Posted in Florida Fun, Moving forward, Us

Am I ready for a retirement community?

After years of raising a family, a career as a freelance court reporter, and trying my hand at different jobs, the end of my marriage prompted a move to Florida. During a five-year stint at a job I loved, I met my last love. He was retired and wanted me retired, too. I was 63.

As a younger version of myself, I always had a difficult time picturing myself in my 50s, much less my 60s. But I was blessed with good genes and a quick metabolism, so aside from three pregnancies, I was able to pretty much maintain my weight and thus my activity level. I have never felt myself age. It just happened. Kinda suddenly, in fact.

A couple years ago, after I bit the bullet and left hospice, my LL and I took a day trip to The Villages south of Ocala, Florida. Coming from my experience with online dating, I’d heard all the horror stories about the high incidences of STDs at The Villages. Not really knowing what to expect – were people running around with boils? – I have to admit I was truly blown away by everything we saw at this retirement community so often read about. These people didn’t seem old. They were golfing, walking, dancing, socializing, enjoying adult beverages and laughing with each other. Rather than a retirement community, it seemed like one big outdoor party, and I wanted to get invited!

Friends of ours recently moved there. We’re hoping to visit for maybe a long weekend come spring. We know we like the atmosphere. Whether or not we could afford to live there is another thing. Plus, we have grandkids here now, and it’s a couple hour drive away. But should that stop us? They moved all the way down here to be by family, and then we move? I get it. But, hey, we’re retired. We should be able to come and go as we please at this stage. On the other hand, I would miss the kids terribly, miss seeing the grands grow, miss the whole ‘family’ thing, too. We’d only be a couple hours away, but it’s not the same, and I know it.

Even thinking about it I’m plagued with Catholic guilt (see previous post). Though I know my kids only want us to be happy, I’m not sure they want us happy that far away. When all is said and done, if I just think about what I would like and what would be good for us as a couple, if I’m going to be retired, that’s the retirement community I’d choose.

Posted in Family, Florida Fun, Mom

A salute to flying.

I was 19, working at a securities firm and wondering what to do with my life. I felt no driving force urging me towards a particular career. I worked every day and spent less and less time with my dead-end boyfriend. I still lived at home with eight of my ten siblings. My best friend had moved on with my older brother, and I felt driftless.

Driving around in what was then rural southeast Michigan, I would sometimes come across a sign saying, ‘Airplane rides, $5.” (Yes, it was a long time ago.) Whenever I did, I’d stop and go flying just for the fun of it. It was typically a small four-seater, and the pilot, always a guy, would offer to let me ‘fly’ it. One evening I was talking about it at the dinner table while my aunt and uncle were visiting. My uncle mentioned there was a flight school in Traverse City and said there was only ONE girl in the program. ‘You should look into it,’ he said. Never in a million years did I dare to dream that particular dream.

But look into it, I did. I went and toured the school and discovered they offered a two-year flight program that would earn me an Associate of Science degree in aviation. I applied for FAFSA, saved as much as I could, and the following August I moved myself into the dorms at NMC (Northwestern Michigan College) with the unbelievable anticipation of learning to fly!

It took me three years rather than two, but I eventually earned my commercial/instrument ratings through the FAA. Being one of only two girls in the program, it’s no surprise I eventually married a fellow pilot. A seaplane crash the summer before the wedding caused me to become ground shy and put an end to any hopes of my own flying career. But it turned out for the best as we ended up following my then-husband’s very successful career as a 747 captain.

I wouldn’t trade those college memories for anything in the world. I barely remember any of my academic classes I so thoroughly enjoyed flight school. Every aspect of flying both by myself and with others was always a thrill. Circling over the family home watching everyone run outside waving towels and racing to the car to come to the airport and pick me up; flying ‘formation’ with fellow students over to Interlochen’s grass strip or sneaking my boyfriend up to Mackinac Island; learning aerobatics, getting checked out in a taildragger, soaring with a friend and even flying into Oshkosh for their annual airshow; these memories are all tucked away to be pulled out frequently and enjoyed.

I do miss it. I was young. I was invulnerable. I knew no fear when it came to flying. I trusted my fellow pilots, my little airplane, and myself.

Mom’s cousin Rene, long-deceased, had been a pilot, himself, and she talked of him often as she shared his daredevil flying stories. Not long ago I surprised my then 89-year-old mom with a ride in an open-cockpit Waco bi-plane over St. Augustine, Florida. Mom has always been up for anything, and I knew she’d love it. Mike, our pilot in the back seat, was pretty pumped about taking his oldest passenger flying, extending the usual 20-minute flight to 45 minutes. I’ll never forget Mom’s face mirroring my own check-to-cheek grin as we took off feeling the wind and the power of that Waco. Over the oldest city, circling this way and that, out over the Atlantic we flew entirely thrilled. Turning towards shore, I leaned over to my mom and said, ‘Let’s tip our hats to Rene!’ And with a smile on our faces and sheer joy in our hearts, we saluted the sky.

Posted in Moving forward, Randomness

FSBO – yay or nay?

Anyone who has ever sold a home knows how valuable a realtor can be. But is a realtor, even a good one, worth 6 percent or more? Think about it: Say you list and sell your home $250,000. 6 percent of $250,000 is $15,000! Add to that title costs and all the other fees associated with the sale, and we’re talking upwards of $20,000 right off the top!

In the past year we have sold two residences; one, a 2/2 condo, and the other a much sought after 3/2 pool home under $300,000. The condo went with an agent, and arguably, trying to sell amid the COVID crisis was challenging at best. I barely broke even and, after realtor fees and other costs, I limped away with a paltry sum. So when we were ready to list our pool home, we decided to try it ourselves. There are plenty of FSBO sites online, and after much research we settled on Houzeo.com. Beginning in October of 2020, we went through the very clear steps of listing with a Houzeo rep to get our place on the Northeast Florida MLS and immediately, within 24 hours, we had an offer. We were thrilled! After going through the many steps of document signings, appraisals, and inspections, within the required 15 days, they backed out.

It went back on the market and again, two days later, we had a second contract signed. After another round of document signings (thank God for e-sigs), appraisals, and another inspection, we felt pretty good about this deal. And again, 15 days in, their agent called to tell us they never mentioned they needed to sell their house.

Is this where a realtor earns their keep? From what I’ve heard, this isn’t typical for two deals to fall through within a month of each other. Both buyer’s realtors apologized profusely, and both said they’ve never had this happen to them before.

What we discovered during this time was that all of the potential buyers were from north of us. We learned through a couple local agents who brought customers through that they never saw our listing on our local MLS. That wasn’t going to work for us, so we contacted Houzeo and insisted they find us an agent who could list our place locally as well as regionally. And back on the market it went again.

The third time was a charm, a cash deal from someone who never actually saw the house. We got our asking price, plus they paid all the typical seller’s title fees, and their title company even came to our home for the closing. Though this ended up being pretty painless, I wasn’t going to count any chickens prematurely and, feeling a bit gun shy, we didn’t tell anyone about this third contract until after the deal was done.

Would we do it again? Probably. FSBO saved us close to $20,000. And while there was a lot of angst and hours involved, I think it’s definitely worth another try.

I’ll give it a YAY!

Posted in Childhood, Family, Lucky Eleven

Christmas Eve Magic

This original post was from a year ago but bears repeating as Christmas Eve approaches along with one of my fondest childhood memories.

Growing up, there was a Christmas Eve tradition in our home that, according to my mom, began when she was just a little girl. Her parents started it, then my parents followed in their footsteps with the reading of T’was the Night Before Christmas.

“The Reading” about 25 years ago

Each year on that night, we would all get into our pajamas and make our way downstairs for “The Reading.” Dad would lie on his belly at the foot of the tree surrounded by all his children with mom standing somewhere behind. He would masterfully and with great relish read from the pages of that well-known book. After concluding with a very dramatic, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” we would suddenly hear, “Crack! Crack! Crack!” and from the ceiling huge walnuts would fall to the floor! At the same time, dad would leap up and run to the window yelling, “I see him! I see Santa! There he goes!” As we searched the dark skies for any sign of the sleigh, mom and dad would tell us to hurry upstairs so Santa could come back. We would then race up to bed and wait until morning to descend the stairs and behold the many presents under the Christmas tree.

As we got older, of course, we were quick to figure it all out. But with such a large family, and always with little ones, it was great fun to see what our parents saw, and it made us want to duplicate it in our own families years later.

The tradition continues.

This is a photo collage I put together on Christmas Eve a few years ago. These pictures started showing up on Facebook as the evening progressed, and I just had to collect as many as I could and put them together as a small tribute to a cherished tradition started over 90 years ago. I was lucky enough to experience this great mystery as a child, and it has been passed along to my children and now my grandchildren. My nieces and nephews and now great-nieces and great-nephews are delighting in the same excitement. I’m sure my mom’s parents never dreamed their idea for a little Christmas Eve magic would be repeated for generations every night before Christmas. But I know when it is, they, along with all our missed loved ones, are smiling down on these scenes.

Posted in Moving forward, Randomness, Us

Kissing frogs (aka Online Dating)

Ohmygod. Where do I start? I guess I start in 2016, unattached, independent, and looking for love in all the wrong places. When you’re past middle age, where the heck do you meet someone of the opposite sex? I’m way beyond the bar scene, even though that scene is quite active here near the beach. But I never settled into a local church, I don’t have school-aged kids, and my hospice job exposed me to mostly women. Most of my friends were either married or didn’t know any eligible men.

Enter online dating. Zoosk, POF (Plenty of Fish), Match, I shudder just to think of them. But truly, at the time and even now, it’s probably the single best way to get yourself out there and start meeting people. I know many, many now married couples who met the same way, and yes, they all have their horror stories, just like me.

It was to my great advantage that I grew up with eight brothers. Men don’t intimidate me even when they’re trying to be intimidating. And so I was able to view the pompous retired Army commander in much the same light as the pitiful Uber driver (“I’m in transportation”) or the starving artist. I discovered there definitely is such a thing as a mid-to-late-life-crisis in men. These are the men who divorced, sold everything they didn’t lose in the fight, and now live on a boat. There were too many of them to count, but I always wished them great luck.

After more than two years of online exposure (not a solid two years; I took breaks of months at a time), I was actually getting pretty savvy about the whole process. I found the fakes quickly by copying and pasting one of their photos into Google Images. Funny how that same great-looking guy is everywhere! And with different names! Or I would copy and paste part of their written profile into a Google search and see it appear on various sites, word for word. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google are all great places to investigate potential dates. Pictures speak a thousand words, but the real-life person can leave you speechless when they look nothing like said pictures. (That’s awkward.) Then there’s the multitude of men who would spend hours talking my ears off and then walk away knowing little to nothing about me.

Probably my most interesting discovery (duh) was that an inordinate number of these men simply wanted sex. Or they wanted to talk about sex. Or they thought if they fed me, they’d get sex. I suppose dinner is cheaper than a hooker, but really? I often felt like I was back in high school in the front seat of the car where some guy is trying to make out. I discovered from one ‘gentleman’ that the price of him helping me replace my thermostat was sex. (I settled on a YouTube video.) I’m not sure who some of these guys think they are, but spending any amount of time with them explained why they were still single.

With MY prince!

I did meet several really nice men; a couple actually became friends. But I think I knew when I met Mr. Right. I can still see his smile as he came out of the beachfront restaurant to greet me, and our good-night kiss is etched in both our minds. Was all that weirdness worth it? Definitely. Would I do it again if I had to? I don’t think so, but who knows? It’s scary putting yourself out there. It takes guts. You have to keep your confidence high and your expectations at least reasonable. But I am thankful every day there are online dating sites at our disposal, because really, there are some pretty great people out there looking for the same things we all are. You just have to kiss a few frogs before you find them.

Posted in Moving forward, Randomness

There are no winners here.

I don’t typically engage in political dialogue. There’s nothing to be gained by a conversation expecting to change someone’s thinking. It just rarely, if ever, happens. So I suppose this is as good a place as any to voice my opinion without too much repercussion.

I am a registered Independent. After my favorite president (Reagan) left office and very post 911 – post us all banding together when Americans briefly felt united after the terrorist attack – what was once considered ‘news’ became more and more opinion with both sides telling us what we should think (like them!) and why. Except the ‘whys’ were usually biased and often interjected with fearmongering and speculation. As the years progressed, it only got worse and more vocal, more obvious seemingly to everyone but them.

Now that the election is over (practically), I will finally admit that, after much listening and reading, I cast my vote for the single-most ill-equipped individual to ever grace a podium. I am with you if you believe President Trump, as a person, is a tactless, mouthy, brash and narcissistic human being. If there ever was an antithesis of Ronald Reagan, it is Donald Trump. I often hear, “He’s no politician.” And a truer statement could never be made. But honestly? I think that’s why I voted for him!

I’m sick to DEATH of politicians; the slick-talking, tell-’em-what-they-wanna-hear, say-anything-to-get-elected politicians who, without flinching, play into Americans’ paranoia and fear that they, themselves create, making lame promises of change they assure will happen, all the while knowing THE BIG SECRET: Just get elected, then do whatever the lobbyists paid you to do. As despicable as Mr. Trump is, I truly believe he’s in nobody’s pocket. Who would have him? And I believe he has the best interest of America – not himself – at heart. Who better to head the business of running a country than a successful, smart businessman? Should someone have banned him from Twitter and all social media? You bet. The man’s a social idiot. But he’s the best idiot around for the daunting job of getting this country moving again.

President Joe Biden? Please. I give it a year, maybe a year and a half, and Kamala Harris will be stepping in, pushing her near-socialist agenda with the full support of the leftist media and social platforms. I have nothing against Ms. Harris. As an American, I sincerely hope she is successful running the country. But I pose these questions:

  • After eight years of Barack Obama, why was the African American community no better off than before he took office? I’ve never heard a good answer to that question.
  • If Antifa really was an independent group, why so quiet after the election? Did ‘their guy’ get in?
  • Wasn’t it reverse discrimination that got Ms. Harris her position? Can you imagine the uproar had she been a white woman? (Perhaps Antifa might have been vocal then?)
  • With the COVID-caused unemployment rate hovering around 13%, would you rather have a successful businessman or a lifelong politician in charge of your family’s future?

Frankly, I think President Trump needs to concede this election. Despite very clear instances of voter fraud on so many levels (the most obvious being the dead voters), it’s time to put the election behind us and try to crawl the rest of the way out of 2020. Time will tell in the upcoming months and years whether the elected ticket will fulfill all their promises. But I’ve always been a believer in real-life consequences; you couldn’t ask for a better teacher than the real-life consequences of the choices you make. Coronavirus aside, the voting millennials of today have never suffered through a depression, an energy crisis, vast unemployment, or sky-high mortgage and interest rates. They take what they hear at face value with nothing for comparison in their own lives, and they believe what the biased media tells them. In all honestly, with the COVID-caused unemployment currently, you can bet I’d rather have a businessman in office than a life-long politician in the pockets of self-interest groups.

I just want it over. All of it. COVID, the election, the crazy weather (I live in Florida). No one will come out of 2020 unscathed. Believe me, there are no winners here.

Posted in Moving forward, Thoughts

In recovery.

I was born and raised in the Catholic church. As Irish Catholics, we were all baptized as infants, received the Sacrament of Holy Communion at seven years of age, and at 13 we acknowledged following Christ with the Sacrament of Confirmation. We attended church regularly. Like an ever-expanding parade, my siblings and I would follow Dad, single-file, to the very front of the church and fill an entire pew. If the girls forgot their chapel veils, my mother would place a Kleenex on our heads. We of course had no idea at the time why we were wearing a veil, but we never thought to question. We dutifully confessed our sins weekly through the Sacrament of Penance and knelt and recited by rote our Hail Marys and our Acts of Contrition. We said our rosaries and and table grace with the speed of an auctioneer. Steeped in Catholicism, we never questioned that fact until we left home and were on our own and . . . exposed . . . to outside influences.

I have never doubted my faith and belief in God. (Well, maybe once, in college, but it was very brief.) I have always believed that Jesus is my Savior, that he died for our sins and that he will return in the second coming. I have no fear of death because I believe in heaven and hell and life eternal. I try and treat others the way I would want to be treated. I was married in the Church and raised my three children in the Catholic faith. They briefly attended Catholic school until we could no longer afford the tuition. All three received the same Sacraments I did.

But somewhere along the way I began to be disillusioned with the Church. It seemed the longer I was in the Catholic Church, the more I became aware of the intolerance and insincerity that existed most often in those professing to be staunch Catholics. (That’s actually a term often used. ‘He’s a staunch Catholic.’) I started to see the hypocrisy in so many self-proclaimed Catholics with their righteous morality and unchristian conduct. Some of these people were pillars of the parish involved in the Mass, befriending the clergy. Even the bishop showed the true colors of betrayal, at least in my eyes and certainly many others.

That was the beginning of the end for me. I call myself a recovering Catholic. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. But I discovered it is more important and meaningful to behave as a Christian than behave as a Catholic. I have a relationship with God that I didn’t have before or perhaps had once a week for an hour on Sunday. I currently don’t attend a formal church setting, nor do I feel the need to. I work in hospice, and I see daily in our caregivers the Christ-like behavior God is seeking. Perhaps when you’re repeatedly exposed to true Christian conduct, the falseness of those who flaunt their Catholicism with hypocritical judgment and behavior becomes glaringly apparent.

Posted in Family, Thoughts

Weddings, families, and mantras.

Last year my Goddaughter, was married in a lovely ceremony with lots of family and friends in attendance. This past weekend, another niece was married in what apparently will be forever referred to as a ‘COVID’ or ‘RONA’ wedding. While they were both beautiful events, they each left me a little sad for reasons I won’t go into. Suffice it to say, one of my favorite sayings by David Foster Wallace was certainly brought to mind:

“You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.”

My friend Sarah and I love to hash things out about relationships, personalities, and other deep-thinking subjects. For instance, in a particular scenario, I might act or react in an entirely different way than perhaps she would. And in trying to understand someone else’s actions, we have to remind each other, ‘Me … NOT me.’ Meaning, the way I might treat someone isn’t necessarily the way someone else might treat me in the same scenario. It’s actually very helpful when you’re on the receiving end of a situation where you simply cannot comprehend someone’s actions. It removes the burden of trying to understand the motivation behind their decision and simply realize that just because they may believe what they did was right, that doesn’t make it right for you. And that’s okay. It’s not you. It’s them.

That’s where I am with these weddings. I struggled last year, and I struggle again this year because I do not understand the thought process behind certain events. I’ve hashed it out with a few friends and even some family members, and frankly no one ‘gets’ it. And so I struggle finding the high road knowing that’s where I need to be because we are, after all, a polite and friendly bunch. But I will continue to repeat the mantra, ‘Me … NOT me’ until these feelings fade away.

And they will.