Finished a book

I’ve never liked to have two books in progress at one time.  I can’t keep them straight; they distract me from one another.  I keep waiting for a character from one book to show up in the other.  So, I much prefer finishing one book before I start another.  I think that’s one of the (many!) reasons that this last year has been challenging for me.  With the house hanging over me, it’s been like an unfinished book.  I’m halfway through the next book, but still had to keep going back to the last chapter in the other book to deal with house stuff.  It’s been a distraction.

Well, this morning I finished the last chapter of the book that was my former life.  The keys to my house now belong to someone else.  A lovely young couple, who are very excited about their new adventure, now own it.  I wish them all the best.  I hope they grow to love the funny sound the ductwork in the master bedroom floor makes as much as I did.

Settlement went very smoothly, up until the blubbering like a baby part.  What?  That’s not what everyone does when they sell a house?  Yeah, well, I did.  I loved that house and was very happy there.   I was thinking about it on the drive home.  I realized that having the house, while a distraction and something of a drag, was also a safety net for me.  If this whole grad school/career change thing didn’t work out, I could always move back and find a regular job and fall back on that.  Now, I’m flying without a net.  Gulp.

Although, now that I’ve finished one of the two years of my program, I think it might actually work out.  At least the grad school thing – the actual career change part remains to be seen.  I’ve very happy to have the first year successfully under my belt.  It gives me a little more confidence heading into the second year, which will be busier and tougher.  But that’s 12 weeks away.  I have almost 3 months to enjoy in the meantime!  I have some projects cooking for the summer, which I promise I’ll fill you in on soon.

Book One – The End.


Yeah, so sorry about not posting for so long.  It’s been a really busy term and it’s not even halfway done.

The last couple of weeks have really driven home how different my life is now.  I’m taking a Wildlife Research Techniques course, which involves an outdoor lab and, lately, a LOT of field work in the woods.  I’ve been tramping through the woods in the pre-dawn darkness, in the pouring down rain, at twilight, by myself and with others.  Last Thursday at dawn, I was with another student, walking transect lines in the pouring down rain, soaked to the skin and freezing cold.  I had a thought about sitting in my office at the old company and giggled to myself.  Not because I loved the conditions I was in, but because things are so different now.  I will admit to a tiny bit of wishing that I was in a nice, warm, cozy office, but then I remembered the knot I’d get in my stomach every morning.  I’d still rather have a bit of anxiety about being by myself in the woods in the dark than the anxiety I had constantly at work.  At least with the field work, there’s a specific goal and once it’s done, for a little while you can bask in the glow of having survived it.

In other news, my volunteer work at the bird clinic is going well.  I’m learning tons and getting to know some really awesome people.  I’ve been asked to take the next step and start doing more medical-type treatments, as opposed to just cleaning and feeding.  I’m excited about it – I thought I’d have to wait a year to get the chance to train for that.  This week, I got to hold a red-tailed hawk so he could get meds (he was very good about it).  I also got to catch and carry a snow goose, so she could go for a controlled swim in the soaking tub (she was not in the least bit grateful).  I also had a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment when I was cleaning the big rock dove (aka pigeon) cage and got caught talking to the pigeons.  One of them was eyeing the door that had swung open and I was telling him not to even think about it.  I heard someone laughing and realized that one of the staff had overheard me.  Blush.  She did have the grace to tell me that everyone talks to them (even though technically, we’re not supposed to) and it’s only a problem if they start talking back to you!

So, very little similarity to my corporate life these days.  And that’s a very good thing.

(p.s.  I’m looking for a volunteer gig with the Philly office of the EPA or National Park Service this summer.  Anyone know anyone in either of those offices or know someone who might know someone?  I come with 30 years’ experience in a lot of things and I’m free!)

So, most people go to warm places in the winter.  Not me, at least not this year!   This year, I went to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah to volunteer for a week with the animals.

Best Friends is an awesome place.  It’s the largest animal sanctuary in the US.  They have about 2000 critters there.  There are all kinds – dogs, cats, horses, pigs, birds, goats, rabbits, even a mule!   They also have a number of wild animals (mostly birds) that, for one reason or another can’t be released, so they have permanent homes in the excellent care of the folks in Wild Friends.

I was able to spend two days working in Wild Friends.  I was told that this is unusual, since they can only accommodate one volunteer at a time there.  But since it’s winter and most of the of the work is outdoors in the cold, they didn’t have much demand that week and I could get two days in.  The people there were awesome.  Haven was the caregiver that I worked with, but I also got to spend some time with his colleague Bobbi and the rehabbers, Carmen and Barbara.  It was really interesting to compare notes on rehabbing – they tend to get very different critters than we do in the East.

So, while in Wild Friends, I met Frick and Frack (a pair of domestic Rouen Mix ducks), Georgie and Gracie (a pilgrim goose and a cranky Canada goose), Echo (a disabled red-tailed hawk), Storm (a Harris’s hawk that had been used for falconry her whole previous life), a number of Great Horned Owls, a lovely Barn Owl, a trio of peafowl, a pair of ravens and a slew of pigeons and domestic waterfowl.  I still have the shin bruises from Gracie, who was quite adamant that she was not getting fed fast enough, thank you very much!  I even got to feed a couple of domestic mink.  They’re very cute.  Much cuter than the coats they were raised to be a part of.

While working in Wild Friends, we were often shadowed by a flock of wild turkeys.  A couple of the toms showed off their tail plumage – very impressive!  Best of all, there was a mama mule deer (whom Haven calls Loki) with her yearling boy that followed us and checked us out.  Haven said she rarely appears when he has anyone with him, so I felt honored when she stood about 8 feet away and checked me out quite thoroughly.  They really are beautiful creatures –  bigger than the white-tailed deer we have around here.  And yes, their ears really do look like a mule’s.  Or maybe mule ears look like mule deer’s ears.

I also spent a day in DogTown.  I got to help train an older puppy in puppy pre-school.  For puppies that have been sheltered their whole lives, things like doorbells, grocery carts, wheelchairs and even furniture can be a little stressful, so we helped to acclimate them to those things and a bunch more.  I had a puppy named Nike, who was born without one of his front feet.  He was to go to his forever home at the end of the week!  Then I went to the opposite end of the age spectrum and walked about a dozen of the older dogs.  So many sad stories, but the dogs have a good life.  Some of them came from hoarders or fighting operations, but they’ve risen above their horrible pasts.  Most will make excellent pets – if you’re thinking about adopting, please don’t discount the ones who had a tough start in life!  They sometimes get a bad reputation, but they don’t deserve it.

I also spent several shifts in Cat World, which will come as no surprise to those who know me.  All the kitties are in big rooms, with access to outdoor rooms, too.  They have more toys, cat trees and beds than you find at PetSmart!  Lots of nooks and crannies to curl up in, shelves and rafters to climb on, and loads of friends to play with.  Or spar with, depending on the mood.

Best Friends has this cool sleepover program, where you can take a dog or cat (or even a potbellied pig, if you’re so inclined!) with you for an overnight visit.  I had 3 kitties come stay with me (I was in a cabin on BF property – very pet friendly).  Cookie and Emma are two lovely torties who came for a visit together.  Funnily, they acted the opposite of how they usually do in the shelter!  Cookie was very outgoing in the shelter and Emma was very shy.  I got them in my room and Emma made herself right at home and purred up a storm and poor Cookie was shy and reserved.  It’s all good info for the caregivers to know how they might act when they’re adopted.

I also had a big orange and white boy named Sam come to visit.  I’m in love.  He’s one of the sweetest cats I’ve ever met.  He was calm and confident.  He jumped in my lap, tucked his head under my chin and purred and purred.  When he’d had enough, he just moved off – none of that swatting that some cats do.  I cried when I took him back.  I wish I could’ve brought him home.  If I didn’t have a two pet limit on my lease, for sure I’d have 3 cats now.

It really was a wonderful week.  I worked really hard, froze, got filthy, broke every nail and loved every minute.  The people who work there are wonderful and care so much about their charges.  The animals were terrific and it was a privilege to meet them and help care for them.  What more could I ask for?

And one more thing – please adopt your next pet!  The love of a rescued pet can’t be matched.

One down, three to go

My first semester of grad school has come to a close.  Three more semesters to go.  I handed in my final papers yesterday and the only thing left is to find out what my grades are (gulp!).  Next term should be fun and even more work.  I’m taking a couple of wildlife-related classes and an environmental policy course, so they’re all up my alley.  But that’s not for a couple of months.  I have 8 weeks off and I’m going to enjoy every minute of them!  It’s probably the longest break I’ll get until I retire for real.

I started a couple of new volunteer gigs.  There’s a bird rescue near me and I work there a couple of mornings a month.  I get to help take care of all kinds of birds, from little chickadees to bald eagles.  Very cool.  I also started helping out with an organization that transfers pets from shelters in the South to rescue groups in the North.  Each driver picks them up and drives them about 60 miles north, then hands them off to the next driver in the “train.”  There are a lot of kill shelters in the south and not enough dogs available for adoption in the north, so this group helps to get them to the right places, saving both the pets and the humans who get them.  I did my first run last weekend and met the two sweetest dogs.  Whoever their new families are, they’re very lucky people.

A year ago today was my last day in the office.  A year.  Can you believe it?  I was in the throes of panic about taking the GREs and still pretty clueless about what I was going to do.  So much has happened since then.   My nephew got married, my mom got sick, my niece had a baby, I moved, started school, helped raise a whole bunch of babies and learned a helluva lot about myself.  Certainly not my average run-of-the-mill boring year.

I’m hoping for a normal, run-of-the-mill Christmas.  Excitement is overrated.  I just want to play Christmas music, bake cookies, wrap gifts, enjoy the tree (that I wasn’t going to put up, but decided to anyway and am very happy I did) and generally hang around, enjoying my family and eating too much.  I’ll think about the next couple of years later.  They certainly promise not to be ordinary.

I saw my furry babies for the last time this past week.  Sniff.  They’re off soon to start living the rest of their lives, just as they’re supposed to. My last visit with them was very special because they were just so affectionate and curious and mischievous – all the things I love about baby raccoons.  One of them tried to pick my pocket and another one decided that my hair really needed his attention.  Another thought my lap would be a good place to hang out until she saw something shiny and climbed up my arm to hang out on the wire cage wall.  Nothing makes me giggle quite like their antics.

It makes me really look forward to getting into a line of work where their welfare and that of all their furry and feathered brethren is the primary goal.  Critters are pretty fragile and humans have more impact on them than anything.  We really have to figure out how to keep our activities from endangering them.  I know it can be done and I know there are people working on it.  I can’t wait to be one of them.

And in case you’d like a little furry entertainment, here are the 3 babies mentioned above.  Goodbye kids and good luck!  Stay away from dogs, people you don’t know and funny-looking metal things on the ground that can clamp down on your foot!

What a couple of months

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I sat down to write something here.  It’s been a pretty eventful couple of months, let me tell ya.  So, I’ll tell ya…

Since I was here last, I did start school.  From orientation to registration to my first classes to that “Oh my God, what did I get?” feeling while waiting for my first grade, it’s been fun, frustrating, fascinating and frightening as hell (how’s that for alliteration?).  It still is, especially the frightening as hell part.  I can’t believe how much work there is – I’m only just starting to develop the discipline to actually get it done.  It’s certainly more work than my last job was!  But it’s more interesting, too.

My house still has not sold.  It’s very discouraging and I’m trying to figure out what to do if it doesn’t sell in the next few weeks.  I may need to look at renting it out.  I go back to check on things about once a week and it’s really, really hard.  I vastly underestimated how attached I am to the house.  It breaks my heart to lock up and leave every time I go.  I need very much to get it sold and behind me.  Anyone want a lovely and lovingly tended house?

My mom had major surgery about 5 weeks ago and is finally home and recovering pretty well.  It’s been a very tough haul for her (and for Dad), but the doctors are encouragingly optimistic about the results.  I just spent a few days with her and Dad, helping out at home so they don’t have to eat takeout meals every night.  It was such a relief to see them – they’ve been through the wringer the last couple of months, but seem to have weathered it fairly well.

I had to drop one of my wildlife rehab gigs because of lack of time, but have kept going with the one that’s primarily raccoons.  It’s a little spot of sanity amongst the craziness.  We’ve had about 40 babies this season and about half of them have now been released back into the wild.  The others are waiting their turn to leave – they just need to get a little bigger.  My guess is that they’ll all be gone by middle of November.  Working with them has been one of the great joys of my life.  I hope all our babies live long, happy, healthy lives out in the world.  And that they stay away from people.

So, it’s a challenging time for me.  I was reading something today by one of my favorite authors and inspiring reinventor of herself, Claire Cook.   To paraphrase her  – most of the toughest stuff in life moves me forward.  I believe that’s true and I can only trust that everything that’s been happening somehow moves me forward.

I’m having a bit of a crisis of confidence.  Push is starting to come to shove now and things haven’t quite aligned as I would like.  Worrying is something of a specialty of mine, so I’m doing a lot of that.   I have a friend that says that worrying works.  After all, the things you worry about rarely happen, right?  Imagine what would happen if you hadn’t worried.  Anyway, lots of things keeping me awake at night (good thing I have nothing against the judicious use of properly prescribed pharmaceuticals).

I found a townhouse to rent for the time I’m in school and signed the lease yesterday.  It’s nice enough, but it’s a rental – unrelentingly neutral with all white walls and beige carpet.  I’m getting really sad about leaving my house.   I know this will pass and once I do some painting and get my things in it in a couple of weeks, it’ll feel like home soon enough.  But for now, it’s more than a little depressing to think of leaving my decorated-exactly-to-my-taste place.

My house still has not sold and that’s making me nervous, now that I’m paying both rent and mortgage.  I’ve only had one showing in the last week – things have really slowed down.  I know it’ll sell eventually, but it’s scary not knowing when.  I’m constrained a bit on packing, too, since cardboard doesn’t make for very attractive  decor when showing a house.  So, I’m packing what I can and worrying about getting the rest of it done in time.

I still don’t know what classes I’ll be taking or what my schedule will be and I won’t until orientation on Aug 30.   So, not only can I not get in the mindset of particular courses yet, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to keep volunteering at the raccoon clinic.  I’m not a big fan of uncertainty.

And last, but certainly not least, my mother was diagnosed a few weeks ago with a potentially very serious illness.  We know very little so far, although we should know more by midweek this week.  So, every scheduled thing I have going except orientation and school starting is a bit tentative until we know what the plan is for the next few weeks.

I know this isn’t my usual enthusiastic, forward-thinking post, but it’s just been that kind of a week.  I know things will turn around soon.  Any time now.

Right now would be good.

This lady’s gaga

I thought I’d share my babies with you, so you can see why I’m so gaga over them…

This is one of the teenagers – about 4 1/2 months old.  He just got a treat and is busy eating it, but look at that goofy face!


All the babies get hammocks to lounge in and they love them to bits.  Literally, sometimes.

This is Poochie, named that because when she came into the clinic, she’d had an unfortunate encounter with a dog.  We weren’t sure she was going to make it, but she’s fully recovered and thriving!

So, can you see why they’ve become my passion?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about finding your passion.  If you’re very, very lucky, you find your passion and it’s your vocation.  If you’re just very lucky, you find your passion and are able to do it alongside your vocation.  Right now, I think I’m very lucky.  My practical side (and the people who want me to pay the bills they send me) says that wildlife rehab is something I’m not going to be able to do as a vocation.  But, now that I know how much I love it, I can do whatever’s necessary to do it in addition to a job that actually pays a living wage.

So, how do you know what your passion is?  For me, it’s the thing that makes me lose time.  It’s what makes me smile whenever I think about it.  It’s what my mind drifts to as a default when it’s just wandering.  I had no idea when I started volunteering that it would be this way.  I knew I’d like it (I mean, really, it’s helping baby and injured animals – how could I not enjoy that?), but I never thought I’d turn into a gushing, gaga fool about it.  I’m a very lucky woman.

I hope you all find (or are way ahead of me and have already found) the thing that turns you into a fool, too.

Because I found a few on the beach.

I grew up near Lake Ontario.  When you grow up near big water like the ocean or a Great Lake (ie, water you can’t see across), it gets in your blood.  Well, it did mine, anyway.  I’m the most relaxed near the ocean.  I love the smell of the water, the sound of waves crashing on the shore, the feel of the sand as it disappears from under your feet when a wave comes.  I love watching dogs romp on the beach.  You’d be hard pressed to find a creature having more fun than a dog romping on the beach.

So, I went to the beach for a couple of days.  I figured if I’m going to live in a coastal state, I should spend a little time exploring its coast.  This morning, before I left for home, I took a long walk on the beach.  I noticed some things, which got me thinking about Life.

First, I noticed that the waves that make the most fuss – crashing the loudest and and throwing up lots of foam  – very rarely get my feet wet when I’m walking along the water line.  It’s the ones that sneak in on little cat feet that make the most progress up the beach and swirl around my ankles.  Sometimes a big one will, too, but more often than not, a quiet one is involved in pushing the big one’s water further than it would have gone on its own.  It reminded me of the difference between the people who peak early in life (like the high school football player who looks back on his glory days in his middle age) and the ones that move steadily and quietly through life, making a big difference all along the way.   I’d like to think I’m like the quiet wave, not making a big fuss about things, sometimes helping the big ones, but trying to move steadily forward.

Next, I noticed the horseshoe crabs that wash up on the beach.  They get stuck in the sand, which is not where they’d really like to be.  They don’t seem to panic about it (although, really, who am I to know what goes on in the mind of a horseshoe crab?), they just wait.  They know that one of two things will happen – either a wave will come along and wash them back into the water or it won’t.  Since there are way more horseshoe crabs in the water than on the beach, the odds seem good that they’ll get back in the water and there really isn’t a whole lot they can do in the meantime to control the waves.  So, they hang in there.  Accepting what they can’t control.

The last thing I noticed was that the closer you are to the water, the firmer the sand.  It’s not as comfortable to sit in and relax, but it makes moving forward very easy.  The dry, soft, squishy sand is much more comfortable to sit in and is very cozy, but it’s a hard slog to make progress through it.   There are times in life when the comfy sand is the right place to be, but if you want to move forward, get close to the action.  Walk on the edge.

So, there you have my philosophical waxing of the day.  Move quietly, steadily forward, accept what you can’t control and stay close to the action.

Uppy downy

Life is full of ups and downs.  Reinventions are packed solid with them!

Selling a house I really like is definitely a down.  The whole process is a pain, from getting it ready to sell to racing around cleaning for a showing and then vacating the house for however long it takes to show.  There are ups, though,  like when someone likes your house enough to make an offer on it!  Yes, I got an offer in the first week on the market.  After some back and forth, we came to an agreement.  Then the inspections came (yes, this is a down coming).  The inspector found some minimal evidence of termite activity.  No big deal, right?  You treat it and everyone’s happy.  Well, not these buyers.  They bolted (big down).  I suspect they were having cold feet about buying more house than they had any business buying and used it as a excuse to get out of the deal.  So, I’m back on the market.

On the other hand, having the time to do volunteer work is a huge up.  I’m having the time of my life working at the wildlife rehab clinics!   It’s the best job I’ve ever had and it costs me money to do it.   I learn something every time I’m there and I’m dusting off a lot of really rusty vet tech skills.  I love working with the babies.  Baby raccoons really are the cutest, most curious and comical critters I’ve ever seen.   I wish I could make a living working with them, but they really don’t pay well.  I mean, the pay is literally poop.