New Territory: Networking

Up until a few months ago, I had dedicated my entire adult life to educating our nation’s youth. To some that makes me a superhero. Think about it. I spent sixteen years teaching middle-schoolers, another decade teaching high school, and some stretches as a substitute, too. If you’ve parented teens, you can empathize. I won’t lie; it’s not an easy job, but it can also be highly rewarding. Unfortunately, my batteries had worn down, and I was absolutely drained when I left last June. I was more than ready for a change and unsure of what exactly was next for me. My comfort zone abruptly disappeared when I decided to branch out as an entrepreneur.

There are actually some super-cool things about being self-employed, like choosing your own hours and turning the kitchen island into your office. The best thing might be spontaneous dance breaks, though. As I write this post, I’m listening to my local radio station which is playing some Halloween themed favorites like the “Monster Mash” and “Werewolves of London.” Moments ago, when the “Time Warp” happily erupted from the speaker, I leaped to the floor to dance.

This Halloween morning also marked new territory for me: networking. Last week, I spotted a Meetup post for the Inspired Working Women Coffee Connect. I definitely had to get in on that. “Inspired” is certainly an appropriate adjective for this group of women. Not only were they inspiring, but also friendly, welcoming, supportive, encouraging, and enthusiastic. I met women of all ages from a wide variety of career fields. It was a female entrepreneur extravaganza! Suddenly, I felt much less alone. In fact, I feel their invisible support as I write this evening. I can’t wait to get better acquainted with some of these wonderful women.

New Friend Becomes Old Friend

Old friends are the best. You may not see them often, but you know they are there, and that they love you no matter what. It can be weeks or months between conversations (even years sometimes), but at any time you can just pick right back up where you left off. And in a pinch, you know that you could call on them, and they would come to your aid.

But new friends are wonderful, too. It’s exciting to find a connection and forge a fresh relationship. When I relocated to Montana just over three months ago, a friend of a friend introduced me to the man who became my new best friend here. (If you follow my posts, I’ve mentioned him several times.) From our first phone conversation, I knew he and I would get along well, and the friendship quickly grew. We shared common interests like our love of live music, outdoor recreation, and a social drink or two. We have kids the same ages, and bonded with our divorce and dating stories.

We have been hanging out so much that many people, in fact, thought we were dating. But we were just “best-friending.” When I showed up solo one of our favorite hangouts, a server asked where my husband was. We thought this was so funny that he started referring to me a his “fake wife.”

Earlier this month, when he got temporarily laid off, we joyfully took advantage of my flexible work schedule and got in as much hiking as we could. It was the perfect time of year. Autumn in the Flathead Valley is truly something to behold.

Sadly for me, he took a transfer to a new city, which meant his departure today. Last night we got together for one last beer and dinner to wrap up our short but sweet relationship. I kept it together as we shared that last hug to say goodbye, but the tears freely flowed as soon as I started my car to head home.

I will be forever grateful to him for introducing me to Montana and being my unexpected biggest supporter in this lifestyle transition. I’m going to miss him, but I will continue to grow and branch out in my new life here. And he’s now on that special list of old friends.

Autumn Landscaping

I was going to wait until spring to do some landscaping for my new home. I have plenty to keep me busy; that project could wait. But then I just happened to stop by the local nursery to see how the changing colors of the trees were progressing, and there was a fifty percent off sale. How could I possibly resist?  I do seem to have that money-saving attraction.

I decided to buy five shrubs and a few smaller perennial plants. One of the two trees that I had wanted was out of stock, so I decided those could wait. It wouldn’t be too much work to clear out a bed and get those smaller items planted, right?

First, the deer seemed pretty interested in the “deer resistant” plants. There was definitely some munching going on. A package of deer netting took care of that. Then, I was lacking a shovel and a wheelbarrow. My neighbor kindly supplied those. Oh, and then there was the actual work of cutting out the sod and digging the holes. No one seemed to be jumping at the opportunity to help with that.

So my afternoon breaks have now become yard work sessions. Yesterday, I bought compost and delivered a load of sod to the container site. You would think that I would have sore arms and shoulders, but it’s actually the abdominal pain that is killing me from all of the lifting. Last night, I required aspirin to get to sleep because of my aching abs, even though I was absolutely exhausted.

We’ll see how long this project ends up taking. It”s going to be gorgeous when it’s all finished, though. Next spring, I will be able to impress my friends by saying that I completed every step by myself. I do think, however, that I will be wise enough hire someone to plant the trees.

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.

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.