Sometimes you need to be still…

For two years I’ve lived out of a suitcase. Two years.

I never saw that coming.

The past two years, since we sold the house in Ketchikan, we’ve worked in small communities in SE Alaska, lived in temporary duty clinic housing, and traveled.

We’ve traveled a lot.

And that’s been good. We’ve traveled for work and traveled for fun, spent time with family and friends, and seen some amazing places. We sorted through a lot of stresses, a lot of questions, as individuals, and as a couple.

We didn’t really have a plan when this chapter began. We just sort of fell into this life. Mostly we couldn’t decide what we wanted, where we wanted to make a home again. We still haven’t decided. And the thing about Alaska is, there’s always plenty of work. It’s easy to ride the circuit of clinics, spending a few weeks or a month at a time, take a break, then make the rounds again. It’s easy to stay busy when you can’t make a decision.

But as of this month, we’re creating a hub again.

We didn’t buy a house, or settle on our “happily ever after” place. We haven’t retired, and we’re not working full-time either.

One of the locations where we’ve worked on a regular basis has individual clinic housing available that we can use with a limited commitment, so we’re taking the offer of housing, more stability, and a space to unpack, for the first time in a long time.

My personal commitment to Alaska is on the horizon. I have roughly four years to go to my next decade, and that’s the timeline I’m working with.

While I’m slightly giddy about seeing my Kitchen Aid again, spreading out, and having access to all my wardrobe in one place, this decision also serves other needs.

There’s no doubt we’ll be here more regularly, even though I expect we’ll still be working in other locations on occasion. It will be good to have a part in adding stability to this clinic. We’re not indispensable…no one is…but we have a contribution to make.

The other thing I’ve realized is: I need some stillness in my life.

In the past year I wrote a book, launched a site, I’m creating an online course, and I’m developing webinars and videos. All of it was done between working in three different locations, traveling back and forth cross-country, and trying to make sure I had the right clothes for the right season and occasion in my trusty roller bags.

Some days I’m disheartened because I have so much I want to do, and I feel so slow at accomplishing.

I finally recognized I’m never going to progress unless I slow down and carve out some space, and time. I’ve been telling myself if I’m focused, if I want to take my online work to the next level, I just have to try harder, be more determined.

What I really need is to slow down a bit. I need to be in the same place for more than two weeks at a stretch. I need to spend more time writing, and less time packing.

I need to set up my little home studio and leave it in place, rather than trying to cart it around with me. I need to use the timeline I set for Alaska as the timeline for my personal work goals as well.

Even as I write this, we’ve got more travel lined up for the fall. But I think the difference is in my mindset. There’s a place in this home that’s just right for a little creative nook, and I’m excited to have more time to invest in the work I’ve committed to.

So much about the last decade has been unexpected. To be honest, that pretty much sums up my experience of Alaska. Unexpected. Some good, some not-so-good. But this is a twist I hope will be in the first category.

And maybe my roller bags will get a well-earned break. 🙂

~ Sheila

 

 

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Lost and found: a year of discovery and recovery

It’s been a year this week since we sold the house in Ketchikan and vaulted into a nomadic life. For the past year I’ve lived out of two Eddie Bauer roller bag suitcases, supplemented with seasonal changes of wardrobe from my storage unit, and a few items stashed in my daughter’s spare room closet.

I haul a few favorite kitchen knives with me, good sheets (I’m picky about knives and sheets) and enough clothes to get through a couple of weeks.

I’m also creating a traveling “junk drawer” in one of the zipper pockets of my larger suitcase. Even when you’re mobile, you need a place to put extra buttons or receipts or the odd items that you don’t want to throw away but don’t need in your purse.

I tell people we’re homeless, but that’s just in fun. We’re really transitory, working and staying in temporary duty apartments during work stays. Between commitments we spend a few days with family or friends, or traveling. So far I don’t think we’ve out-stayed our welcome anywhere (but maybe I should ask my son-in-law to be sure about that 🙂 ).

In the past year we’ve attended a 10 day meditation retreat and a week-long event that focused on resolving issues from the past. I’ve launched two Kindle books and have another one ready to list. I’ve reduced my household possessions to a one-car garage-size storage unit. I’m working with a web design firm to create a new site. We’ve traveled to the Caribbean and cross-country from Texas to Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Colorado, California, Oregon, and of course, Washington (home of the Littles).

It’s been quite a year.

I didn’t see it coming when it began.

It’s been like the classic line from Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times.

Thanks to many forces at work in my life, thank God it’s ending in the right way, with the best of times.

And if we’re not settled yet, after a year of working and roaming, I’m content enough, without an immediate need for a nest under my wings.

The past weeks, working in SE Alaska, life has come full circle, come back to serenity, and to joy.

I’ve learned, once again, that the important things in life aren’t things. That happiness is elusive…when you look for it, it’s often difficult to find. But when you stop chasing it, it appears, seemingly out of nowhere.

Who would guess that I could be happy without my home, my nest all neat and feathered? Or that not knowing the future and how it will look wouldn’t rattle me?

I’ve learned to always hope. Always hope.

You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward.

I’ve learned that whatever is going on in life, there are always forces at work, shaping events and others’ choices in ways that will impact, and in ways that I can’t imagine, can’t see. Life is never all in our control, so I shouldn’t be surprised when there are twists and turns I don’t foresee.

Often I’m still caught off guard, though, even though I think I’ve absorbed this lesson well. Sometimes it works for me, and sometimes against me.

I’ve learned that gratitude, and doing the right thing as far as I’m able, cures most of life’s angst.

I’ve learned, again, that life doesn’t have to be perfect, or anything near that mark, to be wonderful.

One of these days, we’ll be re-settled, and life will look more “normal.” Or so I assume.

But in the meantime, it’s enough that I catch myself singing, and smiling, and feeling a spring in my step. After a year of frequent wandering in the wilderness, these are welcome signs of renewal.

Spring in October? Well, in SE Alaska that seems unlikely. But spring in my heart?

Yes. Just yes!

Standards

“Get caught doing something right.”

I started working in the field of health care in 2006. I had a side-door entry, coming in through an administrative role. My experience of health care is from largely from the business perspective. Still, though I have no clinical skill myself, there’s a lot of overlap with the clinical world, specifically with staff.

I spend a lot of time working to recruit providers and nurses, to coordinate meetings, trainings, and arrange for temporary provider coverage. I write newsletters and policies and the occasional grant.

I swim in corporate email.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming…all the technology, regulation, terminology, bureaucracy, acronyms, staff changes, opinions, personalities…and that’s before patients are added to the mix…the world of the modern family practice clinic.

There are so many patient needs that this community addresses every day, with a shared commitment to ethical care and a standard of best practices.

In the midst of this busyness, there are lessons to be learned, lessons worth observing and passing on. In the whirlwind that envelopes the day-to-day of the clinic, these are the practices I believe in.

This list isn’t a standard for the delivery of health care; it’s a standard, period. You don’t have to be a health care worker to treat someone with dignity, and you can be a leader with great vision and skill even if you were first trained as a provider. These attributes are not incompatible. I’ve known people who exemplify the wonderful blend of compassionate care giver with a head for business and leadership.

These worlds, the often competing worlds of business and health care, overlap so much: they intermingle, and there is no separating them. Sometimes it is to the detriment of each. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can all learn, and perhaps remove some of the cynicism in the process.

I have to believe it’s possible to bring out the best in each other. And with all the meaningless and trivial, there is actual good accomplished.

Here’s how you do it, pure and simple. Turns out, good business and good medicine have a lot in common.

  • People rise to their potential when they have clearly defined structure and expectations, and work in an environment of trust, integrity, and transparency.
  • Right makes might! Doing the right thing commands respect and gives moral authority. Leaders are most effective when they are respected. Respect is a product of living with character and integrity. (If you’re unsure about a decision you’re making, visualize yourself explaining your choice to someone you respect. If you can’t feel good about sharing your decision, you should probably reconsider.)
  • The greatest deficit in most organizations is at the leadership level. Leaders need to set the tone, remove barriers to success, then get out of the way.
  • Principles are timeless, process is not.
  • Promote an environment of creativity and thinking outside the box. When an idea has merit, it deserves recognition and promotion. But don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that because a decision or method has been accepted, it is set in stone. Leaders understand innovation is the balancing tool of structure. Great organizations regularly evaluate and adjust process.
  • Do one thing at a time. Focus! Concentrating on one thing at a time is actually more productive than multi-tasking.
  • Define the problem. When something is not working, take the time to get to the bottom of the issue. Sometimes the most obvious difficulty is only a symptom of a greater problem.
  • When you’re problem solving, listen and then ask questions. Survey everyone involved. The perspective of an entry-level employee may be just as valid as the opinion of a department head. People with different roles in an organization have very different insights into how things work, and every point of view is important.
  • Separate noise from the real issues. Sometimes people are just focused on the drama, rather than the root cause. If you correct root causes, the noise will usually go away.
  • Change is inevitable. No individual, position, or process will last forever. Change can be unsettling, but it can also be refreshing.
  • Acknowledge mistakes. Apologize when necessary. Be gracious when someone apologizes to you. Set the example.
  • Express ideas as simply as you can. Be direct. Don’t use “corporate speak.” Simple is best, and people know when they’re being patronized with a lot of flowery words.
  • Promote an atmosphere of calm. Chaos is unsettling and leads to loss of productivity. People do not thrive in an atmosphere of uncertainty.
  • Promote a positive environment. Discourage gossip. Catch people doing something right. Reward that. Honor that.
  • Give honest value and treat people fairly, and both you and your organization will reap the rewards. Perhaps not every time, but in time. Plus, doing the right thing has an impact on the doer. As Abraham Lincoln said, “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad.”
  • What you reward, you repeat. What you permit, you promote. Set the tone, and most people will rise to the expectation.

I’ve sometimes been accused of being idealistic. Well, I’ll take that. I would rather have high hopes and expectations than weary cynicism.

Find your brave.

Go forth and slay dragons. Get caught doing the right thing.

The truth hurts; or…the truth will set you free

Last week was intense. I spent my days at a small retreat center in St. Helena, in Napa Valley, California. Does that sound stressful? No?

I took part in a residential program hosted by The Hoffman Institute.

Forty students and six teachers gathered to spend the week learning, sharing, exploring, and confronting.

Some were there to confront past relationships and family dysfunction. Others were there to discern direction for their lives. Still others were there to change self-image, or overcome fears.

All of us were there to confront ourselves, our patterns of behavior, and to grow in our capacity to love and be loved.

We followed a planned curriculum, working through concepts, tools, and experience.

It was a hard week, for some more than others.

The teachers were kind, the food was great, just as you’d expect from a retreat center in northern California.

No wine though, in case you think about going.

Our focus was on dealing with the past, in whatever form it held us back.

It turns out that a lot of my messages to myself aren’t really very helpful.

I know, it was hard for me to believe, too.

I’m such a positive person, so upbeat, really, so cheerful, so easy-going.

Well, I discovered some of that isn’t really true. I mean, I present it as true. I even live it that way. But it’s not how I really feel.

Example: I give myself, and others, a message that I’m a writer, but I follow that acknowledgement with some self-deprecating comment about “don’t look for me on the NY Times bestseller list any time soon!”

Why do I do that? I think it’s to put out there that I might not be successful…sort of like, if I acknowledge that possibility up front, then when I live up to that low expectation, no one is surprised, least of all me, and no one laughs at me for having grandiose dreams.

Whew! I saved myself from that one, didn’t I?!

Here’s another thing I do.

Sometimes I’m nervous about my relationship. When things feel tense or stressed, I sometimes say, “Are you ok?”

What I really mean is: “Am I ok? Am I safe? Are we ok?”

Funny how we use one set of words to mean something else entirely.

Of course, I don’t intentionally substitute words I say for words I mean. I like to think I’m honest and direct.

Sadly, I have to face the reality that sometimes I’m really not….not clear with myself, or clear with the people around me.

It’s a little disheartening to have your defenses dismantled and have to decide what to do with that information.

Another thing I do…I self-censor. I don’t confront, to the point of limiting potential for intimacy. For how can anyone really know me if I have such high walls that not much can get in, or out? Yes, I’m being polite and kind and easy to get along with. I’m also distant, though most people wouldn’t think that. I am kindness and helpfulness personified.

But steel plated none-the-less.

The teachers were very kind, encouraging, inspiring. They challenged us to live with integrity, to love and allow ourselves to be loved. They challenged us to be big.

Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.  ~ Richard Bach

So what do I do now?

I’m going to enlarge my dreams, quit worrying about what others think so much. No, I’m not going to go to the other extreme. But how did I come to think it’s smart or wise to argue for my limitations? Life will knock me down enough without me adding my own spirit to the process. I know that. And trying to protect myself with some advance notice that I’m not likely to be a best-selling author is not doing me or anyone else any good.

So now…I am a writer. I plan to be successful. I don’t need to project what that will look like. But I can at least forecast something positive and hopeful. Why wouldn’t I? The worst that will happen is that I’m not, in fact, successful, which won’t really matter to anyone else anyway.

And as for other ways I’ve been fearful….I don’t know what’s happened, but I’m not feeling that now. I’ve recognized that fear doesn’t help me avoid the hard things of life…it just prolongs them. It doesn’t save me anything. It makes difficulties harder.

Another side benefit of the week: there are almost 50 people who know a bit about my frailties, and I know something of theirs. That makes us a unique little community, able to support each other from time zones and continents across the world, thanks to email and phones. It’s a rare thing to make even a couple of new friends in a week’s time. But fifty?! That must be some kind of record. At least it is for me.

Well well…maybe it was easy an easy week after all.

Some days

Back working in Alaska again for a stretch, and picking up the threads of all my projects. I seem to have a never-ending list! Not that I think I’m alone in that. Who doesn’t have a list?

Lately my list has been a little fuller. I’m brushing off some long-unused skills and trying to recall what I’ve ever known of design programs. Admittedly most of my knowledge was via on-the-job learning. Back in the day, when I was in college, Adobe products weren’t even a glint in a designer’s eye. Now I’m learning with books, and the ever-helpful tutorials that abound online. I’m doing this as part of a multi-prong approach to creating digital income, and it occurred to me that it would be helpful to have a few more skills in the digital world.

So there’s that, and my second Kindle book which has been languishing for the past several weeks, waiting for me to pull it out again. Then my blog is wondering if I moved away and forgot to pack it along.

And there’s work, as in, what I am actually paid real money to do.

I’m so grateful to live in a time when so much is at my fingertips. It’s a rich experience, learning and growing, all at the touch of a few buttons and some time and effort.

But, I remind myself, life exists off-line as well. It’s easy to get sucked in by the vast world that lives behind my screen.

And if I’m always looking that direction, I miss so much.

Like this:

IMG_1393

Riley and Pete the Cat, preschool mascot

Or this:

IMG_1411

The boy, blowing bubbles for Gram

I don’t get bubbles from my laptop. I don’t know…maybe I don’t visit the right sites?

Nothing replaces reality. I can do a lot from my sofa, and learn a lot without going into a classroom. But on days when I feel like I haven’t looked up, I stretch and yawn and remember:

What I’m really invested in is out there, the people in my life.

I’ve always been able to draw that line between my work and personal life. I find it a little more challenging when work can follow me home, follow me to the sofa, be in front of me as soon as I click on my screen.

It takes discipline to create income out of hobbies, out of interests that have potential. And I want to be one of the people that finds that key to unlock the door.

But I don’t want to get sucked dry by the process, consumed by the ease of access.

I realize, now while I still am in the formative stage of creating online work, I need to set boundaries and schedules. Yes, I want to be able to work from anywhere, and anytime I choose.

But I don’t want to find myself working everywhere, all the time.

That’s not the plan.

Is it?

Aaahhh…there’s a difference in convenience and flexibility, and being consumed by the tool I’m using.

I don’t want the dream of creating my work world to become the monster that devours me.

For now, that isn’t likely to happen. For one thing, I can’t generate income without a regular job, which keeps me grounded and tied to a somewhat regular schedule. These thoughts are really about the future.

But this is the time to plan. What do I want more of? Endless time online?

Or bubbles?

Which do you think I picked?

Happy Sunday!  ~ Sheila

Too busy to choose?

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.   ~ Old Zen saying

I find it easy to be busy. Easy to let the tasks of life fill the days and create a sense of pressure. And though I’ve streamlined my holiday plans, December is not a month that lends itself to a slower pace.

Well, let’s be honest…is there any month that slows down? Not on my calendar.

And if I’m already busy, how am I supposed to carve out extra time to sit and meditate? Or find the quiet for reading and reflection?

It’s like so many other paradoxes in life:

The more love you give away, the more you have.

Without darkness there can be no light.

The pursuit of happiness makes people unhappy.

What is this strange logic that works in spite of itself?

The way I make sense of it is to understand the power of deliberate choice.

I can’t tell you how much time I’ve lost doing useful things that were unplanned. I sidetrack myself when I sit down to online work and before I begin I have to check email, my bank balance, my credit card charges, my this, my that, my other….All helpful, but not necessarily helping me to the end point, the goal of why I sat down with my computer in the first place.

Other times it’s errands. I have something that I need to do, but I tack on other stops since I’m out. Sometimes I lose whole afternoons to things that didn’t have to be, just because I was out and about anyway.

That may sound like good planning, batching running around and being efficient.

But the busyness also gives me a false sense of accomplishment. It’s easy to get to the end of one of those days and kid myself that I’ve done a lot, when in fact I’ve done very little that I needed to do, or wanted to do.

I’ve done what was in front of me to do, just following the line of busyness right into exhaustion.

But when I choose and stick to my choices, I control the game. When I set aside an hour to meditate, or an hour to read something powerful, I know I won’t have time to check all my favorite sites, or watch a casual hour of TV. I’ve chosen, I’ve committed myself. The decision is made up front, and I’m not even tempted to the things that nickel and dime my hours.

I’m still working on the discipline to set a specific time to read, and a time to meditate. I’ve been traveling, and that’s never a time to create a new routine.

But the paradox is also…if I put off until it’s convenient, it will never happen.

When I tell myself I’m too busy, I’m not always truthful. I may be filling my time, but I’ll acknowledge there’s a big difference between busy and productive.

Not that I think there’s no room for down time in life. Of course I need the down time, the lazy afternoons or slow mornings when I feel the luxury of a change of pace or the joy of the unexpected.

I try to get around this with lists. Yes, I’ve written about the power of lists before, and how as a list maker I’m compelled to check off things as they’re done. But here’s the thing…if I’m deliberate about sticking to my list, I’m better about avoiding the time-suckers. Because you know what never makes it on my list?

Funny, I never list browsing on Pinterest.

I never schedule time for catching up on Facebook.

I never set aside time to aimlessly wander the internet.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, she hastened to add!

But you know what I mean. It’s ok to do it now and then. But too many of those side trips and I’ve eaten up my hour to sit, or my time to read something inspiring, given away all my opportunity for real, and substituted illusion.

Do you ever catch yourself doing that? Give up real for illusion?

One of the words I heard over and over again at the meditation retreat was “balance.” The need for balance is a struggle for most people, and that’s pretty well acknowledged. There are whole book store aisles devoted to time management and work/life balance, personal/family balance, etc., etc., etc.

However you manage it, here’s my tip: Choose, and choose wisely. Be deliberate. Be intentional. Be picky. Be focused. Be honest with yourself and with your time.

And maybe, just maybe, the next time you’re really busy? You’ll find yourself sitting for an hour, and you’ll know it was just what you needed to do.

Hope overcomes doubt.

No guilt, no telling yourself you don’t have time.

Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.  ~ Frank Herbert

Here I go!

I’ve been in a bit of an upheaval in the past few weeks. My house is once again on the market, which feels good. I’m hopeful, fearful, wondering about next. But this also gives me a lot of motivation and incentive to tackle some chores that I’ve been avoiding for a while now…the dreaded sort, pulling out and evaluating everything with a view to: KEEP / DON’T KEEP and SELL / DONATE. Or worst of all: WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS????

There are a lot of questions to answer, and work that I’m still doing..will be doing until I’m literally heading out of town. And that’s good too. Busy keeps me going, productive, and positive. And who knows how long it will take to sell? I don’t want to jinx myself, but you never know about these things.

I’m trying my hand at a few new things. I decided to use my Alaska experience as a bridge to a new adventure, so I’ve written a short e-book, So, You Want to Move to Alaska? Hot off my keyboard today. I self-published on Amazon’s Kindle site, and whether it sells two copies or two thousand, it was a good experience for me to work through. It takes a day or so to show up on the Kindle site, and I’m excited to see how it looks in final form. I see they offer an option for updating, even after the initial publication, so that reassures me in case I find a typo right away. Even after proofing, it seems like there’s always something missed.

I understand that non-fiction books are a good source of ongoing income…the more you work at putting titles out, the more chance you’ll make sales. The price is low…$2.99, but the idea is to make up in volume what you lose in the per-book sales amount. I’ve got a second title already in the works.

Anyway, the process is free. I wouldn’t say it was painless, but I think I’ll be able to do a second book much more easily now that I’ve been through it once.

My little Kindle book!

I’m also launching a YouTube video channel. Or at least I’m working on doing that. I’ve got a camera in hand, and I’m sorting out the process, and content.

I’m also changing the focus of ReVision Me. I had initially thought I would use that site as a business platform for writing and editing, focusing on healthcare documents…policies, strategic plans, etc. But I find my heart isn’t really in that. I’m still working in that world for my day-to-day income needs. But now I think I’ll focus the concept of ReVision on women my age…maybe men too, eventually, but it seems safe to begin with the gender I know.

In taking stock of where I am in life, I realize, for what it’s worth, that I could be a poster child for AARP. I’m 53, female, vibrant, energetic, looking to renew and extend my working life. I have a multitude of interests outside of work, I have extended family and a wide range of life experiences. I love the digital world, and I think I have something to offer.

I know there are already a lot of sites that cater to women, and even women of my profile. But I have a voice too, and I want to use it. So, I’ll be updating some of the work I had done on ReVision Me to bring it to a new focus. I set it up on the WordPress.org platform and will likely have affiliate advertising to help sponsor the site….another new adventure.

And last, I’m thinking about Etsy. Not sure how I can be part of that marketplace, but I’m intrigued, and I have been for a while now.

My challenge is to focus, and to look toward a new launch. Waiting is always the hardest part, isn’t it? Maybe if I’m busy enough it won’t be too too scary.

Fresh picks

I’ve been on my own the past couple of weeks, back in Alaska to do a little work for income, and to have a little work done on the house. I’m focused on policies and grants for one clinic, and filling in for the medical staff coordinator at the local hospital. The variety keeps me on my toes, keeps me learning and productive.

On the home front, the house and deck were power washed and some of the paint was refreshed. With a house that’s almost 100 years old, there’s always some project in the works. The replacement glass for my cracked front window has arrived and I almost had that replaced yesterday. But no, the weather didn’t cooperate. We had a gale of a storm and had to postpone until June. My hedges and trees are all trimmed up, and I have a new lock on my fuel oil tank. So I’ve marked off a few of my to-dos.

But it’s not all been work. There’s been cooking too! Or at least some cooking, and some prep for future yumminess.

Last week I bought a king salmon, the first one of the season. Here’s that beauty:

Alaskan King

Alaskan King

Thank goodness it came without the head and tail and guts. I don’t need any of those, although I hear I’m really missing out by not making fish head soup. But someone else can enjoy that delicacy. I’ll just content myself with the non-head parts. I’m taking some of the fish I vacuum sealed and froze down to California for a little Memorial Day grilling. See, I know how to get ready to camp. 🙂

Ready to freeze

Ready to freeze

I couldn’t resist trying my hand at smoking some of the fresh king. I borrowed a Little Chief smoker and researched a brine recipe. Here’s my finished product:

Smoked to perfection!

Smoked to perfection!

The smoked salmon makes a great dip. I can’t give exact amounts, but try blending smoked salmon and a block of cream cheese to a chunky paste in a food processor. Some people add onion or other seasonings, but I like just the salmon and cream cheese. Serve with water crackers or whatever dipper you like. Easy and delicious!

I made a quick pickled salad this week. You could use any firm vegetable. I used diced cucumber, cherry tomatoes (cut in half), diced red onion, and diced baby bell peppers. I made an oil and apple cider vinegar dressing and seasoned it with a little sugar and salt and pepper. Again, no measurements…just mix to taste. (You’ll want enough dressing to coat the veggies, but not so much that they’re swimming in it.) Chill in the fridge to give the veggies time to absorb the flavor of the dressing. It’s a cool and crunchy light lunch or dinner.

Healthy lunch!

Healthy lunch!

Beautiful and simple

Beautiful and simple

And last but not least, I harvested my rhubarb this week. Rhubarb is a late comer to my life. I discovered it about a decade ago and immediately fell in love with the tartness and the way it pairs so well with other flavors to make amazing desserts.

I started my rhubarb crop here in Ketchikan with one plant a friend gave me. This stuff is hardy. You plant it and forget about it. Two or three times each summer I have enormous leaves and stalks that demand attention. The rhubarb is planted behind the hedge in my front garden, and when I begin to see the leaves poking out above the hedge, I know it’s time to harvest. You can cut the plant down to the ground and it grows right back. Let me just say, here and now, this is my kind of gardening! Seems indestructible, impervious to weather, and I literally do nothing but cut it back a few times a year.

I should have made a photo of the plant, but I wasn’t in blog mode when I was in harvest mode, so you’ll have to google “rhubarb” if you want to see the the full glory. I’ve been told that rhubarb likes cooler climates, which is probably why I first met it in Colorado and renewed my acquaintance here in Alaska. My grandmothers, who grew most fruits and vegetables known to man, didn’t grow rhubarb, so I assume it would not do well in the heat of a Mississippi summer. Which explains why I missed out on this taste for so long.

The edible part of the plant is the stalk, which looks a lot like celery, except it is a deeper green and has shades of red and pink as well. You cut the stalks off and remove the large leaf that grows at the end of the stalk. Then you wash and dice. That’s it! You can use the fresh rhubarb to make all sorts of dishes. I see savory recipes and I’ve even tasted a couple. But I’ll admit, I just use it for desserts and sweets.

You can make rhubarb pie, rhubarb crisp, rhubarb jam. You typically see rhubarb paired with another fruit, and the classic choice is strawberries. Yes, yes, that’s a good flavor. But do yourself a favor. If you can get your hands on rhubarb, pair it with orange. Orange zest, orange marmalade, orange juice. Nothing. like. it.

Here’s my rhubarb journey this week:

From 1 (!) plant!

From 1 (!) plant!

 

You cut the long stems off the base of the plant and have these celery-like stalks. They’re even a little stringy like celery. The only thing I do is wash and chop. You’ll have different widths but honestly I can’t detect any difference in texture or flavor once the rhubarb is cooked down, so I use the small tender stalks as well as the monster wide ones.

Chopped!

Chopped!

I used a little for a sweet treat (reward for my two weeks of work!) and popped the rest into freezer bags. It’s the easiest thing to freeze. I just chop and bag. No need to blanch or prep in any other way.

Ready to go

Ready to go

And now, just to whet your appetite!

Dessert for two: (or just me 🙂 )

Butter the bottom of a small baking dish. Spread a layer of chopped rhubarb and lightly sprinkle with brown sugar. I added a couple of teaspoons of orange marmalade, then topped the fruit with a crumb mixture. The crumb mixture is a combination of quick cook oatmeal, brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and a couple of tablespoons of butter. Spread the crumb mixture on top of the fruit and bake at 350, about 25 minutes, or until the crumb topping is lightly browned. Voila! Dessert, or snack, or whatever you need to call it to eat it as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Rhubarb and orange layer

Rhubarb and orange layer

Crumb topping

Crumb topping

All I need is ice cream!

All I need is ice cream!

If you want to mix in other goodness, add nuts or raisins. You can also do this with strawberries or apples instead of the marmalade. I just happen to like the orange, so that’s always my first choice to pair with rhubarb.

Happy start to the summer! And happy Memorial Day! Thank you to all the people who’ve given so much to freedom and our way of life. Remember them while you’re enjoying family and friends this weekend, and find a man or woman wearing the uniform to thank.

 

Get moving

So, I took my own advice and decided to quit wandering in the valley of technology and self-education. I’ve found a small design firm that I’ll be working with in the coming months to help me move to the next level with a business website and integrated design plan.

Aaaahhh…that’s the sound of my brain cells relaxing, thanking me, and getting ready to focus.

Actually, I think focus is one of the biggest challenges of our era. There’s so much coming at you, every waking moment. I like technology, gadgets, and all the positives.

But I finally had to admit: I’m just not able to absorb everything I need to learn, keep my current work going, keep up with my travel schedule, manage my day to day, and kid myself that I have energy left to launch a digital business. Just not possible.

I was reading a post a few days ago about outsourcing things to virtual assistants to free time for creative thinking and higher productivity. And I realized…why am I trying to learn how to set up a business website? I don’t have that expertise, and in the time it takes me to create a site, I could pay someone else to do it for me, and be working on building a client base.

I read so much about how easy it is to set up a website…well, WordPress made it easy enough to create a blog. And if I put 40 hours a week on this project, I might be able to do it for myself. But that’s not happening, and it’s not going to happen.

As I often say…I’m a slow learner and a late bloomer. But I think this will give me the boost I need to move forward. And that’s a good thing, because frankly, doing it the other way…trying to be a team of one…has been exhausting. I see so many people on line who look like they’ve created an amazing blog/business/website that’s an overnight success. Maybe that’s true for some, and maybe it isn’t. Maybe the sites I see that look like the lone entrepreneur is the only one behind the work…maybe there’s really a team effort going on. Whatever. The reality is, it doesn’t matter. What matters is finding a way to pursue my goals. I don’t think there’s a special medal for doing it all on my own.

I’m looking forward to focusing on the things I can do…creating content and looking at ways to add value to service and product…and getting out of the way of professionals who can give me a beautifully designed site.

And yesterday I picked up some more work for the summer, so my costs for this boost will be covered.

Just seemed like a little message from the universe. 🙂

“Make a pact with yourself today to not be defined by your past. Sometimes the greatest thing to come out of all your hard work isn’t what you get for it, but what you become for it.”   Steve Maraboli

Next

Can’t get it out of my head.

I never do post prompts. But this one caught my eye.

Like a song I go to over and over on my play list, here I am, still, or again: learning, exploring, wondering, and waiting…all these things I can’t get out of my head. I feel like there’s work I’m waiting to discover, waiting to begin. I see potential. But the gap between where I am and where I think I belong is some invisible thing that I struggle to bridge. I don’t even know how to define the pieces I’m missing. What exactly will it take to move me from where I am to where I would like to be?

I work, and then I research. I read about content marketing, about apps, about business platforms, I listen to podcasts, I watch videos. I bookmark. I’ve narrowed my focus a lot; but often, I know I’m still in the mode of “ready, fire, aim.” Still wandering around in the wilderness doing discovery by accident.

I’ve blogged about this before, and I continue to look: under every rock; sites I come across that seem to have answers; books that fill my Kindle, begun, but rarely finished. I think I’ll know the answer when I see it, or when I feel it. Or when the universe opens up and rains it down on my head. Or will I? Maybe the rain has fallen already and I was protected from the answers with my umbrella of questions. Is it right? Is this the beginning? Do I have what it takes? How will I know?

My search for entrepreneurship, solopreneurship, authorpreneurship, has been on for a while now. And I struggle with one of the most daunting barriers: I have work, and income, and commitments. How do I jump from what I know and what is stable to something shaky and risky? I’m no 20-something ready to embrace my first failure on the road to success.

No, I’ve done it backwards. I’ve had all the traditional trappings of the good life: family, home, work, stability. So why am I looking for more, in my 50s? Wasn’t I satisfied? Wasn’t I fulfilled? And since I’m making a living doing what I’m doing, if this is just about money, what difference will it make to exchange one way of earning an income for another?

Yes, I was satisfied. And yes, I have had many good things in life. I’m not trying to fill a hole, I’m trying to express an ambition. And the ambition is not for money, although I can’t leave that out of the equation. The ambition is to create something of my own, something that has my stamp on it and my sweat behind it.

Now I dream of building a consulting business to offer writing services. I love the validation of seeing my blog name on the screen, and seeing my logo on my business card. I love the feeling of empowerment that establishing a digital home has given me. I’m not vain about it, but I am proud of it. It feels like the emotions I experienced with my children. I knew that they were not solely of my making, but I had a hand in the process, and a mother’s fierce protectiveness toward them and their journey.

Turns out, it was a lot easier, in the short run, to birth a child than to birth a business, at least for me. Or maybe this is still just the incubation phase, the pregnancy phase, and I’m waiting to see the results of three years of thinking, and exploring, and obsessing. And I don’t feel hopeless: just obsessed and curious. Like someone looking on from the outside, I wonder, when will it happen? And what will the story be, when all the pieces come together?