Friday, December 16, 2011

The Desert Is Cool

A beautiful vista from the 21-mile scenic loop at Organ Pipe National Monument

The Sonoran Desert is cool--in fact, quite a bit cooler than I'd anticipated. Recently we've had afternoon highs in the 50s and night-time temps hovering above freezing, with lots of clouds and frequent rain. This is the kind of weather I thought I'd left behind in the Pacific Northwest. I've had to break out the fleece clothing and my rain jacket that I hadn't worn since February.

I'm given to understand, though, that December is the coldest month here and that things are bound to improve later in the winter. Maybe that's why a lot of snowbirds don't head south until after the first of the year.

We've had to conserve electricity, since we rely on the sun for ours. Some days the choice has been between my selling on eBay or our watching a DVD in the evening.

One night recently, we were going to drive over to the Why Not Store for an after-dinner treat, but the rain was so intense, we weren't sure we'd be able to drive through the washes (the streams that are dry most of the time, but are like fast-moving flood waters when it rains in the desert).

The next morning, we decided to head to Tucson for a break from the gray weather. There was no guarantee that Tucson would be warmer or sunnier, but we have free use of Steve's sister's apartment while she's out of state, visiting her kids. So we've been here a couple of days, using all the electricity we want. I've done a lot of eBay selling and we've watched a bunch of cable and On-Demand TV. Yesterday, we went out for Greek food and saw "Tower Heist" at the movie theater. And a couple of nights ago, I took my 22-year chip at an AA meeting. It's been a nice break.

Sonja sleeping under a blanket near the propane heater in Steve's 5th wheel

We're heading back today, because two nights is the limit of how long I can leave Sonja by herself. By then, she's emptied the food dishes and filled up the box. She is always extremely affectionate when we get back home from these short hops to Tucson.

Last weekend, we took a chance on the weather and headed to Organ Pipe National Monument for their holiday open house. This treasure is just a few miles south of where we live in Why, Arizona. It's an attraction I'd always wanted to see when I've traveled through Arizona in the past, but coming this far south always seemed just so out of the way. Now, having seen it, I can't recommend it strongly enough to travelers. Make the jaunt south to Organ Pipe! It's beautiful! And it's on the way to Rocky Point, a Sea of Cortez beach town in Mexico--I haven't been there yet, but that trip is probably the next one for Steve and me.

Steve in front of prickly pear and organ pipe cacti

The day we went to Organ Pipe was the one day recently that the sun burst out and the temps soared to the high 70s. It was glorious. We walked the nature trail outside of the visitors center and enjoyed the informative displays and Christmas cookies inside, then we drove the 21-mile scenic loop of mostly gravel road. Fortunately we were traveling in Steve's truck rather than the Guppy--the road was so rough in places, I think it would probably shake things loose in my little old motorhome.

My son Sly is coming to visit me for a couple of weeks in January, so I scoped out the possibility of coming back down to Organ Pipe with him. The National Monument's campground is very nice, and in January they'll start running guided van tours of the scenic loop that Steve and I drove, so coming back to Organ Pipe with the Guppy is a distinct possibility.

I've also been checking out other camping venues and attractions for when Sly comes. On our way into Tucson this time, Steve and I drove through the Saguaro National Park's campground, another beauty. I'm thinking of taking Sly on a trip that would include Tucson and some interesting places nearby such as Biosphere 2 and Kartchner Caverns.

He Da Man

I've been very blessed to have Steve's help in getting the Guppy ready for Sly's visit. Sly will be using the Guppy as a guest bedroom, and now there's solar power to keep the house battery charged so Sly can play hours and hours of Skyrim on his laptop (assuming the weather improves!). Also, Steve got up on the roof and sealed the leaking cabover vent that has plagued my travels since the first day I left Oregon. So far, no more leaks!

My eBay sales have been very good lately. I'm working my way through the inventory I purchased on my recent buying trip to Phoenix and on my Thanksgiving weekend visit to Tucson. I've also been purchasing box lots of vintage scarves on eBay, then cherry-picking the best ones for individual resale. I'm not quite to the point where eBay covers my expenses, but closer all the time. Success requires constant fine-tuning of the techniques I've learned over the many years I've been selling online. I'm always learning new ways to acquire good inventory in a part of the country that's not exactly dripping with couture.

The well-paid prevaricators that do the TV weather reports say Christmas will be sunny and warm. I hope so! Have a safe, happy and warm holiday season!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Guests, Critters, Travels, and Finding My Groove

Brian and Deena

My New Mexico friend Brian "Many Wheels" Kemsley has been planning to take his 30-year-old Honda Gold Wing with his dog Deena in his sidecar to Mexico for some time. The idea is to relax and explore for the winter. However, numerous mechanical issues have come up.

Deena on her feet, instead of in the sidecar

Brian, Deena, and our friend Jon made it as far as Why, Arizona, to visit Steve and me, but oil was spewing onto Brian's foot, and he discovered he needs to do more work on the bike. So the guys visited us for a few days, took a day trip down to Rocky Point in Jon's van, and then left Brian's rig here. Brian reappeared yesterday with his own van and trailer to retrieve his bike. It was nice to see Jon and so much of Brian lately!

Steve and Jon in front of a cooking fire

We did a little outdoor cooking while the guys were here, and spent lots of time in front of the fire, talking about everything under the sun.

A passerby

As you might be able to tell from the pictures, Steve's place here at Coyote Howls is right on the fence that separates the RV park from the Tohono O'odham Reservation. It's a great location, because we have neighbors only on two sides, not in front or back of us, and we are more apt to see wildlife here than in some other parts of the park. The other day we saw a palomino mustang or Indian horse trot by. We're much more likely to see wild burros, rabbits, hawks and snakes, so this was a treat.

Sonja up on the cabinet that separates the living room and bedroom

Speaking of animals, Sonja did surprisingly well with having a canine guest. She and Deena were very aware of each other's presence and there were some minor confrontations, but no actual fights. They were really both quite civilized and mostly gave each other space.

Besides having travelers visit us, we've been doing some traveling ourselves. Last week, before the guys arrived, I made a solo trip in the Guppy up to Phoenix to do some thrift store shopping. I found lots of good eBay inventory--over 30 scarves, about 20 shirts and blouses, and some vintage household and collectible items. I stayed two nights at a couple of Walmart parking lots near Glendale and shopped at about 25 thrift stores. It was the first overnight traveling I'd done by myself since arriving in New Mexico this summer and since having my knee surgery, and it was great to feel so independent. However, I quickly got tired of Phoenix traffic and noise and was happy to return to the quiet of Why and to Steve's companionship.

A couple of scarves that I'm listing on eBay, and you can find them right here

The day before Thanksgiving, Steve and I headed to Tucson to spend Thanksgiving with some of his family. His sister Mary and Aunt Jean live there, and a cousin and his family were visiting from California. It was a great time! Very relaxing and enjoyable to meet more of Steve's family. On Thanksgiving, while watching parades and football on TV in Mary's living room, I ironed and photographed the scarves I'd bought in Phoenix. Later we had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at Black Angus.

Tucson Mountain Park

We've been to Tucson several times in the month since we arrived here in Why. Each time we travel through Tucson Mountain Park on the west side of Tucson, and it is some of the most beautiful desert I've ever seen. So thick with saguaro cactus, it's like a forest!

Botany that I can understand

I'm really coming to appreciate the desert. When I was younger, the wide open spaces of the West seemed boring to me. I didn't have the discernment to notice gradual changes in vegetation and terrain that I now appreciate as I travel or even sit in one place. I picked up an amusing 1941 book at the Ajo Library the other day and I'm enjoying learning more about what I see.

I'm also relaxing into a routine, between travels and company. I've been listing a lot of eBay auctions, and today I rooted out my mosaic tools and started breaking some of the plates I'd picked up in Phoenix. I'm cooking slow food and taking life as it comes, and that feels great.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Life Off the Grid

A bank of batteries we use to store solar power

When I was traveling earlier this year in the Guppy, looking for a warmer, healthier place to live where my arthritis wouldn't hurt as bad as it did in the Pacific Northwest, I mostly camped at places where I could hook up to electricity. Once in a while, I'd overnight at a Walmart, casino or truckstop, but then I really only ran the houselights and didn't attempt to really "boondock," where you live off the grid for some time.

I had done some reading about how to boondock, but I lacked confidence. For one thing, I was traveling alone, and it didn't seem like a good idea for me to go out and stay in remote places by myself. For another, I didn't really understand how to work anything except the house lights.

Early in my travels, when I tried to turn on the inverter, it screamed like a cat you'd just stepped on, which apparently meant it wasn't getting any juice. Later on, when I got new batteries and a new alternator, the inverter worked fine and I finally learned that I could plug in my computer or charge my phone or run a little fan--but this was late in my travels. Probably 6000 miles into them.

When Steve asked me to join him in Arizona this winter, living in his 5th wheel at Coyote Howls, a primitive RV park, he warned me that in some ways it would be like camping and that I may not like it. However, so far, I am enjoying it just fine. And it's been very valuable for me to see how a person actually lives off the grid. It's giving me a lot more confidence about my future travels in the Guppy.

Steve's 5th wheel, bike and trucks

I don't know any technical jargon. I tried to learn some from books, but it was all way over my head. I'm smart, but in an artsy literary way, not scientificky or mathy. (See, I like making up words.)

Anyway, what I do understand is, we use solar power. We are currently using four solar panels and four batteries. Steve used to use just two batteries, but with me and my computer here, now we have four. Basically, for every two or three hours of sunshine, we get an hour of being able to use the computer or DVD player or vacuum cleaner or whatever inside the 5th wheel.

Solar panels on the ground and on top of the 5th wheel

Usually there is plenty of sunshine in the Sonoran Desert. Occasionally we get a cloudy or rainy day, and then we may have to choose between getting online or watching a DVD that night. But that's okay--Coyote Howls has a clubhouse that has regular 110v power (ooh, that's pretty technical for me!) and we can take our computers up there if we want.

When we want to use electricity for anything besides lights in the 5th wheel, we go outside and turn on the inverter. Then we go back outside and turn it off when we're done.

The inverter where we turn the electricity on and off

There are some things you can't do with solar power, regardless of how much sunshine you are getting. We can't run an air conditioner, but that's fine. This time of the year, it's temperate enough to not need one during the daytime, and it's downright chilly at night. I also cannot use my waffle iron (it's in the Guppy for when I go camping someplace where I hook up to electricity), my sewing machine, my iron, my toaster, or basically anything that has a heating element.

For sewing and ironing, I can go up to the clubhouse, and I do. I iron there pretty frequently because I sell vintage scarves and Western wear on eBay, and I need those things to look good before I photograph them.

For making toast, we have a primitive toaster made out of an old coffee can that we use on the propane stove. We use propane for refrigeration, cooking and heating. The original propane furnace that came with Steve's 1978 Holiday Rambler 5th wheel no longer works, but he installed a propane wall heater that keeps the living room, bedroom and kitchen warm. Also the fridge in Steve's rig doesn't work and needs either replacement or a very expensive repair, so we use the fridge in the Guppy. This requires a little walking back and forth before and after cooking, but it's not a big deal.

The kitchen, looking into the bathroom

We can also heat water using a propane water heater, but currently we're not doing that. We take showers in one of several community bathrooms here at Coyote Howls, and we just heat up a little water on the stove to do dishes. We will start using hot water and taking showers here in the 5th wheel later this winter, when it gets colder and it becomes unpleasant to go use the showers in an unheated community bathroom. But for now, not having hot water in the RV is no big deal.

The living room, with the bedroom up the stairs

Living in this campground is not exactly "boondocking," because we do have a water hook-up instead of having to use water from the 5th wheel's tank. However, we buy drinking and cooking water rather than using the water that comes from the hose. They've upgraded the water treatment here in Why, but there are still very old pipes, so the water doesn't taste good.

We don't, however, have sewage at individual campsites here. So we use a Blueboy, which is a portable sewage tank. Every week, Steve empties the blackwater into the Blueboy, which he hooks onto the back of his truck and empties at one of the campground's dump stations.

Steve and the Blueboy

We have a very large lot here at Coyote Howls--larger than any city or suburban lot where I've ever lived in the past. The Guppy sits across the lot from Steve's still-unnamed 5th wheel, and I've been slowly emptying it out and putting some of my vintage fabric and art supplies in the shed. Soon I'll be able to use the Guppy as my eBay reconnaissance vehicle, taking it for trips to Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott or wherever to buy new inventory. I plan to get to Phoenix later this week.

The Guppy, parked across the yard from the 5th wheel

I also plan to use the Guppy to go camping and exploring. We're going to take it down to Rocky Point in Mexico and spend some time camping on the beach. I may also head to Quartzite later this winter to meet up with some VanDweller friends and then head further west to Palm Springs to do some upscale eBay shopping there.

In between trips, I'll be using the Guppy as my eBay office and art studio. Steve has an extra solar panel in the shed that I can use to keep the Guppy's house battery always charged enough to use the inverter to power my computer. And the solar panel is small enough that I can take it along and use it on my various trips. So I will finally get out and do some real boondocking with the Guppy this winter.

So that's essentially what it's like to live off the grid. We have to be conscious of our use of electricity, but it's really not a big deal. I don't feel the least bit deprived in any respect. In fact, we were in Ajo for a monthly fair at the downtown Plaza on Saturday and I had my blood pressure checked by a nurse from the local clinic, and my BP is the lowest it has been in many years. I'm feeling very relaxed and happy with the slow pace of things here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My First Blog Post from Why, Arizona

Steve paints skulls and hangs them on his walls

Wow, I am so far behind on blogging. Or I guess I would be if I had publication deadlines, which I don't. But I have tried to blog every week or two since I left Eugene, Oregon, on February 14th of this year.

The last few weeks were harried--well, harried for a marginally employed, basically lazy, gimpy old gal like me. I gave notice on my apartment in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and needed to be out by the end of October. Steve and I decided to head up to visit friends in Santa Fe and Taos before leaving the state, so we went on vacation the week before I planned to vacate my apartment.

We visited Steve's friends (and now they're mine, too!) Dusty and Arnold, who have homes both in Santa Fe and Ajo, Arizona, which is the town of 4000 people that's 10 miles from Why. They'll be heading to Ajo after Thanksgiving to spend the winter, so I already have friends here.

We also got to see Conrad and Susan De Jong. Conrad was my favorite undergraduate music professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in the mid-70s. We had a delightful lunch with the De Jongs at the O'Keeffe Cafe which, unfortunately, was going out of business a few days after our fabulous meal there. It was very fun to catch up a little bit on the many years since I'd seen Conrad and to meet his wife, whom I just missed meeting when I was an undergrad--she started teaching at the college right after I graduated. They have very active lives (tennis for him, dressage for her) and are a great example of how to live happy and healthy.

Bridget (right) and me at lunch in Taos

We spent one day driving up to Taos to meet Bridget Boyle, a friend I've known online for several years, initially through and more recently through FaceBook and our respective blogs. Bridget and her husband are retired school teachers from Southern California who now own a ranch outside of Guadalupita. They are growing organic vegetables and trying to keep their small herd of cattle out of the crops. Always an adventure to read Bridget's blog! And it was a pleasure to finally meet her in person.

Fabrics from a collection of Andean art

We did a few touristy things on our trip...visited the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, looked at Indian jewelry at the Santa Fe Plaza, saw the Kit Carson House in Taos and the Taos Pueblo. But really the best part of the trip was the people and also the beautiful drive between Santa Fe and Taos, where we saw some nice fall colors along the Rio Grande.

Fall colors along the Rio Grande north of Santa Fe

It was very relaxing and rejuvenating to go up north for a few days, and I came back feeling ready to really get some work done--which was great, because I had a lot of work to do! I had one more mosaic project to do for La Paloma Hot Springs & Spa before leaving TorC, plus I had to pack up The Guppy and clean the apartment. Fortunately one of the La Paloma housekeepers came over for a few hours and cleaned all the major surfaces for me, leaving me with only the smaller jobs such as cleaning the oven.

We left TorC last Wednesday morning, drove to Tucson to spend the night at Steve's sister Mary's place, and then drove the rest of the way to Why the following day. I didn't see much of Tucson--we mostly just ran a few errands while we were there--and, again, the best part of traveling was meeting Mary, who made me feel very welcome.

When we arrived at Coyote Howls, I was a little freaked. It appeared to be a big flat spot with just a scattering of mostly older RVs. After I'd been here a little while, it still looked like a big flat spot with a scattering of old RVs, but by then I'd also found out how quiet, relaxing and beautiful it is here. The night sky is amazing--I have never seen so many stars in my entire life. The sunrises and sunsets are wonderful, too. I woke up one morning to see a wild burro walking past, and I hear coyotes playing at night.

Burro on the road that goes by my new home
(Roxanne! I need a clever caption here!)

Since arriving here last week, I've been pretty busy getting acclimated. First we did some cleaning because Steve's 32-foot 5th wheel (which doesn't have a name!) had been closed up for six months or so, and a pack rat had been in here. Then I started fitting my clothes and other possessions into Steve's place. Now I'm back working on my eBay business, which I'd shut down for a few days during the transition here, and I'm getting acquainted with neighbors and with the amenities in Ajo. Today I am taking the bus from Coyote Howls to the Ajo Library for a drawing class that will run every Wednesday afternoon for six weeks. I will be in town all afternoon (the bus only runs out to Why three times a day), so I'll arrange to get a P.O. box and take time for coffee at the Oasis Cafe, which is on the beautiful little plaza in Ajo.

Looking across Ajo Plaza from the Oasis Cafe towards the library

Life is very relaxing here. I've started work on some multimedia art pieces that I've had in mind to work on for a long time. I'm reading a lot. I spend time cooking slow food such as chili from scratch, including soaking and cooking the beans. Sometimes I sit and do very little at all. I think it's going to be a great winter.

Sunrise as seen from my front door

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tripping Around New Mexico

If you go, try the brisket. The moist (i.e. fatty) type, not the lean.

My departure for Why, Arizona, is coming up in two weeks, and in the meantime I've been seeing a little more of New Mexico before I leave for the winter.

This past Wednesday, Steve and I drove up to Albuquerque to have dinner with my friend Joni Sugimura, whom I've known my entire life and who helped me immensely during my epic stay in San Francisco this spring. Joni was vacationing in the Southwest and was spending the last few days of her trip enjoying the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

We went out for barbecue that was finger-lickin' good. I was so enjoying the conversation and food that I forgot to take pictures, until we had already bid Joni farewell in the parking lot, so I only got the photo of the restaurant's sign above.

I did manage to get a picture of Steve driving his truck. This is a view I'll be seeing a lot of from now on.

Of course I could not go to Albuquerque without also doing some eBay shopping. We hit three thrift stores before meeting up with Joni, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience except for the crazy guy who kept wanting to talk to me wherever I went (and I'm not talking about Steve! Him, I like to talk to). I bought lots of cowboy shirts, which have been selling pretty well for me on eBay these past few months. I've found that the higher the BBM factor (Brokeback Mountain), the better they sell. Paisleys, florals, wild colors are the best. Check them out at my eBay store.

The drive home was lovely. We had to stop and enjoy the sunset for a while. It was just too good to merely drive by; it needed savoring.

Today we are heading to Santa Fe to visit friends and enjoy artwork for the rest of this week. We'll be making a day trip up to Taos, too. I'm looking forward to five days of vacation before I have to buckle down and get ready for my move.

Oh, I nearly forgot! I completed a mosaic project for my employer, La Paloma Hot Springs & Spa, last week. It is the top of a wicker desk that is in one of the nicer lodgings. They liked it so much, I've been commissioned to do a couple more pieces before I leave Truth or Consequences and probably a few more when I get back here next spring or summer. While I'm in Santa Fe, I need to get to Lowe's and stock up on some glass tiles, antiquing glaze, and other supplies. Here's the desk:

Okay, gotta go get ready for my trip. Adios!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why? Gearing Up for a Move

Sonja in a shopping bag, ready to move on again

I've been in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, for three-and-a-half months and I am beginning to prepare to move on.

This surprised me at first, because TorC has so much to offer me--friendly coffee shops where I've met very nice folks, a couple of thrift stores to replenish my eBay inventory, a great recovery community, places to sell my artwork, and more.

However, I've also found myself back in the trap of being a wage slave here. My motorhome is large enough for travel, but is too confining for everyday living, so I rented an apartment. But, to afford the apartment, I needed a job.

Now the job has overshadowed my life, mostly because of the arthritis I still have in my knee following arthroscopic surgery. As I whined in my last blog entry, working just two days a week takes a lot out of me, because I tend to hurt pretty badly for several days after a work day. So two days of work means five or six days of pain every week, which has affected my productivity in other parts of my eBay business and my artwork.

Surprise! Caught in the act of being helpful...

The obvious solution was to quit the job (done!) and live on my earnings from self-employment, while reducing my living costs. I asked my landlord about having Steve move in with me here in my nice little casita, and the answer was, NO. There's much that could be said about that, but I will refrain, except to say we each live in our own dream or version of reality.

I contemplated looking for a new place to rent with Steve here in TorC and decided against it. Much as I love this town, I am ready for new horizons, new experiences, new faces and places. It's who I am. I used to wonder what was wrong with me, that I am so ready to move on, but I've finally accepted that I am simply a traveler. I've never worked my genealogy back far enough to verify it, but my Scandinavian roots must lead to Vikings.

Recently completed shelf

So I'm giving my notice on the apartment, and in a month, Steve and I are heading for his place at Coyote Howls in Why, Arizona. I'll spend the winter there rent-free and be able to meet my expenses (health insurance, phone, Internet, food, vehicle insurance, and a life insurance plan to leave something to my kid) through self-employment.

Why is a very small town about 10 miles from Ajo, a metropolis of 4000. Surprisingly, there is public transportation. I'll be able to go to Ajo or even to Tucson (100 miles east) for the day whenever I want. Steve's sister lives in Tucson and we'll probably visit her fairly often and take in some entertainment there. Ajo has a lively artists' community where I might find some opportunities to study, volunteer or work.

Coyote Howls
is a primitive RV park in the Sonoran Desert that's off the grid, except at the clubhouse. Steve's 5th wheel has solar electricity, but I'll probably need to head up to the clubhouse with my sewing machine when I want to sew. I'll have the Guppy with me, of course, and plan to use it as my little art studio/eBay office so I don't have to impose my stuff on the space that Steve will share with me. The Guppy can also serve as a guest bedroom for visitors.

Because "Gesundheit" wouldn't fit...

I expect to be back in TorC once or twice during the winter. My kid Sly will visit me during his winter break from college, and I'd like to show him TorC and introduce him to some of my friends, particularly the gallery owners who may be willing to show Sly's work. And, if things go according to my own dream, I'll have artwork of my own to bring back here for sale at January's Gallery.

In the meantime, before heading for Why to spend the winter, I have much to accomplish here. I plan to use up some of my art supplies, especially vintage fabrics, so I'll have less to move with me. I've been commissioned by La Paloma Spa to do some mosaic work, and I'll still be filling in there occasionally, but not working the long 9.5 hour shifts that aggravate my arthritis. I'll be taking a short trip north to meet my friend Joni who's flying in from California for the Albuquerque Balloon Festival.

And what's next, after wintering in Why? Hmmm...the choices are endless. Steve and I are thinking of some possibly extensive travels in the Guppy before heading back to TorC. The Pacific Northwest, maybe Alaska. That remains to be seen.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Busking--my way of manifesting a small cheese pizza

My neighbor Janice, who would probably prefer not to be photographed or discussed in my blog, works nights at the spa where I work two days a week. Sometimes when I'm taking over the reservation desk from her in the morning, there are no lodgers expected that day, so Janice's next night shift might be curtailed and she might make less money.

On those days, she leaves saying, "Manifest me some guests, Sue."

I'm, like, "Um, okay, will do."

I don't really know how to manifest lodgers, but apparently I must be doing something right, because every night by the time Janice returns to work, we have overnight guests. I wonder if I can take credit for this, or whether the guests come because it's getting cooler and they're more interested in staying at a spa where they can soak in the hot springs than they were during the middle of summer.

Well, anyway, this regular request from my friend and coworker has gotten me thinking a lot about manifesting. I've read The Secret and other stuff of that sort, and it seems to me that there's just one element that may be missing from the concept that you can get what you want simply by imagining having it while coming from a good place: work. But maybe that's just me.

Saturday night was the Art Hop here in Truth or Consequences (apparently our town is too small to have a full-fledged Art Walk), and I decided to manifest a pizza.

Not having complete confidence in my ability to do this simply by creating my own reality, I took my flute and music stand and some baroque music that I used to play in college back when my flute chops were awesome, and busked on a street corner for a couple of hours. I manifested enough money for a small personal sized pizza, but I gotta tell you, I busted my chops to do it.

I am pretty sure that if I learn (or actually re-learn) some jazz and pop tunes from my former incarnation as a semi-professional flutist, I will manifest more money. "California Dreamin'" will probably manifest an extra large, and "Baby Elephant Walk" will manifest extra toppings. Of course, it will take me quite a few hours of practice to manifest this much pizza.

I may sound pretty skeptical about manifestation, but really I'm not altogether a doubter. I have had some pretty incredible things happen to me since I came here to TorC. The very day that I needed an apartment because I was feeling overcrowded in my small motorhome, I went for a walk and happened upon a friend who had an apartment available. And the day I moved into the apartment, Janice told me about the part-time job that I've held ever since. I did absolutely nothing to have these goodies come my way, except to realize that at some point I was going to need a larger place to live and a job to pay my rent.

Now, a few months later, my needs are changing, so I'm thinking a lot about manifesting. For one thing, the person who I replaced at the spa may be returning, and our original understanding was that she'd have the job back if she came back to town. This is really up to the spa owner to decide, but I'm inclined to bow out and let the old employee come back and have the job, which has been more difficult for me than I expected due to the knee problems that arose right about the same time that I started working there.

I think the work, which involves walking around showing people to their rooms and giving them tours and instructions on use of the bath house, as well as some light housekeeping, is slowing my recovery from surgery. I do a lot better on the days that I don't work, and after working a day, it takes me a few days at home to get back on track--by which time I have to return to work again.

Of course, I do "work" on the days that I'm not at the job. I get vintage clothing ready to sell on eBay...photograph items and write up auction listings...pack stuff that's sold and get it to the Post for new inventory at the thrift store, rummage sales, yard sales, etc...smash plates and nip them into tiles...clean and paint items that I can mosaic...glue tiles onto the forms and later grout them...take finished works to the gallery for infinitum. But when I'm working at home rather than at the spa, I can pace myself and I tend not to hurt nearly as much.

A $3 yard sale shelf in the process of being manifested into a $50 shelf

I'm more actively making art than I was when I first got to town, and I would really like more time to pursue this. Can I manifest all I need from doing artwork? I consulted a local Tarot card reader on Sunday (she manifested $15 from me), and she assures me that it's all clear sailing, with no need for a job. According to Rebecca, my artwork will take care of all of my needs, and the only thing that might hold me back is my doubts that are based my dark cloudy past. Let go of my worries, and I will manifest abundance.

She also confirmed that I'm on the right track in my partnership with Steve, with whom I'm planning to travel to Arizona for at least part of this winter, where my living expenses will be vastly less than here in TorC, because I'll stay at his place. We're also contemplating sharing rent for whatever time we remain here in New Mexico this year and in the foreseeable future.

Chiles are almost certain to manifest abundance in New Mexico...or at least a twenty

So, for right now, I'm feeling very open to the idea of just selling my artwork and antiques at January's Gallery and continuing to sell vintage clothing on eBay. Whatever happens with the job, so be it. I have been well cared for by a loving God no matter what questionable ideas I've gotten into my head over the years. I'll keep doing my daily morning routine of asking for guidance and see what manifests.

Sonja (in laundry basket) daily manifests kibble, water and canned cat food, merely by being my cat...or is it mind control???!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Back in the Saddle & Making Travel Plans

A cherub-topped birdhouse that is ready to grout and my next little project

Today it's been two weeks since my arthroscopic knee surgery. I was feeling like my recovery was slow, with more pain and swelling than I'd expected, because I've heard so many stories about people having such quick recoveries. However, when I saw my surgeon yesterday, he said I'm right on track for a person who has a lot of arthritis. I have more pain and swelling than some people because the surgery, although fairly minor, stirred up my arthritis. So it's just going to take me a while longer to become fully functional and pain free.

In the meantime, though, I am released to go back to all of my normal activities, including being able to fully immerse my knee in water again. Yay! So I went to the spa last night and soaked in the hot mineral waters, and it felt really good. I'm going to do that every day for a while, maybe even more than once a day.

I also rode my bike this morning for the first time in well over a month, and that felt great! Biking is easy on my knees because there's no impact. It's actually easier than walking. The doctor said I can ride up to 30 minutes a day, and just be careful to stay where the streets are flat and fairly smooth. So I rode my bike to my 7:30 a.m. meditation meeting and then to the grocery store, with no problems.

I'm very happy to be able to get back into the flow of life. I lost some income from my spa job while I was convalescing and I also took a break from eBay selling because there wasn't much point in selling stuff that I wouldn't be able to get out and ship. But now I am fully back to work, and I'm getting more mosaic artwork done again, too.

Sonja in one of the boxes that arrived while I was convalescing

While I was housebound, I ordered some box lots of vintage scarves from other eBay sellers, and now I've sorted through them and selected the best ones to resell individually. So today I will iron or steam some of the nicest scarves and photograph them, then write up some descriptions, set the prices, and upload the auctions. Some eBay sellers don't have the patience to do this with individual scarves, and that's why I'm able to buy estate lots of, say, 50 scarves or three pounds of scarves from other eBayers. Personally I love the work I do to sell individual scarves. I'm grateful to have found such a fun niche. I love the beautiful colors and handling the silk and the descriptive writing that's involved in preparing each auction listing.

I'm planning to work really hard this fall, winter and spring while it's the busy tourist season here in Truth or Consequences. I'm planning to continue at my part-time spa job as well as taking my own artwork and found objects (antiques, collectibles, other people's artwork, etc.) to January's Gallery for consignment, as well as working my eBay business.

Shelf that will go above my stove when finished

My hope is to get a little bit ahead of my monthly expenses so I can take off and travel all of next summer. Steve and I are thinking about going to Alaska, although we have a few other possible destinations in mind as well. Steve has never been to Alaska and it's been a lifelong dream of his to go, and I haven't been up there since the 1980s when I used to live there. So it would be a great destination, and we could visit lots of family and friends along the way.

In the meantime, we're going to take a shorter vacation up to northern New Mexico the first week in October, to visit friends in the Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos areas. This will be a good test of how well we travel together in the Guppy before we plan a really big trip!

Steve standing between the Guppy and John Rogers' 1970 VW Camper

Steve has lots of knowledge and experience with RVs, having lived in RVs and RV parks for about 25 years. So he's fixing everything on the Guppy that never worked while I was living in it full-time. I could never hook up to water, because there's a leak that gets the kitchen cupboards all wet. Steve is in the process of eliminating that problem, and then he'll see if the hot water heater works and whether we can use the shower. (I always used showers at campgrounds along the way, and I just filled up gallon jugs of water for drinking, dish washing, etc., and heated up water on the stove.) He's also going to fix the propane furnace, which I could never get to work. So the Guppy will be in great shape for our October trip--and the trips to come!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Semi-Ambulatory, Soporific and Sophistical

Me, not using a cane or other assistive walking device

It's five days since my arthroscopic knee surgery and I am walking some of the time. I only had to use a walker for one day, then a cane for another day, and after that I did not need to lean on anything.

I did, however, overdo it the past two days. On Sunday I walked a block-and-a-half to Black Cat Books and Coffee and then got a ride home, but it was too late. I'd already overdone it. So I spent the rest of the day asleep and had to resort to taking a pain pill in the evening again, after having gone all day without.

Did I learn from this? No! I was sure yesterday would be better, so I walked not only to Black Cat, but also a few more blocks to the Post Office and then home again. After all, if a block-and-a-half is too far, what more harm can I do myself by walking eight blocks? Hmm. Quite a bit, it seems. My knee got swollen up and sore, and I had to take pain medication in the afternoon and at bedtime.

Today is a new day. No walks for me. I am staying at home all day. This is hard. I'm a social person. I like my routines, especially the ones I've developed here in TorC. I want to get back to those days when I could just hop on my bike and fly over to the Post Office and then breeze downhill to the thrift store to see what old thing is new. But such whims and impulses require good knees.

My left knee

There's no way to take a pretty picture of your own knee. But this photo shows that the surgery left me with just three little holes and some swelling.

Being housebound leaves me with whims and impulses that occur only in my mind--such a dangerous place to spend time alone. But it's also given me time to think through some lingering unsettledness about my past. (Yes, I am making up words now...this is what happens when I'm home alone.) I've come to understand some things about my childhood, my young adult years, and the 20 years I spent in a sad marriage. I'm appreciating that I've come out of all of this as a person who is pretty good inside and out--loving, caring, kind and increasingly respectful of myself and others. And I'm letting go of regrets over the years I wasted as a drunk and as an unappreciated spouse. Maybe I needed two decades of active addiction and another two decades of being sober but unhappy in order to be exactly where I am today--a happy, sober woman with a peaceful life, who only needs to let her knee heal a bit so she can once again zoom around on her bicycle.

Smiling Steve

My boyfriend Steve and I have started talking about all sorts of new adventures that we might share. He is a free spirit. We have both been in TorC only a short time and we both love it here, but the road is beginning to whisper in our ears again. I see this as a time to rest and regroup, but I'm getting ready to redeploy. Probably not on a long-term basis, but from time to time, using TorC as my home base. I've thought of starting a teaching art studio here, but it isn't the time for me to be that tied down. I am a youngster of 56 and still have a lot to see and do, especially now that I've finally learned how to live one day at a time.

Sonja in the doorway, enjoying the inside and outside at once

My cat is a good teacher of living in the moment. This morning I watched her intensely pursue a ball in the courtyard, but then, while crouching to attack it, she discovered some tasty grass to chew on and she relaxed and forgot the ball. That's kind of the way I am with this idea I have about starting a little art school. It's a great idea. I may pursue it sometime. I may have other things to do first.

For now, I'm Snoozy Suzy, and I'm off for the first siesta of the day.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sorny's Sore Knee and Wonderful Support Team

There will be no pictures accompanying this blog post, because I'm a gimp these days and am not getting out of the house except for necessary stuff like work, medical appointments, and the occasional errand or social event. No wandering around aimlessly on foot or bike lately, so I haven't had my camera anywhere interesting for a while.

About 45 years ago, I acquired the nickname "Sorny" first at school, later at church camp, and then I used it as my Girl Scout camp counselor name into my 20s. It's short for Sorensen, which was my last name before I decided I'd rather be Sue Soaring Sun. I wonder if there was something prophetic about choosing the name Sorny, because in my dotage I have had nothing but trouble with my knees. Shoulda picked something like "Goodny" instead, I guess!

I noticed that Facebook friends of my nephew Eric also call him Sorny. Eric, tell 'em to stop, quick!!! You're not getting any younger!

A few weeks back, I blogged about going off-roading with friends and it was a wonderful time except for one brief moment when I was climbing out of the back seat of a small vehicle and felt some horrible pain in my left knee. The right knee is made out of Titanium and is more reliable than my left knee. I had it replaced about four years ago. After the painful exit from the back seat of the Trekker, I switched seats so I'd put my weight on the bionic knee while getting out of the car.

For a few weeks after that, I had intermittent pain in the left knee, but it felt okay if I didn't push it too hard or sit or lie in one place too long. Eventually, though, the pain got constant and more intense. On the day I could no longer get on my bike, I called the local clinic and made an appointment to see the doctor the next day. He ordered an MRI, which showed that I have two torn menisci.

There are no orthopedic surgeons in my small town of Truth or Consequences, so tomorrow I am going down to Las Cruces to see a specialist and he will schedule me for arthroscopic surgery. This will be a day surgery and I'll only miss about a week of work at La Paloma Spa. What he'll do is make tiny incisions to insert an arthroscope, which has a light and camera, and surgical tools. He'll basically shave off the bad parts of the menisci, which are arc-shaped pieces of cartilage that act as a cushion between the shin bone and thigh bone, and clean up any other problems he sees while he's in there. Hopefully there will be plenty of cartilage left so that I won't eventually need to have this knee replaced, but he'll get a better idea when he sees it close up.

I had this same surgery on my right knee about a year before my total knee replacement, but it wasn't successful in relieving my pain, swelling, stiffness, etc. I hope this one is! It's a lot easier surgery than a knee replacement, which has a long recovery time.

I've been taking pain meds for about 10 days now and I am really sick of them. I wish I could just get by on over-the-counter Tylenol or Advil, but it just doesn't help enough. The prescription pain meds make me feel sick to my stomach a lot of the time, so I've mostly been staying close to home while waiting this out. I'll sure be glad when this is over. I hope my surgeon is not too busy and can fit me in for surgery pronto!

In the meantime, I am feeling enormous gratitude towards my VanDweller friends Brian and John, who have taken me to the grocery store and other places I've needed to go. John is taking me down to Las Cruces tomorrow, and both guys said they'd try to be available for whenever the surgery happens. Also, my new boyfriend, Steve, may be back from Arizona by the time I have surgery or at least while I'm still recovering, and I know he'll do all he can to take good care of me. The women from my 11th Step meeting are planning to bring a meeting and game night to my home after I have surgery. Other friends have promised to bring me some entertaining AA speaker tapes to listen to, since I probably won't get to a meeting for a few days. Also, my best friend back in Washington State, Helen, has been through all the same knee stuff that I have, and more, so she is a wonderful listener and help to me.

So I'm sure your ears perked up when I mentioned having a boyfriend, and I won't get away with just mentioning his name and not giving any more information. Steve is the nicest guy I've ever dated. We haven't had a chance to date much yet, because about the time we decided we liked each other, he already had some commitments in Santa Fe and Tucson, so he's been on the road more than he's been here since we started seeing each other. However, he'll be back to TorC this coming weekend and is going to rent a place and stay here in town so we'll have lots of chances to get to know each other better. We met in an anonymous program for recovering drunks, where we are both old-timers with lots of years of sobriety. Steve is serene, kind, gentle, generous, smart, fun, good-looking...I'd need to get my thesaurus out to completely describe what a nice man he is. We both deserve a great relationship, and I'm glad we've found each other.

I'm off to make myself a protein shake, which is one of the easy foods I really appreciate on these pain meds, and then John is going to drive me up to the movie theater to see the latest Harry Potter film. John is a fantasy writer himself and has followed the entire Harry Potter book and film series, so it will be fun to go with him, and I so appreciate not having to walk or drive myself to the movie theater.

Wish me luck tomorrow when I see the surgeon! Let's hope he can fit me in for surgery as soon as this week!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Becoming New Mexican

La Paloma Hot Springs & Spa

Yesterday I started my job as a part-time spa attendant at La Paloma, which offers hot springs baths, massage, lodging and a conference center for retreats. It's a very nice facility, and one of the perks is that I get all the free soaks I want.

The job itself is pretty easy--two days a week, I will take whatever reservations come in, check in people as they arrive for a stay, and do some light housekeeping in the bath house between bathers. Job duties include such things as making sure the New Age music from Pandora is always streaming into the bath house and doing a sage ritual at shift change.

The downside of the job is that everyone that works there is seriously nucking futs. Housekeepers come into the office to complain about everything and everybody. So I'll be learning to have good boundaries on this job. The only question is whether to be really positive or just tell these crazy people I will hurt them if they spew their negativity at me. I'll probably try the nice approach first.

I did talk to a few people that I consider to be sane about the bitchy backbiters at work, and they said, "Welcome to TorC." I could get a job somewhere else, but it will be the same anywhere. This is a town where you are a superstar at work if you show up, do the job, and don't say anything really crazy (such as attributing missing cleaning supplies to ghosts...seriously!), and that's what I intend to do.

Turtleback Mountain just before a monsoon

In my last entry, I wrote about selling both antiques and my artwork at January's Gallery With a Card Shop here in Truth or Consequences. A few days ago, I stopped by with more vintage stuff for January to sell in her shop, and she kindly included me in a "ladies night out" at the new ice cream shop in town that evening. It was really fun getting to know a few more people here, especially since they share my interest in reselling old crap.

I took the picture of Turtleback just as I left the house. Normally the mountain is a dark brown against a light blue sky, but with a rainstorm about to begin and the sun on its way down, the mountain was illuminated against a dark cloudy background. For those of you who know Brian, that's his house on the right with the big swamp cooler on the roof. Brian lives so close to me that I sometimes back the Guppy into his fence, trying to get out of my parking space and into the alley. Not on purpose, of course.

Sonja's kibble in a moat

I didn't know about the monsoon season before I moved here. Coming from the Pacific Northwest where it rains all fall, winter and spring, it seems funny to be someplace where the majority of the rain falls in the summer. But it's also nice, because the storms usually occur in the afternoon or early evening, and they bring cool relief from the hot days. When I was at the ice cream event the other night, the rain came down pretty hard for a while, so we just stayed longer and chatted more until it cleared up.

Another thing I didn't know about before moving here was the ants! Lots and lots of little ants, different colors and different kinds. The locals know their names. I don't. They're all just pests to me. I was feeling frustrated about ants coming into my house and swarming in Sonja's cat food dish, until I talked to my neighbor Janice, who does a lot of pet-sitting. She told me to put Sonja's dish inside a larger dish full of soapy water. This completely alleviated the problem.

Candlesticks painted in New Mexico colors, then distressed

This week I took a major shopping trip down to Las Cruses with my friends Gretchen and Tom. Man, do they know how to shop! I thought I was a shopper, but they wore me out. Gretchen shopped 'til I dropped. It was good, though. We hit some thrift stores that have a 30% senior discount on Wednesdays, and I found lots of good stuff for resale and also to incorporate into artwork. Then we went to deep discount department stores, such as Big Lots and Factory 2U, and I got a bunch of things I needed for my apartment. We topped it off with lunch at Golden Corral, which also has a senior discount, but I wasn't old enough for that one. I don't think I can afford to go with Gretchen and Tom every week (money-, time-, or energy-wise), but it was fun and I will definitely do it again.

Overall this past week has been another social butterfly week for me. This just amazes me, given that I used to be such a loner. I find myself dropping whatever I'm doing to have coffee with Dhultky or iced tea with Brian or a chat with Janice, plus I need to fit in the phone calls to friends and family elsewhere. I've also begun writing a weekly snail mail letter to my son Sly, because sometimes it's difficult to find times that we're both available to talk on the phone. I am changing longer isolating, and becoming a person who values companionship, kindness, and mutual interests when they come my way.

Mosaic birdhouse completed this morning

I do, however, need to grab those times that I have to myself and get things accomplished! I actually do that, but not to the extent of my capabilities. I gather things up to take to January and I do artwork and I eat pretty well and ride my bike here and there to run errands, but I tend to put off the less fun stuff. So today I'm having a Garbage Day to take care of the garbage I'd rather not do, such as pay bills, do paperwork, and clean house. And I'm going to get it all done before my siesta, so I gotta run. I know I'm not completely a New Mexican yet, because if i was, I'd take my siesta first. One day at a time, I guess.