We Pause in September To Remember

theyallfalldownIt was a normal beginning of another school day in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Then, suddenly, a breathless silence fell like the stifling pause just before a thunderstorm. Strange rumblings followed by abnormal tremors began. The school administrative office advised teachers to hold students in classrooms and follow afternoon pickup order. What?! I just got here! The bell hasn’t rung for first period yet.

I had not seen a TV screen or heard a radio since I left my home half an hour away. I purposely begin my days in silence. Then, another tremor: a second announcement to “keep calm” and the sound of weeping in the hallways. It was not until I got back home did I finally understand what had happened–one of the USA’s darkest days.

My mentor lost her father when the towers fell that day. His final cell-phone call had come to her minutes before he perished. My husband lost a cousin. I lost a potential coworker and friend because shortly after that dark day, she and her entire family left the country fearing violent repercussions aimed at any person from the middle east. I let her sunflowered bulletin board stay up until Thanksgiving. Floundering in my job without her friendship and my mentor’s professional guidance, my first semester at the job became my last.

I am not quite sure even after 15 years that there is not still a little sop of anger and resentment swirling around the bottom of that stewpot called September 11, 2001. I can’t tell anyone to go ahead, take a a peace of bread and clean it out because it might still ruin a few stomachs. There remains a strange feeling in the bottom of my colon that backs me away from finishing my portion of that stew. Until that day we as a nation can call the pot “finished”, I pray for heaven’s most tender mercies and hope that the passage of a little more time will make this day sweeter. May we all be finished with it one day.

Survive the day,





The VP falls asleep in congress

Now, the man pictured above was caught on camera enduring another obviously impossibly long meeting. This man is fully employed…and he is tired. If this highly paid executive can get weary at work, what about the hundreds of thousands of people who are not working? I say let us get off our friends’, relations and our own backs and face the reality that looking for work is hard work and job seekers have a right to be tired. Think about this:

The very day a once-employed person becomes unemployed, BOOM! That former-worker immediately becomes the project manager of the biggest project in a lifetime: getting another job.  Immediately, everything is her direct responsibility.

After becoming an unlicensed mental health worker in order to slow the slip-n-slide into situational depression, the role of marketing executive immediately demands attention. The newly unemployed worker has to find and run a skills assessment, compare the results with what the market requires and upgrade where necessary. Upgrading skills calls for locating an educational agency, enrolling in coursework and financing it. That’s not all–

  • An employment goal has to be determined and that means becoming a researcher.
  • A timetable has to be created and steps toward the target plotted, so that means becoming a career strategist.
  • A marketing campaign has to be created and put into action including writing a resume (you’re a technical writer, now), creating an elevator speech, and practicing interviewing. That is public speaking–something many people would rather have a double wisdom tooth extraction than do. It can also include an occasional smattering of stagecraft.
  • All the while, the budget for this project is rapidly blowing up because being out of work becomes increasingly more expensive (figure out the gross loss of income and multiply by the time without a job). The CFO (Chief Financial Officer You) is never happy. That is the one who demands getting up at 3:00am to cry,worry and bargain with God.
  • Then, there is the administrative role. Somebody–guess who–has to write, answer and monitor emails; keep the appointment calendar; always answer the phone professionally; create business cards; on and on.

Plus, remember while all this is going on in one ring, the other two in this crazy circus are going on at full tilt–the spouse; the kids; homework; housework; managing chronic conditions (yours and other people’s); managing a household and relationships and more. Nobody does all these jobs like a rock star, but we cross our fingers, go to job clubs that coach job search skills and hope to get good enough at it to get that next job. Meanwhile, so much attention is given to acquiring job search skills that the skills actually used to perform the job act like muscles when they are not regularly used–they atrophy if not exercised. Why are job seekers so tired? So frustrated when the search drags on? Take a good guess!

Welcome To The Time of Morganne

The Journey ahead

The Journey ahead

Welcome to 2014. Are you ready for the journey?

According to the Chinese zodiac 2014 is a “horse year”. The ruling element is, “wood”, so, 2014 can be called, “year of the wood horse”. A dear friend of mine lets me know that this particular solar return is significant because it is the year of my 60th birthday when the stars will be aligned exactly the way they were when I entered the world.Year of the wood Horse

Consider that the result of having clean water, great nutrition and good medical care is–you’ve guessed it–longer lifespan for many of us. In the USA, someone reaches the age of 65 every second. More of us are living into our 70’s and 80’s and our demographic’s sheer numbers are straining the current structures  of society including business and government to understand what to do with us.

So what are my boomer classmates doing in retirement with their better health and longer life? I am hearing that some are seeking second and third careers; some are establishing businesses of their own.  Some of us (yours truly) who must continue to earn income to make up for pension shortfalls or the absence of a pension are finding employment is harder to get for various reasons including negative attitudes about being older.

Let’s talk about what being 60 means. Our trip begins with a discussion about the time in life we will refer to as “the third age”.  Some folk in the world where I live are choosing to mourn their youth’s passing indefinitely.  I have personally embraced being a “crone” or “wise woman”. My daughter and I share notes about living aware and well in these days beyond the traditional end of the career sidewalk. She dubs them my “Morganne years”.  I insist that these are the years a woman should own her strength and power, as did the legendary Morgana Le Fey.

Let’s go!

Merry Christmas from Victoree

View of the winter bridge

View of the winter bridge

A season of rest at last!

All the planning, decorating, baking, stamp-licking, gift hunting and general flying anxiety is done!

Let it go, my brothers and sisters. Give yourself permission to let it go.

Be satisfied within your soul that you did a great job. Repeat after me: It’s beautiful! Congratulate yourself even if the cake fell and the roast burned to a smoking crisp.

Everything that did not get done by now, will not get done and it’s OK. Really. Hit the pause button on the job search.

It is time to relax, enjoy and celebrate. Here come the parties, the cookies, the wonderful flavors and the extra calories. Join the dance, if only for a brief while (be careful, if you’re carb sensitive like yours truly. Watch the meter! Eat mindfully).

Embrace the season. The old year is leaving the building.

Have a very Merry Christmas and may prosperity catch up with you and give you a big kiss in the new year.

-Victoree –

(Victoree is celebrating Christmas this week. She’ll be back by Hogmanay)


Welcoming Yuletide

Winter Crossing

Winter Crossing

We welcome Yuletide.

The solstice of winter  arrives at the end of the week and we move toward putting the cap on all the preparations for the coming holiday celebrations. 2013 is hurrying to an end. For those of us who are now searching for work,  all those holiday gatherings of family and friends are prime opportunities to sow seeds of networking expecting the effort to put out their first results like Snowdrop flowers early in the new year.

It is easy to think of winter as a “downer” time; a depressive time; an inactive time; a time when even as the earth is quilted with snow, our minds “snow down” too. Not really.   Yes, the last harvest is all stored and we need a date with a hot tub of Epsom salts. Yes, the fields are clear and the tools put to rest, but now the real work of winter comes.

Winter is the time of clarifying intention.  Winter in the soul or in a career strips all the fixtures the soul uses to hide and real purpose (or lack of it) is bare like trees standing in their naked honestly without the leaves and vines of other seasons.Winter is a time to rest and reflect, not to merely  doze by the fire. If a job search or a new state of life is in sight, winter is a time tailor made for taking counsel with the inner being about direction and purpose. Attending events meant to arouse creativity, investigate new possibilities, restore the mind, and care for the body is a good idea. Winter is also the time of dreaming, visualizing and planning. It is time to envision and set expectations for next year’s planting, summer, and harvest. Have a soulful Yuletide.


Retirement: TimeTo Live

Norman Rockwell, Freedom From Want, 1943, warbond poster and for Sat Evening Post

Enjoying life in Retirement

It seems that many people schlep through their careers doing soul-breaking jobs to make enough money to be able to thumb their noses at poverty in old age.  They dream in stuffy little cubicles about cruising to exotic islands, sailing around the world, writing bestsellers and rolling from sea to shining sea in an RV made for two.

Then, wham-mo! Unexpected spanner in the works: serious health problems. People slave under the baking sun of a supervisor’s blink-less gaze, dreaming of seeing Paris in retirement. Retirement comes and shortly after, a diagnosis of cancer.

For some, retirement means instead of  joyfully flipping through holiday brochures, agonizing over unpronounceable names of syndromes. Instead of ambling down flowering cobblestones of memory lane, there is picking a foot path through the tangled undergrowth of dementia. Because of physically demanding, expensive treatments and out of reach medicines, long life does not guarantee good quality of life for many with chronic diseases. There may come a time to make decisions about giving up driving and not to live independently any more. Couples swing down the path of life two-by-two in the beginning of their wedded lives, then, one of them is suddenly left alone—more times than not, the woman. Who ever plans to retire to that?

The gypsy lady has sort of lived life upside down–active retirement life first. Well, do you ever wonder what those of us on employers’ “C” list (the unlucky failures) do? Some of the time afforded by boring, low wage survival jobs allowed me to be the only real pregnant woman on stage in a performance of “Baby” the musical, to play the role of “Viney”, The Keller family’s servant, in a staging of “The Miracle Worker“, to visit the castle of The Braveheart and stand in the church where John Knox preached. As a teacher substitute, summer breaks allowed taking the opportunity to view cruise ships slipping into harbor in Barbados and to be my daughter’s Matron of Honor.

There is a TV commercial  from an insurance company which suggests that retirement is the time of life when we pay ourselves to follow our dreams. I say, do not wait. Do you have a dream? DON’T wait to retire to make it come true. Live life now. Write the book. See the sight before you can see no more. I say, do all the good you can for all the people you can reach for as long as you can while you can.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving,


Retirement: Downsizing

My spouse retired and brought me along for the ride.

We moved to a new state and had to downsize. There was no option.

The miniature rooms looked like the ones we began in as newlyweds over 30 years ago. I wept. No! It is too early! Not yet! I am not ready to live in a tall, boxy building where nobody had homework to do.

Suddenly, the air was sucked out of my world: there will be no jangle of period bells; no music blaring from cars built out of junkyard scraps; no hormone inflamed people kissing at the bus stop in front of the house. For the very first time in my adult life, none of my windows or doors would open to the campus of a school.  My windshield would be free of eggs and the trees across the street would be bare of toilet paper after Halloween.  At this new place a landscaping company cuts the grass and vacuums up the leaves. Gardening was prohibited. Never again would I kneel in fecund black soil in the springtime as I planted tomatoes.  I gave my prized tools away in sorrow. The youngest child was graduated, gone and married. Menopause had come and gone. I felt dry, barren and useless.

So, I tried to get into the “retired life”. The only activity listed was the weekly bingo game.  I decided to join the craft class. It was full of chatty women knitting and crocheting baby caps, blankets and booties for the annual holiday sale. As I listened to the conversation I noticed that  from beginning to end it was about the latest surgery, who died recently or something about somebody who lived in another “unit”. I have always referred to where I lived as “my house” or, “home”. Now it was a “unit”. What then, was I? A resident? An inmate?

This was not the life I wanted to live. I decided to go back to work.

Retirement: A Thought At Winter’s Doorway

all 4 seasons represented in a single landscape

4 Seasons of the Earth

For some of us the 31st of October is an excuse to collect candy. However, in the Celtic tradition, it is Samhain, a celebration of the arrival of a new year. It is the time of gathering the last harvest; a time when the gate between the seen and the unseen realm is porous. October 31st is the threshold of Winter and the dark half of the year.

In my personal journey of long-term unemployment, I kept my sanity by teaching myself to manage my time and energy by reckoning time in harmony with the rhythm of earth’s seasons. I learned how to determine the passage of time by noting the strength of the sunlight and what grew in the gardens and by the roadsides. This way of counting time felt so “correct” and “right” to me. The blooming lily of the valley would whisper, “March” and the appearance of certain blue wildflowers said,” it’s June!”  Autumn hails when the golden goblet-like Maple tree flowers open and light slants through my window  in that unmistakable  way. I respond by immediately beginning the “winter holiday making season” a time of planning and making all the decor for my home for the coming holidays. As I speak I am nearly done.

Then, I began recognizing the periods of 6 weeks between the four seasons, selecting  feasts from both Christian and other sources to mark them. I added commemorations of personal significance like my parents’ birthdays. This year, I will remember my father who represents the Hispanic part of my heritage. His birthday would have been today. He immigrated to the United States from Panama and I will remember him with all my departed ones in my own personal “Day of the Dead” commemoration this year.

I “slowed down” in terms of the corporation. Through this “slowing down” to natural rhythms I grew so much healthier in mind and more stable in soul that I never went back to corporate hamster wheel style timing when I returned to employment. Last of all, I re-added the days of the week. Unlike in the beginning of non-employment, I now have no trouble of all remembering what day it is, or where I am in time and space. I believe this is some of what a favorite blogger, author Waverly Fitzgerald means as part of the definitions of “slow time” or natural time.

Whatever you feel about October 31st, may you enjoy the blessing of this special portal of the year.


Retirement: Time Is On My Side; I’ve Got Nothing But Time

seeking purpose

What do I do now?

I have a theory. Correct me if I’m wrong…

People in the early days of retirement go through the same stages of grief that people in long term non-employment do. The first hurdle in this marathon is time. It is all about the challenge of managing all the endless days and restless nights.

Why am I saying this? Very simple answer: Other People.

From the time we come into this world Other People manage our time. Mom is sent home loaded down with a schedule of feedings, changings and inoculations. Parents anxiously watch for signs of achieving growth benchmarks. Baby should pull up at 6 months; baby should roll over at this time; baby should attempt self feeding at blah-blah-blah…

Then, we are herded into the education system and the time-driven goading by Other People continues. Every hour of every day is regimented. We pass through the grids, er, grades and forms like a product on an assembly line in a system where we are stamped slow or advanced according to a time schedule we have no power to influence.

School days turn into work days and in place of school, The Company manages a big chunk of our day.  We arrange our non-work activities so that they do not conflict with this great big “Other Person” who commands  most of our awake time. We trade away our limited time and freedom for years.

Noticeably, depression becomes like the universal solvent for the long-term non-employed and the newly retired.  Just as in the case of the Former Employee, the Other People The Retired One used to rely on to plan days and to take up gross emotional space has suddenly evaporated. Many new retirees respond to this sudden withdrawal of social contact and instant organization by becoming depressed. It is a loss so profound the only response to it is to run up the flag at half-mast– a state of mourning.

This is what happens: Suddenly, BAM!

You name it, disaster strikes: graduation comes; the layoff comes; retirement comes and there is abruptly, unceremoniously (except for that sad retirement party) silence.  Life feels like free falling because there is no order to days anymore. The Retired One goes cold turkey into self-management. YOYO (You’re On Your Own)  and get this– expected to magically know how to do it and be expert at it too!


Retirement 29 Days Later: YOU Without The Company

Newly retired man looking to the future

Who IS that guy?

My husband told me that as a child, he had always known his grandpa to be a strong,vivacious, active person. On one visit to his grandpa a month or two after his grandpa’s retirement my husband relayed how grieved and saddened he was when he asked, “where is grandpa?” and was pointed to a silent, wizened old man sitting in a chair in a corner. Grandpa died not long after that visit. That story and several more have boiled for several years in my mental cauldron about the emotional space work takes up in our lives. Should I be so blessed, yes, the gypsy lady will reach the 3-score mark in 2014. (I’ll tell you when to save the date for the on-line celebration!)

There was a time that the average lifespan in the United States was approximately 50 years. Women died shortly after the end of the childbearing years. My grandmother probably did not worry much about post menopause because she did not live long after “Aunt Flo” stopped dropping by. 40 was old for a woman especially if she was not wealthy. Many men retired at 25 or so years of service–about age 50– and died shortly after receiving their “watch and roses”. I do not believe my grandfather worried about outliving his pension when he simply closed his eyes and stepped from life to eternity during a baseball game one afternoon. According to my mother, he was holding me on his lap.

“You without the company” simply did not exist for my grandparents, but it is an in-your-face issue for the gypsy lady and classmates–the boomer generation. We can very well expect to live another 20 years at least after the old standard retirement age of 65. This is the beginning of YOU without the company: 30 days into retirement somebody else shows up in the mirror.  Is that person friend or foe; familiar or total stranger?