Category Archives: Moving North

Spring finally…I think

A few days after Michael and I got potting soil, mulch, etc., organized on the deck and he carried into the yard four bags of red mulch, we had an ice storm. So I hesitate to even put this down but I think spring has finally arrived in Lords Valley. This is cause for great excitement after the awful winter. On our morning walks, Sydney has been sniffing this strange green stuff that is sprouting up in little clumps.sydneysniffing Trees have buds and some even are blooming. Not yet in my backyard but the drive to Matamaros this morning to get more mulch was lined with lovely trees that are almost in full bloom. It was 70 degrees yesterday and is in the 60s today possibly reaching upper 70s or 80s next week. That seems to have helped the trees and bushes recover from the late ice and snow which must have been a terrible shock! I know it was for me and my friends, Lynda and Brian, who were visiting and were not expecting more winter.

This morning I spread four more bags of red mulch and managed to avoid being seduced by the beautiful flowering plants at Home Depot. It was so tempting but the “rule” up here is to not plant before Memorial Day! mulch I’m going with the “Don’t plant til Mother’s Day” plan and am anxious to have herbs and vegetables growing on the deck. The window boxes look a bit sad so I expect I will jump the gun and start planting next week.

I did not resist the temptation of the brand new Bagel Barn, however. What a strange combination of New York deli and Russian/Eastern European bodega (if there is such a thing!). Last time I went in, when it first opened, the shelves were bare so the selection of delicacies with names written the Cyrillic alphabet were not only interesting but very surprising. I didn’t know what half the things were just by looking at them and wasn’t interested enough to ask walking out with my two bagels and Boar’s Head turkey. You may find this incredibly boring, but for us up here, it is always exciting to have a new business open. Somehow that one business becomes many and now folks are talking about even more stores just outside the gates of our community. Will the closed for 6 years restaurant open now?? Will we get a decent grocery store so I don’t have to drive to Montague, NJ?? So many important questions to think about that affect life in a rural area. I am especially anxious to hear what the hairdresser has to say tomorrow since he seems to have his finger on the pulse of those in the know in Lords Valley. Of course I don’t believe that for a moment!

From me to you — happy Spring! I hope you are as happy about it as I am and have fun planting flowers or whatever it is you do when winter finally leaves the area. For me, I am going to sit on the porch with my bagel and enjoy the view of almost blooming trees.

Spring with a Vengeance

In a matter of less than 6 weeks, my view went from this photo 1-1 to this fromporchwinter to this fromporch

All of a sudden there was pollen everywhere, I can no longer see through to the mountains, and there is actually a little bit of grass in the yard. Rachel was here for the transition and we marveled at how quickly the view changed. While it was still cool to cold, it was time to go plant shopping. The week after Mother’s Day (that’s the rule up here for planting) — never plant before Mother’s Day — we went plant shopping. I don’t want to jinx it, but I had very good luck last year with herbs (first time ever) so I decided to concentrate on herbs again this year. As you can see, they are doing quite well and, in spite of a solid week of heavy downpours, they are still thriving! dogsondeck

No…I did not get a second dog (although I would keep Mason in a minute!). Rachel and Dave’s dog, Mason Dixon, is recuperating from knee surgery so has been staying here where there is only one flight of stairs to manage. She loves the freedom of the deck and porch but now, after 6 weeks, she is getting annoyed with having to be on the leash and not allowed to jump and run not to mention sleeping in the crate when not supervised. I think she misses her family too. To that end, Rachel and Riley have been coming out every second week to share doggie care responsibility. What an absolute joy for me to have them. We shopped for plants together (Riley loves them!) and took a selfie of the three generations of Dixon women. photo While I know I’ve shared this image before, it is a favorite so I hope you’ll bear with me. Dave visits on the weekends and, as Rachel and I planted the windowboxes, he and Riley climbed up the hill in front of the house. daveriley

So for me it’s been a good spring with wonderful company, time with my granddaughter, and lots to still look forward to in the summer. Big changes at the diner since it was sold very suddenly. Lots of long faces, complaints about change and so I haven’t been as frequently as I used to. Like the dog run, I try not to go to places with negative vibes. It just isn’t good for one’s overall well-being!! But…spring having arrived is. Sitting on the porch with coffee or (later in the day) wine, watching the dogs move from sunbeam to sunbeam, eating healthy foods with my own herbs, and spending time with family — all very good for overall well-being!

A Bit of Crazy in the Poconos

After whining that I had “not a thing” to do after my friend Lynda’s visit in early May, life got a little crazy in my house. Rachel’s dog, Mason, had serious knee surgery (who knew dogs had knees?) that required NO STAIRS!! Since Rachel, Dave, and Riley live in a fourth-floor walk-up in Brooklyn, this became a serious problem. My house has stairs also, but only one short carpeted flight which would make carrying Mason up and down to the yard much easier than at home. So…Rachel, Riley, Dave, and Mason arrived here on May 9th after Mason’s surgery. (For those who also didn’t know about dog knees, my friend Robin looked it up and they do, indeed have knees and elbows!) We are now in week 3 of three generations of Dixon women living together and Dave driving up for the weekends. photo

The plan for Mason’s recuperation is for Rachel and Riley to stay one more week, then go home for a week and weekend, then back again. Mason is confined to a crate when we are not supervising and I have a couple of things in the city so this schedule allows me to keep up with my own things while caring for Mason (with Rachel’s help) for 8 weeks or so. My friend Lynda’s visit was cancelled as, for the first week, it was pretty chaotic. Sydney doesn’t understand why couches are off limits, rooms are blocked off, and the stairs are unusable unless we move the bench blocking them. Mason is doing nicely and wants to run and play so it will only get harder to keep her activities restricted.

The upside of all this is that I am living close enough for this to happen AND I have the absolute pleasure of spending time with Rachel and Riley during the week. We have enjoyed our time together and I have loved being grandma. But, I must admit it is exhausting and raising babies is for the young and energetic. And she’s not even walking yet. I am resolved to eat healthy, restart my daily walks, and do as much as I can to keep up! I recently visited with my 99-year-old Aunt Viola who says it’s all a state of mind and being an “almost vegetarian!” It’s been a busy few weeks and I have enjoyed every moment — maybe that’s an overstatement — just about every moment.

Home Again!

Talk about culture, climate, environment shock!! After a month in Tallahassee I headed north again stopping in Weaverville, NC, for a wonderful day with Lynda. Then the 10 1/2-hour drive to Lords Valley through some snow, arriving home to a volume of snow unlike any I’ve ever experienced. Fortunately, my friend Sue met me at the top driveway and helped me empty the car. Many trips up and down the 40 stairs but unloaded everything into the house and turned up the thermostats to counteract the frigid temperatures. This morning it was below zero when Sydney and I went outside. She wasn’t too pleased and when we got home and she needed the yard, she looked at me as if I was crazy for coming back to the snow, ice, and cold. snowing


Visiting Tallahassee was wonderful. Catching up with friends and colleagues in a way that was relaxed and allowed me to explore some opportunities for consulting. The weather was glorious and staying with cousin Jill was so much fun. tally Our Tallahassee book club met for dinner and for the “formal” book club meeting and what a treat it was to see everyone, catch up, share a meal and wine, and even discuss the book. book club

By the time I got to Weaverville, though, I was ready to be home. I made the decision to move north to be closer to my children and I found myself missing them a lot and even missing being in my own home. However many times I question my decisions, I come back to the fact that this is now my home and I missed it. What I didn’t miss so much was being alone and not sharing small things with someone else (other than Sydney of course!). But, there are ways around that too. Email, Skype, phone calls all help enormously. My current focus on finding consulting work in Tallahassee and perhaps up here too is encouraging and exciting. It is, I think, just what I need to get back to a conversation that I enjoyed so much — I loved my job and my work so this may just be the perfect solution for remaining flexible while having something worth doing.

So, here I am again — bemoaning the cold and snow but thankful to have a place to go in February — Jill has already reserved my room for next year!! I am a lucky person to have friends who made my time away so incredibly special. Now I’m back, planning to see my children and the fabulous Riley. Even I wonder what there is to complain about!!

Don’t Do It!!

Happy New Year to all my Pocono Scribbler friends. I imagine most of us are reflecting on 2013 and imagining what wonderful things we will experience in 2014. Reflection is something I have a lot (perhaps too much) time for so I am going to share a few things about retiring, selling, moving, and adjusting. The impetus for this is a Skype call on New Year’s Eve with my friend, Beth. She was telling me about her good friend who is going through many the same things that I went through when making decisions about where I would live and how I would live (widowhood, retirement, fixed income, relocation). My response? “Tell her not to rush into anything!” so this blog post is for her.

Yesterday, my good friend Kim and I had a wonderful Skype conversation and we laughed long and hard over the fact that I was questioning how quickly I made decisions in the spring of 2012. We laughed because I said, “Why didn’t someone stop me from doing everything at once and so quickly?” Kim replied, “I tried, believe me, but you were stubborn and sure that you needed to do it all.” So true. If I had it to do over again, I probably would end up in the same place with the same issues, but I would have done everything more slowly, with more thought and I would have been better informed about what to expect.

I looked towards retirement that spring and felt like I had to make other changes as well. So, I sold my home of 37 years, threw out and gave away lots of stuff, packed up what was left and moved to the mountains of Pennsylvania. That’s three major decisions made quickly. Looking back, I wonder why it felt so necessary to do it all at the same time. The three events seemed to be related in some eway that I cannot articulate and I couldn’t envision doing one at a time. Don’t ask me why — or ask me why but I have no good answer! Now, don’t get me wrong — the result is fine, I am many hours closer to my children and have the option to visit Tallahassee whenever I want to. I wouldn’t trade the experience of the challenge of getting things done in the mountains, the strange address — one for mail and another for packages, all the blog-worthy diner visits, and being close to New York City. Would trade the winters of course, but that’s another story for another time. So my advice to my good friend’s friend is to take it slowly, maybe downsize before selling up and moving away, and adjust to not working before doing anything drastic. And any one of those decisions is drastic, believe me! It’s one thing to be alone but close to good friends and most definitely another to be alone and 1000 miles away. Take it from one who did it and knows (at least I think I do!!), take it slowly and weigh each decision carefully. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

When Stubborn becomes Stupid!

I have written a lot about access to my house, the ridiculously steep and curvy driveway and the 40 stairs to the top driveway at street level. However, I have never had an issue with getting to my car or getting out — until now. In spite of the fact that Sydney slid across the yard trying to reach the trees which indicated that the yard was a solid sheet of ice, and flying in the face of all the dire weather reports about ice, etc., I decided to try and get to my car which you can just see at the top of the steps. icystairs I took a small container of ice melt with me of course and was only to the stairs and most of it was gone. Not that it was doing any good mind you. The handrails were covered with thick ice so nothing to hold onto. Any reasonable person would turn around and go back into the warm house, heat up a cup of coffee, and catch up on the months of New Yorkers sitting on my chair. But not me! I was determined not to feel trapped and to get to the top!

So I soldiered on thinking that the spaces between the steps that are filled with gravel would be okay. They were not and were solid ice as well. The garbage can that is about 2/3 up the steps has more ice melt in it so I was convinced that upon reaching that all would be well. I did, pounded the ice off the top and started scooping ice melt with my hands into the now-empty container. I realized at that point that I was well and truly stuck and needed to make a decision so I kept going and reached the top. Now out of ice melt again, I was immediately made aware that the driveway was also a solid sheet of ice and there was no way I could reach the car. Looking down the stairs, I quickly saw the error of my ways. Being stubborn is a trait that is often admired but it can go too far and turn to just plain stupid. My cell phone was in my pocket and I could imagine calling Public Safety and saying, “I am the most ridiculous person living here and I’m stuck at the stop of the stairs and can’t get down!” Somewhat like, “Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” I made my way back to the ice melt supply, filled up the container again, having abandoned all hope of getting to the car, and walked sideways down the stairs to the deck which was also ice. icydeck

Needless to say (because I’m writing this), I made it back into the house uninjured and didn’t have to send for help! Of course, now I am in the house with no ice melt anywhere except up at the top of the stairs and feeling a bit trapped. I called Tim with whom I have a snow plow contract and asked them to spread something on the driveway which they did (but not in front of the car of course!). Also was hoping and asked for help with the steps but they haven’t done that unless they are planning a return trip later. It took me a lot to decide to write this because I do sound like a total idiot, but there is a need for all of us to have access to the outside world not just electronically but real access. Then I thought of all the times the people I worked with noted (usually very kindly) how stubborn I am and I can only imagine how annoying it must have been when and if that stubbornness turned to stupidity! I guess there’s a lesson in everything. Happily ensconced with all of my electronic equipment that keeps me in touch and with lots of food in the house, hot drinks, and firewood, I can honestly say I’ve learned my lesson. Then again, my brain says I’ll probably do this or something like it again. Guess I’m just an old dog!

Too Much Quiet!

Since my high school reunion I have been doing a lot of thinking — reflecting is more descriptive because it’s less linear than just thinking (at least I think so!). After talking with friends I have not seen in half a century, I pondered the decisions that either I have made or have been made for me and the outcomes related directly to those decisions. Maybe it is the combination of the reunion and becoming a grandmother; maybe it’s seeing my life and home through others’ eyes; maybe it’s that after a year and a half in the woods, I am rethinking my decision to lead this quiet life. Or, maybe it’s the extremes of being in the Poconos and then spending time on the Upper West Side and Brooklyn — the novelty of being able to walk out the door and get a great cup of coffee while reading the paper or buying take-out that is better than anything I’ve had in ages!

Not only am I finding it a bit too quiet up here, but I am also finding it difficult to connect with like-minded people. I have discovered why I have a lot of friends that are younger than me — it’s because they have something to say, lead interesting lives, and we have a shared history. The few people I come in contact with here seem to be old and cranky. While I am chronologically old, I am now concerned that I will become cranky as well and then be annoying to be around! Silly, you say? Not really. I have watched this happen. I meet people who are older than their years and it concerns me. All of this has led me to reconsider this life I now lead and how to expand and enhance it. The easy answer, you think, is “get a job,” or “volunteer,” but where? The options in this area are very limited.

I did go into the library to ask about after school programming and whether they would be interested in science nights or monthly science activities for young children. As is common in many places, change is viewed with skepticism and the attitude of “why would we want to change anything?” Apparently, people here are quite content to leave things the way they are — content enough to make it difficult to enact change. And…I’m not sure I want to fight that battle. So I am considering options — ones that are realistic and ones that are not and are just fun to think about!

An attitude adjustment is probably necessary at this point and so I am considering a trip south in the next couple of weeks to visit with family and friends and put some distance between myself and the mountains. That’ll do it! Don’t you think?

How Has Life Treated You?

Jericho High School as it was in 1963

Jericho High School as it was in 1963

As one of my duties as part of the high school reunion committee, I sent out email invitations and print invitations to all the graduates from Jericho High School for whom we had contact information. This resulted in a couple of things — knowing who really didn’t want to have anything whatsoever to do with their high school experience and reconnecting with those that really do want to either bring closure to certain events or just to get in touch with old friends for whom they still have fond memories. Consequently, I have received calls and emails that have heartened me, reinforced memories, made me sad that some of our classmates are no longer with us, and messages that really have made me think about more than just those four years!

One such message was from Debby. We were close friends in high school, appeared in a play and sang a duet (reported in an earlier blog!), and spent a good deal of time together studying, hanging out, and gossiping I’m sure. Debby was, and still is I’m sure, beautiful and had lots of beauty tips for me that I will not share here but I remember as if it was yesterday. When we reconnected by email recently, we shared a few memories and then she asked me, “How has life treated you?” I haven’t answered that email yet even though it was a few days ago. It’s a very complex question with lots of layers that have me questioning the question and wondering how on earth I can answer that.

“Which life?”, I asked myself. The life as a single woman between high school and marriage that includes college and work? The life as a wife and mother? My life after my husband and best friend died and I was a single woman again? My life now having moved from long-time friends and the comfort of a home of 37 years to a new place with few friends? My life as a mom and soon-to-be grandma that is so much closer to my children that I can drive to see them and back home again in a day? My life as a blogger and wayfinder? WHere does one begin?

Which life would you choose? Which life would you want to hear about? So, here’s my answer to Debby. Life has treated me very well and I am a fortunate woman. Yesterday was my birthday and I got a lot of cards, a few phone calls, and skyping with two dear friends. My children are taking me to dinner on Friday night when I’m staying in Brooklyn with Rachel for a few days. I have a nice home in a beautiful part of the world and, for now, can choose if I want to go back to work. After a lifetime of working in jobs that, for the most part, have been amazing and rewarding, I can reflect on what I have accomplished with no need to keep worrying that I am no longer “productive.” I have lovely children with fabulous partners — couldn’t ask for more caring, intelligent, and interesting people to hang out with. All of my dogs have been great — Sydney is my good friend and companion who listens without criticism or comment to my ramblings about politics, cheering at sports, and railing against all sorts of things that I think are unfair. All in all, I’d say life has treated me quite well although I’d like to take some credit for making good decisions and working hard. I keep thinking of the title of the kid’s book Life’s a Funny Thing, Horatio. Life is a funny thing, a challenge, and has lots of layers that deserve thinking about from time to time. So thank you to Debby for asking the question.

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.

Hard to Believe…

Today marks exactly one year since the movers arrived at 124 Longridge Drive. Rachel and I drove out of Tallahassee the day after Memorial Day after finishing packing up 37 years worth of memories at 1207 Walton Drive. It’s been an eventful year full of surprises (good and bad), a lot of introspection, and wayfinding! When the moving truck had to back down the driveway in drive, Rachel and I closed our eyes and hoped for the best. Within 2 hours everything was in the house and boxes were everywhere. This in spite of the fact that I gave away so many things; family things to my cousin, Jill; household items to a variety of friends and co-workers; and cars full of all sorts of things to Goodwill. Of course, now that I’ve lived in the house for a year there are some regrets about things I should have taken with me, but that’s another story! In my wish for a fresh start, I may have gone a bit too far but the fact that there is no turning back is also somewhat liberating!

What have I learned in these 365 days? More than I could ever articulate here I’m afraid but I will share a few of the things that come to mind while reviewing my new strange world.
1. Keeping in touch with family and friends is the most important thing to maintain sanity.
2. Being close to children is a gift beyond description.
3. A city girl CAN learn how to survive in the country (albeit only less than 2 hours to New York City!).
4. You CAN go home again even if it’s in a bit of a different way.
5. Most critters will walk, run or fly away as you approach them. This is a very important thing to know when walking your dog in this area although I’m still very respectful of the bears!
6. Northern winters are a force to be reckoned with as is my driveway! There are strategies one can develop for survival — hiring a good snow plowing and stair shoveling service, getting the car checked out before the first snow, ordering and having delivered a large amount of firewood early, putting aside money in the budget for very large amounts of ice melt, not locking the gate because it will freeze.
7. Few people go out at night in the mountains during the winter, so restaurants that are even open in winter close VERY early. So, get in a supply of good books, take advantage of On Demand movies, and watch a lot of bad tv!
8. Spring comes late but quickly. The snow is melted and all of a sudden it’s green and lush. Local nurseries that have been all but closed down have beautiful locally grown plants of all kinds and the driveway is again usable which makes life a lot easier.
9. Home is not where you live but how you live — this has been a hard lesson and one that I am still working on.
10. I am a very lucky woman. Reconnecting with high school friends has been a very welcome surprise, having family close by means I can see them often, anticipating being a grandmother is much more fun when I don’t have to think about transportation, and visiting good friends only takes some driving.

I think a lot about these things and am feeling a bit nostalgic (is that the right word?) about the past year. A few bumps in the road but altogether it amazes me that even the difficult tasks had positive outcomes. Some of my friends and acquaintances asked what I’d do with myself in retirement. Just managing the first year of so many changes has been enough for me!