Category Archives: Retirement

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?

Goals are Overrated

One thing about driving into and out of Manhattan and Brooklyn often is that I have a lot of time to think about things. Maybe too much time. Yesterday, my friend Beth called and told me that Ion Sancho, Supervisor of Elections in Leon County, Florida, was not going to run for reelection and neither was Larry Campbell, Sheriff. This morning, she called and we gossiped a bit about a former resident of Tallahassee with whom I used to work and I mentioned to her that I really appreciated these tidbits of information. “After all,” I said, “I lived in Tallahassee for 37 years. Just because I moved doesn’t mean I’ve lost all interest in the people, the city, and the politics.” This lead me to consider something I’ve thought about on my drives. Not just how much life has changed, but how the rhythm of it has changed — not day-to-day necessarily but long-term as well.

All my life (and I suspect most of yours too) there has been structure and short and long-term goals. By way of full disclosure I must say that I think of goals and objectives in terms of education and grant writing so I do understand the difference. That said, I have always had something to work toward; in 2 weeks I’ll go on vacation; in 1 year I will retire. Or, selling my house and moving. In the case of moving, getting through my first northern winter and managing year one of being on my own in a new place. There has always been something that is the goal reached, end game, or however one chooses to frame it. Now I find myself living day-to-day with no long-term goal other than having a full and satisfying life. I have asked myself if this is enough and if it’s okay.

Okay with whom? It’s a whole new way of looking at things and taking full responsibility for my life. Not a small thing since responsibility has partly been in the hands of parents, teachers, employers, colleagues, children, husband, family, and others. Now, it rests clearly on my shoulders and it requires a bit of getting used to. I find myself resisting structure of any kind — I even gave up going to exercise class because I resented the requirement of being there on a certain day at a certain time. I am a very structured person as my friends and family know too well and spontaneity does not come as easily to me as to others that I know and love, but this is not the same. Not having the long-term goal is a totally different thing. It is part of the adventure and I embrace it whole-heartedly and with great enthusiasm. That’s not to say I’m not a little scared sometimes, but the anticipation of things to come is wonderful.

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!

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!

The Princess Plan

I have given a lot of thought to being alone since I am approaching my year’s anniversary of picking up and moving north. Also it’s almost a year since I retired. My friend, Beth, and my sister-in-law, Jill, and I have frequent conversations about friends and acquaintances who find themselves alone after many years of being part of a couple. One of Beth’s friends said that, after 40 years on “The Princess Plan,” she is now a caregiver. Jill is also a caregiver. It requires a great deal of physical and emotional effort for her. I was a caregiver for many years and we all agree that this was never what we expected, not what we signed on for. Recently I was reminded of one of Jill’s long-time friends, Gil M., who lost her husband about the same time I did. She is having many of the same issues that I have with going out as a single woman, not having someone to discuss things with, and generally having to reconsider what it is to manage day-to-day. It isn’t easy going out especially when most places you go, people are in couples.

Not to be all gloom and doom, there are many things to be thankful for of course, but roles are so clearly defined when you are part of a couple. Our culture easily recognizes how that works, what the expectations are, and even in an unconventional marriage that doesn’t fit the image from my generation, there are many assumptions that others make. I’ve noticed this a lot lately. Judy at the diner mentioned to me that some of the people who come in assume that Kenny (her brother) is her husband and call her “Mrs.” Somehow people are surprised if a woman is on her own. I think this is because women of a certain age are expected to be part of a relationship, to have a partner. And, if you were lucky enough to be part of a relationship and have a terrific partner, being alone is that much more difficult because you are fighting not only the perceptions of others but your own idea of what going out should look like.

Having good friends is key to surviving this! I am always thinking ahead and worrying about not having enough to do after a life of work and an active social life. Somehow things come together and the solitary life isn’t so bad. Friends and family fill in the gaps (whether they know it or not) and offer a stability that is hard to find on one’s own. So…I also signed up for the Princess Plan — there’s no doubt. Now the plan has changed and I get to set the agenda and identify the elements of the plan itself. Whether others understand this is not my problem. I have enough to deal with just restructuring the plan!

Alone Again…and Still Snowing!

The trouble with vacations is coming back!! After over a month of visiting, great conversation, fun shopping, coffee shops, and company, I am on my own again. After visiting Weaverville and then Tallahassee, I came back to having a guest for the better part of two weeks. Then Rachel and Mason came for a few days and ended up staying for the whole week. What a treat for me and Sydney! Everything we did was fun — cooking together, shopping, going to lunch in Milford, hunkering down by the fire. I always have a day or two of feeling let down after my kids leave. Somehow, my leaving them when I go into the city is not difficult at all, but when they leave here…well, that’s a different story.

A couple of things resulted from the last five weeks. First, I have realized that I do not have to wait and visit my friends only once a year. Second, somehow I need to make coming to Lords Valley more appealing so people will visit me! Third, I need to reassess whether I want to find something productive to do on a regular basis. And, last, I need to look at all of these things after it stops snowing! Perhaps this is nothing more than the predicted, much talked about cabin fever! But, I ask myself, how can it be cabin fever when I just got back? Easy!! It is still snowing! I have discovered that the weather in Lords Valley is much different from weather at lower elevations. Not rocket science you say? Of course it makes sense, but what I did not realize was that I can drive five minutes from here and see no snow! Sometimes it’s snowing on my street and not elsewhere in the area! It’s like the showers in Tallahassee in the summer. On the other hand, the snow provides me with an excuse to stay in, light a fire, pour a cup of coffee (or glass of wine depending on the time of day), and read a book.

I think part of my feeling let down is that yesterday when I went to the mail room someone said to me, “Well…Women’s Club must be over. Look at all the women here. Did you just come from bingo?” I was horrified to say the least. Do I look like someone who just came from bingo? Apparently I do. Or, is it assumed because I am a woman and it was a certain time of day? Whatever…it led to serious thoughts about getting a job, online or otherwise. Being alone requires a lot of thinking even though you might think it’s just the other way around. I think I’d best revisit these thoughts another time. For now I’ll think about adopting a Mediterranean diet as recommended in an article in this week’s NY Times, may cook something healthy like lentils, and will try to stop obsessing over the weather. If anyone wants to come visit, my guest rooms are ready and the driveway is clear. But…it is still snowing and I think we’ve got another month of winter!

Some Things Never Change

…like the amazing changeable weather in Tallahassee, the comfort of sitting and talking with old dear friends, the challenge of driving in Tallahassee, the familiarity of browsing in a bookstore for as long as you want, construction around the University Center, detours on Gaines Street, loss of parking at FSU to accommodate the football program. Here I am again with free time between meals with friends pondering the question that my friend, Kathy, asked me this morning: “So…do you think you made the right move?” I’ve been asked this question many times by people close to me and by people I’ve recently met. There is no way to definitively answer such a question for a number of reasons.

First, when I retired, everything changed, so it wasn’t just leaving Tallahassee and FSU. Second, the place I moved to — Lords Valley — and the home were already comfortable places for me because I’ve gone there since 2008. Third, when faced with a choice, you make it … take all the factors into consideration and then punt. Last, just do it and don’t look back! I think the question would be better put as “How has the move affected you?” This is interesting to think about on my first trip back to Tallahassee since the move. Reconnecting with friends has been so easy probably because we never disconnected! Email, Skype, Facebook, the phone, all keep me connected. For the most part, my answer to Kathy’s question is always — “I love being close to my children, New York City, having one house to worry about, and having options.” Had I stayed I would have continued doing things that were no longer fun and sometimes stressful. It worried me that I might get back to Tallahassee and regret not living here any longer, but that’s not the case.

I do not miss the daily stress of work, the frustration of being in education in a time when it is devalued, or the unpredictability of the weather (although this unseasonable 76 degrees is fabulous and the prematurely blossoming trees and bushes are beautiful!). While the people of Tallahassee are, in general, very nice and polite, so are the people I’ve met in Milford, Lords Valley, and Hawley. I will not “go by” my former home and regret the loss of the fruit trees or the yard where we raised three dogs, or the home where my two children grew up. It is just a house…it is not the memories nor the people who passed through my Tallahassee home over 37 years.

One thing I do have to admit is that driving down Meridian Road yesterday to visit my friend, Beth, I did feel a twinge as I passed the road to my former home and then the road to my parents’ home. I thought about the good things that happened in each of those homes and in places in between and smiled, then realized I can think of those things anytime anywhere. I don’t have to be in a specific geographic location!

So, for those of you who are retired, thinking of retiring, live alone, are considering making a move from the familiar to the less familiar, I recommend it as a way to prove how brave we all are and how adaptable we can be. Yes, some things never change, like the support system of good friends and the welcome home that I can feel anytime I want to visit Tallahassee.

Semantics: Back or Home?

photo-4This is my home now. I moved 8 months ago, have somewhat settled in, and am getting used to being a northerner again. I’m having difficulty with words to express my home of so many years in Tallahassee and my new home here in Lords Valley. It’s an odd thing how such a simple word can elicit such strong feelings. For example, when I refer to the house on Walton Drive in Tallahassee, I continue to call it home even though it’s not. 1207 Walton FrontI consciously try to refer to this home on Longridge Drive in Lords Valley as home but it’s not quite there yet. So, I have taken to using the word “back” when talking about my old home and “here” when talking about my new home. Both of those words, however, seem a bit cold, too generic, and not at all descriptive.

Planning a trip to Tallahassee next month has renewed this dilemma. Am I going home? Or, am I going back? When we think of home most of us get a warm feeling of welcome, familiarity, and comfort. Back indicates returning to a place you’ve once been to, not necessarily one that has any meaning or one that has a lifetime’s worth of memories. I am going to visit Tallahassee because I miss my friends and family and would like to spend time other than Skype or email talking, discussing issues, and hearing about what’s going on in their lives. I’m desperate for a dinner at Kool Beanz, breakfast at Tally Grille, and lunch at the Seminole Golf Club. Does this point to the fact that Tallahassee is home?

Today I have some chores to take care of and then will come home to prepare for a friend coming over for wine and snacks. There, I said it: coming home. Perhaps home is my stuff. My furniture, artwork, pottery, photos of family, the dog (not in that order). Maybe it’s being closer to my children and having the opportunity to see them much more often than I did when living in Tallahassee. (We all know how difficult it is getting in and out of Tallahassee.) Or, maybe it’s just a state of mind that evolves as I start a new phase of my life. I am a very impatient person so I think it’s taking much too long and I’m still yearning for things that I got used to — being able to find frozen okra in the store to make gumbo, cheese grits, Publix, buying wine in the grocery store, buying beer, diversity, warmth! If I ever write that I miss the humidity, however, you will know there is something very wrong! I will likely get my fill when I’m there in February. Looking forward to going home and then I will no doubt look forward to getting home as well!

Cooking for One

I love to cook, love to read cookbooks, and love to watch certain cooking shows on the food network. I subscribe to Cooking Light, get recipes from friends, but have never mastered cooking for myself. I think that’s because I do not like leftovers, never have and rarely eat them. There are books available, websites out there, but I think it’s very personal. One good thing about cooking for one is that I can experiment with dishes that I like without thinking about anyone else — very selfish. So, I’ve been looking for ways to cook what I like, be healthy in my choices, and not fall into the trap of prepared foods or snacking from the pantry. As anyone who cooks knows, it is easier to prepare foods you’ve done before — it tends to be for me chicken or fish. This gets boring for sure, so now and then I decide to make something like a big pot of soup or chili or spaghetti sauce. Then, my frugal self says this is a very good thing because I can freeze portions and then have lots of good things in the freezer when I don’t feel like cooking fish or chicken! Why does this make me feel a bit pathetic? Why do these dishes tend to be tomato-based (I don’t even like tomatoes that much)? Why is this even blog-worthy?

It’s blog-worthy because I need help. Cooking for one person is a challenge that lots of us face as we navigate living on our own. My friend, Roxanne, cooks freshly picked seasonal vegetables and is clearly a more creative cook than I am. Cathy, from my Tallahassee book club, has lots of vegetarian recipes that are wonderful. Lynda sent me a recipe for cookies this morning and talked about new things she is trying out. I have often talked about this with my cousin Jill who is single and a vegan. She makes the most wonderful soups and dishes and will eat them all week-long. Honestly, I just threw out another tub of Noodle Soup for Needy People (see an earlier post) because I only like it when it’s freshly prepared.

I know other single people who rarely cook fresh ingredients, relying on packaged mixes or prepared frozen foods. These aren’t bad, but I somehow equate using them on a regular basis (don’t get me wrong, I always have a Kashi pizza in the freezer and a couple of Amy’s Bowls!) as giving into a way of living as a single person that has been perpetuated by the advertising industry; marketing foods by implying that we single people need to pay attention to nutrition and the way to do that is to buy foods that will pay attention for us! All of this said, I welcome any ideas that you might have. Several years ago I hosted book club at my house and Anita brought a red lentil dish in a tagine. It’s been a go-to recipe for me ever since, so I hope she doesn’t mind if I share it with you here. It makes enough for 6 people easily. Let me know what you think!

Red Lentilstagine

2 cups red lentils
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. ginger, finely chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes with juice
1/ cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
salt to taste

1. Spread lentils out, sort, rinse and drain well.
2. Heat oil over medium high heat and add onions. Cook until softened.
3. Add cumin, cardamom, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant (about 2 minutes)
4. Add lentils, broth, tomatoes, cilantro, turmeric, salt and jalapeno and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer, stirring often, until lentils are soft.

Serve over rice of your choice (Anita recommended basmati rice cooked in half water, half coconut milk — delicious!!)

(Re)Finding Our Footing

sydwhouse Since starting this blog, I find myself thinking in metaphors. As I watched Sydney renegotiate the yard now that much of the snow has melted, I thought about how quickly she got used to walking, running, sniffing, and otherwise being a dog in deep snow. Since the “January thaw,” however, Sydney has been tentative and, as many dogs do, must sniff each and every square inch of the yard. For some reason I found this disconcerting. I just got used to the freezing temperatures (soon to return), the snow, the house and yard in the snow and ice, and now we’re back to being able to see dry land! There is a distinct possibility that my driveway will actually be usable for a day or two!

I started thinking about my quiet simple life and how easily one can slip and slide over the difficult terrain of living alone. Obviously I HAD to get out of the house. The diner beckoned. I went to find the “usual” small booths all taken so I was directed to a table in the back. “What are you doing all the way back there?” asked Judy and Kenny who were sitting at their usual front booth for two. “The usual was taken,” I replied, which started a conversation that we finished when I was on my way out. The owner came over and said good morning, Doug Dilworth, the local State Farm Insurance Agent sat at his usual stool at the counter, and Freddy brought me my morning coffee. Yes, this is better, I thought. The single act of driving into Milford to have breakfast seemed to bring me back on solid ground.

After the diner, I took my car to S&T Auto. For $48 they changed the oil, checked all fluids, checked the tires and brakes and pronounced my car ready for my trip south at the end of the month. We chatted since the owner and I are going to be in Florida for the same week — he’s flying, I’m driving. I assisted with two crossword puzzle clues and was on my way to the Weis market to pick up a few things for Rachel’s visit tomorrow. From there to the mail room to find some “important tax documents” and a card from my friend Beth. Order has been restored.

sydsniffing When I finished unpacking groceries, opening mail, doing a few things, I took Sydney outside to play a game in the yard. She was totally engrossed once again in rediscovering her world, just as I was this morning. Watching Sydney reminded me that finding our footing is something we do every day. We just don’t usually have the time to think about it. Retirement has given me that luxury — to find pleasure in small things like rediscovering how to enjoy quiet times and like taking time to have conversations with not quite strangers. It’s a challenging new world.