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!


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


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.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Relative Normal

Ken had a follow-up doctor's appointment on Friday. He looks good, feels good, is back to work, and feels like his old self. The doctor wanted numbers and pictures for confirmation. The lab drew blood and radiology took a chest x-ray.

Yesterday the doctor called with the results: everything looks normal. Hallelujah.

So Ken is back to normal. Meanwhile, my context for normal has changed and I no longer have a reference point.

Normal is relative. If there is something to compare it to, then you know. If you're in new territory, then it's hard to tell where you are on the scale. Sometimes it's hard to know where to even begin.

In one of the last shows in the last season of the television show West Wing Timothy Busfield's character, Danny, is anxious to plan a future with Allison Janney's character, CJ. She has worked in the White House for eight years, and her life has been too full for a serious relationship. Danny, who was a reporter, has courted her for years and sees his chance to build a life with this woman he cares about deeply. CJ wants to plan it all out ahead of time, but that's not possible because life as she knows it is coming to an end and the future is uncertain. Danny knows this and is ready to make changes in his own life. What he says to CJ makes me weak in the knees: he says he wants to talk to her, he wants to hear her voice, he wants them to make decisions together about what their lives will be.

I know how CJ feels. She wants to know what the consequences of her decisions will be. She wants to play out each scenario and analyze it. She wants answers.

Danny wants to be with her regardless of where they are or what they decide to do.

I want to figure out what the future holds. I want charts and graphs and numbers. I want to list every option and talk about possible consequences and make decisions based on the odds of success.

Ken wants to make plans to go to dinner.

Ken and I haven't had practice with this. The last time we were alone together we were young, in our twenties. We didn't have a five-year plan, or a one-year plan for that matter...and it all worked out fine. We made decisions as needed, based on the information and resources we had at the time. We considered our options and made the best choice possible. Then we moved on. We made it work.

It felt like there would always be enough time.

Life is different now in some ways but not in the ways that matter. Ken and I are still together and we still like each other.

Time has passed. Time will continue to pass. It doesn't make sense to use time worrying about what might, or might not, happen.

It makes sense to start with plans for dinner. I am learning....