Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Observations of Living in a 55+ Community

Do you ever look back at a major life decision and wonder if you would have made the same decision if you had known then what you know now?

After 2 years of living in a 55+ community, I have made some interesting observations about this style of living and our decision to move here.

When this community was being built in 2007, it was a very popular option for interested seniors.  I understand from some original owners that there was a waiting list for units.  New owners initially fell between ages 55-65 ... younger seniors.  All moved in within a year or two of each other as the development was built.  All had similar motivations and were inspired to make this new style of living successful for themselves.  Newsletters, committees, social activities, and active board of directors (some report an over active board that ruled with an iron fist) were the norm.  Naturally there was an excitement in wanting to make your "new home" perfect.

That is what I briefly know about this communities early years!

I have impressions of how this community has changed over time and what it is now.

We moved into this condo when it was about 14 years old.  When we were searching for a condo we looked for specific things: an evaluator, less living space to manage, lower living costs, a reasonable condo fee, pet friendly, geographically close to our kids, and a property that was cared for and financially viable.  We weren't looking for some of the more typical considerations - amenities like organized social activities, business center services, or exercise equipment.  In fact, we were initially not even looking for a senior community and we were looking for places without those typical amenities.  The fact there is no newsletter or committees or social calendar is just fine with us.
we did not want to pay for things we would not use - those amenities comes with a high dollar price tag in the form of elevated condo fees.  Nothing is free.

Some of you were readers of my blog as I struggled with the decision to move and to find the right place.  You might remember just how emotionally draining and exhausting the whole process was.  I have some observations on the pluses and minuses of the decision I made two years ago.  
  • Plus: Ease of interior maintenance - since I am the one doing all the maintaining - this is important.  
  • Minus: Vanilla is not my favorite flavor - I like variety.  I miss the mix of residents that we used to have - families with young children, singles, Halloween Trick or Treaters.
  • Plus:  Definitly cheaper - a big plus.  We have an adequate retirement, but time and inflation can eat into that nest egg.  Expenses are stable here with no large jumps in the condo fee.  No external issues to manage like when the roof leaks or the snow falls.  
  • Minus:  Less control over making sure the exterior is repaired and maintained.  Property ages.  Halls need painting, hall carpet needs replacing ... now at 16 years old, this property needs on going maintenance. 
  • Plus:  Quieter - neighbors are more considerate of how they live their lives and how it might impact others than in more vibrant younger communities. 
  • Minus:  Moving after 55 - at least for me - means leaving behind a place called home of 30 years.  That same feeling will be unlikely here. 
  • Plus:  More time for me and my personal pursuits.  
  • Minus:  Some folks who live here are aged past the point of being independent safely.  That is an issue everywhere, but when you live in a senior community, it is more evident.
  • Plus:  You can build new friendships among your peers when you are surrounded by your peers!  I have been very lucky to make several friends in this community.  
Nothing is perfect - every style of living after a certain age carries some concerns.  We certainly could not have anticipated some of my minuses and pluses when making this decision two years ago.  But despite the minuses - I am still content with our choice.

It is nice to know that!

Glad that looking back didn't result in regrets!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Making Plans

Making Plans

That's where November always leads me.

Now, make no mistake.  These are not resolutions!  I have taken the stand to 'resolve' nothing!!  Especially at the beginning of a new year.

Resolutions typically involve something personal like losing weight, or exercising more, or sticking to a budget.  They seem to focus on improving something about yourself.  I have personal goals like this but I have moved away from hanging the start date for these goals to the first of the year.  It never works for me.

But November ... that's different! I feel the pull to make plans for the next year - sort of like a to-do list for the coming year.  I guess it is a lot like what gardeners do in February, as they scour the seed catalogs ear marking pages, making lists and placing orders for their spring-summer gardens.

Its a plan, not a resolution.

Over the last few weeks I have been thinking and planning and organizing to make two significant projects (from different sides of my life) happen in 2019.

Project from the fun side of my life:

A Knitting Plan
  • Knitting Projects in 2019:  I am building a list, and creating the yarn and pattern kits in preparation for next year's knitting. Doing this will mean I won't be swallowed up by only kids projects (as much fun as they are) - finally getting to a sweater for myself two years in the waiting.  
  • Slim down the patterns:  How many patterns does one person need!  To find any inspiration in that pile of paper is impossible. Time to recycle most of it.
  • My yarn:  It owns me ... I don't own it.  Recently I tried to find some yarn in that avalanche of skeins and it was so frustrating.  Far from fun.  I have to find a way to own that yarn again - and not the other way around. 

Project from the business side of my life:

A Hold-It-All-Together Plan

As with most couples, my husband and I shared the responsibilities of our married life for almost 50 years.  As my husband's disability has grown, the sharing has shrunk.  Slowly his to-dos got added to my to-dos ...  and along the way new to-dos out of necessity also got added to my list.

At the same time, however, my aging brain is saying -

"Lady, you are getting older - 
and so is your brain -
 AND you have already filled me up -
 AND there is no room to add more stuff -
I am retired, you know!!

So what to do, what to do.

Enter my invention -

My Book of Many Things!

Ok, this is not exactly my invention.  It is a carved out piece of The Bullet Journal method.  Here is a second link on Bullet Journaling.  What I think I need to do is extract just the pieces of The Bullet Journal system I need to help track all the details that I don't want to store in my brain.  These details are not to-dos.  They are more the reference materials of my life.

Lost?  Let me explain further.

See, my life isn't as crazy daily or even weekly as it used to be - so the calendar portion of the bullet journal system is not very useful to me.  That calendar feature was built on the idea of  'to-dos' lists that could be juggled and adjusted daily within your bullet journal.  That calendar system is great, by the way, and I used it when we moved.  It saved my butt as I independently juggled downsizing, purchasing property, moving, and selling property - all in a 6 month period!  I kiss the ground the inventor walks on because kept me from totally de-compensating during a stressful life event.  But now life is more peaceful and my to-dos don't consume me like they used to.  I keep a wall calendar for appointments, and daily 3x5 cards with to-dos.  That simple process works for me now.

But there is a sea of information that needs a place to reside outside my brain.  It is sort of the reference material of my life - the big picture stuff - the future road maps - beyond just cleaning the toilet today or dusting the bricka-bracka tomorrow!  Archiving it in writing into a single place is the plan I am working on.

That single place is my Book of Many Things 'cause that is what it will hold.

So what kind of information am I talking about.  Here is my initial collection:
  • Knitting List for 2019
  • List of packing items when traveling or off for the weekend.  I hate building that list every time I pack a suitcase.
  • Budget Plans and schedules
  • Blog post ideas
  • Log ins and passwords
  • Knitting Group Rotation
  • Movies/Books Titles - what I have read or what I plan to read
  • Future purchases or wish lists
  • Birthdays/Anniversaries
  • Menu plans for big celebrations
  • Doctors and their demographics
Right now this stuff is scattered in a number of places.  There isn't a real logic to its location.  And sometimes they are housed in locations that made sense when I did it, but they no longer make sense - and I can't find it.

I am still sorting out if I want a bound book or if I want a 3 ring binder.  A bound book has more appeal to me.  My life has a lot of 3 ring binders in it and I don't think the ability to insert or replace pages is a big enough draw to pull me away from the idea of a bound book.  I like the permanency of a bound book.  And the Bullet Journal System is built on a bound book.

Obviously the Knitting and the Book of Many Things projects need more thought and planning.

I am in the planning part of this process now ... 
'cause it is November, 
and it is what I apparently do in November!!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Not a Minimalist

I am greatly inspired by the movement called Minimalism.  I have read books and followed blogs by folks who espouse minimalism ... those who describe what it looks like and what it doesn't look like ... those who have used broad brush stokes to explain it - like "Less is More" and those who nail down the concept to the point of how to organize your sock drawer.

Seriously, I love that minimalism defies definition.

Plug the word minimalism into any online search engine and a plethora of links and titles pop up.  So I won't bother to enumerate titles I have read and enjoyed.  If you link the word "frugal" to minimalism in your mind, I will say most definitely, it is not the same thing at all.

For me minimalism is simply reaching of "enough."  Enough for your needs - be they physical or emotional or mental.  Moving beyond "enough" or more than your needs is not a minimalist.

So why do I even mention this at all.

When I discovered the minimalist movement maybe 10 years ago, I strived for that.  Or I should say I strived for magazine equivalent of minimalism.   The magazine equivalent looks something like:
  • All surfaces clear of brick-a-bracka.
  • Drawers and closets with space to spare.
  • More visible floor space.
  • Less stuff on the walls.
  • No duplication of items.
  • No items stored for some distant point in time when I 'might' need them.
Initially it was an astounding goal to strive for in a household that was more than one person and was filled with the possessions of several family members - possessions built over their life times.  But no matter.  I strove for that.  And as the clutter began to clear - I could feel that sense of well being that has been described over and over again by others.

Then when the dust cleared after mom's death, and it was just my husband and I, I really stepped up the push to removed in some way all the stuff that was weighing me down.  Due to need, I even extended that to how much living space did we (a retired couple) really need to be happy and safe - ending in our move to condo living.

Broadly stated, over 10 years we probably reduced our environment baggage by 75%.  

But still ... I didn't fit that 'magazine image' of a minimalist.

And then I realized that maybe I was a minimalist after all.  I had reach my goal of "enough."

Then I walked into my yarn room.  Believe me when I say, I am far beyond 'enough' when it comes to my crafts.  And then I checked my pantry.  I am a food hoarder.  The pantry is always bulging and I can't seem to get that under control.

I am not a minimalist.  I am a person who continues to strive for 'enough' in all things and although that state of being doesn't have a label like "Minimalist" ... I am ok with that.

Or maybe I should just make up my own term.

I am an "Enough-ist." 

Hmm ... It doesn't roll of the tongue does it!?

I am open to suggestions!!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Lessons in Friendship and a Trip

In the last years of my mom's life I learned many end-of-life lessons.  As her body and mind failed her, she showed how hard aging can be, how the little steps in "letting go" of independence can drain your enjoyment of life, and how her love of family continued despite all the loss.

The lesson of friendship, however, I learned from someone else.

A true friendship doesn't fade away because our lives change, or we move away or we get old, or our brain dies slowly.  Recently I learned that even if we die - that link of lasting friendship and affection is not lost ... unless we intentionally let it go.  Mom's friend of 65 years had no intention of letting go of anything.  I learned something about friendship from her one weekend in October.

When my mom's friend called me and invited my sister and I to visit her (almost 4 years after mom's death), I was blown away by the invitation.  She lived far away and had limited mobility and mom's dementia removed mom mentally from her friends.  But mom's friend managed to keep connected with me over the course of mom's last months.  Since mom's death, that friendship connection remained strong within her friend - wanting to know about our growing family ... and mom's great grand babies!

We were thrilled to get the invitation.

Our visit would take us into Long Island, NY by train.  I love train travel.  My sister and I looked upon it as an adventure.  Thankfully my sister is a seasoned traveler so she took control of working out the details of travel.

The train turned out to be great fun.  Who knew they served food and drinks in a dining car!  We were several train cars away from the dining car, so we walked (read: staggered - train movements, you know) through another car I have never heard of - the Quiet Car!  Apparently in the Quiet Car - you must be quiet.  Ha!  A Quiet Car seemed like an odd thing to find in a bouncy noisy rocking mode of travel.  Each car has a toilet - thankfully.  The seats in the train provide a pull down tray and reclining options just like riding on a plane.  But the similarities between train and air travel stopped there.  Air travel requires so many security checks before you can even board the plane.  Train travel?  Not one security check.  Sort of like riding a bus - you have your ticket and you just get on - and don't tarry, 'cause that train is rolling out of the station with or without you.

The highlight of our trip was seeing Mom's friend again.  She had retired many years ago to a beautiful area of Long Island called Rocky Point.  At 93 years of age, she is still as sharp as ever.  Our conversations with her were interesting and animated.  She had her share of health issues that limited her mobility, but make no mistake ... she had her mind!

My sister and I prepared photo album of our grand babies as a gift for her.  We also included several pictures of mom during her last years just before the dementia totally took her from us.  She loved the book and we heard from her daughter that she shared it with others.

Riding home on the train after our visit left lots of time for thought and reflection.   I couldn't help but marvel at how rich my mom's friendship life was with this woman.  Mom's friend was always a fire ball of a personality.  My earliest memories of her (I was probably age 7), are of a woman who was strong of body and mind, energitic and very generous of herself.  My mom was always a calm accepting kind of a personality who understood more than she ever said.  Together they complimented each other so well.  But I was also sad because mom was not here now to enjoy the friendship they had cultivated over a lifetime.

We plan to do our share of staying connected with this wonderful woman ... especially now that we know that she has not let go of her friendship with our mom.  Not even death can take away what they had.  The album we gave her had lots of open spaces.  We will keep her current with pictures and notes - and we will take her up on her invitation to return for another visit - probably in the spring.

Some lessons in life

 ... well ... 

they brought tears to my eyes more than once that weekend.

Next ... a little pictorial of Rocky Point Long Island - the beauty and the reality of living there.