Moving to AZ, PTSD and a Can of Fanta Orange

As of Tuesday, we’ll have been in Arizona two months…and what a two months it’s been!

OMG!! We’re still so exhausted.

We arrived in Phoenix near midnight on August 11th. We’d hired a driver to pick us up at the airport and take us into the Tucson area. (Long story as to why we flew to Phoenix instead of Tucson.)

While Jack and the driver waited for our luggage, I stepped outside for a few minutes. I clutched a big white 3-hole binder notebook tightly to my chest. It held every single password to every single account we had: banks, charge cards, ATM’s, online sites. It also contained three years of taxes, birth certificates, our new lease, directions to our temporary house and so on. I remember sitting down a moment in the glorious Arizona night and taking a deep breath. We made it! We finally made it!

It was kind of warm so I put my purse and notebook down on the ground and took off my jacket. After a few minutes, I went back inside the terminal.

You know what’s coming, right?

As we approached Tucson an hour and a half later, I looked around the car and said to Jack, “Honey, did you see me put the white notebook in the trunk?”


Oh the sinking feeling in my stomach!

Need I say, I was up until dawn changing passwords.

The good news: the next day, some lovely honest soul handed the notebook into the Phoenix airport and they Fed Ex’d it to our new place. God bless you honest soul, wherever you are!!

For the next two weeks, while waiting for our furniture to arrive, we stayed in a gorgeous home in the mountains in Saddlebrooke. I saw four shooting stars the first night. It was very dark in the evening in that area so when I’d go outside to look at the sky, I’d see billions of stars. I’d been dreaming of that for months.

In the daytime, the mountains reminded me of The Sound of Music, one of my favorite movies, so you just know I was singing “The Lonely Goatherd”, “The Sound of Music”, and “Climb Every Mountain” all the time.


I also met this cactus.


Can you see his face? He didn’t have the happiest expression, but he felt so kind. I talked to him a lot.


Sometimes I felt like I was in heaven.

Speaking of heaven, there was a soul nearby taking a break from there. He kept slamming the door of the second bedroom of our temporary house. As soon as we acknowledged him, he stopped doing it. He was actually quite debonair, smelling of a delicious after-shave. When I went into a deep meditative state, I could see he was tall, middle-aged, with dark hair and glasses. I didn’t get any telepathic message, but my impression was he was related to the owner and just checking us out. He left after the first few nights.

I have to tell you, this move was pretty stressful what with Jack being 88 and me having PTSD.

The altitude hit him hard and he felt dizzy for a couple weeks. He had and continues to have balance issues that understandably undermine his wellbeing. I had trouble breathing for a week, then got sick as a dog with a horrible cold.

With the exception of twice last September, I hadn’t driven in 35 years (Jack doesn’t drive anymore), so between trying to get my sea-legs again and not knowing where we were and our iPhone GPS voice sometimes working, sometimes not—finding our way around was extremely stressful.

I bought a car for the first time. That was an experience.


I unpacked fifty boxes at our new place and hung about 40 paintings/pictures/posters.

I stocked our new kitchen.

AT&T didn’t work at all out here, so I had to switch to Verizon and buy new phones. (They didn’t do iPhone 5s.)

I had to find all new doctors for Jack. And a barber. Why do they all want to give him a buzz cut? For years now, I keep asking for the Cary Grant look, circa 1966, and they nod their heads and then make him look like he’s in boot camp.

Someone left the patio door in our new apartment open before we moved in, so we had lots of leaping, many-legged bugs as well as moths to clear out in the weeks that followed. Quite gross.

Jack’s computer died so that was a bummer. I finally reset it to factory settings, but still can’t figure out how to enable his video mode so he can do his flight simulator. One thing at a time, though, right?

None of this would have been such a big deal if it weren’t for that fact that I was EXHAUSTED and Jack was dizzy and/or lightheaded and/or off-balance most of the time and I surreptitiously watched him like a hawk practically every minute of the day, unless he was sleeping.

Need I say, I was in a near-constant state of hypervigilance. Startle effect returned. My tummy began to twist and shout. My eye began twitching. And then I started waking up with a disconcerting physical symptom of stress I thought I’d left behind two years ago. Portions of my arms buzzed with energy as if a zillion, trillion, kazillion cells had condensed in small areas and begun expanding and contracting at top speed.

I don’t like waking up with those buzzing arms, but I’m grateful my body gives me messages. This particular message means: BURN OUT APPROACHING!! Slow down, rest, do Trauma Release Exercises (TRE).

Thank God for TRE. It’s still my number one go-to when I find myself in a state of overwhelm. As I wrote in my book, PTSD: Frozen in Time, Trauma Release Exercises relax the psoas muscle—the first muscle activated when fight or flight hits. When I relax the psoas, I’m able to cry and release the cortisol build-up (stress chemicals). Then my fatigue lifts, my stress symptoms abate, I get perspective back and I feel pretty good again.


Mid-September, we visited my 99-year-old uncle Roy outside Phoenix. He used to live in his dream home on a golf course until last winter when his physical needs required 24/7 medical care. Even though his facility is very nice, it was still tough to see him there and I know it’s very tough for him to be there.

Driving home, I felt very sad. After an hour and a half on the highway, I pulled over to a rest stop. It was clean, quiet and empty. Just restrooms and vending machines. We decided to get something to drink and sit a few minutes before getting back on the road.

Although I’ve been drinking Coca Cola since high school, for some reason, I decided to get a Fanta Orange. I hadn’t had one of them since I was nine.

The sun was shining and it was hot, but we were comfortable sitting at a table in the shade.

Everything was strangely still and quiet. Wonderfully still and quiet.

I took a swig of the Fanta.

It was ice-cold and delicious.

I took another drink.

And then, out of nowhere, I felt joy.




Moving from Chicago to Arizona: What I’ve Learned So Far

Our move date is August 11th. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Get estimates from three movers. We have a two-bedroom apartment. The first estimate came in at $6,300, the second $7,100 and the third $5,200. All three had great reputations. (By the way, when I told the first and second movers we were going with the least expensive, both were happy to meet the lowest price. Also, moving in the middle of the month is cheaper than the beginning or end.)

Movers will not take your plants. They won’t survive a cross-country trucking trek and movers won’t take responsibility for them. Read The Secret Life of Plants and blow your mind. They know more than you think they do. Talk to them. They’ll understand what’s going on. (I cried when I said goodbye to Minty. Jack’s barber has been slowly taking all of our plants and she’s wonderful. Still…how I miss them!)

Don’t use bubble wrap when you’re packing. I was feeling so good about myself. I’d already packed almost thirty boxes. I bought a huge roll of bubble wrap from Amazon and felt so smart. It made tightly-packed boxes a cinch! Then a few nights ago, when I was falling asleep, I thought about what might happen to those gingerly bubble-wrapped pictures, framed posters, porcelain elephants, etc. in a storage unit when it’s 115 degrees outside and my eyes popped open. I did some Googling and sure enough, it is NOT advised to do this. The next day, I had to re-open all the boxes and replace the bubble wrap with crumpled newspaper. Quelle drag!

You can’t rent AZ storage units prior to two weeks before you take possession. If you’re in Chicago and want to rent a unit in AZ, you can do it “remotely”, going to a local sister storage facility with your I.D., etc., but not earlier than two weeks before you’re out there in AZ getting the lock, etc.

It’s been extremely difficult finding an AZ landlord to hold an apartment longer than two weeks before we have to start paying rent. Renting in Chicago since 1980, I always signed apartment leases six weeks to two months before moving in and didn’t begin paying rent until then. Not my experience in AZ. So far, the rule seems to be they’ll give me a lease, but only hold it two weeks before I have to start paying. Très bummer.

Apartment room sizes tend to be smaller in AZ than in Chicago. Although the total square footage of the apartments we like are close to what we have now, that s.f. includes one or two patios or balconies, so the actual room sizes are smaller. Downsizing is kind of fun. It’s a good feeling to get rid of stuff you don’t need anymore. I’m sure if you have time, you could make money selling your stuff, but we don’t have time. We’ve given our extra furniture to people who needed it. Good karma.

AZ has lots of gorgeous houses – some with pools — that rent for less than “luxury” apartments. The only problem for us is we can’t get out there to do a walk-through. There are lots of great photos on Zillow or Trulia, but unless we do a walk-through, who knows what we’re getting into. Gots to make sure there’s no troubled ghosties!

No sales tax on groceries in AZ! Loving that.

AZ will tax our pensions. (Illinois doesn’t). Not loving that.

If you make a reservation with United Airlines early enough, you can get two first-class tickets from Chicago to AZ for under $600. I’m so happy to have gotten these seats. (I reserved them in May I think.) Jack is eighty-eight and although he’s in fantastic shape, he had heart surgery in December and I know our move day will be taxing. This way, we’re in the first row of the plane and he’ll have a little more space for his legs.

Preparing to move cross-country can be exhausting. I’m too pooped to pop. I’m tired most of the time from PTSD symptoms anyway, so you can imagine this move has added to my fatigue. I’ll have two great days of activity and then need two to do nothing but rest, watch good movies on TV and read. (Been watching Catfish. Love that show. Nev and Max are such great people. Read The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal. Absolutely riveting non-fiction about a conman who convinced so many people he was a Rockefeller.)

Living in an apartment filled with boxes and empty of familiar furniture throws me. It’s just weird. I feel unsettled. Sometimes I’m thrilled and excited. Sometimes I’m sad. I’m put to mind lately of my decades in this city and making unhelpful melancholy assessments of my life in general. Plus, I’m having all these dreams I’m going to die soon, which really bum me out.

Gosh, I’ll be glad when this move is over.

We do have a fabulous vacation rental for a couple weeks in August while we wait for our furniture to come. It’s in the mountains and so gorgeous. Only twenty more days. Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!