Thursday, February 26, 2009

Okay, Okay, I Get It

Alright already. Message received.

Earlier this evening I was thinking about myself and others I know who find ourselves in a time of transition, facing change and challenging situations. I have been re-reading favorite resources. What was "Greek to me" months ago now makes total sense, and there are emerging themes. Over and over again I read exactly the thing I most need to hear at just the right moment.

A couple hours ago I wondered how a person makes peace with a situation that seems impossible, no answer in sight. I picked up my copy of Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth and opened it to a random page. Page 188. This is what I had underlined: "You would immediately accept the situation and thus become one with it rather than separate yourself from it. Then out of your alertness would come a response." Hmmm. Total acceptance brings peace.

A few minutes ago I tried it again ~ picked up the same book and opened it to another random page. This time it was page 238. This is what I had underlined and starred: "Thus you become one with the situation. When instead of reacting against a situation, you merge with it, the solution arises out of the situation itself. Actually, it is not you, the person who is looking and listening, but the alert stillness itself. Then, if action is possible or necessary, you take action or rather right action happens through you." Hmmm. It's not up to me to solve anything. My task is to be still and wait.

Well, that's as close to be being hit over the head as I want to get. I will try to still my mind and let go of my need to have an answer. I will wait. I will try to be patient.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

'S'No Power

I woke up a little after 1 a.m. Monday morning, probably because the house was suddenly quiet and completely dark. I laid there for a moment, and then I heard Ken say, "We've lost power." I waited. No change. Ken got up at daybreak to clear the driveway and start the portable, gas-powered generator, which we bought when we moved to this house in the woods. Thankfully, we haven't had to use it. Fortunately, it worked like a charm. Filled with gasoline it hummed for over 8 hours and ran the furnace, well pump, microwave, coffee maker, and television. The power isn't such that it would be good for a computer, so I used my laptop sparingly on battery power. The electricity came back on late Tuesday afternoon. This was the scene outside Monday morning:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Favorite Felines

This month I am helping take care of my daughter's cats. Izabelle is a recluse, and there are days I do not even catch sight of her. Beazlie needs antibiotics daily, so even if she is hiding I need to find her and give her a pill. This is a challenge, to say the least. Today I took reinforcements, in the form of my husband. It was so much easier to administer the meds with an extra pair of hands! Beazlie wasn't any happier about the process, but it took a fraction of the time, and she still accepted treats from me afterward. She looks pretty peeved, doesn't she?

Meanwhile, back at my house, I know Leo misses me and will welcome me home with meows and purring. My daughter tried to explain Leo's "mane" to someone, without much success. He has tufts of fur that surround his face, just like a lion. It's hard to catch on camera, but I tried different angles while he was eating:

Then I needed to take a portrait shot of my feline friend:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Do It Anyway

Upon the advice of the career counselor I met with on Tuesday, I have emailed two people who have interviewed me to ask for feedback about how I presented myself and answered questions. I also asked if they had insights about what I could do differently in the future. I have already received one reply, and the other person will get back to me next week.

This is what Susan Jeffers means when she says, "Feel the fear and do it anyway," in her book by the same title. I pulled this book, that I first read in February 1995, off the shelf after I read Jan's post at Awake Is Good about how we transform our fear. I remembered that Jeffers' book made an impression on me and led me to make changes in how I addressed my fears. Her premise is that the biggest fear we have is that we can't handle whatever might happen in our lives. Once we know that we can handle anything, we have nothing to fear. I definitely need a refresher course.

I was fearful going into those interviews - fearful that I couldn't answer the questions, fearful that I wouldn't get the job, and fearful that I wouldn't know what to do if I did get the job. In going back to ask for feedback, I am facing that fear. In facing that fear I will gain valuable information to help me with future interviews.

Already I have been told that I didn't answer questions forcefully enough about what I could bring to the position, and I didn't clearly address the computer skills I possess. I know I have to be more confident when I talk about my skills and qualifications, and that is something that the career counselor is going to help me with. I have never delineated my computer skills, and my daughter says I know more than I think I do. That's something else I need to work on.

I see that until now I haven't been ready to go back to work. That's a hard reality to face, but there it is. Eighteen months ago I felt like a failure who had nothing to offer. That same thought caught me off guard this week, when I compared it to feeling this way a long time ago. That stopped me in my tracks, and I realized that my thinking was faulty. I wasn't to blame then and I'm not to blame now. Life transitions finally caught up with me the summer of 2007. I've needed time to catch my breath and take care of myself. I am more accepting of myself now. I am asking for help in areas where I am not confident. As I get stronger, I will project that confidence. With practice, I will come across as a woman who has a lot to offer.

I was talking to a friend this morning and telling her about my meeting with a career counselor. She said, "You really want a job, don't you?" I honestly replied, "I really do." The idea still scares me, but I'm going to go for it anyway.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Dream job: Employed to organize books for people all over the country.

Absent that possibility, I need to figure out what I want to do with my life. Yesterday I met with a woman who gave me that assignment, sort of. First, we went over my resume. She gave me advice about how to rework the sections and content. That is my homework for our next meeting on Monday. I also have the assignment to look back over my life at the themes that run through my schooling and worklife to figure out what I'm good at and what I really want to do. She said we will look at the process on two tracks: one to find a job, and one to find out what I really want to do. A friend went with me, and on Friday she and I are getting together with someone to learn a bit about web design, a desirable skill in the current market.

I had spent the previous two days wondering what to do next and who to ask for help. It looks like the cavalry has arrived.

Last night I went to a town meeting to talk about the issue of cable, or lack of for so many of us. A representative from the cable company was there to answer questions, and there were many from the 65 townspeople present. It all comes down to profit as far as the company is concerned. There is no physical reason why cable cannot be provided for every house in the town, regardless of how rural the location. Dollar amounts were quoted by the company, and they were refuted by people who have gotten much lower estimates of the cost to run cable to their homes. I had a few questions, and at the end of the evening I publicly thanked the representative for being there, being civil, and respecting our position. There is work to be done and a cable advisory committee will be created to do just that. I signed up for the committee, and after the meeting I had a chance to meet neighbors who are also concerned about the issue. A few asked me if I planned to join the committee because they thought I'd do a good job articulating our concerns. That felt good.

When I got home I called my mom to talk about things that have been weighing heavily on my mind. We talked for over an hour, which is unusual for us, and we both felt better.

Then I checked to see what was new in the blogosphere. For Shelter, the World wrote a post where she quoted Women Who Run With the Wolves. I pulled my copy of the old favorite off the shelf and randomly opened it to page 317 to the perfect paragraph:

"If you're scared, scared to fail, I say begin already, fail if you must, pick yourself up, start again. If you fail again, you fail. So what? Begin again. It is not the failure that holds us back but the reluctance to begin over again that causes us to stagnate. If you're scared, so what? If you're afraid something's going to leap out and bite you, then for heaven's sake, get it over with already. Let your fear leap out and bite you so you can get it over with and go on. You'll get over it. The fear will pass.... "

The idea is to get over the fear so a woman can go on to do what she's meant to do with her life. It's time for me to get over the fear.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Project Bookcase

Thank you everyone for the birthday greetings. It's never too late! That was the only day last week that I didn't work on Project Bookcase. Yesterday I finished. This is the bookcase in the den before ~

These books still needed a home, and I found more after I took the photo ~

Ta Da! Sorry for the blurriness but I didn't realize it was this bad until I got home and put the photos on the computer. You'll get the idea.
The left side has medical texts on the bottom shelf
and non-fiction on the shelves above ~

The right side has medical
texts on the bottom shelf and
fiction on the shelves above ~

The long, low
bookcase holds children's books ~
Knitting books have their own bookcase in the living room ~

Books should not live their lives on shelves. They are meant to be enjoyed, their covers touched and pages turned. This project gives each book a home base, a place they know they can return to. *Who knows what will happen to this photo arrangement when I push "publish."

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Good To Have A Project

I've spent three days this week at my daughter's house. In an effort to keep me busy and off the streets, she offered me a project. "Would you like to organize my books?" she asked. She probably wanted to reconsider when she saw the gleam in my eye, but the words were already out. "Yes!" was my response.

The first twenty years we lived in that house I had books everywhere ~ in small free-standing bookcases, on shelves, on tables, in closets, piled on the floor, in boxes, anywhere there was a free spot. Nine years ago my dream came true with a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookcase in the den. My husband built it with the help of a friend who is a carpenter. I helped draw up the plans and consulted on how it would be constructed. It was just what I wanted. Our family had a central place to keep all of our books, and for a "bibliophile" like me, it was heaven.

My daughter inherited my book-collecting gene but not my love-of-organizing gene. When she moved into the house, so did her books. She has books on the bookcase, but she also has them on every surface in every room of the house. In other words, the bookcase is not living up to its potential. That's where I come in.

I am an organizer at heart. I have an innate sense of how to bring order to chaos. I have been in my glory for three days while I retrieve books from the netherlands and find them a place to stand proud. When I'm finished, I will unveil the final display here. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


No moon tonight. The cloud cover is too thick. Jan's comment made me think of the movie Under the Same Moon, a foreign film about a boy who leaves Mexico to find his mother in LA. They have been separated for years and never give up hope that they will be reunited. It's a moving film about courage and perseverance.

This week my thoughts have turned to the trip Ken and I took to San Francisco in 2006. That's when we saw the awe-inspiring redwoods in Muir Woods, just north of the city. The trip was to celebrate my oldest son's graduation from college, my youngest son's graduation from high school, and my 50th birthday.

Today is my birthday.

My first gift was sleep. I slept for seven straight hours last night, and I can't remember the last time that happened. I finished a book just after midnight, wished myself a happy birthday, turned out the light, and woke up seven hours later. I would like that to happen more often, please.

My second gift was lunch with a friend. Last week I called my friend in town who is still nursing a broken ankle. I knew she had a physical therapy appointment today, so I called to see if I could take her. Before I knew it we had an afternoon planned, which included her buying me lunch at a restaurant I've wanted to try. Our ladies day out was fun.

Yesterday I received a lovely card from a friend. Ken called me this evening to wish me a happy birthday. I know I will hear from the kids at some point; the next time my son is up from Boston we will celebrate our February birthdays.

I used to set goals that I wanted to meet by such-and-such age. Invariably I would be disappointed when I didn't accomplish what I wanted by the deadline.

So I've learned not to set myself up like that. The day comes and goes much like any other day. I reflect on where I've been and where I would like to be.

I made myself an angel food cake, from a box, and will enjoy that while I watch a movie. There is fresh coffee to drink and a cat to warm my lap.

All in all it's been a good day.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Full Moon

There is the most beautiful full moon lighting up the yard tonight. When I look out the window, it looks as if someone turned a streetlight on.

The light put me in mind of a post card I framed from our trip to Muir Woods in 2006. The scene is a ray of sun breaking through the clouds while fog rises among the dark silhouettes of trees on a hillside. In the bottom right-hand corner I copied the words of John Muir:

It is always sunrise somewhere.
The dew is never all dried at once.
A shower is forever falling.
Vapor is forever rising.

Light. Darkness. Beginning. Ending. Full circle.

I watched The Secret Life of Bees tonight, which closely follows the book. I liked the book more than I thought I would. I usually prefer the book if I've read that first, though in this movie the actresses portray beautifully the complex lives of their characters. There isn't always a simple explanation. An ending isn't all happy or sad.

At the end of the story, Lily writes in her journal: I guess I have forgiven myself, although sometimes in the night my dreams will take me back to sadness. I have to wake up and forgive again.

Light. Darkness. Full circle.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Picking Myself Up

Dusting myself off. Starting over again.

Encouraging words help. Hearing how others have weathered similar frustration helps. Support from friends and family helps. Not holding in the disappointment helps.

One of my professors, who serves as a reference, emailed to say that I might want to take a workshop on fund raising. It wouldn't be the same as having the experience, but it might help. Good advice.

A woman I know in town is also looking for a job. We are close in age and in similar situations. We talked last week about how things are going. She hasn't had any more luck than I have. She told me she cut her hair, long and graying, that she used to wear in a braid. I told her I was going to let my short hair grow out and attempt to return it to its original dark color. She is on the verge of doing the same thing herself. We can't confirm that our age has been a factor, but we agree that it's time to look seriously at what we can do to make ourselves more competitive in the job market.

She suggested we make an appointment to meet with someone at Women, Work, and Community, to review our resumes and assess our interview skills. Twenty-five years ago this non-profit affiliated with the University of Maine was called Displaced Homemakers. Today a woman doesn't have to be divorced or widowed to need help getting back into the work force.

There are jobs out there. People are being hired. Maybe the right position for me hasn't yet come along. When it does, I want to be ready.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Unmarketable Skills

I learned Monday morning that I didn't get a job I interviewed for last week.

This time it was different. I know everyone who works in the organization, where I am a member and volunteer. After I emailed my application, the executive director responded within an hour. She said she thought I "possess great skills in the outreach and policy arena" and wanted to make sure I knew the position was part-time and more of a "back-office" job. I assured her that I was aware of the details and still interested in the position. We set up an interview.

I went in last Monday, nervous but optimistic. We talked for the better part of an hour, and I left feeling good about my chances.

My daughter had time off this week, and I have been helping her with projects. I was at her house when I got a phone message from the executive director that she wanted to follow-up about the position. I was still optimistic when I called her back. She wanted me to know that she hired someone else, someone with fund-raising experience, a qualification that wasn't part of the original job description.

I just wanted to get off the phone. I thanked her for calling. She went on to say she respects my work and my skills, and she would be willing to serve as a reference. I need a job, not a reference, but I didn't say that. I thanked her again for calling.

I said to my daughter that if I can't get a job with someone who knows me and respects my work, I don't know what I'm going to do.

My daughter said there are things I can do. She started with my ability to raise children who are self-assured, responsible, and able to do anything they put their minds to. I added that I can clean, de-clutter, and organize any room in a house, or the entire house. I can use the phone to find anything you need to know. I can strike up a conversation with anyone I meet. I listen, facilitate, and know how to carry out an agenda. I can compromise and don't need to be right. I can see both sides of an issue.

Those are just some of my unmarketable skills. I am a seamstress and a cook. I am an expert at laundry. I can paint any surface inside or outside. I shovel snow, rake leaves, and dig in the garden. I pay bills on time, do taxes, and organize finances...

Although my new financial advisor has been laid off. I emailed her to wish her luck in her job search. She emailed me back with the same and an ad for an organization she has mentioned to me before. At this point I have adapted so many resumes and written so many letters that it takes no time at all to apply for a job. This is not a desirable place to be for anyone who really wants to be working.

My daughter said that, for her, I put the possible back in possibility. For me, getting a job feels impossible right now.

The past two days I have come home in the early evening to walk on the treadmill, watch the news, pet Leo, heat up leftovers, drink a glass of red wine, take a shower, make a cup of coffee, and climb into bed at 8:00 to watch a movie on my laptop.

The ability to follow a routine, yet another unmarketable skill....

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ah, February

I am glad February is here. It's arrival means that January is over.

I celebrate my survival of January. It's no small task, what with its thirty-one days of winter. January is a long, cold, snow-filled month. Throw in the occasional ice storm, and most years January wins the dubious award of most wintry month.

Not that February isn't full of winter weather. It is. It's also the bridge month between January and March, the month shown on the calendar to hold the first day of spring.

February has many things going for it. For three of every four years, it is twenty-eight days long; I like a month that can be divided into an exact number of weeks. For the shortest month, there's a lot going on ~ the Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day, the Academy Awards, and birthday celebrations.

When February arrives, I breathe a sigh of relief. The days are getting longer. While I am still knee-deep in snow, I can see the light change. I can feel my spirits lift.

Ah, February has arrived.