A New Major (again)

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The saga of my daughter’s search for a college degree continues with increasing complexity.

Now, after studying American Sign Language for three years, (changing colleges due to the general poor product quality of the prior ASL department), the Interpreter Program has informed my daughter that she cannot continue in their department.  She did not pass the nationally proctored exam (after six months of study in their program), so the department has booted her out. THIS mom is NOT a happy camper.

The irony here is that Daughter received 5 A’s this semester, has a 3.9 GPA, and is a gifted linguist.  She was fluent in Japanese at the age of 17, and majoring in that language through her freshman year (after spending a summer in Japan). Some extenuating circumstances necessitated her departure from her first college, and the subsequent transfer to the Sign Language major. Now, as she looks back on the field where she excelled, we find that there are VERY few schools in this state that offer a major in Japanese.

So, back to square one, essentially.  An additional challenge is that the state of our residence has a maximum on the number of in-state tuition rate hours that any one student can use toward an undergraduate degree. Just one more piece in the new puzzle.

The next step is to talk to a counselor at the new University.

Life continues with its twisted sense of humor.

Seven Weeks After the Move

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Now it is about seven weeks since I moved my home from Big City to Small Town – from a 2800 sq. ft. house with full attic storage to a 1500 sq. ft. town home  (with a 2-car garage). We lived in the house for over twenty years, and rarely threw anything away. I take full responsibility for that issue, and would do it differently had I to do it again (and am determined to pare down going forward).

But I also moved quickly because a large town home in a group I had been eyeing for several years (for a mountain get-away) miraculously became available. I knew that it would not remain on the market long, so quickly made an offer, which was accepted.

Another positive synchronicity was that the market value of the “old” house was up 30% over the prior year.  I had known for some time that we needed to down-size, but market-values had been soft, so I delayed selling – the investment in the house represented a good portion of our retirement “nest-egg.”  Then, this Spring, the value went up by almost 40% from the prior year. Obviously, the time was right to sell.

BUT…then there was no time for the slow winnowing through a family’s 30 years of life together.  My sister, when she decided to move to Small Town, had the luxury of taking three years for the clearing process I had to complete in three months.

Of course, the result was that a lot of things were moved that should not have been.  Now there are boxes, and boxes, and boxes…Actually, from a high of about 350, I am down to 75 or so…fifteen of them are Christmas paraphernalia of various types – Christmas China, ornaments, lights, clothes, wreathes – you get the idea.  As I write this, it is December 3.  Tonight I have no desire to winnow through Christmas boxes.  It’s just not going to happen.

The closets are hard…the wedding gown that my sister and I both wore (but is just not my daughter’s style), dresses from recitals, family weddings, t-shirts from vacations and graduation gowns… the ones that are still beautiful, but just out of style, or too small. There are still many of those in my closet that really must be purged – sometime soon.

But no easier are items from the kitchen – platters, bowls, glasses (how many sizes of wine glass do you need, and how many of each??) crock pot, punch bowl, salad bowl, soup tureen- all those lovely large pieces that I intellectually know I will not use again (or can borrow from one of my sisters who live here Small Town).  Truly difficult is acknowledging that all those family moments will happen much less frequently, and last a shorter time…intellectually I know those things, but it does not make the paring down process any easier.

The symbol of it all is the “good china”  that we all registered as young brides-to-be, and collected as friends and family built our “trousseau.”  It filled our china cabinets for years, looking beautiful, and (at least in my case), was used, at most, five times over 42 years of marriage. Now, it is (again) taking up space in a china cabinet (silly me) at least for now. I think I will know that I have gotten over this mountainous bump in my road when I give up the “good china”.

One of my new missions (should I be so blessed), is to teach my grandchildren how to keep those things that they love, and let the rest go. I can count the items I have from my mother on one hand, each highly valued. I will be writing about the process I develop for retention (and release) of all the “excesses” over the next year as I teach myself to “winnow”.  I hope you will all join me and share stories and ideas and resources as I explore this path.

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!

Preparation for Staging

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Manageable would probably not be a word that would occur to me now in describing where I am with the move process.  About three weeks ago my Move Manager and I sat down and picked a target date to have the house ready to go on the market.  Three weeks ago, we chose Thursday of this week. We’ll see.

Things have definitely progressed.  Last Saturday the “mini-move” removed all the non-essential pieces of furniture and about sixty boxes of stuff to a 10 x 10 storage room. I understand that when the door was finally closed not another item could have possibly fit.  The local team of four young men that came that day did an exceptional job of moving things out – including a little last minute packing that cleared the way for the carpet men coming on Monday.

Today was supposed to be carpet day.  It started with a delay in the team’s coming because we did not have all the required rooms totally cleared.  There was some misunderstanding about the interpretation for “totally cleared” (or perhaps it changed). So the team that was supposed to start at 8 came about 12.  The manager who had come and quoted the job had decided that we could use the current carpet as a pad for the new.  When the carpet-laying team came today they disagreed. The current carpet was not totally fixed to the floor.  It had some wrinkles in it, which the laying manager said would negatively affect the new carpet.  Sounded logical to me. So…then we needed another pad, a new quote, and a new day.  No carpet today.

The painter started with a power-wash that took most of the day, but was totally amazing when he had finished. No more dusty garage!  It is squeaky clean. Tomorrow, painting inside and out. Tonight I had to take everything that was remaining off the walls, including the wonderful poster collection in my adult son’s boyhood room. He had taken photos of them last weekend, so all are duely recorded, but it was still sad to see them go. Batman, Spiderman, favorite college teams, and inspirational sayings (You Already Are What You Want To Be When You Grow Up). Maybe the carpet guys will be back tomorrow. I have lost track, actually.

The sad thing that happened today was that I took my two lovely cats to a “kennel” for the day.  It has a good reputation, and the “girls” could be together but also had an opportunity for their own space. When I arrived (about 3:30 pm) my little Arya (a year old and solid black) was huddled in the back of her space, and hissed at the attendant, who asked me to come coax her out.  They will have to go back tomorrow, but it is troubling.  Tonight she seems fine.  We shall see.

Onward with painters & carpenters.

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!!