Ode to The Slow Life

I will never forget the morning I couldn’t feel my nose.

It was a culminating event, driven by months upon months of increasing pressure at my job as a Complex Project Manager.  You might think that working virtual (from home) would decrease the stress and pressure.  But the previous eighteen months had seen three downsizings of my work group from 600 people to the 50 of us left at that point.   Each outsourcing and RIF took with it the easy projects – those no-brainer tasks that could be whipped out in minutes thus allowing sufficient time to dote on the bloody FUBARs.

So where we had once carried 30  –  35 projects each, with perhaps 5 being the latter category, we now carried 35  – 40 bloody FUBARs.  24/7 pagers made it difficult to fall asleep, lest one be startled awake at 0200 and have to run across the house and fire up the computer or jump on a conference call.  We interfaced with 18 different software programs to manage the tasks.  Some Unix, some Windows, some who-knows-what and most without interfaces to the others.

EVERYTHING was needed yesterday.   Type fast, think fast, act fast, and good Lord don’t mess it up and have to do it again.

So, back to that morning.   I didn’t realize that I had not been sleeping.  Oh, I knew I was TIRED.   But I didn’t realize how acute the situation had become.  In an act of pure defiance, my brain took over and started shutting down my body.  My hands and feet and nose were stone cold.  When a co-worker called to check on something, I commented that I couldn’t seem to get my s*%t together that day and had been staring at the computer for a couple hours.

“I can’t feel my nose,” I told her, pressing my icy fingers against the icy tip of it.  “My hands and feet are numb.”

“Call Employee Assistance,” she ordered me like a drill sergeant.  “Get off the phone and do it now.”

That defining moment was in 2002.   For sixteen years, I’ve wanted to SLOW DOWN.  I got a break then, taken out of work for a six week respite.  Went through a misdiagnosis of depression that was really sleep deprivation.  Got laid off in a RIF.  Stepped away from the white collar world and into the line side of commercial aviation and loved it.

Managed to raise the two boys – not always as successfully as we’d like, but they are decent people who aren’t perfect.  Welcome to life.

And still, I want to slow down.

That’s the underlying drive of this blog.  It’s about slowing down.  I don’t mind working hard, but then I want to take a break and just sit and savor…maybe at a little cafe in the south of France.   Or look out a window at snow-covered silence while a fire glows next to me.

When I started the blog, I had one image of how my life would be.  That has evolved, as did my work and financial needs.  But that yearning to slow down, to have time to savor beauty and serenity and sit next to my husband with a glass of wine and watch the sunset…that hasn’t changed.

So, I’m resurrecting this concept and throwing open the doors for discussion of the idea of not working year round.  Let’s do this.

Dilemma du jour…is it WORTH it?

I’m exhausted.

I’m not sure I fully realized how much those “free” weeks that teachers get during holidays and the summer are actually COMP time for the insane hours the job requires during the year.

My situation is compounded by being a “first-year” teacher with three different levels of my subject, in a topic I love but for which my skills are “rusty.”  This requires even MORE time as I have to study even beyond my prior knowledge to be able to TEACH.

I am not doing ANY creative work at all – the blog, art, photography, writing fiction…NOTHING.

So, then, at what price to me is the opportunity to give up some of that free time for additional well-compensated income that I genuinely need?

How much is your time worth? What can you do to change it?

It’s not hard to calculate – take your earnings and divide them by how many hours you work.  If you are paid hourly, and are paid for every hour worked, it’s a fairly easy number to figure.  It’s more complex if you are salaried and work in excess of the standard 40-hour US work week.

But wait…what about time that is attached to work but for which you aren’t compensated?  Commute time is probably the biggest. How about time spent studying or reviewing material at home?  How long does it take you to get ready for work?  These things all dilute your hourly rate of compensation.

So, what is your time really worth?  In other words, flip it around…what does it COST you to give up an hour of your time for some amount of compensation?

Now is it worth it?

Do I continue to pick-up extra work during downtime I desperately need for income that I also need? Even if I love the work, I keep circling back to an essential question…is it worth it?

I don’t have an answer.  I have something that I love doing, for which I am well-compensated.  But it is only available for about six weeks a year, and a few weekends.  I can’t live on it.    And right now, my spirit needs those hours.  Maybe more than my wallet.  Sigh.


A Year Later…


So, it’s been a hell of year.

Lots of good.  Some meh…and that’s just life, right?

My update is that I’ve been going 90 miles an hour with my hair on fire pretty much since February.  Between a couple week long substitute teaching assignments, my alternative teaching certificate classroom requirements, a case of shingles, a state subject matter exam in Math grades 5 – 9, my week-long student teacher culminating event, and an unexpected opportunity to teach the subject I WANTED to teach which then required me to take two graduate level condensed courses (16 weeks in 5 weeks), AND teaching every other week at the National Flight Academy….well, yeah, so blogging.

Not happening.

But a year after retiring, in fact, on the one year anniversary of the date that I submitted my request to retire last year, I  find that I am EXACTLY where I am supposed to be.  Amazing how the universe works that, isn’t it?

What did I learn during my year of building my semi-retired life?  And how can what I learned be helpful to you?

I prefer to have an “anchor” job

Three times I’ve tried to go it as some sort of freelancer, consultant, coach, direct seller, and I three times I failed miserably.   It’s not that I’m without discipline as much as those types of independent work situations require me to do a whole lot of work that I really don’t like doing. And yes, with a puppy underfoot, dirty dishes or laundry calling my name, and/or studies to be completed, well, I just don’t get the distasteful tasks done.

How about you?  Lots of people are WAY better at this than I am, so you have to ask yourself if you can sustain the constant marketing and prospecting that goes with having your own business.

I am a task goddess.

I got through my alternative teaching certificate program with flying colors, and am almost done with state tests.  Plus took on two additional courses and slam-dunked them.  If I can see the brass ring, I’m all over it.

Ask yourself if you are project oriented (short term, fixed goal and time frame) or big picture oriented (don’t need the end in sight in order to be motivated.)

I do tend to manifest what I want.   

I saw a job posting this time last year for the French teacher position at my high school alma mater.  There was a  “swoosh” in my heart.    “Oh,” I thought.  “I’d LOVE to teach FRENCH.”  I was already considering getting a teaching certificate, but until that moment had not ONCE considered French.  It was like a light came on and angels sang.   I wanted to teach French.

Since I hadn’t even begun the process, I couldn’t apply.  They hired a recent college grad from out-of-state.   I found there were only 7 or 8 schools left in my three county area that still teach French.  Half of those were part-time.   It is often termed a “dying” subject, where finding a full-time job practically means someone  has to die. Everyone told me the posting was a fluke, and the chances of a position opening up were slim, slim, slim.

I switched to math.

In April, not one, but TWO French positions opened for the 2016-17 school year in my area, both part-time.   That was Bliss Universe kicking my tush for doubting her.   It turns out that along with the shortage of French teaching positions, there’s a shortage of French TEACHERS.    I registered for the two classes that I needed to take to get a temporary teaching certificate in French, but they didn’t start until June 1st. Either school would have to be willing to hire me out-of-subject until I completed the coursework in July, the grade posted in August, and the state updated my application, which would probably take until October.

Meanwhile, I agonized over whether I could afford to work at 60% pay.  I had preliminary meetings with both schools, and had decided to try to get the position with a 55 mile one-way drive when the other school reached out to me to advise me they had bumped the position up to full-time, and would I consider applying?

I start next week.  I’ve been grinning like crazy since I received the offer.  (June 28th, about 10AM. ) 🙂

This works for me. 

I discovered that I like teaching secondary school age kids.  I loved the National Flight Academy, and enjoyed the middle schoolers in math too.  I’d have been delighted to teach math at that level if the French opportunities hadn’t come along.

It’s a perfect solution for me.  Roughly nine weeks off in the summer, holidays off with my family instead of working while transporting everyone else to see theirs.  I’m silly excited about teaching French.  Slightly terrified – I’ll have two classes each of three levels, so LOTS of planning work to do.  My French is strong enough to teach 1st and 2nd year high school, but not to pass the state exam, so there is more study and practice in my future as well.

Don’t let others define what works for you. 

Is this the “semi-retired life” that I originally envisioned?  No, it’s not.  For several reasons, that really doesn’t work for me right now.  The aforementioned reluctance to do the necessary tasks, a teenager still at home, and other factors make it untenable and unattractive that way right now.

So, I am doing it THIS way right now.  This works.   YOU get to decide what works for YOU.

Health Insurance is going to continue to be a P.I.T.A. for the foreseeable future.

Yeah, I hate this part.  NO, I did not take a job just for health insurance.  I am genuinely giddy and excited about this new phase of my life.  Am I bummed it comes with good benefits?  Ah….no.

Unless you’ve got health insurance provided via another source, better plan for it to either take a sizeable chunk from you, or not be very good coverage if you are under 65.   Trust me, I get the appeal of expatriating, I really really do.  If you are in the U.S. and you have to buy health insurance on the open market, it’s a nightmare.

That said, our reduced income while I’ve been in school did put us into subsidized rates.  So, I owe a debt of gratitude to those of you paying taxes who helped me out this past year.  Thank you.  I’ll be paying it forward with my tax bill for the foreseeable future.

I hope to get back to blogging consistently, about anything and everything that I see that is relevant to this topic of finding employment that allows you enough free time to do the things that are important to you. I manifested that new (used) digital camera as well the past year, so look for more and better photos as I learn how to use it.

Like me, the blog will evolve.  Hope you’ll stay around and enjoy.




The Degree Dilemma

So, you’ve retired from a traditional job and have either a pension or some income through your personal retirement funds.  Or, you just live really frugally.  Either way, you need more moulah, but you don’t want to tie yourself into a traditional management or other job?

Piece of cake, right?   Just go get a job as a greeter at Walmart or a Barista at Starbucks.

Not so fast if you have a Bachelors degree, or heaven forbid a Masters of Anything.

It’s a strange employment market out there these days, for sure.  On one hand, there are underemployed recent college graduates slinging coffee everywhere.  On the other, both I and several of my acquaintances of a certain age have received flat out rejections from companies without even being granted an interview.    Reason?

Overqualified.  Or, the real head-scratcher…not qualified.  Seriously?  To scan bar codes?

As frustrating as this is, there are a few ways to circumvent the plethora of “apply online” processes that are ridiculously complicated,  and impersonal.  Here are some of my suggestions:

In-Person Applications

Go TO the store or business where you would like to work and ask to speak to the manager.   It looks much better if you ask for that person by name, so calling ahead to get it, or asking while shopping there is worthwhile.

Introduce yourself, and explain that you understand they are seeking XXX employees.  You have applied online, but that you realize they likely receive hundreds of applications and you want to take the time to come in personally and distinguish yourself from the crowd.   Does he or she have five minutes for a brief introduction?

Be ready to counter the “overqualified” argument.  Keep in mind that many managers are anxious about hiring someone with more qualifications than they possess.  This isn’t always the case, but sadly does happen.  Reassure them that you understand the job responsibilities and have done your time in their shoes.  You are just looking for some extra income and benefits, or something to do, or you love books or crafts and want to be in that environment….just be ready to address the issue.

It should go without saying that you dress the part, right?

Strategic Timing

Right now, many businesses in the US are gearing up for summer hiring.   Even if you want a permanent job, be willing to start with a temporary one.   Again, apply online, but follow up with an in-person visit.

The same applies in the Fall for holiday hiring.  But keep in mind, most companies post in the positions NOW for summer, and in September for holiday season.  Don’t wait too long.


I’ll be honest, I have REALLY mixed feelings about this one.  I am big on honesty.  And also tired of being told I am overqualified because I have a Masters degree.  Yes, I’ve been tempted to simply leave it off an application.   I can’t advise you to do this or not.

My absolute advice is to never, ever, no matter what, never FALSIFY an application with credentials you don’t have, or failure to report a firing or criminal situation.


Do you know anyone who knows anyone who knows the hiring manager or someone who works there?   See if you can get an introduction or someone willing to run interference.    Some positions are just bombarded with applications and the manager would love a candidate to stand out.

Follow These Steps:
  1. Make a list of the ten places you would most like to work.
  2. Check all the local job boards, national job sites, and the corporate web page under the link for “careers” for posted openings.
  3. Contact your friends, acquaintances, club members and see if you can find a contact link.
  4. Get the manager’s name.
  5. Put in the application online if required.
  6. Make your in-person contact.

Don’t give up if you don’t hear anything back, or receive a rejection.  If there is somewhere in particular you want to work, frequent it as a customer and keep trying.  It’s trite, but businesses want people working for them who like their products.


Slow Down, You’re Going Too Fast….

“You gotta make the morning last…”

What a great song AND a great message.  Can you believe this is from the sixties?   Here’s the original from Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme album.  Feelin’ Groovy

And then this article from today’s Foxnews Health about a village in Italy that is home to over 300 people who are over 100 years old.   The Good Life in Italy

The older I get the more the urge to SLOW DOWN grows.  I find myself wanting to detach from my smart phone, for example.  It’s smarter than I am anyway.   Stop eating standing at the kitchen counter and go sit outside somewhere and savor my meal.   Check email once a day.  Seriously, if it’s urgent, the person can call me on the cell phone.  Oh…wait.  SIGH.

I have this daydream of slow everything.  Slow travel – where I go somewhere for more than three days and leisurely learn the local’s secrets, along with the best time of day to take pictures and to  take a nap.   Slow eating – where I cook from fresh ingredients purchased that day.  Moseying through that meal with great conversation and yes, a glass of vino.  Slow work – getting it done right the first time without rushing, or pressure, or cranky co-workers.   Slow reading – drinking in the words of a novel instead of squeezing them into gaps in the day.  A slow bike ride, to see nature instead of try to get the right number of steps in for the day.

SLOWER.  Everything slower.  I need a bumper sticker.  The Slow Life.

Anyone feel that way too?   Pick a day this week, any day, and live it slowly.  I’ll share my attempt in a future post.



Take a look at this turtle will you?  That position he/she is holding, one leg forward one up in back…he/she held it frozen for several minutes while I loitered on a bridge above snapping photos.

Maybe “it” hoped I would think it was just another sculpture among the many in this park?

Maybe it figured if I was a predator I might not notice it if it didn’t move.  Kind of like a dinosaur.

And the whole time I’m thinking, “You and me, turtle.  Analysis Paralysis.  Do I stay or do I go?  Take the plunge?  Jump into the water? Sit frozen in the lovely sunlight and hope potentially bad things (like being eaten by a predator) don’t happen?”

In a world SO filled with things that I want to do, why is it so hard to do them?   Is it because what is easy to do, is easy NOT to do as well?

I was on an assignment for a photography class.   While most of my fellow attendees had boarded a bus for downtown Palm Springs, I opted for this park.  I wanted to visit a sculpture honoring victims of the Holocaust – it struck me that in this desert town inland California there would be such a piece of art.

But I had stopped at the pond, entranced by the clusters of turtles sunning on the sides.  As I approached, they’d launched themselves into the water, swimming for their lives.

Except this guy.   Frozen.  My buddy.

My frozen is different, of course. Do I stay the course and work on a full-time income via various freelancing gigs?  Or do I acquiesce to the realities and pressures of where we are now, and seek traditional employment again?

The pragmatic versus the plan.   The heart versus the head.  The Dreamer versus the Realist.

I waited.  He/she/it waited.

And while I stood frozen, camera poised, in the stillness, the answer.  In the peace of the moment, a flash of clarity.   From a few weeks of “which way do I go” to a pinpoint answer of “that way.”

My shoulders unhinged – that stunning moment of relaxation where the tension just flows away like runoff from a storm.   THAT way.  Go THAT way right now.    I took a great big inhale of the sauna temperature air (it was 95F…in April) and released a slow breath.

My little friend, picking up on my slight movement, blasted into the water.

THAT way.  Go that way.

You got it buddy.   Thanks.



Just Take a Deep Breath and Hit Reset

I apologize for NOT being much of a blogger lately.

I am certain some will understand the notion of things just happening that set us back.  Nothing earth-shattering for me.  Just stuff, you know?

My computer hard drive failed.   Four weeks with the computer doctor and most of my documents and pictures ultimately salvaged.

I came down with a case of shingles.  Attention my friends!  PLEASE get the vaccine.  I don’t care how old or young you are.  Technically, I was not in a risk group, so my doctor had not suggested I get the shot.  We caught it early, and the medicine kept it from spreading, but I did still deal with a fair amount of discomfort for several weeks.

Pup is still a handful.

Finally caught up on my studies in my Educator Prep program for my teaching certificate – another victim of the damaged computer.  And, last week I passed the first of three state exams.  Whew.  One down.

So, how goes semi-retirement?

Eh…let’s be honest.  I am not EXACTLY where I want to be.

But, I am making progress.  I have been able to spend a great deal of time with my still-at-home teenage son, and he seems to be in a better place.   I worked six days during Spring break at the National Flight Academy.

Last weekend, I was very lucky to get to take a short cruise up the west coast.   One morning, my roommate and I got up early to watch the ship arrive in Victoria, BC, and I got to experiment a little with my new (used) camera.

I love seeing the sunrise (although alarm clocks, not so much).  It’s a good time to take a deep breath, and welcome the dawn of a new day.   I finally seem to be to a point where I am not so far behind that I think I’m in front.

It’s the season for summer job postings and applications.  I’ve got my summer gig lined up teaching middle and high school kids cool math and science through aviation.   If you want a seasonal job in the US, they are plentiful during the summer.   What will it be?  Driving a tour bus in Alaska?   Giving tours at the Grand Canyon?  Tending bar on the outer banks?

Why not give something new a try this year?

Lots of good opportunities at Coolworks Seasonal Job Site.


Choosing Gratitude

So…just before Christmas we got a dog.

A puppy, actually.  She was ten weeks old when we adopted her from a shelter group.  My son had been begging for a dog, a puppy specifically, for YEARS.  My husband didn’t want to take it on.  But, I felt a pull that it was the right thing to do.

I was wrong.

So now, we have a dog.   She’s going to be huge.  At 4 months, she weighs 28 lbs.  She is smart enough to be hard to train.  She bites.  Well, they call it “mouthing” but when a dog is her size, it’s biting. She gets “puppy frenzy” and gets so crazed we have to crate her or hold her tight til she comes down.  Efforts to teach her good doggie manners so far are mixed.

Everyone in the house is exhausted, and we’ve had to all change our processes so that she gets taken out on time, doesn’t spend too long in the crate, etc.  We have walls built to block her from parts of the house, and we all have to climb over, or shift objects to get around them.  The love seat is full of the dining room chairs to keep her from chewing on it, and now we all eat at the kitchen counter because there aren’t any chairs at the dining room table…

I’ve regretted the decision to get her.  But my son is very bonded with her, and truthfully, I love the furry little bitch too.   She has the sweetest face, and I know there’s the heart of a very good dog in there.


In the midst of this, in my excellent Leonie Dawson planner, one of the goals I set for myself in 2016 was to be more grateful in general.  And specifically for what I HAVE.

Doing a six-week status update/review with myself last evening, I had to think a lot about 30 pounds of puppy whipcord and spring steel.  And I realized that I owe her some gratitude.

Thanks to her relentless desire to be outside, and our lack of a fence, I’ve gotten to know my backyard again.  I’ve been out at all hours and temperatures tethered to her leash while she finds the perfect place to deposit her umpteenth digestive action of the day.  I’ve noticed in the dark, how lovely the Florida room looks at night, windows all around and and the light from within casting a glow.

I’ve taken a deck chair out to the middle of the yard and just sat so she could sniff and meander at the end of the leash.  And looked up at a honk to see five Canadian geese do a low and slow flyby.  A pair of hawks is nesting two houses over, and their flight path glides right over our house and yard.

I’ve given moments of love to our leaning towers of pine trees. Three of them in the back yard, all with about a ten degree lean to the northwest thanks to Hurricane Ivan’s fierce Category III winds in 2004.

Lamenting the lack of care that has allowed most of our yard to fall in to disrepair, I’ve found a way to put her on a stake and leash, and me to rake pine needles and pick up pine cones.  I spent over an hour one crisp Saturday morning pulling prickly vines away from the house.

I’ve become an ant murderer.

My son and I have laughed over the torture of poop patrol, our noses stuffed with peppermint oil scented cotton balls. We work as a team to gather the crud – I spot, he scoops.  The dog and the yard seem to run on a similar schedule.  She needs a bath about the same time the yard gives off eau de manure to excess.

When he is in school and I am NOT substituting, I have to do everything in two hour segments.  She naps I work.  When she’s up, all attention is on her.  Yes, JUST like a baby. This works some days and others thrusts me in to overwhelm,  But no doubt, it is a discipline I needed.

And no matter how much I scold her, or fuss when she tries to chew on my Persian carpet, or bellow when she nips my tush…no matter what, when I come to get her out of the crate when I get home from school, or after we’ve been out for several hours, no matter what, she is so happy to see me.  She wiggles and whimpers little happy sounds, and rolls over for a tummy rub.

I think then, maybe, I wasn’t wrong after all.


Daring to Be Divergent

If I lived in the dystopian future world of Veronica Roth’s young adult novel series, I’d probably be divergent.   Thank goodness that doesn’t involve jumping from moving trains or hand-to-hand combat in today’s world.

(And on a complete thread drift – if you have read the Divergent novels…what did you think of book three, Allegiant?  I HATED it.  Completely ruined the series for me.)

Okay, so in these novels, and the accompanying movies, people were slotted at a young age into a fixed personality type. Each group performed specific tasks in the community.  Divergents could fit into more than one of the groups, and were considered dangerous outcasts.

It’s not so different in some ways now, when someone goes to school to be some ONE thing for their entire life.   Many many people are perfectly content with this and it works well for them. And those of us who don’t fit that model well are often criticized for not “sticking with anything.”

Divergents.   We like LOTS of different things.  Constant change.  Constant learning.  Once we’ve mastered something, boredom sets in. Our definition of doing something doesn’t necessarily extend to mastering it.  I’ve given the example before of the person who wants to learn to play the cello.  He or she might not want to BE a cellist, but wants to know HOW it works.  How to make it sing, how to hold it, how the notes work.

So, how does this fit into The Semi-Retired Life?  Well, in my ideal vision, I’d actually do two to three different quarter or half year long jobs each year.   But, I can also do work for 8 – 10 months a year and take one longer break and be very happy.

The key is in the break. It’s about the time OFF.

That’s where the magic lies.  The chance to take anywhere from one to three months and go do something totally different is often enough of a change of place to reinvigorate our interest in our work.  It’s the concept behind a sabbatical.  Unfortunately, only academia and some of the newer high-tech companies tend to embrace it.

So for me, Divergent means that I love to teach AND love to learn.  It means that I could be happy teaching math OR french.  I’d be ecstatic teaching BOTH – the perfect divergent solution would be half classes of math the other half classes of french.  Divergents make excellent teachers because they are such avid LEARNERS.

They also often tend to be the office Jack or Jill of-all-trades in the office or at a venue like a restaurant or resort.  They make great tradesmen (persons?) or general contractors.

Barbara Sher called us Scanners, BTW, long before the Roth novels. 🙂   Refuse to Choose

Are you Divergent?  Is that why a Semi-Retired Life appeals to you?  Or, do you just want more time off?

All ways work.

Over Fifty And Two or Three Weeks Vacation Isn't Cutting It Anymore? What If You Could Get Two or Three MONTHS Off Every Year?