I Am My Husband’s Apprentice

Why building a wall together will help you appreciate your differences.

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I am married to an engineer.  He fits the stereotype of an engineer.  The spreadsheets, the planning, the precise measurements, typical analytical mind, that’s him.  I on the other hand rely on instinct rather than logic or knowledge.  Being impulsive and flexible was an asset when teaching preschoolers.

Recently we decided (after much persuading by me) to put up a reclaimed barnwood wall.  I’ve seen them everywhere on television and in decorating magazines and thought it would look perfect in my dining room.  Greg, my husband needed to be convinced, but eventually I wore him down with the promise that I would help him with the entire job.  How hard could it be?  It’s just some rustic wood nailed up on the wall, right? Not exactly. This is where that engineer brain conflicted with my spontaneous style.

First stop was to pick up the barnwood.  We ended up picking boards from two different locations to get the colors and textures I wanted.  These were pretty rough boards, uneven, bowed, and various lengths and thickness.  Next, we visited Home Depot for goggles, ear protection,  liquid nails, nails for the nail gun and gloves.

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Driving hom with the barnwood, he looks happy now
With the supplies in hand we were ready to begin the project I thought.  Not exactly.  After watching a couple of YouTube videos we determined that we should paint the wall black before hanging the wood.  Back to Home Depot for more paint and then we begin.

Greg wanted to make sure every board had a smooth edge, so we ran them through the the joiner, a machine that takes small around of wood off of the outer edge of a board.  I wanted the design to look a certain way, so we laid all of the wood out on the garage floor in the pattern that looked best to me.  Greg would have been content with all gray wood, but I was not going for that.

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Beginning to lay our the pattern for the wood wall
While Greg was using the joiner I began painting the wall black.  Since nobody will see it my paint job was less than perfect, but served its purpose.  Basically, it hides the knots and holes in the wood from peaking through.  Once he was finished with the joining, I thought we would start slapping up the boards.  No such luck.  Greg meticulously measured and cut the boards for the bottom row.  He wanted to have three board, two board row combination but I convinced him that random lengths looks better.

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The wall is starting to come together
He was not happy that some of the boards were thicker than others, or that some were warped, very splintery or just plain ugly.  He originally wanted to run all of the boards through his planer so they would have a uniform thickness.  I helped pull a few boards through the planer, mumbling under my breath the entire time “how the hell is this rustic?” Eventually we came to a meeting of the minds and did it my way AND his way.  I was fine with him joining the edges of the boards, because that made him happy.  But I eventually put my foot down and said I like the imperfections with the various thickness of the boards.  He relented.  Together we cut boards to size.  I handed him the nail gun and any other requested tool.

For every row he used liquid nails, the nail gun and the level.  And chalk.  Why chalk you ask?  We needed chalk to mark the studs.  Greg has a stud finder but since he didn’t trust it completely, he had to nail into each presumed stud to ensure the stud finder was correct.

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Near the top of the arch we discovered the builder’s insert was not square, oh no!
I thought this job would take two days max.  It was closer to a week to completion.  I love how talented my husband is with his woodworking projects.  I am happy to give him my creative suggestions. But he can have the garage with the loud tools, splinters and sawdust everywhere.  I’m happy with my painting and giving him project design suggestions.

Botox Gone Bad

Living with the consequences of my vanity.

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I will admit it, I’m vain.  I would much rather give you my social security number than my age.  I try to take care of myself.  I eat fairly well, exercise regularly and I stay out of the sun.  Whenever I have a little extra money I get Botox or some other treatment that will help hide my age.

Recently I went in to the medspa for some Botox.  I was hosting a party a few days later and wanted to make the lines around my eyes disappear.  If you have never had Botox I highly recommend it.  The shot is barely a pinch and the result is visible within a day or less.  Gone will be the furrowed brow, the crow’s feet etc.

Well, let this be a cautionary tale about the possible side effects of injectables.  On this particular occasion, while getting the injection I jumped.  I’m not sure why I jumped, but I did.  The doctor warned me that it might leave a bruise.  “So what, that’s fine” I said.  Well it’s a week later and I still look liked I did a few rounds with Mike Tyson.  But it will all fade and the wrinkles are gone for now.

My sweet husband is mortified when we walk anywhere together because he is the one getting the dirty looks.  This is one of the possible outcomes when you get Botox.  I still don’t care.  I may have a grade one shiner, but the crow’s feet have disappeared.  Will I get Botox again?  Absolutely!  Such is the price for looking younger (and being somewhat shallow).

 

A Day Well Spent

How finding a place to volunteer helped me find myself.

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There is a certain type of satisfaction that for me, has been misssing for much of the past year of my retirement. As a teacher, a mother and a wife I have always believed in service to others.  My career was so satisfying because every day I felt like I was making a difference in the life of my students.

I started looking for a place to volunteer where I could contribute and feel like I was doing good work in the service to others.  Recently, I started spending time with some new friends of mine.  Today I hung out with Joey, Jasmine, Kula, Ruby, Chocolate, Adam, Adriana and Candy .  These are the amazing rescued and trained horses, mini horses and pony at Kachina’s Place in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Kachina’s Place provides therapeutic equestrian activities for children and adults with physical, cognitive, and emotional limitations.  I started volunteering at Kachina’s Place about a month ago and immediately I knew it was going to be a great fit.  These are my people, I belong here.

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Sweet Joey nosing around

I love horses and have always been aware of the keen sensitivity that horses demonstrate.  They are great readers of body language and can be very empathetic, not to mention the fact that they are beautiful, graceful animals that are lovely to watch.

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Ruby, the former racehorse is a sweetie

Volunteering at Kachina’s Place felt right from the beginning.  The stables and setting is beautiful and the horses are sweet, calm, gentle and very endearing.  Franky Greaves the trainer is patient, kind and has set up a perfect environment for the therapeutic riding and equestrian activities.

Kachina’s Place is a special horse ranch with four horses, three mini horses and a pony.  The ranch is in a picturesque location complete with mountain views, a garden, a grassy area for yoga and eight very well cared for horses.  Special needs students taking lesssons may also be asked to groom, feed, clean up after as well as ride the horses.  They may complete a yoga class in the grass, groom a horse with help or help clean up stalls and the field as well as learning to trust and ride the horses.

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Trainer Franky with a student practicing balance.

Recently several clients came and together we groomed some horses, did some yoga on the grass, cleaned stalls, took turns riding  and painted (with non-toxic paint) one of the mini horses, Adriana, who loves to be pampered and brushed.  We practiced teamwork, turn taking, responsibility and had such a wonderful time.  Everybody enjoyed themselves, especially me.

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Cleaning up after the horses with my buddy.

I love volunteering at Kachina’s Place and at the end of the day I know it has been a day well spent.

Kachina’s Place is a non-profit organization, if you would like to donate or learn more about this wonderful organization I encourage you to go to: https://kachinasplace.org

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My Mother’s Last Gift

 

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Lately I have seen a lot of women my age shopping with their mothers.  Now I am just assuming they are mothers and daughters, gingerly walking up and down the shopping isles.  I look at these women with sweet nostalgic memories and a twinge of envy.  My mom was a shopper in the finest sense of the word.  She would drive far and wide to seek out bargains.  Together we always had fun shopping and maybe that’s why I am envious of these women, gently guiding their own frail mothers.

Daughters have complicated relationships with their mothers.  My mother was not perfect, but I never felt anything but love from her.  She was a child of The Great Depression and lost her own mother at an early age.  She helped raise her younger siblings when her mother passed away leaving behind eight young children.  I am sure growing up in poverty, without a mother made her the person I knew.  Her memories of her own mother were always sweet stories of her cat Dorothy, placing cardboard in their shoes to cover the holes in the soles, eating sugar and lard sandwiches and always sharing what little you had with someone who had even less.

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My mom as a young girl.

My mom’s name was Grace and she talked to everyone.  She would start a conversation with the stranger sitting next to her on a plane and soon would be exchanging phone numbers. Grace’s three children all grew up knowing that mom was proud of them and loved them unconditionally.  

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Grace, meeting her granddaughter, Kathleen Grace.

The last five years of my mother’s life were undoubtedly the most difficult.  She was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease .  Not very long after the diagnosis my father, her husband and love of her life passed away.  Grace, the independent working mother, the shopper, the lady that took dusting her home to a new level, the traveler, the conversationalist would soon be robbed of what she valued most, her independence.  

Grace lived with the diagnosis of ALS the way she lived her entire life, with grace.  Very quickly after her diagnosis she lost the ability to walk, sit up independently, she had difficulty swallowing, and soon only had the use of only one hand.

No one tells you when you are diagnosed with an awful disease like ALS how lonely it can be.  Friends you have your entire life often abandon you because your disease makes them “uncomfortable.”  At first, there were many tears when told of her fate, but eventually my mom would say, “well, you’ve got to die of something.”  After my dad’s death she moved in with my sister’s family.  Mom became friends with her caregivers, they enjoyed concerts together she eventually lent money to her new friend to purchase her first home.
Mom continued to travel to my home in Arizona.  There she discovered caregivers with connections to Native American crafts.  One day I came home from work to discover several craftsman selling her jewelry and other crafts in my living room!  Mom also loved gambling and with her one good hand could still operate  a slot machine at the casinos.

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Here we are dressed alike, heading out to the casinos.

When you know your mother is going to die you don’t hesitate to tell them how much you love them.  I thanked her for being a great mother and grandmother.  I thanked her for my great childhood.

At the very end of her life my sister called to tell me it was time to come and say goodbye to mom.  I quickly flew out to the East Coast with my three children.  When I saw her it was apparent that the end was very near, mom could no longer eat and she had lost the ability to speak. In her final moments Grace motioned her grandchildren closer and with her dying breath she mouthed the words “I love you.”  She then blew a kiss, closed her eyes and was gone.  Grace’s final gift was to tell us she loved us and to die in peace.

The Often Bumpy Road To Retirement

The road to retirement often has detours and bumps ahead.

About a year ago I retired from nearly twenty five years of teaching.  I loved the job and the kids but I believe every good teacher knows when it’s time to leave.  I was lucky enough to be able to retire financially, but mentally I was still a teacher, longing for my kids and the joy that I felt from teaching.

I am spontaneous and a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person, but that was not working for me as a retired woman.  My husband had an eighteen month head start on his retirement.  He had a routine, a schedule, a cool hobby and his day planned out.  At first I felt like I was floundering.  Lack of planning was not really working for me.  Where did my day go?  At the end of each day I felt like I accomplished nothing, nada.

I needed to expand my world.  I started by substitute teaching for some other teachers.  I enjoyed it, but I always needed to remember that I was the visitor.  This was NOT my classroom.  I enjoyed spending time with the kids but it was not enough.

Slowly, things have changed.  My days no longer feel wasted and unproductive. I have come to a place of contentment and satisfaction. Retirement, to me feels like a great pair of jeans you have picked out long ago, saved for and finally just went out and bought. Initially, they were uncomfortable and foreign, maybe a bit too tight and restrictive, they did not feel “comfortable.”  After “wearing” my retirement for a while (nearly a year)  I now feel more at home with it.  It’s a much better fit than it was initially, and I like the way I feel at the end of my day. I have settled into my retirement.

When I first retired we traveled so much I really didn’t get a chance to manage my time at home.  I value every day and I realize that we may never know when it is our last day on this earth, so I need to make all my days count.

Slowly, I began to build my week. At the recommendation of a friend, I started with an outdoor fitness class three times a week.  I had always enjoyed working out and had recently left my long time workout group.  I don’t like change, who does?  But I was exhilarated with the new group.  I was modifying my workouts and felt great afterwards.  Unfortunately I hit a detour.  My doctor said no more working out while my foot fracture was still healing.  I was wearing the ortho boot but apparently my foot was not ready for the extra stress.

I was instantly deflated. I NEEDED to workout.  Swimming came immediately to mind and I signed up for water aerobics at a local community center.  I arrived early to the large facility, complete with a gym, rock climbing wall and multiple swimming pools.  Very quickly I was greeted by “the ladies”.  These nine ladies have been part of the morning water aerobics class for years.  They ranged in age from sixties to eighties.   I was the young one in the group.  I was also the third Nancie, so they referred to me as “Nancie number 3.”   I removed my boot and stepped intrepidly into the warm water.  After sixty minutes I was beat!  This was going to be fun!

In addition, I started a watercolor class.  For several hours each week I would learn some new techniques and meet new people.  Most of the people in my class were obviously very talented.  I don’t consider myself talented necessary, but I am motivated and driven.  I set up my casita with painting supplies and most days I will spend several hours painting and enjoying the solitude.  I have not yet completed a painting that I’m going to frame, but I’m getting closer.

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My hummingbird, a work in progress
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Free form tulips
I make time to see my family and friends.  My schedule is flexible so I love it when I can enjoy a leisurely lunch or activity with a good friend.  My photography interest have expanded and I do try to find opportunities to take interesting photographs.  I now control the hours in my days, and that is a very good feeling.  I am now back at my outdoor fitness class and water aerobics, it feels great.  I have also located a charity that I may volunteer at, my dance card is filling up.

We continue to plan more travel and I have been researching some of the places that we plan on visiting this year.  They include:  Chicago, Annapolis, Miami, Key West, the Caribbean, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Madeira , and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  That will keep us kind of busy, and I really do enjoy having the freedom to be as busy as I want.

This blog began about a year ago.  I love reading other blogs and hearing from people that take the time to read my blog.  Thank you for reading my thoughts.  I would love to hear from some readers about their retirement journeys.

Day Trippin’ In Arizona

Why you need to take a road trip in Arizona

Some days you just want to get out and get moving.  Recently I had one of those days.  I said to my husband, “Let’s take a road trip on the Apache Trail.”

He was silent for a few minutes, because he is a planner and a thinker but he asked me how quickly I could get ready and thirty minutes later we were on the road.  My husband is the driver for two reasons:

  1.  He is the constant line leader.
  2.  I am a lousy driver.
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My husband, an excellent driver

 

Even though we’ve  lived in Arizona for over thirty years we have never visited the Apache Trail.   The scenic road is named after the Apache Indian tribe that originally used the trail.  We begin our road trip catching AZ 88 in Apache Junction through Tonto National Forrest.

President Theodore Rosevelt compared the beauty of the Apache Trail to the Alps, The Grand Canyon and The Rockies.  “To me it is the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful.”  He was right.

Slowly we drove along the  steep, narrow and winding road, with saguaro covered hills that runs for roughly forty miles.  Along the way we passed several single lane bridges.  There is an aspect of trust you need to have to get on one of these bridges.  You have to trust that the guy on the other side will wait for you to cross.  Luckily for us the route was not busy

.  This is not a drive for the timid motorist.  Often the road was very narrow with hairpin curves and dropped steeply down to canyons.  I’m not going to lie, when I get scared, imagining a fall down the rocky crevasses I simply close my eyes and think about being somewhere else.  Yet another reason why I am not the driver.

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View of the colors along the Apache Trail

An hour into our journey we happened upon Canyon Lake, a man made reservoir with stunning views of cliffs and bright green and yellow colored desert plants.  So many boaters and campers were out enjoying the idyllic weather.

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Canyon Lake
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Another photographer pointed out this lone bright orange poppy

We drove for about five hours past the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park, Goldfield Ghost Town, Canyon Lake and the tiny tourist town of Tortilla Flat, but did not complete the trail.  Towards the end of the drive the road turns to gravel.  We stopped often along the way to take pictures and appreciate the beauty around us.  In our hectic and busy lives we often ignore what is in our own backyard.  I know we will return again to enjoy the splendor of the desert.

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An ocotillo ready to bloom with the colors of the desert in the background
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Superstition Mountains in the background
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Even though we couldn’t alway pull the car over, we still enjoyed the view
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Century plants, ocotillos, brittle bushes and prickly pears along the way

 

 

 

 

 

Springtime in the Desert

I live in Phoenix Arizona.  People think of the desert as a hot, dry, brown place.  That could not be further from the truth.  This year during monsoon season Phoenix experienced heavier rainfall than is typical.  Following those torrential rains comes the promise of spring wildflowers.  Super bloom time has arrived in the Sonoran Desert.

The desert is bursting with wildflowers.  It’s a beautiful time to see the colors of the Sonoran desert.  Even though I can’t hike yet due to my injury, I did drive to a trailhead to experience that beauty firsthand.

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The buds of the Jumping Cholla  ready to bloom
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Honey bee feeding on Baja Fairy Duster Flower

 

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Close up of a Pink Baja Fairy Duster Flower
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This is not the brown deser, this is super bloom time..
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Saguaro in the colorful desert
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The Creosote bush emits a lovely scent following a rain storm, we think of it as the smell of rain.
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Eleganat Brodiaea

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Desert Marigold dot the landscape throughout the Sonoran desert.

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Lupine flowers

 

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This ridge of iconic Saguaro cactus is near my home

For years I’ve driven along one particular road and never noticed the majestic ridge of Saguaro cactus, until the other day.  This time it wasn’t about completing a hike, it   was about taking time to notice and see the beauty around me. The old adage is apropos.  Take time to smell the wildflowers.