Of Duct Tape and Driveways

When I undertook to renovate my 1892 home back in 2005, I thought I’d budgeted for everything. It turned out that I didn’t have budget for replacing all the studs on the second floor (ancient roof fire), digging-out a brick septic tank (hazardous material removal), and a fourteen-month delay due to living next door to the President of the City Council’s brother (inexplicable retraction of building permits, corruption, secret meeting violations, etc.). At the end of the project, I was left with several hard-rock choices. I chose not to renovate the original bathroom; not to repair the destruction of the driveway caused by excavation; and not to replace the original front door which is custom built, hardwood, and leaky. I also chose to use cheaper cabinets in the kitchen and use built-in-place Formica counters rather than the soapstone of which I dreamed (I am a Chemical Engineer by education…I just really wanted them!).

So, ten years in, when cracks appeared in the new portion of the basement, I girded myself to tackle the first of these delayed projects, and the most expensive. I have a Michigan Basement…but my new construction was lower than that. Michigan basements are high, due to the high water table, half-way above ground with windows. I added a small portion to the basement at the back of my house to move the staircase and add a living space that can be used as a bedroom. I also got lots of closets, and a small room that I’ve used to store many of my books on metal bookcases. It also houses a sump pump. After ten years, I discovered that the floor had cracked and water was pushing its way up into the space.

I immediately implicated the damage to the driveway, just adjacent to the sump pump, to the damage to the basement floor. I called my contractor and had them replace my driveway and deal with all the water-drainage issues. This included not only the driveway drainage, but the drainage from half of my large roof. Everything was draining to a single point next to my house where the damage had occurred.

A week and many thousands of dollars later, I had a lovely new driveway. A storm hit, and all the water, now diverted to the other side of my driveway, was easily absorbed into the ground rather than back into my house. I thought this was success…but a few days later it dawned on me to check out the water situation in my basement. Sadly, not only was it still wet, it seemed worse than before!

I met with my contractor to finalize the project. I showed him my wet basement space. I stood there as we brainstormed what the problem could be. We both agreed that the driveway project had been much needed and had been successful for the most part. Then the sump pump kicked in and my contractor exclaimed, “did you see that?!”. No, I hadn’t, but it turned out that the when the sump pump kicked in, a leak in the piping gave way to a solid squirt of water back into my basement!

My contractor is sending over someone to replace the leaky fittings…but in the meantime I took a scrap of duct tape from my younger daughter’s craft supplies and a used, one-gallon, zip-top bag, and taped a make-shift water shield to the leaky fixture. My basement is now dry. No longer does half the water that hits my roof plus all the water that hits the driveway dump towards my basement…and no longer does my sump pump pump a fraction of that water directly back into my basement.

I know I needed to replace my driveway, but I am still left thinking that the immediate crisis was actually fixed for free…

Find the Joy in the Journey…have a sense of humor, it always helps!

Adventures in Spain: My Search for Mi Amiga

This is my third attempt at writing this post. The first one was just so-so. I set it aside. I started afresh and kept returning to the piece until I finally felt that it was exactly what I wanted to say. Then, as I searched for the perfect photo for the perfect piece, the final draft of my post vanished. This has happened to me before, but usually I can dig around in cyber-space and find my work eventually. I’ve looked and looked to no avail, and ultimately waited six weeks to admit defeat. Time to snatch victory from the arms of defeat. I will start once more…

Many years ago, twenty-three-and-a-half to be exact, I was the new home-owner of a 100 year-old,Queen Anne Victorian house. I was also pregnant, although I didn’t know it yet. Once I learned of my joyous condition, my biggest concern was what to do about childcare. Immediately, I thought of having an au pair. I had the room in my big-old house…although the house needed a lot of work…I called it The Money Pit after the old Carey Grant movie, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. With a downstairs bedroom adjacent to a full bath, it was the ideal house to have a live-in babysitter. I didn’t want, nor could I afford, a live-in nanny at $15-$20 an hour. What I wanted was a young woman on a cultural exchange program who would share my home and family life for room, board, tuition money, and a modest salary in exchange for minding my children and sharing her culture with my family.

We had our good, bad, and decidedly ugly moments, but in the 16 year span that followed, I never regretted my decision to welcome au pairs into my home. Three, in particular, became close friends to me. This was an added benefit, as friendship was never the real goal. But, these three…I treasure them like dear sisters. Two, I’ve kept in close contact with over the years…and attended their weddings. I hope to be known to their children as their US Auntie someday…But one, one I lost. As much as I tried to reach her, my messages were lost in cyber-space.

She was Spanish, from Pamplona. At one point, I found her on Facebook, but she didn’t accept my friend request. Sometimes she’d send me Yahoo greeting cards and I would reply to the attached e-mail address with a note. She never responded. Eventually, I decided that she’d lost all of her English. That wasn’t far from the truth.

The first moment I met her, she stepped off the plane from New York, fresh from her au pair training, and fell into my arms. That just may have been the moment in my life when I went from being a non-hugger to being a hugger. She was so relieved to have arrived, after several days of dis-orientation, into the arms of her new “mother”. I was pregnant, just a month…something I needed to tell her, although in the end, she was on her way home before I finished my maternity leave.

Somewhere along the way, she learned enough English to converse…I on the other hand, didn’t learn much in the way of Spanish. When she returned to Pamplona, she didn’t practice her English for 14 years. She had a job where being on Facebook was a liability, so, she put up a profile, then took it down again. Years went by. Sometimes my son, who became fluent in Spanish in high school, was able to converse with her briefly, but for the most part, she was lost to me.

When my older daughter decided to spend a semester at her university’s campus in Madrid, I encouraged her to reach out to our former au pairs in Europe, and several of their au pair friends whom we’d met. She had no luck with our friend in Pamplona, who watched her from the age of 3 and a half to 4 and a half…until the very day that I flew over to spend a week with her. She was seven months pregnant and over joyed to see us.

I arrived in Spain and met my daughter. We took the Metro and she showed me the home she shared with a host mother and roommates…not so dissimilar to our au pair experiences. We walked to her school and she shared her art projects with me. Then we went to the train station and bought tickets to Pamplona. We couldn’t get seats on the train we wanted, so we had tapas before catching the train. I worried that we were keeping our hostess out too late…but, ah! Spain!

I napped briefly on the train…the only sleep I’d had in two days. As we pulled in to the station, I looked expectantly out the train windows for mi amiga. I didn’t see her. We disembarked onto the platform with our bags and looked anxiously around. We proceeded into the station itself and looked around. There she was, time slipping away from me, I saw the same girl from 15 years ago. I ran into her arms and my daughter soon joined the embrace. Tears of joy blurred my vision.

So, try and try and try again. Whether it is getting that perfect draft or finally reaching a long-lost friend, never give up!

Find the Joy in the Journey! This Journey is just beginning!

The Procrastinating De-Clutterer

I have limited energy these days, but lots of time (this seems to be a common problem…you have one or the other, never both.). So, I am continuing my quest to cull my closet (oh, and my drawers, and the multiple laundry baskets in my bedroom and closet, and multiple Sterlite bins in my closet and in the attic, and other various and sundry locations where my clothes are hiding). It is a major task, and one that I’ve avoided like crazy over the years. Recently, however, I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. So, I am using the book as inspiration…but not, as it turns out, as a strict instruction manual.

So far, I’ve only gone through folded clothes…T-shirts, shorts, jeans, underwear, pajamas, sweaters, etc. I have so much more to go through; I have clothes dating back to my teens. I find that I cannot go strictly by Ms. Kondo’s directions. As it turns out, she’s been throwing out her things (and those of her family members) since she was a child. How much more could she have to discard? I, on the other-hand, have five decades of stuff…plus the left-behind stuff of my ex…another fifty years worth of stuff. Oh my goodness! When you look at it that way, I have over 100 years of stuff to sort not counting all the stuff my three children have accumulated.

So, rather than having three categories for my clothes (discard, donate, keep) I’ve made my own categories. I still have discard and donate, but as for “keep”, I’ve given myself the following:

  • Keep until I can sell it…This is something that I no longer want or need, but which is still in fashion, still in good shape, and is worth the effort to try to sell
  • Keep because I still love it and even though it is too small for me, it fit me just last year. Now that I’m getting back to my usual level of activity, I’m sure it will fit me again by next year.
  • Keep because I still love it and even though it is way too small for me, I have a reasonable weight-loss goal that will get me back into it within a year or two.
  • Keep because my daughter saw it in my discard pile and decided that she loved it.
  • Keep because it has sentimental value and according to the book, I should save sentimental items until the end of the process.

The way I look at it is that I have procrastinated way too long in de-cluttering my closet and I need to accept the inspiration the book gives me and reject the parts that put me off of the whole thing. Truly, the more stuff I can get rid of or compartmentalize into easily discarded lots, the better.

So, now I have a second garbage bag of discarded clothes (I must be pretty good at discarding-as-I-go) and an ever-growing pile of donations. I am quickly moving to the most dreaded part of this task…the hanging clothes. Before I had children, I had a penchant for buying high-end clothing…some of it is classics and some is just stuff I paid a lot for and hate to toss or donate. I will need to employ the “thank you for bringing me joy” method of disposing of such items as explained in the book. I’m sure it will bring me happy memories, so, onward I go!

Find the Joy in the Journey…Joy is rarely found in objects, so keep those that do bring you Joy and don’t feel bad for letting the rest go.

Related Posts:

Can Tidying-Up Change Your Life?

Can Tidying-Up Change Your Life?

I recently read Marie Kondo’s book, the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. Of all the many books and articles I’ve read about de-cluttering, this one has struck a real chord with me. She advocates going through your things by category and instead of discarding what you don’t want, keep only what brings you joy.

She also advises to start with your clothes…and that has been something I’ve procrastinated about forever. It’s on the top of my list of de-cluttering tasks and yet I always have reasons why it’s not the right time to tackle it. No more. Like most women, I have clothing in multiple sizes. The idea of following all the best advice, to throw out what you haven’t worn in a year and to never keep things that are too small for you on the if-come that they will fit again, sent me into a procrastinating spin. So, naturally, I’ve modified the rules to break my procrastination cycle.

A few years ago, I lost a nice amount of weight. Then, with continued running and training for a few half-marathons, my body changed shape and that was a good thing. I got rid of some worn “big girl” clothes and felt pretty good about it.Since then, I’ve kept a box in my closet where I throw nice things that are now too big for me for eventual donating or selling. Then, after all that healthful living, I started having some physical issues that slowed me down significantly and interfered with my running. Then winter hit with a few of those nasty polar vortexes and my weight crept up. According to my younger daughter, I was still looking good…the muscle I’d built up really helped!

Two weeks ago, I had surgery to fix my problem. I’m healing up nicely and with some time on my hands while on short-term disability, it’s finally time to tackle my closet. Ms. Kondo recommends breaking clothing down into categories if you have a lot of items. Oh, yes, that applies to me. I have had to create way more sub-categories than even Ms. Kondo recommended!  I decided to start with socks. Yes, socks. I have no emotional attachment to my socks, so this was a good place to start! After sorting out about a hundred pairs of socks, I found that I have a lot of sports-related socks. I tossed all socks with stretched-out or dried-out elastic or that had stains or holes. I also had no problem tossing some older socks into the donate bin…like the Nike socks I wore the last time I was on a golf league…20 years ago! I’ll hand it to Nike, those socks were still white and stretchy, just like new!

After my success with socks, I moved onto underwear with similar success. Then, naturally, I moved on to pajamas. This is where things started to get tough. I love pajamas! When I pick up each one and ask myself if this item of clothing gives me joy, the answer is more often yes than no. This is also where I first had to deal with size…what fits me now and what doesn’t. I decided on two additional categories to the “Konmari” method…Clothes that fit me last year and clothes that were smaller than that…that I’d planned to fit into before my physical issues overwhelmed me. My accommodation for having multiple sizes is to segregate them and to keep the smaller items out of my closet until they fit me or until I “give up” on ever fitting into them.

IMG_0740Next I moved on to sweatshirts…turns out I only have eight. My younger daughter commandeered 2 right away. One was a softball sweatshirt from her school, and one of the Tower of London (any remote connection to One Direction gets her attention…even just the country of origin). I kept three…an oddly short-sleeved sweatshirt from my undergraduate university, a Cardinals Baseball sweatshirt, and an 826Michigan sweatshirt. The discarded three are, a $4 grey Hanes sweatshirt from Target…no clue why I bought that. A Hard Rock Cafe Pheonix sweatshirt in hot pink that I don’t recall buying and that my younger daughter declared, “so hilariously 90’s, Mom!”, and a college sweatshirt from Germany that my father-in-law gave me years and years ago, even before I was married. It is horribly stained, but my younger daughter has her eye on it anyway…she wants me to soak it in Oxyclean and see if it is salvageable before I toss it.

So, two days into this project, I have one bag of trash (it’s at the curb, I promise!), a large box of donations, two stacks of PJ’s that are too small for me but which I really like, and the tiny hint of added closet space. I’m into this…I do believe it will change my life and help me meet other goals.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the Joy in focusing on what you truly love and letting go of the rest!

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The Procrastinating De-Clutterer

My First Mass Mob

Last year, I read with interest that a few people had organized the first Mass Mob in Detroit. They got the idea from a similar effort in Buffalo. It’s not what you might think…it’s a flash mob at a chosen church. The intent is to fill up the pews, and the coffers, in support of a parish in need of a boost. There are so many beautiful, historic churches in the city and keeping them open is a mission to some.

This past Sunday was the first Mass Mob of 2015 in Detroit. It was held at Old Saint Mary’s in Greektown. Two of my friends and I decided to go, and we left before 10 for a noon Mass. Upon arrival, we were directed to a nearby parking garage at Greektown Casino. The casino had donated the parking for the event. We had to wait outside for the 10 a.m. service to let out and then had to sit for almost an hour waiting for the start of the Mass Mob. It was exhilarating.Old Saint Mary's

The event was very well orchestrated which made it seem spontaneous even though it was planned. As more and more people poured into the church, we all “squeezed in” to make room. Estimates are that 1600 to 1700 people shared the experience.

We chatted with the visitors around us. In front of me was a couple coming from 50 miles away. They had been married in this very church three decades prior. Other stories were told around us as we awaited the start of Mass. The Knights of Columbus led the procession of the celebrants into the church.

We were blessed to have the Archbishop preside, and I warmed to him right away. He told us that some of us might be there as a sort of Catholic tourism…but he was okay with that. His deeper hope was that we were part of a new evangelism in spreading our Faith.

When the time came to take up the collection, I noticed that a security firm had been hired to watch over the process. They wore black jackets with a discrete logo and plain khaki pants. As the ushers moved down the aisle, one came with a large, medicine-bag-style briefcase, collecting the money and moving it off to one of the guards as the ushers worked their way back through the church. When the offering was brought up, rest assured that the money had already been secreted away and the focus was on the bread, water, and wine.

Inside Old Saint Mary'sAfter Mass, my friends and I wandered out into the sunshine and past quite a few drunken Millennials in green T-shirts. They were coming from the St. Patrick’s day parade…such an odd juxtaposition of events that day. It reminded me of Thomas Cahill’s book, How The Irish Saved Civilization. Much of it is focused on St. Patrick. It is a delightful and educational telling of a part of world history that is often neglected. St. Patrick wasn’t much for green beer and corned beef, but he was an integral part of saving the Western World’s culture, and with it the Catholic church. Now, modern believers are offered the opportunity through these Mass Mob, grass-roots efforts to save some of the cultural touchstones of our Faith for the next generation.

Find the Joy in the Journey…

Just As Things Started To Fall Into Place…I Got A Brush Stuck In My Hair

I’ve struggled with motivation (lack of) and procrastination (lots of) lately. Maybe it’s the harsh winter with short days and excessively cold temperatures. Maybe it’s that I just have way more on my plate than I can handle. Regardless, I’ve managed to power through some things while putting other things off…I think there are a finite number of really big things I can deal with and, whether or not I consciously prioritize, my brain does it’s own prioritization and decides for me.

Now that my house loan is squared, which has been a hugely stressful issue for me, I’ve been able to make another big decision. Just in the deciding, I feel relief. So, today I was energized. I had two bookends to my day, with studying to fill the middle…no more procrastinating!

My younger daughter and I headed off to get her learner’s driving permit this morning. We didn’t rush to get out early, instead we took it easy. There is only one place on a Saturday to go, and when we arrived, there were hundreds of people in line! Two hours later, we walked out with our task accomplished. Next we stopped at Target to get some things for a care package for her sister who is spending a semester abroad. Back home, I ate my lunch, then launched into my homework.

I was in a zone…my phone, and all of its distractions were temporarily forgotten. Three hours later, I’d redone an assignment that I knew I’d not done correctly. My professor never collected it, but I knew I needed to figure it out. Then I went over another assignment that my professor had returned to me…I had the wrong answer. After going over it a number of times, I finally found my errors and corrected them. I e-mailed it to my professor and looked at the time. I just had time for a shower before I was taking my daughter and her friends to a high school musical.

I’d bought a new hair styling product at Target that promised to give me some volume to my non-voluminous hair. I carefully followed the instructions which included spraying my hair, rolling it in a round brush, and drying it with a blow dryer…Less than a minute later, I had a ceramic brush glued to my hair. After many failed attempts to remove the brush, including jumping back in the shower and trying to use shampoo to dissolve the spray, and soaking conditioner through it to try to loosen the grip of the brush, I ran out of time.

I ended up driving the kids to the play, half an hour away, and even stopping for gas on my way home. I’m sure that the traveling and fussing with the brush, which was kind of obstructing my view, only made my hair tangle-up all the more. Back home, I texted my son to find out when he got out of work. I ended up picking him up then having him drop me home and go back for the teens. Then he and his sister went on a mission to find me some detangling spray. By the time they got home, it was almost midnight.

In the end, there was no saving my hair and my daughter cut it off of the brush. So, now I have a big chunk of hair missing right in front. I won’t lie and say I didn’t cry. It took me over two years to grow out my bangs and in one fell swoop I’d destroyed it.  Fortunately, the old “comb over” is working to cover up my embarrassing mistake.

Tomorrow is another day, and a chance to try to get that motivation back…

Find the Joy in the Journey…the road may be crooked, but as long as you know where you are going, you will get there eventually.

Holding Still Long Enough To Feel The Blessings

I sit here on a Sunday night, swamped with papers. I want to write a post to my blog…something that I’ve neglected for months. I just missed the official deadline to file the FAFSA…but I haven’t filed my taxes yet and they are substantially different from last  year.

Credit card statements, lawyer bills, receipts from the last month, interesting newspaper articles, research for blog posts on diet and exercise, books on environmentalism, economics, and eating local, also litter my space.

TEDx podcasts on biomimicry, and other interesting YouTube offerings are spinning their way through my cerebral cortex thanks to my son who “gets” where I am at these days. I’m here, I’m there, I’m everywhere!

A crisis brews at work. My youngest is finishing Freshman basketball, squeezing in driver training, and gearing up for softball…and I am cringing at the chaufering involved. I’m halfway through a 500-level geology class, where I’m treading water without the benefit of prerequisites.

My middle child is studying abroad on Madrid and traveling every weekend. Meanwhile, her debit card keeps getting frozen and she’s off to places unknown (to me…the one trying to keep her solvent). She’s also suffering from a stomach virus…or worse. At the moment, she is somewhere in Morocco with a flight back to Madrid in the morning.

Reading, writing, and running? Off the table.  Weight control? Ugh…why bring that up? Networking with the environmentalist folks at work…equal parts feeling supported and feeling ridiculous.

So, I turn to the season at hand…to my Church and the blessings of Lent to help me focus on what is truly important. I’ve found it hard to go to church by myself. I have a plan, starting mid-March to “flash mob” the quintessential, classic churches, with my friends…but back to  Lent. I hate going on my own, but my younger daughter decided that going to church during Lent was important to her. She normally sasses me, saying that since she goes to church once a week during school, she doesn’t have to go on Sunday…she *just* got Confirmed, so you know this is major sass.

So, to church I go. I pray for an open heart, for guidance. And, to my surprise (can’t I be a believer?) the blessings started to flow. First of all, my son got a job. He’s a wonderful, brilliant, man who hasn’t figured out yet where he fits in the world. He is a boomerang kid and I am committed to helping him get to independence. He doesn’t take advantage of that, he wants it as much as I do. Even so, it took a lot of encouragement (shall we admit nagging?) to get him to this point and the look on his face when he told me he was hired warmed this mother’s heart. I feel so blessed!

Another major concern in my life has been getting my ex-husband off of my mortgage.  This has required hundreds of hours dealing with my mortgage company, providing reams of documents, explaining every single check I’ve deposited. The bank threw every obstacle in the book in my way. Eventually I got a closing date, but with under 24 hours to go, they canceled it due to a bank error. I regrouped and pursued a new date. Ultimately, the bank closed my account to protect their internal metrics. Say what? Yes, they made me re-apply so that their internal metrics would reflect that they were customer friendly. But this last week, a miracle happened. They fired my loan processor and the new one got my loan approved and gave me a new closing date.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the Blessings all around you!

 

 

Eat More, Move Less, Gain Weight…Duh!

We all know the mantra, “eat less, move more, lose weight”. It is universally true, but that doesn’t make it easy to do. I was doing rather well in my goal to get fit and lose weight in the process. Then I started training for half-marathons and my body changed, if not my weight. I put on more muscle and burned a lot more calories…but I also ate more to fuel that work. It is shockingly easy to eat more without even realizing it. My real problem came on when I stopped training. I didn’t really mean to, but life intervened and I’ve not yet gotten around to re-balancing and fitting my workouts back into my daily life.

Looking back over the last six months, it’s clear to me what has happened. That is when my younger daughter started high school 15 miles away from home. It’s about an hour and a half for me to drive carpool, picking up two other girls, driving through rush-hour traffic, and then driving to work.  Fortunately I don’t have carpool every day and recently we added a fourth girl and my duties have shrunk further. Even so, on days I have carpool, I have to add the lost hours back into my workday leaving less time for workouts.

Starting in November, my daughter joined the Freshman basketball team and between practices and games, I’m driving even more, and almost on a daily basis. Fortunately, one of the other girls in the carpool is also on the team, so we do a lot of ride-sharing. As basketball wraps up, softball is starting. I have no one to share rides with for softball…so on to the end of the school year.

Just last month, I added a class of my own…back to school! Now I have even less time to workout. It is time to re-balance, for sure. I am not in a position right now to cut back at work or school, but I do know that I waste a lot of time on things that don’t support my goals but provide stress relief without all the effort of going for a run. I know that I can carve out time for getting back to a healthier fitness routine.FitBit Tracker

I am going back to basics and setting a new starting point. I stepped on the scale and recorded the disappointing results in my fitness app. I started tracking my food too. A clear pattern emerged immediately. It wasn’t a surprise, but seeing it on my computer makes it more real to me. I eat too many calories, more than half of which I consume after work. I do not get nearly enough fruits and vegetables in my diet. I am not drinking enough water. Taking a peek at my FitBit data, I am not moving much at all.

So, little by little, I will make improvements and reclaim some balance in my life. Changes, especially those that require more time and energy, are always disruptive, but time to take a deep breath and find a new routine that supports my goals.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the determination to never give up on your goals!

 

No Such Thing As A Typical Day

Today wasn’t a typical day, there is no such thing  for me lately. It was a day full of family, full of work, full of school, and full of complications.

I started out with an early meeting by calling in while I packed my lunch. I packed my backpack for school, including a protein bar, and decided to leave it at home to pick up later. At work, I was immersed immediately.

This week, my global colleagues are in town, so my focus turned toward them and their reason for being here. Simultaneously, I had to focus on a crisis. Oh, then there was my normal job…and some people-related projects that I needed to complete.

E-mail got the triage treatment and so did meetings. I went from meeting to meeting, ending up in a personnel meeting. I had carpool duty to get my daughter and her friend from basketball practice, but I couldn’t leave until I’d given my input on a particular issue.

When I got out of the office it was a quarter past four. Snow started falling as I walked to my car. I had to scrape some ice off of my car and I started worrying about the roads. I hit the highway during rush hour traffic and the snow continued to fall. Traffic crawled along. I called in to my next meeting, and my next. I arrived at my daughter’s school after five.

The girls were hungry, and wanted to stop for pizza, but I was trying to get to my own school by 6. I called into my final meeting of the day and dealt with even worse traffic and weather. I told my daughter that I didn’t really want to go to school…I hate being late. She, of course, told me that I had to go…no excuses! She got a kick out of throwing my own words back at me. After dropping the girls off and having my daughter run in the house for my backpack, I slowly drove to school a few miles over slippery roads. I was over half an hour late.

I slipped into the classroom as the professor was showing some of the students a well screen. It didn’t seem as if I’d missed much. Perhaps class had started late. I was dreading another quiz…it still takes me quite some time to puzzle through my homework. I know that the quizzes are his way of gauging whether or not we understand what he is teaching us, but they are stressful none the less. I’ve finally realized that we will get a quiz every week, but that doesn’t make me any less stressed.

At first glance, the quiz was something I hadn’t been able to do on my homework and I started to feel some panic rising …but he’d just shown us a chart related to the problem and suddenly I realized that maybe I did understand how to do it. I got to work. I plotted my data, drew my line, found my constant, and started solving equations. I was careful with my unit conversions, something drilled into me way back in college. Finishing up, I looked around and I saw that I was the only one who was done.

The professor hurried over to check my work. He smiled and handed it back with a nod of approval. When others finished, he checked theirs and made comments like, “that answer is way too large” or “that answer is way to small”…mine, it seems was “just right”.

After class, I packed up my backpack and walked back to my car. I took a deep breath of the icy air and smiled. I’m getting it, I really am!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the wonder of a lifetime of learning!

 

 

Getting My Second Adulthood Started: Back To School

When I first decided that getting a (third) masters degree was my path to late-life happiness, I thought I was unique and that I’d get a lot of odd looks and serious ribbing. Surprisingly, I found a lot of support and many similar stories.

I really only need look to my own mother and father to see examples of   growth after fifty. At fifty, my mom was pursuing a Doctorate (something that I am obviously not cut out for…Masters degrees are my “thing”!). My dad, since turning fifty, has published a book, written two memoirs, become a certified financial planner…and, I can’t fail to mention, jumped out of a plane and gone to Spain to run with (or watch) the bulls. (What happens in Spain, stays in Spain!)

When I started to tell my own peers, however, I really was surprised. All in their fifties, I’ve found such similar stories to mine. There’s a friend who shattered her hip in her late thirties and now wants to get a Masters in exercise science. Then there is the friend who found that by going to a personal trainer during a difficult time of life,  found a life couch as an added benefit and now wants to pursue both. Even my big sister is now pursuing a Masters…one which, like mine, draws upon her unique background and points her to an interesting and unique future.

Here I am, 26 years into a corporate career in purchasing, starting a Masters in Environmental Science. I started out completely bored in high school, looking for the most difficult college degree I could find. I looked to either aeronautic or chemical engineering. I ended up with chemical. It was a real challenge, one for which my high school didn’t fully prepare me.

When I graduated, in 1986, OPEC fell apart and the demand for chemical engineers plummetted. I got my MBA instead of a job. From there, I ended up in purchasing. With less than a year under my belt, I found that my company would pay for me to get a masters…so I got a Masters in Manufacturing Engineering. Why not? Degree in hand, I found a position working with my company’s suppliers to improve their manufacturing processes.

Years later, I find myself drawn to water. There are water crises everywhere…too much, too little, too polluted…but where I live, there is 20% of the world’s fresh water…The problems and solutions are unique to each location…moving fresh water around the world is not the solution.

I am at an age and at a point in my career where I just want to follow my passions…but I really want to make a difference too. For me, the answer is a new Master’s degree…for others, it’s something different. For all of us? Following our hearts!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and may your personal journey fulfill your personal legacy!