Monthly Archives: December 2011

Cool findings for the New Year

We meet the most interesting people in diverse situations and places. These meetings enhance the flavor of our lives in ways we can never predict. Through our tennis clubs we meet many people and probably spend the most time with them. We meet people through our airstream club activities and affiliation, and likewise through our amateur radio activities, NOMADS, and clubs.

The most surprising meetings, I think, are these through our WordPress site comments. We don’t get an overload of comments (do you know some people get dozens and dozens of comments on each post?!) and we are able sometimes to follow-up with our readers personally. We enjoyed, after meeting him through his comment on our post, following Bill Chance on his wordpress page, especially this post.

My resolutions for the New Year, if I make any, should come from Bill’s excellent post two months ago. Well, really they come from 16 Tips to Simplify Your Life (and Increase Your Productivity) by Tom Basson.  Bill titles one post each week “What I Learned This Week.”  In it he quoted Tom Basson’s 16 Tips.

Thanks to Bill for his aggregation of neat information and very upbeat look at active living. And especially for helping me find what could do really great as my New Year’s resolutions. Even if I didn’t make any of them up.

I like them. At least the first 15 anyway. And checking out evernote might be the best thing I do all year, even if I did all the other 16 too. So I’m all in for Tom’s 16 tips to simplify my life.

Debbie and I sold the house four years ago to start full-timing.  We shed all the furniture and almost all the stuff, keeping only a small storage unit full of irreplaceable (at least we thought so when we placed them in storage) items. We eat simply, spend simply, and try to travel simply.

But there’s room for less, we think. Our house is pretty tiny, especially compared to the 3,000 square feet we formerly filled.  We consistently try to avoid taking on more stuff but stuff still ends up in our book bin and tool box and crannies in the truck’s bed. Less stuff will be a good thing toward simplification of our lives.

Look at Bill Chance’s posts and web site, you’ll be glad you did. And Tom has great posts too — here’s another one of Tom’s I like.  It’s about the superiority of apples.  I like what Stephen said to me last week, iPads and Macs “are designed for humans.”  Check out these guys’ posts and prepare to be surprised and delighted.

Let the New Year roll. Be curious and mentally energetic.  Try to reach out and listen to other people — they’ll probably delight you.  Share good information. Simplify your life. And try not to complicate others’ lives. We wish you peace, warmth, fellowship, and simple pleasures in your New Year.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

The vagrant doesn’t fall far from the tree

We returned to the states from Canada this afternoon.  I think this has been our wettest Vancouver visit yet.  It didn’t just rain, it poured.  And, of course, we walked all about no matter what the weather did.  Or we wouldn’t have had any walks at all.  Funny, this morning we saw the sunrise AND had no Canadian rain for the first time throughout this visit.

You know, we work hard to prepare for each border crossing.  They can ask any questions they want, they can search without cause (actually they presume cause already, right?) and they’re in no apparent hurry.  One never knows what type of encounter to expect at the border crossing and so must prepare.

So we’re preparing as we head east on Highway 1 and south on 13.  “We’re from North Carolina, we have an accounting of the value of all the stuff we’re bringing from Canada, we’ve no citrus nor meat nor dairy”, and and and. . .  What are they going to ask us and is there going to be a big line-up at the border?

Today’s had to be the funniest border crossing ever.  Absolutely no waiting whatsoever, no cars or trucks in front of us.  We pull up to the U.S. Customs Border Patrol kiosk.  The officer sticks out his gloved hand to our open window.  I pass our two passports to his hand.  He asks, “Is this a rental car?”


Where are you from?”

“North Carolina.”

“What was your purpose in Canada?”

“Our daughter and two grandchildren live in Vancouver. We visited for the holiday.”

“And you spoiled them rotten?”

“Yep, we gave them chocolates and espresso and left them with their parents.”

“Welcome back to the states.”

Really!  That really was the extent of our exchange with the officer of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.  The national security risk is 500 feet below sea level. Or, when he looked us up on his computer he saw everything about us and decided, “we’ve scared these two so much they are totally harmless now.”

One other choice?  This is the first border crossing in five years without the trailer and truck and all the baggage they entail.  We’re in a rental car we are very unlikely to have altered with hidden storage.  Maybe we store the trailer and truck below the 49th parallel and rent a gas-saving car for our Canada visits.

We save a bunch on camping fees and fuel costs.  What do you bet the border crossings are probably all easier without the trailer and truck?  Hmm, could foretell a change in how we travel and live.

We’re in Mesa again.  First thing as we deplaned we donned our sunglasses for the first time in 8 days.  We took off our fleeces for the first time in eight days.  And we’ll be working on separating our toes — we had so much rain in Vancouver I think our feet were beginning to web.  What a nice welcome to Mesa, 60+ degrees, dry, and bright sunshine.

I hit almost 500 tennis balls from 6-7:00 pm this evening.  We’ve already hit the grocery stores to restock the pantry and icebox.  And we have tennis playmates for tomorrow.  Life is good!

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

Merry Christmas from dreamstreamrs

Merry Christmas from us to you. The tree is brightly lit with colored lights and is standing before the living room window. Presents are under the tree. Eleanor (almost six) is pretty wired about tonight and tomorrow — she’s already bathed, getting supper, and anticipating opening a present before bedtime. And the adults are quietly excited about our time together with these two children.

Eleanor has picked which package to open tonight, one which appeared under the tree this morning. She shared with us this evening her considerations on the package. Not a big box but not a small one, it is unlikely to contain anything she doesn’t need. Yet she doesn’t know what’s in it. And so the excitement waxes.

We are spending Christmas holiday in Vancouver B.C. where Eleanor, her little brother, and her parents live. The last time we celebrated Christmas here Eleanor, our first grand baby, was ten months old. She enjoyed the wrapping paper and the boxes. Five years later and our second grand baby is six months old. He likes the lights and sights and having something to gnaw his gums on.

Eleanor drew this Christmas picture for us on the iPad —

Christmas tree with presents

Debbie and Jim hope all of you enjoy the holiday season.

Best border crossing yet

We’re in Vancouver B.C. with Debbie’s daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren. Debbie visited soon after Henry was born six months ago, and while I’ve been to Vancouver many times over the past five years this is my first visit to this house.

The last time we visited over Christmas holiday was five years ago and before we had quit work. We flew into Seattle’s airport, rented a car, and drove to the Aldergrove crossing to enter Canada. It was funny, we felt as though we were awakening the RCMP officer at the border as we slowly crept our rented car up to the barrier — we had no sign at all the station was attended until we were almost at the barrier.

Our border crossings In the ensuing five years have been a very mixed bag of interactions with RCMP and with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Every crossing has been a little different and ony one (check it out here) was at all contentious. Still, we prepare for the event and keep our fingers crossed for an uneventful border crossing each time.

Today we checked out of our Bellingham motel, shopped Christmas presents at Bellis Fair mall and Best Buy, and headed for the border crossing at Aldergrove. We did our typical rehearsal — what’s our home town this year?; how long are we staying?; are we bringing anything we will leave in Canada?; if so, what’s the value of gifts?; what about alcohol or tobacco? How much alcohol (we now try to remember oz and ml, just in case).

Okay, we’re ready for a huge line-up at the border, we’re ready for the questions, we’re ready to pay duty or taxes on the Christmas gifts, we’re prepared for whatever as we reach the border station. There are initially only four cars ahead of us, this is great! And it only gets better.

Our turn at the barrier starts with the officer asking for our passports then asking some of the standard and now anticipated questions. Where are you from? Where are you going? What is the purpose of your visit? Do you have any alcohol or tobacco? Will you be leaving anything in Canada?

This was one of the smoothest and nicest interrogatories we’ve faced. We were ready with our answers to the questions. And we were expecting the follow-ups on alcohol and gifts. We were almost certain we would be within the limits on alcohol with a 12-pack of beer and a fifth each of whiskey and wine. We knew the values of (and had receipts for) the gifts we were bearing for the kids. This all went great and we were pretty surprised when the interview ended quickly. The officer said, “You’re okay, go ahead.”

The weather in Vancouver B.C. is damp and cold. But we are indoors with family and all excited to be sharing Christmas this year in Canada.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

Jim’s Red Shoes did What?

Do you remember “Love Those Red Shoes” a few months back? Jim had tried on, and loved the fit of, a pair of Babolat tennis shoes. What colors did the pro shop have for this shoe? Only red in Jim’s size. This has been Jim’s first pair of red shoes since, say, four or five years old.

Red shoes can generate a lot of attention. Service station attendants talking over the intercom, tennis partners, our opponents, and folks in the bleachers all cheer for the red shoes. Gosh, sometimes it seems Jim’s opponents might even be watching the shoes instead of the ball. Quite a legal distraction, the shoes could be a real help if this were only true. And Jim could have generated more comments if only he had worn the courts anywhere other than just on the courts.

But these are expensive court shoes and Jim donned them only for hitting the tennis courts. He has an old pair of Nikes he reserves for painting or knocking around, a pair of Merrells for hiking or walking, and his Birkies for bopping around the block and for dancing. The red Babolat tennis shoes are specialists.

The red Babolat Propulse3 shoes were everything they were billed as and more. These shoes provided Jim with unexcelled quickness and the most comfortable and snug fit in a tennis court shoe yet with room for his toes. He played a little wearing these shoes before we arrived in Mesa AZ. And Jim has played or hit 3-5 times weekly since we arrived here.

How have these shoes worked out? Well yeah, that’s why we’re writing again. After around 100 hours of screaming around the courts, the shoes started leaving bits of sole behind. Jim spotted a couple of pieces of rubbed-off red rubber on the court today and thought to check his sole. This is what he found, to his great surprise and dismay:

Well-worn and suddenly retired

Jim ended his hitting session and walked home to share his surprise with Debbie. The biggest surprise is probably because Jim hasn’t previously worn through the soles on any pair of tennis shoes. What happened? One of two things: Jim’s footwork has increased dramatically (a distinct possibility given the amount and type of instruction he’s gained this year); or these tennis shoes aren’t as substantial as previous pairs.

Don’t call Michelin yet, we don’t want to distract the Michelin Man while he’s throwing tires at the big octopus-armed gas pumps or whatever those things are in the t.v. commercials. Jim’s contacting the folks who sold him these shoes. Word is, Babolat tennis shoes have a six-month wear guarantee. We sure hope so.

We’re expecting Babolat’s U.S. distributors will come through for us on this. They have an opportunity to show us this was just a slightly thin sole on one of these shoes and the next pair will probably wear longer. Twelve hours a week for just nine weeks doesn’t seem like an awful lot of time in a pair of $110 tennis shoes. And until we resolve this Jim will have to play in his Birkenstocks or hiking shoes or, like he sometimes did when he was in junior high school, barefoot.

These have been, hands-down, the best-fitting and most comfortable pair of tennis shoes Jim has played in. And hopefully we will find out they are shoes he can afford to wear on the tennis courts, comfortable or not.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

Dear Mom

We’re still at TowerPoint Resort in Mesa AZ. Enough going on to keep us interested. Zero bugs (scorpions aren’t bugs, right?) Low humidity and dewpoint mean we can, or not, use insulated cups for our drinks — the drinks can’t sweat regardless. It’s just too dry for condensing moisture. The low temperature a few nights ago was 40 here and 7 in Flagstaff, and our daytime temp made it to 70. What a great place for winter weather.

We awoke to rain several mornings earlier this week, sort of rare for around here. Sure, we get a sprinkle now and then. But to have an entire morning of rain? There’s nowhere for it to go, the resort is probably 75 percent pavement and has no retention pond other than the tennis courts area. So a river runs down our street and down into the tennis courts. Unfortunately the rain didn’t let up before the courts filled up on the second day of rain. We ended up with between one and two inches of rain in Mesa in under two days.

Rain doesn’t interfere with much for us. My tennis team match was rained out two weeks ago and later the same day other teams were able to practice on the same courts. We rescheduled for four days later, played the match, no problems. And missed a practice this week but had clear weather for our Thursday match.

Sometimes we think we’re pretty busy before we step back and look at what’s really going on. We read the paper Sunday and after church Debbie hit the tennis courts for almost three hours of doubles. I pedaled across the street to another resort to visit with friends and help Jim KB0U get to know his Yaesu ham radio better.

Upon my return we had a visitor, Melissa, who stopped because she saw the NOMADS door signs on our truck. Melissa also is a full-timer and volunteers with NOMADS like we do but we hadn’t met before. We had a nice visit comparing some of our work projects and locations and hope to talk again.

By now it was time for me to run to the courts and practice. I had reserved court time and the ball machine for an hour. While I waited for Darren and Jan to finish their time with the ball machine I practiced serving balls on another court. Then I spent a wonderful hour hitting almost 1,000 balls, cross-court, cross-court, cross-court, cross-court, DOWN THE LINE! Rinse and repeat. . .

Backhand ten times, forehand ten times, backhand ten times, forehand ten times. Sounds repetitious, right? Finally I changed it, hit nothing but volleys for the last basketful of balls. The machine only tattooed me once, it shot a ball right at me at the net and somehow the ball avoided all my strings and the racquet frame. I usually don’t get hit by balls — gosh, it hurt!

The practice is paying off. I read somewhere, in whatever we want to learn and do well, we should work very intentionally and “over learn”. Over-learning is to practice something over and over again until it becomes almost automatic. When you need the skill you confidently let it rip, says the teacher. Last year I lacked confidence in my topspin hits. My confidence is up and now the ball sometimes even goes where it’s supposed to.

Oh yeah, I was talking about how busy we might or might not be? Sunday was pretty typical for us, visiting with friends and playing tennis and Debbie and me spending time with each other. Six days every week we can watch tennis matches in our resort’s tennis complex and we could play every day but try to give our arms and shoulders a break from the action.

Almost every week there’s some sort of street party or potluck in the resort. We spent last Thursday afternoon at the resort-sponsored party with free burgers and beverages and dance music. We line-danced, had fun with a lot of swing music, had a few slow dances. Not a lot of people were on the dance floor but we don’t care, we have fun.

Saturdays we often go hiking with tennis friends. Phoenix has great hiking in the hills all around. We’ve hiked in state and county parks on three or four Saturdays and are so fortunate to have Bill (my tennis partner) willing to lead the hikes. He knows his way around and always provides a nice five or six mile hike for the small group.

Sitting here writing I forgot all about my nine o’clock ham radio network. Rats! I have another one at ten and another one at three every afternoon, if I can just remember. Bob w7iry and I have been playing around with the club’s FLEX 3000, a really neat software-defined ham radio. It’s a challenge running ham radio without visible antennas, but we don’t want to create problems for the resort or our neighbors so we try to not call attention to ourselves.

Some mornings, according to my neighbors on one side, they’ve heard talking on their stereo radio speakers. Which is kind of odd — they say the stereo radio wasn’t turned on. I guess I’ll invite them to keep a brief log of when it happens, date and time, and I’ll compare it to my ham radio log. D’ya think the logs will match? We’ll see and experiment from there to solve it.

The resort has a sewing and quilting room, a lapidary room, a woodworking shop, a nice library, ping-pong tables, billiard tables, dance lessons, and classes in conversational Spanish. We’ve attended the Spanish classes twice weekly for six weeks and are coming along okay so far. Leslie is a great profesora, trying to drag our wild bunch of seniors along into a fun new language.

We haven’t spent much time at the pool so far. The swimming pools are gorgeous and the chaise lounges are comfortable, nice music piped in for the pool decks, lots of nice people to talk with. When the weather is best, really nice sunny days, we like to be at the tennis courts.

I guess the conflict of interest between the tennis courts and swimming pools sort of sums up our “time situation” pretty well. We aren’t so busy as just doing a lot of what we want to almost every day. The weather is generally outstanding. And there’s so much we can do. We can’t complain about being too busy — but it does seem like we don’t have time to do everything we’d like to.

We hope this finds you all well and enjoying the run-up to the holidays. We’re sorry we haven’t written before now — we do think about you and want to write. I feel like we have been dropped into funland and almost can’t get enough every day. There are no good excuses on this end and we will try to be better about staying in touch.

We’re so lucky we don’t have any more serious concerns than time management. Life is great and winter in Arizona is a blast.

Jimbo and Debbie

Mom, you can really easily see where we are by clicking on the highlighted spot here


©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr