Thursday, December 1, 2022

Warning! Don't go in the kitchen!

Do you ever have days when everything you create in the kitchen is a disaster?

Now, I'm the first to admit that I'm not an inspired cook. I'm no Julia Child. But I can cook basic meals, and sometimes very tasty, healthy meals. Two nights ago, I made a lovely kale salad with grape tomatoes, parmesan, a boiled egg, pecans and balsamic. Yum. 

But in the last 48 hours, I've experienced what I call a Don't-Go-in-the-Kitchen Day. 

I burned toast to a crispy, unappetizing charcoal. I spread a tiny bit of butter on it, then sprinkled it liberally with cinnamon and Stevia.

At lunchtime yesterday, I turned my back for just a smidge--and my lovely grilled cheese sandwich became a charcoal sandwich. I scraped off the worst of the charcoal and ate it. It was my last two pieces of bread. 

This morning, I burned my oatmeal. Not just a little scorched, but really, truly burned so that a thick coating of burned gunk is stuck in the bottom of the pot. But I ate it. Growing up, we ate what was put in front of us. Mostly. We didn't throw out food. So, in the last 48 hours I've eaten burned toast, burned grilled cheese and burnt oatmeal. Yum! And I'd made two servings of burnt oatmeal, so guess what I'm having for breakfast tomorrow?

Tonight I baked a potato (success) and topped it with steamed broccoli and grated cheese. Yum! I planned to top it with some of my homemade turkey chili I'd pulled out of the freezer. But I turned my back for just a smidge to slice some sharp cheddar--and my knife blade broke off from the handle, I forgot momentarily about the chili--and--you guessed it!  I burned the chili. I did NOT eat the burned chili. All of the liquid had been reduced out of it and it no longer can be called chili.

Perhaps a new world record of Simultaneous Kitchen Disasters for me: Broken knife blade, burned chili. At least I didn't accidentally cut myself, which would have been a trifecta of disasters.

Now, in my sink in my tiny 6 x 6 kitchen I have a  two pots coated in burnt gunk waiting to be scrubbed clean. And a broken knife. And some other dishes. I don't have a dishwasher, and I just don't have the energy to tackle it tonight. I'm going to let the crusty pots soak overnight. 

Tomorrow, I'll scour them with my secret weapon: vinegar and baking soda and a bristly green scouring pad. This isn't my first burnt-pot rodeo. (Warning: I've just read an article that burnt food can contain carcinogens.)

Today I count these kitchen successes: 

1. I made coffee. Nothing exploded.

2. I cut up an apple, saving half for tomorrow. No disasters there.

3. I peeled a boiled egg without incident.

4. I steamed broccoli in the microwave. (I can't take credit for shredding the cheese. I buy shredded cheese because I have a tendency to shred my fingers). 

I'm going to call it a day. I'll make a cuppa peppermint tea and climb into bed and read. 

I think I'll turn on Netflix and catch an episode of the Great British Baking Show, Holiday Edition. Last night I watched Caramel Week. Some of the bakers made extraordinary creations. Others had disasters. Their own version of Don't-Go-in-the-Kitchen Day. 

I guess it happens to everyone. Perhaps even to that smug Paul Hollywood.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Mick Jagger was right. You can't always get what you want

I agree with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones on one thing: "You can't always get what you want."
This morning I was supposed to be landing at Boston Logan International Airport to meet my sisters, Becky and Judy, to join them for a much-anticipated sisters' vacation. But Mick was right.
My original flight was scheduled for September 12. But a week before my flight, I got quite sick with COVID, so I changed my flight and my vacation request at work. The sisters' vacay was a two-week trip. Instead of joining my sisters during the first week, I'd join them for the second week. I could hardly wait to see my sisters and spend time with them seeing historic Boston, including a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the Freedom Trail. So much history! So many historic buildings! And many delicious meals and sister chats. I couldn't wait to spend time with both sisters, a rare treat. We'd planned the trip to celebrate Becky's retirement from teaching and both sister's birthdays. (My sisters share the same birthday. No, they are not twins. They are six years apart. I'm the middle sister.)

After Boston, we were going to see Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard. We'd rented a cute Airbnb cottage near the beach at Mashpee on the Cape. Although I was disappointed to have to change my plans, I rested and counted the days until my new flight. Would I be COVID free and feel well enough to travel?
Last Friday, Day 12 of COVID, I finally tested negative! I was still exhausted, but my flight was leaving on Monday. I hadn't had the energy to do laundry in two weeks. I had to do my laundry so I could pack for my trip. Plus, I was wearing my last pair of clean underwear!
So I hauled a mountain of laundry to my sis Becky's house 25 miles away. It was a mistake. I pushed myself too hard physically. I missed a step on the walkway. I didn't fall, but my body was propelled forward and I landed--hard--on my right foot. 


I injured my back. I hobbled through the laundry task, my pain increasing with each step. Each movement. Hours later, driving the 30 minutes home was agony. I did my childbirth breathing to focus on the road and ease the pain. Arriving home after dark, I gingerly carried the lightest laundry basket with my clean pajamas and underwear into my apartment. Immediately I changed into pajamas and fell into bed. 

Over the weekend, I consulted by phone with my cousin, Donette, an experienced physical therapy assistant. She wondered if I'd injured my sacroiliac joint (or SI joint). The SI joint is the joint between the sacrum and the ilium bones of the pelvis, which are connected by strong ligaments. The sacrum supports the spine and is supported in turn by an ilium on each side. The joint is strong, supporting the entire weight of the upper body. At my cousin's advice, I spent all weekend lying flat in bed, alternating between ice and heat. Iboprefen. And rest. Monday morning, I made my first-ever chiropractic appointment. He confirmed that indeed, I'd injured my SI joint. He took x-rays. Thankfully, no broken bones. But my hard landing on my right foot had caused injury all along my right leg--from my calf, my knee, my pelvis, my hip and even my neck.
So instead of enjoying a Boston-Cape Cod vacation with my sisters, I'm lying flat, alternating ice and heat, and going to more chiropractic sessions. And I'm Zooming for work while flat on my back. And my camera off.

Mick, you were right! First COVID and now this! Definitely not what I wanted. 

I've lived long enough to realize that I can't change what happens to me. The only thing I can control is my attitude about what happens to me. So even in this, I'm embracing an attitude of gratitude. 

  • No broken bones. 
  • No surgery. 
  • I'm COVID negative. 
  • And I'll enjoy another sister trip sometime soon.
For those Stones fans, here's Mick singing my anthem.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

My COVID week: Twice vaxxed, twice boosted, but still got really sick



COVID knocked me on my backside a week ago. I write this while propped up on the futon in my living room, It's where I've spent most of the daylight hours this past week. 

I got slammed hard--despite being twice vaxxed, twice boosted and one of the people still avoiding indoor gatherings, and masking at necessary indoor places, like the grocery store. 

Over Labor Day weekend, I visited my mom, age 88, and other family near Roseburg in southern Oregon. I came home with COVID. In fact, four of us in the family got COVID this week. Including Mom.

I took my first-ever at-home COVID test, and it was positive. Darn!

I missed out on my first full week back at my great job at Clark College. Thank goodness for an understanding supervisor, Chandra Chase, who stepped in and interviewed a student in my place! I'm grateful also for the paid sick leave I'd accumulated. 

I missed out on getting together with my daughter, Kate. We often get together on the weekends to hang out or have an adventure. Not this week.

I missed the opportunity to hear my author friend, Jane Kirkpatrick, talk about her new book, Beneath the Bending Skies at Powell's Books in Beaverton. 

I missed out on after-work walks on the trail with Clare as well as another hike in the Columbia River Gorge. 

I missed out on countless solo walks and bike rides along the trail and through the woods to pick the last blackberries, watch the herons.

I missed out on paddling my kayaks. 

I missed out on getting together for dinner and a game of Boggle or Scrabble with Holly and Charlie.

I missed sharing a picnic dinner with housemates Kathleen and Michael.

I missed a bike ride on the trail with Kathleen.

I missed attending the annual Vancouver Peace and Justice Fair in Esther Short Park.

I had to postpone my sisters' trip to Boston and Cape Cod.

Instead of participating in all of these wonderful things, I slept. Normally, I never sleep during the day and have difficulty sleeping at night. Not this week.

I also listened to an interesting novel via audiobook, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, courtesy of Fort Vancouver Regional Library.

I started watching a quirky, interesting South Korean TV show called Little Women, loosely based on Louisa May Alcott's novel by the same name. Strong female leads in a contemporary setting.  

I have so many dear ones looking after me. Kathleen brought me fresh-picked raspberries and Michael's bean soup. Clare, Holly and Charlie and my sis, Becky dropped off groceries on my front porch.

Slowly, I've improved.

Chills and fever are gone.

Body aches are gone.

Sneezing is gone, and I'm not coughing as much.

I still can't taste or smell food. (But did that stop me from eating a bar of excellent chocolate dipped into the peanut butter jar? No!)

I still have a headache, but it's no longer throbbing, just more like my constant background music.

I'm still very tired--but not thoroughly exhausted as I was. 

One friend asked me if I'd been able to write this week. Up until now, no. This blog post written on Sunday night is the first time I've had the band width to write. And this blog post is not great writing. Simply needed to get it down. I'm learning to say: "Good enough." 

I am slowly emerging from a foggy COVID brain. 

Mom and my other family members also have improved. We're on the mend. 

I'm grateful that if I had to get COVID, it was this more mild version, not the strain that was filling up hospital morgues in New York in June 2020. 

Today I accomplished these tasks:

1. Finished listening to my audiobook

2. Took a shower and washed my hair

3. Washed my dishes (I don't have a dishwasher, so it's a little more effort)

4. Checked in with Mom, my daughter, my siblings

5. I hadn't been outside in a week, so I spread a blanket in the yard and laid down for awhile. (yes, it's smoky, but I can't smell anything right now, so it was OK).

Tomorrow, it's back to work for me. (I'm still working remotely, so that's great!) Hoping I have the bandwidth to process info and write.

Eventually, after I've tested negative and feel well enough, I'm looking forward to rejoining life. 

This blog post is done. No more to say, except, do take care of yourself, dear ones. COVID is real. If you get COVID, self-isolate and don't spread it. Be kind to others.

I hope to be well enough to paddle my kayak soon!

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Confessions from my Closet

 I have a confession to make: I own too many clothes. 

Here's an even more revealing confession: I've recognized that I hold onto clothes because of fond memories I have of wearing them. 

Yesterday after I did my laundry, I looked in my closet trying to find hangers for my clean clothes. 

No empty hangers. 

In a desperate search for a hanger, I thrust my arm into the closet and rummaged around in my tightly packed shirts. That's when I noticed a lovely cobalt blue top. I'd forgotten about this cute top, buried deep in my closet. Cobalt is one of my favorite colors. I look great in cobalt! This top is sleeveless and flouncy with an overlay of cobalt lace. I remembered its flattering drape. I have fond memories of wearing that top and feeling amazing wearing it. Empowered. Even beautiful. And sexy.

How long has it been since I've worn this cute top? I asked myself. Six years? Seven?

I couldn't remember. It's true that the global pandemic kept me socially distanced for two years, but I'm getting out and about now. And it's summer. Yet I haven't worn this cute, flattering summery top. Why?

Ten seconds later, after pulling this top over my head, I remembered. This cute top is too tight across my chest. The armholes are too tight. Instead of elegantly draping, it announces to the world that I have a tummy. The top hasn't changed, but my body has. This top no longer fits me. It's no longer flattering. It's downright uncomfortable! 

When I try to take off the top, it gets stuck around my chest. I might have to wear this top forever! After careful tugging, I'm finally freed. 

Curious about the size, I look at the tag. No wonder it doesn't fit. It's smaller than my current clothes. To fit into this size, I would have to exercise nonstop like an Olympic gymnast and starve myself like a supermodel. I'm 62 years old. I'm no longer willing to do that to my body.

Time to let it go, I tell myself. Time to let some other woman wear this top, look in the mirror and tell herself: I look beautiful!

Farewell to my lovely cobalt top!

I take a photo of my lovely cobalt top to remember it. Then I remove it from the hanger, gently fold it and drop it into a brown paper grocery bag. 

I found a hanger!

I look at my overstuffed closet and know I can find more hangers for the clothes I actually wear. Clothes that have earned the right to take up prime real estate in my one clothes closet.

Before I can stop myself, a full-frenzied Marie Kondo session ensues. I pull out tops, pants, skirts and dresses from my closet--and then my dresser. I cover my bed with a mountain of clothing. But unlike Marie Kondo, who asks: Does it bring me joy? I ask myself:

  • How long has it been since I've worn this? 
  • Does it still fit? (If I'm in doubt, I try it on.)
  • Does it look good on me--or is it just covering my body?
  • Do I feel good wearing this? Do I feel great? Beautiful? Amazing? Empowered? 
  • Where will I wear this? 
  • What will I wear this with?
  • How many tops do I need?
  • Am I hanging onto this because I'm associating it with fond memories of wearing it?
  • Is it time to let it go and let some other woman wear it?
Marie Kondo attacked my closet!

I said goodbye to a favorite pair of slacks I wore as a newspaper reporter. I bought them 10 years ago and wore them twice a week for four and a half years. That's roughly 468 times I wore those pants as a journalist and felt professional and empowered doing my job.

I said goodbye to a pair of Columbia Sportswear hiking capris that are too small. I have newer hiking capris that fit and I feel fabulous in them. 

I said farewell to two black skirts that are too small and no longer fit my life. Too dressy. They'd require heels. I haven't owned heels in years.

I said farewell to a few sleeveless summer tops I'd bought at thrift shops several years ago, but haven't worn since 2016 or 2017. Five or six years ago. Time to go!

I said "adios" to a pair of quick-dry capris that I used to wear when I paddled a dragon boat. They are too tight--and now I own better pants for water sports.

I said "no way" to two favorite pair of jeans that are NEVER going to fit me again--and that's okay.

Again and again, I said goodbye to clothing that no longer fit or I no longer wore. About an hour later, I'd filled three brown grocery bags with clothes to donate. 

I found enough hangers to hang all my freshly laundered clothes. 

My organized closet: Only clothes that fit me--the size I am today.
And only clothes I love to wear. 

Now my closet and my dresser contain only clothes that I wear. Not clothes that might fit me some day when I've lost 10 pounds. When I'm the perfect size, when I'm the perfect me. 

Finally, at age 62, I've realized something so important 
that I want to shout it to every woman: 
At this very moment
I am the perfect size! 
I am the perfect me!

It's time live my life with no regrets. That includes wearing clothes that are comfortable and make me feel beautiful and empowered, no matter what their size. Or mine.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Sometimes you feast on fresh crab, sometimes you don't

Most photos courtesy of Pixabay public domain photos. 

View of Dugualla Bay from my cousin's yard. Photo by Susan Parrish

Has this ever happened to you: You had a first-time experience with a new activity, and everything went perfectly. You assumed it was always going to be that smooth. That easy. That rewarding. That fun. Later when you tried the same activity again, it's a completely different experience.

This week I learned that past experiences are just that: in the past. Just because I experienced something one way doesn't mean I'll have the same experience when I do it again.

Crab pots/courtesy of Pixabay

Five years ago, I had my first opportunity to pull crab pots when I visited my cousin, Donette and her husband, Myron on Whidbey Island. Their friend, Steve, owns a boat and crab pots. During my 2017 visit, I had three opportunities to climb aboard Captain Steve's boat and pull crab pots. The crab gods were with us. It was a thrill to pull pots from Dugualla Bay and find many crabs. 
Crab photo courtesy of Pixabay

How I feasted on fresh crab during that visit! 
Mouthwatering crab dinner. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

So last weekend, when I returned to Whidbey and climbed aboard Steve's boat, I looked forward to pulling pots laden with crabs. I could already taste fresh crab slathered with melted butter! Yum! I'd been waiting five years to repeat my successful first-time crabbing experience.

But alas! It wasn't to be.

Tides in Dugualla Bay have been at historic lows. And the current in the bay was strong. When we climbed onto Steve's boat to retrieve the four crab pots he and Myron had set the previous day, we couldn't even FIND the pots. He uses GPS coordinates to mark the position where he drops his crab pots. We searched in wider and wider circles, but we didn't find any of Steve's pots. They simply were not where they should have been. Finally, after much searching and motoring more than a mile away from where the pots had been dropped into the water, we found one pot, and then another. But we didn't find the other two pots. 

Empty crab pot courtesy Pixabay

No crab this visit.

However, I'm grateful for these positive experiences:

Instead of crab, we feasted on delicious Salmon (from Costco)! 
Salmon dinner courtesy of Pixabay

While searching for crab pots, we circled Seal Rock and saw many seals swimming and some sunning themselves on the rock. 
Seals courtesy Pixabay

We saw a young osprey on a nest in a high piling.
Osprey nest courtesy Pixabay

We saw cormorants, eagles, herons, and many seagulls.
Cormorant photo courtesy Pixabay

We saw a boat that had run aground. 

We had the opportunity to be on the water on a glorious afternoon.

Here's what I learned: Even though we didn't feast on crab, it was still an amazing experience. I'm a believer that if we open our eyes, ears, hands and heart to opportunities around us, we can have amazing experiences every day.

Next year, I hope to return to Whidbey Island during crabbing season. When I climb aboard Steve's boat, I will do it purely for the experience--whatever that may be,
Mount Baker from Whidbey Island: Pixabay

If we are rewarded with delicious crab, even better! 

Elusive crab courtesy Pixabay


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Learning life lessons from nature

Photo by Susan Parrish/From the ranch on Wolf Creek Reservoir

You know that creepy feeling that you're being watched? You don't see anyone, but you sense someone staring at you?

That's how I felt as I stood outside on a remote ranch in eastern Oregon as I worked out with my weighted hula hoop. It's a great core workout. And it's fun.

All around me were miles of sagebrush-covered hills. In the distance, the Elkhorn Range was to the west, the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains to the east. The closest farmhouse was quite a spell down the gravel road. No other people were about. So why were the hairs on the back of my neck standing up?

"There's no one watching you," I told myself. And I kept hooping. 

But that creepy feeling persisted. There definitely was someone watching me! I scanned the landscape in front of me: Breathtaking natural beauty, but no one in sight. 

Someone must be standing behind me! I stopped hooping and spun around to catch the Peeping Tom.

It wasn't just one Peeping Tom--but four! Yes--four! 

Standing only thirty feet away from me were four mule deer. Four does staring at me, their large ears upright and at attention. They seemed to be entranced by my hula hoop action. Now that I'd stopped hooping, they stood motionless, their eyes fixed on me. Perhaps they were waiting to see if the hula hoop entertainment would continue. After a couple of minutes, my deer admirers wandered over the hill in search of breakfast. 
Mule deer in sagebrush and snow. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS
Photo in public domain. See license here.

On another morning shortly after that, I faced the glorious mountain view, stepped into my hoop, planted my feet shoulder-width apart, pulled the hoop to my waist, and gave it a spin. Then I gyrated my waist and hips to keep the hoop spinning. After a few seconds, I found my groove and no longer had to focus on keeping the hoop moving. My mind wandered.

A loud whinny interrupted my thoughts. I stopped hooping and spun around. 

One of the horses grazing in the upper pasture had spotted my spinning hula hoop. Galloping down the hilly pasture, she made a beeline for me and my fascinating hoop. She stopped abruptly at the fence that separated us. Then she stood watching me with her lovely horsey eyes. Transfixed, she stared at me. She stared at my hula hoop. (I believe that in her own horsey way, she was smiling.)

Photo by Susan Parrish/Heather and Ryleigh's horse,
Simply Red Robin, aka "Red" entranced by my hula hoop

I laughed and asked her, "Would you like to hula hoop, too?"

Then still facing the horse, I spun my hoop again. My horse admirer watched the spinning hoop for several minutes. Maybe she was imagining her own hula hooping fun. Ranch horses in eastern Oregon aren't accustomed to seeing rugged ranchers and mountain men hula hooping amongst the sagebrush.

After these two animal-hula hoop encounters, I realized that some animals seemed intrigued by watching my spinning hula hoop. 

"I must be some kind of animal whisperer," I told myself. "I entrance animals with my hula hoop."  

Fast forward three years. I'd moved back to the city, where I am blessed to live in a cozy home at the edge of the woods. I regularly encounter rabbits, raccoons, deer, coyotes and many kinds of birds. I hadn't hooped in a long time, but I was ready to start again. So one morning I stepped onto the front porch, where large evergreen trees only 20 feet away. 

Facing the trees, I spun my hoop around my waist started hooping. Almost immediately, small birds flew to a large evergreen nearby, landed in the tree and began chattering. More and more little birds flew to join them. Their chattering grew louder and more insistent.

I recalled my hula hooping attracting deer and a horse. Were birds also intrigued with the rotating hoop? I kept hooping to find out what would happen next.

Soon the smaller birds were joined by a bright blue Steller's jay who landed in the tree and began urgently calling "Wek! Wek! Wek!"

Steller's jay photo by Alan D. Wilson
Photo in public domain. See license here. 

The Steller's jay was joined by another jay. Then another. Soon many jays had gathered in the evergreen tree and were squawking loudly in accompaniment to the chorus of smaller birds.

"Wow!" I thought. "These birds are really curious about my hula hoop!"

I smiled and kept hooping.

Next, a crow landed in the tree and squawked, "Caw! Caw! Caw!" 
Northwestern crow photo by Alan Leggett
Photo in public domain. See license here.

Then about a dozen crows joined him in the tree. All joined their raspy voices to the avian choir. 

"Even the crows are curious about my hoop," I told myself.

But when the murder of crows lifted off and began circling the tree and making lots of noise, I realized this attention was not about my hula hoop. There was something else in that tree. Sliding my hoop to the ground, I walked toward the evergreen where dozens of agitated birds were squawking, chirping and flitting about. 

As I approached the base of the tree, an enormous owl that had been perching in the tree silently lifted off and flew away. The noisy crows chased it across the sky until it was out of sight.
Great Horned Owl photo by Jon Nelson
Photo in public domain. See license here.

Here's the lesson I learned: Sometimes what I'm doing might interest others. But most of the time, everyone else is so focused on their own issues--like an enormous predator hanging out in neighborhood and making them feel unsafe. They're so concerned about their own problems that they don't even see me or my magnificent hula hoop.

Going forward, I vowed three things: 

1. Be open to learning from nature and the natural world. I miss so many lessons because my eyes and heart aren't open to recognize them and receive them.

2. Recognize I'm not the center of the universe. My adventures with my hula hoop aren't that compelling to anyone but me and me alone. Everyone is focused on  their own issues. I'm going to pay better attention to other people and their issues.

3. I will keep doing my own thing and not worry about whether what I'm doing is interesting or sanctioned by others. You do you. I'll do me. And as for me, I'll keep on hooping and adventuring.

Photo by Susan Parrish/Heather's horses in the sage at the ranch

Susan Parrish hula hooping while giving a presentation
about learning new lessons in midlife

Tuesday, November 30, 2021


I have enough. I am enough.

Not so long ago, this wasn't true. 

When I first returned home from living an adventurous life in eastern Oregon, I was destitute in every way possible: financially, emotionally, spiritually. 

I was spent. Broken.

I realized I couldn't face another winter of living in a fifth wheel RV and rarely being warm enough. 

But it was more than lack of warmth that compelled me to return home. Despite the companionship of the Mountain Man, I was lonely. It was unrealistic and unhealthy for both of us that he be my only friend. 

Back home in the city, I'd had a fulfilling life brimming with community and connection: newspaper reporter, Mighty Woman dragon boat paddler, book group, friends to meet for walking, kayaking, coffee, dancing or other adventures. Before I moved 300 miles to join the Mountain Man, he'd warned me that living in a tiny, rural ranching area would be hard.

I balked. How hard could it be? I've always found community wherever I go.

Not this time. I failed to find community or connection. I was an outsider. A city gal. It seemed I always would be an outsider.

We lived on a ranch seven miles from a burg of 400 people. Amenities consisted of a K-12 school, a postage-stamp-sized post office, a convenience store, a cafe, and a card-lock gas station. We did our grocery shopping and other business in La Grande, 30 minutes north or Baker, 30 minutes south.

I tried to make friends. I tried to find community. But nothing I tried worked, so I stopped trying. I took long walks alone. I swam in Wolf Creek Reservoir alone. I went snowshoeing alone.

My isolation from community grew into loneliness; loneliness grew into discontentment. Then unhappiness. And my unhappiness rubbed off on the Mountain Man. Living away from my community in a 323-square-foot RV turned out to be more difficult than I'd fathomed. Despite our love for each other, it wasn't working.

We'd been happier when we lived apart and met for grand adventures: backpacking to camp among a herd of mountain goats, hiking, spelunking, kayaking, swing dancing, archery, fly fishing, skiing, playing music and singing together.

The day I moved away from him, the Mountain Man and I clung to each other and cried. 

Two years earlier, just before I left the city to begin my new life with him, my sisters had thrown me a going-away party. So many friends and family packed into a restaurant to send me off on my grand adventure.

In stark contrast, when I moved back to the city, I did it quietly. No fanfare. I didn't want to draw attention to myself or my failure. In my eyes, I had failed at sustaining a relationship. I had failed at being tough and resilient living in challenging circumstances. I thought other people would see my failure, too, and they'd reject me. So I didn't give them a chance.

I didn't climb back onto the dragon boat with my former team, the Mighty Women. I didn't call my friend, Brenda, and ask her to go contra dancing as we had before. I didn't seek out old friends to karaoke at The Alibi or to take a belly dancing lesson with me. 

Instead, I quietly spent time with my family and a handful of close friends. But the rest of the world I kept at arm's length.

Who would want to spend time with me? I asked myself. I'm a failure.

My defeatist attitude thwarted my ability to find a job, which perpetuated my feelings of unworthiness. I applied for many jobs and had first interviews and second interviews, but no job offers came. 

Even after moving back home and changing my life again, I was floundering.

One morning I was out of coffee. I needed five dollars to buy a package of coffee to get me through the week, but my checking account was bare. 

First, I burst into tears. (I really needed coffee!)

Then I put on my big girl panties to find a solution. I dumped the contents of my wallet on the floor, stacked the coins and began counting. Not enough. How demoralizing to be so broke!

Then I remembered a jar of change I'd found during my move. I dumped the jar onto the floor and began counting the change. 

It was enough! A small success.

Eventually, I found some freelancing gigs: writing grants for a food pantry, writing stories for a magazine and the newspaper where I'd been a reporter. It wasn't enough income to live on. After taking inventory of what skills I could monetize, I started a decluttering business. Kind friends paid me to declutter their homes. That helped.

I lived frugally, squeezing every molecule of toothpaste from the tube before I tossed it. I signed up for Medicaid health insurance. I picked up free food from my local Buy Nothing group. 

My Subaru's tires kept losing air, so I stopped by Les Schwab to fill them. The attendant who helped me showed me that they were bare. No traction left. 

"You shouldn't drive on those tires. It's dangerous."

I called a few tire shops and was shocked by the price tag: $500! Where would I get $500?

So I didn't do anything about it. One morning after arriving at a friends' house for a decluttering job, one tire was completely flat and it had a gaping hole. Before I did any decluttering, my friend wrote me a check for $500 so I could buy tires. I paid her back by decluttering her house over several months. 

In gratitude and humiliation, (and more tears) I received her offer of help--and the help of many others. My dear friends, Kathleen and Michael rent me their lovely mother-in-law suite for a very, very reasonable rate. My  family gave me Arco gas cards or cash for Christmas and my birthday--and sometimes just because. 

About a year after returning home, I continued applying for jobs without success. Then an acquaintance offered me a part-time temporary job at the local community college. Over time, I was given more hours. 

Recently I celebrated my two-year anniversary working part time for the college. For the past six months, a steady stream of freelance writing projects have come my way--unsolicited. Opportunity after opportunity has dropped into my lap. 

What a difference this work has made in my life! I've paid off my credit card and have kept the balance at zero. I've raised my credit score to "excellent." My checking account has a cushion and I'm building up my savings account. I'm contributing a significant amount of my salary into a retirement account. 

I still squeeze every molecule of toothpaste from the tube, but here's how far I've come: I bought two extra tubes of toothpaste when they were on sale.

Like many people, I've faced challenges and hard times. I am certain I will face challenges again. But three years after returning home, I finally can say: I have enough. I am enough.

My successes and my attitude of gratitude have given me confidence again. At last I climbed back onto the dragon boat with my Mighty Women teammates. Gripping my paddle, I reached forward, plunged my paddle into the Willamette River, and pulled the heavy water behind me. Our boat lifted up and glided through the water. I smiled.

The Mighty Woman is back!

Finishing an amazing paddle before a midsummer sunset.
I'd just surprised a heron, who flew over me, squawking.
As the setting sun glinted off the floating homes,
I gasped at this magical moment on the river.
The Mighty Woman is back, baby!