Monthly Archives: June 2013

More Reflections on Retirement

I am still trying to make sense of this new life and it’s amazing how many people want to know what I do with myself all day and how I came to the conclusion that moving north was the right thing to do. This Tuesday I had a wonderful lunch with my high school friend, Barbara. Went to Goshen, NY, a very pretty little town and had a wonderful lunch at Catherine’s. But…the best part about it was catching up with Barbara, learning about her family, who she is as an adult, what we have in common (quite a lot), and of course discussing the upcoming (we hope!) reunion of the Jericho High School Class of 1963. We talked a lot about what it was like for me to be retired and she asked outright, “What do you do all day?” I’ve been asked this before and give it a good deal of thought as regular readers of this blog are well aware (and probably bored by it at this point), but it’s a big deal after a lifetime of working or being engaged in productive activities of some sort. So here’s a list of what I’ve learned and am still processing about retirement as a single woman.

1. I don’t miss work, not one bit.
2. The guilt I feel about not doing anything society deems productive some days is quickly assuaged by learning something new, spending time with family, or invoking the “I’ve earned it” factor.
3. Retirement should be a time for reflection, slowing down to enjoy small things, and planning the next phase of life.
4. There is no reason to keep doing what I’ve done for most of my life so finding something new and interesting, possibly even creative, takes time and research.
5. Keeping a flexible schedule allows me to be more spontaneous than I’ve ever been in my life.
6. On the downside, retirement does mean (for me anyway) a fixed income that is significantly less than when I was working so there are some lifestyle adjustments.
7. Having time to think about my life and where I am now, how I got here, and where I want to go is a luxury.
8. I make up projects for the down days but find I am not as motivated as I would like. This is not a bad thing. Identifying projects and not doing them is a benefit of retirement too!!
9. I am available whenever my children have time to see me and that’s a huge advantage for me and I think for them as well.
10. Learning to get around in New York City and relearning the neighborhoods is an ongoing process that I am enjoying immensely.

The freedom of retirement and of moving to a place where no one knows me takes a lot of getting used to. What do I do all day? Some days a lot; other days not much. And that’s okay!

I Never Tire of The City

GWB As I’ve written before, one of the reasons I bought this house was its proximity to Manhattan and Brooklyn. And, one of my goals for this year was to get comfortable driving in and out of the city, find the best routes, the best times, and then learn new neighborhoods. Although the island of Manhattan is quite small compared to the number of people on it, there are very distinct neighborhoods each one quite different from the next. So far, I am pretty comfortable on the Upper West Side, mid-town, Union Square area and parts of Chelsea, and I’m learning Brooklyn slowly but surely. The traffic on the George Washington Bridge looks more daunting than it is because I stay in my lane that exits onto the West Side Highway (Henry Hudson Parkway), also called West Street at the bottom of the island. It is right on the water and, on a beautiful summer day, there are joggers, bikers, walkers, sailboats on the Hudson, children everywhere in Riverside Park.

On Thursday I went directly to Union Square to meet Rachel for a day of shopping, having lunch, and then driving out to Brooklyn to pick up Mason (their dog) who is spending a week or so with Sydney and me in the woods! Rachel and I shopped at Nadeau (furniture with a soul) for unusual pieces that are apartment sized. It was fun for me to introduce her to a place for a change. RaeNadeau Then to brunch at the Union Square Coffee Shop which I have always enjoyed. Vendors were setting up for the art show in the park, the city was setting up portable drinking fountains which enthralled lots of little children, and portable charging stations if your cell phone needed a boost were setting up in the park. Unionsquarecoffee

Lots of Citibike installations, a much-debated subject up here. Most of the people we saw using them to get around looked like they hadn’t been on a bike in a good long while so it seems to be serving its purpose for providing transportation between short distances. citibike

We headed to Babies ‘R Us to learn about car seats, high chairs, strollers, etc. What an education. First of all, I was surprised at the fact that just about everything in the store was made in China, even the things that parents put in their baby’s mouth. I also was surprised that my children survived their infancy, toddler years, and childhood without all the equipment that is “necessary” today. It’s clearly a miracle that they made it through without being scarred for life. The complexity of strollers — with adapters to put the car seat in the stroller, one touch collapsing mechanism, reclining and not reclining, storage, drink holders (for baby and parent), jogging strollers, running strollers, walking strollers, handbrakes for jogging downhill — it’s absolutely mind-boggling! We learned a lot (Dave, too) and left without buying anything! I am now searching online for sources for baby items that are not made with materials that are questionable! Anyone out there want to provide information, feel free!

By 3:00 it was time to get to Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge which I hadn’t used in ages — all the NY bridges are architecturally interesting and beautiful (Rachel says the view of the GWB above looks like an angry face — Welcome to New York! — From the Manhattan Bridge you can see the skyline of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge not far away to the south. manbridge Then back through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the West Side Highway with Mason in the backseat heading home to Lords Valley. I didn’t take into account the fact that New Yorkers evacuate the city starting rush hour on Thursdays during the summer and so was stuck on the Henry Hudson Parkway for an hour before I ever reached the bridge again to head back. WSH

This is why I moved here. Believe it or not, I don’t mind the traffic and am always proud of myself when I find everything, get parked, and find my bearings. I enjoyed going into a bookstore (which I sorely miss up here) but most of all was delighted to spend a day with Rachel. I never get done all the things I think I will and am learning to take it slowly even in New York City and enjoy the ambience and the people. Going in again on Wednesday to my dentist, then to Eataly for shopping and lunch, then to the Columbus Circle mall to pick up a few things. Lots of gas, lots of parking costs, but worth the price every time.

Mutant Fish Alert

It’s been a pretty slow week in the woods. It has finally stopped raining and that means I should be thinking about how to be productive. This is a throwback, I suppose, to working my whole life and feeling like something must be accomplished each day. I’ve given this a lot of thought lately since, after a year of settling in, getting to know the area (sort of), and just taking care of the house, I’m thinking maybe it’s time to get out and do something. The Pike County Dispatch is delivered to me on Thursdays and it is typically ignored and recycled. However, this week I decided to read through it and make an effort (albeit half-hearted) to find out what’s going on in the area and my immediate community. I also read The Hemlock News cover to cover. I very rarely read the letters to the editor but the title of one, “Mutant fish alert,” caught my attention for obvious reasons.

spawning salmon

After reading the letter that claims that “if only 60 genetically engineered salmon were released into the wild, the wild population of salmon would be extinct in only 40 generations!” I googled this and found that it is actually 40 years but the letter writer made his point. This led me to consider whether farm-raised salmon (for the record I only buy wild caught salmon) is genetically modified. Apparently they are not but they are fed genetically altered food. There’s a lot to think about here, like who is genetically altering fish and why?

Back to it being a slow kind of boring week for me. I called Blue Ridge Cable to see if my bill could be reduced (having taken advantage of some promotion a year ago, my bill jumped up $50 a month!). Please don’t give up on this yet — I will get back to the salmon. As it turns out, I could cut it by $5/month by taking advantage of yet another special (that by the way will increase my bill by yet another $70/month after one year). So, not going to reduce it but will get more for my money the phone representative explained. Consider what I’d have to give up — back to the slowest internet service, no more ESPNU, perhaps giving up other features that I really like. So, I decided to wait one more year and take advantage of the “special,” which provided even faster internet service, more HD channels that I don’t need and every pay channel known to humankind! I do, by the way, get the fish channel which, according to the Blue Ridge representative, is very popular up here!!

This morning I decided (it being a slow week and weekend) to see what was on the pay channels and there was “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” a film I wanted to see ages ago. I settled in with a mug of coffee to watch and actually found a connection to the mutant fish alert letter. The question in the film is whether farm raised salmon would freely swim upstream because it isn’t in their DNA or their parents’ DNA to swim freely. This is an interesting question. Of course, after many dramas, the fish do swim upstream presumably to eventually spawn. Other dramatic twists and turns later, it ends on a hopeful note that such a project is not out of the realm of possibility. I couldn’t help but think of the mutant fish letter while watching. There really is a bipartisan bill, H.R. 1667: To Prevent the Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the United States, and for other purposes. Apparently there are people who are trying to “overcome natural physiological reproductive barriers [using] techniques not used in traditional breeding and selection.” These “covered fish” are modified through DNA technologies (which may or may not be patentable according to this week’s Supreme Court ruling!) to carry out the above-mentioned reduction of reproductive barriers.

My slow week resulted in learning about some interesting things going on in Congress about fish, not to mention watching a very entertaining movie. This on top of the deer population control measures that are coming up for a community vote on July 13th and the sighting of one or two golden bear cubs in the community. Wow! I am learning more about wildlife than I ever thought I would!

The Forest Primeval

hemlock1

Each morning, Sydney and I take a long walk on the very quiet street following the same mile and a half route. Every time I pass this tree, my imagination runs wild. But…oddly the first thing I think of each time is a sixth grade memory. My friend, Claire, and I were in Mr. Weiss’ sixth grade class (he was VERY mean!) and we had to memorize two paragraphs from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem. I chose Evangeline and, to this day, remember the first paragraph:

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

I stop and look at this same tree almost every day and imagine what is living in it, on it, and under its sheltering boughs. Someone told me that the deer in winter lie beneath the trees so I could really picture that. Yesterday I saw a deer crossing the road and again thought of the tree. Last night as I drove to the top of the driveway, I saw a very tiny skunk walking slowly across the drive. A truck had stopped just beside my drive and the man who jumped out was very concerned because there were more trying to cross the road. We watched as all three baby skunks and the mother crossed. The man from the truck asked me if I thought they could spray because he wanted to pick them up and move them to the other side. Having no idea, I said so, but thought they would probably be able to bite! When I returned home, the skunks were on the same side of the road from which they came in the first place. So close to the road that I worried all night and don’t have the courage to see if they are still there. I thought of the shelter that the tree could have provided if only they were just a half mile down the road!

This morning it is raining so we didn’t take our walk and instead watched the turkeys walk up the drive making a racket as they did. This was a great source of concern and entertainment to Sydney of course. I sat on the porch with a cup of coffee and thought about how lucky I am to see these things and have even a passing interaction with area wildlife. Last evening, I could hear the eagles screeching and crows making a lot of noise. Two very small birds flew noisily from one of the nearby trees and I wondered what caused them to get so upset. This is new for me — thinking so much about fauna — I should take a page from my friend, Tom Jacoby, and start taking pictures! Meanwhile, I took lots of pictures of the big tree and nothing did it justice as to its size and beauty. The eastern hemlock is, after all, Pennsylvania’s state tree! Henry Wadsworth Longfellow did better than any photo.

Changes at the Diner

dinerFor no particular reason, I went to the diner three times this week — Monday, Thursday, and Friday. It was a slow week in Lord’s Valley! When I arrived on Monday, Susie served me (I had met her before) although she didn’t know what I typically ordered. “Where is Nancy?” I asked. “She’s gone. Yesterday was her last day.” Everyone was talking about it but she had mentioned for some time getting a job closer to her family. Apparently Nancy had been at The Milford Diner for 13 years becoming close friends with many of the regulars and with the owners as well. The consensus was that things just won’t be the same without Nancy. My reaction, as a newbie, was one of happiness for Nancy who apparently is going to be purchasing manager at a company where family members work. If that makes her happy, then it’s a good thing. I like Susie and was comfortable with her although there were a few people who felt that they might not be able to keep coming to the diner now that Nancy’s gone. We all know, however, that this is an idle threat to add to the drama of the morning.

By the time I went back on Thursday, however, my attitude had changed a bit. And today, someone I had never seen before waited on me and I must admit to feeling a little uncomfortable and not quite as welcome as usual. Of course, people said hello, I had a short conversation with Judy, and sat and read my book without worrying about how long I sat there (not long). It was quite crowded this morning since it’s the start of the Milford Music Festival, also billed by the Dimmick Inn as Brooklyn Day. There doesn’t seem to be any direct connection with Brooklyn at all except for a game of stickball scheduled for tomorrow morning; stickball being a city street game. The festival looks like fun with bands playing at different venues around town culminating in a performance by Pete Seeger (sold out!) at the Milford Theatre. So, the diner was full today but it often is on Fridays during spring and summer when tourists and seasonal people return. (Do I sound like a native now that I refer to outsiders as tourists and seasonal people?!)

Yesterday, the “Thursday Boys” were at their usual tables in the back, so there didn’t seem to be any mass movement to leave because Nancy was no longer serving. I will certainly keep driving the 12 miles down the interstate for breakfast. Yesterday, I convinced Judy to open her store so I could buy some candles so the diner experience was enhanced by shopping all before 10:00 AM. I wish Nancy all the best but I, too, miss her and miss the easy conversation which I do not expect happening with any of the other waitresses. Freddie still brought my coffee but I must agree with the other diner regulars, it just wasn’t the same.

Another Day in the Woods

There are many days like today when I think about what I should be doing, what I want to do, and if I want to do anything at all. The problem with doing nothing is that it gets a bit lonely — too much time to think about doing nothing. That may not make much sense to you, and you might think that I should get over myself and get on with a productive life, but it’s not that easy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that hard either! I have a lot of guilt when I hear how busy, stressed, overloaded, and overworked friends and relatives are. It makes me want to NOT blog about being alone, but something my sister-in-law, Jill, said recently in an email prompted me to write a bit about what it’s like to wake up alone, come home to an empty house (except the dog of course!), and not have structure to the day. (This sounds a lot more pitiful than it really is and my home is a lovely place to come back to!)

When I retired and moved, there were lots of comments and lots of advice — all very much appreciated and still good advice a year later. “What will you do?” “You will miss work.” “Find one thing each day to focus on,” said my cousin, Jill. I do NOT miss work, nor do I have too little to do — just not motivated to do it! And, cousin Jill’s advice is quite good — if there’s one event or task that needs attending to I can say I was productive! Today it’s probably going to be a few chores around the house and virtual book club tonight (thank goodness for that!). What I DO miss about work is that I didn’t have to think about the structure of my day. It was predetermined most days by the workday, teaching schedule, and meetings. It makes it easier to get going in the morning when you don’t have to think about it very much. That sounds so obvious, but it was a revelation for me to discover this. On the other hand, I am resisting the temptation to schedule my days with activities — don’t want that either. In reality I am very busy most of the time and am getting used to what I consider “down days.” By the time I take a long walk with Sydney my attitude improves (exercise research will back me up here) and I embrace the quiet and inconsequential decisions like whether to go to the dump, the grocery store; should I tend to the plants, cook something new, or clean up outside? All of these things need doing, so today’s focus is on how to rationalize doing nothing except sitting and reading a book. See? I told you that it would sound selfish to those who are so busy!

It takes a lot of thought to navigate a new life after so many years of predictability. Recently I learned how to create and send evites, discovered that Staples has the capacity of allowing me to go in with a flash drive and print directly to a self-serve copier. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? However, it gave me pleasure and will provide an opportunity to connect with old friends. I am planning a baby shower with Rachel’s friend Sasha and will spend a few days in Brooklyn later in the month. The opportunity is there for me to drive into the city and go to museums, shop, etc., if I want to, so I really don’t feel the least bit sorry for myself. I count my blessings each day — I am fortunate to have the quiet life that I yearned for when I left Tallahassee, am close to my family, and have friends who email and Skype regularly. But…sometimes another day in the woods leads me to thoughts of maybe there’s somewhere else I’d rather be. There isn’t any place else for me so each day like today I make the best of it — and that’s not bad!

Dining Out Revisited

In earlier posts I bemoaned the fact that (1) I didn’t have friends with whom to go to dinner; and (2) that there weren’t places that would measure up to, say, Kool Beanz in Tallahassee, or Stone Park Cafe in Park Slope. In fact, recently I posted about going to dinner at a barbecue restaurant that was less than stellar and the name of which will not be repeated here. I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings nor do I want to discourage others from embarking on a culinary adventure in the Poconos!

Sitting here alone again, I am pondering the last week or so when Michael came to visit and then Rachel came to visit as well. Once Rachel left, my friend, Nancy, suggested that we go out to dinner and I happily accepted. Oddly, I had lunch and dinner out (twice!) at the same restaurant. Unlike Tallahassee which loves chain restaurants, this area has mostly individual or family owned restaurants that cater to what they perceive the tastes are of locals and tourists. This has left, in my opinion, a void. There didn’t seem to be a place that really took pains to provide food that makes sense, that is freshly prepared, lightly sauced (“sauce should be an accompaniment, not dominate the food,” says Chef Adam Haygood).

The Grotto at the Zaloom House opened a little over a month ago and is, in my opinion, just what Milford needed. My hope is that through word of mouth people will notice where they are (right on the main thoroughfare coming into and out of Milford) and give it a try. Rachel says it is an “occasion restaurant” and I think she’s right. Other than Peter’s on Route 6, there isn’t really a place to go for a celebration, special night out, birthday or anniversary. Or, as we did last night, just a place to go for a great meal. NancyPatatGrotto

I reflected later that my desire for this restaurant to flourish and be appreciated by people in the area is also an indication that, after one full year, I have become a part of the larger community. So, not only did my visit to The Grotto three times make me think about where to go out to eat, but it made me feel good to think I even cared about what was available here and that I was proud that maybe what I think counts around here.

It may seem like a little thing to you but to me the meals at The Grotto were more than food for a meal, it was food for thought and food for the soul. A bit dramatic, you say? It depends.