Thursday, July 26, 2012

New skills

I am having so much fun! Sabbatical's are a great time to have fun as well as learn new skills and have time to explore new opportunities. Here is a rundown of my activities this past week:

Securing meaningful employment - one blog post at a time 

I haven't posted on this blog for a few days because I have been working.  No, this isn't full time employment with benefits - but it does pay a little money. I am writing blog articles for a marketing firm in Colorado. I am learning so much from the two gentlemen who are teaching me about marketing and writing content.

I also just finished another session of reviewing grants and I'm now writing a grant proposal. In addition, I have decided to do a little creative marketing for myself by developing a professional blog to hold information that highlights my work experience, portfolio samples, and accomplishments in one place without adding more words to my resume. I am also updating my website and marketing materials.


Yes, I succumbed to peer pressure and created a Pinterest Account.  I have had to be disciplined however because this can be addicting! I am now on my way to decorating not one but 2 dream houses and they will both need 12 sides to house all the porches I have found and fell in love with. We won't even discuss the bathrooms I have found.  Can you say MANSION?

Packer 5K Update

Right now it is 57.5 hours until I walk in my first 5K!!!!  So yes, I have been walking and sorta training, but this week between the extreme heat, rain, extra work I have remained close to home and relied on my new treadmill.


Have I told you lately that I have an extremely bright and very beautiful grandchild?  No?? At least not for a few days and I know how much you missed hearing about her.  Well this past week was no different from previous weeks.  Lots of play, many hugs and kisses, dancing and Youtube learning videos (and a few fun movies). Her new favorite activity when we are together is brushing Gaga's hair.  My brain cells have been stimulated as a result.  Not because it requires thought, but because she is still learning to brush gently.  She bangs the brush onto my head and when I quietly moan she giggles and says "Sorry Gaga" (repeatedly).

She also has a new "friend". Our neighbors had a garage sale and she investigated every toy in the free box.  What did she find at the very bottom of the box?  A plastic snake and a squishy rubber caterpillar. (pictured on the left) She fell in love immediately and carried it everywhere until her Mommy thought it was her cousins and left it in Auntie Pennies car.  I looked everywhere for that thing, and she helped!  Finally she remembered that it was in Auntie Pennie's car!  On Saturday night, she reunited with her new friend thanks to Uncle Chris.

I know I promised to post pictures of our first annual "Gaga's Summer Camp for 2.5 year old girls named Avery" and I will.  I will work on that this week - well what's left of it anyway.  Look for those tomorrow morning - or maybe on Monday because tomorrow morning I leave for GREEN BAY!!!!  Packer 5K here I come!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Creative, fun ideas for Parents, Teachers and Childcare Professionals

I just found this site and have already found ideas to use the next time Avery comes to visit.  (In about 2 hours as a matter of fact) Creative, fun ideas for Parents, Teachers and Childcare Professionals

I love watching Avery's mind at work - the expressions on her face, the way she focuses when she is drawing or coloring, the excitement she feels when she has created something all by herself - and then celebrating another moment of growth.

As a young Mom, I always wanted to spend time doing crafts with my sons.  Sometimes they were interested in the end result of what they made, most of the time they were more interested in the PROCESS - of getting messy.  The messier the better because the end result of that was a bath. (Or in some cases, praying them down with a hose outside) Boys are very different from girls. I wouldn't do crafts very often with them because I hated the clean up and didn't have quite as much patience as I do now.

As a Gramma (Gaga) I have a lot more patience and right now because of unemployment my sabbatical, I have a lot more time. And while Avery does enjoy a good bubble bath, when she gets messy it is "eeeeuuuuuu!!!! yukky!!!!!, messy!!!!!, dirty!!!!, ocky!!!!" so it is a very different experience and one that does not result in a LOT of extra clean up time.  Just a little.

I have also learned that preparation and organization is key.  Children do not have the patience for waiting while grownups get the supplies together.  Now I have a box dedicated to age appropriate craft supplies.  She is still too little to cut things by herself, but the time is coming for us to introduce safety scissors.  That is on my list for the next shopping trip but for now, Gaga does the cutting.  To alleviate a fight over discussion about who handles the big girl scissors, I have prepped ahead of time wherever possible, by cutting everything out ahead of time so that all she has to do is choose which picture/shape she wants to use in her masterpiece.

Yes, with Avery I am basically the facilitator and she is the artist.  Sometimes she wants me to "help" so we will color a picture or draw shape people together.  Most of the time however, she is exercising her independence and I will hear, "Avery do it!"

I have also learned over the years that perfection is not as important as the process of letting them learn to create and accomplish something on their own. There is plenty of time and opportunity for gentle correction and teaching along the way. The fact that they did it themselves is the end goal here and cause for celebration every time. 

Monday, July 16, 2012


What a wonderful Monday morning!  I stepped on the scale like I always do on Monday morning and not only did the scale start to go down again, I now weigh less than I have in at least 10 years.  Probably more like 15.  That feels so good!
Of course I still have 9 pounds to go before I get to my Phase 1 goal weight, which I set in December, hoping to achieve by the Packer 5K in July, but not planning to achieve it until December 2012. I was getting discouraged because I had hit a plateau again, but this time I decided to not give up, and to continue to exercise, walk, and eat healthy. My son also reminded me that my body was telling me it is time to "kick it up a notch" and do a different set of exercises, or more than I have been so far.  It worked! I am celebrating a milestone today.

My Granddaughter Avery is a budding personal trainer.  Every time we are together we watch Bubble Guppies, Gummy Bear videos, or a movie for about 30 minutes.  I should say we watch the music part of them over and over and over for the entire time so we can dance.  She "makes" me dance with her too.  She grabs my hand and leads me off the couch and makes me move.  It is fun but at first I would get tired. After spending a rather long time playing and dancing, the conversation a couple of weeks ago went something like this:

Me:  "Gaga is tired! Let's build houses with the blocks."
Avery:  Gaga MOVE!!!!  Dance!!!"
Me: "Wouldn't you rather water the flowers?"
Avery: "No DANCE! It's fun!  Watch me!"
(I was trying my hardest to ignore her request and do something else) 
Avery: Gaga! Look at me!"  Then she grabbed my hand and tried moving my feet. With the sweetest little face she looked up at me and said, "Gaga PLEASE! - I show you how"
Me:  "ok"

She is always moving.  She swims, runs, sings, dances and plays with cars while holding her Princess doll. What a wonderful motivator I have in my life. Thanks to her, now I can dance the whole 30 minutes without stopping and still enjoy it!  Of course, my exercise buddy helps make it fun.

Considering that just 5 months ago, I couldn't even stand up beside her, I am proud to say, I have reached another milestone.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


As you know I have not worked at a real job in over a year.  I am unemployed on sabbatical, and I have actually really enjoyed having the time to clean, read, and play.  It has been great knowing that I don't have to balance getting a project done with the responsibilities of employment. 

Now the realities are sinking in however, that I need to find a real job.  It's just time to get back out there. Volunteering does not pay the bills, and the meager stipends you get for reading grants are wonderful perks, but not consistent and certainly not enough to pay the bills. But it has helped a bit.

I have had the privilege of reviewing and scoring grants this summer.  I love doing this; it is interesting, I learn from others, and the little bit of money I am getting will be used for something I need but wouldn't have been able to buy.  Like new work clothes because I have lost enough weight now that my old clothes are too big.  But I must say, getting motivated to "work" in my home, where I have been cleaning, reading novels, and relaxing for the past several months, is much harder than I thought it would be. I keep seeing things that still need to be done!

I always worked from my home office for the last 20+ years.  I may have had another office somewhere but ultimately, between work, and attending college online, I spent a lot of time working from my home office. I had to learn to be disciplined enough to filter out the distractions and focus on the job I was doing.  I made it work very well ~ too well actually ~ which was why I needed to spend a year getting caught up with housework and household repairs.
Who I would rather be spending my time with
It really hit me this week, that while I am reading grants on my front porch or in my screened room in the back yard, my "vacation time" is slipping away, and I still have so much to do!!!  I love spending time with my granddaughter and the stress of wondering what my schedule will be like after I get a job is worrying me. I am feeling less motivated to work as the days pass.  I have found less time to blog, read, sort clutter (I still have half of the basement to clear out), and garden.  And forget watching cooking shows!! No time!

I must think back to when I worked at home and get into the habit of working in my office during certain hours and then closing the door when I am done.  I must rekindle that spark of motivation before July 17th or I will never get another chance to review grants for this agency again! And once I am done with this review period, I must focus on finishing that basement, and prepare the rooms that still need painting, so that when I finally get back to work, I will know that the projects I wanted to finish before going back to work are done and that I can pay to have the painting finished without rushing home to clean the rooms.

Now enough blogging ~ it's time to read and score more grants.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sabbatical Hiatus

I can't believe it has been so long since I have posted again.  It has been a very busy few weeks.  My sabbatical (and ultimately blogging) was put on hiatus for a few weeks due to several factors:

Grant reviews

I have had the awesome privlege of serving as a grant reviewer for the Department of Labor (DOL)and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA).  While it pays a meager honorarium, the true value of participating as a grant reviewer is knowing I am serving my country, responsible for assisting with decisions about what to do with taxpayers money. I take that very seriously. The experience of learning from others and developing skills to write better grants is also a plus.  I see other peoples ideas and words from a different perspective, from the reader and ultimately the person who helps decide who gets money for their project.  Time consuming yes, but also a valuable experience to add to my resume.

Gaga's First Annual Summer Camp for 2 1/2 year old girls named AVERY

What a fun week that was!!  I had a beautiful time with my granddaughter and decided that I love being Gaga, but being a 24/7 parent again is for the young people. I was exhausted by Wednesday and it started Sunday night!  But we became closer as a result and I must say again - I have a beautiful and amazing granddaughter.

I will post pictures soon, but I am in the midst of yet another grant review.

Unexpected visit from my son Zack

As I was relaxing and catching up on my sleep from spending the week with Avery, I received a phone call from my son, who was at the train station, "in between" stays at a drug rehab.  He spent 4 days with us, including the 4th of July holiday, and it gave him time to catch up with family and have heart to heart discussions with his brothers. I will also expand more on this topic in future posts.  It is lengthy.

I also set a good example for him when he comes out of rehab and applied for many jobs.

As the visit came to an end, and I had applied for no less than 75 jobs, I was cleaning house and received a call from someone from SAMHSA.  Apparently I neglected to check my email for a few days and she was calling to see if I was interested in reviewing grants for them.  The review period had started the day before so I was already behind and feeling rushed.

SAMHSA Grant Review week

The grants I am reviewing now are very detailed.  You learn a LOT from participating as a reviewer for SAMHSA. It can also be stressful which makes me feel a little more creative for some reason. The review period for this round of grants ends mid July ~ just before my 3rd garage sale of the year.  I will then go the following weekend to Green Bay for the Packer 5K. 

I am feeling the summer quickly slip by, not as stressed as I was when I was working full time, but still ~ feeling less relaxed.  I really enjoy puttering around in my yard, garden, house; a forced early retirement, even if it is short-lived, has its advantages.  But knowing that this is a precurser for my re-employment days and an end to my very much appreciated Sabbatical makes me sad.