is this? Two weeks in central Florence and this is our home base

Nothing to it. One medium sized suitcase each for 3 seasons and one backpack/carry on. My new ipad with all of the apps will hopefully make life easy as we go. No cellular but FB messenger and WhatsApp to stay in touch.

What could go wrong? Everything and nothing. Too late to worry now. We leave in 5 days. No turning back. We are committed. We are ready (almost). And we are excited, terrified, exhausted and going for the gusto.

Watch out what you wish for. You might just make it happen.

Stay tuned for tales from the road.




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12 thoughts on “Retirement for Dummies ~ Go Big or Stay Home

    • Hi Peggy. Thanks for the good wishes. Hope you are enjoying your Oregon break before heading back down to sunny Mexico. Life is good,

  1. So excited for you both! Please keep your blog going so I can live vicariously through you! You are freaking amazing kiddo! Safe travels & have a great adventure!!!

    • Thanks for the comment and the inspiration. There are a growing number of roving retirees these days. Happy travels to you.

  2. It all sounds fabulous…and you, Nancy, are spectacular for pulling off this miraculous feat. Just slap a set of wheels and a handle on hubs and drag him along.
    You’re awesome!

    • Haha. Brilliant idea! We will be cheering you guys on from afar as you navigate all of the exciting changes about to happen. Cheers to you and Margie.

    • Thanks Patti. There is a very fine line between brave and what the hell were we thinking? Hope all is good in Silverton. It is such a cute little town.

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House Sitting in San Miguel de Allende ~ Tall Tales and True Adventures

Every experienced house sitter has a few tall tales and more than a few true adventure stories to tell. It goes with the territory. Stepping out into the semi-unknown can bring out strengths (and weaknesses) you didn’t even know you had. Or needed.

Folks ask me all the time about our gigs as house sitters. How does it work? How do we find the gigs? What does it cost? And most importantly, do we have any problems being away from our home, our stuff and our routine for weeks or months at a time?

I can bend your ear for a long time talking about why I love house sitting, but house sitting is not for everyone. This I know for sure. It can be more than a little daunting settling into a complete stranger’s home, sleeping in someone else’s bed, cooking in an unknown kitchen where you can’t figure out how to turn on the stove and (the biggie here for two complete tech-idiots) remembering out how to work the TV system/remote.  The first few days are often challenging and more than a little frustrating. But eventually we work the kinks out, manage a work-around or decide we can just do without and the thrill of being in a new place, a (usually) lovely home and the fun of bonding with new furry friends makes up for almost any inconvenience.

A few true adventures from our most recent house sit come to mind. I’ll leave the tall tales to hubs. I’m sure he can conjure up a few.

Sunny San Miguel.

Staying warm in sunny Mexico is no easy task in the winter where it can be warmer outside than inside. Many of the older homes were built to keep heat out and don’t have any kind of furnace or forced air system like many of us rely on in the US. They often have small fireplaces with a single gas pipe and no logs or any kind of heat distribution system. Fireplaces may or may not be vented and are generally lit with a flame-thrower (aka a BBQ lighter). They scare the hell outta me! And on this particular sit, the main fireplace in the living room was in pieces waiting for the homeowners to return from the US with new parts. So…workaround time. We found two electric blankets. One had a cord and the other did not. Lucky me, I got the one with the working cord. Hubs used it in the late afternoon when he took his daily nap to the drone of Fox News and we shared it in the evening while watching PBS. I also used it on the bed under the blankets to take the frost off the sheets before getting in to sleep. A pile of blankets keeps you warm, but the initial frost bite that hits you upon diving under the covers that can be a problem. We often climbed into bed wearing socks, sweat pants and a layer or two of long sleeve tee shirts.  As house sitters you must be able to adapt and overcome.

Taking advantage of the view.

Hilltop house sits without a car can be seen as a challenge or a free workout. We chose to see the 1.5 mile, 25 minute scramble down a steep cobble stone hill as a plus. Our walk did go right past one of the best bakeries in San Miguel so of course we stopped in for a morning treat. Our walking lead us to the Tuesday Market, the botanical garden (for more walking), the Bibliotec for information, lectures, movies and more. In the Centro, we walked to various parks, restaurants, shops, art galleries and pretty much everywhere we needed to go. My pedometer registered between 4-7 miles on most days. Not too shabby! Of course, there were also a couple of downsides. Being on top of a hill that was pretty much straight down meant that a return walk would be STRAIGHT UP. Being old, generally out of shape and at an elevation of 6200 ft, we wisely opted to have one of the ever-present taxis take us back up. Five minutes, 50 pesos and voila back at nuestra casa. As responsible pet sitters we never want to leave the furry ones in our care for very long. This required us to plan our outings to include returns for walking, feeding and playing with the two cute pups waiting at home. On a few occasions we found ourselves going down in the morning, coming up early afternoon, going back down late afternoon and coming up in the late evening. We thought twice about walking down that hill a second time. It had to be a special event, like the Christmas Tree lighting or spending time with visiting friends.

Down, down, down

Panio. Our favorite bakery all dressed up for Christmas.

Electronics. If we seem to have a reliable failure on our sits, it is with the TV, cable, sound systems and all that goes with the modern practice of watching TV. I’m pretty good with my laptop but I have fully and completely handed the task of TV functioning to hubs. Let’s just say it’s hit and miss. I have no patience and don’t care that much, so, if it doesn’t work the first time, either he figures it out or we’re reading. Not a bad choice really given the options. In the case of our most recent sit, they had Netflix and DVD’s but hubs couldn’t remember how they worked so we relied on PBS (yea!!) or Fox News (sorry!) for our English language viewing options. Interesting choices to say the least and for whatever reason Fox came from southern Florida unless they lost the signal and then it came from Pittsburgh. PBS came from Seattle. Go figure. And, even though it might seem like the perfect opportunity to improve my Spanish, local Spanish TV was way beyond my ability and I gave up pretty quickly.

No habla espanol. No problema. In a town like San Miguel, home to thousands of expats from the US and Canada, a visitor can get around easily with only a few words of Spanish. You hear a lot of buenos días and gracias but it takes a little time and a wee bit of courage to try tackling a short conversation. I made a fool of myself on more than one occasion like the time in the Starbucks (no the baristas do not all speak English) when I nervously stepped up to the front of the line and attempted to order my hot tea with cold milk on the side (té caliente con una taza de leche) and my old lady brain confused it with my other most frequently ordered beverage. It came out as té caliente con una copa de vino. Miguel, the young man at the counter kept a straight face while advising me that they did not sell wine at this Starbucks but the young lady working with him broke out into a huge grin, did a little dance and said “por dos” (for two). I got my tea with milk, made two friends at the Starbucks and became known as the copa de vino lady. I joked that I had approximately 67 words in Spanish and I existed only in the present tense. Nevertheless, I Persisted! And I got better.  And braver. Thank goodness for the Spanish app on my phone. One morning I used it in the butcher shop when hubs wanted pork chops and there were none visible in the case. When our turn at the counter came up, I stepped forward asking for la chuleta de cerdo. To my amazement, the butcher nodded Si, trotted upstairs and came down with a huge side of pork. He cut us off two beautiful chops and 45 pesos later we were on to our next shopping adventure – verduras.

These cuties were always happy to see us.


 As you can tell, our answer to one of the most important questions is that house/pet sitting isn’t always easy, not always comfortable, and can be full of surprises (don’t even ask about the morning I locked myself out of the house with the pups right before I was scheduled to be on a conference call for work). Given all of the above, our experience after dozens of sits, is that it has been a grand adventure that has given us lots of fun and funny tales (tall and otherwise) to share.

Is it worth it? Absolutely!





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10 thoughts on “House Sitting in San Miguel de Allende ~ Tall Tales and True Adventures

    • Thanks Gil! Hope you are enjoying sunny Florida. We are now freezing our butts off in Nashville. Should have stayed a while longer in San Miguel. Of course, we do have heat in the house here. That’s a plus.

  1. This arrived last night when we arrived in SMA. With not much effort I walked almost 6.5 miles today. Had breakfast at the Saturday organic market. We’re about 15 minute walk from El Centro. Tomorrow’s a food walking tour.

    • Hi Judy, Enjoy your time in SMA. Everything is walkable. I LOVED Mercado Sano on Saturday when they set up outside as well. My other favorite organic Market is Via Organica. They have a great little restaurant as well. It is on the other side of the Jardin from Mercado Sano. Walk down Hildago going in the direction of Fabrica Aurora. Of course, I don’t remember the name of the street but everyone knows it. Another fun restaurant is Mario’s Mariscos. I believe it is on Salida de Ceyala (not sure I spelled that right). Wish I was there walking with you!!

  2. We recently completed our first housesit, spending several weeks in a small village in England. It was a wonderful experience, but I can relate to what you’ve said in the post about it not always being easy and having surprises. I can also relate to rationing the trips up and down the hill. Being from the flat prairies, our leg muscles have quite a bit of adjusting to do every time we travel to someplace hilly.

    • Hi Donna, Thanks for leaving a comment. Your recent house sit experience sounds lovely. I have been applying to lots of sits in the UK and EU and so far we have not been chosen. If you have any tips I would love to hear them. Happy travels! Nancy

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Retirement for Dummies ~ surviving and thriving

Night sweats, terror dreams, restless monkey mind and walk, walk, walk and then walk a little more. Lots of walking. They say walking is good for your heart, your hips and you mental health. I must be fit as a fiddle. And then some!

And so goes my first official week of retirement.

What the hell was I thinking? It’s 10:0am on Day Two and I am OFFICIALLY BORED. I should have planned better. Thought this through. Booked up my schedule. Made more friends. Stayed in Oregon where I actually had friends. And like-minded friends at that.

Day One – I settled back in, got everything organized and then…??? You guessed it, went for a walk. Retirement is a whole new ball game and I am working on some long range travel goals, but at this moment it appears I need structure. I need mental stimulation. I need people. I need something to DO. Something with purpose. I need a PLAN.

Hubs has taken the act of doing nothing to high art. He loves it! He’s good at it! And he has no apologies for feeling that way. Good for him. We live in a small flat and everywhere I turn, there he is – so happy that I am finally retired and home with him. Doing nothing too. He is so damn pleasant and happy that I want to slap him and say “Get a job!”  Bless his heart.

I’ve never read Dantes Inferno, but I think I’m living in some version of it right now. “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” Or the movie Groundhog Day. Without the alarm clock. Same. Same. Same.

Whew! This feels a whole lot like whining. Not usually my MO unless there is actual wine involved, but sometimes it’s the best you’ve got. Say it out loud. Let it go. Then get on with it girl. It’s time for the harder than I thought it would be work of sorting out retirement and what it will look like for me. Not hubs, not friends who have gone before, but ME.

To be continued…

P.S.  Retirement officially started when my feet touched American soil not while still enjoying play time in sunny Mexico. That was officially “I’m finally on vacation” time. I was walking but definitely not whining that week.

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11 thoughts on “Retirement for Dummies ~ surviving and thriving

  1. So happy you are writing again! You are a great writer & I always love reading your creations! I love your honesty in your writing!
    I look forward to folliwing your retirement journey!
    Thanks for sharing!!

    • Thanks Charlene. I felting like writing about this last week and then sat on it because it did feel like whining and I’m not really. I saw some strange humor there and suspect that at least for a short time, others have some of that same What the Hell?! feeling. And, writing gave me some thing to do. It is all an adventure isn’t it. Cheers!

  2. Hi
    I was wondering what happened to you. We spent 2016 traveling around the world, and I’ve been hoping to gain new inspiration from your posts. So glad tour writing again.

    We stayed in air bnb and hotels. I’ve been debating the whole house sitting thing. My biggest concern is cleanliness. Can you speak more about your house sitting Experience’s in a future post? Finding, choosing, logistics, expectations, cleanliness.

    Keep posting


    • Greetings! Glad to see you are still journeying. Thanks for the suggestion about providing some insider information on the pros and cons of house sitting. I will be posting about our most recent 7 week house sit in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Nancy

  3. Love that you’re writing again, Nancy. And it’s perfect that you’re working out your feelings about retirement through your blog.
    I’ve known Hubs for 54 years and have always been amazed by his ability to live without guilt. He just moves on from moment to moment. Most of us are not that fortunate.
    Here’s what I know, Retirement takes hard work, just like any other job. The specs are different but it’s a job nonetheless.
    You’ve been a hard worker your whole live, so I’m confident you’ll evolve a job description that fits you just right. In the meantime, let go of the whip and enjoy your process, says the man who’s finally learning that lesson nearly six years after retirement.
    Keep writing.


    • Hi Gil, I hope my little tale put some humor into the surprise of finding myself in this unusual state of being. Thanks for your vote of confidence and input. It is definitely a change. Enjoy your time in the sun. Nancy

  4. I’m pretty sure we see a lot of fabulous volunteers who came to our non-profit because of the very same dilemma. Welcome to the new phase. You’ll find your stride soon!

    • Thanks Kirsten. I am slowly working it all out and I am sure it will be a lot of trial and error. Having time (and something to say) on the blog again is fun. I am definitely checking out some local volunteer opportunities and I registered for a class at Vanderbilt on global warming. Hope all is well!

  5. Glad you are blogging again. Face it, girl, you’re in a hallway. You’ll find your direction. ..but being. ..just being, is a learned skill. You’re great at living vibrantly.’ll make the transition vibrantly.

    • Thanks Margie. You are right. I am not so comfortable with just being. I am used to doing. There is a healthy balance and I’m hoping to rest there.

  6. Its unanimous! We are all pleased to see you back here in the blogosphere!

    Not that I’m there yet, though at times it feels like it a I only work in a seasonal job – for now ☺ – the important thing is keeping busy doing stuff you really enjoy. Moat of the retired people I know are busier now.thrn when they worked!

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Adieu to Ashland

The old adage that times flies when you are having fun is certainly true for folks lucky enough to spend time in the quaint and quirky town of Ashland, Oregon. Our three month house-sit is coming to an end. It’s time to say Adieu Ashland, it’s been great getting to know you.

Historic Ashland Springs Hotel in downtown Ashland Oregon

Historic Ashland Springs Hotel in downtown Ashland Oregon
















Hubs and I adopted the roving house-sitter lifestyle back in November. Our current plan is to explore as many of the cities and towns, historical sites and breath-taking natural beauty of this great country as we can while we’re searching for our next spot to officially call home. For now, home is wherever we unpack our bags and hang up our clothes. House-sitting offers us the opportunity to linger a while and blend in with the locals. So much better than a room at the Holiday Inn.

Ashland consistently ranks as one of the best places to retire in Oregon so when the opportunity presented itself to explore the area we excitedly threw our house-sitter hats into the ring and came up winners. Lucky us!

Our list of criteria for our next hometown is still very much a work in progress. And, it comes as no surprise that our must haves are as opposite as night and day. Hubs – opportunities to fish. Me – not too remote, moderate climate with lots of sun, walk to shops, restaurants, coffee if possible, arts and culture, educational opportunities (i.e. college town), low cost of living, easy airport access, friendly folks, good food/farmers markets, not a big city but near a big city…and the list goes on and on. Dream big and adjust as needed. That is my current motto.

So how does Ashland stack up? From our three months of totally random and non-scientific research here is my completely biased opinion.

What’s to love ~

1. Noble Coffee Roasters for great tea, hot chocolate, coffee and snacks like fresh baked raspberry scones. I will miss every one of the friendly faces behind the counter who greeted me each day with a smile and a chat. You guys are the best! Want to feel like a local right away? Find a great coffee shop and settle in. You’ll soon get the inside scoop on what’s happening all over town. Noble became my morning office, my afternoon break and the place hubs and I walked to on Saturday morning for coffee and a sweet treat (which we picked up up from Deux Chats along the way).

My Girls at Noble Rosters.

My Girls at Noble Rosters.

2. The Ashland Food Co-Op for good healthy food and the absolute best people watching. No day was complete without a stop at the co-op.

3. The Ashland Vibe. Bernie bumper stickers, Buddhas, fading prayer flags and yoga studios will always be top of mind when I recall our time in Ashland. It’s a community that definitely leans a little to the left. In a good way. Here’s how the pot boils – start with a few well-healed retirees, sprinkle with hard-working theater folk, artists and musicians of every ilk. Toss in a heaping handful of college students. Mix well. Flavor with a delicious blend of hippies – young, old and wannabe, local farmers and a few old timers who have seen it all and you brew up the heady sauce of interesting, intelligent, quirky, fun and friendly that is Ashland. It is a sweet elixir indeed. A century ago it was the lithia water that made Ashland unique, but I know for sure it’s the people that make it so today. Ashland Prayer Flags

4. Arts and Culture. It’s the home of the internationally acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival so Ashland has become a tourist town for sure, but the year round residents share a love of art in all its forms. Opportunities to explore your inner artist abound. I took full advantage at the Ashland Art Center’s classes where I played with clay and learned the art of needle felting. I also spent a rainy Sunday afternoon making croissants in a french bakery. Oooh La La! I could have done so much more if it wasn’t for that pesky thing called “working full time”.

Croissant making at Deux Chats Bakery

Croissant making at Deux Chats Bakery


I captured this view on an after dinner photo walk right by our house.

5. Nature and the great outdoors.  Hiking, (you are at an off-ramp of the Pacific Coast Trail), walking (beautiful Lithia Park or the streets of downtown), nature photography, fishing, and skiing can all be found less than 45 minutes from downtown.

6. Food Fabulous Food. There is no shortage of eating establishments in Ashland and hubs and I did our best (for research purposes) to check out as many of them as possible. A few became our go-to favs and we would recommend them highly if you have the chance to visit Ashland. *Standing Stone Brewery has an on-site brewery and outstanding casual food menu. They bake their own breads and many menu items come from their own 1-mile farm (yes it is a mile from downtown Ashland). *Pie and Vine for pizza, pasta and a delicious grilled romaine salad. *Morning Glory serves up an outstanding breakfast (there is always a wait) as does Brothers Restaurant (generally no wait). Hubs gave the hash at both places a big two thumbs up. Amuse, a tiny French bistro was recognized as one of the best restaurants in Oregon. Liquid Assets is a lovely little wine bar that is perfect for a Friday night Happy Hour and Sammich pretty much nails it if you are hankering for a sandwich piled high with house-smoked meat served with a side of Chicago ‘tude and Da Bears.

7. Things to Do. Life slows down in Ashland during the winter but come early spring, the trees start to bloom and The Bard works his magic once again. Restaurants that took winter breaks re-open, shops extend their hours and tour buses dot the once empty streets. Parking spots are nowhere to be found. Winter might be cool, damp and dark, but we had no lack of fun activities to keep us entertained. First Friday Art Walk is a great way to explore Ashland’s many galleries. Rain or shine, the entire town comes out to stroll Main Street on First Friday. How about a Festival or two? March found us indulging at the weekend long Oregon Chocolate Festival right in downtown and our inner cheese nerd led us down the road to Central Point for the Oregon Cheese Festival. Yes, we have both expanded our “love handles”. We are sad that we will miss both the International Film Festival and A Taste of Ashland coming up in April. For a wee bit of old-timey outdoor fun, mosey on over to the Ashland Gun Club for the Cowboy Shoot Out held on the third Saturday of every month. Yeehaw, it was an unexpected good time! Rainy Sunday afternoons are a great excuse to visit the Varsity Theater where you can munch a little popcorn and watch first run movies.

Hubs with his new friend Dakota.

Hubs with his new friend cowboy Dakota.

If you feel like exploring beyond Ashland there is plenty to keep you busy. A short scenic drive will take you to the historic town of Jacksonville, home of the fabulous Britt Music Festival and a great stating point for the Applegate Valley Wine Trail. Medford is 10 miles up I-5 from Ashland and offers big city amenities like a Trader Joes, REI and an indoor mall. It is the home of Harry and David who offer regular tours (we missed this) and has a small historic downtown (we took a self-guided walking tour using a map provided by the Visitor Center). Nearby Mt. Ashland offers skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. From cooking classes, to yoga classes, to wine tasting and lectures of every kind, you can be as busy and entertained and educated as you want to be.

And the Not so Much ~

While hubs and I really enjoyed our time in Ashland, we’re ready to move on. Here’s why.

1. It’s too expensive for us to live here on a small retirement budget. Housing costs, whether renting or buying, are out of our price range.

2. It’s too far from a major city. Five hours to Portland! Four hours across the Siskiyou mountains to Sacramento. I’m hoping for an hour or less.

3.  Flying in and out of Ashland is not easy or cheap. I learned this the hard way when I had to fly to Phoenix for work. I spent more time getting there than I did in the actual meetings.

We still have a few house-sitting gigs on the books (Washington and Mexico) and then in mid-June we’ll be loading up the SUV and heading from Portland to Colorado Springs, across the mid-west to Omaha and down through Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas. We will be checking out the towns and cities along the way. We are open for short term house sits so let us know if you or anyone you know might have a need. We’d love to hang out a while at the local coffee shop and get to know the folks in your town.

Learn more about us and our house-sitting experience at our website

See you on the road!







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15 thoughts on “Adieu to Ashland

  1. Fantastic summary of your time in Ashland and great tourist info, Nancy, as well as a aser-sharp synopsis of the plusses admonishes of living there. I give you an A+ grade on this one. Keep writing.


    • Thank you Gil. I was a great time and now for something completely different as Monty Python used to say.

  2. A great post! Ashland sounds like my kind of town — except the distance from a big city. Your journey looks exciting — can’t wait to follow your further adventures. If you ever make it to the East Coast, you will have to check out Doylestown. It ticks all the boxes — and the welcome mat is always out at casa Mazzo! Happy Trails!

    • Thank you Karen. You might just see Les and I in your town next Fall. We’ll buy you dinner and LOTS of vino tinto! Where are you guys off to this summer?

  3. You have so eloquently described why I love Ashland. I’m so glad you got to see that awesome and diverse town. I’m sure your next adventure will be just as great in a different way.

  4. What a great time!! Sounds like the perfect way to spend the winter. Now I have a great list of places to visit when we make it to Ashland. Miss you guys!

    • Hi Kirsten. I’m sure you have been to Ashland but it is a town you would really enjoy spending time in as well. So much great art and so many really interesting folks. Good vibes for sure.

    • Thank you Donna, Ashland is certainly a town work exploring. I highly recommend a visit if you have the chance.

  5. I remember when you were still thinking about how all this would work out. Looks like you figured out how to reinvent your lifestyle. Did you have any pets to care for during the Ashland housesit?

    • You are so right Suzanne but it looks like we have figured out how to live this particular adventure. We did care for two great kitties in Ashland. Chaz and Nina. We will miss them!

  6. Wow, 5 hours from Portland why is the cost of living so high, I wonder?

    I mean, aside from the fact that it looks GORGEOUS!

    I’ve lived an hour’s drive from the closest “big” city… which wasn’t really that big… and I’d say if there are at least some smaller towns and cities somewhere within that distance, 5 hours to the closest big one is perfect.

    But that’s just me. Still can’t get over the scenery. Oregon is SO beautiful…

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Housesitting is Like a Box of Chocolates


House-sitting is like a box of chocolates. There are so many unique opportunities to choose from and you are never quite sure what you’re going to get until you arrive on the doorstep.

It’s been just over 60 days and we are now on our fifth house-sitting gig. Each has had it’s own unique charm. Hubs and I luxuriated for a month in a large home in the suburbs. Next we watched the sun rise over Mt. Hood from a high-rise loft and enjoyed Christmas in the city. New Years day we hiked the “back forty” surrounding our custom built cabin on Whidbey island and took the ferry to go to the movies. Last week we settled into a very tiny no-frills house within walking distance to all of the art, culture, food and drink that Ashland has to offer. We’ve thrilled to glorious snow-capped mountain views, driven through rain, sleet, ice and snow, made good use of the Washington State Ferry System, become best-buds with five fabulous kitties and two lovable dogs. We’ve slept in big beds, small beds, hard beds, soft beds…just call me Goldilocks.  But I haven’t seen any bears. Yet. DottieinLangley Ferryatnight PMmountainview tacomanarrowsbridge

All this adventure and we’re still in Oregon. This was definitely not the plan. We thought we would be soaking up the sun in Arizona by now. Sometimes you make the plan and sometime the plan reveals itself as you go. For once, we’ve been smart enough to go with the flow and let the plan unfold as it will. Not so easy for a habitual planner, but I’m learning to (mostly) let it be.

So do we have a plan? Yes we do. And it’s quite simply this…to sample every damn chocolate in the house-sitting box. We think it’s a pretty good plan.

We’re in Ashland for almost three months which gives us time to experience living like we are locals. Hubs has found a gym and a trainer. Yea! I’ve signed up for yoga, tried a new hair dresser (that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped), settled in to a new afternoon tea place, met a lovely friend Dany who just moved up from California and plan to take a needle felting class at the fabulous Ashland Art Center this Friday. We’ve stocked the larder, located the liquor store and the wine shop and know our way around the food co-op. We’ve met the neighbors and been invited for cocktails. Not bad for the first week. Ashland is our current box of See’s and we’re hoping to sample every buttercream, truffle and nougat that this little town has to offer. Life is sweet!



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9 thoughts on “Housesitting is Like a Box of Chocolates

  1. Pleased to hear you are both enjoying your house-sitting adventures. It’s a lot of fun. Even the lucky-dip of where the house is located is an adventure. Here in Australia, opportunities are increasing beyond Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, I’ve just spent three months on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast (two separate sits) enjoying the wonderful beaches up here. During the time I’ve been here I have rejected several other sits up here (due to needed to be in NSW for a few months) Any location is possible as long as you’re flexible and have good references – I’m very much looking forward to a few international sits. Cheers to many, many more adventures for all of us in the future. Happy Travels!

  2. Some people have been known to take a bite of each chocolate and put them back in the box if they weren’t quite good enough. Not your style! Glad you are savoring every type of chocolate there is. Life sounds very sweet indeed! Travel well, my friend!

    • Ha Ha Kirsten. There was a time when I would poke my fingernail into the back of a chocolate to see what the center was and then put it back if I didn’t want it. My sister will verify that. Not every chocolate is to your liking but a tiny taste never hurt. Enjoy your class this weekend!

  3. We have not done house sitting yet, but as empty nesters living a nomadic life we have done many a home exchange and found it to be a wonderful way to travel. Thanks for your post on house sitting, it certainly is something we might consider for future trips.

    • We have done both home exchange and house sitting. Our recent house sitting experience has given us 5+ months with no house expense. Once we find our next “home base” we will look at home exchange as well. You meet the most interesting people in this wonderful lifestyle as I’m sure you will agree. All the best to you!

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Home Free ~ Bloom Where You’re Planted

It’s been a month since we packed up the old SUV and drove off into the future.

So far.  So good.

We definitely planned an easy take-off by staying on the west coast through the winter.  And when we see the nightly weather reports, we are very glad we decided to play it safe and not make a long cross country drive right now. We’re in no hurry. We’re old. And as it turns out, much more cautious than we used to be. We’re still in training and figuring out this new lifestyle one day at a time.

Even though we are back in Portland for a few weeks and know our way around the New Seasons market and where the best restaurants are, it is definitely not “home” as we knew it.  What we’re learning to do is put down very tiny roots wherever we are.

It sounds easy…and sometimes it is.

Other times, not so much.

Each new place we land, things feel slightly different. Some crazy people put their silverware in the wrong drawer. The recycle has to be dragged down the street to the corner. In the rain. The TV remote is new and we’re too un-techy to get anything beyond basic cable. The bed is kinda hard and I need my memory foam. Nobody can find the broom. Blah, blah, blah. We allow ourselves a momentary WHINE. Then we look at each other and laugh. Because it is NOT our house and therefore NOT our problem. As long as we have silverware, who cares what drawer its in? It’s time to roll up our sleeves, let ourselves settle in and figure out how to make it all good. Change your attitude. Change your reality. Or something like that.

It turns out that once we’re done sorting through everything that is different, there is much that is the same and most of the time, it all works just like we want it to.

We unpack our bags and begin to work out a routine. I set up my office. Les looks for a local gym. We get the lay of the land. And most important of all, we open up our own box of small comforts that will make this house our new (temporary) home. There is magic in this box! We each have our beloved coffee and tea mugs. I have a both red and a white wine glass. Hubs has three of his favorite knives. I have my mini whisk, my cheese spreader and the world’s best veggie peeler. You get the point. There is even flashlight and a deck of cards in case the TV doesn’t work at all. And, yes, I have my holy crap tiara as well.  It’s the little things that make us feel like we’re home.

Home on the road

Home on the road


Wherever home is.

Here’s where home will be for the next several months – Southwest Portland in a lovely large house with a sweet 18 year old kitty. Downtown Portland in the trendy Pearl District in a high rise condo with a new kitty we’ve yet to meet. A custom built log home in the woods on Whidbey Island in Washington with two lap-loving doggies. And finally, a small house in beautiful Ashland, OR with brother and sister kitties will take us through March.  Not too shabby for a couple of old beginners! And the good news is that we are learning how to put down very tiny roots at each stop we make.  Bloom where you’re planted are our new words to live by.

A comfy couch, a warm blanket and a kitty.  Feels like home!

A comfy couch, a warm blanket and a kitty. Feels like home!

We’re counting our blessings! One home, one pet, one new location at a time.

See you on the road.


Nancy, Les and Tika our kitty of the moment.

If you need house sitters or know someone who might, please check us out at




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9 thoughts on “Home Free ~ Bloom Where You’re Planted

  1. Really proud of you two road warriors. Glad you’re adjusting to livin’ large out of your backpacks, rollies and SUV.

  2. Bloom where you’re planted is a good way to look at life whether you’re on the road like you guys or more stationary. I laughed when I read about crazy people putting cutlery in the wrong drawers. Although I have not house-sat, I’ve lived several months in vacation rentals as a snowbird. I mostly resisted the urge to completely re-arrange where things were in the kitchen cupboards. I could also related to a number of other things in this post. It will be a great adventure for you. Enjoy.

    • We’re all on an adventure of some kind Donna. And I’m glad we’re still learning new ways to look at Life. Happy trails to you!

    • Thanks Peggy. Are you guys in Mexico now? It seems like all us “oldies” are off on new adventures. I love it!

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Two More Geezers Hit the Open Road

We’ve finally done it!

On November 6, 2015 at exactly 12:39 p.m., two more crazy geezers (that’s us) hit the open road with not much more than our backpacks and rollie-bags. Other than a few boxes temporarily stored with a friend (Thank you!), everything we own now fits snugly in the back of our mid-size SUV.


Welcome back…

This blog has been dark the past few months for a couple of reasons. Some might call them excuses, but, whatever…

I started Just a Backpack with the intention of sharing my experiences and all the information I was gathering as hubs and I began our journey of downsizing and exploring some very cool and unusual options for a new lifestyle in retirement. One that involved living on MUCH less money yet still finding ways to travel, eat well, drink good wine, savor the magic in everyday moments and conjure up as many adventures as possible in whatever time we have left. Diligently I searched the internet and talked to those who were blazing the trail ahead of us. We began testing the water, one shaky toe at a time.

Much of this journey I shared here on the blog. I heard from folks all over the world who read my posts and were inspired to take action of their own. Many of these readers were now living the life I was planning and here I sat. Still planning. Still writing about planning. Not feeling like I was brave enough to take the leap of faith.

There were also family plans and responsibilities that I definitely wanted and needed to be available for. So I waited. For the Perfect Moment. There was always a good reason to wait. But, truth be told, good reasons are often just fear in a fancy dress.

So, to paraphrase an old saying “Them that do, get to doing it and them that don’t…keep on blogging about doing it”. Put up or shut up. So…I decided to shut up for a while.

Of course, anyone who knows me, knows that you cannot shut me up for too long.  So many fabulous things have happened while I was gone from the blogosphere that it feels like the perfect time to fire up the laptop again as we hit the road to see where this journey takes us.  I hope you will come along for the adventure.

A very casual “what if” conversation between hubs and I while riding the train from Seattle to Portland set so many wheels in motion it made my head spin. Watch out what you wish for! In 90 days we listed our house. Got it ready to sell. Had 8 offers, 3 escrows (and a partridge in a pear tree). Sold or gave away everything we owned. Took too many trips to the Goodwill to count. Filled 2 Am Vets trucks with donations. Launched one under the cover of darkness stealth car load drop-off in a friend’s apartment complex dumpster and hosted our first Sip, Savor & Sale goodbye party. They came, they sipped and they BOUGHT!  Whew!  Just writing that poops me out!

I’ve finally figured out how to set a new course without pulling the plug on my safety net until I am ready. It turns out I need that safety net firmly in place to take a leap of faith. I am okay with that. It also turns out that Mr. If it doesn’t fit in a backpack and rollie, we don’t need it.” had a very hard time letting go of his stuff. Stuff like old t-shirts from 1980, five fishing rods, hip wading boots, tools and stuff I’m sure I don’t even know about. Hub’s backpack and rollie is currently 2 rollies, two backpacks, a very large canvas duffle-bag and other various carry bags and boxes. Obviously, we both have work to do.


On the other hand, I managed to create an office-on-the-road with my two laptops, one plastic file box, a desk drawer in a small handle carry plastic box and a lightweight lapboard as my desk top. So far, it’s all working just fine.  It’s all about organization. Not generally my strong suit.  Another growth opportunity!

Hubs and I are house and pet sitting in the Pacific Northwest through the New Year and hope to head south to sunshine and warmer temps for January and February and then sometime in the spring (after the snow and before tornadoes) we’re going to head east across old Route 66 to check out the middle south.  Along the way, we will be looking for a comfortable place to set down new roots and a launching pad for future travels.

Stay tuned!


P.S.  If you know of anyone who is in need of excellent house sitting services please send them our way.  Our house sitting website is GlobalHouseSittingPros. We’re also listed with Trusted Housesitters, House Carers and HousesittersAmerica.




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17 thoughts on “Two More Geezers Hit the Open Road

  1. Nancy! You and Les are true inspirations to us all. I sit writing this under the glow of your two fabulous lamps I bought at your party. You can visit them any time. Thank you for keeping the blog alive…..and the lamps! Best of luck to both of you. Am spreading the word as we speak.

    • Thank you Eve! Let’s have a happy hour meet up when I get back to Portland next week. When are you heading south?

  2. Congrats, Nancy! And I think we all blog about planning. I’m actually planning on concluding Journey to Ithaca with a video of us sailing over the horizon. I’ve waffled on the song, but you’ve given me a new idea:

    • Bethany, I LOVE the song! I hope to read your blog post about sailing over the horizon. You are living the good life right now and I enjoy reading about your adventures in parenting the boat life.

  3. Nancy, as I said many times you are a great writer, I’m so happy for you guys! I knew you would do this when the time was right for you. I’m looking forward to following your adventures! Robbie

    • Thanks Cheryle. I am shooting for once a week. If you want to, please sign up on the blog and new updates will be delivered right to your in box. Your brother says hi! He is watching MASH on TV. Some things in live never change no matter where you are. 🙂

  4. You guys made the dream real with careful planning and a leap of faith. So incredibly proud of you, dear friend! Enjoy the adventure of this freedom and keep us all posted!

  5. I can relate to a lot of your experience having gone through a major downsizing last year. We however did not downsize to the level you did and still have a home base with probably too much stuff. Good luck at your adventure. I look forward to reading about it.

    • Hey Thanks Lea. I am so enjoying your photos of NYC. Who knew life was so full of adventure for the middle-agers (or late agers – us).

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Housesitting 103 ~ Get a Backgound Check

Experienced house sitters have told us it is a very good idea to get a background check.  A quick visit to your local police station will earn you a document that says you have never done anything illegal in your home town.  I’m not so sure that would sway my decision to invite a stranger into my home, but apparently it helps.

Since hubs and I plan to take our house sitting adventure to other countries, we thought we should go full banana and get the FBI verified check.  Go big or go home!

So, last October we took a little noon-time field trip to meet up with the roving fingerprint lady.  She sets up in the hallway at various local courthouses and does a booming business inking and pressing fingertips into tiny squares.  Twenty bucks apiece and a few minutes of our time and we’d be out the door and on to a lovely lunch.

Or so we thought.  The indignities of growing old seem to pop up when you least expect them.  Who know that old fingers are DRY fingers and if you have DRY fingers, the cheerful fingerprinting lady cannot get a usable print.  Ink.  Press. Check.  Nope.  Ink. Press. Check. Nope.  I was up first and it was becoming somewhat embarrassing as I was holding up an ever-growing line of 20-somethings who were there on their work breaks hoping to pop in and out in ten minutes.  Well that was definitely not going to happen. Because the old people with the dried up fingers are on re-take number TWENTY!  Finally, all 8 fingers and my two decrepit thumb prints passed muster and she moved on to hubs.  I have to be honest here and say that even though I felt bad for the long line of folks waiting for us to be done with it, I was not unhappy that his fingers were as blurred by time as mine.  The friendly fingerprint lady finally dosed him up with some kind of very thick hand grease and voila! we were outta there.  Cheers were heard from the back of the line.

All we had to do next was fill out the simple one page form, attach our perfectly inked prints, toss in a check for $36 (for two – quite a bargain) and mail everything off to the FBI office in Maryland.   And wait.

And wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.

The form clearly stated that with the current backlog, we should not expect anything back for 21 days but to not even think about calling them for 4-6 weeks.

So we waited and then waited again.

I was beginning to worry.  What if our paperwork had somehow gotten lost and our hard-won fingerprints had to be taken all over again?  Do not make me go there.

Finally, last Tuesday, about 4 1/2 months after we started this process, a lovely brown envelope from The Department of Justice arrived in the mail.  I’d passed FBI scrutiny and now had a very nondescript piece of paper to prove it.  And my fingerprints had not been rejected – which really was my biggest concern.


What about hubs?  He’s still waiting.  I keep asking if there is anything he wants to confess, but he swears he’s clean.

So far, we have not been asked for a police/security background check for any of the house sits we have applied for or gotten, but I am confident that having them will add to our resume and profile.  Proof that we are always willing to go the extra mile.

The other benefit that came out of this experience?  I am now diligent very about hand cream!

We are actively seeking house sits for Summer/Fall in the western US and Canada.  If you know anyone who would benefit from our services, please send them over to our website Global Housesitting Pros.  Thanks for helping us spread the word.




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10 thoughts on “Housesitting 103 ~ Get a Backgound Check

  1. We also have a police check available for prospective homeowners, Nancy, and have provided it when requested. Often, just stating we have one is enough for some folks. It indicates we’re professional, who we say are, AND trustworthy people. Happy housesitting!

    • Hello Dianne, It is wonderful to hear from a fellow house-sitter. You and your husband are ahead of us on this great journey and I am sure I could learn a great deal from you! I see on your website that you have quite a number of sits already lined up. What is your favorite site for finding great sits? Happy travels. Nancy

  2. Hi there Nancy,

    Just curious about the FBI check, does that cover the entire world or just the USA? We have lived in a few countries for over a year and last time we needed a police clearance we had to get one from each country and then translate them into English. Plus they are only valid for a year!!

    Hence we have not had one done recently.

    • Thanks for the comment John. I am not convinced of the full value of having a police/security check. The FBI check covers all of the USA which seems better than a local police check but still only covers so much. I think that the fact that a person is willing to go through the process at least makes them seem “secure”. I would definitely not do anything beyond what we have and would probably renew every 3-5 years as needed. So far, no one has actually asked to see this hard won document.

  3. Wow – you were both brave to sell everything and decided to travel the world! How is this going now? I am eager to find out how this decision panned out for you guys.

    • We are still in the process but hope to fully launch by the end of the year. In the meantime, we’ve been testing the waters through house-siting and home exchange. We have had wonderful experiences so far checking out possible retirement locations and meeting so many interesting and fun new people along the way. Thanks for checking in on us.

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House Sitting 101

Notes from the House Sitting 101 file ~ Learning the ropes and getting ready to take off the training wheels.


Spectacular view from our house-sit high on a bluff above the Colombia River. It changed hourly.

Greetings from high on a bluff over-looking the mighty Columbia River just outside of the (very) tiny town of Kalama Washington.  Hubs and I are on day 9 of a 10 day house sit with Daphne the wonder dog.  She is well loved, well fed and has more toys than most 2 year old kids I know.  Daphne is a cutie and smart as a whip.  She had us trained in no time.

Daphne the wonder dog

Daphne the wonder dog

What the hell are we doing living in a strange house with someone else’s dog in the middle of nowhere?   Good question!  We’re in training.  Last Fall I set a goal to build our resume and our experience by signing on for as many house sits as we could within driving distance of our home.  My vision was to house sit the west coast from Canada to Mexico.  We’ve applied for 6 or 8 and so far we’ve pretty much been the runner-up not the winner.  I honestly had no idea how competitive house sitting is.  For every sitting opportunity there are anywhere from a dozen to 40+ applicants – from single 20-somethings who work remotely and travel the world to retired and semi-retired geezers like hubs and I.   Even a few families.  Apparently the competition wasn’t so tough for Kalama.  Actually, they called us.  We did not apply for this sit.  But after meeting with the nice folks who are Daphne’s humans, we knew it was a good fit and a great place to start.  So here we are.

Nancy and Daphne watching the evening news

Nancy and Daphne watching the evening news

Kalama is not anyone’s idea of a picturesque town.  It’s a run-down port town of about 2500 citizens located 35 miles north of Portland.  If it ever had glory days, they are long since faded.  We are staying out of town way up a windy road in a lovely custom built house with a gorgeous view.  But to tell you the truth, for a city girl like me, it’s more than a little lonely at the top.  And you can only count the trees and the birds and the squirrels for so long before cabin fever sets in and it’s time to come down from the mountain.  Which hubs and I do every day at 11:30 for lunch, a walk and some on-foot exploration.  We’ve covered every inch of Kalama (20 minutes), walked for miles along the river, taken our own walking tour of historic downtown Longview, discovered a couple of decent restaurants (and a whole bunch that were a little scary).   The weather has been in our favor and one day we strolled the 4 mile perimeter of Lake Sacawajea.  It was gorgeous.  We also drove back into Portland to hit up the Farmers Market and Vancouver for a Volkswalk.

Lake Sacajawea in full blossom.  Perfect day for a picnic and a long walk.

Lake Sacajawea in full blossom. Perfect day for a picnic and a long walk.

A few hours in civilization and we’re good to head back up the mountain again.  Daphne is always happy to see us return.  It is amazing how easy it is to settle comfortably into someone else’s space.  We knew this from home exchange, but still our ability to do this was one of the things I wanted to make very sure about before we up-rooted out lives for the road.

My plan is to test the waters, learn as much as we can from each experience and build up our reference bank account.   We haven’t lived with dogs for quite a few years so it was good to know that we’ve still got the touch.  We also learned that even though a rustic house sit in the remote French countryside looks inviting, unless its a week or less, it might not be right for us.  Score two on the things we learned meter.

So, tomorrow we will make sure the house is clean, the bird feeder is full, the plants are watered and the beds are freshly made.  We’ll feed Daphne her dinner and then we will load ourselves into our car and head for home.  Mr. Ricky is waiting.  He had a wonderful house/pet sitter staying with him while we were gone but I know he will be as happy to see us as Daphne will be to see her real people (not the stand-in servants).

While this was definitely not the exotic house sitting adventure we have been dreaming of and planning for, it was a great experience and we’re glad for the opportunity.  Now when we’re driving 70mph up I-5 to Seattle or Port Townsend and we see the signs for Woodland, Kalama, Kelso and Longview, we won’t wonder if we should stop to check them out.  Been there.  Done that.  Keep on driving!

Next up… house sitting in Mexico for 8 (OMG!) cats for a month.  We are definitely open for more west coast house sitting opportunities.  We’ll be available again starting in June.  We’d love to spend a few weeks in Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria area, Phoenix, or San Francisco so if you know anyone invite them to check out our website Global Housesit Pros.

See you on the road.


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4 thoughts on “House Sitting 101

  1. Thanks for sharing. I drop in and read your posts from time to time. This was a good read just before bed! Best to you and hubs in Mexico with all those cats.

  2. Sounds like you’ve made a lot of progress with “the plan” since I first found your blog. If we didn’t have a dog, I’d probably pay people to let me stay with their dog (s). Where will you be in Mexico?

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Superbowl – It’s not all fun and games

It’s the Superbowl calling!  Come to Phoenix for a week.  It will be fun!

I’ve made it a practice to say a hearty Yes! when an opportunity for adventure knocks.  And when my friend Sallie knocks I know that fun and adventure will always follow and whatever I say yes to will stretch me in some new way.

Vendors were hawking high-priced Superbowl gear everywhere - even in our hotel lobby.

Vendors were hawking high-priced Superbowl gear everywhere – even in our hotel lobby.

Well, a couple of months ago Sallie called and asked me to work for her at the Superbowl It was definitely an adventure and I was truly stretched.  And stretched and then stretched just a little more.  I was 66 when I flew from Portland to Phoenix and felt closer to 106 when I returned home eight days later.

It has been several years since I have felt the near constant pressure of putting on back-to-back high level events.  I was definitely rusty and out of shape.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was up to the task.  I was terrified of failing in a huge way like leaving a VVIP stranded at the airport, or at the golf course or dinner.  I worried about giving wrong directions to one of the many vehicles we had moving about town or sending a bus loaded with special guests on a merry trip to nowhere when they were supposed to be at Taste of the NFL.  (That almost happened).

I had been dubbed Transportation Czar for the week.  And it was a test of my ability to step up and Get ‘R Done.  I think I rose to the moment.  I hope I did.  I worked 18 hour days/nights and let me just say I felt every one of my years.  My brain always seemed to be a beat or two behind.  I hung in.  I bucked up.  I made it work.  And in a very strange way, I was proud that I still had it.  Even if “it” was a little slower and sometimes had a short fuse.

Thank you Sallie for inviting me to join you in another great adventure!  I can’t honestly say it was fun.  But it was a great opportunity to stretch and it certainly gave my aging brain cells a workout they haven’t had in a long time.  A few probably fell out, but I think we blew off a whole bunch of gathering cobwebs as well.


Getting ready to watch the game in the hotel lobby bar with a group of cheering strangers was actually fun.

When I told hubs I was going to Phoenix for the Superbowl, his eyes lit up.  “Can you get me a ticket?” he asked hopefully.  “No chance in hell.” I replied.  When I told him that the closest I would get to the game was sitting in a shuttle bus in the parking lot, he felt much better.  He even smilled!  He and Mr. Ricky had a great time at home without me.  And he got to watch his favorite team pull off an amazing win – all in the comfort of his recliner chair with a beer and a bag of cheese puffs.


Home again! Feet firmly planted on our beloved carpet at PDX.

Life is good!  And as hubs is famous for saying, “Just keep saying yes until you have a reason to say no.”   Yes is where adventure lives.

Go Hawks!




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