Change really happens

I have to call this “personal change” because the word “change” has kind of been co-opted :D People might think I’m talking about Obama, which I do often enough. But no, this is about my life. For YEARS, I’ve been talking about changing my life, to the point where every time I say, “just a few more months and things will be different,” no-one believes me anymore.

But the fact is, I’m there!! And I just have to share it because it’s been a constant blogging theme over the years. I’ve been talking about the change I want to make happen, and it finally occurred to me that now that it’s here, I should say something :D So, what has changed?

In the last 5 years, I have moved three times (actually four, if you count the apartment I was living in while looking for a house). I am finally in the house that is really right for me, in a town I love, in a neighborhood I enjoy and with lots of wonderful things to do. Yay! I am no longer paying for a house that is too big for me, and my mortgage payments are under $1000. I have a manageable size yard and just enough space in the house, not too big, not too small. It’s open and airy and unique in style, in a woodsy green part of the city.

Probably the biggest piece of the puzzle and the one that will finally keep my colleagues from scoffing at my claims of change ;) is that I have finally made my career transition. I am no longer taking technical work (unless I really decide I want to take a small, interesting project) and I have finished all but one of my existing technical projects. That one is waiting on some agency decisions before writing the final report. I have enough mediation work to support myself full-time at a strong income level. My technical editing work is going well and more than paying the mortgage each month. Most importantly – I am no longer working the equivalent of three jobs.

Which leads to the biggest change of all – free time. My calender is open. I have major facilitation commitments for one week every two months, with maintenance work in between, and editing jobs on about an every other day basis, that don’t take up the full day. To see those empty pages on my calendar is just joy materialized, especially in contrast to the last three years, where every day of every page was filled with meetings, conference calls, appointments and work that had to be done in the evenings and weekends. As of this week, I feel free.

Free to exercise and get healthier – I spent yesterday researching the various studios and gyms that offer yoga, tai chi, and pilates in this area (of which there are many). I can go bike riding or kayaking or walking. I can dink around the farmer’s market and buy healthy food to cook, or just enjoy the day. I have a brand new wonderful gas stove on which to cook the healthy food. Time to sleep…

Free to write and continue to move more of my work online, always with the goal of diversifying and being able to live in Latin America someday. I am excited about revamping my website, finishing my book (which has been 2/3 done for years), offering new kinds of readings, and teaching classes online. I want to try self-publishing. For a change, I am a student in an online tarot study group.

Free to let my body be what it is, and have the down-time it needs, without always having to force myself to work through it because there were deadlines that had to be met and commitments to clients to keep.

Free to have a relationship, when and if that manifests itself, and free to enjoy social time with my friends without feeling like it impossibly cuts into my energy level and workload. Maybe I can finally have a dinner party here :) What I would really love is a dinner group – once a month or so we all cook for each other.

Free to travel and take a vacation of more than one week. I honestly can’t remember how long it’s been since I had more than one week or 10 days on vacation at a time – probably around 10 years. Maybe I can finally really learn Spanish.

Obviously, I won’t get to do all these things at once. But I have a choice now to do any of them I want – and that’s a change for the better, and hard-earned. Thank you for celebrating that with me.

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2008 retrospective-introspective

Here we are again, at the close of another year. I’m turning 45, and happy to be here! My brother sent me a birthday card where he traps and vanishes the “aging fairy” – he has a long tradition of sending us truly hilarious cards, for which he shops assiduously – and I thank him for it! I truly expect to get younger over the next year :) in body, mind, and spirit. My age is a good thing – it sends me wisdom and life experience, which I can finally feel all through my spirit.

2008 was a good year in so many ways – most of which I’ll really get to enjoy the benefits of next year. This time last year, I had just given myself permission to move from a house that was unsustainable and a neighborhood I didn’t enjoy to what has to be my favorite city – Olympia, WA. After 7 long months of searching, moving to Olympia and living above a garage all the better to search, learning every street and finding every bakery and coffee house in the city ;), I found the one. Just the right house, in a wonderful, quiet neighborhood with forest, wildlife, and fabulous neighbors – whom I actually know! From the college kids to the 85-year-old next door. Perfect. And boy was that the right time to do it – I got a great mortgage, a good price, and no trouble with the sale. A few months later and things could have been different.

That did occupy a lot of time and energy. Meanwhile, I was working on closing out several 5-10 year consulting projects and an entire technical career, in favor of working with people. Always, I am in service to the environment, but now I am helping people put aside their differences on large-scale environmental issues rather than crunching numbers. Now and then I work on mediating an amicable divorce or do communication training locally as well. This January 1 I will have all the technical work done on all my old projects and will just have the writing and some public review left to do. The fish and wildlife will have some new cleanup standards and I will be free of spreadsheets and databases forever more. Woohoo~!

Last year, my trip to Guatemala was probably the highlight of my spare time, which as you can guess from the above was pretty limited. This was my first international trip alone since college, and it was fabulous. I was happy to find my Spanish coming back partway through the trip, as negligent as I have been in really learning it properly. I had a great time, walked everywhere, went birdwatching, enjoyed the incredible scenery of Lake Atitlan and the colonial architecture, fabulous food and markets of Antigua. Jade, yes, I bought jade, along with textiles, hand-made leathers, the craftsmanship was too good to resist. Had I been able to buy the fanciful wrought-iron candle sconces that are everywhere in Antigua I would have brought a few of those home as well ;) Odd impulses for me, the anti-shopper.

Next year I expect I’ll be doing more traveling – I’ve got to present some of my work in Florida in Feb, so that’s going to get turned into a mini-vacation – the swamps and wildlife preserves are only a short drive away and my binoculars haven’t had much use lately. I hope to take a long walking vacation through England, maybe the month of September, something that’s been on my mind and my feet for a while. I got bitten by the kayaking bug late last summer, so hope to work that in on the exercise/enjoyment front, along with Tai Chi (Olympia is great – have I mentioned Olympia is great? All these wonderful things to do, so easily available).

There are still some restaurants in Olympia I haven’t found yet and I have season tickets to the Performing Arts Center! A bit of upgrading to my new home is in order to improve the energy efficiency of the appliances, not to mention a gas stove, which I seriously miss. It’s hard to cook well on this electric. The house is all unpacked, and January will be the time to get rid of all the remaining items in the garage remaining from the move that I don’t need in the new home. Gotta love Freecycle! Last but not least – I’ll get an earlier start on my vegetable garden this year and hopefully start working on the rest of the garden. It’s small, but it’s not quite me at the moment and there are some changes I want to make.

Happy New Year, everyone!

A state of happiness

Recently, I’ve been noticing every now and then that I’m happy for no particular reason. Not just content, not just OK, but noticeably happy. It’s like a little voice that pops up several times a day and says, “Hey, life is good!”, a little warm feeling, while I’m doing something completely mundane.

This is a little strange since I have had almost no time for anything but work recently, while trying to finish up one career in order to start another (and really doing both). One would think I’d be feeling mainly tired and harried, but it isn’t so.

I’ve been pondering this and realizing how unique an experience this is for me. It’s consistent, day after day – like I’ve entered a new period of my life, something I’ve never quite felt before. Some people are prone to happiness, just naturally. Others are prone to depression. I think I’ve always been kind of in between, pretty neutral most of the time, just taking things as they come. But now this – what to make of it? (of course i have to think about everything!)

My environment is always a large contributor, so that’s one piece of the puzzle, if you can call being happy a puzzle :) I love this house, I love the neighborhood, I finally feel like I’m in a city that shares my values and offers me all kinds of new experiences. The house and garden are just right, and create a pleasant space for me to work, live, enjoy, and be. And sleep! So quiet and peaceful.

I feel like I’m moving toward the things that are important to me in life – making progress in re-orienting my career, growing a vegetable garden and composting, reducing my energy use and the space and other resources I take up in the world.

On top of that, I have somehow achieved peace with my emotions. Maybe this is the biggest thing in addition to the environment. I’m not sure I’ve ever been this happy with the way things are – and not needing or wanting them to be otherwise. I feel secure, able to handle whatever comes, and able to appreciate what life and love brings me. I have strong relationships, but I’m not so worried about where they’re going, nor needing them to be other than they are.

It seems like I’ve finally found my own place in the world – in more ways than one. A state of happiness – something new to experience and enjoy :)

Done talking about houses!! :)

Well, OK, I may post some more SOMEtime. But most of you know my blogs have been almost entirely about moving, looking for, and buying houses lately – because that’s all I could think about and almost all I had time for! I’ve been itching to get back to other interesting subjects (and to actual life) for some time now. But first, an update for all of you who have patiently followed this journey.

I moved in Wednesday!! Yay! It didn’t even rain, even though it has the rest of the week. I had a GREAT moving crew and a fabulous friend here to help me move in, and by the time we were done, 2/3 of it was already unpacked! Rick was right in his thought that if there were a few rooms totally done, including ones you mainly need to use (kitchen, bedroom, living room), it would feel like a home already. And so it was. He even organized and unpacked the garage (in between fixing little things that needed fixing).

I have been busy setting up the computers, doing a lot of administrative stuff related to the move, and am trying to get around to the grocery store to stock the kitchen. I still have a wireless network to set up today among other things. But I am doing it in my spacious living area, which is the main part of the house, kind of a combination work area, dining room, and living room space, with the kitchen connected. It has high ceilings, skylights, tile and wood floors, a gas free-standing fireplace, and french doors to the deck and enclosed garden.

There’s lots of things to figure out still, like the most efficient way to heat the different parts of the house given the gas stove and the furnace and the odd hours that I work and sleep. I’m planning to grow some food in raised beds, and that’s taking some thought as to how to do it organically and sustainably. But probably the best part so far is just how quiet and peaceful it is.

I have slept so well the last two nights – the only sounds are the birds in the morning (and the rain!). And my cat, who is not happy about being excluded from the bedroom. But, she used to really keep me awake at night and I’ve decided it’s time to take back my sleep. Also there’s no other guest room now for my frequent visitors who are allergic to cats. Soooo poor kitty, she’s sleeping in the living room now. She’ll get over it – she’s got a lot more room to play and explore, and a private garden where no other cats or dogs can bother her :)

My main prayer to the Universe (given that the houses on either side of me are for sale)… may the peace of this neighborhood remain and bless me, my cat, and all the neighbors for years to come.

Turning over a few new leaves

Well, the last day of April I was sitting around in my little apartment (650 sq ft) and it was rainy. I was feeling really cooped up and exhausted, which I had largely been doing to myself by working too much and just kind of hiding inside. I moved to Olympia to support a healthier, more fun, and less expensive lifestyle, but lately it’s been all work and house-hunting, and a serious sleep deficit from my landlord’s little dog barking loudly at 5am. No fun.

I decided things have to change. I’ve been putting everything on hold until I find a new house, but that may not happen soon. And putting everything on hold like that increases the pressure to find a house, which might push me to buy something that isn’t exactly right. I have to do a better job of starting to make the changes I wanted to make, even in this temporary place.

So, May 1 I went to Curves and got signed up. At least I will be exercising three times a week – that has to help a lot. The program is short enough and close enough that no matter how tired I am I should be able to do it. I also researched yoga studios in Olympia and found one that looks like it will be great – and not too expensive. Once I get on a regular schedule at Curves, I’ll start adding that in on alternate days.

In spite of her dog, my landlord and her partner are also being encouraging. They have a neat new electronic exercise cycle that they’re encouraging me to use, and also to go walking with them. They also decided to make for me a little patch of garden that i can putter around in. I already got the dirt prepared and compost mixed in, now I just have to find a minute to go get some little plants to put in. That feels good.

The weather is changing for the better and both I and my cat can spend a little time outdoors on the property, and enjoying all the beautiful gardens as I go around looking for homes. While houses for sale have been few and far between for some months, it seems For Sale By Owners are really picking up just this weekend, even if there are no new MLS listings. Apparently people are feeling like if they’re going to lose money, they should eliminate the agent commission. This makes it a little challenging for me since I’m very loyal to my agent (especially after the last house fiasco, which she really helped me with). I’m going to make sure she gets her commission one way or another.

And the really good news is, my landlord is finally convinced that the dog barking is really a problem for me. She tried keeping him in the house and taking him out onto another part of the property in the morning, but he wakes up at 5am and now she’s tired!! (after only 3 days) So she has ordered a citronella collar for him, which apparently works by spraying a bit of citronella on them when they bark. Supposedly they hate that so much that they stop barking (I know my cat would), and it’s more humane than a shock collar. This dog has never been socialized (not his fault) and is just now being trained, so we’re all hoping this will help.

Vignettes from a new life

So today, I am really, truly moved to Olympia. Even if it’s to a temporary furnished apartment with the rest of my belongings crammed into every square inch of a 10×20 storage unit :) Our first few days here (this being myself and my cat, Sophie), we’ve been a little off-kilter, not sleeping well, jumpy at all the new noises. The heaters turn on at random times, and every time they do, I can still feel Sophie start next to me. There’s a little neurotic dog who will get used to us and bark less eventually. Other than that, the apartment and the property are pretty much perfect.

I haven’t had a second to relax, really, between getting back from Mexico and packing the house, getting the utilities and mail transferred, moving, trying to work, etc. I think the day and night that I can finally relax I will start to feel at home here. Sophie was feeling better yesterday after she got to stretch out on the ledge in the sun and explore the front porch a little. She is no longer meowing loudly and plaintively at me, like “when are we going HOME??”

The famed Olympia Farmer’s Market is opening in two weeks, and I can’t wait. It’s open Th – Sun, so I should be able to go every week and get fresh and locally-produced food. Yay!

Seen today on a bumper sticker: “B.A.D.D. Bicyclists Against Dumb Drivers” :P Very Olympia.

Yesterday was like a mini-amalgamation of all the different things I am trying to do with my work life, with five different income streams converging. First, I spent the morning in conference calls on environmental consulting issues. Then, I had a noon training session on the new technology for InstantAssist, an online conflict counseling start-up I am involved with (more on that in a later blog). I managed to fit in some quick editing that I do freelance on Guru.com, and then it was off to meet a new mediation client and introduce them to the process they will be going through as they mediate their separation and parenting plan. Finally, I did a tarot reading :)

All paid except the InstantAssist training, which is still in start-up mode. I had some issues with my headset that I hopefully solved tonight (by buying a better one… for $29.99). It’s interesting to look at the breakdown of income for the day:

Environmental consulting $240
Editing $60
InstantAssist -$30
Mediation $250
Tarot $35

Of course, the rest of this week I’ve hardly had time to work. But all in all, it seemed like an interesting and worthwhile day. Mexico was also interesting from the standpoint of my eventual hoped-for lifestyle. I worked about 3 hours a day, slept a LOT to the sound of soothing waves, read books, talked and played games with my family, walked, and just generally had a very nice and relaxing time. And still made enough money to support myself, especially in the local economy. So I came back feeling like my plans are not entirely ridiculous.

And tomorrow I am going out to look at houses that have been on my “to-see” list for a while, but which I’ve been too busy to visit. On the week-end I may fit in a little relaxation :)

Letting go of the house…

So, here’s my house that was, or is for a few more weeks…

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If you’ve been following this, you know I’ve been looking at houses in the Olympia area. Early last week I wanted to go see a house that seemed like it would be just right. Rick and I had visited it and the neighborhood and yard were nice, it had a nice porch and lots of potential garden space. The pictures online of the inside of the house looked really pretty. It was small, and affordable – but when I asked my realtor to go see it, it already had an offer. And she told me even if I had been faster, they wouldn’t have taken a noncontingent offer.

It seems that lately, any house I see in my price range that’s really good is gone instantly, within days. The market is picking up here, but more importantly, there are a lot of people looking in lower ranges, including investors waiting to snap up good deals. And the inventory in this price range is mostly not that great. So when something good does appear, it doesn’t last long. This was kind of frustrating, and pushed me into action.

So, Thursday I listed my house for sale. After looking at the comps, we listed it about $10,000 higher than I originally expected, and figured we had time, no problem. If I had to wait a while, that would be OK. It was in the middle of the price range of the MANY similar houses in this area, all built by the same builder. Mine has a couple of advantages – it has been very well-maintained, it has an ideal location on a greenbelt, near parks, and very good schools. And, I’ve put a lot into the beautiful landscaping, deck, and stream:

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Well, it sold in three days. We had the good luck of two interested buyers showing up to see the house at essentially the same time – and they could see that each other was interested. By the end of the day we had one full price offer and one just under full price. Woohoo!! And the family that bought the house is really perfect for it. The two kids are just the right ages for the two smaller rooms, they can walk through the park to their schools and to their Mom’s house (shared custody), and while they were looking I had fun listening to the kids playing Billy Goat’s Gruff on the little bridge over the stream :)

And then I thought, omg, I have to find a place to live!! Wednesday I am leaving for a week and a half’s business trip, and I won’t be back until March 1. And then my brother, sister-and-law and I are headed to Mexico for a vacation March 8-15. I set closing for March 21, so this should be entertaining :D

The universe was smiling on me, though. I went onto Craig’s list to see if I could find a temporary rental in Olympia. It’s a little easier than most towns to find month-to-month because of all the students and the legislature. However, both are in session now and there’s not much to be had. I had one (1) choice in a reasonable price range. I called her up and, amazingly, it’s perfect. All utilities and wireless are included. She doesn’t mind my cat, doesn’t care that I don’t know whether I’ll be there one month or eight, doesn’t need any forms filled out or a rental agreement. Just wanted a single professional woman who doesn’t smoke. ~waves hand wildly

I went over there to check it out. Turns out she’s kind of an ex-hippy commune type (which I like), but really has it all together. She has these cute little houses on her property in which various seemingly very nice people live and all help out. There is a beautiful forest with walking trails, expansive grounds with amazing multi-tiered ponds and waterfalls with a patio for relaxing, barbecue, vegetable gardens, orchards, etc. I think this is going to be a really nice place to spend the summer while I’m looking for a house – it’s not far from the center of town.

So, the first week in March I’ll be moving my stuff in there, what I can fit. The rest will go into storage and wait until I find a house. It will be a little bit of a challenge living in 650 square feet – but good practice I think, for the downsizing I’m planning. And with lots of outdoor space to enjoy, I won’t miss my own so much. Plus, I kinda miss people too. This way I don’t have to have room-mates, but I can enjoy some company when I feel like it.

I realized when driving back, that I won’t miss this neighborhood AT ALL. It is soulless suburbia, filled with traffic, strip malls, cookie-cutter houses, and SUVs. It doesn’t hold a candle to the nice feeling of living in a quirky place where people care about nature and cooperative living, funky little houses with interesting people in them, farmer’s markets, good politics, and lots going on. We were in a little restaurant with great coffee and interesting food the other day, and I was struck by the three scruffy-looking 20-somethings among the students who were earnestly engaged in a discussion about… how many delegates their candidate had received in that day’s primary (Obama, I’m guessing). That’s Olympia all over. I’m looking forward to it!