Fitting clothes into suitcases…

Tom’s clothing, hoping it will all fit into one bag

Yes, I suppose I’m bent on fitting every possible item, clothing and otherwise, into two suitcases and one carry-on each.  The prospect of being unable to replace our clothing, toiletries and electronics online for at least three years, without paying exorbitant shipping fees, intimidates me.
Our budget for these three an more years of traveling is forefront in my mind. These two major concerns have been a frequent topic in our lives and this blog:

  1. Excess airline baggage fees, upwards of $800 per bag per person, for our two to three upcoming flights in and out of Africa
  2. Hauling extra heavy baggage to and from rental cars to rental houses, taxis to cruise ships and taxis to airports
Yesterday, to allay some of my fears (Tom doesn’t seem worried at all) I neatly stacked the bulk of our clothing (more to purchase) to actually see how much would fit into one of each of our suitcases, subsequently weighing each bag.
Tom’s clothing fit into one bag!

Not surprisingly, my clothes didn’t fit into the one bag. (We’ll get back to that in a minute).  My fear was never wrapped around Tom’s clothes fitting into one bag.  Not for a moment!

His second bag will include two dress shirts, one sport coat, one lightweight jacket, three ties, six pairs socks, twelve pair underwear, six pairs shoes, toiletries, four swimsuits, tee-shirts and two belts. This can be done.  His carry-on will include electronics, emergency clothes, prescriptions (in the event of lost luggage) and snacks.  His empty suitcase weighs 13.4 pounds, filled it weighed 47.8 pounds, which is over the weight limit on some airlines.
My clothing, hoping it will all fit into one bag.

Now, for my situation.  I can leave behind my frequently used kitchen gadgets, my antique dishes, my favorite winter clothes and jackets, the bulk of my “real” and costume jewelry, my varied selection of handbags and my fluffy slippers and robes.  

But, I won’t leave behind the essence of the persona that connotes who I am as a woman, including daily use of various cosmetics (three year’s supply), and matching outfits that must endure repeated washings.  

The matching tanks, the layering camis, the tops, the bottoms, the dresses, short or long; shoes, including sandals, workout shoes, the “cute” pink Crocs, comfy Minnetonka Moccasins, spiky high heels; cool pjs; the costume jewelry and all the items that assist a girl in feeling “put together” will accompany us around the world in heavy, bulky suitcases. 
As a result of my “girly” mentality, the piles of clothes didn’t fit into my huge suitcase. In our bedroom, there currently is a large plastic tote half filled with the overflow.  I have yet to add the following:  two dressy dresses for formal nights aboard ship, more shoes, more underwear, two sets of workout clothes, one lightweight jacket, more shoes, more shoes and more shoes. 

As for my carry-on bag, it will include cosmetics, prescriptions, overflow electronics from Tom’s carry-on and of course, emergency clothing.

My empty suitcase weighs 15.2 pounds. Loaded up it weighs 48.7 pounds.  By adding the dreaded second bags, our checked baggage totals will be approximately 100 pounds each, way over the limit of any airline. (Cruise ships don’t weigh the bags).  

Yesterday, Tom and I discussed this situation at length.  He finally put my mind at ease with this simple statement, lovingly expressed, “No worry, Sweetie.  As the time gets closer, we will either prepay for the additional baggage online when we book our reservations or, if that doesn’t work well, we’ll talk to the airlines and figure it out.”  

“In the worst case, we’ll bite the bullet, pay to have the extra bags shipped or get a storage facility in Rome for the 8 months while we’ll be living in Africa, just taking our BugsAway clothes and the basics.” 
Thanks Honey, for helping me let go of this worry in order to go back to packing up our lives, figuring out how we’ll receive our prescriptions, arranging our international phone and Internet service, purchasing and setting up two new laptops and an external hard drive, downloading no less than 100 movies, scanning another 500 photos,  buying our emergency travel insurance, getting duplicate copies of our passports, getting residency and driver’s licenses in another state, completing our vaccinations and medical appointments, going through every cupboard, closet, drawer and file cabinet in our entire house (26 years later), acquiring a new mailing address, buying a new camera (and learning how to use it!) and on and on and on.
We’ll get excited when the above tasks are completed.

Shredding a lifetime of papers…

As October looms nearer and nearer to our Halloween departure date, I lay awake at night prioritizing my tasks. With Tom gone to work Monday through Friday for 14 hours a day, the sorting and packing of a lifetime is logically in my hands. 

A portion of the most unbearable tasks has been started or completed, including the cleaning of our formerly junk laden attic, the messy top of my closet, many overstuffed drawers and hangers with outdated forgotten clothes, much of which I already hauled to Goodwill.  

We’ve scanned over 500 photos thus far with hundreds more to go.  A few months back, I removed every photo in a frame in our house, scanning the photo and saving an entire plastic tote filled with frames to be sold at our upcoming estate sale.

Looming in the back of my mind these past months have been the papers; boxes, drawers, file cabinets, banker’s boxes filled to the brim with receipts, tax records, legal documents, forms, medical files, certificates, insurance policies and on and on. 

Although not hoarders, we’ve kept that which we thought we’d need to keep, 90% of which we never referenced in all of these years. After assessing the paper inventory over the past months, I came to the realization that saving these documents would require no less than a 5′ x10″ storage facility, costing no less than $50 a month.  Goodbye, papers!

I called our accountant asking a few pertinent questions:

How long is one required to keep tax returns?

How long must one keep the supporting receipts for the tax returns? The answers to these questions are vague (Isn’t it surprising that the IRS would be vague?)  If you cheat on your taxes, you’ll need to keep your records indefinitely!  If you don’t, please see the IRS link for the vague answers.

Final question for the accountant:
Will he be able to do our taxes when we are no longer residents of Minnesota? Answer: Yes, as long as we have access to the internet.

The magic of the Internet with the availability of keeping digital personal records is steering us further and further away from the necessity of keeping paper copies of everything.  Our medical records, bank statements, income records, financial records, and other legal documents an now be kept online in a secure “cloud.”  
I made a list of the documents we’ll need to keep and subsequently store. (This list may be different for you depending on your personal circumstances).  

Documents to store:
  1. Original titles to cars (until we sell them both before we leave the US).
  2. Tax returns past 5 years (accountant has these also)
  3. Tax receipts for the past 7 years (per the advice of the accountant)
Documents to bring with us:
  1. Passports, upcoming visas, travel documents
  2. Originals of birth certificates, baptismal certificates, marriage certificate 
  3. New driver’s licenses for new state of residency
  4. Health: Insurance cards, current prescriptions, actual prescription bottles, immunization records, emergency contact information in states
  5. Checkbook (some property owners would like the balance of the rent paid via check) and recently renewed debit and credit cards
  6. Travel insurance documents
Today, after a brisk 45 minute walk on an otherwise lovely morning, I returned home with a certain sense of dread knowing that I must begin the sorting process.  When beginning a dreaded project I’ve always preferred to begin with the “worst first.”  

First, I attacked the old style wood two drawer file cabinet in our bedroom that loomed in my mind in the middle of the night. 
My next concern is the disposal of the papers, shredding and recycling as the only logical choices. After researching online I found a free shredding event which I put on my calendar with a plan to haul my two big bags of papers on June 23rd to the grocery store parking lot where Shredit will be offering the service to the community. 

After sorting for most of the day, I’ve discovered few simple steps to keep the amount to be shredded to a minimum:
  1. Place two plastic totes on either side of your chair, designating one bin for recycling, the other for shredding
  2. Place a cabinet, drawer, or box of papers in front of you on the floor
  3. Go through papers, removing envelopes, advertising, printed booklets and anything that doesn’t reference your name, address, social security number, bank account numbers, dollar amounts, etc., placing papers in appropriate tote; all personal items go into the shredding bin, all peripheral papers in the recycle bin.  (Tear off parts of forms with your personal information and save the rest for the recycle bin).
You’ll be amazed how much smaller your shredding pile is, as opposed to the recycle pile.  Place papers to be shredded into containers as suggested by your free recycle event into either bags or boxes.  Deliver them to the specified location on the specified date and time.  If one has additional shredding beyond that which the shredding event will accept, one can plan to repeat this process closer to the next arranged date in the area.  
Often, waiting for a free event is difficult when we so much want to get this cleaned up and out the door.  Most office supply stores have a shredding program (prices vary by locations and promotions).

Although I still have several more days of papers to toss, it’s less intimidating with this simple plan in place.  Hopefully, by week’s end this task will be completed, leaving me with little piles of the documents we will be taking with us on our journey.  I am looking forward to an enormous sense of relief.

Tomorrow is Round #3 of vaccinations which will include the first  of three rabies shots.  I’ll keep you posted!

Clothes, clothes and more clothes…mostly mine…

As a “girlie girl” all of my life, with an affinity for the feminine flair, as far removed from “Tom Boyishness” as a female can be, I unabashedly admit to being the female stereotype when it comes to clothes.  

Although, annoyed by the process of purchasing clothing and its varying accouterments, there is a certain sense of glee when finding a bargain on an item I am particularly interested in acquiring. Not an impulse shopper, I rarely purchase items I don’t need or want.  There isn’t a single unworn, still price- tagged item in my closet (less the items we are purchasing for our journey).  
It’s all about “the hunt” and in some cases, “the negotiation” that get my shopping juices flowing and then, the subsequent acquisition of a high-quality, well-priced, properly fitting item to add to my repertoire of varying taste and style.  

Not a fashion maven, I  possess an uncertainty of my “personal style” as encouraged by an endless pouring of style and fashion shows on TV which I seldom watch. 
Moderately comfortable Easy Spirit fashion flats
Shall I say good-bye to these?

From time to time, I peruse a current fashion magazine in a genuine effort to become familiar with current hemlines, popular colors and shoe styles, always hoping they are befitting my body type, relevant to my age and commensurate with my comfort needs. 

As a result, my current wardrobe consists of a mishmash of layering pieces which I tend to wear without layering, with either a comfy pair of jeans or more often, not so comfy pair of jeans, the comfort factor based on what I had to eat in the past two days.  Sound familiar?

Shoes?  Not so much.  Yes, I have some high heels (seldom worn), fashion flats, (most often hurt my feet), sandals (no flip flops when I can’t stand to wear anything in between my toes), boots and those staples you’ll see me wearing in the grocery store; workout shoes, Keds slip-ons,  Easy Spirit anything and Aerosoles. (In the 70’s, I could wear Candie’s high heeled shoes for 18 hours straight. Not now.)
Comfy old Keds slip-on shoes.  Are these worthy of taking along?

Assessing mine and Tom’s current wardrobes some months ago, realizing how long we’ll be traveling, we both made the decision to sell all of our old clothing at our upcoming estate sale on the weekend of October 27, 2012 and to bring only new appropriate clothing with us.  

There’s no sense in bringing lots of jeans and sweaters to Belize, Africa, Italy (in summer), Madeira and Hawaii and other warm climates.

Old, worn, favorite comfy Dexter’s flats.  Shall I make room for these?  Here again, probably not, based on worn condition.

Here’s my list.  I posted Tom’s clothing list on Thursday’s post, May 31, 2012. Hold onto your shorts!  I said that I’m not a “clothes horse” but, I do like having choices:

  • 15 casual dresses, for everyday wear, easy to dress up or down, roll in a ball in a suitcase
  • 4 dressy dresses, for formal nights on cruises
  • 5 pairs jeans
  • 5 pairs Capri pants
  • 9 pairs shorts, mostly Bermuda length (acceptable to wear in public on hot days)
  • 1 black maxi skirt
  • 16 tee shirts
  • 12 various tops 
  • 4 cardigan sweaters, 4 shrug cover ups (for breezy nights aboard ship, matching dressy dresses)
  • 2 light weight jackets (1 blazer, 1 rain coat)
  • 1 hoodie sweater
  • 3 sets of workout clothing
  • Exofficio BugsAway: 2 pair convertible pants, 2 long sleeve tee shirts, 2 hats, 4 socks
  • 2 belts for dresses
  • 2 scarfs to dress up outfits
  • 4 bathing suits, 2 bathing suit cover up dresses, 1 black pareo
  • 6 sets sleepwear, mostly tanks and shorts, 1 lightweight robe
  • 1 pair workout shoes, 2 dress shoes, 2 pair walking shoes, 3 pair sandals, 2 casual shoes
  • 5 bras, 12 panties, 2 shape wear items for those formfitting dressy dresses
  • Various costume jewelry to match outfits – We will be selling all of our “real” jewelry prior to leaving due to the high risk of exposing oneself to theft while traveling
  • 3 handbags; 1 large, 2 small
Undoubtedly, I am unknowingly leaving out some items at this point.  As the packing begins, I’ll post photos of our packed goods and post a list of all the non-clothing items we will find necessary to pack.  

Most certainly, frequent travelers will laugh when they see our extensive lists.
I would only ask them this one question, “When have you traveled when you are never going home to repack, carrying everything you own for a period of no less than 3 years?”  Now, tell me we’re taking too much!

Clothes, clothes, and more clothes…

We take our clothes for granted. 

They hang in our closets patiently waiting to be selected as a means of covering our bodies for purposes of modesty or warmth while defining our personalities and our mood for the day.

Some days they fit tightly based on the size of last night’s scrumptious dinner or mind blowing dessert.  Some days they fit loosely after 24-hour bout with the flu, only to become tight again after a new day’s meals.  Some days they fit just fine.  

Our blue jeans are particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon which at times, require us to lay on the bed to zip them using a mighty pelvis thrust followed by a hefty hike or two while we’re dancing on our toes trying to stuff in very last bit.

We all have favorite clothes.  Favorites make us look good, remind us of a sentimental occasion with their worn and comfortable feeling seemingly timeless. 

We save some of our clothes for decades, neatly tucked away in the attic, hoping they will come back in style. Ironically, when they do, there is a distinct trendy update, rendering them subject to stares from strangers and criticism from those we love, who refuse to allow us to embarrass them in public.

Some of us have no interest in their clothes, grabbing them mindlessly off the hanger with little regard for color, coordinating an outfit or the current style. Others of us are filled with angst, painstakingly trying on item after item in a futile effort to achieve that perfect combination that will magically make us look and feel good. 

Lately, I have been thinking about our clothes.  Honestly, in the past, I seldom “thought” about my clothes other than their purchase (usually online), their washing (frequently after one wearing), their  necessity of being ironed (love to iron!), then deciding on what to wear and the occasional annoyance of a “wardrobe malfunction.”

Thinking about clothes has become a necessary element of traveling about the world for the next three years or more, with two suitcases and one carry-on each.  We have read numerous websites with packing suggestions.  No, not much help there when most suggestions are for vacations, not carrying everything owned at the time, never going “home” to repack. 

I’ve always rotated my clothing not only for variety, but to take advantage of what fashionable items I had at the time.

Tom tends to wear the same clothes day after day. I currently do laundry every day. Whatever he wore today will be back in his drawer within a few hours of his taking them off being “first up” to be worn again the next day, rather than rummaging through the drawers to find something different. 

This past weekend, when we started accessing his wardrobe needs, the top two or three items in each drawer were old and worn.  Everything underneath these items, was nearly new.  We found 20 short sleeve button down shirts in his closet that he had never worn, from either lack of looking through them or from them not fitting him until now with him 25 pounds lighter from his recent diet, low carb, wheat free, grain free, starch free and sugar free.  With his 20 shirts neatly folded and ready for packing, we are purchasing the following items to round out his wardrobe:

  • 16 pairs of shorts:  khaki, taupe, brown, white, bluejeans, navy, beige
  • 2 pairs dress pants: khaki, black
  • 1 sport coat (for dressy cruise nights)
  • 2 dress shirts + 3 ties (for dressy cruise nights)
  • 3 pairs jeans
  • 1 pair lightweight sweatpants & hoodie
  • 20 button down shirts:  solids, checks, Hawaiian print (Tommy Bahama)
  • 16 tee shirts: all solids
  • 4 swim trunks
  • 1 lightweight robe
  • 20 pair briefs (to avoid paying for laundry service on cruises)
  • 20 pairs white socks
  • 3 pair dress socks
  • 1 pair tennis shoes
  • 1 pair heavy duty sports shoes
  • 1 pair casual sandals
  • 1 pair dress shoes
  • 2 belts
  • 1 lightweight rain jacket
  • BugsAway clothing: 2 pair pants (pants to shorts via zipper), 2 long sleeve shirts, 2 tee shirts, 4 pairs socks, 1 baseball cap, 1 full coverage hat all treated with Permethrin, effective through 70 washings against, mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and midges.
Yes, 127 items seem overwhelming. However, they will fit into his two suitcases. We may have to pay for additional or overweight baggage.  But, Tom will have enough clothing to accommodate our longest cruises without paying for laundry service fees instead, waiting until we arrive at our next location at which time we will be able to do our own laundry for the cost of laundry soap.  

Based on Royal Caribbean’s attached laundry fee schedule, we would easily spend a combined $400 on laundry fees on each cruise.  With seven cruises booked thus far while awaiting four more to post, we could be looking at about $2800 in laundry fees.

After considerable research, it appears that most international flights will accept two bags each or may charge additional fees. At this point, we will take our chances and bring plenty of clothes, hand washing a few items as necessary along the way.

Our next post on Saturday, June 2 will be the dilemma of the other half of this packing equation: the clothing of a color coordinated freak, overly picky, somewhat fashion conscientious, moderately trendy, shoe loving, variety seeking individual who refuses to ever wear the same clothing two days in a row: ME!

Memorial weekend thoughts…

As we are lounging in the comfy chairs, Indy 500 on the TV in the background, an odd sensation washed over me.  This will be the last Memorial weekend we’ll spend in this house. 

While anticipating the necessary chopping and dicing in order to prepare the shish kabob dinner we’ll cook on the grill tonight, my mind is not so much on the race and chopping as it is on the realities facing us moving forward.
Today is Day #7 with no coffee for me.  Our Miele coffee machine died last week requiring a $1000 repair.  We decided to quit drinking coffee rather than invest in the repairs or purchase a new coffee machine at this late a date.  

I love coffee.  Tom is ambivalent.  For me, a proper cup of coffee requires the requisite two tablespoons of real cream, two packs of Stevia and two drops of liquid Splenda (my vice) to ensure it is tasteful and also low carb.  Tom prefers powdered cream and real sugar, which he forfeited nine months ago when we committed to the gluten free, low carb, sugar free, wheat, grain and starch free lifestyle.  

The question becomes: “Is it worth continuing to drink coffee when we each require specific “add-ins” that may not be readily available throughout the world.” So seven days ago, I said: “Bye, bye coffee” and “Hello, tea.” Tom doesn’t drink tea, except when iced. Tom also gave it up. Luckily, no headaches or cravings for either of us.

Many of these situations arise, causing us to question the continuation of a particular habit by using products that may be impossible to find abroad. Do we really want to haul large quantities of certain items in our  overloaded bags? Probably not.

So, I started making a list (how unusual of me!), of the items we have used and loved all these years.  Here are only a few of the many habits we must break:
  1. US TV:  We currently have three multi-room DVRs.  We have dozens of shows taping around the clock (many we never have an opportunity to watch) to ensure we are entertained upon deciding to lounge in these comfy chairs in the evening or on a weekend. No more watching!
  2. US Radio:  We each have our favorite radio shows we enjoy while driving. No more listening!  It uses too much data to listen on our laptops.
  3. Smart Phones: We’ve had unlimited service for talk, text and internet.  In the middle of any night, when I can’t sleep, I listen to Dr. Joy Brown‘s most recent podcast to lull me back to sleep. And, what about talking freely to family and friends on the phone?  It will be Skype in the future.
  4. eBay Shopping.  Want to buy something?  I look online at retail stores and buy it from eBay or Amazon, or through a multitude of other discount sellers. We won’t be able to receive packages along the way considering the delivery time and shipping fees to wherever we may be. No more online shopping!
  5. No Cars: It would be foolish to bear the expense of owning cars, paying for insurance, licensing and storage.  We calculated this expense at about $1500 a month. We will rent OPC (other people’s cars). No more driving one’s own car!
  6. King-sized Sleep Number Bed:  We have the over-sized Sleep Number California King Sleep Number bed whereby the head and foot rises upon command from a remote.  Oh, we sure will miss our bed when sleeping in OPB (other people’s beds) with possible bed bugs, dust mites, uncomfortable mattresses and who know what else? Yikes! We will be packing our own hypo-allergenic mattress and box springs covers. No more comfy bed!
  7. Fresh Produce: We have salad every night with dinner. It’s often my favorite part of dinner with our limited diet; adding low carb veggies, nuts, grated cheeses and fresh bacon bits. Marcia, the travel nurse at Park Nicollet Travel Clinic advised against consuming any fresh produce, except in the US, Canada and Europe.  The risk of disease is high. Salads, fresh fruit, raw veggies?  No more raw veggies or salad!
  8. Toiletries, Sonic Toothbrush (too heavy) and Cosmetics:  Oh, no!  This is tricky for me as a daily user of a wide array of cosmetic items, all paraben-free and mostly organic products (when possible).  Many of these items will not be readily available and, many of which I usually purchase online.  I’ll pack as much as possible purchasing whatever is available in other countries.
  9. Favorite Foods: Will they have sugar free items, almond meal, coconut flour (gluten free flour we can use), coconut oil, unsweetened Greek yogurt, Crystal Lite Iced Tea, Himalayan Salt, unsweetened coconut milk,   protein powder?  Grass fed meat?  Free range eggs?  No more familiar foods!
  10. English: Will anyone understand us? Or will we understand them? Perhaps, no English in some countries!
  11. Newspaper: Tom reads the StarTribune newspaper seven days a week from front to back, practically memorizing every word that he reads. He is my go-to person for local and world news updates.  I always joke that he reads the paper so thoroughly that he even reads the page numbers! No more paper, Tom!
  12. Working Out:  It’s highly unlikely there will be a health club within the three familiar miles I have traveled several times a week for many years. It appears there are no health clubs within an hour’s drive of many of our vacation rental homes. I guess I will start doing lunges and pushups at home.  No more health clubs!
Without a doubt, we will say “goodbye” to many of the familiar items and rituals we’ve enjoyed over the years.  But then, we’ll be saying “hello” over and over and over again!

Saying goodbye to “stuff”…

Hand painted coffee table in our living room

This table was purchased at an art fair in our town of Excelsior in the summer of 1993. Over the years, I roamed about the annual event always on the prowl for additions to our lodge like home.  Lo and behold, this perfect table appeared.  Barely able to negotiate due to my excitement I couldn’t pay for the table quickly enough.  

Anxious to see the table in front of the sofa and stone fireplace, I called Tom asking him to come to the fair to bring the table home.

For days, we walked around the table admiring how perfectly it fit the spot while reveling in the fact that it so well depicted our lives of fishing off our dock enjoying Mother Nature’s bounty each and every day of our lives.

Now almost 20 years later, on October 27, 2012, the weekend of our estate sale, we will say goodbye to this table while we make every effort to graciously say goodbye to many more of the treasures we’ve accumulated over the years.

Goodbye, table!  Goodbye, “stuff.” Yesterday afternoon, a harsh reality hit us when Jim Anderson from Caring Estate Sales met with Tom and I to discuss the disposition of our “stuff.”  Our estate sale will commence on October 27, 2012.”Stuff” has become the cavalier word we have begun to use to disassociate ourselves from the accumulated treasures of our lives, many possessing a memorable story.

When new guests came to visit our 92 year old peninsula home for the first time, we’d offer a tour sharing the endless morsels of history, whether ours or the item’s as we wandered from room to room, smiling from ear to ear.  
Its in our nature to share the stories of our possessions all the while sensitive to the the delicate balance of story telling as opposed to annoying bragging. Surely, the caveman brought the victory of his first hunt to the tribe, again smiling from ear to ear, anxious to share in his treasure, not only as a source of food but a sense of “pride” a word often frowned upon by some. 
“Pride” is defined as: “A feeling of pleasure from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is associated, or from qualities or possessions.”  

Deny this feeling and we’d stop planting flowers and mowing our lawns for our neighbors to see.  We’d stop matching our shirts to our pants, stop cutting our hair, stop polishing our toes, stop wearing jewelry and stop buying sports cars. We’d live our lives of necessity only, getting by on the minimum, for safety, for convenience and for function.  
Yes, we are proud of that which we have acquired in our lives; our homes, our possessions, our cars, our awards, our popularity, our accomplishments and even, our children. 
And yes, many take it to extremes in unrealistic ways as we observe in the media. But, that is not any of us. We are proud of the more simple things we’ve acquired over the years that tell a story of who we are, who we’ve been and who we’d like to become in the future.

Giving up habits..Wean me slowly!…

Bye, bye tea!

“They,” say it takes three weeks to break a habit. Yes, we still have six months and fourteen days until we leave for our adventure, but I feel compelled to start weaning myself off of some of my habits and routines. Most likely, Tom will bring his habits with us! 

We often chuckle over our routines and habits, as written in the first entry in this blog on March 14, 2012, describing in painstaking detail how we jointly manage to change clocks twice a year for daylight savings. That bi-annual event is but the tip of the iceberg!

Creatures of habit, we are! As we anticipate the homes we will occupy in the countries we will visit, many of our familiar and comforting routines will be tossed aside. Never staying long enough in any location to firmly establish new routines, we will strive to find ways to feel at ease and comfortable in someone else’s space.

The master bath in our home has a sink with brass fixtures, a bit outdated, but still attractive and befitting our lodge-like home on a lake here in Minnesota. The faucet in the pedestal sink drips. Over the years we’ve had several plumbers looking at it, telling us that the faucet cannot be repaired and must be replaced with a more current design. It still looks quite nice.

The faucet leaks when not shut off tightly (mostly by me). It drips onto the brass ring and stopper at the drain. This annoys me. Two to three times a day, I get out the Barkeeper’s Friend with a little sponge kept at the bottom of the closet (have to bend over each time), wet the sponge, sprinkle the Barkeepers, and scrub the drain until it sparkles, drying off every last drop of water with a piece of toilet paper. 

Good riddance!

Throwing the t.p. in the toilet, I consider flushing it but don’t. Why waste water?  Why don’t I throw it in the little plastic bag inside the little decorative brash trimmed, off-white porcelain trash can? Simple, I don’t want to have to feel compelled to empty the trash! (Now you can see why the details of planning this extended many years life of world travel, make me feel right at home as if you didn’t already know)! Two or three times a day, I do this! Twenty-six years!!!

Will I immediately go to a grocery store upon arriving in Belize, buy a Barkeeper’s Friend equivalent, and a small scrubby sponge to run back to our little ocean side house and start scrubbing the sparkly stainless steel drain two to three times a day? I don’t think so. Some habits will die on their own. Good riddance!  

However, other habits will be harder to break. This morning, as usual (another habit) I awaken at 5:30 am. I get up, hit the loo (Ha! Look, I am already getting more familiar with foreign expressions!), brush my teeth, wash my face and put in my contacts in order to see and go back to bed to look at my phone, an AndroidX loaded with 100’s of apps, but only a few I habitually use: Gmail, Facebook, Pulse, and Amazon Kindle Free App (containing my latest reading obsession).  

This morning I realized that this may not be possible once we are no longer on US soil. Yes, we will have access to the Internet on our laptops, many times provided as wireless broadband by the property owners. During these periods, we will be unable to use the Internet on our phones unless we are willing to pay outrageous fees. 

When I calculated the possible fees, it would be about $5000 a month for playing with our phones, considering our current megabyte usage, utilizing our current service provider! No thank you! (We will get into this in more depth on this topic as we move along here and discuss XCOMGLOBAL and SIM card options). Thus, another habit to break! Playing with our phones! Yikes!

We have three flat-screen TV’s as do many Americans, one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in the kitchen. From the moment we are up and about, until going to bed, the TV is on in the background, quietly or off when talking or loudly when watching due to Tom’s hearing loss (42 years on the railroad).  

Although recently distracted with our laptops; Tom with ancestry, me with travel stuff, we usually spend most evenings together watching shows we programmed during the week. This “getting outside your head” form of entertainment is a delightful respite from the stresses of everyday life.   

Most of the vacation rentals will have tiny hard to watch old TVs with shows in foreign languages. No more piling up our plates with tasty homemade dinners to sit and watch yet another episode of “Downton Abbey”, “Dexter” or one of our favorite mindless, sinfully deliciously reality shows.  

Guess we’ll watch TV on our computers when we have Internet access or watch the many movies we plan to download to a yet-to-be-purchased portable four terabyte external hard drive.  

Here’s another habit, hard to break. Every afternoon at 4:00 PM, I brew tea, one cup at a time, at exactly the correct temperature, with precisely the same pot, for exactly three minutes, with a certain strainer, a special timer, a sterling silver spoon, in a pale green cup, with 3 drops of liquid Stevia, my own version of Happy Hour.  
I only like one type of tea, Pouchong, a hard to find, buy-online-only tea grown in the spring in Taiwan. I have tried numerous other teas to no avail. Oh, no! The bag of tea, the strainer, the cup, the timer, the Splenda, the pot, the spoon all weigh 2.7 pounds which equals 3.85% of our allowable luggage when we fly. Bye, bye tea!

Lamps and bowls from stormy weather…

Bowls I had made by a woodworking guy from downed trees in our yard after a storm.

When the powerful wind blows in from the south our storm door, whistles an eerie sound. This morning I bolted out of bed to that sound at 5:50 am, a short time after Tom had left for work. In my sleepy stupor, I thought I was hearing the train-like roar of a tornado.

My heart was pounding in my chest as adrenaline was pumping fervently through my veins. I sat down on the stairway landing, took a deep breath as a sudden wave of sorrow washed over me, remembering the storm of 2007 that took twenty of our mature trees.  

I recalled the many middle-of-the-night tornado warnings that sent us lumbering down the steep stairway to the basement, the power outages that lasted for days, prompting us to finally buy a generator (which we didn’t need to use for another five years).

As I mulled over all the dastardly weather-related events in our lives these past 21 years together, I smiled, as my heart pounding eased and my breathing returned to normal.  

I recalled the time the 10′ diameter, 500 pound round picnic table flew through the yard like a Frisbee, the snowdrift so high it took four men and a bobcat to break it down (while we stayed indoors stranded for days), the sturdy dock that flipped over, the pontoon boat that drifted away, the rain so hard and long that not only the road flooded but also our basement. We called the fire department to rescue us.  

We made it through, always grateful that it wasn’t worse, grateful we shared the experience together, grateful our family members, friends, and pets were all safe, and grateful for the way it changed us, a little bit at a time, always for the better.

It was Friday night August 10, 2007. Ragweed was in full bloom and I couldn’t stop sneezing. Taking two over-the-counter antihistamines around 10 pm, I anticipated I’d be out like a light in no time.  

Tom stayed awake to watch the weather, planning to come to bed shortly. The barometric pressure, the temperature, and the humidity had been outrageous all day and into the evening. In the morning, we planned to grab our ambitiously packed luggage in order to head out the door to catch a flight to Miami for a week long convention for Tom’s work and, a much-needed vacation.

At 3:00 am, Tom tried to awaken me to go down to the basement, to no avail. He later told me I had refused to get up. He came back to bed while the house shook with violent straight-line winds attacking us from all sides of the peninsula.  

The alarm clock didn’t go off as planned. The power was off. It was 8:00 am and we had to leave for the airport in one hour.  I bolted out of bed realizing we had overslept and dashed to the kitchen to turn on the coffee, which I needed more this morning than ever. But, the power was off. No coffee machine. 

It only took one glance out the window to realize that something awful had happened during the night. Running back to the bedroom to awaken Tom it became quite clear that we wouldn’t be leaving for the airport and we didn’t have to rush. We weren’t going anywhere.

Our tree-lined yard looked as if a bulldozer had come through knocking down every tree in its path. One giant oak tree with a 36″ diameter was down, along with dozens of smaller red cedars and pine trees. Gone. Gone was all of our newer patio furniture. Gone were all of our adorable handmade birdhouses.

Gone was the wood duck house with the huge tree it was secured to. Gone was the tree that WorldWideWillie climbed on command. Gone was the Weber grill along with its big black lid. Gone was the boat dock into a mangled, twisted mess on the lawn. Gone was the 26′ pontoon boat, it too a mangled mess lying on the rip rap shoreline.

The new siding on the house was severely damaged by falling trees, the stone chimney flue for the furnace, toppled over into a pile on the damaged thick wood shake roof. Hail damage on both of our cars. No power, not for 5 days. It was 95 degrees for each of the 5 days. Going to Florida seemed unimportant. We called and canceled everything.

After two weeks of hard work, no less than ten workers from tree removal companies, the considerable expense to remove the downed trees, most of which wasn’t covered by our insurance, a new pile of downed red cedar trees were neatly cut and stacked awaiting future fires in the fire pit.  

We were relieved that the house hadn’t been more severely damaged and of course, that no one had been hurt in the 3:00 am storm. Gawkers came from all over to see our devastated property. We were sad over the loss of so many hundred plus-year-old trees that not only changed the look of our yard, but also affected the lighting in our many-windowed home.

Days after the cleanup when Tom had gone back to work, I wandered over to the woodpile wondering how we’d ever use all the wood. Tom talked about using the logs to line our driveway, connected by heavy-duty marine rope. A great idea, but not practical with the narrow road.

One of Two Lamps Made from Downed Red Cedar Trees

As I stood there looking at the wood I knew I needed an idea to turn this loss of nature into a wondrous memory. It was that day that I decided to surprise Tom the next Christmas with lamps and bowls made from precious wood. 

After considerable research, I found a local woodworker who decided to take on the challenge. The following Christmas the giant wrapped boxes sat by our memorabilia covered Christmas tree with Tom’s name neatly written on the colorful little tags.  

The bowls were his birthday gift on December 23rd, the lamps for Christmas. Tears welled up his eyes on both occasions as he excitedly ripped open the boxes to reveal the sentimental gifts, each engraved on the underside with his name and the date of the storm.

The shades were purchased separately, made by hand with actual leaves embedded in the fabric, visible only at night for a pleasing effect when the lamps are turned on.  Need I say, he was touched by these gifts, assuming at the time that we’d have them forever. 

Each day, as we inch our way closer to the departure date of October 31, 2012, we face the reality that we will soon say goodbye, not only to those people we love and cherish, but also to these bowls and lamps, and the multitude of sentimental treasures we’ve accumulated over the years. 
We can only hope that whoever purchases these items from us will somehow discover a special meaning of their own.

As each of our lives nears the end, it is love that will accompany us as we travel on to our eternal journey. No lamps or bowls allowed.