Monday, November 5, 2018

Defining Success Across the States

Mammoth, CA

When I was married, I chose to be a “domestic engineer” – smoothly running the household, supporting my husband and raising my boys.  I chose stay-at-home mom, scratch that, “Career Mom” over traditional career.  And now I’m in my 50s hanging out with all sorts of interesting retired people who have time and money to do what they like – travel, play pickleball, take art classes, exercise, golf, ski, work part time, etc.  And while I truly appreciate this time in my life, I often wonder if I missed out on something by not ever having a traditional career.

I ask myself questions like: Can I be retired if I’ve never had a traditional career?  Does it matter?  Am I making enough of a contribution to society?  Am I doing enough meaningful stuff?  Am I successful?  What is success anyway?

So much of our culture is wrapped up in defining success in terms of one’s career.  Because I was a “career mom” and did not have a traditional career, I wanted to explore this idea more.  So, I set out on a two-month journey visiting friends and family across the USA and had informal conversations with them about personal ideas of success and careers, hoping I’d get some clarification of my own feelings on this topic.

I interviewed friends and family asking for their first name, age, occupation, place(s) they call home.  I asked them to define success both now and when they were younger.  I asked them to describe success in any way they wanted.  I also read some books and listened to podcasts on the topic and include some of those quotes here as well.

Ron, 60s, Retired, Reno, Nevada
Q: What is your definition of success?
A: Being able to do what you want to do.   Having the time and money to do what you want to do.
Q: As a younger man what was your definition of success?
A: Then it was about accumulating (money, possessions).

Mindy, 50s. Commercial Airline Pilot, Incline Village, Nevada
Q: What does success mean to you?
A: My kids’ happiness. Period.

Erik. 50s. Hair Stylist/Salon Owner, Reno, Nevada
Success is seeing my kids be alright and go off into the world happily.
As a younger man success was about my ability to help people through their stuff, health issues, divorce, job changes and life challenges.

Q: What is success?
A: Having the ability to make choices.

Sylvia. 60s. Retired Office Manager, Reno, Nevada
Q: What is your definition of success?
A: It’s personal. Finding inner peace and acceptance.
And, earlier in my life success was about keeping the office running smoothly.

Dr. Jeff Bogaczyk, From the America Meditating radio show
You have to define success for yourself and not let others define it for you. It’s a trap to let others define it for you.

Jennifer Jo. 52. Research & Development/Gallo Winery, Danville, California
Q: What is your definition of success?
A: It’s personal. Success to me is living an ideal life. An ideal life to me is about time, having the time to do what I want to do, to follow my passions - to be creative, be in nature, be with animals. It is about not letting people down because I don’t have enough time to do what they expect me to do. It is about being the master of my own time and not having others dictate my time.  From an early age I was overly scheduled and felt time was not my own. Success to me is not feeling that way.

Jamie. 52. Health & Wellness Industry, Danville, California
Q: What is your definition of success?
A: It’s personal. It’s spiritual. And when I’m in a spiritual place where I feel inner peace and complete unconditional love for myself and others, I’m successful.  Twenty or thirty years ago it was all about MONEY.  Money in the bank, it didn’t matter how I got it, if I had it, I would have felt successful.

Deepak Chopra. From “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success”
Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals.  It is the ability to fulfill your desires with effortless ease.  And yet success, including the creation of wealth, has always been considered to be a process of hard work and at the expense of others.  We need a more spiritual approach to success and to affluence which is the abundant flow of all good things to you.  And, success is a journey, not a destination.

Karen. 54, Air Traffic Controller Manager, Reno, Nevada
Success to me is all about relationships. Relationships I have with my kids, my girlfriends, my husband.  Success is hearing the voices of the people that are closest to me -- when my husband calls me at work, or hearing voices of girlfriends, that’s success.

Twenty years ago, I would have said it was about being a good mother. Thirty years ago, I thought it was about doing really well in my career and being self-sufficient.

David, 57, Retired Air Traffic Controller, Reno, Nevada
Success to me now is about inner peace.  It’s a spiritual path. Success is also about having the time to do what I want. Success is about having enough money to live the life I choose to lead.
Twenty years ago, I was tormented with a disease and a bad marriage, so success to me then would have been some relief from those afflictions.

Hearing a Beatles song or just a feeling of complete ease feels like success now.

Brett, 39, Insurance Agent, Reno, Nevada
Success is being able to do whatever I want to do when I want to do it. It is related to time and money. When I have a 5, 10, 15-year financial plan in place, I feel successful.  Being able to take time out of my day to have a long lunch is success. 

Success would be selling a $1 million policy and then getting in my car and listening to Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.”

Sam, 22, Student, University of Nevada, Reno, Danville, California
Success is doing what you want to do. It’s chasing your hobbies, doing what makes you happy and being good at it.  If you are happy in your job, you are successful.

Five years ago, I would have said success is making a lot of money.  And now I’ve added to that definition.  Listening to the song - “Congratulations” - by Post Malone, that feels like success.

There is no one definition of success, everyone has a different definition of success.

Graham, 24, CNC Operator, Danville and San Diego, CA, Reno, NV
For myself, success is being able to financially support anyone else that’s in my family.  Success is financial stability and seeing the happiness of members of my family that I’m supporting, and it’s also educating those family members.

Q: Has your definition of success changed through the years?
Five years ago, I would have said to be happy is success, or being a rock star, or pro snow boarder, skater or surfer.

Filming my future son or daughter doing a snowboard trick, while I’m riding down the mountain with them, that’s success.

Matt, 36, Explorer
Q: Where is home? 
A: On the mountain or in the water
Q: How do you define success?
A: Freedom.  And happiness with true contentment.  To be able to live on your own terms.

Ten years ago, success was more about achieving financial freedom.

Now success is a feeling. It’s my happy place. Ocean side, crashing waves on rocks, sunshine, and just me and this place.  Everything else melts away.

Allison, 50, Washington, DC
Q: What is success?
A: Being clear on deeply held values. Living a life based on deeply held values. Having a healthy relationship with myself, knowing how I feel, being able to express how I feel.

Mark, 61, Editor, Washington, DC
Success is being authentic and true to your values. Living them, finding someone who shares them.  It’s also helping people in some way.

I recently took a trip to south of France, the whole time I was thinking, “This is living! All the money we earned, all the work paid off, I knew it was going to end, but I was present when I was there, and it was wonderful.  That felt like success to me.

Cindi, 48, Career Mom, Fort Collins, Colorado
Success is about feeling content and being ok with who you are.

Mark, 58, Military Recruiter/Chaplain, Memphis, Tennessee
Q: What is your definition of success?
A: It’s complicated. It is a completion of something. It is a personal sense.  It is a life content and at peace.  It is not necessarily a destination.  It is probably more about growth and development of someone or something.  It is a feeling of inner peace and contentment.

Isobel, 77, Teacher, Technical Illustrator, Clothing Designer, Librarian, Southern Oregon, Santa Cruz, CA, Humbolt County, CA, Costa Rica
Q: How do you define success?
A: I feel successful when I know my presence has changed the lives of others in positive ways. 
But when I was younger and a clothing designer, I felt I achieved great success if I received  positive affirmations from famous people. 

My idea of success is my happy place which is a colorful sunrise or sunset.  It could also be a community of GOOD people.  Our culture’s standard definition of success creeps me out.

Rosie, 57, Retail Store Manager, Detroit, Michigan
Success is personal happiness.  It’s stress free.  It’s a happy family.  It’s working to do the things you want to do.  It’s sitting in a forest, looking at birds, feeling freedom, being able to do the things you love – playing tennis, breathing easily, having good relationships with people.  It’s taking care of people, having a happy marriage, a beautiful marriage.  It’s being blessed with the spirit of human kind and Mother Earth.

Steve, 56, Freshmen Composition Teacher
Q: Where is home? A: Detroit Michigan, or in books, or in my wife’s arms
Success is seeing a student around town I haven’t seen in years come up to me and shake my hand.  I work my ass off to change the world in my own way.
Being on a mountain, skiing, being together with my wife anywhere.  That is success.  Loving people, especially those who take us for who we are. 

Jeff, 58, Mergers & Acquisitions, Walnut Creek, CA, Reno, NV, Norwich, NY
Success is about balance.  Balance in friendships, family, relationship, work, exercise. Balance in interacting with people and my environment.  In my 20’s it was about finding a job that was developing my skills and allowed me to be financially self-supporting.  My achievement in sports was also part of my success back then.

Success is explaining something about how the world works with my kids, having an intelligent conversation where a light bulb goes off.  Or when I’m with a paying client and a light goes off in a meeting with them, and I’m helping them, and they get it.  It’s fun and energizing for me to be in a discussion with them.  It’s motivating for me, it feels successful.

Jim, 50, Musician/Producer, Portland, OR
Success is autonomy.  Happiness.  Utility. (Having use in the universe, in society.)
Q: Has your definition of success changed through the years?
A: Yes.  I added “utility.”  In my 20’s I wanted to change the world.  Make it peaceful, that would have been success to me then.  Hiking with my 9-year-old twin girls, that’s success.

Joanne, 83, Retired Primary School Teacher, La Grande, OR and Lopez Island, WA 
As a teacher I would have defined success as having patience, observing, knowing the children, encouraging them, letting them know that you are a friend, having them trust you.

In a broader sense, it’s having peace of mind.  It’s knowing that you’ve done your best work. Encouraging people of any age - generally encouraging people to try important things.  Success is not giving up on people, or children, or pets.

Q: Has your definition of success changed through the years?
A: Yes.  When I started teaching, I was frantic and wanted to do my best, it was nerve racking. I learned to do my best when I had studied and knew the material.  I wasn’t that mature, I didn’t realize if I had success.  I had a Principal that encouraged me and had faith in me.  He made me stronger, that felt successful. Now success is happiness.  My greatest joy is the feeling of my former students visiting me with their children.  This interview makes me stop and think.  It’s an interesting topic.

Kerry. 52, Retired Career Mom, Yoga Teacher, Reno, Nevada 
My current definition of success is feeling completely content with the content of my life. It’s acceptance with where I am in my life, what is in my life, what I’m doing with my life, who is in my life.  It’s also very personal. My definition of success may change depending on what’s happening to me at any given moment.  It also has to do with life-long learning. Continual learning means I’m successful.

The feeling of driving or hiking and turning a corner and suddenly seeing the wide expanse of the mountains unfold before me, and then hearing a cold mountain stream waterfall beside me.  This fills up my soul as I soak it in.  This is success.

Hans, 58, Neurosurgeon, Fort Collins, Colorado

Stephen Curry of the Warriors said he knew he was successful when he was invited to the White House, and got all those accolades, awards, etc.  I feel that I know I’m successful when I don’t give a shit about any of that stuff.

(Note: this is a work in progress.  Any comments or thoughts are really appreciated.)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Home Again Home Again Jiggity Jig

Lumberman's Monument, Tawas, Michigan

I'm back from my travels and reviewing my fun, adventurous, kick ass trip:

  • 58 days on the road
  • 4,747 miles traveled
  • 1 time almost ran out of gas
  • 4 nights tent camping
  • 1 night staying in a KOA "log cabin"
  • 6 nights in different low budget to high budget hotels
  • 2 nights back at home to regroup
  • 25 nights at friends' homes
  • 15 nights at family member's homes
  • 4 nights at watercolor camp
  • 10 places played Pickleball

I ended up taking the following route both by land and air:

I drove (my Subaru Crosstrek) from:

Reno to Winnemucca, NV to Boise, ID to LaGrande, OR to Portland, OR to Seattle, WA to Portland, OR to Ashland, OR to Trinidad, CA to Ft. Bragg, CA to Willits, CA to Reno, NV to Elko, NV to Holladay, UT to Rawlins, WY to Ft. Collins, CO

My wonderful friends Hans and Cindi Coester were super generous to me while I stayed with them and also let me store my car in their garage for three weeks while I continued my trip by air.
Cindi & Hans Coester and their son Jake and doggies Moosie and Zee

I flew from:

Denver, CO to Minneapolis, MN to Chicago, IL

Drove (my dad's uber cushy, huge Ford Explorer - thanks Jer!) from:

Glenview, IL to Ann Arbor, MI to Tawas City, MI to Ann Arbor, MI to Cement City, MI to Chicago, IL

I flew from:

Chicago, IL to Denver, CO

I drove from:

Ft. Collins, CO to Green River, WY to Salt Lake City, UT to Elko, NV to Reno!

I played Pickleball in:

Portland OR, Ashland OR, Eureka CA, Cottonwood Heights & Holladay UT, Chicago suburbs and Ann Arbor, MI (at the same recreation center I used to swim in when I was in college - that was a real TRIP going back there 30 years later!)
Pickleball at Washtenaw County Rec Center, Ann Arbor, MI

Some things I learned on this trip:

  • I would definitely do a trip like this again, but maybe for a month instead of two months.
  • I would like to camp more next time and see some state and national parks, but only if I have a friend camping with me.
  • Anyone with a reliable car and a phone with a map app can do a trip like this, even solo!
  • I gained a lot of confidence venturing out and being on the road by myself.
  • I learned to be comfortable in a constant state of transition.
  • The Pickleball community is almost always very welcoming to a stranger just walking on the court.  
  • My organizational skills came in super handy in my car and in all the different places I slept.
  • It paid off sending all those Christmas cards for all those years and keeping in contact with friends and family members.

I felt a tremendous sense of gratitude coming home to my familiar, comfortable, beautiful home and space.  And being home, I truly believe that the Reno/Tahoe area is among the most gorgeous places in this vast country filled with such diverse landscapes and scenery.  Now it's my turn to host.  Come visit me, friends and family, in Reno!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Heading East - Rebuilding a Life

Brighton Ski Resort, Utah - with Ally

My pitstop in Elko helped me get further down the road to Salt Lake City, Utah.  Leaving the Ruby Mountains in the rear view mirror, I stopped at a rest area along the way to check out the salt flats.

Salt Flats

I arrived in Holladay, Utah (suburb of Salt Lake City) at my dear friend Ally's house.  And bonus, her daughter Maddie was there!  We three enjoyed girlfriend gabbing, hiking, dog walking, dinners and pickleball for a couple days.

                                               Dog walk with Wes and Pickleball in Cottonwood Heights
She paints!



Brighton Ski Resort

Both Ally and I went through divorces at about the same time several years ago.  We both ended up selling the family homes in Danville, California.  We both ended up moving to the healing mountains.  Ally to Holladay, UT and I to Reno, NV.  Ally grew up in Holladay and still has a network of family and friends there.  I didn't know anyone in Reno when I moved there except my son who was at UNR at the time.  I've since built a network of friends through yoga, pickleball, art and neighbors.

Changing the environment has a lot to do with the forward progression, and so has making new friends, relying on old friends and family, creating art, practicing yoga, meditation, journaling, traveling, finding new activities to stimulate the brain and body.  These divorces can kick our butts or propel us forward.  I choose to move forward, so has Ally.  

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Change Is The Only Constant

I'm on Day 25 of this roadie.  Tonight I'm staying in my first low budget hotel on this trip.  $47 including tax at The American Inn in Elko, Nevada (ironically run by a lovely, little Indian woman). $47 gets me fresh towels, WiFi, a mini fridge, a microwave, a tv and Gideon's Bible. Oh, and a built in bottle opener in the bathroom door frame.

I was commenting to a friend about how many trips to my car I have to make at all the different places I go to gather stuff I need.  He said, "you will be so dialed in by the time you are done with this trip."  True, but the reality is, every place that I go is different and requires different stuff.  I am exceedingly organized in my car set-up though, and that helps tremendously.  In fact, I don't know how someone messy or disorganized could attempt a trip like this, living out of one's car and staying in different places most nights.  Change is indeed status quo for me right now and my organizational skills help me accept this new, temporary reality.  Ah, but is change ever temporary?

Since my last post, the Fall Equinox occurred, ushering in the first day of autumn, a change of season. How fitting that I'm in such a state of flux right now, during these travels.

Highlights from the last ten days!

Days 13-14 - Ashland, OR

Willow-Witt ranch outside of Ashland, OR

I felt like a bad ass because I was completely alone in this campground and I had to get over the fear at night of utter darkness.  It was also really cold in the mornings and at night, in the 40s (elevation 5000 feet) and why do we tend to feel more afraid when it's cold?  Shoulders tense, body tightens.  Had to breathe and repeat the mantra, "What would you do, Kerry, if you weren't afraid?"  And then I told myself I would relax and get a good night's sleep.

Saw Henry V and played Pickleball in Ashland, OR

Days 15-16 - Trinidad, CA


Trinidad, CA with Teacher Isobel, Talon, Cayenne & Andy Pruter
Got to organize their fridge AND play Pickleball in Eureka, it was a perfect day

Day 17 - 18 - Willits & Ft. Bragg, CA


Willits KOA & Ft. Bragg Glass Beach, CA with my BFF Jamie

Days 19 - 23 - Emandal Art Stay Camp, outside of Willits, CA on the Eel River, no WiFi or cell coverage.  I experienced both FOMO and JOMO. (Fear of Missing Out and Joy of Missing Out) 

 Watercolor camp with Tracy and The Ostrich

Eva Nichols, our amazing and talented watercolor teacher, check out her YouTube channel

The five watercolor and ink projects we completed:


Days 24 - 25 - Reno to Elko, NV

Winnemucca, Ridley's Market

After a wonderful break from the connected world at Emandal, I returned to Reno to regroup for two nights before heading east to Salt Lake City.  I was a guest in my own home!  I stayed in my guest room for these two nights because I'm renting out my house to a friend while I'm away.  I have a really nice guest room, I should stay in it more often.  And, my house is WAY bigger than my car.

I have been a hostess for so many years, especially in my former, married life.  It's a nice change of pace for me to be a guest in other people's homes for a while.  It's not in my nature to ask for things, so it is good practice for me to call or email a friend and say, "hey may I crash on your couch for a night?"  So far everyone has said YES!  And that's so sweet.

Today I lit out of Reno, for the second time on this trip, and headed to Elko, Nevada.  I had a pit stop in Winnemucca at Ridley's because I know where the bathrooms are.  And here I am, at The American Inn, in Elko, Nevada, looking forward to a warm, sleepy night on a soft, lumpy mattress.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Couch, Tent & Kid's Bed Surfing

Kid's bed surfing

What happens when a totally organized, admittedly anal retentive, fastidious and not very spontaneous middle-aged woman takes a two-month long road trip that requires living out of her car and very little planning?

Well, I guess I'm finding out.

I'm on Day 12 of this road trip and have put 1700 miles on my car.  I've been to Boise, ID, Portland, OR, Washougal and Seattle, WA and Ashland, OR so far.  I've done one load of laundry.

Things I'm trying to do on this trip:

-not overplan
-go with the flow
Seattle Storm WNBA finals game one and Ravenna neighborhood alley party

-be ok with less than sparkling, squeaky clean bathrooms
-be ok with small spaces
-be ok with severe quiet
-be ok with lots of commotion
-try not to severely startle when the gas station attendant creeps up to my driver's side window in Oregon and insists on filling my tank and washing my windshield (full service state)
-explore new places
-be prepared to change whatever plan I have for the day
-be confident when solo
-make new friends (especially with ducks)
Dana, Vern, Clever & Wellington

-reconnect with old friends
Nicole and Jim from my UM and HighScope days

-invite friends from home on the trip
With Jeff in Portland and Jennifer Jo in Boise

-write everyday, or most days
-read books and articles on PAPER
-stretch, roll and do yoga everyday
-take lots of breaks while driving
-hike, hike,  hike
-pause and enjoy the scenery
Columbia River Gorge, Washougal WA

-find new places to play pickleball
Pickleball in Gladstone, OR

-spend one hour (or more) a day in quiet (no screens, no music, no talking)
-try not to be too connected (via texting, emails, etc)
-not be afraid of bears while in my tent
Tent site in Willow-Witt Ranch

I've slept in my tent, in guest bedrooms, in basements (complete with rifles, chaps and a typewriter hanging on the wall), in a little girl's bedroom, on couches and in a hotel.  I'm trying to get a really great night's sleep.  It has happened only once so far, in a friend's guest room.  Fingers crossed it happens tonight.

Reflecting here on Day Twelve, I'm very pleased with the way this trip is unfolding.