To PhD or not to PhD, Part 2 – Onward with Life!

DSC_0602nal banjoTo PhD or not to PhD, Part 2 –  continued from Part 1:

The mystical irony was in the timing that I received the no go PhD news. Relaxed from a Cascade, Idaho cabin retreat with my inspirational women friends, I immediately spotted the letter on the kitchen  table.  The weekend was rich with soul-searching conversations, vision boards, dream exploration, laughter, delicious food, and plenty of opportunity to snooze.   I tore into the envelope ready to accept my next challenge in life.

“Dear Ms Emerson – I regret to inform you that your admission to the PhD in Public Policy and Administration, State and Local Government has been denied.”

My fall higher education plans completely derailed, and mixed emotions swirled in a recipe of bruised ego, anger, and disappointment.  Then I felt embarrassed because for over a year, I talked incessantly to friends and family about my PhD plans. Next, a simple, subdued  thought, “Now what do I do. Reapply next year or apply to other universities?”   Finally, a curious feeling emerged  – relief.

Then the big question, do I want a PhD  and why? I know I can achieve that goal, but is that how I want to spend my time. Lack of a PhD does not prevent active involvement in affordable housing advocacy.

Since that March 2014 spring day when I opened the “No” letter, my life rapidly changed. Fall 2013, I had received a promotion into a new job as a Proposal Development Specialist with the Research Computing department. As a result, the rest of my spring 2014 melted into a flurry of travel to trainings and conferences that revitalized my talents and put my MPA to use.

I went on a glorious trip to the Washington Olympic peninsula, camped out, took long walks on foggy beaches, and explored the rain forest. I visited my daughter in Portland, Oregon and we shared an incredible weekend in Cannon Beach. My other daughter returned from New Zealand with loads of stories and pictures.

I decided to downsize, simplify, and sell my house, move into a smaller apartment and use precious time and money to travel, visit friends, and write. Instead of mowing the lawn or home maintenance projects, I plan to devote time playing the banjo, going to bluegrass festivals, writer workshops, and blogging conferences.

My PhD plotting plans did not leave a void for long. Other opportunities rushed in to seize the moment. As the gorgeous, cooling fall weather eases into the Treasure Valley, I am able to pause, thoroughly enjoy the transition, and not worry about getting an assignment completed, or that next paper written.

In October, I travel to Taos, New Mexico to join friends for one week to work on Habitat for Humanity build. I became involved with Boise Valley Habitat in 1994, when hired into a support staff position. After the position had ended, I remained involved with the organization locally, national and internationally. In addition to local builds, I joined Global Village teams in Northern Ireland, Romania, Guatemala, Hawaii, and a Jimmy Carter build in Valdosta, Georgia.
I look forward to additional volunteer opportunities and a chance to spend time with friends as result of my long involvement. Onward with an adventurous life!

photo (13)photo (10) (1)I look forward to additional volunteer opportunities and a chance to spend time with friends as result of my long involvement. Onward now with an adventurous life!


Chasing the Idaho Aurora Borealis

auroraMy friend,Noreen, and I are chasers.

We chased after a box of foiled wrapped Ding Dongs, Twinkies, and Fruit Pies when Hostess Brands closed last fall 2013 – Hostess Mania.  We chased a natural, non-chemical solution for an enormous sugar ant mound that appeared in my yard.  Extensive research on the topic of sugar ant removal recommended spreading coffee grounds as a deterrent. Noreen chased down a large bag of grounds from a local coffee-house that we laced through the dirt with pretty good results.

We chase vibrant, brilliant, dramatic, colorful sunsets, and phenomena such as gigantic harvest super moons, meteor showers, and eclipses.  sunset 3If something incredible is scheduled to occur in the sky, we plot to stay awake and experience the cosmic show.  When reports of a rare massive solar flare caught my attention mid-week, I checked out Aurora Borealis sites – U.S sky gazers could get a rare glimpse of northern lights

I texted Noreen, and we made our usual noncommittal plans to chase the Aurora.  We both work long days, and energy is a slippery character for 50 something folks.  Enthusiastic intention wears off quickly as the day progresses.

As of Thursday evening the probability of an Aurora chase remained low.  Friday I checked the reports again. One remained steadfast in predicting a sweep through Idaho while another indicated the Aurora moved farther north.   I went home, chomped on a bowl of veggies, and flipped on the television.   About that moment, a text arrived from Noreen.

Strong Aurora sighting potential. She and her son, Noah, were going – did I want to join them?  Chase on!  I grabbed warm clothes and a sleeping bag in case I needed to crash at her home that night.

We decided to try Freezeout lookout at the top of Emmett, and found other Aurora chasers gathered.  The view was terrific, but too much light pollution for our tastes.  Noreen remembered that highway 52 connected Emmett to Horseshoe bend, and we headed that direction.  A dark and winding road, Noreen navigated it with expertise.  We stopped at a gas station in Horseshoe Bend and stocked up on coffee, Chex mix, almonds, dark chocolate, and then travelled up the hill to find a high spot.

The first turnout was not high enough, and we proceeded to the top lookout spot.  Packed with cars, we thought we had stumbled onto a high school party and make out sessions. But we quickly realized it was Aurora Borealis enthusiasts. Flashlights traversed the hills as devoted sky watchers sought perfect viewing spots.   Cameras and video equipment dotted the landscape, and in the dark we felt a wonderful kinship with the crowd.  People of all ages gathered away from their computers, television sets, video games and went to the high hills.

Even though the latest report indicated the Aurora had headed to the far north, we lingered a bit and then headed home.  I learned the next morning that many people remained until 2 am hoping for a glimpse before calling it a no-show.  The thrill of joining the throng of fellow Aurora chasers blotted out any lingering disappointment of being stood up by the solar flare storm.

Chronicles of Downsizing

Stuff Quizzer Spirit

20140731_195039I finally decided to commit to selling my house at Snow Goose Way.  Lest you worry, I want to clarify the house you see pictured on the top of this blog is my future coastal dream house. Snow Goose is in Meridian, Idaho.

Each day after work, three or four boxes of items got packed, labeled and hauled out to the garage.  Through the month-long process, without fail, sometime around 2 am or 3 am in the morning the stuff quizzer spirit poked at my sleepy mind.

“Hey, sorry to bother you so early, but I noted the following items.  You packed three boxes of greetings cards. Granted you took five boxes of cards and correspondence, sorted and condensed to the three boxes – congratulations.  Still go back and reconsider.  Do you really want to keep all that?”

I woke in the morning with the now familiar mantra, “Get rid of it!”

My daughter, Jen, and I had a lunch rendezvous on Saturday.  I love our conversations, and the way Jen examines various aspects of life.  I asked her about all the greeting cards and correspondence.

“Do you ever think you may want to look through the cards, letters and check out various notes written to me or you girls over the years?   During my undergraduate history days, I enjoyed finding old letters and cards and reading how people related to each other through correspondence.”

Jen got a rather perplexed look on her face and immediately, without hesitation exclaimed, “No mom, I know who you are, and I don’t need to look through old cards and letters to learn more.  Let go of the stuff, be free and enjoy your life.”

Our kids did not want our stuff.  The majority of my fifty-something friends are experiencing the same downsizing, simplify our lives movement.  Our children, now young adults, consistently shake their heads at the collection of stuff.  The pieces that perhaps draw attention are family heirlooms, selected items that individually mean something to them, or items that may sell for a decent price.  And we all secretly harbor hope that a piece of furniture, artwork or item we acquired is worth $100,000 or more – if not now, possibly in the future.

That weekend I ventured back to the carefully sorted and packed boxes of cards.  I gave myself a couple hours to read the birthday cards, wedding cards, congratulations on your baby cards, sympathy cards and other correspondence between friends over the past 30 years.  I laughed as I read humorous notes, and later tears took over as I longed for the early days of my marriage, newborns and grieved the death of family and friends.   I held paper proof of my 37 years of living in Idaho.  I cannot go back in time and alter any decisions.  Even if I could, how risky to pull on a thread and unravel a cherished story line.

I found the decision to discard the physical evidence a step out on the ledge of faith that felt both solid and precarious.  That weekend I celebrated and grieved the past.  I acknowledge the rich flow of friends and experiences throughout my life and the life of our family.  During my time in the Treasure Valley, I engaged in community activities and volunteered hundreds of hours to great causes.  I tried to create a better world for my children, all of our children.

I honor and cherish each note and card that a wealth of friends and family took time to send.  20140731_194956However, at the age of 55, I feel the clock ticking and want to spend joyous real-time moments with people and events. In order to continue on a sparkly, vibrant path of trying to give more than I take, all that stuff cannot travel along.  No need to reach for physical evidence, or waste time sorting through stuff.  Time to hold the memories close to my heart and step out in faith.