How to NOT be a Stay at Home, Lonely Widow.

MOVING FORWARD by dating or at least leaving the house after the death of a spouse. Lonely widows and widowers are looking for friends. How to cope with loneliness as a widow, deal with complicated grief and maybe even start dating.

Friends are all getting together on Friday night.  You are recently a widow and not part of a couple anymore.  You were invited so the question is, should you stay or should you go now?

If you stay home, it is safe.  You can be sad and watch a T.V. show.  Start a new binge watching marathon.  You could eat and drink and stay in your pajamas and cuddle a pet or a pillow.  You could think about your dead spouse and do some crying.  Or maybe some screaming.

But what if you go…

I know a lot of newly widowed people feel guilty going out and enjoying themselves.  They think they should continue to be mourning all the time.  Maybe they are worried about what others will think of them? What if it looks like you are happy and having fun. People will get the wrong idea.

Continue reading “How to NOT be a Stay at Home, Lonely Widow.”

Working with the Florida beach horses

I roll over and see the light starting to sneak through the blinds. I’m about to turn over when I remember: I have work today.

Whoopee!

I smile as I get up and grab my phone and glasses. The coffee pot is ready, so I push the button and check the weather for today. Sunny and hot in Florida. No thunderstorms until late in the afternoon. Great. The coffee pot dings and I can sip hot, caffeine into my veins.

I gather some lunch snacks and refill two water bottles. I dress in my black tank swimsuit, black biking shorts and a pink tank top. I’ll ask them for a company tank top today.

I pack a change of clothes and two towels. One for ‘work’ and one for after if I decide to swim at the beach, 5 miles further down the causeway.

Pete makes me a delicious protein-rich breakfast and I take Harry out for his morning walk. I kiss all goodbye and put on my pink baseball cap. I’m heading out to work.

Florida Beach Horses was looking for guides after many of their workers went back to college after the summer. They invited me in to train. I did two rides with the supervision of an experienced guide and was asked to come back. I guess I passed the interview process!

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What do you do in the First Year of Retirement?

“Anything I want”

Haha. That’s the smartass answer, but what do you really do in retirement?

For someone like me who worked steadily out of the home 40 hours per week, all this time at home is a significant change. Back when I had a busy family and house to run, I felt like I was never home. In retirement, you spend more time around the house. This is only my first year, so I am not an expert on anything. This is just what I’ve done so far.

It has been a peculiar time for everyone. We had the pandemic that never left. That caused many activities to cut back, especially international travel, which I have enjoyed over the past few years, and I hope to continue soon. I managed a few getaways this past year, but like most people, I haven’t left the country.

I moved. That was a full-time job. Going through all that stuff. Selling big items. Giving things away. I thought I really purged until I moved to Florida. Now, unpacking and settling into a new home is a full-time job. We both brought too much stuff, and we need to set up our home with new furniture. It takes a little while, and it is coming together nicely. Not sure when the dining table will arrive, but we saved a folding table and chairs for now.

With time on my hands in a new town, I have been actively seeking ways to keep busy.

I must admit, I enjoy sleeping in these days. Pete and I got up early for work for years, so the luxury of getting up when you feel like it has been nice. After my second cup of coffee and breakfast, I take Harry for his morning walk around the pond behind our house. We pass a dog park, so we will stop for a quick visit if someone is there. Harry smells his new friend, then basically ignores the other dog. I am starting to see repeat dog owners and I try to remember the names.

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9 Happy Surprises in Moving to Florida!

9 Happy Surprises in Moving to Florida

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

Picture on my license plate

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.

Continue reading “9 Happy Surprises in Moving to Florida!”

The Unexpected Joy of Doing Nothing

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!

Some days we just need to catch our breath.

According to research there are limits to how much stress the body can tolerate before it breaks down and suffers injury. Doing too much unfamiliar exercise too quickly can result in muscle damage. Recovery allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. https://www.verywellfit.com/the-benefits-of-rest-and-recovery-after-exercise-3120575

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.

Do Widows Wear Wedding Rings?

Do widows wear wedding rings? After the death of your spouse when do you clean out his stuff from the house, and when do you take off your wedding ring?

My left ring finger looks so bare as I think about what to write on my blog today.  I have put on a few pounds since my wedding day and my ring was literally stuck on my finger.  It was a beautiful ring that my grandmother had worn her whole life and she left to me in her handwritten scrawl on the side of her neatly typed Last Will and Testament.

When Mike and I decided to get married, after living together in California for a year, I went home to New York, took the ring out of the safety deposit box and declared ourselves engaged. We had of course discussed this before I went home to visit. During the week in New York we quickly booked a venue, ordered a wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses, selected flowers and invitations, and introduced our parents at a dinner. We were excited to get married in a church ceremony with our families and friends.

Living in San Diego, I had brought my grandmother’s delicate and large diamond ring to a local jeweler.  It was uncanny how he admired the ring and said it was designed in New York City around 1920 based on the design of the diamond called the  “Old Mine Cut”.  This popular cut is different from today’s diamonds in that instead of being laser cut, it was hand produced.  Every single diamond is unique.

After appraising the ring, we had the jeweler design a ring to match as a wedding band. This was in the late 1980’s when everyone was changing old rings into new designs. I admired those flashy gold rings with the diamonds mounted high above the surface; easy to use as a weapon in a dark, mall parking garage. Resisting the urge and with a lack of additional funds, I kept the ring as is.  I am so glad that I did not change the setting because it is so beautiful the way it is.

But, as with many of the things from my marriage, I have acknowledged that some things are no longer true.  Like on Facebook it says I am married.  I feel like I am married, but I guess I should really change that to widowed.  That just seems too real. I’m not ready to let the world know I am a widow.

Most of Mike’s clothes are now gone from his closet, although I still have a few items that I think my sons may want or I just keep them around because they remind me of him and maybe a special time.  I have expanded my summer wardrobe into his closet.  Recently I was going through some piles of papers and came across his expired license and photo I.D. card from a hotel we worked in together in California.  I didn’t get rid of them, yet.  Not sure why – I just didn’t want to. To read about more about my attempts at clearing out the house click here: Finding Joy in the act of getting rid of clutter.

Some widows are ready when their husband passes, and clean out the houses right away.  That is not the way I dealt with it.  Since his death was unexpected, I was in the denial zone for a while, I left everything as is.  In fact, I often thought and dreamed that this was all a big mistake and he would be back. He died in August and left his flip-flops outside the side door.  I left them outside all winter.

Slowly, I have made progress in moving on or moving forward and parting with some things that I really don’t need.  His toiletries and medicines took a while, but I realized that I didn’t want or need them. One morning, when I was tired of the clutter, I cleared out the bathroom shelves.  He didn’t collect much stuff, but I did get rid of some of his books and papers.  I still have his framed diplomas.  I guess as long as I am living in this house, I don’t have to make decisions about all that stuff yet.

Back to the ring.  It is so pretty.  I had to literally cut it off my finger.  It was broken in 2 parts. The original ring was very thin, and the wedding band torn. The two soldered rings were so tight I could no longer remove the set. My finger was beginning to turn blue. Once again, I considered changing the setting and making it a “cocktail” ring. But, since it is about 100 years old and a family heirloom, I will have it resized and wear my grandmother’s diamond ring on my right hand. It will always remind me that I was married to Mike.

But the wedding band that we had made is special to me. It represents our marriage. Maybe I will use my wedding band and his wedding band and design a piece of jewelry to keep him close to my heart as well. Turning the pieces into a heart or a cross would be lovely.

I asked a jeweler if he could turn the rings into a new piece. He offered to melt them down and purchase the gold, but that just didn’t seem right. I have seem some women design a necklace using the two rings. The design is generally still circular.

Do widows wear wedding rings? Yes they do.  Some will never take them off.  Some will move them to the right hand.  Some will even wear their husband’s band on a thumb or middle finger or on a chain. It is definitely a personal decision and not one any one else should make for you.  When or if you are ready, you will take it off.  Maybe you’ll sometimes put it back on again.

I have seen many examples of beautiful new pieces of jewelry that widows have made.  A necklace with both rings on a chain.  Or both rings melted down into a heart shape with a diamond.  Maybe turn them into a widow ring, which doesn’t sound that great, but basically it is your design and may include parts of both your rings.

It took me almost 3 years to move my ring to the other hand.  I may never have moved it off my left hand, but the fact that it was too small and broken helped me make the decision.

I also made the decision to move my ring to the other side because I am ready to meet someone else and be part of a committed relationship. I started dating after three years, and I did not remove my ring. Some men might be offended or put off by this. I left it on because it is pretty and it represents who I am. Telling a date that I had been married and that my husband died was sure to come up in conversation. It’s different from wearing a wedding ring and currently still being married.

 I loved being married.  Our relationship of course had its ups and downs but overall we had trust and love and continued to enjoy each other.  The shock of him being gone is going away and I am learning to live in the life I have right now.  If the life I have brings me a new love, then I will honor that.

PIN IT HERE

do widows wear wedding rings?
do widows wear wedding rings

 

Unexpected Grief Triggers bring back PTSD 5 years later

Unexpected grief triggers with police brutality and unrest bring back PTSD in 2020, 5 years after my husband’s murder.

On Reuters news this morning and there was no mention of Coronavirus. It hasn’t disappeared but more pressing news across the country is broadcasting this morning.

Cities across the United States have erupted into violent scenes of protests. While some protesters peacefully object to police brutality, others have turned into rioters. Angry crowds looting stores, setting fires to police cars and barricading streets were filmed last night.

This all began last week with the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota, who spent his last moments pinned under a police officer’s knee, begging for his life.

The officers filed a report regarding Floyd’s death as a “medical incident during a police interaction”. Reports from the ambulance that transported Floyd to a nearby hospital stated the male was pulseless and unresponsive .

What infuriates me is that if bystanders had not videotaped the scene, these bad cops would get away with it. The vague ‘medical incident’ would be enough to avoid blame to any of the cops involved.

The former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who refused to move his knee from Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes despite cries “I cannot breath” has a history on the police force. He shot one suspect, was involved in the fatal shooting of another, and received at least 17 complaints during his nearly two decades with the department, according to police records and archived news reports.

Why was this man still allowed to serve as a police officer?

What good old boys club did he belong to?

The news has set off triggers for me and emotions I haven’t let surface for a while. The night my husband died I was initially told he had had a heart attack. Then more specifically that he died of cardiac arrest.

I saw his body at the hospital and was surprised to see cuts and bruises covering his barefoot, bathing suit and t-shirt attire. I had been sitting with him earlier that evening on the beach with friends and he had been fine.

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What will the future of school look like?

Moving Forward, What will the future of school in the USA look like according to the CDC guidelines during the COVID 19 pandemic? Do we send our children into the buildings?

Ever since the CDC came out with new guidelines fo reopening schools this week, we teachers, especially of the youngest children, have been freaking out! How can we move forward with these new regulations?

The first one states that children over age 2 will wear masks.  Really? For 6 hours each day?  I teach 4 and 5 year olds.  It makes me cringe not to be able to see them smile.  And they can’t stop playing with their pants and or keep their shirts out of their mouth or fingers out of their noses.  How long do you think these masks will last?  I suppose there will be back ups in their individual supply boxes, right?

No sharing of any items… Isn’t that the point of kindergarten?  To learn how to share.  I guess not anymore.  So will play time be rotated:  one kid at a time into the kitchen or block area wearing gloves and a mask, immediately to be sprayed with Lysol and then another child gets to play? That seems a bit lame.

Recent research states there is a crisis in Kindergarten.  That we were pushing academics too hard and that children needed more time to learn skills through play. The Alliance for Childhood wrote recommendations about the importance of play in kindergarten Crisis in Kindergarten: Why Children need to play in School After all the research I’ve read on the benefits of play in school I am sad to see that sharing toys and games will be eliminated.

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What can we can control during COVID?

Week 9 sheltering at home – life as we know it has changed and much is out of our control. School life is different and changes are inevitable. What can we control?

“I haven’t been practicing social distancing “ said one of my 5 year old students this week.

I can’t control what she does at home, or how her parents are dealing with this situation.

How do I respond to this one. I’m her kindergarten teacher, not her parent.

I changed the subject which I have much experience in and the little Zoom type meeting went on as expected. Girls shared their unicorn stuffed animals. Boys showed cars or lego constructions. I encouraged everyone to keep reading on the computer reading program that I can monitor on line.

And that is how work goes these days.

There’s plenty of behind the scenes issues being discussed in on line meetings with colleagues. End of the year procedures including how to send home the children’s belongings has been established this week.

Teachers will go into school, equipped with their own masks and gloves, sort all the belongings, including February art work still hanging on the walls, into individual bags. In a few weeks, parents will drive by at assigned times to collect the bag of supplies and student work. The End

Well, not really.

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Quarantine Activity: Time for Family Movies

7 weeks sheltering at home due to coronavirus journal. Watching old family movies, sharing meals and taking the pause.

I  can not believe we have been sheltering in place due to the Coronavirus for 7 weeks now, but it is true.  Schools in New York have been closed 7 weeks and we have adjusted to learning on line, teaching on line, working from home, shopping only for food and necessities while wearing masks, keeping a social distance, watching the news and waiting. Waiting for the numbers of new cases to go down. Waiting for the numbers of deaths to go down. Waiting for the vaccine.

As we tire from watching our local and federal politicians, we have grown to respect recommendations from health advisors about how to start up the economy again.  Some states in the south or in sparsely populated northern states are planning to reopen businesses soon.  New rules about low numbers of patrons in restaurants or stores is suggested. Hair and nail salons may open soon. New York still has high numbers so while a plan is being made, it will not be ready to go for some time.

I believe most states have now cancelled school for the remainder of this year but we have not heard about the fate of New York schools yet.  It seems likely the distance learning model will remain in place for some time.

Life at home seems to have taken on a rhythm this week.  We still have 5 adults and 2 dogs living here.  We are enjoying our nightly dinners at the dining table and then play a game after the meal together which I really appreciate.  The rest of the day we all pass each other and head in and out of the kitchen making breakfast and lunch in accordance with our wake up time that day.

Continue reading “Quarantine Activity: Time for Family Movies”

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