List of Lists

I’ve always been a list writer. Honestly, it still hasn’t made me the world’s most organized person, (I’m definitely guilty of procrastination at times.) but I would be completely lost without my lists.

When I met my new best friend, one of the first things he said to me was, “You make lists, don’t you?” He says it’s because I’m a Virgo, but I really think it’s more of a teacher thing.

In my former life, I generally had three main lists going: the at-work to-do list, which was part of my planner; the to-do list at home; and the grocery list. Then there was my favorite list: the travel packing list. I’ve kept it and reused it for numerous trips; it has served me well.

With my new life transition, my lists have grown. In fact, I’ve advanced to notebooks, several of them, as I have moved to a new state and begun to research and soul-search to find a new career.

Yesterday, after several weeks of preparation, I officially entered the world of work-from-home freelancers. This morning I decided to create a list to outline my everyday routine.  You see, I’m used to having my work life run on a schedule, a rather precise one at that. Bells are no longer ringing to tell me what to do next, and no one is watching. If I lacked self-discipline, it could be very easy to fritter away hours, but aside from the temptation to sleep in, I’m pretty on top of things. It’s really the lack of a firm structure that’s making me a little crazy. I figure if I have a written time schedule to follow, I’ll be more productive. Don’t worry; I’m not too hardcore. There’s a list of things to do when I need a break also.

So the list of lists is in the works; it may end up being more of a matrix, though. My goal is to complete it, type it up, and yes, laminate it, by week’s end. That task is on my daily to-do list, too.

And Then the Sun Came Out

A couple of days ago, I wrote a blog post but decided to delete it. You see, one of my goals in blogging is to keep a positive mindset. I had gone through a couple of rough days where doubts were filling my head. A series of negative events, which were mostly beyond my control, had brought me down. I then began to question my choice to make an out-of-state move and start a new career as an entrepreneur.

We’ve all been there. You know how it feels when you are at rock-bottom. You know it will end, but the pain and the fear are so very real at the time. Usually, it just takes someone or something to pull you out of it.

I can’t tell you exactly what it was. Maybe it was my super-positive new friend with whom I spent some time yesterday morning. Maybe it was the book I read last night that got me thinking about my hopes for the future. Maybe it was my new neighbor waving her hands to get my attention this afternoon, just because she wanted to say hello as I was walking by. Maybe it was all of those things that made me realize life is pretty darn good right now.

Change can be scary, but it can also be so very wonderful. After chatting with my neighbor, I continued walking with a grateful heart, taking in the mountain views that attracted me to Montana. My tension eased as I realized I was back to being myself; the late summer afternoon sun had never felt better.

Little Joys

I find it interesting that many people I know still find occasion to complain when their lives are pretty great. Yes, of course, I am at times guilty of it too, but I do make a conscious effort to focus on the positive and appreciate each day. Sure, we all need to vent at times, but for many, complaining becomes a habit and they neglect to see life’s beauty.

One thing I try to do every day is to focus on life’s little joys. This helps me avoid that complaining mindset.  You know what I’m talking about; they are those little things that make you smile. I’ve written about some of mine in previous posts: my resident deer herd, seeing mountains on a daily basis, and the stunning beauty of Flathead Lake. Some days, I get especially lucky and have one of those magic moments where I see or experience something extra special.

On Monday, I went on a bike ride with a friend. As we were riding down a country road, I spotted not just a pony, but a baby pony (foal?), as we were riding by. Fortunately for me, we would be backtracking on the same road to return to my place. I think my friend thought I was a little goofy, but he agreed to stop and take a look.

We stopped just in time to see the baby and his mother running across the field to greet their owner. Yes, it was another Montana Magic moment. The owner yelled at us from across the field, inviting us over for a closer look. She then told the story of buying the pony without knowing that she was pregnant at the time. My friend and I got acquainted with the owner, both ponies, a horse, and the dog, too. After a pleasant visit and some commemorative photos, we said our goodbyes and rode back home.

So keep your eyes open. You never know what little joys, or maybe extra special surprises, may come your way today!pony better pic




Valley Music

One of the many things that fascinate me about the Flathead Valley is the abundance of musical talent. I have a great appreciation of almost every kind of music but have yet to discover any great talent in myself. I am, however, known to sing and dance at random times, and tend to have music blaring whenever possible. Perhaps my purpose is to consume rather than create in the musical realm.

I am inspired by the talent I am seeing and hearing in local venues; people tell me that there is still more to discover, too. Lucky for me, a friend connected me with my new “bestie” in Kalispell. He has become my personal event planner and is responsible for getting me out many of these summer nights. With his help, I have discovered the joys of Picnic in the Park and ThursdayFest, both in downtown Kalispell. We’ve also been to a couple of breweries and a wine bar together to see some of his favorites. On my own, I have discovered the Riverbend Concert Series on summer Sunday nights in Bigfork and music at the Monday market.  (Feel free to respond with a comment if you have further recommendations. Remember, I’m new here!)

This week I have been fortunate to volunteer at the Crown Guitar Festival in Bigfork. Who would have guessed that such a little town would have such an incredible world-class event! The festival includes both a musicians’ workshop and nightly concerts for five days. During the first two days, I’ve seen the legendary Edgar Winter; Cory Henry, who simply makes magic with his Hammond organ; and jazz greats Nathan East and Lee Ritenour. My volunteer duty has been in the silent auction tent, which is anything but work for a social girl like me. In addition to hearing fabulous music, I’m meeting interesting people, including locals and those from various parts of North America who are visiting for the festival.

Once again, I am finding life here better than expected. I look forward to exploring more music and some new indoor venues as fall arrives.


Next Steps

I have been living in Montana for about six weeks now. Definitely no regrets so far, even with Glacier National Park burning up and bringing smoke down the valley. I am hoping this doesn’t become an annual event, though.

Last Monday, I had a moment where I felt like my new place was set up well enough to call home. I could finally stop thinking about what needed to be done next, and just sit back and savor what I have accomplished. That is really one of the best feelings in the world, isn’t it? Having a place to call home. I’m also making new friends and enjoying an active social life. I love my surroundings, and already feel healthier. I have to say things are going better than expected.

So what’s next? Well, I’m too young and not-quite wealthy enough to fully retire. I did leave behind a twenty-seven-year teaching career when I packed up the boxes in June, but I had fully intended to at least work part-time here. I tend to lean in the Type A direction and prefer to be occupied. My primary goal in finding employment was to avoid working a traditional forty-hour week. But what would I do to become self-employed? This is a difficult mental hurdle to overcome for a person who has consistently worked for someone else since the age of fifteen. I knew that a little more time and research would bring some answers.

I’ve decided to give it a go with my own proofreading and editing business. (I know; you were expecting something more exciting.) Why not? Everyone seems to be making a buck out there on the internet. Don’t worry. I have been taking proper steps by planning this all out. I’m even completing an online class to learn the tools of the trade.  (Humility is an important trait when taking on a new venture.) I expect to launch in about three weeks.

A year ago, I would never have taken risks like this: Packing up and moving to a new state, starting my own business…It’s funny that what I once thought would be too scary to even consider, now feels exciting and empowering. I honestly don’t fear failure. If it doesn’t work out, I will move on to something different.



New Neighbors and Night Skies

A couple of weeks ago my new neighbor shared her excitement for the upcoming Perseid meteor showers, which would be at their peak this past weekend. She invited me to meet up in their backyard on Sunday for some late night viewing. This included an agreement that we’d all take afternoon naps to be able to stay up as late as possible.

After scaring the heck out of them with my 10:45 knock at the back door, we got arranged in their cushy patio chairs to see the night-sky action. Having lived in a rather populated area for most of my adult life, star-gazing was an infrequent event, mostly enjoyed when we were out on our boat. It was, however, a big part of my childhood. Talk about simple pleasures. This was one of the many things I was searching for in making this move. The night sky didn’t disappoint. We saw quite a few meteors and managed to stay up until almost 1:00 AM.

The unexpected joy of the evening was the opportunity to get acquainted with my new neighbor.  She and I stayed out together after her husband had grown tired and turned in for the night. We all have our stories, and what could be a better setting to share them? Feeling grateful this morning for our night-sky bonding.

Dog Watching

From an entire month’s experience, I have come to the conclusion that Montanans truly embrace their summer days. I’m guessing that may be because of the cold winters and extreme temperatures they endure. This isn’t a strange concept for a girl from the Seattle area. We take delight in every rainless summer day! But there’s something magical about the more extreme seasonal changes in a mountain climate.

I was surprised and absolutely thrilled to find out that I can experience live music (mostly free of charge) pretty much every summer evening throughout the Flathead Valley. I have been averaging four or five nights a week, mostly in parks.

One of the joys of live outdoor music is people watching, but I have to say a close second is dog watching. Last night, I strategically sat behind a big sad-faced service dog who was slumped under a folding chair.  There was also a little cutie who wandered over to me a few times for some pets.  The most adorable was a golden retriever, who appeared to be smiling at times. The female half of last night’s folk/rock duo even mentioned that dogs like their music.  I’m pretty sure he did.

dog watching

Sleep-in Days

During the quarter decade or so that I was teaching, I always felt that the very best thing about summer break was not just the time off, but sleeping in. As a secondary educator, I often had to wake up as early as 5:45. I’ve never felt like a morning person, and it was usually about second period by the time I got into my groove.  The sheer bliss of sleeping until 8:00 was the best gift of summer.

After more than a month of moving from one state to another, I decided to enjoy some carefree sleepy mornings this weekend. Clearly, my body was telling me to slow down. Not only have I been occupied with setting up a new home, but I have also been pursuing an active social life by hiking, kayaking, and getting out for live music almost every night. This is in addition to researching and setting up a new online business, as well as doing some fill-in work for one of the shop owners in town. I guess I have been busy.

Taking the time to wake up and leisurely lie in bed was a much-needed reward. Saturday morning I decided to set aside the to-do list for the weekend and just relax. It will all still be there tomorrow.

Santa Claus Arrives in August

Making a significant life change can challenge a person to overcome obstacles and branch out a bit.  Those obstacles can also bring out our resourcefulness.

Honestly, I don’t know if I was being more resourceful, stubborn, absolutely silly, or all of the above regarding my laundry conundrum today.  I will admit that this afternoon I just had to stop and laugh at myself.

Okay, let’s set the scene. I signed the papers to buy my new home in late June, and my move-in date was in mid-July. As you can imagine, I was quite busy there for a couple of weeks making arrangements for the out-of-state move. One big purchase that I needed to take care of up front was the washer and dryer. Lucky for me, the big box stores were having their annual 4th of July sales. Great timing! I shopped at my local store back home, and then called the store here in Montana to make my purchase. I was told that the set I had chosen was out of stock and would arrive around July 23rd or so. No problem, I thought. I have extra sets of bedsheets and plenty of towels to get me through. And like many women, I have far too many clothes.

On July 25th, I hadn’t heard anything, so I called the store to see if they had an estimate on the arrival of my new appliances. No information. On Friday, I did get the right person. The washer and dryer were in transit and would be there soon. Okay, I could hold out a little longer. I’m used to handwashing underwear anyway.

Then, this past Monday, I finally got the news that the set was in Spokane. Okay, we were getting closer. I should get them by Friday, for sure. They still needed to make it to Missoula before shipping to Kalispell, though. On Wednesday when the phone rang, I thought finally I would get my delivery time. Nope. Sorry. They were trucking them up Thursday, so I would probably get them Friday, or Saturday for sure. He apologized for the delay. The next day, on Thursday, they told me that the delivery would be Saturday, but I would just need to stay near home because I’d get a call thirty minutes beforehand.

As you can imagine, I woke up this morning and called the store. (They had left a couple of messages yesterday when I was out hiking.) I was assured that I would get the delivery sometime today, but they didn’t know when.

Less than five minutes later, the phone rang. “Ya, I’m sorry, but we opened the box, and the washer is damaged. I can deliver the dryer if you want.” Was this really happening? No, I preferred to wait for the full set. By this point, I wasn’t even upset at all. My situation had become quite humorous. I decided that I wouldn’t let this ruin my day in any way. I had plans with my new friend this morning and an event this evening. I could wait another week or so.

When I got home this afternoon, I realized that the only thing I was really running low on was dishtowels. Should I go to the laundromat for a load of towels? I still had a few clean bath towels. Then my stubbornness, or maybe resourcefulness, kicked in. I can hand wash a few dish towels, right? Throw a little detergent and bleach in the laundry room sink, swish them around, rinse a couple of times.  No problem. Oh yes, I did.

Then some Montana magic happened. As I sat down to write this post, a white pickup truck pulled into the driveway with a brand new washer and dryer in the back. One of the two gentlemen had a fluffy white beard with some sporty sunglasses. Undoubtedly, he was my summertime Santa.  I told them the story of that morning’s phone call, but they had no knowledge of it.  They just said this set had my name on it since yesterday, and they were sent from the store to deliver it. It was mine, and it wasn’t damaged in any way. This was also their only delivery of the day. Interesting. Clearly, someone at the store was taking care of me.

They were both very friendly, Montana Friendly, as I now like to say.  After it was all set up, we chatted a bit about great places to kayak, and they left me with the owner’s manuals. I thanked them and made a comment about the fact that I hoped they weren’t more complicated than my automatic sprinkler system. (I thought I had reprogramed it yesterday, but, well I didn’t.) Summer Santa said, “Where is it?” He walked over, punched a few buttons and re-programmed it for me. Merry Christmas!

After they left, I realized that if I had gone to the laundromat, I wouldn’t have been home for the surprise delivery. (There was no thirty-minute call.) Sometimes stubbornness, or maybe resourcefulness, pays off.



Should I Even Reveal This?

I almost want to keep this secret; you may not even believe it, but here goes…

I had a most pleasant experience getting my driver’s license today. First, you have to know that I’m a rule follower. Legally, you are supposed to get a Montana license within sixty days of moving here. Clearly, not everyone does this. Mine was still valid for two more years in Washington, but rules are rules.  I pretty much have to follow them.

I don’t know how many states are doing this, but all of them should!  You can make an appointment online at the department of licensing. This isn’t just for a driver’s test, but for any service. They even send you a reminder via text.

I arrived today just in time for my 11:30 appointment, and immediately received a friendly greeting: “We’ll be right with you.”  A couple of minutes later, a woman came to the waiting area and asked the few of us waiting who had an appointment. When I said that I did, she handed me a clipboard with a two-sided form to fill out, (The second side included my voter’s registration.) and then helped another person.

I was back at a desk within a few minutes. The employee working with me checked my documents, and we engaged in friendly conversation. As I took a quick vision test, we commiserated a little about our aging eyes. She then took my photo, I wrote a check, and I was out of there before noon. It was all so simple and efficient: a one-stop deal.  I don’t think I’ve ever left the DOL that quickly or that happily before.