Monthly Archives: December 2012

New Winter Challenges Everyday

This is the view out my bedroom window last night. These are small icicles compared to some that I awoke to this morning. In 2008 when we purchased this house, my cousin Jill came with me to help set up the kitchen and bedrooms. That October it snowed and we were delighted until we realized we had Florida clothes and shoes and shoveling was really difficult! Jill also was worried about icicles falling and hurting someone. I thought for a long time that this was really silly. Yesterday, I was knocking them down easily but this morning was another story. I realized, upon getting the trash out of the bin under the deck, that the snow on the deck was melting and icicles were forming over where I stood. So, of course I swung the garbage bag at them which was effective but I quickly realized it was an effort in futility. Then I worried about the dogs. What if one fell on them? So, I had the same concerns that Jill did four years ago. Just when I thought I was navigating winter in the mountains, something else to think about.

It occurred to me this morning that my perspective has totally changed as it relates to going out and getting things done. With the help of a friend I found Jimmy who showed up at a moment’s notice to shovel the stairs. He even said that if my driveway was stone instead of black top, he would plow it (which no one else will do). Very happy to have found someone who responds so quickly and who is willing to do small chores for a reasonable amount of money. Once that happened, it set in motion other activities — cleaning off the car (sounds so simple, but it took over an hour), taking trash to the dump and checking for mail. I considered for a moment going into the Milford Diner, but decided that could wait until later in the week. I realized that I am fortunate that I don’t absolutely have to be anywhere but it takes some getting used to.

On the eve of 2013 and the risk of falling off the fiscal cliff (I’m still not sure what that will mean to me!), I am obsessing over seemingly simple matters — when will this snow melt (the low tonight is supposed to be 15 degrees), will I be able to get the garbage out, will I have enough wood for the winter? One issue seems to have resolved itself — I had no idea that the snow plow could back plow to get the snow in front of and in back of my car. My plowing contract means that they show up at odd hours — in the middle of the night or early in the morning. I am also discovering that, after 6 months of a life structured by medical issues I couldn’t control, I am now very much affected by the weather as to what I can and cannot do. I have become totally driven by weather. Perhaps it’s just a matter of meeting each winter challenge as it happens!

Noodle Soup

After the Thanksgiving turkey, my son-in-law David and I made a lot of stock that went into the freezer. Now, after all the wonderful Christmas meals, and everyone gone except Rachel, the snow began to fall and it seemed the perfect weather to use the turkey stock for soup. I share this with you because Nigella Lawson’s Noodle Soup for Needy People has been my go-to comfort food for years. Not only is it an opportunity to use up lots of things left in the fridge but it’s good for colds or when you’re just plain feeling sorry for yourself (I fit into that category today!). As I was putting it together and reading Nigella’s notes on not following the recipe but just throwing whatever you felt like eating into it, it seemed worth putting down here for others. My friend Joellyn from Phoenix stopped by (yes, really) on her way from Maine to Arizona; she brought me a HUGE bunch of kale from her garden. After she left I of course made a big pot of noodle soup. When the store has two-for-one spinach (they did today), this is my go-to soup. If I have leftover chicken or salmon this is a perfect way to use it up — and it’s healthy too.

Here goes: Use about 4 cups of stock — I usually use vegetable stock, but I had the turkey stock in the freezer. Add to it one star anise, some finely chopped or grated ginger (depending on how you like it), a tablespoon or two of brown sugar, and some soy sauce. Bring that to a simmer and let it go for a bit. Then you can add whatever vegetables you like — I add mushrooms, bok choy or spinach or kale, sugar snap peas, bean sprouts, green onions. And, of course, the noodles. Cook the noodles separately. This is important. If you cook the noodles in the soup, they absorb all the liquid and the broth is what makes this soup special. Udon noodles are very good and recommended by Nigella, orzo, or any leftover pasta in your pantry work well. I had another bowl for lunch today on a day when the temperature didn’t go above 28 degrees and it was just as good reheated. I have been known to freeze it but it’s better from the pot or fridge.

I hope you will try this. As I share lessons learned about living alone, retirement, negotiating winter issues and the cold, the value of soup that makes me feel better is important. Let me know what you think.

Prepared for Winter?

After an initial dusting of snow two weeks ago, I thought I was totally ready for winter. There are many products on the shelves at Lowe’s or the local supermarket and I thought I had them all, but apparently one thing I missed was a spray on product with a built-in scraper that somehow “burns off” ice on the windshield. Richie showed up to plow the upper parking area (no hope for using the driveway and the back door!) on Thursday morning. While I had contracted for plowing, I wasn’t sure how it worked especially since my car was parked where the plow had to go. The stairs were totally hidden from view by 6-8 inches of snow and, for the first time since moving here, I felt a pang of something which I think was fear of being trapped inside! Richie made a path down the stairs to get my car keys, pulled the car out, plowed, and pulled it back in at which point he told me about the ice melt for windshields product. Needless to say I bought two of them today and sent Rachel home with one.

It occurred to me right at the moment of wondering when the snowplow would come that my entire way of thinking about leaving the house changed as the snow kept falling. Several friends in Florida thought it was wonderful and romantic that we had a white Christmas, that the snow in the woods is absolutely beautiful and so quiet and lovely. That’s all true. How nice it is to sit in front of a roaring fire while the snow fell. Also true. What fun for the dogs to run and play in the snow. Also true. Now, here come the howevers: One has to plan carefully when to go out to the store to stock up on food for when the roads are icy; the dump (refuse and recycling center) has limited hours so those have to be considered when the trash starts piling up (can’t leave it outside for too long because of the critters); sitting in front of a roaring fire means that the wood has been hauled from downstairs to the porch or the hearth to dry out since it’s now wet from the snow (even though there are tarps covering the stacked wood); and the dogs’ feet have to be dried off as we come inside tracking snow, ice and salt into the house. Going outside with the dogs now requires boots, a jacket, gloves, and a hat or hood, a number of towels at the door and extra shoes.

So I’m learning how to live in the mountains in the winter and it looks like it will be a steep learning curve. I did manage to go out yesterday and then again this morning to pick up my mail, dispose of trash, and get to the store. Stepping in the footprints that Richie left worked really well. Rachel was still here so I decided to take full advantage since it’s quite a trip up and down the stairs carrying groceries. We bought a ridiculous amount of food and paper goods today and I’m set for about 2 weeks I think — just in case!! I also learned that the porch gets a lot of snow on it and needs to be shoveled as does the deck. I’m told by the guys from Homer’s Construction that the snow is heavy and it shouldn’t be allowed to accumulate too much, so I shoveled yesterday for about an hour and a half to get it off the deck which provided fabulous snow drifts in the yard for the dogs who needed drying off — and so it goes. The next person who asks me what I do all day is going to get an earful! Am I ready for winter? I thought so, but now I’m not sure! Maybe there is no way to prepare for every situation, but I’m sure going to try!

Foggy Morning at the Diner

Living alone and being retired provides interesting perspective I think — does it make me more cautious, less cautious, more open-minded, more closed to new things, more brave, less sensible? I am convinced that if I was living with someone else they would have told me that going to the diner this morning was a foolish move given the dense fog that has blanketed this area for the past several days. However, I had a memory of Beth reminding me that her mother-in-law was a long-time waitress and she especially appreciated it when her customers remembered her at holiday time. She recommended that I go into the diner at some point and let Nancy, my waitress, know how much I valued her kindness and pleasant demeanor. Not to mention that I didn’t want to lose my status as a regular.

This morning I looked out at the fog and checked the temperature — 36 degrees — and mostly wanted to stay home until tomorrow when the sun is supposed to come out. I needed to go to Lowe’s before tomorrow anyway, so decided to get out early and go to the diner, foggy or not. As I got out of my car, one of the regulars was getting into hers and she said good morning and asked how I was. It was a nice way to start. Nancy greeted me, I wished her a happy holiday and thanked her with a small token of my appreciation. We chatted for a bit. It seemed as if all the booths were occupied so both she and the other waitress were quite busy.

The main topic of conversation this morning was last night’s Jets game as they again lost ugly! Apparently some fans had paper bags over their heads which the regulars found most amusing and they were sure that the quarterback, offensive coach, and head coach would not return next year! As I left, the owner and I exchanged holiday wishes and I remain determined to continue going to the diner after the new year.

I left to complete my errands at Lowe’s and on my way I passed another diner. I wondered if they have customers as loyal. Doubt it! There were a number of things I wanted to say about the diner but everyone was very busy, so I choose to do it here.
1. There are people all over the country who have expressed to me their wish to come to Milford to eat at the diner!
2. A friendly greeting goes a long way to make an unpleasant task bearable.
3. Keeping a coffee cup full is important.
4. There is important information to be overheard about local events.

I no longer feel compelled to read my book while eating breakfast. It no longer matters if someone says, “Only one?” It could be the start of something that alters how you look at the world around you.

You CAN Go Home Again

Part of my rationalization for moving north after 37 years in Tallahassee was proximity to family and dear friends. High school friends contacted me when they knew I was going to be closer and encouraged me to join their monthly lunches in New York City. What an absolute pleasure! Lunches are happening to plan our reunion in May so there is little time for catching up other than to ooh and aah on how good we all look (and we do!)! So, Sheila, Eileen and I had a breakaway lunch to really talk and find out what’s been going on in our lives these past several decades. We met on Friday in the theatre district for a good long chat. I learned so much, not only about Sheila and Eileen, but about myself as well.

My day started off by misreading the bus schedule, so ticket in hand, I ended up driving into the city, taking a new route over Bear Mountain, which was beautiful on the sunny cool day. It turned out to be far less stressful than the NY Thruway which, for anyone who’s ever used it, is frenetic to say the least. So, it was a lovely easy drive and I was glad to have missed the bus! I parked one block from the restaurant and happily walked to a bookstore for the hour I had to myself, then proceeded to Cafe Un Deux Trois (homage to our French teacher Dr. Zakarin?).

Once Eileen and Sheila walked in the door, I was immediately transported back to high school feeling 17 again. We hugged and I couldn’t stop looking at them. Having seen Sheila recently at another of the lunches, it was Eileen that I had not seen in over 40 years. She looked exactly the same and I would have known them both anywhere! We caught up on family — I am always amazed at how every family has its dramas and yet they are all so similar. The things they remembered — my difficulties with my mother, how I ate mayonnaise and white bread as a snack after school (yes, really), who we each dated — weren’t really surprising because I remembered specifics, too. The three of us spent many Friday nights together at Sheila’s house, usually ending up at the movies depending on which boys were going to which movie. These evenings typically ended up at the diner and was followed by a lot of gossip, chatter, and laughter. I remember Sheila’s mother corralling her twin sisters to keep them out of our way and the common experiences that we shared. There is nothing like having that history.

We discovered that Sheila and I both taught middle school science teachers although neither of us ever aspired to that in college; that Eileen had to leave college to care for her grandmother and had a career as an interior designer; that we all have children, they have grandchildren; that our boys have things in common; and that we were all still 17 in our heads!! I found out that they didn’t keep in touch with many people from our class either and that there would always be a connection through our shared time at Jericho High School.

Our lunch ended with me discovering that I had lost my ticket to redeem my car at the parking garage. Since I pride myself on being organized, I was very upset with myself, sure that it would be a big deal at the garage. As we left the restaurant, they both offered to go with me to see about my car. I declined their help but felt so good that there were friends who were willing to do that for me and cared enough to offer (in spite of Eileen’s back pain and wish to just find a cab!). It was a wonderful feeling. When I arrived at the parking garage they were able to find my car within a few minutes and all was well. I was on the Henry Hudson Parkway within 10 minutes and reflected on our lunch. At one point we all commented on how easy our conversation was. Eileen remarked, “You see, you can go home again, it’s just different.”

Getting Ready for Company

As a postscript to an earlier post, here is the sign for the recently named house in the woods. It doesn’t really describe the house, rather the person who lives in it, which makes it unique for house names around here. Rachel and I put the sign up yesterday and of course that required at least four trips up and down the steps for pliers, drilling pilot holes, and then redoing it all after noticing that it said “Poconos Scribbler” on one side and “Poconos Scribble” on the other — we forgot to look both ways!! However, as you can tell from the photo, I was very proud once we got it up for all to see.

Having Rachel here for a few days this week was wonderful and we were amazingly productive. Of course we shopped for presents, wrapped them, got the tree standing up straight and sturdy, decorated, hung lights on the porch, and otherwise got the house ready for the family Christmas. My friend, Diane, who takes care of the housecleaning thank goodness stopped by and, upon seeing the tree all decorated, said “When will you finish your decorating? Surely this isn’t all you are doing!” When I replied that it was and finished explaining why we had a menorah and a Christmas tree, she was horrified. “You must follow me home and see my trees!” “Trees, plural,” I asked? Obviously this was something I needed to see for decorating inspiration. Rachel and I dutifully followed Diane home and were stunned, amazed, and astonished by the decorating that would put any department store to shame. There were at least five trees, each with a different theme, several very large vignettes — villages, snow scene, nativity scenes — angels everywhere, Christmas china in the china cabinet, bowls filled with vintage glass balls, and anything else your imagination conjures up. It was really something to see. I didn’t get all the references to the various themed trees but I left with decorating envy.

One of the downsides of moving is the temptation to get rid of too much not to mention not being able to find things. I realized that there were several Christmas decorating things that I absolutely wouldn’t have discarded but they are nowhere to be found. Those really ugly troll Mr. and Mrs. Santa dolls had sentimental value — yes, really — and after looking absolutely everywhere possible, they are not here. Same for several stand-up Santas. I became quite nostalgic about light-up Frosty the Snowman, but know that at least he is in a good home with Robin and John Leach. They send photos.

I am content with what we’ve been able to do and The Poconos Scribbler — the house, not the person — is ready for company with wreaths on the front of the house and little trees in the window boxes. She is properly named and just waiting for people to visit to admire her bright red paint and holiday trimmings!

Wayfinding

What a great word — it’s my new favorite because it implies so much more than just using a word to express myself. My friend, Lynda, introduced me to a series of detective novels set in and around World War I, the Maisie Dobbs novels. In the last one I read (of course I had to get all nine!) she uses the word “wayfinding” to describe the mental processes that we all use to make sense of what is happening in our lives. It may sound trite, but when I read the description of wayfinding in the book, I thought this is exactly what I am doing. Since retiring, leaving Tallahassee, starting a new life, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I should conduct myself without the structure of job, friends, and reasonable expectations of what each day will be like.

Living alone is quiet, freeing, scary, frustrating, and exciting all at the same time. Roxanne emailed me this morning to add to the tasks that are frustrating when one lives alone zipping up a favorite dress that is clearly a two-person job. Things take longer, too. For example, carting wood from outside to the porch to dry out then to the fireplace to further dry out and warm up. This takes a long time with just one person. I’m not complaining — well I suppose I am — it’s very satisfying to get it done and see those piles of wood where they are supposed to be. People who don’t live by themselves think they understand what it’s like, but I am not sure they do. The simplest chores can make you crazy, like Roxanne’s experience with the zipper, my previously described experience with the Christmas tree, lugging (I prefer schlepping) groceries from the car down the steps, spreading ice melt, scraping the ice off the car, getting the car washed. When anyone asks me what I do all day, I just laugh.

It’s hard to explain how finding my way as a single woman is different now that I’ve moved north. My friends were always around if I was in need of another pair of hands — there are just some things that take two people! Once I moved to the Poconos easy access to friends disappeared, so wayfinding became very important — figuring out ways to get stuff done without getting discouraged. I must clarify one thing — Michael, Allison, Rachel and David have been amazing — making sure that I got settled in, have all the tasks done that take more than one person, and they visit as often as they can. It would be unfair of me to say that I am ever TOTALLY alone because they are within a 2-hour drive which is a far cry from being 18 hours away or a full day of travel away when I was in Tallahassee. And, of course there’s Sydney who is my constant companion who runs away when I yell and swear on mornings like this when everything seems to be going wrong.

A lot of people live alone but it seems the world is not geared towards us — commercials about retirement always show a happy couple kayaking, rock climbing, or bicycle riding together financially secure and delighting in each other’s company. Check out the grocery store sometime and take a look at how things are packaged. I never thought I’d be the type to freeze partial packages of bread, English muffins, and almost everything else, but I do. So…wayfinding is a complex activity that encompasses many tasks in a single person’s life. I thank Lynda and Maisie for introducing me to the concept. Now if I could just figure out how to straighten the Christmas tree!

The Driveway of Doom

Rachel coined the term “Driveway of Doom” to describe the very steep and curvy driveway that is well-known in the community. My realtor friend, Nancy, says I’ll never sell this house because of it. Tim, the contractor, and his guys laugh at me. Alan, neighbor and fellow dog walker, commented that I’ll never use the driveway in the winter. The Carrachilo brothers who delivered wood said that they hoped I had someone ready to plow at a moment’s notice.

What all of this means for me is that I am constantly checking the weather and have become a bit obsessed about the Weather Channel app on my IPad. This morning it reported freezing rain so I quickly moved the car to street level (photo on the right). There are 39 steps to climb to get to the car and I’ve mastered carrying garbage, recycling, purse, and grocery bags up to the car and can carry up to three bags full of groceries down to the “front” door. The deck gets very slippery so I have Blizzard Wizard stashed at strategic places and have a pair of ice walkers that fasten to the bottom of my shoes in the car. In spite of all my efforts to prepare for winter in the mountains, there is always another wrinkle in the plan.

Earlier in the week I bought a Christmas tree reasoning that it didn’t matter where it sat outside until I had help getting it in the house. The man at the place that sells wood stuff (it does not seem to have a name and this is how it is referred to at the diner) was very helpful. “There are several criteria,” I said. “It has to fit in the car, I have to be able to lift it, you need to do the fresh cut and remove the bottom branches, and it has to last.” The owner helped me choose a tree, did everything I asked and had it in the car before I had finished browsing in his store. “It’s not heavy at all,” he said, “so you shouldn’t have any problem. Just put it in a bucket of water when you get home and it will be fine.” I replied, “Won’t the water freeze?” “Oh, no, you’ll have too much water in the bucket for it to freeze.” Perhaps as a science educator, I should have known better. I got the tree home, put it in a bucket of water and left it outside the back door.

The next morning I decided that I should bring the tree up to the porch to make it easier to get into the house. I was able to carry it up the stairs although it was considerably heavier than the Christmas tree guy indicated! Perhaps that’s because he stood about 6’5″ and was certainly a former linebacker. It stayed on the porch until yesterday morning when I decided to get it into the house because it was leaning over and getting crushed. Temperature was about 29 degrees on the porch, so I hurried out with the tree stand and proceeded to try to lift the tree out of the bucket. “Wow, this is much heavier than it seemed yesterday,” I thought. Perhaps it was too early and I had too little coffee. I tried again and still no luck until I realized that the water in the rather large bucket was frozen solid and I was lifting the whole thing, not just the tree. How could I have been so wrong?! After struggling for what seemed like hours, melting the water, dragging it inside, the tree was standing, albeit crooked. At this point, I’m just hoping the tree survives its freezing and stays standing until Rachel arrives next week. One of the challenges of living alone is finding ways to negotiate tasks that seem so simple, like where to park, when to move the car to the top of the driveway, and how to handle a Christmas tree! At least I didn’t have to carry the tree down the 39 steps!

The FHSAA and Sportsmanship

I am incensed! After a long Skype conversation with my friend Kim, I learned a lot about where our priorities are in this country. Kim, her husband Todd, and her son, Dawson, have been hosting Pablo, an international exchange student from Spain. By all accounts (and photos on Facebook), Pablo is a mature, delightful and charming guest who attends Chiles High School with Dawson. Both Dawson and Pablo are passionate about soccer (among other things) and Pablo has introduced a perspective to the sport to Dawson and others at Chiles. That, in fact, is one of the goals of Rotary International that provides structure for the program through which Pablo came to the United States. Rotary has long been an part of the Tallahassee community, providing service to others as well as opportunities for many students to come to Florida and enrich and enhance the lives of their host families as well as learning more about themselves as ambassadors for their cultures. Rotary not only finds appropriate homes for exchange students from all over the world, but they follow up with students and families hosting social gatherings and opportunities for networking.

Pablo is lucky to be with the Engstroms. They are an extraordinary family. Community service and activism are part of their fiber and I cannot imagine a better family with whom to spend the academic year. They are lucky to have Pablo as well. What wonderful insight into the life of teenagers in another country, not to mention the fabulous food that Kim has photographed and posted on Facebook!! So, here’s the problem. Dawson plays junior varsity soccer at Chiles. Pablo would like to play varsity soccer at Chiles. This should not be an issue at all. Taking part in extracurricular activities at a host school seems like a given, but apparently not in Florida.

The Florida High School Athletic Association is a private non-profit organization that governs high school sports and determines who is and is not eligible to play in any sport. Their behavior does not, however, match their statements on the FHSAA website. They recognize that a student’s education goes beyond the classroom and, according to the website, “Everyone agrees that the youth of Florida deserve the best possible education.” I would like to point out that generalizations that begin with the word “everyone” send up red flags with me, not to mention the misspellings and poor grammar on the website that represents a disregard for the English language and education in general. It is obvious from the website that, although the FHSAA makes a case for sportsmanship and cooperation among member schools, it easily excludes exchange students based on the FHSAA’s perception of recruitment.

Back to Pablo, Dawson, and the Engstroms. Once Kim and Todd found out that Pablo needed to be deemed eligible by the FHSAA to play varsity soccer at Chiles High School, they filled out and submitted form EL4 — Foreign Exchange Students and Other International Students — including transcripts in both Spanish and English and any and all supporting documentation. Michael Colby, CMAA, Director of Eligibility, decided that Pablo was not eligible to play because Dawson was already on a team (does this make any sense to anyone?) and that Pablo may have been recruited. Does this imply that Kim and Todd traveled to Spain to seek out a soccer player for Chiles, had him sponsored through Rotary and then hosted him for a year in their home? If this sounds ridiculous to you, it does to me as well and I am embarrassed for my former home state and for my country. Are we that inhospitable to a student from another country being sponsored by an international service organization? What is the FHSAA thinking? What purpose is served by not allowing Pablo to play?

The application can be appealed but by that time soccer season will be over and the lessons learned about how policy effects students. What must Pablo and his family think about Florida and the people who live there? I want someone to apologize to the Engstroms, to Pablo and to his family for making this so difficult. Kim says that Pablo is taking the disappointment with grace and is looking forward to playing tennis for Chiles this spring. I hope that anyone reading this who knows someone in Rotary will say something so that other exchange students do not have to see the “win at all costs” attitude that underpins how Florida governs interscholastic athletic programs.

What’s in a Name?

As I walk the dog through my new neighborhood I notice that many of the houses here have names. For example, The Rodriguez Retreat, Spoiled Coynes, C.C. on the Rocks, O’Hara’s on the Green, you get the idea. I’ve tried to think of an proper name for my house so I can get a sign made and attached to my post at the top of the drive. As with many things in Hemlock Farms, signs have to be a certain size, type, color, and must conform to published rules that govern such things. I have already flaunted the rules by purchasing blue tarps to cover my wood pile when the rule clearly states that tarps must be earth tones to blend in with the woods! I think my driveway is too steep for the Hemlock Farms maintenance people to check anyway. I could point to other infractions in the neighborhood. Rules against fake flowers or plastic eviscerated deer sitting on top of fence poles do not exist if my next door neighbor’s decorations are any indication, but I’m sure that there should be.

There aren’t any rules for names. One home down the street is NJERSTENS which I thought at first was derived from a Dutch name. Then I reasoned that it probably has something to do with being New Jersey-ers or something like that. Some of the homes are owned by multiple family members and the signs are a combination of two last names which makes them quite long. Many of the residents here are of Italian descent so imagine combining two or three last names that have many vowels! Right now I have a sign at the top of the hill that says “The Dixons.” Not terribly creative, but Adrian made it and we were very proud to have it. I wouldn’t take it down for anything, but I can hang another sign under it. My friend, Nancy, knows who to contact to get a proper sign that will not only conform to the rules but will include the Hemlock Farms trademark deer (kind of stick figure deer that I don’t understand but it grows on you!).

After living here for six months, it is time to name the place and get a sign, so I’ve settled on Poconos Scribbler. I think it says something about who lives inside and, because writing this blog has been so much fun and I’ve gotten so much positive feedback, I’m celebrating it through signage! My request is in. Someone’s friend’s husband makes them and charges $50 — well worth it to have a unique identity for my new home.

This morning I met a neighbor at the dog park. He is very nice as is his dog, Bandit, who apparently was the scourge of the community until he was adopted by Alan and his wife after the previous owners left him behind. There are two homes on our street that are in foreclosure and, according to Alan, “they left in the middle of the night.” It’s a pity because many of the homes are lovely and are being fixed up by new owners, so I’m hoping that the little red house (that is likely a mess inside) will be sold soon. It is a good feeling to begin to take pride in the community and my street.

Going through the thought processes of what things are important to me to create my new identity — as a retiree, returned Yankee, widow — is a brain exercise that I never really thought about when I planned the move north after 37 years in Tallahassee. I am not seeking anything in particular, rather trying to find my way with a life that is different from what I previously knew and one that provides me with the freedom to explore new avenues when opportunities present themselves. Part of my new life — and an identity that differs from what most of my friends are used to — is finding a name for the house. And…what’s to prevent me from changing it from time to time? From ordering multiple signs? If you have any suggestions, just let me know!