Meditative frustration of learning to knit

Research shows knitting is good for mental health, meditative and improves brain functions. Learning something new can be frustrating but maybe give it a try.

I read an article in the New York Times recently about how knitting was a such a great beneficial activity. The article claimed knitting was meditative and could improve your mood. Research was mentioned that indicated knitting has mental health benefits that include managing chronic pain, improving cognitive function and increasing happiness.

This sounds like a must do and how hard can it be I thought.

As an educator I always praise the fact that I am a life long learner. Each year new students would arrive in my classroom with their own strengths and areas of need. My job was to identify them and guide them each to learn the everchanging kindergarten curriculum. After 20 years I was pretty good at this and continued to learn new methods of reaching my students.

Welcome my new life and my well deserved retirement. I am into my second official month and decided it is time to learn something new.

Knitting seems like a great new hobby. Maybe I could knit a scarf or a sweater for my dog. With all those potential benefits from that news article, I was off to a yarn store. For less than $4, I purchased 2 needles and 4 balls of yarn. I decided I would use YouTube videos to learn and all I needed was some dedicated time.

Time during the COVID pandemic and retirement are plentiful so I was excited to get started.

The videos I like best are by Sheep & Stitch: how to cast on and knit for total beginners. Of course the first thing I learned is that I purchased the wrong needles and yarn for someone just learning this skill. I plan to order the following items from Amazon as she recommends using 10mm bamboo or wood needles and bulky yarn.

On my first attempt I made a row of 30 pink stitches and was on a roll. The next video taught me how to knit stitch and I seemed to be getting it. After a few rows I noticed some strands were super tight on the needle and some holes were appearing in my work of art. Ignoring these small imperfections, I kept going convinced that one day I would wear this pink scarf and no one would even notice.

But that is not the point of learning to knit. Sure a finished product will be nice but why would I expect myself to know how to do this yet? Learning is a process and it reminded me of times I had a difficult time learning new things.

Back in high school I earned my Red Cross Lifeguard certification at the Junior High School swimming pool. I passed the test of pulling Mr. Gray from the bottom of the deep end and across the pool so when my cousin suggested a job as a waterfront director at Papoose Pond campground in Norway, Maine I was ready and surely qualified!

Besides teaching daily swim lessons to the children, I was also in charge of leading a canoe trip down the “Crooked River” two times per week. Having never canoed before, you can only imagine how ridiculous I looked as my canoe kept crashing into the bushes as the families followed me down the river.

My other responsibility was to rig the small sailboats and give sailing lessons. I had taken sailing lessons in the Great South Bay so I was sure this would be easy peasy.

When I had taken sailing lessons, the instructors must have had the boat ready and waiting for us. Given a sail, a mast, a boom and some lines (ropes) I wasn’t really sure how to put them on the boat. Back in the 1980s there were no YouTube videos teaching you stuff so sometimes you just had to figure it out on your own.

Knowing which pole is the mast would have been helpful. Somehow I managed to rig a sail using the boom as the mast so the sail was upside down. As I was about to send the camper family out on an adventure, the owner’s son walked by, noticed my error and quickly switched things around. Watching carefully, I learned what I had done wrong and am happy to report I spent the rest of the summer setting the sails correctly.

Recalling this distant memory I gave myself a bit of self compassion. Why should I think I know how to knit. Luckily the lovely voice on the YouTube video confirms that you will make mistakes. Practice in the beginning. Make a little square. Start out small. Enjoy the meditative process. If this becomes pleasurable, then maybe attempt to create something.

So I pulled out all the stitches and started over again. So far this attempt is looking more consistent and I do seem to be getting the hang of the basic knit stitch.

My mom was very creative and dabbled in all sorts of crafts over the years. When my brother was the captain of the high school football team she was so proud. She knit herself a sweater in the school colors with his number on it as well as a few football pictures. I wish I could find a photo for this post. I will keep looking.

My 95 year old Aunt Gert has made Christmas customized stockings for all her children, nieces, nephews, their spouses, children, and grandchildren. These beautiful pieces are hung over fireplaces all over the country at Christmas time and are a sign that we are all connected as an extended family. Thank you Aunt Gert.

Learning to knit in retirement - is it meditative or frustrating.
Aunt Gert stockings in Florida

I hope to give an update with my creation later this year. Learning something new I know is good for the brain and as we age we need to consider new challenges. Have you made any resolutions to learn something new this year?

Retiring during the Pandemic: What was I thinking?

Retiring during the pandemic. What was I thinking. The challenges and questions about retiring early

Three weeks into retirement and I have to admit, it feels like 3 years. 2020 has been an odd year for everyone. Retiring during a pandemic is a bit anticlimatic.

In January I was offered a retirement incentive at work. Being of a certain age I was eligible. My husband of 6 months had retired but I did not feel ready yet, so decided to wait at least one more year and declined the golden handshake.

In March, I left the classroom on a Friday afternoon and never did go back to that classroom to finish the school year. Remote teaching with Google meets and me posting videos of myself reading aloud books to my cell phone became the norm last spring.

Summer was almost normal but then it really wasn’t. People wearing masks in stores, empty restaurants and hotels, orange cones all over the beach parking lots to ensure spacing and limited numbers, and the absence of group barbeques including no community beach camp or even a Lobsterfest last summer was disheartening. I did manage to do lots of outdoor hiking and most of the things on my summer bucket list. Summer lasted a bit longer for me.

The news was forever draining. The death count on COVID cases, the protests that turned into riots around the world and that contentious presidential election with neighbors posting signs and flagpoles to highlight their political affiliation was exhausting – in fact, is that election over yet?

What a year. I chose not to risk my health and return to in person teaching in September. My decision did not go over well at work, so I took that retirement incentive after all and made it official.

Due to restrictions I did not have a big retirement party or even celebrate with an amazing trip. Plans for such things will have to wait until the COVID cases go down and a vaccine is available to people like me.

But there is hope. 2021 is right around the corner!

A little old lady in England got the first vaccine this week to prevent COVID-19.

The schools have been open and children have adjusted well to the masks. In fact the statistics have shown schools are safer than restaurants and other enclosed public places.

In January, there will be an inauguration and new president in the USA. A fresh start we can hope.

Reading blogs about retirees I notice a few important themes. Planning ahead for such a life changing event is great, but it doesn’t always happen that way. I love to read about young adults reaching the goal of retirement. A movement called FIRE (financial independence, retire early) has encouraged workers to discipline their spending, save and have enough to live on comfortably at a younger age than is typical.

My journey into retirement isn’t exactly early but I am curious how others embrace not working. I’ve been working full time my entire adult life. This is definitely a new life chapter and not sure what exactly is written in this one as it’s all uncharted territory, but I am excited.

After sending an assorted batch of old VHS videos and 8mm tapes to iMemories, I finally had the time to download hours and hours of videos from when my boys were little. I love watching those precious moments and hearing not only the boys voices, but my parents and my late husband’s voices as well. Using my new technology skills I learned from teaching remotely, I created family movies for everyone. Now if I can just get someone to sit down and watch them with me!

My cousin has done quite a bit of research on the geneaology of our family tree. I joined this fall and enjoy learning about all the distant relatives I have discovered. The website has a wealth of information and clues to help you find people. In fact I was so impressed to see photos of a castle in our family tree that was posted to someone else’s tree.

Denbigh Castle, Wales

It doesn’t look like anyone lives there anymore.

Now I have a new perspective on traveling. Wouldn’t it be exciting to visit places where my ancestors lived and learn more about who they were. Many retirees plan to travel, visiting exotic places, learning about different cultures and relaxing on cruise ships that pamper and feed us. I do believe these opportunities will come back so in the meantime I will stash away a separate account for future travel expenses and continue to research and take notes on places to visit.

Of course, the biggest obstacle to travel and a carefree lifestyle may indeed be finances.

My salary won’t be the same and I still have a mortgage. Options are downsizing or cutting spending. Right now I have been making an effort to cut spending. Writing down what I spend money on is a start. I tried selling stuff I found around the house (sorry kids). Eating at home instead of restaurants is cheaper. Thinking twice about spending on new clothes or tattooed eyebrows (a recent whim that I did not follow through with) is a step in the right direction. Renting out a room or working part time in the spring when it is safer are thoughts I have considered as well.

What about health and wellness in retirement? I am fortunate that my retirement package offered a pension that included family health care at the same rate I paid while working. Vision and dental are no longer included but always ended up costing more anyway. At age 65 we will go on Medicare as a secondary insurance and when my son turns 26 he will be on his own.

As we age our bodies change, in case you haven’t noticed. As a kindergarten teacher I was always moving, and bending over. My aching back no longer acts up but I notice my days are more sedentary. I read a great article in the NY Times about how we can counter hours of sitting with just 11 minutes of walking. The recommended amount was 35 minutes but the point was, get up and move to help you live longer. On line exercise classes like yoga have been nice but I look forward to joining in person classes next year.

I’ve had lots of time to decorate the house for Christmas and it looks beautiful thus bringing me joy. I have some shopping to do as we will be celebrating early with one son and his girlfriend next weekend. Son number two will be staying in Colorado this winter so I need to get a package together ASAP for him.

2020 Christmas

Not being one to “waste my retirement” I make an effort everyday to get in a good walk or use the exercise equipment in the house. To keep the mind alert, I do a daily crossword puzzle and read books; some for my book club and then some other high interest topics (scrolling endlessly on Facebook, does that count as reading?) Although I do miss socially getting together with friends, I try to keep in touch with loved ones on social media and Facetime calls.

Hopes of heading to Manhattan for day trips to museums and Broadway shows are on hold this year. We newlyweds are happy to snuggle on the couch and binge watch Netflix shows or the occasional Holiday special as the dark evenings come earlier this time of year.

Relaxing in my newly renovated home has been nice. We have plans for a road trip next month and I am hoping to do some skiing this winter as well.

Just wanted to catch up on writing my blog. Thank you for reading. Wishing you all peace and good health this season and in the new year.

After the Protests and Riots, will Change Happen?

After the protests and riots in support of black lives matter cops are now in a dangerous position. How do we move forward with change?

I met a young law enforcement officer last night at a neighbor’s house. He lives on my street with his pretty young wife and their baby. I commented on how nice their garden in the front yard looks that I pass on my daily walks.

As we sat around the fire pit getting to know each other the state of current events came up. Like most places, we have had peaceful protests in our town and know people who have marched in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

However, we all agreed the looting and rioting followed by now toppling of statues may not be the way to change things for the better.

When we asked our young neighbor what his experience has been in the past 2 weeks, he says he drives his car and people yell profanities at him. They call him names and angrily wave fists at him yelling “Black lives matter”. People warn him that he could be followed in his law enforcement car to his house so he should park at the local fire house and walk home to keep his family safe.

This young man could be one of my sons. And he is someone’s son.

Continue reading “After the Protests and Riots, will Change Happen?”

Week two – Social Distancing

The statistics today are  551,337 cases of CO-VID19 and 24,906 deaths worldwide, and 86,012 U.S. cases with 1301 deaths as of this post.  This coronavirus has a speed of its own and is spreading quickly as more people get tested.

This is my second week home from school.  We have had several grade level meetings using the Zoom app and the Google meet app.  I am fortunate to work in a school with 9 other kindergarten teachers and some who are way more tech savvy than I am.

Our first week we provided daily activities for our students in an effort to prevent regression.  Starting next week, we will begin to teach new information on line.  This is such unchartered territory for everyone and just mind blowing to attempt with 5 year olds.

I have started an Instagram page for parents to share photos of the children at home in an attempt to help the children see their friends.  Social development is such an important part of kindergarten so maybe seeing their friends helps them feel connected with their classmates.

Continue reading “Week two – Social Distancing”

Don’t Bring Green Smoothies to the Nursing Home

Parents aging is tough. Finding unexpected humor at the nursing home keeps spirits up.

The dimly lit entrance way welcomed me Sunday morning as I went to visit my mom in the nursing home.  That is a sentence I never thought I would write.  It may sound better if I call it the rehab center but it is mostly a nursing home.

I found a book at a deserted counter with names and times written in.  I added my name and my moms to the list.

Turning the corner I could see bodies in wheelchairs watching a church service on a decent sized television in a large room.  I hoped that my mom wasn’t sitting in there.

I knew her room number and confidently walked down the hall to find it.

I passed one man asleep with his head hanging low as he sat in a wheelchair outside of his room in he hall.  He was alone and wearing a hospital gown.

A nurse stood down the hall punching keys into the computer and didn’t seem to care that I had just walked in.

Looking at a map I realized I had quite a walk ahead of me and continued.  I passed another woman asleep in a wheelchair outside her room.

An older couple were tailgating as they traveled down the hall on their own.  She seemed to be the stronger one pushing her chair with her feet and he just held onto her, his only goal for the day.

As I passed the next deserted desk area I couldn’t help but interact with a woman who was quite upset.  Something was wrong and she was telling me all about it.  At one point I think she told me I had to leave but I said I would try to get someone to help her.  I mentioned it to someone in the hall but I am not sure if they were able to help.

Continue reading “Don’t Bring Green Smoothies to the Nursing Home”

Finding Unexpected Joy

As a widow finding joy after the loss of a spouse is hard. A laundry room makeover brings unexpected joy to this widow.

My morning smile has never stretched so far as it did today when I put another load in the wash.  It’s the fourth day in a row.  I am scrounging to find things to wash. It is really too exciting so I had to share my joy.

Sorry, this is not a post about my recent trip to Iceland but you can read about that here: Iceland

We had never done any indoor home renovations.  It was a money issue and also we worried that once we started, we would open up such a can of worms it wouldn’t be worth it.

But now that Mike is gone, as a widow, I am the only one making decisions in this house.  And the one thing I really did not like, is climbing two flights of stairs to do laundry in the boiler room.

I had tried going on strike back when the kids were little.  I thought someone else would start to help out more.  No one did, and there was lots of laundry to be done after my strike.  That backfired.

Continue reading “Finding Unexpected Joy”

Iceland: What to See in Reykjavik for 2 Days

Traveling to Iceland with sister for fun adventures and travel therapy. What to do in Reykjavik for 2 days

With a week off in February and a dream of seeing the Northern Lights I joined my sister on an adventure to Iceland.

We met Saturday afternoon at JFK airport in New York and had a bite to eat in the newly renovated terminal 4. Our flight left on time at 9:00 pm and we hoped to catch some shut eye on the 5 hour flight. Our pilot was great and got us to Iceland in only 4 hours. With the time change it was now morning and we had one hour before our bus reservation to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal hot spring landmark.

The short drive to the site resembled photos of the moon. As the sun rose on dark lava rocks sprinkled with snow on a treeless landscape we knew we were no longer in the States.

Continue reading “Iceland: What to See in Reykjavik for 2 Days”

Time doesn’t heal – it conceals

Time doesn’t heal – it conceals. How to find resilience and courage in the face of trauma and loss of a spouse.

I read that this morning and thought to myself – Truth!

This week marked the 3rd year anniversary that my husband died unexpectedly the Friday night of Labor Day weekend.

I have been doing well overall; I work full time, I still live in my house, I travel and I even have a boyfriend.

But this week it all came back to me again.

A lot of the discomfort comes from anticipating that date.  I have been proactive in the past with planning trips for a purposeful diversion.  My close friends and family reach out with virtual hugs and comforting words which help me feel not so alone.  That was so appreciated.

So, even though life is good, I was surprised to find myself sobbing in the car last week and using the bottom of my skirt to wipe my face.  Maybe time doesn’t heal all wounds.

Continue reading “Time doesn’t heal – it conceals”

Solo Travel: 10 Ways to Alleviate Anxiety

Travel as a solo female can be challenging and so fun. Widows face new adjustments to traveling alone. Be safe and prepared with this checklist.

As a solo, female traveler I love the idea of the adventure that I can plan out on my terms.  When I became an unexpected, relatively young, widow I was sad that my husband would not be here to join me, but I felt determined that I was going to travel anyway.  My first big solo trip was to Thailand so I could escape being home for the one year anniversary of his death as well as our wedding anniversary.  I have since embarked on a few travel adventures but I always get a bit anxious before I travel.

That time I planned a family trip for 4 to California but when I printed out the boarding passes 24 hours in advance, there was only a ticket for me.  Somehow I had not reserved tickets for my husband and 2 sons.  Panic set in. It was 6:00 pm on a Friday evening and I made some frantic phone calls to the corporate office.  Apparently, when I had changed the dates a few months earlier, they had cancelled the other 3 tickets.

Fortunately, they were able to fit the rest of my family on the plane with me, but this was the beginning of my travel anticipation anxiety syndrome.

Continue reading “Solo Travel: 10 Ways to Alleviate Anxiety”

Is it “widow brain” or lack of caffeine?

Widow brain is a real thing where you are forgetful, inattentive and spacey. Can you fix it by being more present? Or a cup of coffee?

Widow brain is a real syndrome where you are forgetful, inattentive and spacey. You may put the milk in the cupboard, lose the keys or put on mismatched socks without realizing it.

This past week I have been so tired. I yawned a few times after lunch and 4 out of 5 afternoons I came home and napped after work.

I mistook an 11:30 flight arrival for am when it was actually pm and I had apparently been told this on several occasions.

Continue reading “Is it “widow brain” or lack of caffeine?”

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