Monday, April 24, 2017

Bleak, I Tell You! Freaking Bleak!

In a meeting not too long ago someone referenced the novel Bleak House. The twenty-something seated next to me looked to me for an explanation. I discretely informed her it was a book by Charles Dickens.

She asked, with wide-eyed innocence and so everyone could hear, "Who's Charles Dickens?"

Excuse me while my head explodes...

I didn't expect her to get the Bleak House reference, but I at least expected her to know who Charles Dickens was?

Or was I expecting too much?

I was mildly comforted by the fact that the few others in the room, all above 40 years of age, stared at her in shock too.

She's a high school graduate and currently attending college. No, not an English major, but still...

This is CHARLES FREAKING DICKENS!

What in the hell are they teaching in schools these days?! I was exposed to Dickens and his work in high school and again in college. I still haven't read everything he's written, but I've read most of it.

I leaned toward her again. "You know ... Charles Dickens. Oliver Twist?"

Crickets.

"Great Expectations?"

Crickets.

"A Christmas Carol?"

A glimmer of light. "I know that one," she said, beaming. "Didn't they make a movie out of that?"

At least she didn't reference the Muppet version.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ring-a-Ding-Dong!

Not too long ago someone posted this video to my Facebook page. I was instantly charmed and have viewed it many many many times. So have most people on the internet.


 

Huh, I thought. I wonder if I could teach B to do that?

For those of you not in the know, B is my Norwegian Forest Cat. She is 18+ years old and has a touch of feline dementia.  So basically, I'm wondering if a 90 year old woman, who is a tad off kilter, can learn new tricks.

Game on!

Bell? What bell?
I started with 20 minutes of training a day with a bell just like the one in the video and her favorite treats. By the end of day 1 of B's training, she'd figured out that the ring of the bell meant a treat was coming, but she didn't make the connection between her and the bell, that it was on the floor in case she wanted to ring it.

Day two was pretty much the same. As soon as I rang the bell, she perked up, waiting for a treat to be dispensed. I even took her paw several times, rang the bell with it, and gave her a treat.  At the end of the 2nd day, she at least was sniffing around the bell once I stopped distributing the treats, but no paw made it to the bell unless I put it there.

This was going to be tougher than I expected.  But I was undeterred.

Day 3 was more of the same.

Don't need no stinkin' bell!
For three days I'd been holding the training sessions around 8 pm. On Day 4, B came up to me around 8 pm demanding a treat. There was no bell prompting her. She just knew it was time for her treats. I was in the middle of dinner and not ready to do our training. Didn't matter to her. She was not to be deterred. It was 8 pm. Treat time. She climbed up on the arm of the sofa and started aggressively going after the treat canister. Seems I'd trained her well. At least to tell time.

The next few days it was more of the same. B demanded treats at 8 pm. I rang the bell and gave her one. I picked up her paw, rang the bell, and gave her one. Over and over and over. Not once did she make the connection that she needed to be the one ringing the bell. And why should she? She had me well trained to do it for her.

I left the bell out on the floor 24/7 over the weekend, hoping she'd have a kitty epiphany. I kept the treat can handy so if she did ring the bell at an odd hour, I'd be ready to reward her.

Nothing, except that she laid next to it and took a nap.

So what has this taught me?

1) I'm trainable.
2) My cat is smarter than I am.
3) Einstein was right.






Monday, April 10, 2017

A Year Into My Journey

Sometimes a journey begins long before you actually start down the road.

On April 13, 2016, I knew for sure that I wanted to travel extensively after retirement. I'd been considering several retirement options, but wanted to travel before settling down in one spot. But as my list of things I wanted to see and places I wanted to visit grew, I was slapped by the realization that I probably couldn't afford to do all the travelling I wanted and still put a roof over my head.

By April 22nd, I'd made the mental leap from simply gassing up the car and hitting the road to buying an RV and living in it while I did all this travelling. From there, there was no turning back. I knew it was the right decision for me.

I began researching the possibility.  With each article and blog I read and You Tube video I watched on the lifestyle, with both the joys and the ups and downs, the freedom, and physical responsibilities of maintaining a home on wheels, I became even more convinced that this was where I belonged.

The open road beckoned to me. The freedom of setting up camp wherever I desired, for as along as I desired, was appealing to me more and more.

First, I did the math. I was 63 at the time and needed to hit 65 in order to get my Medicare. That was a year and a half away. Next was the decision of whether I should retire at 65 or wait until 66, when I was eligible for more Social Security. That increased my departure by another year. I crunched more numbers.

My practical side said to wait that additional year. My growing wanderlust was pushing me to go sooner than later, while I was healthy and excited.

What's a gal with itchy feet to do?

I had a sit down with my financial adviser and determined that it would be best financially to wait until I hit 66 to retire.

I wasn't happy about this delay, but it was just a delay, not a deletion of the dream itself. Trust me, whining was involved. That's whine, not wine. Soon that whine changed to happiness as I realized the extra time would buy me more security and time to plan more thoroughly.

It was a bitter pill, but one I needed to take.

I may have changed my departure date, but not my van buying date. I intend to buy it by the end of 2017, and spend a lot of time camping around California and Arizona as I wait for my retirement date. With the van at my disposal, I figure the waiting won't be so difficult.

Wow. Already an entire year has gone by since I started making plans.

Whoosh! Just like that!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Excuse Me While I Mansplain

As much as I like Facebook, I get really tired of all of the "mansplaining" that goes on.

Mansplaining, for the very few of you who don't know, is when someone (usually a man) explains something to someone (usually a woman) in a condescending or patronizing manner.

Except that a lot of women do it also, to both men and women, but I usually find mostly to other women. It's equal opportunity rude behavior.  I've been guilty of it myself.

Here's the thing... when someone posts something to their personal Facebook page, maybe we should all take a step back and read what they've posted. Really. Read. And comprehend. Before making a knee jerk comment. And it doesn't hurt to read the comments before yours either.

Did this person ask for your advice?

Did this person appear lost or confused about the topic they're posting about?

If not, if it was just a comment or observation they shared, maybe we should keep our comments to just comments and not force a teachable moment. Not that all information given is mansplaining. It's not. Mansplaining is about attitude. When someone mansplains, you can almost hear the deep inpatient sighs through the words they write. You can feel the eye rolling going on without seeing their face.

Even worse is when someone posts a mansplaining comment when the original poster clearly shows their understanding of the topic. Obviously the mansplainer did not fully read and understand the original post. This happens to me often on Facebook. I have even, on occasion out of frustration, told comment posters to please RE-READ my original post and see that there is no need to educate me on the topic. Sheesh!

I believe that the problem behind all the runaway mansplaining is communication, or lack of it. For years men have been mansplaining to women and women have complained that the men never really listened to what they were saying.  Now both genders aren't listening (or reading) and spreading their unwanted advice like thick morning scum on teeth.  Instead of listening to others, we tend to think first about how we can respond, so the true meaning of their post gets lost in our self-absorbed thoughts. This is how inappropriate comments start, and sometimes those loosey-goosey comments can even hurt. Don't think about yourself first, think about what that person is saying.

Not too long ago, I had a woman post several pieces of information to one of my threads, even after I told her there was no need. The topic of my post wasn't even what she was commenting about. She couldn't help herself. She had to show that she was the smartest kid in the class. Instead, she came off as overbearing and rude, even though I know she meant well. She never bothered to read the post fully or any of the comments. She pushed ahead, hell-bent on delivering her message, even though no one needed or wanted to hear it.

And please don't get me started on all the political mansplaining going on! I've unfriended people for that.

If you still feel the need to give advice, think about the tone in which you're saying it before you hit that send button. Sometimes it's difficult to strike the right tone with just written words, but all the more reason to be careful. I have gotten tons of great tips from people on Facebook. But only if they are presented with the right attitude. If it comes off as mansplaining, I won't give it the time of day, even if it is valuable information. It's my inner child sticking out my tongue.

Like I said, I've been guilty of this myself, and now try to think before I type and send. Hopefully, I'm getting better at it.

Now, did I mansplain mansplaining clearly?

Monday, March 27, 2017

I See Plots, Plots Everywhere

Recently I rode up in the elevator in my office building with a middle-aged man who paced the small confined space like a restless lion. It was rather disconcerting, but I couldn't help but wonder: a) was he late for a meeting; b) did he need to pee; c) was he a serial killer trying to suppress his natural urges?

These are the ideas that raced through my head as we traveled up to the 17th floor, where I got off. Who knows what he did when he got to his floor, but since there were no signs of police or a building lock down, I think it's safe to assume that his problem was either a or b.

A day or two later, the Fed Ex delivery man asked if I would use my pass to let him onto our main floor from the 17th. Our main floor is locked off to the public due to an unbalanced ex-employee a few years back. And so is the portion we occupy on the 17th floor, where my office is located. I happily obliged. As the Fed Ex man headed down to the 16th floor, I noted he was holding a very long narrow Amazon box. Immediately, I wondered if it contained a rifle, and if was he going to assassinate someone in our office. It did not and he did not.

Such is the mind of a murder mystery author.

I hear a lot of writers, usually newbies, say they don't have any ideas for new stories or books circling in their brain. They have no idea what they're going to write next. To that I say: Then you're not paying attention.

Plot ideas undulate around us every minute, surging and withdrawing like ocean waves or currents of the very air we breathe. Sometimes they are gentle. Sometimes not so much. But they are always there, waiting to be discovered and fleshed out into short stories, novellas, novels, screen plays and poems.  And maybe they aren't the entire idea, but one for a single chapter or scene. Twice I've gotten ideas from billboards. Once from a sandwich. Another time from a tiny article I read in a magazine. Often these ideas come when you least expect them. Some even come while we sleep.

It's all grist for the mill.

Not too long ago a member of a FB group I belong to about RVing posted this photo. Immediately, an idea hit me for a series - yes, an entire series of stories.  And they have nothing to do with that sharp looking RV in the pic.

That's how inspiration works when you're paying attention. Unfortunately, I don't have time right now to work on this new idea, but I did not dismiss it. Instead, I shelved both the photo and idea for later. In time, they will find their way into my writing schedule. Of that I'm sure.

If you are having trouble coming up with plots, scenes, or ideas, I recommend: 1) relax your brain so that it's supple, not clogged or locked tight; 2) don't look too hard, let the ideas come to you; 3) be observant to everything around you, even the small stuff. Then get ready to pluck the ideas out of the air, like ripe fruit from a tree.

A writer without ideas is a vase without flowers. A gun without bullets;  A dog without a bone.

A writer without ideas ... is just a typist.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Dream Made Me Do It

I believe in dreams. And I dream often. More importantly, I remember a lot of my dreams in detail. Sometimes, depending on the dream, that can be a mixed blessing.

Shortly after starting to think about full-time RVing when I retired, but before I'd actually made the decision to go for it, I had a dream that changed everything.

In the dream I was in front of my laptop, fingers flying over the keyboard as I penned another book. The odd thing was, I was not at my desk in my apartment, where I usually write. No. I was in an RV, seated at a small table, my entire tiny living space within view. I still remember this dream as clearly as I remember what I had for breakfast this morning. Maybe even more clearly.

In the dream, I turned away from my laptop and looked out the door of the RV. It was open, only a thin screen door separating me from the outdoors. A soft but steady rain was beating on the roof. Through the screen I had a lovely view of trees. I was in a campground in the middle of the woods. There were no other vehicles or people around. Just me and nature. Peaceful and gentle. I took a deep, contented breath, filling my lungs with the smell of clean damp foliage. After a few seconds of contemplation, I went back to my writing.

What stirred and stuck with me most about that dream was my mental and emotional state. As I wrote, surrounded by natural beauty and the quiet comfort of the rain, I had this incredible sense of peace and happiness. Like I'd been journeying toward this all my life and had finally arrived at my destination.

I'm not an unhappy person by nature. I've had my ups and downs, bouts of depression and frustration, but overall I'm generally comfortable in my skin and my surroundings, even when others have found me odd or obnoxious. But this dream was different. This was a peace that flooded through me like gentle water in a stream. A sense of home and belonging I'd not felt before.

Happiness.

Contentment.

Simple things, but not that simple to achieve. Most people spend their lives in frantic pursuit of both, and here I was with a front row view of what would do it for me.

How could I ignore this sign, this vision?

I knew from that point on that I belonged in an RV out in nature. Not lined up in a parking lot of crowded RV parks with neighbors a few feet away. I'd lived most of my life that way in apartment buildings and knew for sure I didn't want to finish my life that way. Before the end of my life, I would take leave of my hamster wheel and never return to it.

This dream also helped shape my choice of an RV.  I've done a great deal of research on RVs and was sure in the beginning that I wanted a small class C RV. But the minute I checked out camper vans, crawling all around several different brands, I knew that a larger RV was not for me. The camper van was what I was enjoying in my dream. Once I saw the Winnebago Travato 59K online, I knew I'd found my home, and that feeling only intensified after I saw one in person and test drove it.

Now fast forward nearly a year. 

This morning just before waking, I had a series of dreams in which I was still working at my day job as a paralegal, but on Friday nights I would rush home, not to my apartment, but to Novella, my dream camper van. I would unplug her from the electricity in the RV park where we lived, and hit the road for the weekend. Sometimes we'd end up at the beach; sometimes in the woods; sometimes we'd meet up with RVing friends; sometimes we were alone. But every weekend was a joy. And every morning, wherever we found ourselves, I'd be happily writing. Sometimes I'd be writing outside. Sometimes I'd be writing while inside, looking out the screen door at the beauty of my surroundings.

I'm counting down until these dreams become a reality. Hopefully by the end of this year.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Love On The Road?

A man I don't know PM'd me on Facebook saying he wanted to make me happy and all my dreams come true. I get messages like this often. So do a lot of women on Facebook. They are usually from middle-aged men, nicely dressed in their photos, or wearing military garb. A boat, fast car, mansion, or macho feats are usually posted on their FB page. Good catches? No. They are almost always phishing profiles: profiles set up to try and hack you once you accept their messages and friendship requests. I delete them all. I don't even ask questions first. Boom! They're history!

Some who follow my posts, and even some who know me well, might say I'm cynical about love.

In some respects that's true. I do not believe in the Happily Ever After Fairy Tale. Especially at my age. But I do believe in love and I do believe that if it's meant to be, even in my senior years, it will happen.

I've been proposed to a few times and even accepted one. It was a man I'd known a long time. We had dated when I was in my twenties and reconnected when I was forty. It seemed like one of those fairy tales when lost loves reunite. What it was, was a nightmare.  I accepted his proposal and, with love's blinding stars in my eyes, moved in with him. He turned out to be emotionally unstable and verbally abusive and, the longer I was with him, I discovered also a major liar and cheat.  He was also bi-polar, but had no intention to get help for it. And sadly, he was brilliant.

The thing is, none of this came out when we dated years before. Oh, I'd noticed that he was impatient at times with people and often hit extreme highs and lows, but nothing like years later. And he'd never turned any of that on me. I think age exacerbated it. Plus, when we dated before, I didn't live with him.  I hung around a much more conservative crowd then, and a lot of them thought I shouldn't move in with him before being married. I'm glad I didn't listen to them. If I had, I would have married him, then been stuck or shortly after divorced. We lived together about 8 months. By the time I left, I was worried that the verbal abuse would eventually lead to physical, as it so often does.

I've dated since then, and some of my boyfriends have been lovely people, and some have remained friends. But I haven't fallen in love. I've loved some of the men I've dated since him, but I've never been in love with them. Maybe my bad experience is still in the way. Maybe not. I do know that I never felt so lonely as when I was with my ex-fiance. I had someone, yet felt empty and in pain almost all the time. In my life now, I never feel lonely, yet I'm alone.

Alone does not equal lonely.

Recently a friend of mine was widowed and shortly after his wife's death met a nice woman and fell in love. The quickness of it took him by surprise. He called me to tell me about it and wanted me to meet her.  His wife had been sick for a long time. They'd had a very happy marriage and he wanted more of the same.  I met his new lady friend this weekend. I think he just might be a two time winner. I'm so happy for both of them.

During our telephone conversation my friend suggested that maybe I'd find my soul mate out on the open road when I'm RV'ing.  I know some women who have, but that's not what I'm looking for when I retire.

Although... I might be happy with a solid and fun companion ... with his own rig. Maybe once in a while we could park next to each other for a few days.  I think that could have real possibilities. And if I need more space, I can simply drive away. Him, too. No muss, no fuss... no strings.

I could live with that, but even then he'd have to be someone mighty special, interesting, and active.

No, I'm not cynical about love. I'm just realistic.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Reincarnating My Belongings

I'm starting to clean out my closets and cupboards as I start to downsize my belongings for retirement. Some closets are patiently waiting their turn. Others are demanding attention now.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who keeps all of the plastic containers that come with various food products. The problem is, they are starting to take over my life. Last week I opened the cupboard where I keep my plastic ware simply to grab a small container for some leftovers. I was immediately engulfed in an avalanche of  the stuff.

Okay, you got my attention. You go to the top of the cupboard clean out list.

So now, spread across my very long kitchen counter, are various sizes and shapes of plastic containers and lids. There's some Tupperware there. And some Glad and Rubbermaid containers. Most though are from my Earth Balance vegan butter and take out places. I'm sorting them by type and matching them with their lids. No lid? Outta here! Those turned away get tossed in the recycle bin. And there are many with missing lids and lids without containers.  It's kind of like socks missing in the washer. Where did they go?

Something tells me the recycling bin is going to be eating a lot of plastic this next week.

After this, I'm tackling my dresser drawers. I have two good size chests. The beauty is, I can take a drawer at a time into the living room and sort in front of the TV. I also know how much room I have in the van, so I know I'll have to cut deeply into the piles of socks, scarves, jammies, and tee shirts. My goal is to cull the dresser items from 10 drawers down to 2-3. I'm shooting for two.

When all is said and done, my clothing should fit into one suitcase with a few hanging items. That's it. And, honestly, isn't that all we really need?

In the next few weeks I'm also going to start selling off a lot of stuff. You'll see it on Amazon Marketplace and possibly Craig's List. Every item sold goes toward an item for the van. My crystal stemware will be reborn as new bed linens. My collectibles be will reincarnated as hoses and electrical adapters. My records (yes, I still have vinyl) might garner enough to purchase new cookware, and if not, one of the other sold items will help. I shouldn't have to spend any new money to outfit the van. My current things will be transformed into new things with new purposes.

I already have stacks of bags and boxes in my dining area filled with clothing and miscellaneous items for Good Will. And those will grow in the next few months before being hauled away.

Even B will have to downsize her toys and duplicate scratch boxes. She gets to bring her water and food bowls, bed, carrier, one scratch box, and a couple of toys. She'll live.

An RV is the perfect plan for your getting stuff organized. There's no room for spillage. To be livable, you can't over stuff it and force the zipper closed as with luggage.

I wish I'd done this years ago!

It really is liberating!

Monday, March 06, 2017

Call Me Retirement Ninja!

Last week I was thinking about when I did the Camp Pendleton Mud Run.   That was June 2009, eight years ago.  For as long as I live, setting that goal and making it happen will remain one of my proudest moments. (You can read about it here.)

But now I'm wondering, where did that woman go? The woman who tackled such a large physical undertaking while ignoring naysayers and critics, and some who openly laughed out loud at her quest. That woman trained by walking three miles almost every day, and six miles on Saturday and Sunday. That woman went to Will Rogers National Park and other trails around Los Angeles to get in needed hill training. And she still managed to crank out books and work a full-time job!

Where the hell did she go?

At the time I did the mud run, I was 55 years old and weighed 40 lbs less than I do now. I had dark hair. My personal life, however, was in the toilet, and I was battling depression. I still worked at the same place and lived in the same apartment. B and Raffi were my loving companions.

My life is more hectic now, but also much more stable in many respects. I still enjoy my job as a paralegal. I still write books, and in fact have written much more since then. Back when I did the mud run, I had only four books under my belt and one published short story. Now I have twenty-two books with several short stories thrown into the mix. Instead of my legs getting a workout, my fingers have been clicking off the miles. And I'm down to just one cat and don't have much of an issue with depression. I had turned in my sneakers for a keyboard. And it's all good.

Can these two sides merge?



Don't get me wrong, I'm still exercising almost every day, just not with the same gusto and determination. Truthfully, more like with no gusto and determination. And my knees are eight years older and not as strong. But who says it has to stay that way? Per my doctor's request, instead of walking miles and miles, I ride an exercise bike to keep my knees lubricated and strong. It works, but I do it grudgingly, not with the same focus I had years ago. My attitude toward exercise is more like a kid forced to eat broccoli or he'll get no TV.

I'd like to fuse Sue Ann, the mud run ninja, with Sue Ann, the writing ninja. Can you imagine what the two of them could accomplish? It boggles the mind. They could become one, super human, almost-to-retirement, ninja!  Because there is a lot I want to accomplish before I hit the road as The Novel RV, both physically and in my writing.

So, starting today, I'm becoming Retirement Ninja! A woman possessed with cleaning out her apartment, buying an RV, re-focuing her writing career, and getting in shape.

It's a tall order, but I'm confident Retirement Ninja can do it!

Right after a nap.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Making A List, Checking It Twice

Recently several people have approached me about my plan to travel extensively in an RV when I retire. It seems they'd like to do it too. Some want to live full time in an RV, while others dream of traveling big chunks of time throughout the year. All want to pick my brain about my plans and preparation. So I decided to put this post together and share what I've learned so far.

Being prepared is not just a scouting motto. It's sound advice for anyone planning a journey, but even more so if that journey is travelling extensively in an RV. While I am still bound to my day job and my apartment, I have not been idle on this matter. Since making that decision, I have set off to learn as much about it BEFORE the actual journey. If there was one message I've heard over and over from other RVers it has been BE PREPARED. It seems many folks who fail at full-time RVing are those less prepared for the lifestyle.


Don't count the days until you leave on your trip,
make those days count.

Whether you already own your RV or not, use your time before your journey begins wisely. Techomadia has a great video on the Sucky Sides of RVing. I highly recommend it. But that's just the beginning. There are tons of videos on You Tube about RV life.

Join Facebook groups dedicated to RVing, especially groups focused on the model rig you have or want to buy. If you're not sure which rig you'd like, join several groups dedicated to the few you're interested in. This is a great way to learn the pros and cons of a particular brand and model. Once I narrowed my RV choice down to a Winnebago Travato, I joined a group dedicated to that particular RV. Honestly, I have learned more in that group than anywhere else. I've learned about the electrical and plumbing systems of the Travato, along with how to make minor repairs. I've learned about modifications I could make to the coach that would make my life easier and more convenient, and what equipment and everyday items would be helpful. I've even picked up tips on how to negotiate for and buy an RV. And I've met a lot of new wonderful friends. Basically, I am a sponge, soaking up all the information they dish out.

Make a checklist of everything you will need to buy or do before your trip, along with columns for Action Items, Comments, and Status. Once you start that checklist, you will be shocked at how much you need to do BEFORE the trip begins. I'm not talking about equipment you need to buy, although that's on the list too, but steps you need to make in all areas of your life to be prepared. Then I divided my checklist into subheadings such as Social Media, Domicile, Personal, Techy and RV Equipment, and RV Household Items.


Social Media - Since I'll be operating my writing career from the road, I decided to give myself a new brand that tied in with travel. Thus, the Novel RV was born. This included things like buy the domain name, set up a web site, have a logo made, set up blog, a You Tube channel, etc. All of which are currently in progress, although I do have my new logo already!

Domicile - If you are going to full time in your RV, are you going to change your domicile state? There are some very good advantages to doing this, especially if you currently reside in a very high tax state, as I do. In this category I listed reminders to research state residency requirements and mailing services that will let you use their address for your new address, While you can research the best residency choices before you leave, much of the foot work for this is done after you are on the road as it requires a trip to your new state. This includes setting up a new address, registering your vehicle, getting a new drivers license, and registering to vote. If you are not getting rid of your brick and mortar residence when you hit the road, this step isn't necessary.

Personal - Some of these items tie in with Domicile, such as vehicle insurance, health insurance, and possibly making a new will. Make sure you check out health insurance options in your new state for flexible options that fit your new lifestyle. Also included in this category are items you might not think about prior to the trip, but which are important. Is your passport up-to-date? Is your dental work current? One of the things I did recently was have a lot of dental work done that was not urgent but would be needed eventually. Better to get it done while I have dental insurance through my job. How about your eyeglasses? Is your exam and prescription up-to-date? And make sure you have an extra pair to take with you. Also make sure you have a good supply of any medications you need and research where to get refills while on the road before you actually hit the road. And if you have a pet, don't forget to research vet services/insurance.

Techy Equipment - do you need a new computer before your trip? A WiFi booster? Cell phone charger? How will you handle getting online in remote areas? Should you change your cell phone carrier? Will you need an invertor for charging your laptop and for using appliances? Technomadia has a lot of videos and articles on this. Also check out Technomadia's RV Mobile Internet Resource Center.

RV Equipment - On this list should be your water hoses, one for drinking water and one for general use. A surge protector, water filter, and water regulator. Should you get portable solar panels? A sewer hose attachment to make dumping easier? Leveling blocks? And don't forget to add a tool kit, including a box of rubber gloves for dumping and black tank additives/tablets. (See, necessary details that could be easy to overlook.)

RV Household Items - Some of your home stuff can go with you, but most of it cannot. I'll be needing new lightweight dishes, unbreakable glassware, and easy-to-store cookware, some of which I have already collected or been given as gifts. Are you taking sheets to fit your RV's beds or a sleeping bag? Your existing towels or quick dry microfiber towels? Trading out your mixing bowls for collapsible ones? FYI - This should be your longest list. Go through your current kitchen and bathroom and take a good long look at your stuff and decide what can go and what should be replaced with smaller, more compact items. You have a lot less storage on an RV.

Personal Items - Are you completely dismantling your current home, or keeping it while you travel? This is important. If you are keeping your brick and mortar home, then you many have a place to store belongings not in use in the RV. If not, you will need to decide if you will put your extra stuff in a storage unit or par it down until all you own is the stuff in your RV. I've met several people who put their belongings in storage and leased out their home during their travels. I also came across people who gave up their home and stored their extra stuff, then regretted it since they seldom returned to it. Remember, it's just STUFF.

There is also preparation for personal items. I'm scanning all photos I want to keep and storing them on my computer and offline storage. I'm also scanning all my personal papers, contracts, will, etc. The only hard copies I intend to have with me are RV related papers and my passport. Also, put together a packet of your most important original documents, such as your will, RV sales documents, etc. and give them to a trusted family member or friend to hold for you. You could also put them in a safe deposit box, but again, that's more storage.

The RV - this is the final category on my checklist. If you have not decided on exactly what model you want, here is a good place to list the pros and cons of the models you are considering. If you already know what you want, this is the place to list the dealers you've contacted and your honest opinion of your treatment and their knowledge. And be honest. After all, you are spending a lot of money and this is the most important item on this list. Did the dealer seem knowledgeable about the unit you want? Were they customer oriented? Were they willing to negotiate? Check out their reviews online. Ask other RVers who have the same model where they bought theirs and if they were satisfied with the transaction and subsequent service.

At first glance, a checklist might seem like overkill, but trust me, once you start checking things off and the closer you get to your journey, the happier you will be that you made a list. Also, several items on the list can take several months to complete, so it's nice to monitor your progress.

You wouldn't start a hike without proper shoes, safety aids, and water. And isn't this much bigger than that?

I may not be on the open road full time for a while yet, but I've got stuff to do in the meantime!

Friday, February 24, 2017

It's A Good Thing You're Cute!

I woke up with murder on my mind. That's not unusual since I write murder mysteries and do most of my writing in the morning. But this morning B, my 18 year old Norwegian Forest Cat, was in my sights. 

Several times in the night B woke me up wanting cuddles. Or maybe it was food. Either way, the first time was around 11 pm, not long after I shut the book I was reading and called it a night. From there it was almost every couple of hours with her most insistent demands occurring around 3:30 am.

This is not the first time this had happened, but it was definitely her most demanding. It started with nudging against my arm, then against my hand, with her nose. Then the nudging became more insistent with her wedging her entire head under my hand and tossing it upward. Of course, I was semi-awake at this point. Sometimes I accommodate her demands with a few head scratches and pats, then roll over and go back to sleep. I did this twice last night, but at 3:30 am I waited to see how far she'd go if I didn't respond. She finally resorted to a series of head butts against my shoulder. Really annoyed at this, I rolled over and went back to sleep without petting her. She's even been known to gently nibble my elbow or fingers when I ignore her.

I managed another hour's sleep, but around 4:30 am the meowing began, soft and gentle at first, then it swelled to deep guttural pleas. B's normal meow is a soft, almost inaudible squeak, common in the breed. But she now has feline dementia. Yes, that's a thing and the vet confirmed it. I first noticed it early last year when as soon as the lights were out for the night she'd start that guttural meowing somewhere in the apartment. I'd get out of bed and investigate, sure she was hurt. Instead I'd find her in the middle of the living room. Sometimes she'd be playing with some of her toys, sometimes she'd be wide-eyed with fear and confusion, just like a person with dementia.

Some nights when I'm super tired, I'm proactive. Instead of going to bed and waiting to see if she'll begin her nocturnal cries, I'll pick B up and carry her into the bedroom when I go to bed. Most nights though, she's fine. Other nights when she begins crying, I just call her name and she follows my voice into the bedroom and all is good. Sometimes, for no reason at all, she'll start that deep demonic meowing when I'm still up. It never lasts long and I can usually diffuse it with a few words of comfort.


In other respects, B is pretty healthy for an old gal. She'd be about 90 if she were human. She's missing teeth and I have to watch her blood pressure, but that's about it. I also have to keep an eye on her eating patterns, as the kitty dementia can sometimes cause her to lose her appetite or forget to eat.

As most of you know, I'm planning on travelling in an RV when I retire in a few years. At her age, B probably won't be around when that happens, but if she is alive, she's definitely becoming a van cat. Annoying or not, there will be no cat left behind. I've had her for 15 years now and she's going nowhere without me. And vice versa. 

We'll be a couple of fluffy old ladies wandering aimlessly in our golden years

I just hope one of us remembers where we're going.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Camping? Don't Look At Me!

I have a confession. I am not a camper. My idea of camping is a hotel without room service. And I'm about as outdoorsy as chintz curtains.

When I said this recently to my friend Barbara over lunch, she looked at me with surprise, and more than just a bit of curiosity. You see, Barbara and I bonded over our mutual love and admiration of an RV, specifically the Winnebago Travato.  Barbara bought hers just a few months ago and I hope to purchase mine within the year. She bought hers so that she and her dogs could camp in more comfort than a tent. I want mine to travel the country when I retire.  Different uses for the same vehicle.

I guess it does seem odd that I'm not a camper, yet want to travel extensively in an RV, especially to our country's beautiful national parks. But you see, the Travato is small and self-contained with a kitchen, bedroom, toilet and shower. All the comforts of home, but on wheels.

The last time I went camping, real camping as in sleeping on the ground in a tent, I was in college. I did it twice and swore never again. It wasn't the discomfort that turned me away, or the cooking on an open fire. Honestly, it was the bathroom issue. Squatting in the dirt, using a smelly port-a-potty, or standing in line at a crowded campground restroom, just isn't my thing. Never has been, never will be. And then there's the bugs. I'm sure I'll get bugs in my rig, but hopefully not crawling into my bedding while I sleep, or try to sleep.

It doesn't help either that I just finished reading Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr. It's the story of four urban backpackers who go on the camping trip from hell.  Great read and I highly recommend it, but pretty scary stuff.

But I do love nature and being out in it. Fresh air. Big trees. Peace and quiet, except for the nattering of squirrels, chirps of birds, and the babbling of brooks. Sign me up! Over the years, I have often rented a cabin or stayed at a lodge in the mountains or at a place by the beach. I'm not much for vacationing in big cities. And I've taken enough cruises to be bored with them. Nor do I want to spend my time holed up in crowded RV parks and resorts. I'm sure I'll spend some of my time in those places when I'm on the road, but not the majority of my time.

Dumping my first black tank.
I guess that makes me more of a glamper than a camper. Although I hardly think dumping RV sewer tanks is glamorous. It's not difficult, and I had to do it when I rented an RV last year, but glamorous, no. And there's no room service in a national park or out in the middle of nowhere. Or Uber Eats. Or even local pizza or Thai delivery.

It is fun though, planning and getting ready for my next big adventure. I realize I'll have to be more of a handyman than just calling the apartment manager and hoping he'll fix the leaking faucet. I'll have to do those things myself and, like dumping my first black tank, it will be something new to learn and know I can learn it.

I have this long list of things I will need when I hit the road. On it are the usual RV things like a drinking water hose, sewer hose attachments, water regulators and filters, lanterns, and a propane grill and stove for outdoor cooking. (Yes, I do intend to cook outside a good part of the time, even though my rig will have a nice galley.) I've already started collecting some of these items, and friends and family provided quite a few on my last birthday and Christmas. There's even bear spray on my list.

Yes, bear spray...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

This Senior Moment is Sponsored By ... FitBit

Last night I had a moment of panic. I couldn't find my car in the parking garage at work.

I usually park on the 6th floor of the 7 level garage, but when I left work around 7:15 pm last night I could not find my car!

It can't be stolen, I thought.

1) We have a security garage and you need a monthly parking card or ticket to get a car out. True, there was a murder in the garage several years back, but car theft, no.

2) I work in a fancy pants area spitting distance from Beverly Hills. There are WAY BETTER cars to steal in that garage than my 10 year old Ford Focus. Daily my old, dependable, and paid off car keeps company with Porches, Benzes, Jags, and Lexuses. I've even spotted the odd Rolls Royce. Unless a thief was looking for spare parts, I doubt my compact car, with its side-by-side Bernie and Hillary bumper stickers, would catch their eye.

I walked the entire floor area of the 6th floor, not just the area where I usually park, telling myself not to panic. It had to be somewhere. I even took the elevator down to the 4th floor to look. For years I parked on the 4th floor. I only changed to the 6th because since I come in later than most people, it was easier to find open spots there after the recent reconfiguration of all the spaces on all floors. 

4th Floor - no car. I even aimed my fob at another white Focus, but it didn't flash hello back.

The thing is, I always park on the same floor just to AVOID forgetting where I parked. And after 7:00 at night there aren't that many cars left in the huge garage.

Panic started to well. I really can't afford the hassle of a stolen car right now. Been there, done that. Not to mention all the junk in the car that I really didn't want to lose and/or replace.

I took the elevator back to the 6th floor and started walking around again. Still no car. Then I started walking down the circular ramp to the 5th floor and started canvassing that floor. Still no car.

Anxiety was growing in my chest like a runaway weed. I might just have to go to the parking garage office and confess that I was a dumb ass old woman who'd lost my car. Then they would put me on a golf cart and drive me around each floor looking for my misplaced vehicle. While the ride sounded nice, I wasn't ready to face that humiliation.  Trust me, I've seen them do it before for people in my situation.

Taking a deep breath, I started down the last row of the 5th floor heading for the 4th, determined not to end up in a golf cart. I'd walk every damn floor first.

WAIT! Is that it?

Geez, I'd passed right by my own car at least once already. It was parked between two dark SUVs on the far side of the 5th floor. Its compact presence hidden by the two larger vehicles like a white egg tucked protectively between the feet of a papa penguin. In spite of the bumper stickers, just to be sure, I aimed my fob at it. Yep. The lights flashed a cheery hello. It was my baby!

The 5th floor?! I never park on the 5th floor. Why did I park on the 5th floor? Obviously I'd lost my mind that morning and it hadn't improved throughout the day.

But my FitBit was happy. According to it, I'd walked nearly a full mile in the garage.

A dotty senior citizen wandering in a concrete desert. 

But at least I didn't have to ride the golf cart.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Reader Complaints Or Blackmail?

Last weekend I marched in the Women's March in Los Angeles. I marched in defiance of the new administration, not just against Donald Trump, but also against his team and cabinet choices. I also marched in protest of the many programs he threatens, such as women's health care, saving our national parks, environmental protection, and most of all human rights for all people of all faiths, national origins, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

On Sunday I received a PM from a reader announcing that she would no longer buy and read my books because she found me too "liberal and militant" in my political beliefs.  This didn't surprise me at all. It wasn't the first time a reader has said they were no longer reading my work because of something I said or did or wrote. Although, it was the first time I was called "militant."

When I first became published by Midnight Ink close to 12 years ago, a reader of my earlier work when it was self-published announced to me that she would no longer read my work because the parent company of Midnight Ink, Llewellyn Worldwide, published books on the occult. And they do, along with books on paranormal, self-help, natural healing, and many other worthwhile, non-main stream topics. If that reader was really going to stick to her guns, that would mean she would have to stop reading books by most of the major publishers too, since most of them have divisions that also published similar topics. I'll bet she never thought about that or followed through.

Over the years I've received many e-mails and messages from readers saying they were no longer going to read my books based on some of the following reasons, and most of those noted below have received multiple support:

  • Too much swearing, especially when in came to using "the Lord's name in vain"
  • Too much sex (They were talking about Odelia Grey books!)
  • Contained gay/lesbian characters
  • Not enough Christianity or religious tones (Nor will they EVER.)
  • Because some of my books were only available in digital (BTW, short stories and novellas are only in digital because of short length; full-length novels are in both print and digital)
  • One woman even wrote that she would no longer read the Odelia Grey series because she felt I was promoting unhealthy lifestyles, but if I put Odelia on a diet, she'd return to reading them (Oh, bite me!)
  • And when I wrote my more graphic vampire novels, I lost some readers, and again when I started penning the Winnie Wilde steamy romances

People are entitled to their opinions, and I support that right even if I don't agree with those opinions, but sometimes I wonder what readers who write such e-mails and messages are hoping to accomplish. Are they just venting or trying to influence authors with a gentle form of blackmail?

Trust me, no writer worth their salt is going to bend to such ridiculous comments and demands. A true writer writes from the heart and follows the story and characters. If I sanitized my books to meet all of the above, nothing would get written, or if it did, wouldn't be worth the paper it was printed on.

I admit, I am quite politically and socially vocal on my personal Facebook page, and from time to time remind readers that if they don't enjoy my personal posts, they can join the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club or follow my Author Page. I never post personal views on these pages unless it's about books.

Publishers often warn authors not to put their personal beliefs and opinions out on the Internet for fear of losing readers. But many of my author friends do, as I do. It's who I am and I have the same right as everyone else to freedom of speech. If I lose some readers, I can live with that better than I can being muzzled for the sake of a few sales. And since publishers make most of the money off my books, you can see why they are concerned more than I am.

In parting, I will re-post here what I posted to my Facebook page last Sunday, just so you all know where I stand in case you weren't paying attention:

Someone just told me they were no longer going to read my books because I am so liberal and militant in my politics. Hmmm, okay. It's your choice and I'm not going to try and talk you out of your decision. After all, there are things I boycott based on my principles, all things Kardashian being one of them. But for the record, in case there are any others out there on the fence, let me be clear: I am a single, white, straight senior citizen, a moderate democrat, and an atheist. I believe in equal rights for ALL human beings of ALL faiths, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and orientation. We all have the right to walk this earth in peace and without molestation from those who are hell-bent on making us into their own image. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a book to write, because I still have other readers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Today I Will, Because I Can

At the beginning of the year I set two physical goals for myself. One was to lose at least 50 lbs. The other was to walk or bike at least 2017 miles in this year.  I'm half way through January, and am happy to report that I'm on target for both. To date I've walked/biked over 45 miles and lost nearly 5 lbs.

But this past Thursday morning, after a restless night, I slept in, then told myself I didn't need to get up and do my daily exercises, especially climbing on my recumbent exercise bike for 30 minutes minimum. I whined and wheedled, trying to convince myself that it wasn't important that day to meet my daily miles quota to keep me on track.

Then I remembered something, or rather someone. A lot of someones, actually.

I have several friends and family members who have passed away in the last few years. And I have a lot of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and social media friends who have had or are facing horrible physical challenges and diseases. Some are even facing the reality that their days on this earth are few.

That's a very sobering thing to remember while snug in bed whining to your cat about peddling a few miles while watching the previous night's The Daily Show.

Shame on me!

I am 64 years old, and while I am overweight, I  enjoy excellent health. Yes, I have some arthritis and stiffness, but nothing too bad or debilitating. So far any discomfort can be handled with the occasional ibuprofen.  I am truly fortunate. And I never want to forget that, not for one minute.

In the end, I got my lazy fat ass out of bed, climbed on the bike, and rode it for 6.02 miles. And I'll do it again tomorrow and the day after.

Why?

Because I still can.

I do it for me, and for those who cannot and wish they could.

Every mile is for them.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I Take It All Back

I Will Not Be Silenced by Mecronin
On November 16th I wrote a blog titled Trump Is My President. And I meant every word  of it. Every word, even though I had grown to despise Donald Trump and what he stands for, does, has done, and wants to do.

But today, after the last few weeks' revelations, I say to you all:

TRUMP IS NOT MY PRESIDENT!

And no matter how long he occupies the Oval Office, he never will be. Ever. I will NEVER refer to him as "President Trump." Never. Ever.

I was willing to give this oozing infected sore of a human being a chance. I really was. But not now. Not after the reports of just how tight his ties are to Russia. Not after watching him nominate people hell-bent on destroying our government's agencies and our way of life. Not after watching Trump and his power-hungry smug family pick our pockets and make themselves richer, along with their cronies.

No. No. No. A thousand times NO!

I don't know if there is any legal way to stop his inauguration. But if there is, I hope with every cell in my body that it is done. This man has no right to take the highest office in this country, knowing what we know now.

He may have won the election, one way or another, but he hasn't won me, and as long as I still have my right to freedom of speech I will fight this pus pocket. I will march. I will write and call my representatives. I will watch the news and pay close attention. I will do what it takes to fight this travesty.

I may be a fat old woman, but I will not be silent or still.  There's too much at stake.

I'm sure I'm going to get hate posts and e-mails about this blog, but so be it. And if any of you still think Trump is the best choice for this country, just know that I'm going to be marching against you too.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

A Hope Chest for Retirement


When I was a girl, young women had hope chests. These were long wooden storage containers, usually lined with cedar. Some were fancy, some plain, but all were real solid furniture.

The idea behind a hope chest was for young women to collect household items they would need once they got married. Some of this gathering started after a woman was engaged and some started in high school in high hopes of getting married one day.

HOPE chest - get it? Since I never married, I guess I just didn't have enough hope, although I am a rather hopeful sort.

I remember some of my older cousins showing off items they'd purchased or were given to add to their hope chests. Although I never had a hope chest, even at a young age I'd received a few handmade items for it.

As I started cleaning out my belongings to downsize for life in an RV, I found the only two hope chest items I still have. One is a quilt top that was made for my mother when she was only about 12-13 years old. It had been made for her hope chest. The butterflies on the quilt are made from scraps of her old dresses and one square contains her initials and the date the quilt was made - 1937. It had never been finished off and she'd passed it down to me when I was in my early twenties. I decided to finally have it finished off into a quilt to use in the RV as a bedspread and blanket. It will be larger than I need, but will be a lovely memory of my mother in cramped quarters. And certainly cheerful!


The other hope chest item I found in the back of my closet was an old thin white box containing two embroidered pillow cases. (Remember when people actually added lace and embroidery to pillow cases?!) There's even a card in it saying it's a gift for my hope chest. I'm not sure yet what to do with these. They are yellow with age, but so sweet. Maybe I should wash them and use them in my RV too, but they are 100% cotton and will require ironing. Sheesh, I don't iron now, let along do it in an RV! I'm not even taking my iron with me.

As I ready myself for retirement, I have started a "hope chest" of things I'll need for life on the road. It's not made of cedar but is a lowly cardboard box with "RV" scrawled on the side in thick black marker. The quilt will go in there, along with a few other items I've picked up along the way or have received as gifts.

Right now my RV Hope Chest contains a set of Corelle dishes and matching plastic glasses, two collapsible lanterns, a cell phone holder, collapsible measuring cups and spoons, battery operated can opener, a hand operated food chopper, wind chimes, a cute personalized message board, and some items for organizing clothing. I've also received over $100 in gift cards to purchase RV-related items. Most of these were given to me during my last birthday and this past Christmas. A lot of items from my apartment will also be able to go with me, though most won't make the trip, like my beloved Ninja Kitchen System or my Keurig machine. But the Instant Pot definitely goes!

Hmmm, a hope chest for retirement. Could become a thing! Could an RV or retirement gift registry be far behind?

FYI - I could use a sewer hose fitting and a water regulator. A collapsible bucket, drinking water hose, and nesting cookware would also be nice. Believe me, I have a long list and it's getting longer by the day as I read up on accessories that will make my life easier on the road. Oh, and let's not forget some bear repellent.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

365 Days of Smiles

A lot of people would agree with me that 2016 was full of negativity. Hate speech, hateful behavior, and fights broke out everywhere, for real and online. I put this squarely on the election, specifically on Donald Trump, who I have come to despise and fear. I have never seen any one person whip people up into such emotional turmoil in my life, both for him and against him.

Who knows what in the hell 2017 will bring with him at the helm of our government. I shudder to think...

Which brings me to my personal little world.

I am still depressed and angry over the election. And don't you DARE tell me to "get over it."

But I do recognize that I am responsible for my well being and outlook on life, so I plan on tackling 2017 by looking at the simple things in life and celebrating them. One each day. Even if my day has been terrible. Even if the news is horrific. Each day in 2017, I plan on posting on my personal Facebook page something that made me smile that day, whether it be as simple as my cat sleeping, or a good meal, or a friend's gesture.

Each and every day, I will find something good in the day. And I will feel better for it.

I'm sure there will be days with lots of really great things, just as I'm sure there will be days with few. That's life in general, not just post-election life.

So come visit me online at my Facebook page to see what small slice of my life I'm celebrating that day. And if it makes you smile a little or a lot, it's a bonus for me.

BTW, I do monitor all comments, and snotty, negative and hateful comments will be deleted.


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Bring It On, 2017!

Making 2017 Count is my battle cry for this new year. 2016 seemed rife with negativity, not necessarily in my personal life, but in general. I blame the US election for that and the rise in global terrorism. But I can't control those things. I must live with and through them. I must be willing to take a stand when necessary in a positive way.  But I can be responsible when it comes to my own year's activities.

On a personal level, 2016 was not a bad year:

  • I decided how I wanted to spend my retirement and started making plans toward that.
  • I cleaned up a lot of personal debt, am in a good stable place, and am saving more.
  • I wrote 3 novels.
  • I'm healthy, and while I didn't lose any weight, I didn't gain any. Seriously, my weight is almost to the ounce the same as on January 1, 2016.
  • I made a lot of new friends. Many new people came into my life this year, mostly through my new RV connections, and I have become personal friends with many of them. A gal can never have enough friends.

So, what's up for me for 2017?

Glad you asked. Here are my goals for this year:

  • Successfully co-chair the 2017 California Crime Writers Conference.
  • Complete my 2017 miles in 2017 challenge, which goes hand-in-hand with more exercise.
  • Lose at least 50 lbs. 
  • Downsize my apartment for retirement aka minimize the crap I own. Someone posted on Facebook about disposing of 5 items a day, big or small. I like that. So most days, I will either toss, put in Good Will pile, or in the sell or save piles, 3-5 items a day.
  • Finish Odelia Grey novel #12 - a major priority since it's already tardy
  • Finish Winnie Wilde novella #3
  • Begin Granny Apples novel #10
  • Finish my novel Finding Zelda, which I've been working on for several years here and there.
  • Read at least 40 books in the Goodreads 2017 Reading challenge. Yeah, I know a lot of people read more, but remember, I'm also writing books, and by the time a book is done, I have read it at least 10 times and don't count that.
So bring it on 2017, I'm ready for ya!