Roads May Be Winding, but They Always Bring Us Home

Throughout my life, I’ve learned that home is not a place – it’s a state of mind.

While sitting on a stool at my kitchen counter, my eyes were drawn to the pond just past my sliding glass door and postage stamp sized patio. Every time I look at it, I can’t help but wonder how it’s going to look once summer finally arrives.

In its current state, with a beaten down black heavy duty plastic protective ring around it, it’s hard to imagine it looking beautiful. But somehow I think it will end up being quite lovely. It’s funny how most of the time, even though we can’t imagine how our things in our life will turn out, they turn out to be better than expected. Sometimes it just takes a while to get there, and the roads we have to travel are often bumpy and full of detours.

My mind began to wander through the events that brought me to from the Midwest to Upstate New York. It’s been a heck of a decade, plus one year.

From Omaha to Philadelphia

In 2008 I was working for a company in Omaha, NE; the company was going through a lot of change and as often-times happens when companies are acquired and leadership changes, activities such as “right-sizing” and “right-salarying” didn’t take long to occur.

As someone who had been with the company for quite a few years and had been hired into management while the original owner was in place, I saw the writing on the wall and knew it was time to take action.

In June we had a family meeting, and I explained that since the acquisition had taken place, many of my colleagues had taken salary cuts and some had also had their positions “eliminated.” It didn’t take long for them to understand the gravity of the situation, my job was in jeopardy.

We talked it over, and everyone agreed that it was time to consider a move to somewhere outside of Omaha. It was a scary proposition for them, as Omaha was the only place they had ever lived. But they understood, as the primary and often-times sole income earner, it was critical that I was employed.

The next evening, I had the most incredible news to share; in one day, I had been contacted by three recruiters about three different positions. It was mind boggling, I hadn’t even updated my resume or my LinkedIn profile. The best part was that they were all positions in the field of E-commerce Customer Experience, which is where my professional passion lies. I pretty much took this as a sign. ūüôā

After several months of interviewing (it’s amazing how long the process takes), I was offered a job in the Greater Philadelphia area. On Super Bowl Sunday of 2008, I boarded a plane at Epley Airfield and watched the Super Bowl at a T.G.I.Friday’s in Bensalem, PA. while my family hosted a party back in Omaha. It was surreal, to say the least.

At the beginning of September, my seven months of commuting between Pennsylvania and Nebraska came to an end. I met the family in Chicago to see my daughter off to college before we drove back to Omaha to finish packing up the house.

It was hard to say goodbye to my beautiful red brick, three-story colonial home – even more so because I barely got the chance to enjoy the fabulous kitchen we had remodeled. But, it was where life was taking us, and I had to have faith.

We cleared out the few things that were remaining in the house while the movers loaded up the truck, with hugs, tears and farewell waves our three-day trek with a 12, almost 13-year old boy and two mini-dachshunds began.

Apartment Life in Yardley

Although our beautiful home had been on the market for a few months, we were unable to sell it before we moved in the fall of 2008 (yeah, 2008 – not a good year for selling houses) so we found ourselves in a three-bedroom apartment in Yardley, PA.

It honestly didn’t bother me, because at the time I was confident that we would ultimately sell our house in Omaha. It was in one of the most popular areas of town, and it seemed unthinkable that no one would buy it. How wrong I was.

It was our first move in 10 years, give or take a few months, since we moved into the house we had just left behind. The number of boxes was daunting, and it was clear that additional trips to the storage unit were going to be necessary.

Beth surronded by boxes in the Kathy Stree Apartment

Whenever I move, the first order of business is to get the kitchen put together. There’s something about preparing and eating a home-made meal that helps me feel more settled in a new space.

The kitchen in the Kathy Street Apartment

The first meal I prepared in our new abode, was Quiche and it tasted heavenly. The two years we spent in this three bedroom apartment were tough. It’s a long story all on its own and, while it had its bright spots, overall it was a very challenging time. Let’s fast forward to my next big move which was to a rental house two miles up the road from the apartment complex.

Life on Pine Grove Road

After a tumultuous search for a house to rent, I finally found one. It took months, and I couldn’t get over how difficult it was. All I could think of was how important it was for me to find a new place for my youngest son and me to live. We were both desperate to get out of the apartment, and at the age of 15, he really wanted to live in a house with a yard, and I wanted to provide it for him.

My new landlord is an artist, and little did I know that meeting her and renting her house would change my life in so many ways. It was, and I’m sure still is, a very, very fine house – I hope the people who are living there today are as happy as I was.

We had a yard, three bedrooms, a living room, den, and a basement – but my favorite space from April until October was my three season porch, which took a while for me to get organized.

First, I had to arrange to move everything from the apartment on Kathy Drive to the new house on Pine Grove Road. Fortunately, my new landlord let me start moving my things into the house a good month before my lease began, in fact, she even suggested it. In her clipped Brittish accent, she said, “The previous tenant has already moved out, so the house is empty. I see no reason why you shouldn’t start moving things in before you actually take possession.” She handed me the keys.

Every night for the month before Christian and I officially moved from the apartment to our new house, I packed as many things as I could into a laundry basket and six boxes and loaded them into my car. The following morning, on my way to work, I stopped at the house to unload the boxes. I unpacked and organized after work, and before I re-loaded the laundry basket and moving boxes. Of course, I started with the kitchen.

Getting the kitchen ready in the Pine Grove Road house

I was able to transport a good share of our belongings and left only the heavy lifting to the movers. I have never been so relieved to say goodbye to a place, and say hello to a fresh start.

We celebrated the first night in our new home by watching “Iron Man” on the big screen t.v. in the basement, sponsored by the cricket who chirped so loudly we could hardly hear the dialog. It makes me smile to think back on that night.

A few weeks after moving in, I arranged for the moving company to deliver the boxes that had been in storage for two years. I was a basket case, it was the opposite of hoarders. To the dismay of my parents and my son, the most frequent phrase out of my mouth that day was, “I haven’t used that in two years so I must not need it.” I don’t know if my son will ever forgive me for giving one of the movers our lawn mower. Thankfully, he stopped me before I tossed out the good china.

For the second time in two years, I found myself surrounded by boxes.

Beth surrounded by boxes on Pine Grove Road

It took from October until the following June to clear the three season porch that would become my favorite place to hang out and create. The boxes were labeled less than accurately, plus they’d been in storage for two years, so as you can imagine, Christian and I tired quickly of guessing “what might be in this box?” He was out as soon as he found the paintball equipment.

The first year we lived there, I focused on sprucing up the front yard and flower beds.

I didn’t do much in the way of fixing up the porch other than cleaning it out and buying a bit of furniture. Money was a constraint. The second summer was a different story. A woman named Maria, who I met through a running group, saved the day and made the porch updates affordable.

Oddly enough, I bumped into her at the grocery store, and as we were catching up, I told her about my porch dilemma. The harsh winter months had not been kind to the blinds, and I wanted to find an affordable solution.

“Maria, I‚Äôm almost there.¬† I just need to find someone who can sew and knows where to buy inexpensive material to make window coverings for my porch.‚Ä̬† I said.

‚ÄúBeth‚ĶI sew‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

I don‚Äôt think I gave her an option when I replied, ‚ÄúOh Maria!¬† Will you make me some window coverings?¬† I‚Äôll pay you, just let me know how much.‚ÄĚ

She introduced me to Jomar, a store in Philadelphia, that can only be described as Home Goods, and TJ Maxx meets Jo-Ann Fabrics and a flea market.  I left the store with twenty-two yards of quality fabric for $22.00.  She had a vision, and I had trust. The outcome was amazing.

The six years that I lived in the house on Pine Grove Road were interesting, to say the least, and included more than a few significant life changes. They were also full of positive changes, and it was while living there that I discovered I’m a writer and an artist. It’s also the time in my life in which I truly learned to have faith and appreciate serendipity.

From my first drawing lessons in the Art Studio at Patterson Farm to the challenging lessons at Princeton Art Council to my online writing classes through E2toGo, I grew and changed. I rediscovered my joyful spirit and sense of curiosity. I had no idea just how much my life would be enriched by my move to Pennsylvania.

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It was not without its bumps, hurdles and challenges – but, I not only worked my way through all of them. I became stronger because of these experiences.

Back to Omaha?!

The road back to Omaha was long and one that frankly, I resisted. When I left Nebraska in the fall of 2008, I was sure I would never move back. It’s not that Omaha is a lousy place to live, in fact, it’s a city with a lot to offer – in my opinion, it really is a hidden gem. But, I had no family there, I had done a poor job of keeping in touch with the few friends I had made, and to be honest, I didn’t believe I had what it would take to face memories of the past.

Unfortunately, the job I left Omaha for didn’t turn out the way I had hoped and I left the company after four years and entered the world of self-employment. 2015 marked my third year of freelancing as a website consultant and content writer, and due to a variety of reasons, I decided to find a way to re-enter the world of corporate America.

For me, it turned out that being self-employed was far more appealing in theory than in reality. Sure you can work from anywhere and theoretically you can make your own hours, but in my experience, there is no such thing as taking a break. There’s also the expense of health insurance or the risk of going without, the constant challenge of drumming up new business while keeping existing clients happy, and then, there’s the solitude.

In the end, it was the constant state of being alone that made me choose to update my resume and my LinkedIn profile. After years of writing about E-commerce technology and best practices, I wanted to be back in a role where I was making things happen rather than one of providing sound advice and wondering if it would be executed. I also wanted to return to a leadership role and be part of a team.

After almost a year of searching, and of countless interviews, I was fortunate enough to be offered a position at a company in Omaha. Although I swore I would never return to Omaha, the opportunity to get back in the E-commerce game, plus the prospect of working with some of my favorite peeps from my previous Omaha gig made it a no brainer.

In all honesty, I had no idea how heavily the cards were stacked against me. Re-entering the corporate world into a role that is very technology dependent after being out of the industry for four years is practically unheard of. Thank goodness for tenacity, good relationships, a good career track record and a bit of ignorance!

It was hard to leave my friends and the life I had made in Pennslyvania, and even more difficult to leave my youngest son and move half-way across the country, but it was exactly what I needed to do.

Friends graciously hosted a farewell gathering at Snipes Family Farm, a night full of love and laughter, and one I will always treasure.

Going away party with my friends in Yardley (2)

This lovely circle of people helped me grow and expanded my world in more ways than I can describe.

I left Omaha by car as a married woman with children at home and two dogs, I returned by plane as a single woman with grown children and a cat.

Life in Omaha

I can best describe my return to Omaha as a soft landing. Although I made the move by myself, there were friends at the other end to welcome me and make the transition as smooth as possible. In spite of my lack of communication during the years I lived in Pennslyvania, people were at the ready and volunteered to pick me up from the airport, help me move into my new apartment and treat me to many welcome back lunches and dinners.

Looking back, I’m not sure what I was thinking when I made the decision to rent my apartment sight unseen and move in the day after arriving in the city. I wasn’t in the least bit prepared to live in an empty space for the week or so that it would take for the moving company to arrive with my belongings. All I had brought with me was one suitcase with clothes and toiletries for me and another with things needed for Miss Mia, my cat.

Suitcase packed for a cross country plane trip wiht a cat

My dear friend Gina thought of everything and had a care package prepared for me. It contained an air mattress, hangers, toilet paper, a shower curtain, bedding, towels and a few essential kitchen supplies. It was brilliant, even the cat thought so.

Mia sleeping on the air mattress in omaha

My friend Stacey met me on the day I moved in and brought me a welcome basket, a feast of fruit and a bottle of wine.

A week or so later, I once again found myself surrounded by boxes and the task of unpacking and organizing a new home. Of course, I started with the kitchen and worked my way through the boxes and into the creation of a beautiful space to live.

I settled into life in Omaha with relative ease and enjoyed the chance to reconnect with friends and to make new ones. It may sound odd, but I believe my return to Omaha was a necessary step in my personal and professional journey.

From a creative perspective, it took me almost the entire two years that I lived there to find an opportunity to participate in an art class that was taught by a professional artist. However, I had great fun attending more than a few “paint and sip” classes and exploring “how to do acrylic pouring” videos on YouTube. My dining room table was covered in a yellow plastic artist’s tablecloth and a project in progress more often than it was set up to host guests.

The strange thing was that while I was exploring visual art with fervor, I struggled to write even once a month, let alone once a week or every day. I guess it just goes to show that there is a season for everything.

I didn’t move to Omaha with the expectation of staying there for the rest of my life. However, I didn’t expect that my return to the city would only be for a couple of years. But in June of 2018, for the second time in my life, I received three calls from three recruiters within one business day. It was impossible not to take it as a sign that it was worth at least having the conversation and that it was time to make an inventory of the reasons to stay or move on.

While my job was secure, leadership changes in the company had caused a significant shift in my responsibilities, and my role was no longer focused on the website customer experience.

I decided it was time to move on, but only for the right opportunity.

It was a whirlwind summer and fall full of interviews. It culminated in back to back in person interviews in mid-October, one in Pittsburgh, PA and one in Syracuse, NY. I never dreamt I’d be in a position to have to choose between two opportunities, but there I was. The decision wasn’t easy, but in the end, I decided to accept the opportunity with a company headquartered in Syracuse, or more accurately, Liverpool, NY.

As my welcome to Omaha began, with lunches and dinners, so did my departure back to the Eastern part of the country end. I hosted a farewell brunch with my eclectic group of Omaha transplants, a wonderful tradition that was started and carried out most often by the most gracious M.J.

I couldn’t resist the urge to model my new black winter coat with its fur-lined hood during brunch.

My co-workers sent me off with a gathering as well. I was overwhelmed and delighted by the turnout.

My third going away gathering was the most special of all in some regards, it was with my circle of friends who are regulars at Fernando’s. Fernandos is a Mexican restaurant in Omaha, there are two locations, but the one on 75th and Pacific is by far the best. The margaritas there are second to none.

While I was living in Omaha, I fell into a rather bad habit of stopping at Fernando’s for dinner multiple times a week. Who can blame me, it was literally on my way home from work, and as I mentioned, they have the best margaritas in the country.

The plus side of this bad habit is that I met some wonderful people, and made some genuine friendships. On my last night in Omaha, they all gathered at the restaurant to see me off. It was a night of hugs and laughter. The following morning I began the three-day cross country drive from Omaha to Syracuse.

On the Road Again

On Tuesday, December 4th, 2018 the movers arrived at my apartment and packed up my belongings. On December 5th, they loaded them onto the truck, and I settled into a pet-friendly hotel with Mia, which conveniently, was close to Fernando’s.

Thursday morning I double checked the contents of my trunk and headed east. This time, thanks to Gina’s wisdom, I was prepared to move into my new townhouse with no furniture. My trunk contained boxes with essential supplies such as dish soap, toilet paper, hangers, towels and bedding; boxes which were intended to (and did) double as nightstands. Of course, it also was packed with the basic things needed when one is traveling with a cat.

Trunk Packed for Move to NY

After a night in Indiana, where I was mistakenly identified as a trucker (it’s a long story), followed by a night in Erie, PA, I arrived safely in Liverpool, NY on the third day of driving.

It was a Saturday, not usually a work day for the folks who manage the property, but they were gracious enough to meet me and turn over the keys and garage door opener so I could move into my new townhouse (once again rented sight unseen, but a perfect place to land).

Daylight Drive in Liverpool

I unloaded my car, made a trip to Walmart and another to Target and set up my bedroom- complete with a new Smart T.V., a luxury air mattress, two divine cardboard box nightstands and a couple of inexpensive lamps.

Air Mattress and cardboard box night stands

As of today, I’ve managed to unpack all of the boxes, and I would say that my new home is mostly in order. I have two remaining corners of chaos to deal with, a painting to try and repair, there’s still art and pictures to be hung, and I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of my new furniture. But all-in-all, I think I’ve managed to make a somewhat cookie-cutter layout feel like a home.

For me, cooking a home-made meal is the first thing that makes a place feel like home, and surprisingly I’ve done a lot of that since moving here. The second thing is having friends and family visit, which is something I’m looking forward to, May is going to be a marvelous month!

So here I am, in Liverpool, NY, starting a new chapter and establishing a new home. I have a feeling that it’s going to be a great experience, it’s certainly off to a beautiful beginning.

Peat and Repeat

Just because a recipe made its way into a church cookbook doesn’t mean it’s going to taste good. That’s a lesson I learned many years ago when I was cooking for a family of five.

Apparently the same holds true for recipes that are delivered by a meal delivery service. A lesson I learned recently,  as a part of my attempts to master the art and science of cooking for one.

Cooking for Five

When my kids were growing up they were all very active in sports, at school and hanging out with friends. Evening mealtime was a very important time of the day for our family and we made it a point to sit down together whenever we could – no cell phones allowed, to share a meal and the highlights or sometimes lowlights of the day.

The older they got, the more difficult it became to come home from work and prepare a home-cooked meal and we found ourselves eating out way too often; a fattening and expensive habit. I wanted to find a way to help us all eat healthier, at home, and at the same time take the drudgery out of the daily task of figuring out what to make for dinner and then prepare it.

The answer was a weekend of mass meal preparation. Over the course of a few years, I fine-tuned my technique for prepping somewhere between 20 and 25 meals from taking up an entire weekend to a single day. Somehow, I found a way to complete everything from grocery shopping to cleaning up in a little over eight hours. The answer to the question “what’s for dinner” changed from “ugh, I don’t know” to “let’s go pick something out of the freezer.”

It was a family affair and usually included loud music, dancing and off-key singing into the head of a wooden spoon which did a fine job of doubling as a microphone. The day always ended with dinner at Fernandos, our favorite Mexican restaurant. After all that food prep, I figured I had earned the treat.

The one downside to this approach was that it was tempting to make the same meals over and over again because I had learned how to prep them and practically knew the recipe and ingredients by heart. In an effort to add variety into the stacks of plastic storage containers and gallon-size freezer bags that filled the freezer, I started including a few new recipes in each of the monthly meal prep events.

Peat or Repeat

For many people, I would guess that hearing the words “peat and repeat,” may conjure up a memory of the riddle: “Pete and repeat went fishing. Pete fell out of the boat, who was left?”

In our house, it had a double meaning. Each time I served one of the new recipes, the family would vote on whether or not it was worthy of repeating. The meals that didn’t make the cut were voted off the table and categorized as a “peat,” the opposite of repeat.

The worst peat I ever made didn’t even make it to the table, let alone a family vote. It was a recipe for barbecue chicken from a church cookbook. To this day I don’t know what I was thinking when I combined ketchup and frozen lemonade concentrate poured it over the chicken and turned the crockpot on before leaving for work. (I know!)

I’m not sure why I thought that just because a recipe made it into a church cookbook meant that it was going to be good, but I did.

Thank goodness I was the first one home that day. I walked in the kitchen and almost gagged when the sickly sweet smell of ketchup combined with lemonade hit me. I didn’t think twice and while holding my breath, I unplugged the crockpot and dumped its contents into the trashcan in the driveway.

Needless to say, that recipe was an unequivocal peat and we had dinner at Fernandos that night.

Cooking for One

There have been a lot of changes in my life as I’ve transitioned from the time in my life when I regularly cooked for five and sometimes more, to most often trying to figure out how to cook for one.

Oddly, or maybe not, it’s been one of the more difficult things for me to figure out. The first challenge for me was getting used to the lack of a need to have leftovers on hand to serve as midnight snacks during impromptu visits from my youngest son and his friends. The second challenge, and not a small one for me, was in finding recipes that serve one and appealed to me.

There are some pretty good resources out there and I did manage to find more than a few that seemed worth trying. This led to challenge number three, grocery shopping for recipes for one and also challenge number four, having the motivation to cook after work.

I tried a meal delivery service in an attempt to solve three out of four of the excuses for not preparing healthy meals for myself. After one too many ingredient substitutions, the worst of which was when they sent brussel sprouts instead of asparagus, I canceled the service. Once again found myself falling back into the habit of eating at restaurants, one in particular, far too often.

A little over a month ago, I decided to give a different meal delivery service a try and I‚Äôve been trying new things. For the past few weeks, I‚Äôve been ‚Äúzesting‚ÄĚ limes and lemons, charring corn and goodness knows how many other new food preparation methods that were previously unfamiliar to me.

Much to my surprise, I’m actually enjoying learning these new techniques and with the exception of one “peat”, I’ve been very happy with all of the recipes. The ingredients are intended to make a meal for two, but I find the serving sizes to be more than generous and in some cases, could feed at least four. This means I have just the right amount of leftovers for meals throughout the week and I have variety.

It’s worth noting that my grocery bill has gone down, I throw away less food – in particular, produce because the service sends me just what I need. I’ve even made a few of the “repeats” on my own.

As with a church cookbook though, not every recipe is worthy of a repeat just because it’s featured as a menu selection on a meal delivery service website. Although I’m sure the odds are probably higher than the church cookbook.

Going forward, for me, any recipe with couscous or cooked spinach is an automatic peat, or in this case, a do not order.

The Weekend the Pope was in Town

The past several years have been quite the adventure and full of stories, most of which, I haven’t been able to share until now. In part due to being smart about the timing of when to share certain adventures and for some experiences, well, just being ready to tell them.

My travel misadventures during the weekend the Pope last visited the U.S. falls in the first category.

In the late summer of 2015, I was working remotely for a company located in Long Beach California as an SEO Specialist. I was also doing a fair amount of free-lance consulting in the hours before and after the office in Cali came to life. For a variety of reasons, it became obvious to me that it was time for a change and I added a full-time job search to my already full plate.

My goal was to get back into a leadership role, be a part of a team and return to the world of eCommerce and making websites easier for people to use. Much to my surprise and delight, I didn’t have to wait long until my first in-person interview.

On the evening of September 24, 2015, I boarded a plane to Indianapolis. Indianappolis Boarding

I lived in Philly at the time but had the company I was interviewing with make my flight arrangements through Newark, N.J.

Knowing that the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia and NYC that weekend had the potential to make local travel a hassle, I figured it was safer to suffer finding my way around the airport in Newark rather than risk missing my flight.

The flight went off without a hitch, I landed on time and felt like a fairy princess when a limo picked me up from the airport and again in the morning at the hotel the next morning.

One interview blurred into the next as I answered what seemed to be the same questions over and over again. Midway through the back to back day of interviews, the executive admin assistant who had made my flight arrangements burst into the conference room.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but your return flight was canceled and we had to rebook you. We’ll adjust the remaining interview schedule and the limo will be here to pick you up an hour earlier.”

I looked at the itinerary she handed me and replied, “This will actually work out well, this flight will get me home an hour earlier than the original flight.”

A final limo ride to the airport, a glass of wine and some dinner to celebrate the day and the flight took off on time, I made my connection without missing a beat. And then…

About 45 minutes before landing, I pulled the itinerary out of my bag to double check connecting gate and the details for my final destination. My heart almost stopped.

I turned to the young man sitting next to me, “Am I reading this right? Does my flight land at LaGuardia, in the middle of New York City?”

“Yes, you’re reading it right.”

“But, my car is parked in Newark. I’m supposed to be flying into Newark, not New York.”

“Let me start checking train schedules for you. Oh,… but wait, the Pope is in town. The train schedule will be completely unreliable. Let me see if I can think of something else for you.”

While I appreciated his optimism and desire to help, it seemed unlikely that he was going to be able to help me out of my predicament. I was on a plane that was about to land more than 30 miles away from where my car was parked. Thirty miles in the Midwest is nothing, it’s thirty minutes or less depending on how fast you drive. However, thirty miles between NYC and Newark is an hour’s drive under the best traffic circumstances, let alone on a Friday night when the Pope was in town.

I turned to my journal and started listing out possible solutions while bargaining with my travel angels. If perhaps I could get a taxi from LaGuardia to Jersey for $100, the day would be saved. The chances of finding a hotel room were none, so images of myself on a bench in Penn Station or on a chair at LaGuardia, one eye open, seemed to prevail. I had no idea how I was going to get home that night.

I closed the journal with the realization that I would just have to figure it out.

The young man next to me flagged down a flight attendant, “Her flight was booked into the wrong airport and she needs to find a way to get to Newark tonight. Do you have any recommendations?”

“Well, a cab is out of the question. The fare between New York and Newark is normally at least $100, but with the Pope being in town, the traffic is crazy and it will cost at least double that.”

There went my hopes.

“But, there is a bus that shuttles passengers between JFK, LaGuardia and Newark. I think it costs around 30 bucks.”

Hooray! The day had been saved, or had it?

My flight into LaGuardia landed late. Like a madwoman, I made my way through the crowd – down the escalator and to the ticket counter for the airport shuttle bus. The agent was just turning the sign from open to closed, the hours said 9 am to 10:30 pm. It was 10:33.

I must have looked like I was going to burst into tears, or perhaps I actually did. At any rate, he turned the sign around and asked, “How can I help you?”

I explained my situation and he nodded along.

“Here’s the thing,” he said.

“I’m not sure if you’ve heard about it, but the Pope is in town. This has changed our regular route. Normally my bus would take you to the parking lot at Port Authority and the next bus would pick you up from there and take you to Newark. But because the Pope is in town, the roads have been rerouted.

We would drop you off near the Port Authority parking lot and then you would need to walk about a mile to a temporary lot. From there we can get you to Newark.”

This was not what I wanted to hear as the hour was nearing 11 pm in the heart of NYC.

Just then, a man near my age turned to face me.

“I’m in the same boat and am trying to get a cab. Would you be interested in splitting the fare with me if I can negotiate it?”

Without thinking twice, I answered yes. Somehow, he miraculously negotiated a fare of $160, to be split between us.

My share, plus a $20 tip equaled a $100 taxi ride from LaGuardia to Newark.

I never saw the Pope in person, but I’ll never forget the weekend he was in town. It was quite an adventure.

Tuning into Life in Liverpool

It’s a little hard to wrap my head around the fact that I’ve moved four times in the past 11 years.

First from a five-bedroom house in Omaha, NE to a three bedroom apartment in Yardley, a township in Pennsylvania, located just north of Philadelphia. There was barely enough room for our basic belongings so I had to move my piano to my mother-in-law’s basement with the hope that someday I would find a way to get it back.

Next, my youngest son and I moved out of the three bedroom apartment into a three bedroom house. A house that had more space than we had furniture and the perfect wall for my piano, which, unfortunately, was still in Omaha.

Three years to the day that we arrived in Pennsylvania, I received a phone call.  The message was brief.

‚ÄúYour piano is here; can you meet us today to accept delivery?‚ÄĚ

Thanks to the generosity of my dear friends Dick and Gina, my piano and I were once again reunited.

005

Although it was a bit out of tune after three years of neglect, it still sounded amazing to my ears. I practically wore the keyboard out playing Annie’s Song by John Denver over and over again. For some reason, it’s the only song that I can just sit down and play after being away from the keyboard for years. Not perfectly for sure, but at least it’s somewhat recognizable.

Fast forward to September of 2016 when life’s circumstances catapulted me back to Omaha, and into second floor two bedroom apartment. This time the piano came with me and there was a beautiful spot for it, but knowing how sound carries through hardwood floors, it went unplayed for the two years I lived there.

It sadly became a beautiful, out of tune and sentimental piece of accent furniture; all the same, I was happy it had remained part of my physical space.

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I fully imagined myself staying at my job in Omaha for a number of years, not forever, but certainly for longer than two years. The Universe or maybe Fate had other plans in mind for the final month of 2018.

On Tuesday, December 4th, the movers arrived at my apartment and packed up my belongings, the next day they loaded up the truck and I relocated to a pet-friendly hotel with Mia. Thursday morning, I loaded up the car – cat and all, and began the drive from Eastern Nebraska to Upstate New York.

Trunk Packed for Move to NY

Three days later I set up camp in my new townhouse with an air mattress, cardboard box night stands, a couple of inexpensive lamps from Walmart and Miss Mia – my still mysterious cat.

Air mattress and cardboard box night stands

Over the course of a week, my furniture was delivered. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, and if it hadn’t been for the piano bench precariously perched on top of a stack of boxes, I would have doubted that my piano had been delivered.

boxes piled high

After weeks of unpacking that seemed like they would never end, the main floor of my townhouse is mostly in order and not only did I find my piano, I was able to fill this corner of my new abode with character.

Beth's piano and pictures

The largest piece above the piano is a piece of lacework that my dad’s Aunt Gladys created. It’s called Hardanger and is a form of embroidery, origins unknown, but for some reason flourished in Norway.

The dried flower pieces that surround it were created by my maternal grandmother.

Thankfully one of my coworkers volunteered to help me out. Hanging this arrangement is not a one short person job. ūüėĄ

It hadn’t occurred to me before today that this arrangement of art is a wonderful representation of both sides of my family.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the reason I have a piano in the first place is directly related to Grandma Marion, my dad’s mom. I do believe my love of music, especially the piano, is rooted in large part with my memories of her. My piano is part of her legacy.

I’m so happy it’s all in place!

Finally to the real reason for this update.

After eleven years of disruption, my piano is now as perfectly tuned as possible.

I found A. Ajemian, a second generation piano tuner, via Google – as we find most products and services these days; the appointment was confirmed through text messages.

Finally, after 11 years and four moves, my piano would be back in tune.

As it turns out that there is at least one other human being on earth with a bad sense of direction, even worse than mine. She called me 45 minutes after she was due to arrive and announced that she was lost. Somehow I was able to sort out where she was and guide her to my driveway.

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve given five other people the very same directions and all of them found my place without trouble. ūüôā

Before my move to Pennslyvania, I had the piano tuned on a regular basis. I honestly never took much interest in the process. Once a year, the piano tuner’s wife called to make an appointment, they showed up, he tuned the piano while I went about my business, I wrote a check and they left.

This time, however, I had a much stronger interest in seeing how the process worked, well that, and Anna – the “A” in A. Ajemian, was quite talkative. Plus, I really had no other “business” to attend to.

Anna (I like knowing her first name), carried in her father’s toolbox and in between anecdotes about why she loves pianos manufactured by Yamaha (my piano is a Yamaha), settled into the task at hand.

Anna tuning Beth's Piano¬†Once she settled in, she became quite serious and focused. I’m mystified by the tools and techniques that she used to work her way through correcting one tinny octave after another. But somehow she did.

It was fascinating to watch how her facial expressions changed from pinched to relaxed as she brought the strings behind the keys back into tune. Each time she finished a big section, it was time for tea and a chat.

We shared two cups of tea this morning.

Her dad was a piano tuner. As a young woman, she decided she couldn’t let this art form die with him. Apparently, he wasn’t very keen on having her follow in his footsteps.

“Find a nice office job. Tuning pianos is not a proper job for a woman.”

She ignored his advice, carries his toolbox to this day and now, thanks to this legacy, my piano is once again in tune and it’s brought me one step closer to feeling my home is complete.

In an unexpected final moment, Anna, the piano tuner, snagged me for an impromptu selfie.

I obviously didn’t have time to make sure every hair was in place, but I’m sharing the moment anyway.

Beth and Anna

And yes, I have played Annie’s Song by John Denver numerous times in the past two days.

Change is the One Thing in Life that is Certain

“I’ve suffered a great number of catastrophes in my life, most of which have never happened.” ~ Mark Twain

There have been times in my life when I feel like I’ve jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, in other words – moved from one difficult situation to one even worse.

What I’ve learned from these times is that nothing is certain, except that there will always be change, and that sometimes being in the fire – dancing through the flames – serves to make me stronger.

Last weekend, I walked through fire. Not just metaphorically, I literally (yes, this is an appropriate time to use this word) walked across a bed of hot coals. It was an unbelievable experience.

There’s no part of me that woke up last Friday morning and thought, hmmmm…tonight I’m going to walk across a bed of hot coals.

I don’t have any pictures of it. My phone and camera were safely tucked away in my room, and for some reason I resisted the urge to run to the elevator and collect the technology that might help me capture the moment.

Thankfully, a few people did capture the moment and were willing to share it.

firewalk
Photo by Jeanine Moravec Weise

The woman in the picture isn’t me, but it could be.

The first time I walked across the bed of hot coals, I was simply carried by the energy of the group. It wasn’t without intention, but it wasn’t specific to me.

The second time I stood in front of the path of burning embers, I raised my hands above my head and shouted “Abundance!” I heard two hundred voices echo my intent as I crossed the fiery pit.

The path to Abundance is paved with challenges, it won’t be easy – but it will be worth it.

The key is to live each day without making up what tomorrow will bring and accepting that the only thing that is certain is change.

Prayers & Dreams Really Do Come True

About ten months ago, I came to the realization that it was time for me to move back into the world of going into an office for my “day job.” In the beginning, I loved the 25 step commute from my bedroom to my downstairs office/den – but over time, the solitude evolved from peace into emptiness.

My four years of self-employment also helped me gain clarity about what matters to me in ¬†my professional life. For me, it’s not about climbing a corporate ladder or breaking through the glass ceiling. It’s about working in an environment where people and community matter.

In some ways, it wasn’t easy to think about returning to Corporate America; I’ve had my share of bad bosses and toxic work environments, however I believed that it doesn’t have to be that way. I also knew with certainty that it was time to take a leap and find the right position.

My Prayer Box

I have a prayer box beside my bed. ¬†I write my dreams and my worries on slips of paper and put them in the box.¬† It keeps them from rattling around in my brain all day because I know they‚Äôre in a safe place and one by one my prayers will be answered. The practice is one of many valuable things I learned from¬†reading “Walking in This World” by Julia Cameron.

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This morning, while sifting through my prayers and giving thanks for those that have been answered and asking for help and patience with those that haven’t, I found the words I’d written at the beginning of my job search:

I am praying for, asking for a professional opportunity that offers me the following:

  1. A positive environment.
  2. People to work for and with that like to work hard and also like to have fun.
  3. A successful company with growth potential.
  4. Financially and/or Geographically enables me to easily visit family and have my  kids visit me.
  5. A work philosophy in which everybody matters.
  6. Provides me the ability to continue to grow and nurture my creative side.
  7. A position and experience that is a positive step and offers a learning opportunity to equip me to realize my ultimate dream – abundance through creativity and helping others.
  8. Offers a good work/life balance.

Amen

My Prayer Was Answered

It was really strange, and at times uncomfortable, to approach something as important and a job search without thinking in terms of specifics such as title, salary and location. Somehow I managed to stay the course throughout more interviews than I can count using both my fingers and toes, not to mention the ups and downs associated with the emotional roller coaster that comes with the territory.

Every time I thought the right position and I had found each other, followed by the disappointment when it didn’t pan out, brought me one step closer to landing the perfect job for me. The funniest part of the whole process is where I landed geographically. My initial conversations with recruiters went something like this:

One of the first questions was always, “You’re open to relocation?” To which my reply was always the same, “I’m definitely open to relocating. I just want to stay east of the Rockies, Washington D.C. and NYC are out – they’re too expensive. Other than that I’m open to anywhere but Omaha.”

Omaha is exactly where I landed, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I guess that’ll teach me to try and dictate what’s best for me. ūüôā

It Wasn’t Easy, But it Was Worth It

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns – nor did I expect it would be. The company is going through more than a few growing pains, which are a lot less painful than the kind of pain you go through when a company is downsizing.

All in all, the leadership team believes everyone matters and the company has many ways of sharing information and recognizing individual contributions. My peers are smart, caring and dedicated.

My team is young, energetic, hard working and they also love to laugh and have fun. They’re not too old or too stuffy to pose for a picture with Santa Clause.

team with Santa

We all look forward to quarterly pot-luck lunches in the office and team outings in a more relaxed environment.

fun team

The walls of my office are covered with expressions of my personality and glimpses into my creative side. It’s fun to be able to hang artwork from a session at a local Paint and Sip as well as a calendar that offers a pretty big clue that I’m an avid fan of “Gone With the Wind.”

Love my job

What’s really amazing to me, is the amount of creative growth I’ve experienced since re-entering the land of Corporate America. Instead of spending less time pursuing artistic endeavors, my work is evolving and I’m gaining the confidence needed to break out of a reliance on others to teach me and to start exploring on my own.

Experiences from my day job and my personal life have begun inspiring what shows up on my canvas. I’ve read many times that emotions, both positive and negative fuel creativity – I’m beginning to understand how that feels.

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My job hunt adventure began in Indianapolis, wound it’s way through Kansas City (a couple of times), Fargo, Boca Raton, and Raleigh.

It took longer and was more difficult than expected, but it was 100% worth every step and every journal entry along the way.

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Ideas Are Meant to Be Shared, Not Hidden

DO NOT COVET YOUR IDEAS. Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you. The problem with hoarding is you end up living off your reserves. Eventually you’ll become stale. ~ Paul Arden

About a month ago, I experienced a¬†a strange case of mistaken identity at one of the local Paint & Sip shops. The encounter left me bewildered and disturbed; in a nut-shell, I was accused of signing up for the class with the purpose of “stealing ideas” for a competitor. Every once in a while, an unpleasant experience will stick with me for longer than I want it to, and this has been one of them.

The good news is that it fueled a creative growth spurt and challenged me to explore and try new ideas. It’s been an interesting process that started with hours of watching YouTube videos on a quest to learn how to add texture to acrylic paintings.

It’s amazing what you can learn on YouTube. Tissue paper and Modge Podge are my new best friends!

There’s No Such Thing As a New Idea

Mark Twain says it best.

‚ÄúThere is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.‚ÄĚ

After watching dozens of videos and absorbing the various ways other artists use tissue paper and Modge Podge into their creations, I prepped a few canvases and gave it a whirl. I didn’t have any tissue paper on hand, but I did have an envelope full of handmade paper from one of my adventures in Pennsylvania.

Five years after attending my first paper-making workshop, I finally found a way to use some of the pieces I’d experimented on with ink pens. It took a bit to muster up the courage to rip, crinkle and paste the individual pieces of artwork onto a canvas, especially since I had no idea how or if it would turn out.

I’m happy to say that it turned out beautifully and it’s now part of my office decor.

colorful handmade paper collage

After the “incident” at the Paint & Sip class¬†I randomly¬†decided to go the Family Dollar store and see what kind of tissue paper they had on hand so I could continue experimenting with¬†collaging.

Brightly colored balloons layered on top of a tissue paper sunset now also occupy a couple of walls in my office.

balloon collage 2

 

balloon collage background

Repainting a Canvas…

Until recently, the only artwork that I displayed in my office were paintings from the various Paint & Sip adventures. Now all of the walls but one contain my “own” creations, or in other words, pieces that were inspired by many difference sources but weren’t the result of a two hour guided class.

Replacing my Paint & Sip darlings accelerated the need to decide what to do with the completed paintings that were piling up behind the door. I couldn’t bear the thought of tossing them, but it also didn’t make sense to hang onto a bunch of paintings that would probably never hang on a wall again.

The answer came to me one night after hanging up a new mixed media piece in my bathroom. Coincidentally- or maybe not, I hung it next to the first painting I completed at the Corky Canvas.

It might sound strange, but in this one image, I saw my past, present and future as an artist. The realization of how far my work has progressed since last fall surprised me more than a little bit and it inspired me with an idea to recycle my Paint & Sip pieces into new works of visual art.

past and present

Just like with my handmade paper, it was scary to take the first step and potentially ruin something I had created and held dear. Without a particular plan in mind, I moved the painting from the bathroom wall to the easel and started the process.

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Step 1: Prepare the canvas with Gesso

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Step 2: Add texture with white tissue paper and Modge Podge,

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Step 3: Paint the background by mixing gold and white paint

gold and white paint

Steps 4 – 6: Paint some flowers, add some stems and apply a few finishing touches.

Oila! An original painting , completely inspired other artist’s work and ideas.

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The past month has flown by and my makeshift studio has been in constant use. It’s amazing how one three hour experience fueled a month’s worth of creative growth and exploration.

It’s too bad that some people are so worried that someone is going to steal or take credit for their ideas; they’re missing out on one of the best parts of life, sharing.

 

Life is a Beautiful Mosaic in the Making

“She never seemed shattered; to me she was a breathtaking mosaic of the battles she’s won.” – Matt Baker

For the past few months, my thoughts and feelings have found their way into the pages of my journal and onto more canvases than I can count -but for some reason, I haven’t been sharing them here.

This morning I woke up with a “funny”¬†feeling that today is right day to start reconnect with my first creative love, the art of bringing experiences to life through words. Ironically, when I logged in I discovered that today is my WordPress.com anniversary! Six years ago I wrote and published my very first blog post, Wow! That was ‘Eye Popping 3D!’¬†¬†

Reading the post¬†for the first time since writing it, was a great reminder of how much capacity we have for growth at any age and stage of life.¬†It also made me think about how much life’s experiences, good and bad make us who we are. It’s how we get through the difficult encounters that defines¬†who we are and in many cases, the toughest experiences¬†in life pave the road for the most joyous and beautiful times.

Disappointment is a Part of Life

I’ve become a bit of a ‘Paint and Sip’ venue groupie since moving back to Omaha. It’s been a great way to have some social interaction and be creative at the same time. Overall it’s been a positive experience, but as with anything in life, you’re bound to eventually hit some unexpected twists and turns in the road.

A couple of weekends ago, I met up with a friend for an evening of catching up over dinner followed by a couple of hours of painting at one of the local venues. Unfortunately the evening was a little disappointing. I’m not sure which was more distracting, the “while your paint is drying” games that were better¬†suited to a bachelorette party than an evening of painting or the obnoxious drunk attendee.

She couldn’t seem to stop herself from painting her own thing at the expense of the rest of us who wanted to hear what the instructor was saying. It was pretty hard to focus on painting when she kept interrupting the flow of the class by shouting out things like,¬†“It looks like we have a bunch of conformists here…”

It was great to spend time with my friend, but the painting ended up in the dumpster and I was left feeling like I hadn’t gotten my creative fx¬†for the weekend.

On Sunday afternoon I decided to try again. All of my usual haunts were either hosting private events or the classes were full so I tried somewhere completely new. I’m not going to go into details, but it was a complete bust. There was a strange case of mistaken identity, intentions and integrity (mine) which left me feeling bewildered and disappointed.

The painting didn’t end up in the dumpster, but I’m going to sand off the paint and glitter and use the canvas¬†to remove the negative energy and create something of my own.

A Mosaic in the Making

Neither a long walk or a margarita helped me shake off the icky feelings from the afternoon and I couldn’t figure out how I was going to recover and fulfill my desire¬†for a creative outlet. On my way home I randomly¬†decided to go the Family Dollar store and see what kind of tissue paper they had on hand so I could continue experimenting with¬†collaging.

It was a shopping bonanza!

I could have purchased Starburst scented candles (for a dollar), but that just seemed like a really bad idea. ūüôā

starburst candles

Instead I walked out of the store with $30 worth of treasures Рenough tissue paper to make several collages, a set of sheets to use for a drop cloth and a box to store art supplies in.

dollar store shopping trip

After my trip to the Family Dollar Store, I cranked  up the tunes and blocked out the rest of the world with candlelight, a paintbrush, Modge Podge and balloon patterned tissue paper.

As the balloons came to life on the canvas, the unsettled feelings from the afternoon and previous evening floated away.

balloon collage

It’s funny… Without the two “icky” experiences, I never would have thought to create a collage using balloon patterned tissue paper from the Family Dollar store.

Nor would of that ‘one thing leads to another’ phenomena have happened and I never would have thought of creating¬†something using tissue paper, sand and shiny shell-like embellishments. My mosaic, a work in progress – just like life.

mosiac in progress

 

 

Every Picture Tells a Story

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” ~ Pablo Picasso

After nearly a year of art journaling and drawing my way through some seriously faith testing times, I’ve¬†landed in an amazing place. I never would have dreamed that my perfect job in a perfect place would be back in Omaha, Nebraska – but here I am!

Although Omaha has been my city of residence on three separate occasions and for the majority of my life, moving back hasn’t been without more than a few adjustments. Some of them I foresaw and have been easier than expected.

It hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I thought it might be, to get up every day and put on “real clothes,” makeup and drive to the office instead of padding downstairs to my desk wearing yoga pants and fuzzy socks. The perfect hair salon practically dropped into my lap and the location of my apartment couldn’t be better suited to my lifestyle and interests.

Others, like living alone, are taking me longer than anticipated to feel comfortable with. Slowly but surely I’m adjusting to living in an apartment and to evenings and weekends without impromptu visits, bear hugs and sharing a plate of appetizers at Fridays with my youngest son.

The one area of my life that I expected to flow from the East Coast to the Midwest without disruption, was the relationship with my inner artist and creativity. It didn’t. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t identify myself as an artist or a writer during my previous life in Omaha or if it’s because my new apartment doesn’t have the clearly defined studio space I’d hoped for.

Whatever the cause may be, it’s been far more difficult to tap into my inner child and let the art flow than expected and for some reason, I simply stopped making art.

Paint & Sip Franchises to the Rescue

Mid-December marked nearly four months  of my paint supplies being tucked away in a drawer and my unfinished ink journal and favorite pens sealed in a gallon size baggie. Every time I thought about drawing or painting,  nothing would come out. It was as though the stack of ink drawings and the nearly completed art journal had been created by someone else.

Art classes are difficult to find in the dead of winter, and so after hearing positive things about the local paint and sip studios I decided to give one of them a try as a way to jump start my creative journey in Omaha.

Paint and sip franchises such as the Corky Canvas and Canvas and Cabernet are springing up across the country. They offer a¬†“unique way to uncork your creativity,” in other words they serve wine and other libations to patrons that are brave enough to paint, many for the first time since kindergarten, in a group setting.

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My first experience was interesting. The studio felt empty.

empty-studio

Only a handful of women gathered around the tables closest to the platform at the front of the room.¬†Freezing rain and snow deterred the rest of the attendees from learning the difference between a big, a “shmedium” and a small paint brush – all highly technical terms that every artist needs to know. ūüôā

In spite of the bitter temps outside, the room quickly warmed up with artistic enthusiasm. The instructor led us through the painting step by step, and offered individual guidance to the budding artists in the studio. The music selection ranged from songs that took me back to high school day to modern day hits, that thanks to my kids, I not only recognized Рbut could even sing along if I felt so inclined.

I had’t thought about it before now, but perhaps it’s no coincidence that a large flower was the subject of the first drawing class I took in Yardley

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and, albeit a much simpler floral piece, was the subject of my first group art session in Omaha.

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Much like the first time I dipped my toe into the world of art, my goal on that frigid Saturday morning was to create a “masterpiece” that matched the original artist’s work. Success meant replication rather than interpretation, in spite of the instructor’s encouragement to change up colors and/or do something different if we felt so inclined.

It may seem unlikely to some, but for me, the Corky Canvas and its sister paint and sip venues became a way to bridge the gap between who I was when I left Omaha and the artist I discovered in Pennsylvania.

With each new session, I’ve grown a little more daring and instead of using the painting on the schedule as a template, it’s simply a source of inspiration with guidance provided by the instructor.

First, I went totally crazy and painted a huge moon, filled the branches with petals and made the blossoms on the tree pink instead of white.

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Next, I went out on a limb (pun intended) and painted three birds instead of two. The background was lighter than the model painting, the field below was quite different and for the first time, the branches started feeling like my own.

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The creative block ended on Valentine’s weekend. Picture a¬†red umbrella at the bottom of a grey and white cobblestone path lined with quaint street lamps and a picture perfect¬†silhouette of a couple dancing in the rain at the opposite end.

As much as I love the idea of the picture perfect couple dancing in the rain, it didn’t work for me. It’s not where I am right now.

And so instead, the path in my painting turned out to be tempered with color and emotion. The umbrella is disproportionately large, but for some reason I love it. Rather than a couple dancing in the rain, the silhouette is me. A woman, yet at the same time still a girl, reaching out to pass through the curtain of rain into a place and time that is filled with more blue skies than gray.

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Last weekend brought me back to the more whimsical me.

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Six months after moving into my apartment, I’ve begun to carve out a space for a “studio,” it could be otherwise referred to as my dining room table. Unexpected guests will just have to understand. ūüôā

The first piece I created in my new studio is very fitting. It ties together so many experiences from the place that I moved from to the home that I’m in the process of making. It’s a reminder to remain in the present rather than¬†speculate about the future.

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