Leaving Snowgoose Way

98565909-01-altI bought a house in Meridian, Idaho five years ago, 2009 – rather a risky time to buy a home as the trajectory of the economy continued to descend. It was an out of character move that confounded many of my friends.  Not only for the location, but for the three car garage that was an astounding acquisition.  At approximately 825 square feet, it could easily be an apartment.

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Before I painted the walls.

Nonetheless, I stubbornly forged ahead, established a five-year plan to stay in the house, practice my handywoman skills, hope for an improved economy, and then sell.  I planned to use the money from the sale to buy a small cottage on the Washington coast.

As the economic downturn continued into a recession, near depression status, and the housing market bottomed out lower than expected, my five years turned to a ten-year plan. At times I wondered if I would ever get out of the house, perhaps stuck for a long time, and simply hoped to break even.

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Yes, I painted the wall blue!

However, surprisingly, at the five-year mark an improved, robust market began to emerge.  I was ready to sell and live in something smaller with less maintenance.  I wanted to use my time and money to travel, spend time with friends and family.

The process began with clearing everything out of the house to refurbish it with fresh paint and carpet.  Potential buyers could see the house clean and empty. Part of the task list involved finding a  home for ten-year old Miss Cleo cat, a stressful and sad situation that thankfully ended well.  After that ordeal, I vowed at some point in time to either foster older cats or try to take them on as pets.

During my five years on Snowgoose Way, I packed the time with people and new activities. One daughter lived with me for a couple of years, and the other came and went as she finished college.   Snowgoose saw several friends come and go as they transitioned to new lives. I hosted parties, and had family dinners over the holidays. My older daughter brought friends from college one summer, and they practiced acroyoga yoga in the yard.30843_10150201499000557_7159893_n

Locally I joined a community garden group that started behind the back of a church, and later moved to a large plot in Kleiner Park.  I learned how to grow food and enjoyed eating freshly picked cantaloupe, tomatoes, peppers, kale, red potatoes.  The first year I spent hours in the garden.  After work, I headed to Kleiner park to water and weed in the hot evening summer air.  Each night the broad horizon graced the sky with extraordinary shows of spectacular sunsets.

I had dreams of playing the piano again and for the first year practiced each day for at least 20 minutes, but that discipline fell by the wayside.  Instead, at a friend’s urging, I rekindle a long time dream of learning to play the banjo. The house endured endless hours of practice.

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Returned to a lovely beige color.

I remained in the house during the painting so I could attend to yard projects.  Daily I would arrive home and find walls that I had painted with my unique colors turned to lovely neutral beige.  Gradually I felt my personality leave the house. A good friend suggested I spend solitary time in the house to say goodbye, and while I smiled at the suggestion, inwardly I scoffed.  It turned out she was right.   Alone in a quiet house, I paused to enjoy the empty, simple, clutter free existence, honor the memories, and gave thanks for five years of beautiful shelter.

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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!

Empty Nest, Adventures and Soaring Eagles

imagesIt finally happened, rather quickly too I might add.  Both my girls are gone for Christmas.  Jen is in New Zealand and Molly moved out of Idaho the early part of December.  I knew for weeks that Jen would not be home for Christmas.  Molly had been contemplating relocating for quite some time, and her decision to make the move came quickly.

On a percentage scale, I estimate 90 percent sheer joy as they each step out into their own lives in a new way.  Each has seized the moment and opportunities, further detaching their anchors from mom and dad, and forging new paths.  The 10 percent is denial on my part that they in fact left the dock and sailed out. photo(6) Those little toads ventured out, and I miss them, yet am joyously delighted for them – complicated, these feelings!

Why not join them?  I experienced a fantastic year of travel in 2013 as I visited Ireland, the mid-west and participated in a Habitat for Humanity Build in Kauai.  I used most of my vacation time and finances and for now I am temporarily grounded in Idaho.

I also started a new job working with the BSU Research Team working on grants centered on high performance computing and cyberinfrastructure; a fantastic career opportunity. My daughters and I are deeply connected, as mothers and daughters are, and I find it interesting that we all three seized new adventures and opportunities at the same time.

In addition to the girls leaving, activities that our family traditionally engage in during the Holiday season changed due to other factors, such as illness, folks decided to attended other dinners, and  several of us entered the season simply tired and in need of rest – that includes me.

Christmas Eve day I ventured into Fred Meyer for a few items and enjoyed my leisurely stroll through the frenzy of shoppers. People look stressed trying to get those last-minute food and gift purchases, and I considered that the chaotic quest has become part of the holiday tradition.

Past years, our family deliberately plunged into the mall crowd madness because it seemed the festive zero hour Christmas shopping thing to do.  As I get older, an activity photo (24)like that plummets me quickly into overstimulated, wide, crazy eyed confused behavior and is not a very attractive look on me.

Instead, it is a relaxing holiday as I am exempt from the riotous last-minute preparation for this year.  Yet, I know that my turn will come around again, and I will host dinners and gatherings for friends, family and stray people during the Holidays.

Christmas morning I woke early to prepare delicious dark roast peaberry coffee from Kauai, and lounged in bed with fat cat Cleo, listening to music and blogging away.  While my girls fashion new experiences and traditions in their lives, I paused to consider a new level of empty nest and forge an innovative vision for my life.

My plan is to spend 2014 preparing to downsize by 2015 to something small where time and money is spent on  traveling, visiting with friends and most certainly going to where my lovely daughters reside.  If all goes well, I hope to be working on a PhD in Public Policy on the topic of affordable housing issues.   My chances will improve in this attempt if I get the application in on time for consideration.  The deadline in February is fast approaching!

Yesterday, when I stepped outside, I spotted the powerful grace of a bald eagle lazily circling right above me; the flying eaglefirst time I have observed an eagle flying in this neighborhood.  Of course, I thought it a significant message, quickly utilized the power of Google, and found the following that seemed fitting:

Great power, spiritual self is soaring.  Tremendous freedom to be used wisely, accepting responsibility, and taking care of own needs.

The vision they possess helps us learn to take a step back and view the bigger picture. We need to view the past and the present objectively, whilst looking towards the future.

zeldaeagleWe need to open our minds and hearts to see past old, restricting beliefs that are holding us back. Eagle teaches us to courageously face our fear of the unknown, so we are then able to fly as high as our heart’s joy can take us.   Soar away girls!

Lenten Journey

Last Wednesday evening I turned on the TV to watch Law and Order:SVU.  I get caught up in watching several of the crime shows as I enjoy seeing the mystery unravel.  Lately, I have wanted to stop because the crimes are always graphically described and involve horrific abuse against women and children – hence the name SVU – Special Victims Unit. The images mess with my mind and soul too much.

We have entered the Lent period, which I regard as a unique time for reflection; we begin to leave the cold, dark winter months and enter the spring.  I am turning the TV off and plan to use that time to listen to music, read, work on my writing, and get out snail mail or emails to family and friends.