Saturday, June 25, 2011


A year ago yesterday was my last day at work. I had three goals for my first year:

(1) to learn to teach English as a second language. I completed a 140-hour online course and learned I don't want to teach English as a second language. Good to know.

(2) to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity in my community and then to help in an area affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I did that. I learned I love the idea but, unless I'm working with a group of seniors, I don't have the stamina to go the whole day. I need to take a nap after lunch! Also good to know.

(3) to take mediation training . I did that this week. I learned I love, love, love the concept and the process and the possibilities, that I've got what it takes, and that I will continue the practicum and the advanced training to become a certified mediator in the State of Washington. Wonderful to know!

The basic training was 8:30 to 5:30 every day this week. A combination of lecture, discussion, individual and small group work and role playing. It was one of the finest trainings I have ever attended - very well organized, with skilled teachers, and experienced coaches for the mock mediations, and completely appropriate manual and handouts. Time passed quickly each day, and though I was tired as I drove home, I was exhilarated. I found that my ability to listen, to ask questions and speak clearly, my prior experiences facilitating in the workplace and mentoring in my private life, and my interest in helping people resolve their differences, have prepared me for this new avocation. As I said to one of the trainers, "It feels like my whole life has led me to walk into this room."

Usually, the work required for a certification takes a year or two, depending on my availability and the learning opportunities that come up. I'll take the test from the basic training, interview with the staff, and then earn credits by observing mediations, taking a course in family mediation, co-mediating 12 times, doing inservice tasks or role playing or observing/mediating in small claims court, or attending outside trainings or conferences. Almost all of this sounds interesting and exciting to me.

In the last two days of training, three of the trainers and coaches talked to me privately. They had all noticed my excitement or observed my work. They all said they'd been affected the same way when they'd attended their first training, and that mediation had remained a sustaining satisfaction for them for the years they'd been doing it. One of them concluded our talk with "Welcome to the fold." The mediation community is welcoming me already.

If I become certified, my work will most likely be as a volunteer, which is fine. I'll still be able to do all the other things I love, including travel.

Even though I had this training as a goal, I still feel like I've stumbled into something for which I feel a passion. Like it's been waiting for me, you know? And like it's what I'm supposed to do.

I love it when that happens!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Outdoor evening

It's almost the longest day of the year. I heard kids shouting, looked outside and saw them playing on the neighbor's swingset. I saw the chickens in my neighbor's yard. I decided to go outside.

We cut down a tree near the chicken coop last month. I sat on the stump and watched the hens going about their scratching and roosting and chuckling. They came running up, but soon dispersed when I didn't throw in any greens for them to eat. Some of these hens had a cold on Monday but they all look fine this evening. Art has been caring for them while our neighbors are out of town.

I walked into our easement and spent a few minutes pulling up weeds so the native species we planted last spring will have room to take over. With an armload of plants, I started for the yard waste bin but stopped to chat with my neighbor first. We both have kids in their early 30s, grown and gone, and grandchildren who come over. His grandson's swingset is what has attracted other neighborhood children to spend time there. My neighbor and I agreed that life is good.

After disposing of the weeds, I walked through our garden, noticing how the trees planted last spring are going to yield fruit - an apple, pear and cherry tree have lots of tiny round green fruit that will be ripe in another month or two. And the blueberries are thriving, and the honeysuckle we planted last week has found the post we want it to climb, and the grapes this year are going to find their post as well.

Art had put netting around the trees to keep the birds out. I saw a small bird running around the cherry tree, making a clicking noise. Looking into the netting, I saw a baby bird tangled in it. I tore the netting away from the bird and lifted it out. It ran into the bushes and after a few minutes the clicking from the mother stopped; I think they must have found each other again.

I sat in the garden for another ten minutes, surrounded by our garden, seeing what's come up in the raised beds, looking forward to the harvest. I agreed, again, that life is good.

Half an hour later, I went outside again to watch the chickens heading into their roost for the night. I think it must be the light, but at dusk they meander to the ladder, in a particular order, and walk up to the shelter for the night.

On my way back in I saw my cat, Larisa, stalking by the driveway. I picked her up and took her inside. She shot through the house and leaped through her door in the back. I went back out and she had already returned to her stalking. Not good. I shooed her away and watched the little bird - apparently still without its mama - until it disappeared into some thick shrubbery. Larisa slunk under the truck to evade capture again. For the first six years of her life the cat lived entirely indoors. Stalking must be instinctive. I think about the ecological balance of our neighborhood and feel mild guilt that we let her out.

I've begun taking a natural supplement - it's got hops, valerian, passion flower and a few other herbs in it. I notice I'm not trapping worries in my head and rehashing them until I get anxious, and the hot buttons that sometimes cause me to be defensive don't appear to be active. It's not at all like a tranquilizer. More like something that makes me more me. I'm grateful to the friend that recommended it.

Life is good.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


On Friday night we went to the graduation ceremony for Everett Community College.

The graduate we were supporting is a friend of ours. Originally from the midwest, she's nearly 50 now, with five grown children. She's overcome alcohol addiction and a hectic past. Her goal is to study journalism at a nearby university.

Ordinarily an outgoing, dynamic woman, her face was serious as she marched into the auditorium and, later, crossed the stage to accept her diploma and handshakes from the college officials. Afterwards, when we met up to congratulate her personally, she was still serious - and she thanked us several times for coming. She was with her daughter, who told me her mother is her role model.

When I was 37 I went back to school at a community college in Oregon. I had a BA in English, but I was getting divorced and needed to be able to support my two young children. I hadn't attended my BA graduation ceremony at the University of California at Santa Barbara, but I wanted to "walk" when I got my AS in computer programming from Umpqua Community College. I'd done it on my own, after all - gotten a new start. I used that degree for 25 years to support myself.

That's what community colleges are set up to do - to educate not only recent high school grads who are entering vocational trades or transferring to four-year universities, but also people coming back to school after many years away so they can start over.

My sister attended a community college in Kenai, Alaska to prepare for nursing school admission. She'll be starting at the University of Alaska in Anchorage in August at the age of 56.

At the other end of the story was the young woman who sat behind us on Friday night. Very young, with multiple piercings and a two-week-old baby daughter, sitting with her parents. I heard her talk about getting her GED, and I heard lots of talk about the baby between her and her parents, and saw multiple occurrences of passing the baby around between family members. I thought about the attention the girl is getting now as a young mother, and about the limitations ahead of her that she probably doesn't know about yet.

Maybe, 20 or 30 or 40 years from now, someone will come to her graduation ceremony at the community college and watch her walk across the stage for her diploma and her handshakes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Observations from reading my 2010 blog posts

I ordered a soft-bound book of my blog entries for 2010. Half of the entries were written before I quit my job on June 25; the remainder were written afterwards. When it arrived on Monday, I read it in two sittings. It wore me out to remember all I did! Here's some of what I was reminded of.

1. I was both excited and terrified to be ending my job. Excited because my time would be my own, terrified because what if I didn't have enough to do or ran out of money?

2. I had three goals and it was important for me to be useful.

3. I was an inveterate maker of to-do lists.

4. I didn't like taking the ESL class I'd signed up for as part of my first goal. It bothered me that I wasn't good at it, and I had to pay a fee to extend my initial six-month time limit to a year, but I finished the class.

5. I was looking forward to having enough time to read.

I've learned a few things since 2010:

I'm now accustomed to having my time be my own. There've been a few days when I was bored, but that usually has more to do with a state of mind than an actual dearth of things to do.

I do have to pay attention to money, like when one unexpected requirement is a new furnace, or once again I'm persuaded we need more timeshare points. I have learned that if I only have a mocha on the weekends rather than every day (as in "every day for the last 12 years"), not only do I save money but I lose weight. I'm gratified to see that our "meals out" expenses this year are less than last. Maybe it's because we're home to eat.

I guess it's not as important to be useful as I thought. Relaxed and spontaneous is a good alternative. This is embarrassing to admit. I did join the Planning Commission of my town, and I did work eight days for Habitat for Humanity, but that's it. Probably not enough.

I still have a to-do list, but it's pretty short, and stuff gets moved around or crossed off without my losing sleep over it.

I don't want to be an ESL teacher, and I don't have to be. Fortunately, there are many qualified experts, and they like doing it.

I am current with the magazines I read and my current stack of books has only nine items in it. I am using the library way more than at any time of my life except childhood.

Thirteen trips in one year might be excessive to some people, but there's not a single one I wish I hadn't taken. The best ones, though, have been when we've traveled independently rather than in a group. I'll remember that when I'm planning for future times away.

Jeans bought used on EBay fit just as well as those bought new at Nordstrom for twice or three times the price.

I still wear makeup when I'm going out of the house.

I'm a regular at my exercise class three mornings a week, but I must say I love the other two mornings when I don't have to get up as early.

I've spent more time in my blogging community than I thought I would, and the relationships have become important.

I can't take my body and my health for granted. Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving, but watch where I step.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunny weekend

Yesterday was one of those days in the Pacific Northwest when it's the most beautiful place on earth. About 75 degrees, not a cloud in the sky. The trees are green on green, the azaleas and rhododendrons are mostly blooming brilliantly, and I want to go outside in my shorts and a t-shirt and no shoes.

So I did. I started up the pressure washer and worked on the downstairs deck and the playhouse for three hours. It feels like good exercise even though I'm mostly just standing there directing the spray. When I was finished I was filthy and soaking wet and tired but there was grass to lie down in and PowerAde to drink and about five hours of daylight still left. Ah, June!

Art attached a chain to the back of the pickup and pulled a brambled plant out of the ground in the side yard, and we'll replace it with an asparagus bed. I love that gradually we're putting more food into our yard and less ornamental stuff. We set up our garden two years ago. Last year the cherry tree produced one cherry, which got eaten by some critter. The apple tree produced nothing. We harvested five tiny pears. This year all three trees were laden with flowers, so I expect we'll have the special pleasure of fruit from our own trees. And the raspberries are spreading like crazy - I thought only blackberries did that!

We have a hot tub we installed way back in 1995. We haven't used it much in the last few years because I got tired of messing around with the maintenance. Yesterday as I was pressure washing, my neighbors with the chickens were planting squash in their garden. We share a greenhouse, so when Jennie came over for the squash starts, I asked her if they were hot tub people. She said yes. I offered to share our hot tub with them if her husband Jason would maintain it. He's the guy that already mows our lawn when he's doing his (one of the benefits of us being older). Jennie and Jason talked about it and said "we're in". So we'll provide the supplies and he will do the work and we'll all use the hot tub. They're big into organic gardening and sustainability, so I suspect Jason will find ways of keeping the water clean and balanced that are healthy. A win-win for our two-family community.

Today I'm going to watch my blogging buddy DJan ( skydive. It seems surprising that we've never met since we've been reading about each other for over a year. She's an avid hiker and gets WAY more exercise than I do. One of the things on my bucket list is to overcome my fear of heights, but there is no way I'll ever skydive. Just watching others doing it today will be a bit scary!

I can hear a weed whacker in some neighbor's yard. The deck is sunny already. Larissa the Designer Cat is pestering to be fed. Time to go watch some skydivers on a beautiful sunny Sunday.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What's next?

In three weeks it will have been a year since I quit my job. At that time I had three main goals: (1) to learn how to teach English as a second language; (2) to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity in my area and then in the South in an area affected by the hurricanes; (3) to train to become a mediator.

(1) I did - and discovered that I don't want to teach English as a second language. I may tutor one on one, but the teaching thing is not for me. I have blogging friends who love, love, love it, and I envy them, because I don't.

(2) I did - and discovered I still have a passion for the Habitat organization, but I don't have the stamina, at 62, to work all day on a construction project. I want to take a nap after lunch - and I actually did that, twice, in my car. Most likely I'll call my local affiliate and see how I can help other than in construction. I'm a fast keyboarder, I can design a database, I can speak before a group of any size. Wonder what they need?

(3) I've signed up, and will take the 40-hour basic course in three weeks. I have no idea what will happen after that, but I'm open.

Also, I took 13 trips!

So now I'm looking at my life and thinking, what's next? I've got a busy schedule if I choose to follow it. But there's a kind of sameness to it now that I'm nots nuts about.

I talked to a good friend yesterday and she said, "What is it you're supposed to do?" And I said, "I don't know." And she said, "Put your intention out there and be willing." So I did, and now I'll see what happens.

In the last few days of our road trip, I hurt my lower back. No pain in the back, but my feet have been tingly because of an annoyed nerve in my back. My doc says it could take up to six weeks for the sensation to go away as my back heals. I can't tell you how much time I've spent in the last couple of weeks thinking about my feet. Like if I focused on them, I could fix them - but the injury is in my back! I've noticed in the last couple of days I've gotten on with my life and taken my feet with me. Actually, they've taken me on my life. They're good soldiers, my feet, and my back is healing slowly.

I have a tendency to want things right now: normal feet, a goal I can clearly see, ten pounds off my butt. But there's no timetable for my life. Even when we're traveling, we have to allow for the unexpected variation. I'm good with that. Maybe it would help for me to see my whole life as a trip - then I could be more flexible.