Thursday, December 31, 2009

Movies You May Have Missed

I love movies. I have loved movies since I was old enough to change the television channel by myself.

Each year I see fewer movies at the theater. This is true for a variety of reasons, including what-I-consider high ticket prices and how quickly movies come and go from my local theaters. I still like to see movies in the theater for a couple hours of escape or when it's a movie I can't wait to see on DVD.

According to my calendar I made it to the movie theater nine times this year. There are three movies that I've seen in the last six weeks that I highly recommend, and you may still be able to find them at a theater near you:

Pirate Radio is the story of what happened when Great Britain outlawed rock and roll on the radio in the 1960's. Ten minutes into this movie Ken leaned over and told me he wanted to own the movie, the highest praise my husband can give a movie. The music is great.

The Blind Side is the true story of a well-to-do Texas family who invites Michael, a new student from their children's school, to move in with them. Michael plays football and is as different from the family as any person could be. Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron are terrific.

Everybody's Fine stars Robert DeNiro as a man who takes a trip to visit each of his four children after they cancel plans to visit him for the week-end. When one of his daughters asks him what he always wanted to do, DeNiro's character answers that all he ever wanted was to be a good father and provider for his family. I will definitely someday own this movie.

* * * * * * * * * * *

In August 2007 Ken and I joined Netflix. We had moved to "the woods" and were 20 miles from the closest video store. We didn't have cable. I was having movie withdrawal and something had to be done. Netflix has improved my quality of life, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

In 2008 I watched 161 movies from Netflix. In 2009 the number climbed to 201.

I went back through the last two and a half years of movie rentals and selected the ten movies that I thought were worth watching more than once that may have slipped under your radar. We found most of these movies through previews on other Netflix rentals.

This is my gift to you this New Year's Eve, a list of ten of the best movies you may have never seen ~

King of California stars Michael Douglas as a father who does the best he can for his teen-aged daughter while he unlocks the secrets of a treasure map to search for gold under the local Costco.

The Amateurs is the funniest movie you will ever see about a town that makes a pornographic film without showing any pornography. Jeff Bridges makes it seem all seem possible.

Death at a Funeral is a British film about secrets that come out at the funeral of the family patriarch, as only the Brits can tell the story.

Dear Frankie is a story placed in Scotland about what happens when a mother puts her own fears aside to fulfill her child's most fervent desire to meet his father. Emily Mortimer is wonderful.

Lars and the Real Girl is a movie we passed up until I heard too many times what a good movie it is. The premise seems outlandish until you watch the movie.

The Girl in the Cafe is the unlikely story of a British diplomat who invites a girl he meets in a cafe to a G8 summit. Bill Nighy is one of my favorite British actors.

In How About You two sisters run a small boarding home for an incorrigible group of elders. I didn't expect to like this one as much as I did and look forward to watching it again.

Away We Go is one of those movies I will buy when I find it on sale. I watched this one twice in two days, once with Ken and once with my daughter. A couple travels to different cities to decide where they want to raise their child. The soundtrack is amazing.

The Maiden Heist is a hilarious movie with William H. Macy, Morgan Freeman, and Christopher Walken as guards in an art museum who decide to take action when their favorite works of art are going to be shipped elsewhere.

In The Answer Man Jeff Daniels plays the author of the book "Me and God." He hasn't made a public appearance in twenty years and doesn't like people, which is awkward because people think of him as a guru with all the answers. When he injures his back and sees a chiropractor the real answers begin to appear.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Happy New Year! And here's looking forward to a new year of movies to watch ~

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Enough Said

I am working on a post for tomorrow about my favorite movies from this year, at the theater and on DVD. There are some real gems.

Yesterday Ken and I had a full day. We left home at 5:00 a.m. to beat the early morning rush hour traffic around Boston, which worked as planned until the last 30 miles. We caught up with P and C at the house of P's best friend from college, who made us a wonderful breakfast.

C and her parents flew from California to Boston this week to work out some of the wedding details. We all met at the wedding venue for a tasting and a tour.

Then we walked over to where we would like to hold the rehearsal dinner ~ a real Boston Irish Pub complete with padded leather booths and historic photographs of famous patrons over the years. The place met with everyone's approval, so I will call to reserve it. I think people will feel comfortable and the food will be good.

That really takes care of our biggest responsibility for the wedding, other than dressing nicely and behaving appropriately. I already know what I want for a dress, although the color hasn't been decided yet. Ken will rent a tux, which tickles me because he looks super-handsome all dressed up.

Other than that...things are out of our hands.

Our middle child has chosen the life he wants with the people he wants to be near. At the end of the day, all that matters to his dad and me is that he's happy, which he appears to be.

Enough said.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Post Christmas Post

The chocolate peanut butter birthday cake was a huge success, enjoyed by all. I racked up lots of points that night because I made lasagna for dinner ~ the consensus was that I should make it more often. My daughter likes her Christmas Eve birthday because she gets all the birthday perks and it's a special family time, too.

We had such a good time this year, eating good food and sharing stories all week-end. I forget what great gift-givers my kids are and how much we enjoy everything about the holiday when we get together. I loved every minute of it.

Our sons are back in Boston, meeting up with friends and working out details of P's wedding. Tomorrow Ken and I are going down to Boston to tag along on some wedding planning, with the added benefit of spending more time with P before he leaves for California at the end of the week.

Routine returns. Today I caught up on laundry and wrestled with dust bunnies. The refrigerator is full of leftovers so there's no need to cook. The cookie jars are full, and there are even a couple slices of cake left. There are late cards to send and clothes to exchange.

And at some point I will take down the empty stockings....

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Taking Her Chances

My daughter's birthday is tomorrow. I asked her what kind of cake she wanted, hoping she would pick something easy. I am not known for baking cakes. Pies, yes. Cookies, yes. Bread, yes. Cakes, no. She knew she was taking her chances when she sent me a link for a chocolate peanut butter cake. I decided to make it today just in case things didn't go as planned.

I corralled the ingredients ~

I was pleasantly surprised when the cakes came out of the pans as promised ~

and I was able to apply the peanut butter/cream cheese frosting without incident ~

The chocolate glaze pooled onto the plate more than it was supposed to ~
but I consider this project a success. The cake is setting up in the fridge to be enjoyed when we all get together tomorrow night. I will have no problem scooping extra chocolate onto each plate and calling it "presentation." Oh, there was a bit of chocolate left over that I will need to use up later on Breyer's vanilla ice cream....
Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Angels

There were angels looking over us this week-end. As a major snowstorm hit the east coast, our son P was flying out of San Francisco to Houston and then onto Boston. He left California without knowing for sure how far he would get on his journey home. He made it all the way, and his brother surprised him with a welcome at the airport in Boston Saturday night. Amidst snow flurries on Sunday, P drove home to Maine. Our daughter joined us for dinner last night, and our younger son will be here for Christmas Eve. That's all I want for Christmas.

Ken and I trimmed the tree on Saturday. I noticed the number of angels we have, starting at the top with the first ornament we bought more than thirty years ago ~

and flying among the branches to bring shimmer ~

and light ~

and whimsy ~

and sparkle ~

to our tree. Jan at Awakened Living posted a beautiful poem about angels, and in her words "May the blessings of the Angels be yours." I know I have received many blessings this year, and I'm grateful for every one.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies

I hosted this year's cookie swap. Ten women times three dozen cookies equals a lot of cookies! The ingredients were as varied as the stories behind what people decided to bake this year. We each went home with a wonderful assortment of holiday treats.

I was so pleased to be able to have the swap at my house that I made the most of being hostess ~ I baked pecan tarts and a cranberry-upside-down cake, which I know everyone liked because they want the recipe. Many people had not been out to this end of my road before. I made it clear that I'd love to have them come again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Feed Me, Please!

These photos are for my daughter, who is in the middle of a loooong week that will end with a night on call. They are a bit dark because the sun was streaming into the kitchen, but you'll get the idea.

Is that breakfast? May I have some please?!

Here, let me help.

Is it ready yet? May I have some pretty please?!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Out Of Sorts

Things have felt out of sync all day, since I got up this morning. I had a lot to do and started laundry before I made coffee or fed the cat.

I needed to clean up the pine needles around the tree that Ken and I brought in last night. I went to sweep up the bulk of them before I got out the vacuum, when I discovered water still on the floor from when Ken watered the tree...and there's damage to the floor's finish in a couple places. I moved the tree and wiped up the water. I kicked myself for not double checking that the spill was cleaned up after Ken used the rag, or for not taking the pitcher from him and watering the tree myself, or for not waiting to bring the tree in tonight.

I realized right away that that was folly on my part. I can't go back and fix what's happened.

But that's often my first reaction, before I am even conscious of having a reaction. "If only" or "what if" or "why didn't I?" pop into my head as I think of what I could have done differently even if I had no part in creating the situation.

All week-end Ken asked when I wanted to bring in the tree. I was dragging my feet. This is early for us to put up the tree, but he says it would be nice to "decorate" for the cookie swap I am hosting on Thursday.

I say it doesn't feel like Christmas until the kids are home.

My older son will be home this coming week-end and split his time between here and Boston until Christmas Eve, when he will bring his younger brother home from Boston.

My daughter now celebrates Hanukkah and, while she will be sharing Christmas Eve and Day with us because that's our family time, will not be helping with the tree. We don't have all the details worked out for the melding of holidays. We will have to learn as we go.

It's a different kind of Christmas this year. We've never had to think about squeezing a visit into a few days or working around different beliefs. We are ready and willing to do both but have some things to figure out.

This is our new normal for the holidays, and that raises as many questions as how to fix the finish on the floor.

Well, we got the lights on the tree last night. That's good enough for now.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Waiting In The Wrong Line

I was waiting for a neon sign, a lightening bolt, or some other flash of genius to strike.

I thought I had to have the brightest idea, the best plans, and all the answers before I took action.

I wanted to know all the details before I decided if I wanted to get on board, take the risk, and make the commitment.

Then a couple weeks ago I read Dawn's post titled Commitment Precedes Vision at her blog "Today and Everyday." She posted the following quote:

“In life, many thoughts are born in the course of a moment, an hour, a day. Some are dreams, some visions. Often, we are unable to distinguish between them. To some, they are the same; however, not all dreams are visions. Much energy is lost in fanciful dreams that never bear fruit. But visions are messages from the Great Spirit, each for a different purpose in life. Consequently, one person’s vision may not be that of another. To have a vision, one must be prepared to receive it, and when it comes, to accept it. Thus when these inner urges become reality, only then can visions be fulfilled. The spiritual side of life knows everyone’s heart and who to trust. How could a vision ever be given to someone to harbor if that person could not be trusted to carry it out. The message is simple: commitment precedes vision.”
~ High Eagle

I read it several times and I returned to read it over the course of several days. At odd times during the day I thought about High Eagle's words, often reversing the words to "vision precedes commitment" because the ideas he presented appeared to be out of order.

I had been waiting in the wrong line. I was in line for a vision.

I needed to be in the commitment line. I had to make the commitment to do the work and follow through. I had to be ready to receive the vision ahead of its arrival.

This week I got in the commitment line.

After Tuesday's class, when I watched my classmates present their ideas and share their plans, I realized I had not made the commitment to the work I need to do. I was holding back. I was keeping my passion at bay, just in case things don't work out.

And that's when my thinking changed. That's when I had the thought "commitment precedes vision."

Then the ideas started to flow.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Show Time

Yesterday was class #11 in the entrepreneurship skills course I am taking. The course runs twelve weeks, and the last two classes are dedicated to student presentations of our business plans.

I have been working with my classmates for ten weeks. We have had class discussions and shared our ideas in small groups. At one time or another I have talked with each person about aspects of their business plan. We know each other fairly well at this point.

And, still, yesterday I was blown away by the work that people have done.

The ideas are as unique as the people who own them: black and white film photography, all natural pet toys, graphic design, indoor golf, daycare, original art on homemade paper, outdoor activities, landscape design, pottery, and concierge service.

Each half-hour presentation includes time to read through the person's business plan, a PowerPoint presentation, and questions & answers.

I was impressed with the amount of thought people put into their plans and presentations. It was a thrill to see all the pieces come together and to hear what people plan to do next.

There are five of us left to present next week. Then we will share a potluck lunch and make plans for three follow-up sessions after the first of next year.

I am still working on my presentation. I have everything I need and an idea of how I want it to look.

I don't like to finish things. It's easier to keep a little bit undone so I can imagine that it turns out just the way I want.

It's also easier to keep working on the plan than it is to take action. The action step is where mistakes happen and risks are taken and everything doesn't go as planned.

Then I remember that I want to be more proactive. It's show time.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Contradictions

This morning we awakened to the first hibiscus flower and snow accumulation of the season ~

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Welcome December

This is the first day of December.

That means I have 31 days to:

Watch 20 Netflix movies so I will reach my goal of 200 this year. [The actual total will number more than that but I count the season of a series as "1" so it doesn't look like I spend more than an average amount of time watching rented movies and tv shows.]

Decide which digital photos I want to have printed so I can update the photo album. It used to be easy to take pictures, send off the film, get the photos in the mail, label said photos, and mount them in the photo album and scrapbooks. Now I take digital pictures and download them to the computer, where they are stored away in folders filed alphabetically instead of in an album where family gatherings and life events are in chronological order and tangible for my viewing and sharing pleasure.

Finish compiling this year's emails from my sons. When my daughter was in college she saved the emails she and I sent each other, compiled them on a disc, and had them printed out and bound at Staples. I used that idea when my sons went to college, compiling and printing along the way. The pages are few for my youngest but I'm saving what I do have. Since P moved away I have saved the few emails he's sent with the details of his new job and apartment. I'm sure there will be other milestones that it will be nice to have a record of in the future.

Find a job. Sigh. This might take longer than 31 days. I have high hopes for the interview I had last Wednesday; I will hear this week if I am selected for a second interview. All year I have been pinning my hopes on the next job application or the next interview or the next round of interviews. Time for a new strategy if I don't have a job by the new year, which means I will decide if I am going forth with a small business or not. The entrepreneurship skills class has been very good, laying out all the steps and details of starting a small business. I am a gatherer of information, so I already knew a lot of what we've covered. I was looking for a secret formula or a sign that this was meant to be. That only happens in fairy tales. What I have is a notebook full of steps to take and forms to file, with the knowledge that I would be taking on a huge responsibility that requires a lot of work and may return little or no profit for an indeterminate period of time. It would be a gamble, and I am not a risk taker.

Figure out how to make up for the last five months when I see P at Christmas. I knew the distance would make staying connected difficult, but I did not think the disconnect would happen so quickly. For instance, when P called last week he asked his dad if he was completely recovered from the pneumonia, which is something he still asks during phone conversations despite our assurances that Ken is fine. The problem is he hasn't seen his dad since the day Ken was discharged from the hospital, when he was still very weak from the pneumonia and the 45 pound weight loss. P doesn't have an image to replace the one when his dad was sick. We can't start where we left off because we aren't the same, but we have to figure out a way to get up to speed quickly so we can reconnect and enjoy the limited amount of time we will have with each other. Compacted time together does not make up for visits over time when the real stuff of day-to-day life happens, in the moment and with firsthand emotions.

And my biggest task will be to make an effort to be proactive instead of reactive. I realized this fall that for as long as I can remember I have made decisions about my life based on my reactions to what has already happened, whether that's circumstances or what other people have decided for themselves. I observe, collect information, read the reactions of others, and find a place to fit myself in the space that is left. This year I have had all the space a person could use, and I didn't know what to do with it. When given the time to do anything, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. There are 31 days left this year to figure that out.

I may not accomplish all of these tasks in the next month. I do know it's time for a change.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fall Blooms

My daughter brought a beautiful bouquet with her on Thursday. Several of the stems have buds that are still blooming ~

On my list of things to do before the holidays was "cut back the out-of-control hibiscus plant" that hasn't bloomed yet this year. Last year it bloomed in September. Then I noticed a half dozen buds on this crazy plant. In November.
Ken said maybe it will bloom for Christmas.
Does anyone know how to set the timing on a hibiscus plant?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve

I enjoy the anticipation of the holiday almost as much as I enjoy the holiday.

Yesterday I went grocery shopping and now have all the ingredients for everyone's favorites.

The house has been tidied and feels ready.

My youngest son will be home this evening. My daughter, who is not on call this year, will be here tomorrow. We have no grand plans, other than time together, which is my greatest joy.

I went last evening to a new hair stylist, who razor cut my hair very short. I love it. I have been growing out the color since July and needed it to be gone.

It's a fresh look, which I wanted because this afternoon I have an interview. I am going with the hope that it's a good fit and the knowledge that I will survive if it isn't.

This year I am grateful for all I have learned about myself.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Purring Pal

We have now belonged to Leo for over a year. I have been following him around with the camera because I wanted to take some current photos. He's a hard one to "capture" because he gets up when he sees me and proceeds to follow me around.

I did catch him standing in a sun spot ~


and waiting at the door, hoping that I would let him out ~

and getting very close to see what I was up to ~

Leo has charmed us beyond all measure. There are times when I pick him up and hold him tight just because he has been a loyal companion. There are times when Ken sits down to make a lap just because he knows Leo will jump up to "set a spell" and purr.
There's an old saying that you can't choose your family. We didn't choose Leo, but thank goodness he chose us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Making Room At The Table

The other day a friend asked me how it was going. I responded that it's okay that things are not okay.

Many things are shifting, most of which involves other people so I can't say much here.

Once I let go of expectations for just about everything, life got easier.

I am not as distracted. I am refining my focus.

I picked up the November 2009 issue of "O" magazine because it holds a series of essays under the heading How to Become the Person You Were Meant To Be. The essay by Amy Bloom (p. 182-83) is titled "But What If I'm Scared of Change?" and especially spoke to me, but since I don't have permission to reprint the whole thing here, I will share some bits~

She writes, "That's what change is for a lot of us - stuff you have to pretend to embrace even as your heart sinks...."

She quotes Sylvia Boorstein: "Surrender means wisely accommodating ourselves to what is beyond our control."

She tells a story about calling to ask her sister if there's room for another guest at a family holiday dinner. Her sister goes through a range of reactions and ultimately says, sure, there is room.

Then Amy summarizes, "So, maybe, there's an alternative to beatific acceptance of change. Maybe a little grousing helps. Maybe some frank grumbling smooths the way for some genuine acceptance. Maybe the trick is to acknowledge that change is sometimes wonderful, sometimes not, often disturbing, and always happening. Then, make room at the table."

I have been working on making room at the table.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Online Is Overrated

Last month I wrote a post about how I was setting up accounts to pay as many bills as possible online. In some cases it took hours to make the connection between my checking account and the bill I wanted to pay. As of today I have ten accounts payable online.

The intent behind this transition to online bill-paying was to streamline the system so someone else [aka Ken] could step in to pay bills more easily if I was indisposed for some reason.

Honestly, I was feeling pretty savvy for saving 44 cents for every stamp I wasn't using each month.

This month, for the most part, things have gone smoothly.

Then, yesterday I made the house payment, within the grace period when there is no late fee.

Yes, there was no late fee. But there was a service fee because I chose to make the payment in the final third of the payment period. So it wasn't late. And the money comes straight out of my checking account into the mortgage lender's account. But because I chose to pay the bill on the 12th, which I could have easily done by mailing the check at no extra charge other than the cost of the stamp, the online fee is $6.00. Six dollars. A service fee. It will be 14 months of stamps-I-did-not-use before I make that money back.

* * * * * * * * * * *

While I am sharing my limited success with doing business online, I might as well share that I applied for two jobs this week.

I don't often mention it, but I am still looking for a job. Wanted: a position where I leave my house to go someplace else to work with others to make the world a better place. That's my dream anyway.

These days most places prefer that you apply online. Figures, right? It's the 21st century and all that.

I wrote my letters and revised my resume. In one case I had to find the organization's website because although they preferred that the application be submitted online they did not include an email address or website in the ad.

With my "paperwork" checked and double-checked, I attached the documents to an email and clicked send.

Now I wait. Because not every place that wants you to apply online will reply to let you know they got your application.

The organization where I sent an application two weeks ago? I'm still waiting to hear they received it.

Yeah, online is overrated.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Keeping Time With the New and Old

We have been swamped in the last several days with new technology at my house.

Ken has been researching the latest versions of the Sony Cybershot ultra-compact cameras. He decided on the DSC-TX1, which was new in September, to replace the camera I smashed when I fell off the rock pile. The secret is in the Carl Zeiss lens, which is the reason he bought our original digital camera in 2006. Then, as now, he had done his research and knew what he wanted. He was working out of town last week and actually found the camera in a big box store. It has lots of new bells and whistles, but we are slowly learning how to use it. Already I notice that photos are clearer.

Ken has also been looking for a solution to our "two-channels of TV" situation. He found a website with new versions of digital antennas. We decided to order one, which could be returned if it didn't work.

So it was down with the old ~

and up with the new ~
which didn't work that much better until an amplifier (the black box about a quarter of the way up the pole) was added outside and plugged into the TV. Even then it took hours to troubleshoot why we still didn't get the best reception. The problem was the radios that were plugged into the cable; the amplifier does not like FM. Now we have good reception for CBS, in addition to PBS and the local Fox network, and sometimes we can get NBC. I don't blame Ken for wanting CBS, which carries many of the football games ~ the Patriots are having a good year.

By Monday this week I had had it with technology: cars that needed complicated repairs, cameras with new-fangled gadgets, antennas that wouldn't cooperate...and a clock that came back from the clockmaker still not working right. It has been more than three years, and four trips to the clock shop, since our Seth Thomas clock has worked properly. I picked it up from the shop two weeks ago. Ken wound it and started it on Sunday, and the time still did not match the chimes. When I got home from class on Tuesday, Ken was already home. I went about putting things away and starting dinner. He said, "Oh, I fixed the clock." Really? I asked him what the problem was. Ken had taken a moment to study the face as the clock chimed, and he realized that the hour and minute hands were reversed. Finally, a simple fix...for an antique timepiece. That's fitting.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Poem For Today


In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

from New and Selected Poems byMary Oliver, 1992, Beacon Press.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Remember To Vote

Last evening I received an email reminder from my state representative to remember to vote today. I know him personally and couldn't resist a reply.

Everyone in my household has already voted.

We take voting seriously in my family.

Ken learned years ago to vote early because he never knows where he will be working on election day. I have always made sure my kids got absentee ballots while they are away at school. My daughter is at a conference in New Orleans this week, and voting before she left was on her to-do list.

I had a feeling last week that I should vote early. I have class all day today and some errands to run while I'm out of town. It has the potential to be one of those days when things don't go exactly as planned.

At the very least I have taken care of my most important commitment for this first Tuesday in November.

I voted.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I Joined Facebook, Reluctantly

I now have a Facebook account.*

Until recently I had no intention of joining Facebook. I don't need one more thing to learn about, keep track of, or give my time over to.

But this fall I started hearing less and less from my sons, who no longer live within walking distance of each other in Boston but now live on opposite sides of the continent. The irony is that when both of them were in Boston I not only heard directly from each of them more regularly through phone calls and emails, but I would also hear from one what the other one was doing. It was great. I was in the loop.

This summer when Ken was in the hospital the guys called at least once a day and responded to my emails. Once Ken was home, and when P first moved to California, we still got regular updates from them and responses when we called or emailed.

Then things shifted this fall. Life settled down, routines fell into place, normalcy reigned.

Contact suffered with T in Boston and P on the west coast. The unspoken message: Life is good! Life is busy! Don't worry about me! I'm fine!

And I realized that I wasn't hearing about what was going on in their lives. I wasn't missing just the exciting news but the everyday events that make up daily life, too.

I missed my sons. I missed knowing what they were up to.

So I joined Facebook. My daughter got me started. To my sons' credit, they both friended me.

Now I can read what P posts on his "wall," about work or the weather or sports.

Now I know that T's CANstruction "Beantown Pineapple" won an award.

Facebook doesn't take the place of phone calls and emails, which I still look forward to and hope will continue for years to come.

Facebook does give me a chance to fill in the spaces of the days in between.

* If you find me on Facebook and want to hook up, I will "friend" people who ask.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Bottom Line

In Tuesday's class we started talking about the financial elements of starting a business. We talked about our attitudes about money and the basic descriptions of different bookkeeping systems.

This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where I usually shift into reverse and go in the opposite direction as fast as I can.

I have to put my fears and doubts on the side of the road, or I will not be able to go forward.

Two years ago, when I first considered the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur, I met with an accountant to talk about how to start keeping records for a small business. I took notes and was excited about everything I was learning...until I asked her about how much information she needs to do the yearly tax return for a business, how she reconciles the work she does with a family's personal taxes. Oh, she said, she also does the personal taxes for the business owner because she needs to make sure all the numbers match up.

Hmmmm....

What about the FAFSA, I asked. How would I get the numbers by March 1, the filing deadline in Massachusetts where my son is in college?

Oh, she said, we can ask for an extension. She would fill out the FAFSA as well because she would have all the tax information at hand.

Really....

Well, that sent my control issues into a tailspin. I have always done our taxes. I have a good relationship with the people at the other end of 1-800-IRS-GOVT and call them anytime I have a question. By the time I get everything in order for an accountant, I might as well fill out the forms myself, and there have been years where there have been lots of forms to fill out. I always figure out what to do.

Then I use those numbers to fill out the FAFSA for whoever in the family needs one filled out.

It's a source of pride for me that I have been able to manage our family's finances all these years. I like knowing what the numbers are, that columns match up, that accounts settle out, and that amounts have been checked and double checked.

It's not that I don't think an accountant knows what they are doing.

It's that I don't know what they're doing, which is one of the main reasons I am taking this class. We are going to learn everything we need to know about cash basis bookkeeping and filing taxes for a small business.

It's not that we will need to do all of the bookkeeping and tax filing ourselves. It is that we need to understand what is involved in keeping records and filing taxes for a small business.

Last Tuesday was just an introduction. Next Tuesday we will spend the entire class with a certified public accountant who will go through the income tax forms with us. The following week we will work on laptops to become familiar with cash flow, balance sheets, and profit & loss statements.

This is a big leap for me. I am entertaining the idea that the day might come when I will turn over the filing of my family's income taxes to a professional accountant.

What can I say, other than I like to keep my eye on the bottom line.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good Food For Every Day

This morning I started my day with oatmeal.

I have always been a cream-of-wheat kind of girl, which is my first choice for breakfast on a snow day.

Ken likes oatmeal. Until I figured out how to make oatmeal so I can eat it, I used to make cream of wheat for me and oatmeal for Ken. The kids could have whichever they wanted, and they usually opted for Cheerios.

Then I figured out that if I use a bit more water and cook it slowly, I can eat oatmeal, though I've never made it just for me.

Until today.

This week-end I flipped through Eat This Not That! by David Zinczenko, 2008. It's a fun book that makes suggestions about which foods to eat at chain restaurants, which prepared meals are better than others, and which snack foods are least bad for you. Little of this information pertains to how I eat on a regular basis, although I did learn that the crackers Ken and I like aren't the best for us.

The best information I got from this book was the list of "8 Foods You Should Eat Every Day." Spinach. Yogurt. Tomatoes. Carrots. Blueberries. Black Beans. Walnuts. Oats. I think it's a great list because I already like almost everything on it.

I don't like yogurt, no matter what I do to it or how often I try it.

And I was a little light in the oats department. I like my homemade granola but don't always have a ready supply.

So today I made oatmeal for breakfast. I like it with brown sugar and low-fat milk.

Then I went outside to shovel and rake rocks for two hours.

Oatmeal, my new energy food.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wanted: Local Woman Who Enjoys Politics

I felt deflated when I hung up the phone.

My friend in town is moving to Boston. She is one of two friends I have here. I met her when I wanted information about the 2008 presidential caucus. She is the chair of the town's Democratic committee, and we hit it off immediately.

We both love politics. Our children are grown. We have similar interests and have both been trying to start a new career.

Her husband has taken a job in Boston, which is exciting for both of them and will open up possibilities for her job search. She shared that it's also scary because it means starting over in a new place where they don't know anyone. They have lived here more than twenty years.

I will miss talking to her and attending meetings with her. She is organized, knowledgeable, and passionate about politics.

I have offered to continue to help with the local Democrats, but I do not want the position of committee chair, which is a lot of work and means constantly trying to get other volunteers to help.

So her move will leave a hole in my daily life. As happy as I am for her, I am that sad for myself. In the year and a half that I've been active with local politics, I have not met anyone else who has the same interests or wants to be as involved.

I will miss our conversations about what's possible.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A List To Guide Me

Before we left for Boston on Saturday I grabbed my class notebooks, with the intention of getting some work done in the car on the trip south. Several paragraphs of the business plan are due this week. I have about half of them written in rough draft, and I have cryptic notes on the rest.

I looked through my notes. There was a question I needed to answer before I went any further: What do I want from a business?

Here is what I wrote, unedited, as the words flowed onto the page~

I want:
- to share a product that makes life easier
- to have fun with it - product and process
- to connect with other women around business, ideas, innovation, life
- to make a high quality product that promotes eco-friendly practices & materials
- to make product(s) widely available, easily accessible on internet, through avenues that do not require me to sell directly
- to use the product to help women succeed

I looked back through the paragraphs I have written and most of these elements are present in one form or another. They need to be prominent. These ideas are at the heart of my mission. This list is the reason that I am putting myself out there and taking the risk.

Now that I am clear about what I want, I can clarify what I need to do.

Monday, October 19, 2009

CANstruction

On Saturday Ken and I were in Boston to see the installation of 16 sculptures at Bunker Hill Community College. Titled "Eat The Art" this is an art exhibit with a twist ~ the entries are constructed out of canned goods. An international competition, CANstruction is happening this month in over 60 locations. Our son T, a civil engineering student at Northeastern, learned about the competition this summer, put together a team, and found sponsors. The team designed their entry, Beantown Pineapple, and determined the number and type of canned goods they would need. Sponsors donated the dollars and the food was ordered. The result is an eight-foot tall pineapple made from canned spinach, peas, green beans, tuna, beans, orange slices, and peas & carrots. The creations, which include everything from a sushi boat to an ice cream cone to a set of false teeth with feet, will be on display for three weeks. Then the food will be donated to a local food bank. Ken and I got there to see the addition of the final touches ~

There was a discussion about the height and whether or not green cans should be added around the bottom ~
The team decided to add a green apron, but alas our camera bit the dust...literally. Ken accidentally dropped it on the floor from several feet in the air. It really is time for a new camera, though I would like to say that we appreciate the years of service rendered by our very first Sony Cybershot and the stamina it had to persevere even when injured.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Like A River

Halfway through class on Tuesday I wanted to be anyplace else.

Physically, I was sore from hauling rocks the day before and tired because I didn't sleep well. I couldn't get comfortable in the straight-backed chair, so I got up to walk around as often as I could without interrupting class, which also helped me stay awake.

Mentally, I was on overload. The topics this week were production and distribution, image and branding, advertising and promotion. By lunchtime I could feel the anxiety creeping in, and after lunch I had to force myself to focus to "stay in the room." When we broke into small groups I asked if people were as excited, less excited, or more excited compared to the first week. We agreed that we were feeling stressed and decided the best strategy was to take things one step at a time.

Once class was over I put everything out of my mind. I felt frustrated but couldn't verbalize why.

Wednesday morning I had an "aha moment." I was catching up with my blog reading, and the Monday meditation over at Awake is Good invited me to flow like a river. That struck a chord with me because of 1)my recent attention to the way water moves through my yard, and 2)the feeling that I have been swimming upstream for a long time. In my yard I am trying to accommodate the way rainwater naturally flows through my property, whereas in my life I have been trying six ways to Sunday to make things fit that have no intention of falling into place.

Aha.

The contrast is striking. I am willing to let rainwater follow its path, yet I am unable to honor my own. I have lived with myself my whole life, yet there are still things that I will not accept about who I am and how I do things.

There's nothing like a good metaphor to bring clarity.

Flow on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Driveway Reclaimed

Ken and I have known since before we bought this house that we needed to level the driveway. There was a dangerous slope on one side that, when covered with snow or ice, invited a vehicle to slide toward the trees. The day we met the building inspector here Ken's work van got stuck near those trees on the left when he tried to make it up the incline; the building inspector was kind enough to use his truck to give Ken a tow ~

With another winter upon us, it seemed like a good time to take care of the driveway, starting with the removal of the stump of the birch tree Ken took down two years ago ~

Truckloads of fill were brought in to level the low spots and give the driveway a "drivable" slope. Then truckloads of "reclaim," which is old asphalt that has been collected and pulverized, were brought in, spread around, and tamped down ~
The stickiness of the reclaim holds it in place, though there will be some shifting and fading. The result is a surface that blends in with the surroundings (and costs a fraction of new pavement) ~

Our next challenge was the way water moves through the property and down the slope. We need to enhance certain areas with gravel and rocks if we want to preserve the integrity of the new driveway. We went to work with the larger rocks first ~

...which did not shovel easily. I pulled rocks down to the ground with a hoe, and Ken lifted a shovel at a time into the wheelbarrow, wishing he had a tractor with every shovelful. I decided things would move along more quickly if I climbed atop the pile and shifted rocks with my feet. That worked...until I lost my footing and found myself on my tush at the bottom. I was fine. Nothing was broken, on me anyway. I got to my feet and remembered the ultra-compact digital camera in my back pocket...which is now literally a "point and shoot" camera. It still takes photos, but the screen is blank so the shot is a mystery until the camera is plugged into the computer. A broken camera is better than a broken wrist or ankle but I still felt awful. I did manage to get a shot of how we are using the larger rocks to fill in around trees and down the banks ~

Ken and I started this work on Monday and were both so sore that night that we could hardly move. Bruises on my knees and tush appeared yesterday. I am moving better today, so I may get some of the smaller rocks moved later...a little bit at a time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Home Safe

Elizabeth Berg is one of my favorite authors, and I have been looking forward to reading her latest novel since Cindy wrote a post where she mentions Home Safe. I waited for it to come out in paperback, and then I paced myself so I could savor the words on the page for as long as possible.

I finished the book last night. I didn't want it to end and knew at her last word that I would soon return to read it again. In the main character, Helen, Berg artfully captures the transitions of a woman in mid-life. I felt that from early on in the book; the paragraph that begins at the bottom of page 236 leads me to believe that Elizabeth Berg knows that of which she writes:

"On a few occasions in her life, Helen has felt deep happiness as a kind of pain. The day she married Dan. The day Tessa was born. Now comes another such time. She sits down and puts her hand to her chest and rocks. Thinks of all she has lost and will lose. All she has had and will have. It seems to her that life is like gathering berries into an apron with a hole. Why do we keep on? Because the berries are beautiful, and we must eat to survive. We catch what we can. We walk past what we lose for the promise of more, just ahead."

I love that, the promise of more just ahead. What better reason to keep walking?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Daughter The Doctor

My daughter has been independent since the day she was born. I have never known her to be any other way. It hasn't made her life easier, and in many ways it has made her journey more difficult. K stands up for herself and speaks her mind, which isn't always well received by other people.

I vividly remember the first time it became clear to me that not everyone would celebrate my daughter's independent thinking. I was attending her eighth-grade parent/teacher conference. I remember what I was wearing, as well as the tenor of the 45-minute meeting. K's advisor, who was also the French teacher, had a lot to say, not all of it complimentary.

Now my daughter was doing the work in all of her classes, getting good grades, and acting respectfully. What she was not doing was towing the line. K did not automatically take the word of people in authority, which included teachers, and she challenged what she did not agree with. The message to me, as the mother of this strong-willed teenager, was to explain to K why she needed to go along and get along. I tried to explain to Madame how this was not part of my daughter's personality. We went back and forth for the better part of a half hour.

I was tired. I was getting a head ache. I finally looked at the woman sitting across from me and said, "Do you think K is any easier to live with at home? If she behaves the way you are describing at school, how do you think she behaves at home? She is not an easy person to live with. I know that she will face many challenges when she is on her own in the world, and she needs to learn now how to stand up for herself now." Madame had no comeback for that, and we left it that I would talk to K about her advisor's concerns.

In high school K left a history class because the male teacher was making sexist remarks. She sat outside in the hallway so she would not miss the lesson, but she said she could not remain in the classroom for another minute.

In college K stood up to a biochemistry professor who didn't like the way K arrived at her answers, which had merit but were found another way.

In medical school K learned to knit so she could focus on the lectures. She had survived a roll-over car crash the spring before she graduated from college and suffered a head injury as a result of the accident. K taught herself to knit because she learned if her hands were busy she was better able to learn new information.

All of this, and the biggest challenge was still ahead. K writes honestly about her last year of residency on her own blog, so I will not repeat the story here. I will say that she has been asking for help with the overwhelming course load that is residency for the last nine months. It is a lot to handle for anyone, but for someone who learns and processes information differently it is challenging at every turn.

My daughter did not give up. She pursued solutions, followed up when others dropped the ball, challenged the status quo, and stood up to authority figures who did not care to be questioned.

Yesterday K learned that she has prevailed. I have not talked to her about the details, but her most recent post reveals that at yesterday's meeting with the director there were decisions made in K's favor. She will finish her third year of residency on time and she will graduate in June.

My daughter is an interesting, intelligent, engaging woman. She is also a talented, caring, knowledgeable doctor.

Her patients are lucky to have her.

I am lucky she is my daughter.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Like A Fever

It started with setting up accounts online. One thing led to another, and by Monday evening Ken and I were having a conversation about our financial picture. We review our budget once a year; the class I am taking pushed the conversation ahead a few months. It takes time to gather the account folders, organize the statements, and update the figures. If I needed to go through the process for my business plan it made sense to share the numbers with Ken.

For the first time we have an end-date.

At this point in our lives, there are only so many earning years left for us.

The plan was for me to graduate in 2007, get a full-time job with a modest salary, and use my income to pay off the mortgage before Ken retired.

Things haven't happened that way. We need to evaluate where we are and adjust our plans.

* * * * * * *
Yesterday in class we covered a lot of ground.

To continue what we started last week, we worked individually and in small groups to refine the mission statement for our business and an explanation of what our business is about.

The subject of marketing was introduced, the first of three classes on the topic. We worked during class to describe our product, define our target customer, and pinpoint the competition.

There was time to write and time to share ideas with classmates. It is eye-opening to hear a person's first impression about an aspect of your product. It's helpful to get a fresh perspective. It takes time and thought to integrate all you hear and learn.

Finished drafts are due next week, a paragraph each for the mission statement, business description, product details, target customer, and competition.

* * * * * * *
After class I had errands to run.

My first stop was Sam's Club. I had a dozen items to pick up. I made my way to the check-out, where someone directed me to the register at the photo counter. That sounded like a good idea, until I got over there and realized that I had to unload my cart so the items could be scanned and then put every item back in the cart myself because of the way the counter is designed.

I could feel the frustration building.

Out at the car, I had to unload and load again and remembered I would have to do it again when I got home.

It was too much. Ordinarily it wouldn't have been, but yesterday it was too much.

I was tired. I was frustrated. I wasn't where I wanted to be, nowhere near what I wanted to be.

The tears started to roll, unbidden and unwanted.

I got home to an empty house and knew I needed something to do with my evening. I started rearranging furniture, a good default activity that requires movement and focus.

I was tired and didn't finish what I started. It was after midnight when I got to sleep.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning to an unfamiliar clicking sound. The heat was running. I had slept for six hours, a good run these days.

I felt better. Nothing had changed. The frustration had run its course, like a fever.

Life goes on.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Please Hold....

In August it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to set up our household accounts so that we can pay most of them online. If it had been me, instead of Ken, who was out of commission for a month, it would have been his responsibility to pay the monthly bills. While he knows what accounts we have and what goes in and out, I have my own "clip bills together in the order that they are due" and "I know when I need to mail that so we don't incur a late fee" system that has worked for 32 years.

It is time for an upgrade.

The easiest solution seemed to be to set up as many accounts as possible so they can be paid online.

Solution? Yes.
Easy? No.

In September I spent almost two hours setting up the accounts I want to pay electronically so that in October I could access the online statements to pay the bills. So far this makes sense, right?

Last night I wanted to pay one of our credit card bills. I signed in, cleared security, and found the current balance due. I clicked "pay" and an outdated checking account number came up, as in it has been closed for two and a half years.

I tried to delete it. No go.

I went through the process to add our current checking account. Things went smoothly until I tried to make that the primary account from which to pay the bills. The program would not let me "confirm" the new account, and I couldn't "delete" the old account until I had a new account from which to draw funds.

I was at this for thirty minutes when I called the 800 number for assistance. Then I was on hold for twenty minutes. A nice woman then took my call, but she couldn't help me. She could connect me to an online technician, if I would please hold. More minutes passed...and then I was disconnected.

I went back to the computer to see if I could pay the current bill with the "unconfirmed" account, and it would let me do that. The payment was scheduled for October 3, which is a Saturday. Some places will not post payments on Saturday, and the bill was due Monday, but what if the payment I've made doesn't count because it's from an "unconfirmed" account....

It was late. I went to bed.

I tackled the problem head-on this morning. I called the 800 number again and ran through the gamut of options until another nice woman took my call. No, she couldn't help me, but she could connect me to an online technician. I explained how well that worked last night, so she gave me the direct number in case I got disconnected.

This time the call went through. The technician answered all my questions and gave me information I didn't know I needed.

Yes, they will accept payment from my "unconfirmed" account because the amount is less than $400.

Yes, they post payments on Saturday.

Yes, I can delete the old account once my new account has been confirmed.

To confirm the new account I need to check with my bank in two days for the amount of cents the company has deposited in my account. Then online I enter that amount(s) in the proper box, which verifies that indeed that checking account is mine. That confirms the new account. Then I can delete the old account.

I want to pay my bills online.

Please hold....

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Making Decisions

The first day in class we reviewed the decision-making model: define the problem, do the research, consider personal values, choose one alternative, implement the decision, and evaluate the outcome. The process is circular and makes sense - on the board. Then a person injects their personal tendencies into the process, and the process gets interesting.

When I have a big decision to make, I tend toward an agonizing attitude. I gather a lot of information. I am good at doing the research. Then I consider the pros and cons. Sometimes I even make a list. Often I get stalled when it's time to decide, and if I do make the decision I question if it was the right decision. I consider the what-ifs, worried that there might have been a better way or that mistakes will result, as if worrying protects against a less than perfect result.

The best thing about the discussion with other "agonizers" was that we identified positives about our process. I wasn't the only one who waited until the last day to submit the application for this training, and in the end we did decide to apply. We found the humor in the way we work through decisions and talked about ways to move the process along.

The whole-group discussion included the observation that most decisions can be be modified along the way. If there is a mistake to be made, it's better to make it, learn from it, and do something differently next time.

Few decisions are perfect or permanent.

I lose time when I sit on the fence. I waste energy when I continue to think about a decision that has already been made.

Later in the day, during a discussion about a positive relationship with money, a missing piece fell into place for me around making decisions.

Our facilitator shared this quote:

Settle with the past,
engage with the present,
and believe in the future.
[Today I found the source ~ it's from the movie Cheaper by the Dozen 2.]

I like the simplicity of the quote. It was the last part that resonated with me.

Believe in the future. I thought about that in relation to my decision-making process. When I believe in the future, I am better able to make a decision, whether it's to return to school or color my hair. It is when I lose my optimism about what lies ahead that I agonize too much over decisions and find myself stalled. I am afraid to take a risk when I worry about what the future holds.

I don't need to know what will happen in the future. I need to believe that things will work out, one way or another. I will do the research, weigh the alternatives, and make the best decision I can based on what I know. I will deal with the consequences and make changes along the way if necessary.

For thirty years I was able to make decisions about what's best for my family because I believed in our future. Now that my children are making their own decisions, I can focus on making decisions for myself.

I can believe in my future.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Back To School

I am exhausted. And exhilarated.

I knew I would be tired after my first day of class. I forgot how tiring it is to wrap my head around a new way of thinking, to pay attention, to challenge myself to new ways of doing.

There are fifteen other people in the class, all with different backgrounds, experiences, and ideas. We shared thoughts about our personal values, how we make decisions, and what kind of risk takers we are. It was fun to talk about ideas with classmates.

It was exciting to think about what I want and how I'm going to get it.

I have a lot of homework to do. I need to write a mission statement, examine my household budget, develop a spending plan, and think about how I will weave a business into the fabric of my life.

Stay tuned.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Click. Click Click.

Usually I am a patient person.

I will wait while a toddler puts on their own socks.

I will wait on hold until I get the information I need.

I will wait in line until it's my turn.

The one place I consistently show a lack of patience is with computers.

Internet Explorer does not respond. Click. The page will still not open. Click Click. The "end task" box opens. Click. The task has still not ended. Click Click. The "send report" box opens. Click Click Click.

Over the course of the last several days I've had a problem with my laptop ~ Internet Explorer has "not responded" on a regular basis.

I ran a virus scan. Still problems.

My husband downloaded Internet Explorer 8. Still problems.

We ran the program to defrag the hard drive. Still problems.

Meanwhile I was clicking away, running up any number of "end task" lines in the box and "not sending" any number of reports to Microsoft. Click Click.

Yesterday my daughter came for brunch ~ she brought bagels. We had a good time visiting and catching up. I mentioned that my laptop was acting up and I wasn't sure what to do next.

She sat at the kitchen table with my laptop for an hour, checking each program that was running, installing updates, and clearing out programs that were running in the background. Each time she started or ended a task, she clicked once...and waited. Then she took the next step...and waited.

I have never been able to use that kind of restraint with a computer, but I saw the results of her patience. Things ran more smoothly and it was easy to see what still needed to be done.

When she left I tried again to connect to a site that had kicked me off earlier in the day. It wouldn't connect, but this time I clicked once to end the task and once to not send the report. Patience.

I needed to do something because I need my laptop in top-notch working order before I start the training on Tuesday. I had carefully watched my daughter patiently work through the process of fixing one thing at a time. I was ready to give it a try. Patience.

I searched the web for "problems with Internet Explorer." I found a Microsoft site that offered a series of steps to follow, from the simplest to more complicated if the problem persists. I methodically followed the instructions, and while methods one and two did not solve the problem, method three did!

Patience.

I have not had any problems with Internet Explorer in the last 24 hours.

Thanks, K. I couldn't have done it without you.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Road Ahead

The call came in this afternoon ~ I have been admitted to the entrepreneurship training program that starts on Tuesday.

It feels like a door has opened. Even though I don't know what's on the other side I have decided to cross the threshold and follow the light.

When I look back over my life's journey, I often did not know what was on the road ahead. I would start off with the best intentions, carrying the provisions I thought I'd need for the trip. I could only see so far ahead and there was only so much I could do to prepare.

Then I would take the first step. Sometimes the journey went as planned...and sometimes I was lost from the start. Sometimes the road changed course with no warning, and sometimes the obstacles loomed large.

There were times when I sat by the side of the road waiting for help, which didn't always arrive how or when I wanted.

I have picked things up along the way and left other things behind.

Sometimes I follow the signs, and sometimes I make my own map.

I don't know what's ahead on this road.

I know class starts at 9:30 on Tuesday. I think I'll start there.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Recognition

First, a heartfelt thank you to Ann of anniegirl1138 for her recognition of what I share here. Hers is one of the first blogs I started following regularly, more than a year ago. Ann is a writer, and I look forward to her daily posts.

Second, this week I have recognized some things about myself. On Tuesday I attended the orientation session for an entrepreneurship training program, where the outcome is a written business plan. Three graduates of last year's class shared their success stories, and I felt even more inspired about the process. As I sat listening, I could see myself sitting at the front of the room next year, sharing how I started my business and encouraging others to do the same. That is the first time I have had an image of myself as a business owner.

During the session each of us filled out a simple self-assessment, answering yes or maybe or no to 25 statements, which ranged from "I am persistent" to "I have a reputation for being stubborn." Our answers were for our eyes only so there was no reason not to answer truthfully. Each yes was worth 3 points, and I scored 72 points. The only three questions where I answered maybe were about taking chances and feeling sure of myself. That tells me that my tenuousness is the only thing holding me back.

Twenty of us have applied for fifteen slots, so the advisors made plans to meet with each of us to decide if this training is the best fit for what we hope to accomplish.

My interview was this afternoon. It was more emotional than I expected it to be because it was a time to think about how I got to this point and what comes next. When asked about the biggest change in the last year, I answered that "I'm not a mom anymore." Yes, I will always be a mother, but the transition to "mom of adult children" is complete.

I will find out tomorrow if I've made the cut. If this particular training doesn't work out, the advisors will help me get what I need to move forward. I am told that this is the time in my life for me, and with help I may be able to achieve that.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Changing Gears

Leo is feeling better. Thursday night and Friday morning I fixed him chicken and rice, which he lapped right up. By Friday night he was eating his "wet" food, after he'd had his pill, with no trouble. This morning he ate his breakfast without benefit of medication, and he's doing fine.

I, on the other hand, have been eating only carbohydrates since yesterday. After a rocky start Sunday morning, I was able to drink black coffee and tea. Toast, baked potato, Cheerios, and crackers are keeping me afloat.

Life continues to feel unsettled.

Two weeks ago I applied for a job. Last week my resume was returned to me because it arrived two days after the deadline and could not be considered. The ad I answered said the search had been extended but apparently not long enough for my application to arrive in time.

Again and again I fall just short of the mark.

It is time to change gears.

On Friday I followed through on a promise I made to myself. It was the last day to submit an application for entrepreneurship training offered through the same organization where I sought career counseling and attended introductory business workshops. I promised myself I would apply if I did not have a job, or a serious lead on one, by September 18.

The training is an intensive course in how to start a business and includes 60 hours of classroom instruction in addition to assignments outside of class. Each student will write a complete business plan over the course of the 12 weeks with help from trainers, small business owners, local professionals and advisors.

It is time for me to stop dancing around the idea of having a business, to set aside the fear of being self-employed, to find out once and for all what is required to be a successful businesswoman, and to get to work to make it happen.

The problem isn't that I think I can't do it.

I know I can do it. That is what scares me. I start a business, and then what? I can't get a clear vision of what life as a business owner would look like, of what happens next, of how I will grow a business that will be profitable enough to provide the income I desire.

I have decided to start by taking the process one step at a time.

Tomorrow morning is an orientation session for all applicants. At that time interviews will be scheduled for admission to the class, which starts September 29. Fifteen people will be selected.

I did not want to apply unless I was ready to give everything I've got to the training and the process of becoming self-employed.

Last spring I met with a career counselor who told me I could have a job and start a business. I thought I needed to find a job first and then fit a business into what time I had left. Now I'm ready to try it the other way 'round.

I have been reading the blogs of women who are charting a new course, starting a new career, and realizing a dream. I find myself wishing I could do the same thing.

Maybe I can.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Furry Sidekick

Leo has not been feeling well. Yesterday I took him to see the vet, who gave me tiny pills to give him before he eats. Leo hasn't been able to keep any food down because his stomach contracts before he can digest the food. The pills are supposed to delay the process so he can eat and not get sick, which was still not the case yesterday afternoon. I went back to allowing him just water, and last night he glared at me while he stood watch at his empty food dish.

Then he decided water was better than nothing.

He has been as clingy as a toddler with a tummy ache. Last evening he went from Ken's lap to mine or climbed on any available surface to get as close to us as he could when we weren't sitting down. This morning I gave him a bit of white meat chicken, which seems to agree with him. I will know he's feeling better when he would rather be at his post at the top of the stairs than following me around the house.
Poor little guy. I've grown quite attached.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Some Days Are Like That

I was looking for a poem to describe the feeling when the pieces won't fit and there is nothing that can be done about it. I found this one, and it's just right.

In Answer to Your Query
by Naomi Lazard

We are sorry to inform you
the item you ordered
is no longer being produced.
It has not gone out of style
nor have people lost interest in it.
In fact, it has become
one of our most desired products.
Its popularity is still growing.
Orders for it come in
at an ever increasing rate.
However, a top-level decision
has caused this product
to be discontinued forever.

Instead of the item you ordered
we are sending you something else.
It is not the same thing,
nor is it a reasonable facsimile.
It is what we have in stock,
the very best we can offer.

If you are not happy
with this substitution
let us know as soon as possible.
As you can imagine
we already have quite an accumulation
of letters such as the one
you may or may not write.
To be totally fair
We respond to these complaints
as they come in.
Yours will be filed accordingly,
answered in its turn.

from Good Poems for Hard Times
Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor, 2005.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pemaquid Point

On Saturday Ken and I drove down to Pemaquid Point. We walked down to the rocks to look out at the ocean ~

and back up at the lighthouse, circa 1857 ~
We were going up in the tower for the first time ~

to see the light ~

and the view out to sea ~

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Woman In The Mirror

Six months ago my life felt different than it does today. Some of what has changed belongs to me and some of it is due to circumstances. Twenty-six weeks, or one hundred eighty-two days, doesn't sound like a lot of time, until I think about all the things that have changed ~

My youngest son has moved to Boston.

I knew this was likely, but it was six months ago that it became a reality. He decided to pursue a co-op experience in the big city, which meant he would live there year round. Most of his friends are there, as well as his volunteering and engineering activities, so it made sense that he would want to be there, too.

Today his room is home to my sewing machine, and there are curtains at the windows.

My oldest son has moved to the west coast.

I knew this was a possibility, but I had filed it in the "remote chance" folder in my mind. He proposed to his girlfriend in January, and six months ago we were making plans. There is going to be a wedding! There are venues to see and cakes to taste and colors to choose! Things fell into place quickly, and I sensed an undercurrent of activity. Wedding plans gave way to job interviews and moving arrangements.

Today I put his motorcycle on a moving van bound for Cal-i-forn-ia.

My daughter has started her third year of residency.

Six months ago she was headed out of state for her second month-long rotation "away" in her second year. There was flurry of activity at the residency as the next class of interns was granted admission and graduation loomed for the finishing third-years. Politics, problems with schedules, and feelings of being overwhelmed prevailed. Then it was time for the new third-year residents to take the reins. This is the year they prepare for life after residency, where the person and the profession merge.

Today she is making decisions, some shared and some still unspoken, about her future.

Within the last six months my children have taken flight ~ away, all of them, away from me.

The woman in my mirror looks familiar, which is strange because inside I feel not at all the same.

My story is changing, as tears cleanse and sadness fades. Early-morning dreams and mid-day musings, when caught unaware, a glimmer of something new...then gone. Nothing left to hold onto but feelings that do not fit and patterns that no longer work. So let go....

Grasping at air and gasping for breath, I am reaching for what will fill the place left empty.

There is space where there was none. There is room for what comes next.

The journey continues....

Sunday, September 6, 2009

This Is Our Life

Ken and I moved to Maine for the quality of life we found here. It is a good place to live and has been the best place for us to raise a family. Often times the best way to know about a place and the people who live there is to observe what they consider important and how they treat each other. The following video, to the song "This Is Our Life" by Mary Beth Maziarz, is a beautiful illustration of families in Maine. This is who we are ~




The issue of marriage equality is on the minds of many Mainers and the law will be subject to a people's referendum at the polls in November. In Maine, like so many places, we don't all live the same way or have the same opinion about every issue. We are an independent lot, and our laws represent the respect we have for all people. Though change is hard for some, fairness and equality are always the right answer. This is how we live ~




It helps for me to know that the people of Maine are not alone in their desire for fairness and equality for all. This video is for my daughter, who loves all things from Ireland ~

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What Is That Noise?

For some weeks my 2001 Outback station wagon has been making a noise. The sound is a dull "thunk" beneath the driver's seat when I shift into reverse or accelerate from a stopped position. The noise is short-lived and disappears once I'm in motion.

I've been treating my car, I call her Lily May, gently because she was due to be inspected this month. I name my cars in hopes that the bond will prevent them from breaking down on some lone stretch of highway. So far, so good. Lily May is named for two of the characters in The Secret Life of Bees which I was reading when I bought the car.

I took her to the local garage Tuesday morning. I described the sound to the mechanic who said he'd see what he could find. Minutes later he returned to the waiting area with a stricken look that said she-is-going-to-think-I-broke-her-car.

"You have a broken u-joint."

The mechanic who works the desk was up and on his way to the work area in one fluid movement.

The two returned together and said in unison, "I've never seen a broken universal joint on a Subaru."

They ushered me to the bay where my car was up on a lift and showed me the broken joint on one end of the drive shaft, which joins the front and rear axles and makes it possible for the car to move. When the car would start moving the detached rod bounced up against the bottom of the car, hence the "thunk" sound. With enough momentum the rod could have busted through the floor of the car or taken out the front end or caused any amount of damage. But it didn't.

The guys said I could take the car home while they tried to find a used part, which would cost half the price of a new one, while me, who lives on a dirt road where potholes are year-round realities, felt like I had used up my portion of luck on this round and opted to leave my car at the garage.

Meanwhile, there was a small problem with our other car, a 1999 Legacy sedan called Loretta, named for her zippy get-up-and-go attitude. Last Friday she wouldn't shift out of park. Then hours later she would...but we didn't want any one of us to get stuck somewhere.

Loretta decided to shift Tuesday evening so off we went to leave her at the garage with the thought that it was something easy to fix, a sensor or casing between the shifter and the brake. I was hopeful.

Wednesday morning I called to ask if they had found the problem. Yes, they had. There was a mouse nest in the shifting assembly. The nest had been removed, the car was running fine, and the bill was $36.10.

That evening I told my son, who drives Loretta when he's home, what the problem was. He was philosophical. "It's because we live in the woods, isn't it?"

Well, yes. But it's also because we live here that we found a garage we can trust that has mechanics who will do all they can for the lowest price to keep our cars running.

It evens out I think.