The New Life

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That sounds really dramatic – a new life.

But EVERYTHING is different in the new town, the new house, new car, new Vet, new theater, new friends.
I still stay connected to a few of my old friends, but I was never a social butterfly, and as I look at possibilities for the upcoming years, there seems to be nothing but questions about my immersion into a new community.
Two nonprofit boards have approached me to join, and I have accepted. I just cannot come into a community and not expect to contribute to the organizations that make it work. The two that I have agreed to join are the homeowners association for my little group of town homes, and a regional theater company. I have not decided whether to work for compensation yet. My memory has never been great, but all the challenges of the year have left my cognitive abilities at a woefully inadequate level. I would love to teach piano and college level courses again, but both require more development. The last time I taught a full studio of 30 students it took about three years to build.
A fellow widow that has been providing friendly support since my husband died has been proofing my blog entries, sharing her own experiences, and talking about a continuing education curriculum for widows which will probably be the next challenge to complete. There is a local community college here, and the curriculum continues to take shape. Hopefully, after the holidays, I can find an appropriate group and venue for offering the curriculum. Last week a group of us chatted over dinner, especially about the challenges of widowhood: the feeling of isolation, the lack of a road map for how to deal with the reinventing of a life. They encouraged me, again, to work on the “class”.
But it is hard. Reading (of course) could infinitely defer/delay/derail the process. It is so tempting to just pick up a book and leave your life for a few hours. But then when I close the cover, I am back exactly where I was before.
I need to move forward.

As, a CPA, I am compelled to do it in an ordered, substantive manner. So – there needs to be some type of method of measuring progress. There must be a measurement tool, and a definition of items to measure, with a weighted evaluation scale. Ah, now I think I have my next project. Look out for the Widows Measurement Tool for Social Reintegration (maybe I can find a little more euphemistically acceptable name). That will do for a working title (WMTSR).

Let me know if you have a more creative title or experiences you would like to share!

Into the Dorm

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Into the Dorm

The process of moving my daughter into the dorm at her new university had started weeks in advance: appointments with doctors, farewell meetings with friends and, of course, shopping. We had made trips to Costco, Kmart, Target and the grocery store.

Three days before Moving Day (Thursday) I asked my daughter to take all the clothes and other items to be moved to the Staging Area (the den). I turned on the TV (reruns of Castle) and started sorting by categories – clothes, food, books, shoes, and everything else, and compared the stacks to the collection of suitcases and boxes at our disposal. So by the night before the move, all we had to do was put each clothing type in its designated suitcase, and label the outside with masking tape and a sharpie (pants, tops, shoes, etc.). That way, if for some reason we didn’t have time to get everything into the drawers, she would at least know where to look.

Moving Day dawned beautiful and clear. My cousin’s wonderful husband had come the evening before and moved the little dorm refrigerator and the foot locker into the van, so we only had to move the suitcases into place. We were in two cars (the refrigerator just wouldn’t fit into my daughter’s Protégé).

We were about an hour and a half from campus. I had missed that we were both out of gas, so off we headed to Costco. Of course, they were doing maintenance on two of the pumps, so it took about 30 minutes in commuting and filling time. Then off we went at around 11:15.

We made good time, and the dorm was very easy to find. The line was short at check-in, so we were in her room by about 1, and my son, who lives about 30 minutes away, was able to get to there soon after a morning soccer practice (he is a high school coach). She was the first of the four residents to move into the suite. The other three have been friends since high school.  That could provide interesting dynamics.

On campus the non-freshmen are in suites where each of four students has a private room, sharing a common seating area, shower, toilet, sinks, and kitchen. The small bedroom had an surprising amount of storage. With a lofted bed, there were a desk and two chests of drawers underneath, plus a wardrobe. Amazingly, all the contents of the luggage went in and I was able to bring the suitcases back home empty (or so I thought. My daughter soon discovered that a favorite piece of clothing was missing – and I found it hiding in one of the pockets of a large suitcase at home).

And then there was a fire alarm (the first of three by the end of the evening) so we all got to stand out in the 90-degree heat for about fifteen minutes waiting for the fire truck. It reminded all of us that at the last campus move-in we had done the University had provided cold bottled water for the families. That would certainly have been welcome.

Daughter had a placement test from one to 3, so had to leave just after everything was unloaded. Unfortunately, I also realized that all the bags from the K-Mart run were still in my other car – at home. The only critical need from that trip was bedding…so BACK to Kmart we went and bought the LAST Twin XL bedding set in the store. You would think there were a lot of people moving into the dorm that day or something! The University designated each dorm on campus with one half day to move in. This was the university’s third move-in day so the basics in K-Mart were running thin. But I decided that if the worst outcome of the move-in was that she had to sleep in sheets not in the favorite quadrant of the color wheel for a week, it would be a successful day.

Daughter went to take the test, and successfully scored at a level that placed her in the upper ASL (American Sign Language) classes for the fall.  As in most majors, there are so many required courses in the ASL Curriculum that the classes are in two-semester cycles.  In fall semester, ASL 1 and ASL 3 are offered. In spring semester, ASL 2 and 4 are available.  Because she was coming from another institution, Daughter had to take a test to see if she was at a level of proficiency to place into ASL 3 this fall. Because the program she had come from was not strong, she was VERY nervous about the test, and had studied hard over the summer (there were CDs available at the bookstore, and we had bought them earlier in the summer on a prior visit). She was thrilled to pass.

By the time she got back to the room, most of the clothes were put away, with the masking tape labels on the outside of the drawers.  After the bedding purchase run, it was time to leave.  She was ready to go sample the food offerings (there are many options). My son and I went to eat great Mexican food.

Then home.  Of course, just as I was hitting the Interstate, my check engine light came on.  I was not surprised. I just drove on in (about 70 miles), a little slower than usual, made good time, and parked the car in the garage.

I did not have ANY trouble sleeping that night.

A week later, my son came home for the weekend and took the K-mart missing items by campus on his way home. Life is good.

A Great Meeting with the Finance Guys

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Today I had a great meeting with two financial advisers who have been working with me since a month after my husband’s death.  One is a CPA and was a colleague many years ago in my first position in an accounting firm. The other is a younger financial manager interested not only in financial planning, but also in helping clients make wise financial decisions in their lives.

I have presented a financial plan for myself, with the benefit of their knowledge and guidance, and now am charged with developing a curriculum for widows to help with money management. That is my goal for the next month – a community college non-college curriculum targeting new widows, especially those who have had little responsibility for their finances until the death of their spouse.

The text that I will be using is an excellent resource, Moving Forward on your Own by Kathleen M. Rehl (also a widow). The planning tool will be in Microsoft Excel, so no commercial software package will be required. The task is to make the course relevant for all widows, regardless of their financial background.  Even as a CPA, it has been a challenge to corral all the moving pieces into a new model that will provide basic decision-making data, and yet simple enough for periodic updates.

Today, the three of us sat around the table discussing our different methods of basic financial management.  We had three distinct styles: One of us used Quicken, downloading all financial transactions from the bank into the software. The second made most transactions through his credit card, doing the management piece monthly when the credit card statement arrived. I pay my bills through online bill pay, sometimes writing paper checks, and do most day-to-day business by cash (giving myself an allowance every week as a budgeting tool).  As we discussed these three very different styles, we realized that my challenge will be to make the course relevant to all three of these money management styles, including the widow who has basically had no financial responsibility during her marriage.

Wish me luck!!