Settling into a new home in Florida has challenges and can be a lot of fun, once the furniture arrives. Christmas in Florida is different too!
It’s been a bit of a challenge to decorate my new Florida house for Christmas when it reaches 85 degrees outside some days. So, I turned down the air-conditioner, put the fireplace channel on the TV and told Alexa to play holiday music and opened the green Rubbermaid bins.
Well, the poor 17-year-old tree we dragged from New York to our new home, I’m sorry to say, didn’t quite make it. The tree trunk wasn’t fitting into the base and Pete’s sledgehammer work caused its demise. Pete was pleased as punch and hoped that was the end of the Christmas tree decorating as we know it, but conveniently Costco still had a few trees for sale! This new tree is super easy to assemble and has multiple options for the pre-attached lights: colored, white, blinking, slow going on and off. Whatever brings you joy this season right?
Speaking of joy, I went back to my first couple of years after Mike died and read the Christmas blog posts. As a new widow, I was overwhelmed by the idea of Christmas and seeing all the wonderful memories represented by the assorted ornaments we had gathered over the years. By the third year, I was ready to decorate again but only used white ornaments and lights. It looked pretty but I still kept all the sad feelings at bay. In contrast this year, all the ornaments came out. I played “Let it Go” and bagged up a bunch of decorations that I was ready to part with. A few trips to Goodwill pared down some of the excess. This year our tree is colorful and full of joy and happy memories. Some days I even use the colored lights instead of the classic white lights, because it just feels good.
I won’t see my kids for the actual holiday days this year. They live far away and I will miss them, but I was lucky to be able to fly to New York City last weekend and spend two fabulous days with both boys. I took them to the Central Park Zoo and we walked around the tree at Rockefeller Center and ate all the best New York foods. It was just the three of us and I’m still smiling over the precious time we shared.
Must a widow change her name back to her maiden name? Or do we keep the married name?
Growing up in the 1960s, I hated my name. I was the only girl in my school, at that time, named Kristin. My teachers were confused. They insisted on calling me Christine. Some people called me Christian. They spelled it wrong either starting with a C or ending with “en”. Even my last place of employment, where I worked for 21 years, made the consistent error of spelling my name with an “en” despite my many efforts of correction.
I really wanted to fit in and have a name like the other girls ending in the “eee” sound. Why couldn’t my mom have called me Julie, or Debbie, or Heidi? Years later when I asked her about this, she told me she thought people would call me Kristi. Really? No one ever did. I think you have to initiate that nickname if you are the mother, I told her.
To top it off, my mom decided to use her name as my middle name. Another name I was sure no one except for Austrailians have heard of. Adelaide. Kristin Adelaide was the most obscure name and I was embarrassed to share that top secret information with others.
Of course, my mom never went by Adelaide with her peers. Only her sister called her Adelaide, and it always sounded like she was saying it in a most mocking manner. My mom went by Addie, so even she preferred that “eee” sound at the end of her name. She was popular, and never had an issue fitting in!
Then I grew up with a famously infamous last name. Once people heard the name Sanders, they immediately asked if I was related to the KFC colonel and had a good chuckle over their cleverness. It was easy enough to spell and pronounce, but I did not like that I was always near last when things were done in alphabetical order in school. Being a first born and natural high achiever, being last was not my favorite thing to be.
When I was married at 25 years of age, the idea of women hyphenating their name with their husband’s was all the rage. I considered this fad, but having a background as a teacher, I decided it would be easier for our children if we all just had the same name. Coming from a family of traditionalists, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. I changed my middle name from Adelaide to Sanders, and my new last name became Divers. It was easy to spell. Surprisingly, people often had trouble pronouncing it – like they expected it to be some strange sounding word like Dee-vers. No, I would explain. Like a scuba diver. Best of all, I was thrilled to be listed near the front of the alphabet, whenever that was relevant.
For 30 years I taught in elementary school and I was known as Mrs. Divers. I taught kindergarten for 21 of those years in the same neighborhood where I lived. Lots of families remember their child’s kindergarten teacher. I would often walk through the supermarket and be stopped by 3 or 4 families with a look of excited surprise as they would see me and exclaim, “Mrs. Divers” across the store. I didn’t always remember the child’s name until I was driving home. It was a bit like how movie stars must feel, and I soon started to do my grocery shopping in the next town after 9pm.
Over the years, generous parents created signs and bags with the name Mrs. Divers on them. I had name stickers made to insert into my collection of children’s books that I would let colleagues borrow as needed. On occasion, the secretary would announce over the PA system, “Mrs. Divers please call the main office”. I was Mrs. Divers, and Mrs. Divers was me.
After Mike died, I didn’t really think about my name much. I had lots of paperwork to deal with and everything was in both of our names. Taking him off the bank accounts, credit cards, car loans, and mortgage took time and effort. Changing my name back to my maiden name was never considered.
One month, and it’s beginning to feel like home. We definitely kept too much stuff from both our homes in New York and still need to purge, but I have faith it will happen. We unpacked most of the 106 cardboard boxes, and found interested parties on the internet to take the empty boxes, thus keeping them from landfills. Signing up for the Next Door app has been helpful. People recommend nail salons, pet sitters, appliance repair services and post photos of random creatures like bugs and bobcats.
We knew it would be hot in Florida in August, but I have some positive revelations from our first month here as well:
1. It’s hot everywhere in August
I had braced myself for the heat. Flip flops, scrunchies for the hair, shorts and a bikini for the pool on my Lanai. Then I heard from folks back home in New York and in Minnesota and in Arizona. The USA seems to be overheating this summer and it’s not only in Florida. The humidity is high, but people here are prepared for it. The stores are all airconditioned. The homes have A/C and private pools. People use the pools more than the beach in the summer, and stay indoors during the hottest time of the day.
2. People wear masks in Florida
Even though the governor has argued that schools can’t mandate students wear masks, people are wearing them in lots of places, more so than they were in New York last month. I was surprised to see more than half the people in Walmart and Publix wearing masks. The COVID positive rates are high in Florida and hospitals are filled with unvaccinated people on ventilators and dying. Many of the schools have defied the governor and are enforcing mask rules to protect the kids and teachers anyway. It is good to see people using caution and common sense in public, even if they don’t have to.
3. Costco sells wine
I am a big fan of Costco. The warehouse store makes me happy and I have bought everything from tires and bunk beds, to steak and pistachios. In the middle of the store, a short drive from my house, is a sommelier and a humungous selection of wines of all types and prices. They even have a Kirkland brand which tastes pretty good. I’m hopeful they will start giving out free samples; maybe a wine pairing next to the morsels of Pierogis and Brie cheese.
4. People are helpful at DMV
Seriously, this was definitely a pleasant surprise. They don’t call it DMV, you go to the “Tax Collector” here. Due to COVID, you make reservations online. I was able to reserve a time for the next day. You fill out some paperwork, and if you don’t, they give you some to fill in when you check in. I replaced my driver’s license in about 30 minutes and had a brand new colorful one with a much better picture; they let you smile here. Then, I registered my car. Behind the agent, is a shelf of beautiful plates you can choose from if you don’t want the one with a plain orange. Mine supports the coral reef and is oh so pretty.
Moving from New York to Florida in the middle of summer. Widowed, retired and now a newly wed life starts fresh in a new state in a new home. Life after loss.
We moved in a week ago, but the truck is still in transit. One hundred six (I numbered them) cardboard packed boxes, 17 Rubbermaid bins, 12 milk crates with random tools, 6 bicycle boxes filled with TVs and large items, suitcases, 2 couches, 2 rugs,2 bikes and who knows what else is expected to arrive tomorrow.
It’s amazing how easy it is to live simply. The past week we’ve done just fine with our limited belongings that we packed in the SUV for the 23 hour drive to Florida from New York. Why do we have so much stuff?
For months I have been purging. Donations to Goodwill stores and boxes in the church parking lot. Garage sales and listings on Facebook Marketplace provided us with some cash to spend on future new furnishings. The last week we gave away the entire den set for free to some young guys setting up their first apartment. We ended up throwing in pots, pans and Kraft macaroni and cheese as well.
Then there were the piles of garbage the last few weeks at the end of the driveway. With all that purging, I’m surprised anything is making it down here tomorrow!
Over the past few months I checked off boxes on my bucket list. Trips into New York City included walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and visiting MoMa and Central Park. Pete and I visited some Long Island Gold Coast estates to enjoy the gardens and celebrate our 2nd anniversary at the Oheka Castle.
I enjoyed kayaking and some days at the beach, lunch out with friends, and even a couple of girl’s weekends.
I even had fun going back to school to substitute teach and screen the incoming 4 year olds with a pre- kindergarten assessment. They all passed and will be adorable excited learners in September.
It took a few months (I’m exhausted just writing about all this) but it was what I needed and wanted to do before moving 1000 miles away from the place I’ve called home for most of my life.
After a teacher retires, what to do? Can you go back to teach again or is there another option?
A retired teacher is open to a variety of opportunities to teach again, but it may not be the same situation as before.
In many states, a retired teacher receives a pension after working a set number of years. In New York for example, a teacher can go back to the public school and work some hours, however after a certain amount of income is reached, the pension is jeopardized.
So what is a teacher, who still wants to teach, to do?
Teaching in a private school may not have the same salary that 20 years on a pay scale can provide, but the income earned will not affect a public state pension. My dad was a chemistry teacher and retired at 55 years old. After a year of staying home and engaging in an extensive stamp collection, painting the outside of our house and my brother’s house, and vacationing for a month in Florida with my mom, he happily went back to the classroom in a Catholic private high school and enjoyed the lack of administrative duties and pure teaching of well behaved students immensely. Some people just can’t relax around the house and find that they enjoy teaching as a calling. The extra income never hurts either.
For many years when I worked full time, I also took tutoring jobs once a week after school for children struggling with math and language arts. I helped with homework and as a certified reading teacher, with reading skills. I often had children come to my home in the summer for tutoring as well. Tutoring centers are always looking for qualified teachers to work with their clients. Tutoring children at their home or in the local library is always an option as well.
moving forward after loss includes cleaning out the house of more than you spouses stuff. What to do first and the change clutter free living will bring is peaceful
Get a dumpster he said. We don’t need one I replied. We don’t have that much stuff.
That was the argument Mike and I had for years before he passed. We had thought about downsizing with the boys away at college. Some things would have to go. I couldn’t imagine putting our personal belongings into a dumpster. We have all really good stuff, I thought.
Well Mike, it is finally happening. I am moving and boy do I need a dumpster!
For the past five years and a half years I have been slowly going through my clothes, my photos, my books and donating Mike’s clothes and different items we no longer needed. You know, those things that don’t bring me joy.
I watched the Marie Kondo Netflix series and was inspired. I bought a few books on being clutter free and I thought I was doing all the right things.
Last year my Pete, my new husband, sold his house and moved into mine. He brought some of his stuff and put the rest in a storage unit for our “Florida house”. So this year we bought the Florida house and I decided to say Good bye to New York. I will miss this house, but this chapter for me is closing, ever so slowly, and I am ready for the next one to begin.
Meanwhile, all the stuff I thought I got rid of, still seems to be hiding in the corners of closets and garage space. How on earth am I ever going to bring all this to Florida. And do I really need to?
Should you get that COVID vaccine? Why or why not. Oh, but do you really have to have the second shot too?
I don’t really understand why so many people seem to be against getting vaccinated for COVID, I’m vaccinated and I’m glad that is out of the way.
In my experience, healthy people should be vaccinated against diseases that can cause sickness and death. For the past one hundred years, we have been able to vaccinate our families to protect early death in children from diseases that previously had been as common as a cold.
We seem to be unaware of how bad the past really was. In 1800 the health conditions were such that 43% of the world’s newborns died before their 5th birthday. In 2015 the child mortality rate had declined to 4.5%. WOW! That is a big jump and we can thank vaccines for that.
Of course as a new mom I did not think twice about having my children vaccinated. The MMR; measles, mumps and rubella, was scheduled as well as whatever my pediatrician advised.
I recall a debate being held regarding whether children should get a chicken pox shot. Most kids got it during the younger years and took a few sick days, then it was back to school. Some moms even exposed their children to infected kids so that their youngsters would get it over with. Some kids were immune. I thought maybe I was.
Then, I had chicken pox in the spring of 10th grade. It was hideous and embarrassing. I had scabs all over, on my head, ears, face, arms YUCK! I went back to school in June with long sleeves to hide the marks. But that is not why I had my kids vaccinated.
The joy of doing nothing is part of healing and moving forward.
It’s Saturday morning and I’ve spent the week skiing in the snow covered Rockies with 3 “kids” in their 20s. I’m rockin it.
I get up and make us eggs and coffee. We catch the shuttle and spend hours riding lifts and making S turns down the blue runs. The sun comes out for 20 minutes and then snow flurries begin. We stop for lunch. Then back to it.
After a few hours we catch the shuttle back to condo. Shins, knees and everything aching we hop into hot showers and find a local dining spot, then back to the house for a game of Apples to Apples and binging “Alone” on Netflix.
It’s been awesome. And it is day 4 and the kids are off to catch the early shuttle and guess who is writing a blog on the couch with her second cup of coffee? That would be me!
During grief, taking time to be gentle with yourself is often one of the harder things to learn. Knowing there is so much that needs to be done is overwhelming. Days come and you can’t do a thing. I resorted to making limited lists: 3 things to accomplish each day. Shower, walk dog and mail that bill could often be enough for one day.
Teachers who have been so inundated with new technologies and challenges this year face the first day of “vacation” this morning. Instead of feeling pressure to finally get the house in order or make quality time memories with your own young children at home, take this precious moment to just do nothing.
Feeling overwhelmed or guilty isn’t a helpful emotion. Understand that some days it’s time to recharge your batteries.
It’s like how the flight attendant tells us be sure to put on your own oxygen mask before trying to help others. You won’t be good to anyone if you are unconscious.
My mom was good at this. She knew when she needed a break, and as she got older learned to say no and take time to recharge. When she was with us she was 100% present and engaged. That is a good thing to be!
I must admit I still have a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out). If there is some fun adventure or gathering I have an opportunity to participate in, I don’t want to miss out.
In many ways this helped me move forward after the death of my husband. I was invited to visit friends, I did. I was invited to learn how to play Bridge, I did. I signed up for yoga classes and Meet ups and even on line dating. I was not going to miss out on anything!
But today I think I’ll skip the morning of skiing and take some alone time to reflect, rest and recharge. It actually feels amazing to be quiet this morning with no agenda. I guess that is what a vacation can be as well.
Time to get back to doing nothing. Have a great weekend friends.
Should you get a puppy after the death of a spouse? Living alone can be hard. Pets make great therapists and can help alleviate widow anxiety and loneliness. Read to learn what to consider in choosing your pet.
Not a decision to enter into lightly but definitely something to consider when living alone is new and challenging.
The common rule you hear after your spouse dies is to wait at least one year before making any major decisions.
Why would you even want a dog? Most likely because you are lonely and the dog will be a loyal companion to fill the emptiness.
If you have had a dog before you will know at least what you are getting yourself into. But if you have not had a dog before here are some things to consider.
Puppy or Dog?
Puppies are a lot more work than a dog. I have 2 friends who are now fostering dogs in their homes that have been saved from “kill shelters”. These dogs are cared for and have had a chance to adjust to a family. Many are already house trained and just looking for a forever home. Knowing that you are not supporting puppy mills and abuse of breeds by purchasing a dog at a boutique pet store can also help you feel good about yourself, and you will probably need some help in that category after your loving spouse is no longer around to tell you how awesome you are.
What I hear a lot from people who rescue dogs is that the dog really rescued the people.
Puppies however are so adorable.
If you can handle training your puppy to go do his business outside, if you can wake up early and commit to a walking schedule and if you will not be out of the house all day then maybe a puppy is the right choice for you. You will need a project and raising a puppy is one of the most rewarding projects out there.
I grew up with a dog and in my adult life, Mike and I had 3 dogs as pets. Our dogs were members of our family and the last one Lucky, a pure bred border collie, we raised as a puppy when my youngest son was 5 years old. She was our family member and loved so much for over 12 years and it was heartbreaking when she died. To read more the loss of a pet my dog Lucky, click here.
Mike and I decided that we would not get another dog. We have an older cat and we weren’t sure how much traveling was going to be in our future or if we would even move or retire so we decided to pass on that multi-year commitment.
However, when Mike died only 15 months after Lucky had died the idea of having a puppy to console me was brought to my attention. A friend started to send photos of puppies to me and I visited a couple of shelters. I was not thinking straight but the thought of a puppy did make me smile.
Three weeks after Mike died, on my oldest son’s birthday, my son and I found ourselves playing with the cutest little 10 pound, 7 month old pup with an amazing personality. In fact, at first I thought the cuddly white round ball of fur sitting on my lap was perfect, but my son said, “mom, you could just get a stuffed animal if you like that one”. So the playful one got a leash and some toys and then took a nap on the car ride home. We took the little scruffy Yorkie mix home and he was welcomed by our friends and neighbors. He was a bit excited to meet us too.
I experienced what is called complicated grief. My husband’s death was sudden and tragic and I had a difficult time sleeping. All I could think about was the night he died. I could not turn my brain off and think of anything else. I needed to take a leave of absence from work and began therapy for PTSD.
Having Harry my new puppy gave me a reason to wake up every day. In fact, he also gave me a reason to smile and laugh. Harry barks to go out for walks two times each day but he does not like to succumb to being put on a leash. He will run away like a crazy crook and scamper circles around the room so that I can’t catch him. I’ve tried faking him out and pretending to leave but he’s too smart. Usually for a treat, he will come over and let him attach the leash.
He loves going for a walk really. Once we are walking, he likes to stop and smell, just about everything. I do not get much exercise walking Harry but since I live near the beach it gives me an opportunity to take a walk on the beach each morning and think about what I am grateful for. I always start by saying I am grateful for my puppy.
Since Harry is a little dog I find he is easier to cuddle with. He likes sitting in an empty chair at the table and watching us eat. I try very hard to be sure he does not get any scraps from the table, but he has watched and is learning to play Bridge when my friends come over to play cards.
My king size bed is great and I do love to stretch out in it, however, Harry has another idea. He likes to curl up in the bend of my knees which makes it a bit hard to turn over at times. It is nice to have a warm body to snuggle with on cold nights and even to cuddle with during an afternoon nap which I love. When I am feeling sad, he seems to understand and is quick to sit on my lap and give me a kiss. When I am happy, he is happy too.
I am no expert but I think that you need to consider some things when getting a pet:
Do you have time to spend with this animal? If you will not be around a lot, it is not really fair to bring in an animal to sit around all day waiting for you. How many hours are you away from home? Can you stop by during the day or arrange for someone else to? Do you like to travel, and will there be a place for your pet to go when you go away?
That brings me to another thought. I wanted to travel. After Mike died, I thought maybe now I would do more traveling somehow and then I got a dog. Not the smartest idea really. I did take Harry on one trip upstate New York in the car. Read to find out more about our trip to scenic Ithaca, New York. He did pretty well.
But I really have to give all the credit to my neighbor and her family who adopted little Harry into their family. They may not have had a choice since he and their large black Labrador Retriever fell head over heels for each other early on. Since the first month Harry came home, he became best buddies with our neighbor’s dog. They have been together on a few occasions to the upstate New York ski house and are always happy to see each other during the week. Having friends with dogs or friends who will watch your lovable little 11-pound puppy when you go away is a really huge thing to think about when you want to get a dog and do a bit of traveling.
Yes, you will have to do something. I was so lethargic at times, but you do have to get up and take the dog out for a walk. I have a yard, but dogs need more stimulation. They will be happier and sleep better if they get out and walk. Maybe playing fetch or tug of war with your pet will be fun too. Getting them food, taking them for walks, making appointments at the vet and playing with your pet will take some energy. Get ready for that.
A basic need we all have and something that your dog will give you is unconditional love. Even when you are not your best, your dog is nonjudgemental. Your dog just wants you and all the attention you can give him or her. The more you give, remarkably the more you will get and maybe that is what you really need right now. My experience in getting a young dog just after my husband died is very positive. I have had some crazy dog stories in my life and I know that not all pets work out for all families but if you think about it carefully and pick the right pet, or let him pick you, I know it will work out best for everyone. Maybe even the skeptical cat.
Did you get a pet after the loss of a loved one? Would you recommend it? Dog or cat?
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.
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?