When is it Right for a Widow to Move?

Should a widow move after the death of a spouse? Consider financial, emotional and social needs of each person before making major life changing decisions.

This question has been burning in my mind since August of 2015 when Mike died. Do I stay in our home, or do I move? The answer is different for all widows and much needs to be considered. Here is what I know.

While widows and widowers all have one thing in common, everyone has a different story and a different situation. The one bit of advice that I found helpful after the sudden tragic loss of my husband was to wait a year before making any major life changes.

FINANCIAL

For most widows, finances will play a pivotal part in any decisions made after the death of a spouse. If a large life insurance policy is available, it may take a few months to have access to the money. Using that money to pay off a home mortgage and other medical or credit card debts will be most helpful.

If the spouse was over 60, social security monthly payments may be available which will help secure money to be paid for monthly bills.

In my situation, we were both only 51 years old, so I was facing a loss of half our monthly take home pay. We still had a very large mortgage, a son just starting college and plenty of monthly bills as well. I used the small life insurance policy to help make the monthly payments, anticipating that it would only be enough for a year or two.

EMOTIONAL

Each widow feels differently about her home after the death of a spouse. Some refuse to sleep in the same bedroom and may leave his things exactly as they were. Others clear it all out soon and try their best to put it in the past and not dwell on the loss.

Memories of the home and raising a family together can be comforting or painful. The photos and reminders are always there.

Continue reading “When is it Right for a Widow to Move?”

Good Times at Yoga Teacher Training 200

Yoga teacher training 200 for an over 50 group proves to be more challenging and rewarding than expected

It’s recommended that we never stop learning and we can keep our brains from turning to mush after retirement by learning something new. I’ve tried courses available online including the history of Egypt and some writing courses. I attempted knitting but did not get very far on that venture. Pete is teaching me how to golf and I do enjoy getting outside on the course in our golf cart, but I needed something more.

One day an advertisement showed up on my Facebook feed, which I admittedly spend too much time scrolling through, for an over 50 yoga teacher training program. The yoga institute is located six miles from my house in Florida so that was a positive. I never imagined myself as a yoga instructor. Aren’t those people super flexible and skinny? Don’t they emit vibes of pure Zen and light to all who meet them? And they speak a foreign language with all those Sanskrit terms? Who do I think I am – ha ha!

So I took out my credit card and signed up for the program. All I knew was that the class would meet on Tuesdays for about six months and I would take a weekend class in my choice of aerial or chair yoga certification. I’d probably opt for chair I figured as I hit enter on the application.

I arrived for our first class in October well-rested and excited to learn. Entering the grounds of Heartwood Yoga Institute and Retreat Center is like driving into a hidden rain forest filled with oversized palm trees and Live Oak trees covered in Spanish moss. The buildings blend in nicely with the landscape. I parked and immediately was welcomed by two friendly border collies hoping I’d toss them a ball, which I did. I followed another older woman as we walked towards an elevated porch-type room with all windows looking onto the grounds.

Chakra garden at Heartwood

Denver taught us our first ninety-minute gentle yoga class and I felt pleased that I could do all the movements, especially that last resting pose called Shavasana. Her mother and owner Ginny Shaddock met us after class and gave us a tour of the property which includes a labyrinth, a chakra garden, an indoor yoga studio, a firepit area, meditation pavilion, a library, a small gift store, and enough rooms to house people who sign up for intensive classes and live on the property for up to three weeks.

The 14 classmates and I ate lunch together at picnic tables under the shade trees and then started the lectures and learning that would take up much of our time during the program.

Posture Focus:

We diligently opened our binders and took notes as the instructors broke each pose that many of us knew from classes, into bits and pieces. The most difficult for me then and now is remembering the Sanskrit term for each pose: so much easier to say “extended hand to big toe pose” than “Utthita Hasta Padangustasana” – in my opinion anyway.

We learned what parts to straighten and which parts to press into. Keeping the spine long and shoulders back, lifting the belly and dropping your tailbone are just some phrases we could use to help people do the pose correctly, if we did teach. Learning how to provide modifications for each pose or variations were given as well as how to use props. We asked to know the benefits for each pose which are plentiful and may eventually sink in as we teach. After the lecture, the opportunity to teach each pose to a small group of classmates was interesting and we began to bond as a group in our attempts at sounding like a yoga teacher.

Continue reading “Good Times at Yoga Teacher Training 200”

Amazing Elephant Encounter in Florida

Myakka Elephant Ranch in Florida – an exciting experience to get close to elephants

Oh if only we could travel to Africa or Thailand to see happy elephants! When will COVID be over!!

With the elimination of circuses and pressure from agencies like PETA in the United States, exotic animals have had to find new homes and Florida is the place to retire for humans and animals alike.

The Myakka Elephant Ranch opened a little over two years ago as a conservation and educational program. The ranch is a nonprofit organization supporting global elephant conservation efforts. In November 2020 the owners began inviting the public in for elephant education encounters to help support the animals and work in connection with the International Elephant Foundation. Some of the money goes towards the foundation to support the preservation of wild elephants by building look out towers and anti poaching stations in Africa.

My sister and I excitedly drove the 20 minutes from our Bradenton, Florida neighborhood to the ranch. We signed up for the hands on spa encounter to spend the afternoon bathing the elephants. After the bathing portion, the 3 elephants, Lou, Carol, and Patty came out for snacks. During the one hour educational session, people ask questions and are invited to interact and pose for photos with the elephants and then we move outside to watch them in their own play yard.

Just like people, elephants each have a unique personality. In the wild, groups of elephants are led by a matriarch. Lou, the African elephant, has taken on that serious and dominant role in this trio. She was brought to the US in 1986 at 1 1/2 years old. She is now eight years retired from her work in the entertainment business. Her jobs included birthday parties, county fairs, circuses and fundraisers. She is used to being around people, so her daily baths which are important to moisturize her dry skin, give her additional enrichment. Her big trick is to reach out and use her trunk and the “two fingers” at the end of the trunk to accept a banana and apple from someone in the audience. Lou purrs when she gets her bath and happily poses with tourists and people willing to pay to bathe her.

Carol and Patty are both 49 years old and came to the United States from Thailand when they were two. They are both Asian elephants so have smaller ears, the shape of India instead of Africa. Carol was a movie star in her younger years and had a role as a youngster on Smokey and the Bandit 2. Patty doesn’t really care to get up and personal with humans but is devoted to her trainer of nearly 40 years. The elephant’s skin is very sensitive and they can feel a mosquito bite. Their hearing and smell are better than a hound dog. The Asian elephants do have tusks, but they are small and covered. In the hot weather, they stay cool with water and mud.

Two months ago, Myakka Elephant Ranch was able to install a new waterhole for the three elephants. It’s been a bit cold this past week in Florida, so they did not go swimming but instead enjoyed the electric heaters in their stalls.

Young Lou who is the son in the family visited Africa to learn more about elephant conservation efforts with the International Elephant Foundation. They work to support actions to eliminate the illegal killing and poaching of elephants. I was surprised to learn that only 300,000 African elephants now live in Africa, down from 10 million in 1930. 100 are killed every day. Additionally, only 40,000 Asian elephants still roam freely. Due to a loss of habitat, last year elephants killed many natives in Sri Lanka, and the natives killed elephants as well.

Raising awareness of the importance of conserving elephants and their habitats is what Lou and his dad Lou hope to achieve here at Myakka Elephant Ranch. Expanding their property to include more elephants and possibly breeding in the future is something they would be interested in. The White Oaks Conservation center in Northern Florida has taken a herd of 12 elephants with plans for an additional 20 retired Ringling Bros. elephants to it’s 17,000 acre property. Plans for breeding there are hopeful as is a trip for me to visit!

Lou, Carol, and Patty are bathed daily and minerals are painted on their toe nails. We took turns using a hose to wet down the pachyderms and then scrub their bodies with brushes. After the bath, and the hay, we had a hands on opportunity to pet their trunks and take photos. Then, the bathed ladies had a chance to ignore us and head out to the paddock to roll or toss dirt all over their bodies. They will be ready for tomorrow’s spa treatment.

Entrance
Lou getting a banana from visitor
Carol
Patty
Lou giving educational program
Scrubbing Lou with special soap
Rinsing soap off Carol the elephant
Lou outside near new watering hole

Back in the Classroom

“Why are you tired?” he asked.

My new 6 year old friend was curious. We met 20 minutes earlier when my former colleague introduced me as the substitute teacher who used to work at this school.

He tapped my arm again as I attempted to engage the 3 children on the remote computer screen with the yellow worksheet I had passed out to the kids in the classroom.

Being back in the classroom was fun and even a bit challenging with all the masks. The kids fidgeted as they wrote their names on the paper behind plexiglass desk shields and students at home looked eager to learn in the zoom-like frames on the laptop in front of the class.

“I’m not tired,” I absently smiled at his sweet face. I didn’t think I looked tired.

Then it occurred to me. His teacher had introduced me and he wanted to know why I RE-tired! At that moment I couldn’t think of an answer.

What do you do in the First Year of Retirement?

Retirement Year One – 5 Takeaways

5 Takeaways from year one of retirement like you are not your job. Life after work does exist.

You are not your job

One of the hardest things to decide was when to leave my job as a kindergarten teacher. Most of the time I loved my job. Once I was in the classroom, it was a wonderful little universe that I had created just the way I wanted. The children were happy and learning. I was having fun and being creative. I had an important purpose teaching young people to love reading and school.

What would I be if not a teacher? Isn’t that my identity and fulfillment in life? Due to COVID and changes in my life, I made the decision to exit the work force earlier than originally planned. Once vaccinated, I came back to my school as a substitute and kindergarten screener which gave me some closure from my 21 years in that school district, but I still wondered, what do I do next.

After hours and hours of scanning want ads for teachers, both in New York and Florida, I discovered, I don’t need to be a school teacher right now. I was curious as to what was out there, but it didn’t take too long for me to engage in new activities and pastimes which are rewarding and have nothing to do with my former job! It takes a bit of adjustment for some of us, but I’m happy to declare, I am not my job. When to Retire?

It’s OK to rest

We have pride in this society in being busy. As a working mom, I spent the past 25 years very busy. My job could be demanding at times and there was no “down time” in the kindergarten classroom. Home life was busy with after school sports, lessons and scouts to attend, not to mention cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, shoveling snow etc. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

Suddenly with retirement comes some space in your daily schedule. What to do? Maybe nothing. Discovering that just being is enough. This can be a huge adjustment. What a luxury to have time to rest. You will eventually fill that time and find balance, but it is certainly OK to take some time to take a break.

Relocation is an adventure

This is a scary thought for people who do not like change. We have comfort in the known even if it is not perfect, we at least know what it is. Originally I thought I would hold onto my home in New York and do the snowbird thing where we live in Florida for 6 months, and then NY for the other six. But one day it occurred to me, I was ready for a change. I was starting a new chapter and it was OK to close the page on the last chapter. It sure was a good one in many ways, but there is more to this story.

Continue reading “Retirement Year One – 5 Takeaways”

Settling into the Florida house at Christmas

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.

Continue reading “Settling into the Florida house at Christmas”

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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The New Home

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.

Continue reading “The New Home”

Can a Retired Teacher teach again?

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?

Private Schools

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.

Tutoring

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.

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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?

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