Winter Moments

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It’s cold everywhere today. My Memphis friends are checking in with snow photos from a long snowy day at home. A friend from Baton Rouge called me to laughingly inform me it was 38 degrees, and Louisiana was officially shutting down. My old boss texted me a photo of an icy drive home in North Louisiana. All evidence says that winter is settling in even in the deep south.

As for me, I shoveled snow twice today although my snow removal person told me we didn’t have enough snow for him to worry about. I informed him that I was Southern and wouldn’t know how much snow was enough to shovel. He told me that this snow was powdery and nice, but if it’s a wet snow, I’d need to have it shoveled. “It all depends on the type of snow,” he said. I reminded him again that I was Southern, and I wouldn’t know the difference in types of snow. He left with an assurance that I would figure it out, and that he would help me when it gets too bad to get out of my driveway. And he wouldn’t even let me pay him.

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This morning I had to be at work for 6:30, so I drove to work in complete darkness. But it was so beautiful out. The roads were completely covered in snow as the plows had not gotten cranked up yet. The bridge over the St. Joseph River was icy and snowy, and it all looked like a perfect winter wonderland. Christmas lights still burn up here because … well… it still looks like Christmas. As I left the edge of town and hit the country road leading to Whirlpool’s campus, it got darker. The snow was blowing sideways in the wind, and I felt myself start to smile this really big grin.

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I slowed down for the Whirlpool parking lot which was almost completely empty except for a car that had been left overnight and one or two others from my team. The parking lot was not cleared, so my tires squeaked on the freshly fallen layer of snow. I parked under the lights and jumped out of the car. With the delight of a child at 6:20 in the morning, I took some pictures of my workplace lit up in the snow. I looked around and realized that no picture could capture the moment in this snowstorm. The scene was only mine to see.

I’ve felt it many times since I’ve been here. Standing on top of the dunes at Grand Mere or Warren Dunes State Park, driving through corn fields in late summer, freezing at the end of the pier by the St. Joe lighthouse in a vicious wind…. the raw beauty of it all ignites something inside of me that makes me feel quite young again. Even while I’m out shoveling snow in the darkness with my dog running around rolling in the snow I feel this sense of adventure… a knowing that this life is short, and this moment – all moments – are fleeting.

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Tonight I bundled up – 13 degrees and dropping – and took Ashok for a walk. I finally found some little booties that work, and she looked so cute plodding around in them. I was wrapped up in my down parka, $75 technical gloves that still don’t keep my fingers warm and my snow boots. We trudged across snowbanks and shoveled walks. The snow was coming down hard and fast, and the Christmas lights twinkled an assortment of colors.

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I let Ashok loose in a field of snow, and she raced in circles, rolling in the snow every few seconds. She ran back toward me and gazed at me in a downward-facing dog position. She was completely covered in snow. Her black fur made a shadowy outline around her eyes. For a moment, I really regretted that I didn’t bring a camera. I giggled because she looked so funny. And, just like this morning, I realized that some moments are not meant to be captured. They are only meant to be lived.

Enjoy winter, my friends – whether you have it for a day or for a season, it’s meant for inward reflection and downtime. Fix a hot chocolate and cuddle up with a loved one. Tomorrow, this moment will be history.

Making a Path Through the Snow

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I’ve been enjoying the snow. I even enjoyed shoveling it. After all, it is exercise. Most of my activities don’t require upper body strength, so this is one of the few great ways to get an upper body workout while I’m NOT focusing on working out. My dirty little secret is I really hate working out. Even though I’ve done it all my life, it is a necessary evil unless I find a way to enjoy it. Creating a path through the snow to enable me to get out and about easily is very rewarding in itself. It’s one of those small accomplishments that makes me feel like I’ve done something.

I have felt it a little the last few weeks. A low level of sadness has crept in on occasion as I sit here at home with the knowing that winter has just begun. The act of getting out and being outside which is so good for staving off my depression will only become more difficult. I had this same feeling in July in Louisiana. While I love getting outside and enjoying what nature has to offer, my primary driver in being active is to keep my lifelong dance with depression at bay. I’ve been fairly free of it for over 10 years. I have short bouts and ups and downs but nothing like what I experienced chronically my first 45 years. I don’t want to go back there. It is my biggest motivator.

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It’s dark when I go to work, and it’s dark when I come home. Yesterday was so cold I didn’t walk Ashok at all. I felt trapped by the cold like I felt trapped by the heat in the summer in Louisiana. And I know that it won’t really be over until March or April. I have a ways to go. Thankfully, the single-digit temperatures are rising, and we’ll be above freezing for several days later in the week. I’m already acclimating, and 35 sounds – and feels – almost warm. 40 degrees is a heat wave in comparison to yesterday. I know that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and I know that it can kickstart something I don’t want.

I joined a Virtual Boot Camp with my friend Jessica “the Bitch” Sprenkel about 6 weeks ago. Exercise is key for me in staying clear of the heaviness of depression. I wanted to stay home last night. It was bitterly cold. My body urged me to stay in and just relax. But my mind reminded me that if I missed Monday’s workout, I’d be behind for the holidays. And I knew that if I started letting the cold get to me in December, I’ll be behind the 8-ball by spring. I pulled myself together and did what I needed to do. And I feel so much better this morning.

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Another piece of my mental health puzzle is being social and connected. I am an extrovert, and I need interactions with people in order to keep my energy bubbling. I’m in between now. My besties in Louisiana – while only a phone call away – are not available for coffee or lunch or a walk in the snow. And I don’t have besties here yet. I have some great possibilities, but I’m working on building community. I got on Meetup.com this week and signed up for a Christmas party with one group in Grand Rapids, and a Christmas Eve hike with another outdoors group. Meetup is awesome because it’s an open invitation to meet people. It was critical for me to meet like-minded women in Louisiana, and it will be for me here.

I watched this Ted Talk last night about getting control of your free time.

I loved her ideas about thinking about how you want your upcoming year to look in advance. That seems very motivating to me. I used a similar process when I thought about moving here. What do I want my life to look like up here this time? The last time I was here I was so focused on finding a man that I lost sight of the experience. Now that I am comfortable with being single and know my interests, I can focus on experiencing this area in a different way. That’s why I signed up for ice skating lessons. I want to LIVE here. I don’t want to “make it” through winter.

My exercise, spiritual practice, ice skating, dressing comfortably for this weather, hiking and making meaningful connections are my “paths” to live through the winter. I could trudge through the ice at my door, but I’d rather exert a little extra energy – and maybe even build my adaptation muscles – by clearing the way for success and happiness. By this time in my life I know the formula.  Nothing is 100% guaranteed, but I’m in much better shape to make a difference at work, build meaningful relationships and remain healthy if I take care of myself.

What are the things that you need to do – the paths to good health and happiness – for you? Do you find it hard to do them? How do you motivate yourself?

Sunday Night Check-In: Miss, You Have to Glide

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When I lived up here before, I lived 3 years in St. Joseph and 3 years in an Indiana town called Chesterton. It was here in February of 2003 that I took up running. Don’t ask me why I started running in February in Michigan, but I did. In fact, I lived on a road that had no sidewalk, and in the dark, I ran in the snow and slush before work. By the time we moved to Chesterton later that spring, I was running a 5k pretty easily.

I was lucky enough in Chesterton to be 10 minutes away from a National Lakeshore, and the Indiana Dunes State Park. It’s a beautiful place preserved in its natural state amid miles and miles of development leading into Chicago. I ran most of my runs in that area, and my favorite trail run was Trail #9 in the State Park. It is shaped like a noose, and the trail follows the top of many dunes with a gorgeous view of the Lake Michigan shoreline for about a mile. It was a challenging run, but the view was so breathtaking it was worth the extra work.

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I had a little time off Friday afternoon, so I loaded up Ashok, and we drove the 50-minute drive to the State Park. It was covered in snow, and I brought my snowshoes just in case. The snow wasn’t deep enough for snowshoes, but I donned my “traction” devices on my boots, and Ashok and I took off for a 2-hour hike.

Except for the one runner we saw near the end, we had the trail to ourselves. Two deer stood and watched us from the beach when we were near the shoreline. Because I’m so used to southern beaches where it’s hot, it always strikes me as unusual that the sand mixes with the snow here. It is convenient since the sand provides traction in the slippery stuff, and even the cities here use sand instead of salt because there is so much available.  We hiked across a frozen swamp, snowy trails, towering dunes and into a gorgeous snow-covered forest. It was just as beautiful as I remembered.

We had more lake effect snow last night. So, I woke up this morning to more snow to shovel. I shoveled yesterday, so I contacted a snow-removal guy to help me out today. I spent the day lazing around the house cooking chili and chatting with my friend Alisa on Facetime.

I went to the ice skating rink for Open Skate around 2 PM to get a little exercise. My lessons ended last week, and I bought my own skates. I was anxious to try them out. I’m better than I was in the beginning, but I still sort of plod along in a pseudo marching/gliding fashion. I was getting into a stride tonight when a little girl skated by me. “Miss, you have to glide,” she said.

“What,” I asked, confused that she was stating the obvious.

“You have to glide,” she repeated and she skated around me showing me how to glide. “Like that,” she added with a sly smile and skated away.

I don’t know if it was the fact that I was starting to feel more confident on my skates after six weeks of lessons, or maybe the fact that I’ve learned that falling is not as bad as I feared, but I decided to try it. I know my coach was trying to get us to glide, but for some reason I HEARD it in a different way from that little girl today. Something clicked in my head, and I knew what she meant when she said I had to glide. I tried it, and I tried it again. I didn’t glide the rest of the night, but I glided for minutes at a time. And when I was gliding, I felt much more stable. In fact, a couple of times I almost fell, and I glided to keep myself upright. I forgot about falling when I was gliding, and I enjoyed the ride.

Right foot push …. gliiiiidddddde …. left foot push … gliiiiiddddde... push ….. gliiiiddddde ….. wow….. this was ice skating. My little miniature coach skated by once, and I mentioned that I was getting it. She seemed to approve and urged me just to push. She, on the other hand, spent half of her time on the floor, but she was totally enjoying herself.

Remnants of summer past …..

 

After skating, I took Ashok out for a walk downtown. We walked down to Lake Michigan, down the bluff by the Christmas lights and finally down by the river. Huge icebergs are forming, but I couldn’t get any close-ups because my camera battery died. It was very cold. My hot chocolate was almost frozen by the time we finished as were my fingers. But I thought a lot about this little town and my move here. I thought about learning to snow shovel and ice skate and my attempts at building community. It can be overwhelming at times, learning a new culture. I have to admit that a real Michigan winter challenges my sensibilities.

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This morning I walked Ashok in the deep snow, and I noticed families loading into their cars with hockey sticks and equipment. The rhythm of my day is slowed way down. It takes so much longer to do things because of the preparation for being outside. I’m carrying boots and dealing with wet slushy snow everywhere. I can’t even get out of my driveway some days without shoveling snow for 30 minutes. And I even have to get used to sliding on the roads. In so many ways, the earth is slippery beneath my feet. I keep working to get my balance and solid footing.

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Miss, you have to glide. Maybe it’s not about being safe and rooted solidly in the ground. Perhaps she’s right.  I have to glide.

 

 

 

So, This is Change

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“So this is change,” my wise friend Nancy said to me on the phone yesterday, “which is why everybody resists it, right? All your sh*t starts coming up, and it’s painful. And we do this sh*t sober,” she added. “It’s not easy.”

Ahhhhhh …. the beauty of friends who get it. Nancy and I are definitely sisters somewhere in the Universe, and we are somehow on the same train once again in this life. She relocated to Chicago right when I got here and started her own new job at one of her former companies. I have never been so grateful for a set of matching circumstances in my life. Our reports mimic each other on a daily basis. And her words reminded me that I’m not going through a hard time. I’m just going through change.

Out of curiosity, I looked up my blogs from October/November 2013 because I would have been in the same “place” in my relocation journey. I saw myself trying to connect with old friends from Memphis, out exploring the area and spending time nesting at home. But when I read between the lines, I remember what I was feeling and thinking at that time. “What did I just do?” I would ask myself but brush it away just as quickly so as not to second-guess my decision. I felt lonely. My old friendships were fading into the background due to distance, and there was nothing new to really take their place. I was surrounded by acquaintances and hungering for something deeper.

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Image from Fab After Forty Blog

Martha Beck writes about change. My Meetup Group in Baton Rouge read one of her books on change. At the time I knew I was going to have to change again in a big way. My job in Louisiana didn’t look promising, and it’s really important that a single gal have job stability. But I remember pinpointing that I was in the “exploration” phase of change. I didn’t yet know what I wanted to do, but I felt like I needed to do something. The book helped me stop trying to figure it out and just enjoy the research. It was probably about that time I signed up for Career Counseling which eventually led me here to Whirlpool.

In this article on human metamorphosis, Beck explains the four phases that we need to go through in order to change. Just because I’m in my job and in my new house, it doesn’t mean that my psyche has caught up. My surroundings have changed, but Sharon is still the gal that left Louisiana unexpectedly just as she was starting to adapt. In one of my blogs in October of 2013, I was excited about my upcoming “running season”. In hindsight I know that running season was doomed, and running endurance races wouldn’t work out for me down there. That was a huge part of my life in Memphis that fell away. As time went on in Baton Rouge, I learned to hate running in traffic, sweltering in the heat and I never really found a social running option. I know that my life will change here, too. I just don’t yet know how.

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I think I’m at the end of the “dissolving phase” and the start of the “imagining phase”. I’m still struggling a bit in finding a daily routine that works for me, getting my yoga and meditation practice going, and meeting like-minded friends. Everything has changed. Every relationship is new down to the barista at the coffee shop and the receptionist at the vet. The food is different. I’ve lost my year-round local produce but I’ve gained access to a freezer full of Great Lakes Fish. Even my hours at work are different, and my morning routine is struggling to adjust. I liked my morning routine! But it’s doomed to be revised. It’s not bad. It’s just different.

My close friendships are changing. They have to adjust to the amount of space between us now due to distance. I know from experience that some won’t survive. Others will shift, and we’ll find a new normal. There is loss in that, and, in some cases, there is relief from needed change.

So, what to do now? Martha suggests the following, and, ironically, it’s just what I had planned this week. In fact, when a friend asked what I was doing for Thanksgiving, I said, “I don’t know. I’m going to take it an hour at a time.” And I’ve ended up doing exactly what she recommends below. Perhaps I get this more than I thought.

In Phase 1, Live One Day (or 10 minutes) at a Time
Instead of dwelling on hopes and fears about an unknowable future, focus your attention on whatever is happening right now.

“Cocoon” by Caring For Yourself in Physical, Immediate Ways
Wrap yourself in a blanket, make yourself a cup of hot tea, attend an exercise class, whatever feels comforting.

Talk to Others Who Have Gone Through a Metamorphosis
If you don’t have a wise relative or friend, a therapist can be a source of reassurance.

Let Yourself Grieve
Even if you are leaving an unpleasant situation (a bad marriage, a job you didn’t like), you’ll probably go through the normal human response to any loss: the emotional roller coaster called the grieving process. You’ll cycle through denial, anger, sadness, and acceptance many times. Just experiencing these feelings will help them pass more quickly.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Ashok and I are spending it curled up on the couch while the cats slumber in another room. When I finish this, I plan to read Einstein’s biography and maybe even take a nap. Although most people seem to be pushing me to find something to do socially on this holiday, I am most grateful to have zero obligations. Perhaps today is best spent in a cocoon with a hot mocha and a good book. But I leave myself room to change my mind if I need something else in an hour. I hope you’ll do the same. Change is good even if it’s not easy.

Life’s About Changin’ … #nothingstaysthesame

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My childhood girlfriends at my going away party in July.

This morning I led an activity with my work group about change. Change is so hard but it is inevitable no matter how hard we dig our heels into whatever earth we cling to. We have no choice in this life but to change. If we don’t bring change, life will place it in our path.

The participants brought up the changes they have had to make in parenting as children grow and change and the inevitable sorrow at seeing them grow into young adults who walk into the sunset to make their own lives. Some brought up career changes, relocation and the transition from college to being an adult. As each of them shared I thought of the many changes that I’ve navigated through my 55 years on this earth.

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My new porch is now filled with jackets that are easy to grab….

I thought of my final drive out of my driveway in Watson headed to Harlingen TX and my first job on my own as a 22-year old college graduate. I remembered that day standing in my kitchen in Knoxville as I packed up my kitchen gadgets that I’d collected over the years as a homemaker. I looked at those boxes and wondered at how that woman had changed since I’d bought those things. That first divorce was a huge leap over a river of fear that I’d never make it on my own. I made it my own then, and I’ve made it on my own many times since. My fear was irrational.

What makes change so hard is the uncertainty of what’s next. It’s that “in-between place” that makes me so uncomfortable. I somehow have to tap into the hope that I will land on my feet somewhere on the other side. I resisted change for so long, and the resistance made it even harder for me to change in the long run. I had no evidence that it would all turn out okay if I just took the next step. I had no reason to trust God and the Universe because I had’t given them the opportunity to show up. My resistance to change was deeply embedded in my need to control the outcome of my life.

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And I have new toys in my basement… hell, I have a basement!! LOL

Learning to let go of the past has become easier as I’ve built my muscle with trust. It’s never easy, and it’s always emotional, but I have the faith that it will all work out somehow. And I’ve seen with my own eyes that my limited view of what my life should look like is a small representation of the possibilities. My growth is proportional to my willingness to change and let go of the outcome.

I’m not sure what this move and this new job will bring to my life, but now that I’m getting over the biggest hurdles, I’m starting to feel more comfortable about letting it be what it will be. I love my new little house, and I took care of my self by getting a 15-year mortgage that I can easily afford. I feel really proud of that, and I even have enough space in my income to fix it up like I like it. I’m enjoying long walks around my neighborhood and into downtown St. Joe with my dog. Whirlpool feels good. It feels both old and new, and I feel like I fit. I plan on taking ice skating lessons at the end of the month so I can walk over to the ice arena once it opens. Even though I never anticipated this major change at this time in my life, it feels really good.

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My friend Jean Ann’s kids watch as the flood waters rise in their house … 

It was hard to drive away from Louisiana with my friends in need from the flood. I somehow felt that I was being selfish moving on. But the train was rolling, and I had to go. My next phase, it seems, was somewhere else on a northern shore. I felt like the little girl in the back of that ’59 wagon…

Life’s about changin’ …. nothing ever stays the same…

 

Shared Treasures and Beautiful Things

I’m settling in to my little cozy house and am starting to make it my own. I took down the broken wooden blinds that covered up my beautiful double-hung windows and let the sun shine in. I’m starting to take up the carpet off my hardwood floors even though it’s a lot harder than I anticipated. The floors underneath have some issues but I think if I get them refinished they will be quite nice. Besides, I don’t like this carpet. It’s got to go anyway. If nothing else, I’ll get a different carpet installed.

Apparently my new company makes appliances, so I got a nice little package of free appliances as part of my offer. I got a call today that my new KitchenAid Duel Fuel Convection Range and my French Door Refrigerator are in and ready to be installed. Unfortunately, I have a huge training event going on next week, so I can’t get them next week. But, I’ll take delivery and have them installed on the 10th. I can’t wait. They will be so gorgeous in my new little kitchen, and I’ll love cooking with gas again. It’s been too long.

 

I’ve been looking for some nice blankets for my bed. I have those lovely linen sheets, and I bought some flannel for the winter. But, my blankets are all cotton.I have the quilt Momma made, but I’ve been eyeing one of those Woolrich blankets that are so thick and cozy-looking. Hudson Bay blankets are gorgeous, but the price tag on all of these fancy beautiful heirloom-style blankets are upwards of $500 for a queen-size. I’d been thinking I might splurge when it got colder, but I lucked out this week. I found an ad in Whirlpool’s want ads for two Hudson Bay blankets – a queen and a twin –  for $180 for both.

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I looked them up on LL Bean last night. The twin blanket retails for $399, and the queen goes for $499. $180 was a steal!! I bought both of them, and I put the queen on my bed over my linen sheets. The stripes are beautiful with my quilt. I’ll probably burn up tonight because it’s just not that cold yet, but who cares. What a nice touch for my new little Michigan bungalow. And when guests come, they have a nice blanket too!

When I emailed Paula, I told her that I had just moved up here from the South and was looking for some nice blankets. Today, I asked her why she was selling them, and she said she was actually moving South, so she needed to get rid of her blankets. We laughed about the swap, and then she told me she will be working at the Whirlpool office where I used to work. We have at least one mutual friend. I told her how much I loved living in Knoxville and working there. She’s a single gal about my age, and she’s off on a new adventure, too. I wished her the best of luck and tucked my blankets into my Rav 4. I wondered if one day I might take off for Knoxville and maybe sell my blankets on the way out. No telling what the future holds.

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Mr. Olllhoff is on the right.

The neighbors told me that the original owner of this house was the lighthouse keeper in St. Joe. When I lived here before, I was really interested in those lighthouse keepers that no longer really exist. I wondered what their lives and workdays must be like as they cross the ice-covered piers that bring them out to the lighthouse. They were essential to safely guide boats on the Great Lakes. This man, Ollhoff, was the lighthouse keeper from 1916 – 1927. Since this house is about 100 years old, he would have started working on the lighthouse about the time he built this place. They say he had three little girls, and they lived in the bedroom upstairs.

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Mr. Ollhoff and his family shared this house, and now I’m making it my home. Perhaps there are things in the basement marked with his fingerprints. Did he shine up that beautiful hardwood that I’m unveiling. I wonder what he thought of this house, and what it looked like. Would he be shocked that I want to have bare hardwood as my floor? Was it his pride and joy or just a place to live? Did his daughters have lovely memories of this place that I now call my own? And now Paula’s blankets will be my treasure on those cold nights as I write and read and sleep. How many nights did they keep her warm, and did she hate giving them up? Maybe one day some young single gal will find my blankets at a thrift store with their holes and lovely frayed edges and eagerly bring it home.

Ashok is snoring beside me, Buster and Bella are exploring all of the nooks and crannies of this place. My boots are by the front door where I left them, and I’m sipping on herbal tea with honey. It’s time for me to call it a day. Hope y’all sleep well. I even hear it’s cold in Louisiana tonight… go figure

 

What Dreams May Come…. Moving Day

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I dreamed last night about moving into my new house today. Except you know how dreams are. My dream offered up a couple of twists. I bought one house, but I had the choice of two.

The first choice was on Lake Michigan. It was a ranch-style house built in the 60s that had never been remodeled. It was carpeted in dark carpet, and the walls were dark paneling. It felt dark and cozy. The refrigerator was a Whirlpool, but it was round. When I opened it, the inside was on a carousel. It was colorful and beautiful, and I thought that this would do for awhile. I walked through the house and was not very excited about what I saw. It seemed like I’d have to do a lot to lighten things up and make it mine. But it had lots of storage and most of the modern conveniences that I’d need.

 

I walked on to the carport and looked out at the lake. It wasn’t Lake Michigan. It was the waters of Louisiana. The water came within 6 inches of the patio, and I could feel my anxiety rise wondering if that “lake” ever rose. “I’m right in it even before I begin,” I said to myself. I looked at that murky, muddy water and decided I needed to look at the second option. This house seemed risky and heavy and not really my style.

The second house was a bungalow not unlike the one I’m actually scheduled to close on today. It was light and airy and simply done. The sun streamed in the windows, and I thought that I liked this one better. There would be lots of work to be done. There were no remodels or modern conveniences. It had the basics like indoor plumbing and a laundry area, but there was plenty to buy. As I looked around in the closets and cabinets, it was obvious that the women before me had not moved out. Her clothes hung in the bathroom as if it was laundry day. The kitchen was full of glasses and plates and assorted cookware. My realtor picked up the phone to call her, and she didn’t seem at all interested in coming back to get that stuff. If I wanted this one, I had to move her out to move in or accept her things as mine. That didn’t seem quite right either.

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My new bungalow

 

 

I’m so ready to get moved in today. This last week has been really hard, and I’m at my limit. In fact, I feel like I’m past my limit. After Saturday’s breakdown I had another yesterday. My emotions can only take so much, and I’m not sleeping either. Work doesn’t stop coming like a freight train regardless of whether I have to move or not. I feel isolated out here because of the lack of cell service. I can get it if I walk down the street, but the mosquitoes are so bad I can’t stand outside more than a couple of minutes. Yesterday afternoon I drove down the road and parked in a parking lot to call a friend and cried my eyes out the entire time we were on the phone. It felt good to be heard.

I slept better last night. Given that I dreamed I know I got some good sleep. I’ll pack things up here this morning and head over to my closing. The movers arrive 30 minutes after I’m done, and I’ll spend the day in that mountain of work. I’ll drive back over here tonight and pick up my animals for our first night in the new house – unless there’s some reason I need to stay here. Today, I have movers coming, an HVAC vendor and ATT for internet service. It will be full bore today, and tomorrow I go right back to work. The rest of this week will be a blur. I’m dying for the weekend.

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In my dream, I chose between Louisiana and this life. Unfortunately, this life is filled with the clothes of Sharon past. While there are wonderful things here, I’m a different person than I was 13 years ago when I was here. I have to somehow let go of those old expectations that Sharon had on herself and encourage the new me to show up instead. Or perhaps it should be more of an integration. I need to take time and sort out what fits and what doesn’t – decide what serves me now and what doesn’t. The rest needs to be put on the curb.

In my dream I was happy to see the previous tenant left a lawnmower in the garage. “I’ll need that,” I told my dreamtime realtor. I just hope a lawnmower will be enough to clean out the weeds of the past. This morning I feel like a bush hog is a more appropriate piece of equipment for the task. The only way out is through. 

Gotta go, folks. I gotta get packing. Send lots of positive energy my way.

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I Feel a Chill in the Air

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I was just startled by the raucous calls of an army of Canada Geese rising up from the lake to start their morning journey. Ashok raised her head with perked ears, and both of the cats jumped up onto the windowsills to see what was asunder. The cool breeze flutters the sheers, and I had to put on my cozy sweatshirt and tights. For all practical purposes, this Louisiana gal feels autumn in the air. (Ironically, I’m going to meet my friend Autumn for lunch today.)

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Whirlpool gives two days off for the summer holidays here. I know all too well the gift of summer after the long descent into winter on Lake Michigan. Everyone here is discussing the last days of summer as if somehow the warmth of the sun disappears on Labor Day. It doesn’t really come that fast, but it does start it’s journey. By November, there will be more cold days than warm ones, and by December, we’ll be in it. But for all practical purposes Labor Day signals the end of summer. My friends tell me that Monday night the boat ramps at the lake will be jammed with trucks pulling boats out of the water for the season. They will be brought to storage facilities where they will be shrink-wrapped or stored inside until late spring or early summer. Monday, it seems, is the last hurrah.

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I needed to buy a headlamp, so I went to the local chain sporting goods store last week. The entire front of the store was filled with winter gear. I walked down the aisles looking at the gear that I would eventually need to purchase for running comfortably here. An entire row was dedicated to balaclavas and winter hats. Rack after rack was filled with down coats. And, there was a whole section for Yaktrax – a sort of cage that you put over your shoes to provide traction on the snow and ice. I ran in them when I lived here before. I donated them before leaving for Memphis. But, I suppose I’ll be buying them again.

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At a poolside BBQ Wednesday night, we donned sweaters and were surprised at how cool it was. I came home and turned off the AC. I’ve been having to close the windows at night the last two nights because it was too chilly. My proposed new house will be needing a new furnace – if the deal works out – , and I thought I’d have some time. But that’s my Louisiana experience talking. I’ll need to get that baby right away.

My thoughts have turned to fall, and I’m ready for pumpkins, apples and a colorful turn of leaves. I am ready for my first northern winter in 13 years, at least figuratively. I still need to buy a coat ($$$), snow boots and snow tires. The next few months will be expensive, but there’s no room for compromise on this. I will bite the bullet to stay warm.

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Yesterday afternoon I stopped at several farm markets on the way home to check out the offerings. It’ll be easy to can or freeze here. Most of the farms offer bulk purchasing, so I can prep some foods for the winter if I want. I bought a butterkin squash that is a cross between a pumpkin and a butternut squash. I cut it in half, seeded it, dotted it with butter and cinnamon and baked it this morning. I cooked some apples and mixed them with cottage cheese as a filling for the squash. It was a delicious warm and savory breakfast. It’s a great change from my usual oatmeal and loaded with the vitamins from farm-fresh produce.

Have a great Labor Day weekend – whether it’s the end of summer where you are or just another day in a long string of hot ones. I’m going to check out grocery stores today and hopefully find out about my house deal. (We have appraisal issues.) If it goes through, I’ll be in it by next weekend!

 

 

Whirlwind: Sunsets, Collaboration and Insomnia

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Whew! What a week! I started my new job this week at Whirlpool. Honestly, my mind is in a harried state although I did sleep the whole night through las night for the first time since I got my offer about 3 weeks ago. There is nothing better than a full night’s sleep after a bout of insomnia. But I know next week I’ll be right back to it. My estimation is that my sleep will get back to normal at the end of September or early October… whenever I get permanently settled. I know me. My mind does not rest when there is stuff to do.

Me and my coworker Ann took a stroll on the beach in New Buffalo last night!

And I have plenty of stuff to do! As I anticipated, they were waiting on me. It has been intense these first few days. I’m in charge of training (YES!!), and I’ve had to get up to speed enough to make decisions on some key items in addition to having the usual new hire learning curve. I decided last weekend that I was going to table my social activities up here until I get back permanently because I wanted to focus on work and house hunting. And I’m glad I did. I don’t have the emotional or energetic bandwidth to handle all of that.

If I had to use one word to describe my new job it’s collaborative. The number of meetings that people have on their calendars is mind-boggling. And the workplace is designed for collaboration. I am back to cubicle living, but I’m never there. All over the building, in every corner, there are conference rooms (for over 6 people) and huddle rooms (for 1-5 people). Colorful, comfortable furniture is scattered all around so that you can work alone comfortably in privacy OR grab an area for a quick group pow wow.  I absolutely love it! And if you are ever looking for me and can’t find me – look here!

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There is a fully functional coffee shop downstairs complete with a barista and homemade pastries from the favorite local bakery here – Bit of Swiss. I’m trying to stay away from the pastries for the time being but I imagine I’ll indulge soon. The cafeteria features local fare, fresh organic vegetables and even a station where you can have a featured ethnic dish prepared by a chef. It’s not your typical cafeteria food. I felt like I was at a wonderful restaurant, and my dish was only $7.

In my off hours I’ve been searching for a house. I’ve found three suitable candidates. A lovely 1920s home in downtown St. Joe is my favorite. But my second choice is tied between a beautiful little beach-style condo right on Lake Michigan and a larger, more traditional condo in a quiet garden-style setting. All of them are amazing, and I had a hard time picking one. I made an offer on the downtown St. Joe house, but it has another offer on it as well. I’ll know today who wins. If I don’t get it, I’ll make an offer on one of the condos. I’m still trying to decide what’s my favorite. They both have advantages, and that lake is so beautiful. Below are some shots of the backyard at the lake condo.

Downtown House: Click here for the listing.

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The one thing I have made time for this week is the local sunset ritual. The sunset is so beautiful over Lake Michigan. People gather on the shore and hang out to watch the sun set. On some days in the summer, the sun hangs over the Chicago skyline. It’s been too hazy while I’ve been here to see it, but it’s beautiful just the same. Elderly couples drive up with their picnic dinners to watch the sunset. I wonder how many sunsets they have watched together over the years. It’s so relaxing and a beautiful way to put the day to bed. I’ll leave you with some photos. I haven’t filtered any of these.

I’ll be home next week to pack up and get out of the steamy south. I have to say I’m dreading stepping back into that sauna – especially given what I have to do next week. Wish me luck on the house!

The Quest for Benton Harbor

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Me in Benton Harbor, circa 2001

In October of 1993, I needed a job. I was married to a sports columnist whose travel schedule was crazy, and I needed a job with flexible hours or we never saw each other. Whirlpool Corporation opened a customer service call center on Peters Road in West Knoxville. The center was 24 hours, and I had my coveted night-time and weekend shift to match my husband’s hours. The pay was good to boot, the work was interesting, and there was plenty of opportunity to grow professionally in an organization of 60,000 employees.

The Whirlpool Call Center in Knoxville

The call center was new. Most of the managers had relocated from Whirlpool’s corporate campus in Benton Harbor MI to open their newest project. It grew and grew and grew. From my first day, this southern gal was fascinated with the Michiganders who ran our office. We partied a lot in those days, and I would often corner a Yankee and quiz them about what it was like “up north.” From the very beginning, my dreams began to revolve around working in Whirlpool’s World Headquarters and learning to live in that curious land on the banks of Lake Michigan.

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I was married, of course, and there was no newspaper there big enough to support my husband’s career. Those were just a 30-something woman’s dreams. But after we divorced, my quest began in earnest. I took a job on a high-profile project which was the single biggest skill-builder of my career, and I focused on work. That landed me a sales job in Seattle, and I finally ended up in Benton Harbor in June of 2000 as a Training Specialist at the Michigan customer service call center. I will never forget the day that I drove up to the “Ad Center” (short for Administration Center) for the first time. I took a picture by the sign out front, and I took some time to soak up my accomplishment. It felt really, really good.

The Service 2000 Team

 

As a young girl I always, always dreamed of being a corporate executive. I was so thrilled when I bought my first suit. I just knew I was on my way, and I’d be running one of the world’s greatest companies. As my career progressed, I realized that I wasn’t really that ambitious. Money didn’t really motivate me. Power seemed empty. What motivated me was getting stuff done. I love the feeling of working hard for something and seeing a result. I love managing things. Over and over I am drawn to being in the hub of the wheel. I want … no I LIVE… to be in the middle of the action. And Whirlpool is where I learned how to be effective.

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The “Rent-A-Husband” Innovation Team

 

I left Whirlpool 3 years after I landed at the World Headquarters. I was distracted by a man that I married too soon. I was in a very dark period of my life spiritually, and I felt lost. Whatever I had in my life at that time felt wrong, and Whirlpool was thrown into the rubble by association. I was restless and scared and wanted something – anything – different.

I’m a lucky gal, and my scrappiness and lust for hard work always lands me in some great places. But I’m not always the most focused. Two years ago, I realized that I needed to focus more on my career “path” if I was ever going to be able to retire. Now is the sweet spot for saving money, and I had the skills and capabilities to be successful. But I had not been thrilled with my last few jobs, and I felt aimless. So I invested in a few visits with a career counselor.

Michelle and I explored my interests and inclinations with some personality testing and reviewed my resume and job experience for what worked and what didn’t. As we ripped apart each job and each organization, a common theme arose.

“Why did you leave Whirlpool?” she asked.

“I think I just felt done with it,” I said. It seemed like such  a stupid answer to a really important question. It looked like every job that I really liked was at Whirlpool. My greatest successes were in my early career at that company by the lake. And, as we reviewed companies and culture, we both looked at each other. “I have to look at Whirlpool again, don’t I?” I asked.

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So, once again, my sights were set on the appliance giant on the banks of Lake Michigan. This time, I had the disadvantage of being outside the organization, but I had the distinct advantage of having lots of friends in the fold. I knew that most jobs are filled by the time they are posted, so I had to start circulating my resume in the hopes that it would one day fall into the hands of my future manager. I also knew that I had a specific skill set that is very marketable. The doors would open for me in learning and development.

My Interview Last Year

I had an interview last year that was unsuccessful in landing the job. But I made a few contacts, and I got a look inside the company again. I knew that I wanted to be there. It felt good. A few weeks ago, I got a text from my friend Michael – another former Whirlpool employee – that I needed to send my resume immediately to our friend Sandy. There was a job, and they were looking for somebody quick with my particular brand of talent. I found myself standing in front of the Ad Center once again two weeks ago.

I sat in the parking lot of the Ad Center in my rental car awaiting my appointment with the Global HR team. The outside of what they now call the Global Headquarters (GHQ) looks very much the same as the first time I gazed upon it. I look very much the same. But the reality is that we are both very different. Whirlpool has matured, and so have I. This was the moment – and the job – that was going to bring me back. I just knew it.  And yes, Curt, I buried the lead. I accepted the position of Training Manager with the Global HR team at Whirlpool in Benton Harbor MI yesterday. My quest is complete, but the work has just begun.

I’m back, Whirlpool. Bring it on!