Category Archives: Make It Happen

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.




Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.


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.



Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

Beyond the Internet

Whether  it’s a dream job, or a practical seasonal one that allows the time off you are seeking, it’s vital to research it. Here are five things you can do beyond just keywords and the internet.

One – The Yellow Pages

Despite the advent of the internet for advertising and information, the Yellow Pages are still an absolute must for many local businesses. Those ads aren’t cheap, and you’ll notice some businesses buy them year after year. I’ve had small business owners tell me NOT buying the ad one year cut their walk-in business in half. That said, the yellow pages can be a great resource. Most of them have a cross-reference index, so if you are interested in counseling, you can look at the index to see the various sections a “counselor” might be listed. Want to work with animals? Check out the cross-reference by type of animals – there’s a lot beyond grooming and vets. The purpose is two-fold. You’ll find out what businesses already exist in your town. And, you might get ideas for your area of interest by looking at other areas.

Two – The Magazine Rack at a Big Book Store

Have you ever really examined the magazine racks at one of the big box bookstores? It’s amazing how many different specialty and trade magazines exist. With advertising still in tough times, many of the weaker ones are folding. So, if a magazine is still being published, they’ve got enough advertisers to keep it open. See what kind of magazines might exist in your area of interest. Take it section by section and take your time. If the magazine rack is just too big and overwhelming, you can review the Writer’s Market publications, which list most titles and their content.

Three – Local Clubs and Associations

It varies by community, but the Library or the Chamber of Commerce usually maintain a list of active clubs, organizations, and associations with contact people, focus, etc. Look over the list and see if there is a group in any way related to your passion or area of interest. Consider joining, or contact the organizer to learn more about it.

Four – Community College Non-Credit Continuing Education

If you have a local college, see if they offer non-credit continuing education courses. These are classes for anything from digital photography, to Italian cooking, to yoga. They usually meet for one long day, or several times over a few weeks and are strictly for people to learn about something that interests them. See if there are any classes about your area of interest. If not, why not approach the school about teaching one next semester?   This can be a great place to pick up that skill you need for a temporary or seasonal position.

Five – Never Miss a Bulletin Board

As you are going about your day, make it a point to notice bulletin boards. They’re everywhere! Coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, community centers, libraries, club houses, and even gyms. These days many businesses have a bulletin board where customers or members can post business cards, flyers, or other requests. Check out your local ones and see what’s happening.

The point of all of these is to get you out in your local community talking about your interest and finding out if there are other people interested in it, doing it, or seeking it. The more you know, the more prepared you’ll be.

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

Question Ideas for Informational Interviews

When you arrive at your interview, or via electronics, be sure to thank them for their time and get their complete contact information. That way, if you get rushed at the end for any reason, you still have their information for future contact and to send a “thank you” note. Have your pen and paper ready, with your questions written down. Be sure to ask the following:

One – How did you get into this field? (Variation – What made you want to get into this field?)

By asking a question about the person you are interviewing and their interests, you are giving them a chance to speak about themselves. Also, it gives you the opportunity to identify common interests and find new ones.

Two – What do you like most about what you do?

Answers may surprise you. People choose to do things for a variety of reasons.

Three – What is missing in serving your field? (Variation – What kind of support do you need you can’t find?)

The purpose of this question is to think outside the box of the specific job or business the person is in. While you may love the idea of that exact position, you might be able to develop something that serves it well. Keeps you in a field you love, but in another function. Also may give you business ideas.

Four – What’s the biggest misconception about what you do?

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but you may suffer those same misconceptions. It’s an excellent way to get the real scoop.

Five – How do you get/find/keep customers or clients, and how much time do you spend on it?

This probably isn’t relevant for you unless you are planning a solopreneur operation.  One huge challenge for many entrepreneurs is dealing with the marketing and selling aspects of their chosen business. There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to be a holistic massage therapist and having to spend more than half your time looking for clients. Get a feel for how it works for this person. You may find you would prefer to work for someone else and do the one thing you love for pay, than to start your own business and have to spend little time doing what you actually love and too much time finding customers.

Six – How do you get paid? And would you be willing to share a ballpark annual income? Benefits?

Again, depends if they are an employee or entrepreneur, but actually collecting payments may factor into what they do as well. Plus, it’s vital to know how much someone realistically makes if this is what you want to do. Also, follow this one up with how long it took them to make what they are making now.

Seven – What advice would you most want to give someone who is interested in this job, field, or industry? (Variation – What do you wish you’d known before you started?)

If they’ve been doing it any length of time, chances are they have a list of things they wish someone had told them up front. These insights are worth their weight in gold to someone like you analyzing and studying it.

Be sure to take notes, or ask them if you can record it if you’re a lousy note taker. You may think you’ll remember it all, but chances are you won’t. Stay on time and be sure to send that “thank you” note afterwards.

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

Try Informational Interviewing

You might remember the expression “informational interviewing.”  It was popularized decades ago in Richard N Bolles book “What Color is Your Parachute?”  A process that doesn’t get much press anymore, this technique can be REALLY helpful in identifying jobs or industries that you might love (or hate!), or how you might get your foot in the door if you lack relevant experience.

Informational Interviewing is not job-interviewing. It’s a process for you to learn about an industry or a specific job title, or a way for you to identify unmet needs and opportunities in fields that you love. Here’s how to get the most out of an informational interview.

One – Find the People to Interview

I realize that seems obvious. But how? First, decide what or who, by job type, you want to speak to. So, for example, you are interested in medicine and you want to speak to a nurse. Contact everyone you know who is a nurse, and contact the rest of your friends and ask them if they know any nurses. Explain that you are interested in finding out more about this as a profession, and that you are asking for fifteen to twenty minutes of their time to answer some questions. If you don’t know anyone and and friends can’t point you to someone, try the yellow pages, or human resource departments of local businesses in that field.

Maybe you just know you love photography. Same thing. If you don’t know any photographers, ask your friends if they do. Then, seek out businesses or companies in that field to find people. For that matter, go to a social media site like Twitter or Facebook and ask for photographers who would be willing to do an informational interview. You’ll be amazed.

Two – Make an Appointment

Set up a specific time, date, and place to conduct the interview. If it’s at their place of business, be sure to ask what hours are the easiest for them to break away for fifteen minutes. If you are meeting outside work, make sure you buy the coffee or lunch. Reassure the person that you are just trying to learn a few things about the field and that you have (give them a number – 7 or 8 at most) questions to ask. Make certain you have their contact number to reach them that day should a problem arise.

Three – Be on Time and Stay on Time

Be there when you said you would, and wrap it up in the time frame you originally asked them to give you. If they are willing to continue, then by all means continue to pick their brains as long as possible.

Four – Get Their Contact Information First

As soon as you introduce yourself and before you begin the questioning, get their contact information including mailing address. Ideally a business card, but if not, write it down at the top of your notes. Name (correctly spelled) phone, email, address. Do this first in case the person is called away or agrees to go over the time limit and then you get interrupted. At the end of the interview, be sure to ask if you may follow up with them as you continue to learn.

Five – Send a Hand-Written Thank You Note

Since this was not a job interview, you should not send a formal typed follow up letter. This should be a courteous, personal “thank you” from you to them for their time and information.  This is very much a lost art and it does get you noticed.  You never know when this contact may come in handy down the road.

In a separate article, I’ll address actual questions and topics to ask in the interview. For now, be sure to conduct it appropriately and secure the person as a future contact in the business by being professional, courteous, and appreciative.

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.

How to Start Now

If you’d love to get out of the rat race and create a work/life environment that meets both your economic and happiness requirements, start here.

1) Making a “living list” of things you LOVE doing. Add items as you discover or remember them.  Don’t think about how to make money from these yet.  Just make a list.

2) Do you know someone who is self-employed and/or a seasonal or contract worker? Contact that person and ask if you can pick their brain.  What works?  What doesn’t? What are the biggest challenges and biggest rewards?

3) Read a book about combining passions and livelihood. One good one is Po Bronson’s “What Should I Do with my Life?”

4) Take a skills assessment test online or via a career support book. Do the results make sense? That is, do you love doing what you are good at doing? Think about this – and go back to number one. What do you LOVE to do?  Barbara Sher’s book “I Could Do Anything If I Knew What It Was” is great for this.

5) What was your favorite activity as a child? Go do it for an afternoon. Even if it’s the merry-go-round. Do you still love it? Why did you stop doing it? How could you do it now?

6) Have an “idea party.” Get ten friends together over a meal or coffee and ask them what they see you doing. Brainstorm on who would actually pay for such a product or service. Or, come up with your own idea, and ask the group to think of creative ways to accomplish it.

7) Take an afternoon, a day, or a week and go do something that interests you. It could be a class, or volunteering, or working alongside someone doing something you think might be your passion. How do you set this up? Call and ask.

8) Form a mastermind of people who also want to redesign their work/life relationship. Meet regularly for fellowship and inspiration. Or, see if you can join (or start) an existing group through a source like

9) Need additional education to follow your dream? Get started. Take one course – evenings, online, however you can get it. Just start now.

10) Be silly. Get a box of crayons and draw a picture of your dream life. I was once “forced” to do this as part of a seminar. Thought the leader was nuts. Two years later, I did just what I’d drawn.

11) Make a “dream” or “vision” board from magazine clippings, drawings, photos.

12) Read another book. I recommend “Making a Living without a Job” by Barbara Winter.

13) Subscribe to a magazine or periodical on your topic. Not necessarily about careers in that field, but just on topic. You’d be amazed at the wealth of publications out there on subjects that may seem obscure.

14) Start an “ideas” folder, and put articles or notes into it as a living reference file. This is especially helpful if you have many or varied interests.

15) Make a commitment to move this process forward at least once a week through a discussion, reading, taking a class, or other activity that adds to your knowledge and clarity of where you want to be.

The single most important thing you can do is start understanding just how many choices you really have to make your work fit your life.  You don’t HAVE to be a slave to traditional work.

I’m not saying it’s a piece of cake.  I’m saying you CAN do it.

Recovering MBA. Writer. Photographer. Scanner. Learning Addict. Airplane Geek. Teacher. Certification Collector. Serenity Seeker. Semi-retiree in training.