Friday, March 22, 2013

Stepping Outside the Box Part I (the LIfestyle Equation)

In 2007, I returned to the US many months after the death of my husband. Prior to that, I had lived six years in Germany. Our old homestead had been sold and we really had no reason at that time to return to Washington DC to live (although I love the east coast). After some time, we decided to head to the Dallas area, at least to begin with. At that time I had planned to use a rental to plan our future and decide where we (I) would finally "land".  A few months later I had purchased a large house and settled in. I think everyone was surprised.

My primary reason for making that choice was a chance for my son to spend time up close and personal with my late husband's family. We had lived on opposite sides of the country for years. My in laws (all of them) were the type who brought up my husband regularly in casual conversation. I grew extremely accustomed to the weather. I found a church and made friends. My daughter returned from her home in the Cayman islands and settled into a relationship. I saw my father and mother in law fairly regularly early on, and other relatives on the major holidays. The children enjoyed all the family, but for me (and sometimes for them) there was a different dynamic. Everyone else had lived in  he same place all their lives and as such we often felt left out of conversations on some level now and again.

I still missed my family.  My parents are no longer living.  Although I drove twice to three times a year to spend a week or so with two of my siblings and their significant others, , I missed the closeness of siblings.  In my family, we are pretty much all on the same page (and much more loose, than the other side of the family). Casual discussions about going over for the Superbowl or a barbecue on the fourth made me wish I were there.  Admittedly, I had two children in Texas. However, one was thirty something and not committed to the area (with no intention of having children). The other is unsettled and a late bloomer-who knows where he would end up. I had grown to love the heat (it can never be to hot, and yes, I mean that Bob), and knew I would be facing cold (and possibly increased pain much of the year) and possibly an increase in some costs. I also knew that even if I stayed in Texas, the house I was living in was not working for me (more on that in the financial section). It was holding me back, both in terms of energy and finances.

Those who have been reading my latest missives from the proverbial front know what has happened. I have sold my house, taken what paltry savings I have and all my worldly goods and driven to the north.  At the moment I am living with my sister in her small three bedroom house (as is my son for now). Most all of my "stuff" is still in storage. I have a small emergency fund, along with a guaranteed monthly income and health care. I have absolutely no idea where I will end up living (apartment, shared housing, condo). In other words, I really cannot say exactly what my life will be like a year from now.  This is okay with me.

Some folks (blog readers, folks who have emailed me and others) think this is extreme, risky, perhaps even unwise. Some have been excited for me, some are simply watching my journey.  While I appreciate those in the first group, I personally  see little risk as I sit here and a lot of positive things on the horizon. This may be surprising for some-sometimes it is for me as well.

 I've had a chance to think on this in the past week-both the possible lifestyle implications of the steps I've taken as well as the financial ones. Today I will only talk about my new (in progress) lifestyle with some financial references. More about the money tomorrow.

In terms of lifestyle, I am not an "adventure" retiree. I am primarily a person who enjoys being in, and entertaining in her home environment. My life style is one of being extremely casual and laid back (low energy even) with burst of travel and other more high energy fun throughout the year. A typical week sees me comfortable at home (reading, sewing, crafting, enjoying the patio and dogs), interspersed here and there with a dinner group, having friends over, going to the movies, or checking out the latest exhibit. So, on the "homebody" level, this has been a shock to my system. I'm not "sharing a house" with my sister right now, I am living in hers, and trying to keep a low footprint in doing so. I am always comfortable here, although I miss doing my own cooking and having my own stuff (I need my stuff!)

 On another level, even living in temporary quarters, life is good. I mentioned elsewhere that I have probably seen my family less in the last two weeks than if I had visited two weeks. This is because we all know this is a permanent situation, and we don't all have to eat dinner every night in order to see each other. We make casual plans on the weekend, knowing we will see each other the following weekend weekend.  No matter what kind of living situation I end up in, it will work with my family. And of course, though I moved here for me, my son has male cousin and a male role model close by, in my brother. That situation also deserves it's own blog post.

Admittedly, I am now going through the socialization process again (for lack of a better word).  No matter how much time is spent with family, I have my own interests.  In fact, a friend from Dallas suggested that if I were to move, I should do so while I was "young enough" not to be set in my ways and could make new friends. To that end I have been attending different churches each week. I have researched when the quilt guild meets and checked out all it's small group events. I have found a both a fifties plus dining group and a fifties plus movie group should I wish to explore those. I'm still looking for a good book group as well as volunteer opportunities (I may well find those in church). Finally, I've decided to look at group travel in additional to my traditional road tripping (not necessarily relevant to adjusting to Denver, but there it is!)  I'm sure this will take some time-making friends always does. I did manage to make friends in Denver-friends I will still visit with throughout the year. I am sure I will fit in here soon-and meanwhile I am busy with family and travel.

All in all I've made some huge adjustments lately. This new lifestyle and the changes I have made would not be for everyone. Some folks need a lifetime anchor of "home".  Some folks have lived in a single place for so long that to move would be unthinkable. That said, I've seen many retirement bloggers adjust how they live (at least part of the year) in the last year or so.  Life is an
adventure and I am looking forward to these new changes.

Next: the financial nitty gritty!


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  2. I say boo to those who say you are being too risky. Heavens, Denver isn't Damascus. Yes, you have to meet new people, figure out where things are and get used to winter that can last through April. But, much of what you experience on an every day basis is not that different from Texas. Home Depot is Home Depot.

    I fully support anyone who shakes things up now and again. Whether it is a move to a different housing arrangement or out of town, a change in your routine or even something as simple as a new hobby, all of us need that shock to the system to remind us we are alive.

    You thought it through, Barb, made plans and set timetables. You will succeed and make Denver home.

  3. You go girl!! You are on a wonderful path and I look forward to reading about your adventures! Like you, I would much rather take some risks and see where life leads than to do what is "normal" and "expected" all the time.

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  5. This is a great posting I have read it is very interesting to read thank you

  6. I LOVE your blog and eagerly await the "financial" installment. I am impressed by how well you know yourself and the thought you have put into your decision making process without "over planning" -- I think it's great that you have made the broad outlines of a "plan" while allowing room for it to evolve. And I am interested in what happens with your son as I currently have some "late bloomers" living with me myself!

  7. You don't seem like the kind of woman to worry about what others think - even if we own a house none of us knows where we will end up a year from now as circumstances change. Enjoy the ride.

  8. Sounds to me like you're branching out in all the right directions and soon will start putting down roots -- all good signs of a successful transplant.

  9. Barb, I think you have done the right thing for you and your son. You will find everything you need all you need to do is open yourself to new experiences.

    God bless.

  10. You were pretty clear over several blogs that you were feeling a bit house poor, and that you were yearning for more financial flexibility. Every decision you've made since appears to be moving you in the direction you said you wanted to go, so I see only win-win from where I stand.

    Our lives are made up of a series of decisions, and when we don't like where we are, hooray, we get to decide to do something different. Personally, I think you are going to love your "new" life, but let's say you don't for some reason? So what. You'll just decide to do something different, and you'll still be just fine.

    I'm enjoying watching this all unfold from the sidelines, so thank you again for letting us all tag along.


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