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Teri Brown - Young Adult Author

This Job, Though

As many of you know, I’m now a Youth Transition Specialist for the Tigard/Tualatin School District. I knew there would be many changes to my schedule and lifestyle going in...I haven’t worked full time since the eighties. Of course, I usually had three or four jobs—all which I loved—and often ended up working far more than forty hours a week on a regular basis, but full time on one job? Not so much. Things I’ve learned so far.

  • The most difficult part isn't getting up early--I’ve been an early riser for years. And it’s not getting up early and having to be somewhere because I did that many mornings—meeting friends at the gym or at a coffee shop to write. No. It’s getting up early, having to be somewhere AND LOOKING PROFESSIONAL. As in hair done and make up on. That’s the most difficult part of this whole full time business. What’s up with that nonsense?
  • The days are shorter. I don’t know what kind of metaphysical space/time continuum this is, but it’s a very real thing. I hesitated bringing this one up because I have smarty pants friends who will display a subtle, “welcome to my world,” kind of attitude which is not what I need. But my bestie was a stay at home mom like myself and is now working full time at a job she loves and she totally understands that there’s something fishy going on with the hours in a day scale. I love her.
  • Prepping is EVERYTHING. Clothes laid out the night before. Lunches made on Sunday and put in jars for the week. Menu, lists and grocery shopping are all done on the weekends. All of this gives me the space I need to make sure I have time to meditate, workout, study, and hopefully write/edit. (That starts next week)
  • My entire life-long accumulation of skills has prepared me for this job--even the things that had no monetary value. I meet with businesses and non-profits, engage with the community, talk with teens on a daily basis, problem solve with people in my department, write lesson plans and teach kids how to set and implement goals. I have to think outside the box and be spontaneous while still tracking my schedule and keeping meticulous notes. Considering all my experiences, from working at the Redmond Humane Society to being a stay at home mom, from homeschooling to mentoring teens, from all my volunteer work to writing both fiction and non-fiction, from speaking engagements and publicity to creating curriculum for 60 children of diverse ages and abilities, from going back to school to just juggling my crazy life and schedule… all of this has led to a unique skill-set that is perfect for this job.

Like Mrs. Doubtfire once said, “I. Am. Job.”

And something else I have learned? Having a job that I love and that fulfills me is incredible. But realizing that my life experiences have value…absolutely priceless.

Summer of Reset Adieu

I blogged quite a bit about my Summer of Reset at the beginning and the middle of summer, but then I started drowning and the blogs ended as I was too busy dogpaddling in a vat of excrement to write about dogpaddling in a vat of excrement. Actually, it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t particularly good either. Oh, there were some great moments… wine tasting with family, a couple of lovely parties, attending a comedy show with my hubby and a six day trip to the mountains with my hubby and granddaughter during which we saw a mountain lion and watched an eagle steal a fish from an osprey… but mostly it was dogpaddling in excrement.

Of course, resets usually are, aren’t they?

Learning Spanish was much harder than I thought it would be. I actually thought I'd walk out the door after my first class with my mind buzzing with the beauty of a new language and singing sentences. I don’t know why…perhaps because I’m a writer and love languages and I thought they would love me back? At any rate, I really had to stretch myself because it was like the instructor was speaking a whole nother language or something. Actually, he was, because that's the entire point of an immersion class--you have no idea what anyone is saying and you feel like you've landed on an alien planet. Seriously, there were times when it almost made me cry.  I also had to deal with the fact that my teacher friend—who is also fluent in French—picked it up and retained it much faster than I did. It was a good thing because we were able to study together, but it was still surprising and a little frustrating. It didn’t help that my Spanish teacher was incredibly disorganized. While I liked him and his teaching style in the classroom, the disorganization created a lot of unnecessary frustration. And when you’re disorganized in two different languages… OMG. The experience made me realize that I needed to focus more on the process and less on the end result. While I purport to live that way, learning Spanish really drove it home for me. Lesson learned.

Before I knew I'd have an entirely new job, I did what I usually do in the summer and set up some freelance workshop gigs at my local libraries and such. While the kids were great, I had two different disasters, (of my own making) that I had to work around. The presentations took up a ton of time and my hubby had to drive me to two of them because I don’t drive in some parts of Portland. (Mild driving phobia.) Add that to redoing my office, trying to learn my job before school started, the shit show that is our government, and I was more stressed than relaxed. Seriously, the most carefree I felt I all summer was when I was sitting in the middle of Little Lava Lake in a borrowed inflatable kayak with an icy cold beer. (An experience which actually ignited a new passion. The kayaking, not the beer, though I'm pretty passionate about beer, too.)

As the summer of reset closes, I’m coming to grips with both the successes and the challenges.

Challenges

  • I’m not running
  • I’m not ten pounds lighter
  • I didn’t write a proposal for a new book.
  • I didn’t meditate enough.
  • I didn’t declutter my whole house.
  • I had some startling friendship issues.

Successes

  • I found a new passion and my husband and I will be purchasing kayaks and learning to float together.
  • I’m well on my way to speaking another language...a bucket list item.
  • I grew my editing business and added a coaching component.
  • I’m learning my new job and loving it.
  • My husband I have started doing resistance activities together.
  • I finished revisions on a novel that’s the best work I’ve ever done and my agent went out with it.
  • We're almost finished with cleaning out, decluttering and reorganizing the garage.
  • I am eight credits closer to having a degree.
  • I have a beautiful work office that’s already filled with the memories of my husband and myself working together, laughing together and overcoming obstacles…together.

As I reflect back on this past summer, a few things really strike me...my husband and I, for whatever reason, are growing toward one another again. Not that we've ever had more difficulties than any other  long term relationship, but we've re-prioritized our time together. With this commitment comes the surprising revelation that there are a few outside relationships that just aren't, for a myriad of reasons, sustainable any more. And that's okay.

I've also learned more about setting goals for myself and being okay with not reaching them. I can always make them anew. In fact, I've learned that reset is infinite and can happen all the time.

In other words, I'm now in the autumn of reset and the reset is good.

Adventure in Your Everyday Life

I come from a long line of people inflicted with the travel bug. My grandmother went to Europe—the first time after the age of fifty! My uncles went several times…one to climb in the Alps, another to bike through England. My aunt wants to visit every National Park before she dies and is very close to accomplishing that goal. My son saved his money and spent a month in England with friends at the age of twenty and my daughter backpacks fearlessly through the Cascades, the Olympics, the Tetons and the Rockies.

My adventures are of the tamer sort. I’ve been to New York City for a book festival, to Nashville to see family and to New Orleans for a writer’s conference. But mostly, my traveling is limited to the places I can go in less than a week by car. Social media is all too willing to show me what adventures I’m missing… I have friends heading off to backpack through the Highlands, tour Normandy, write in Tuscany and kite sale through Asia.

For a time, I felt envy with a capital E. Resentment was mixed up in there, too. I wanted to spend a month or so in Spain, to write, feast and immerse myself. I wanted to lean against buildings that had been there for thousands of years. As a history buff, I’m jealous of the fact that all the good stuff took place on the other side of the world. I read other people’s accounts, clicked through their pictures and watched their videos with sadness and regret. I wanted an adventure so badly!

Then I’d tamp down my feelings and get back to work, thinking that it’s a dream that may always be a dream. Honestly, it’s just not practical at this time in my life, I’d tell myself.

It was that last thought that changed everything… why wasn’t it practical? The answer was so simple, I almost missed it.

Because I had already chosen my adventure.

My adventure was to finish schooling in my fifties. My adventure was to write books that entertain, provoke and illuminate snapshots of history. My adventure was to start a new career helping underserved teens better their lives. My adventure was to start my own business and learn a new language. My adventure includes being an activist, taking leadership courses and working toward a future I want for my grandchildren. It includes learning to can and preserve food, learning to cook and teaching myself about wine. As soon as I get my Sea Eagle 330, it’s going to be about learning to Kayak with my dog.

It dawned on me that life is an adventure and my life is full of adventure every single day. It’s not exactly what I had envisioned, but it is rich and full and it’s mine.  I may never get to Spain, but if I do, at least I’ll know the language!

Every Day Resistance for Everyday People

Because I started my new job as a youth transition specialist in July, most of my duties to date have been painting and reorganizing my office, learning about my new position and acclimatizing myself. Once school starts in September, I’ll be full time and working directly with students. To that end, I’ve recently started touring organizations and programs to find out what options my students, as LD and special needs kids, have for their future. What is out there that will help young adults with special challenges transition into successful, self-reliant adulthood?

As it turns out, quite a bit. Last week, I visited a program called Oregon Youth Challenge that helps at risk kids turn their life around. The program, ran by the National Guard in a partnership with the Oregon Department of Education, isn’t for every kid—they have to really want it—but the program makes their expectations very clear. If a child wants to change their life, this program helps them learn self-discipline, respect for themselves and others, leadership skills and how to achieve academic success. The average academic growth for a kid in the 18 month program is a full grade. Five months of the program is residential where they learn what they need to make and achieve goals. The second part of the program is the mentorship component that takes place when they get home. Amazing.

Another program I visited was Supa Fresh Youth Farm. This is a social purpose enterprise that teaches underserved youth leadership skills, work readiness and community involvement, all while growing and selling food.  I spoke to the director and was incredibly impressed by her passion to expand the program to include even more services—they just obtained a grant to focus on more and different kinds of entrepreneurialism. The farm offers paid internships for 50 youth a year.

I had a meeting with an intake coordinator for Job Corp, as well. Again, I was impressed by her passion and determination. Job Corp trains underserved youth in various trades, such as carpentry, forestry, mechanics, medical assisting, etc. Most are residential programs and many are in remote locations. Not only do youth have a chance to learn a trade—at no cost—but they are required to brush up on basic academics and learn networking skills. I plan on visiting several locations this summer and fall as I don’t want to refer a teen to a program that I haven’t personally vetted.

The people I’ve met are on the front lines on the war on generational poverty. Their vocation is their resistance. By working for a better future, they are resisting in their daily lives against a system that is increasingly stacked against youth from below the poverty line or those who have learning disabilities/special needs such as dyslexia, ADD, Asperger’s, physical challenges, etc.

I’m thankful every day that I have the opportunity to resist in my daily life, above and beyond calling my members of congress or writing emails.  By obtaining an education, by learning another language, by putting pen to paper, (or fingers to keyboard), and now in my employment, I am resisting. But I've come to realize that life isn't just about resisting something, it's about working toward something. I think that's one of the problems currently grinding down our government--when your platform is resistance only, you forget that you need to actively be building something, as well...and I'm not talking about walls. I'm talking about a future where all children are valued.

 

My Life is Busy so Bite Me

An open letter to the creators of all the simplify, unbusy and declutter your life memes,

F%&# off,

No Seriously. F&*% off.  Because I’m over it.

They give the impression if you just rid yourself of all your worldly goods, filled your house with flowers so you could stop and smell the roses, spent more time with good friends and looking out the window in a lovely reverie,  you would have the time to be happy. Let me clue you in…those flowers aren’t free. You either pay for them with money you earned from having a job, (which takes up time), or you grew them yourself. Growing them yourself takes up a ton of time—the beds have to be prepped, the plants planted, fertilized, weeded, watered and finally cut. Grow native plants they say, less time and better for the environment, they say. I did that one year and ended up with a backyard full of non-native BLACKBERRIES that choked out all the native plants and created a space no one could use to be UNBUSY. Pulling blackberries=TIME.

The house has to be cleaned, (which takes up time), to make way for the flowers, (which take up time), and the windows have to be washed, (which takes up time), or else all your see during your lovely reverie is fly spots, dirt and paw-prints, from the animals you rescued to be a good citizen of the world and which TAKE UP SO MUCH TIME. You can't stare out the window if you can't see through the window. Just saying.

That lovely concept of getting together with friends? TIME. If it’s at your house, you either have to clean the house, (because no one wants to eat tapas next to the dead snake your rescue cat brought in for the party), or your yard, because you don’t want anyone to step in doggie doo while sipping that summer-time cocktail.  (BOTH of those things take up TIME.) If it’s at someone else’s home, you have to make the decision to pick up dessert along the way, which like the flowers, take money you had to earn at a job which takes up TIME, or you make it yourself which costs less money but MORE TIME. Multiply that by the number of friends you have and you now have a schedule. A full schedule which translates into BUSY. BUSY doing the things that the unbusy yourself advocates say you will enjoy if you just weren’t so busy.

Here's a secret-being UNBUSY is UNNATURAL. You think the cavemen weren’t busy trying to survive? I know the pioneers were plenty busy in their attempt to keep their family clothed, sheltered, fed and safe from harm. Some people in this world are busy just getting enough water to LIVE.  We’ve reached the point in our society where we’re so freaking privileged that we have people and memes telling us should be able to sit around just being happy all the time—the only people who do that are the very rich and they’re probably busy too… all those spa appointments and such.

Seriously, at some point in your life toilets must be cleaned, sheets must be washed and food must be prepared. Unless, of course, you’re still living with your mom making up memes telling people they would be happier if they weren’t so damn busy.

I hate to break it to you, but meditating, working, trying to remain physically fit, making the world a better, more humane place, following my passions, keeping myself informed, spending time with friends and family and trying to maintain my home, ALL take up time and keep me pretty damn busy. So stop trying to tell me that not being busy will make me happy. BUSY is what makes up A LIFE.

Sorry, I just saw one too many anti busy memes go by. Rant over.

Rock Stars of the Resistance: Media Edition

So, so many. So many resisters in our free press have stood to be counted. These rock stars make me feel better just by knowing they're on the front lines...

Dan Rather

Yes, that Dan Rather. After a less than optimal end to a fine and illustrious career, Rather is seeing a renaissance of his profession via Facebook. His no nonsense, yet encouraging take on current events have helped many, including myself, keep faith in our democracy.

Ezra Klein

Unlike Rather, who came to social media late, Klein, who has worked for the Washington Post and Bloomberg, has always embraced the new media. As Editor in Chief of Vox, he doesn’t just share information on today’s politics, he explains it. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need these complex issues explained.

Rachel Maddow

Maddow is a true rock star. Her tough journalism has shed more light on the administrations dark side than anyone else. Her show has connected the dots so well that someone fed her fake documents so she would lead with a fake news story… that’s how badly someone wanted to discredit her. That tells me that Maddow is getting very, very close to the truth.

Mother Jones Magazine: Pulling no punches about their intent, Mother Jones started the year with an entire issue on how they were going to respond to the new administration—no holds barred—and issue after issue that is exactly what they have done.

Keith Olberman: Say what you will about some of his sources, Olberman’s GQ resistance videos are both informative and entertaining. He calls bullshit on the bullshit and I love when journalists do that.

Trevor Noah: Another comedian/political commentator who uses comedy to call bullshit. I love him.

Teen Vogue: At some point when I wasn’t looking Teen Vogue got “woke” and is delivering issue after issue of political commentary, feminism and activism, showing us just why women of all ages just might be the ones to save the planet.

Other Media Rock Star Resisters:

Jake Tapper

Samantha Bee

Chris Hayes

Joy Reid

Robert Reich

Ana Navarro

Michael Moore

Summer of Reset: My Work Space Transformation

When I received the offer for my new job, I was overjoyed at the opportunity. I suddenly had a full time job doing something that would make a concrete difference in both the lives of the students I would be working with and the world at large. I would be taking the six or seven things I do (all that I love, by the way) and turning them into three: Writing, work and school. And I'm going to be honest, I was thrilled that I would have my own office. Like a grown up.

Then I saw my office.

And another:

 

No. Just no. The woman whose place I was taking had been there for over thirteen years and it showed. When I asked, (No doubt in a hushed horrified voice if I could paint she said no. Also that she knew that some people nested in their offices, but she wasn't that way.

Obviously.

I let it drop, but the moment my training was over, I called and asked to paint. Since the offices were slated to be torn down in a couple years, they said it was fine as long as the colors were neutral. That's what they said. What I heard was " Go ahead and remodel how ever you like!" So I did.

I began by moving stuff out. I was a herculean task. What I had left was depressing.

 

 

 

 

But I have a secret weapon. Actually two. One, I am real stubborn and two, I'm married to this guy.

 

So in four very intense days that included three outside commitments, we transformed my office from a death trap into something that I will be happy to work in every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I need a few more things for the walls and I can't get all the nasty off the floor,  but I love it it beyond reason. What do you think?

 

Summer of Reset part 4: In Which I Search for the Magic Switch

I took my granddaughter to the beach last Friday. The weather cooperated—even though it was foggy, it was about 65 degrees and there was no wind—not bad for the Oregon coast. Rina-bug, Sahalie and I walked the beach and I watched my granddaughter and puppy frolicking on the shoreline, running from waves and chasing seagulls. Because Halie’s such a friendly dog, I usually leash her up whenever I see someone coming. Last year, a man shot and killed someone’s off leash pitbull for harassing their dog. I don’t know the details, but the thought of someone pulling out a gun and shooting my dog because she runs up to investigate them terrifies me. Halie has pit in her and people notice. So when I saw someone running towards us through the mist, I leashed her up.

It’s probably a good thing because a young man ran by, kicking a soccer ball with his feet. Halie loves balls and had already popped two that week. I marveled at the runner’s control of the ball and envied his athleticism. We soon lost him in the mist and decided to walk the mile or so back to the car to get the sand toys and park it somewhere on the beach to relax. On the way back, I noticed a nice jacket on a stick poking up out of the sand. The word soccer caught my eye and I surmised that the young man had become overheated.

We walked over the dunes, grabbed our stuff and by the time we’d returned, the man had gotten back to the stick to retrieve his jacket. He was about 20 and in stunning shape. He stopped to pet Sahalie and talked to us for a bit. Turns out he’s a soccer player for Concordia University in Portland. After conversing for a moment, the girls and I went and staked out our spot in the sand. I watched as he finished up his workout with calisthenics and stretching at the water’s edge and my envy—so overwhelming it almost made me cry— returned. I wanted that. I want to be that fearlessly fit. I want to run on the sand again. I want to climb mountains without crippling myself. I want to feel good again.

I started another program last week-a six week diet and exercise regime that begins fairly easily and increases in difficulty. The food plan is no nonsense and easy to follow. There’s nothing new in this plan, so I won’t go into detail. There’s nothing new in my resolve to get fit because I’ve been doing that since I was in my thirties. I’ve actually managed it a few times. I even ran a half marathon once—the whole damn thing. I lose weight, get strong and then drop the plot somewhere along the way. Then I’ll spend several years carrying an extra 20 to 50 pounds around before the desire to feel good overcomes my desire for cheesecake. And it’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I know enough about diet and exercise to be a bloody nutritionist or personal trainer. I know when I sit down at a restaurant what I should order… then knowingly order something else. It’s not an issue of education. It’s in my head.

So it comes down to a brain thing. But then, doesn’t everything?

So how do I turn on and more importantly KEEP ON the light switch of motivation in my head? How do I get fit and stay fit without returning to fat? I’m old now. Well not old, old, but old enough. If I don’t do it now, I’m afraid I’m going to end up in a chair watching the Price is Right or Family Feud—a prisoner of my own frailty and self- indulgence. It’s not about how I look and it never has been. It’s about how I feel. I’ve called this summer, “the summer of reset” because so many things are changing and I am getting my house in order to live out the final third of my life with as much gusto as I can muster.

I want more education. I want to make a difference. I want to inspire. I want to try kite-boarding. I want to climb Mt. St. Helen’s. I want to go backpacking with my daughter. I want, I want, I want. I want to live my life up until the very moment that it’s gone.

I want to run on the beach like that young man and cool down at the water’s edge.

But how? Nike’s Just Do It motto is as helpful as a lead balloon. It’s not really a question of a magic pill. It’s a question of that brain switch. I used it to quit smoking. I know what it is—I just don’t know how to activate it and keep it activated. I’m motivated—not only do I want a multitude of things that fitness will afford me, but I have horrible reflux and don’t want to end up with esophageal cancer. As someone who has had cancer twice, I'm not interested in going down that road again. I’m doing all the things needed to destress my life and put together a support group. I’m planning my meals and doing my workouts and hoping for that magic activation. So I'm doing the right things and hope it works. I don’t really have any answers here and if I did, I’d probably market it and retire in Sunriver.

But maybe if I hold that feeling of envy, that longing for fitness brought on by that young man running in the sand with a soccer ball, I’ll be able to do it.

Rock Stars of the Resistance

As many of you know, I have become increasingly more political since November 8th. No more half-assed political posturing for me-I want to actually be as informed as I can. I believe our Republic is in jeopardy and we got to this point because of ignorance. I'll never be caught with my democracy bloomers down again!

As always, in times of trouble, (did anyone else just think of the Beatles there?), I look for guidance from others with more knowledge or experience. I've found so many willing to rise up as leaders--to take time out of their lives to resist because it's important. This list is by no means exhaustive... in fact, if you want to add your own suggestions, please leave a comment. Today is regular Joe day. I'll do media outlets, journalist and politicians later.

Regular People Who Stepped Up

Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin: A whip-smart former lawyer and women's leadership coach who now does almost daily podcasts that analyzes the news with a definite legal slant. Her brains and positive attitude makes me feel better about the state of the US. (And I have tickets to see her speaking tour here in Portland! Squee!) You can learn more about her work here.

Amy Siskand A recent head-line for the Washington Post said "Trump won and Amy Siskand started a list." She catalogs a weekly list of the subtle changes going on the changes going on in the US should scare the bejeesus out of everyone who reads it. The work she is doing is EPIC and so is Amy.

Ben Wikler: Ben is the Washington DC director of MoveOn.org and his tweets keep me informed. It's like having boots on the ground in the city where it's all happening.

Jennifer Hoffmann Another Regular Joe who started a weekly Action List for Democrats and Republicans of Conscience. The list is well researched, compassionate, extensive and includes a list of people to thank for doing the right thing.

It's Time to Fight Though this is a website rather than a person, I personally know the woman behind it and she's a rock star. Though she prefers to remain somewhat low key, she's a political staffer and a total politics geek. Her weekly and daily action lists are invaluable.

Have any regular Joes to add?

Summer of Reset Part 3: New Beginnings

Summer of reset: New Beginnings

New Beginning #1: Even before my job at Common Ground ended, I’ve been training for the new job. The woman I’m taking over for was in the middle of moving and retiring, so it was paramount that we snatch as many training hours as we could before she left on the 30th. The timing is perfect really…I’ll have the summer to ease myself into the job before the students arrive after Labor Day. My summer hours will be filled with visits to different Job Corps sites, employers who actively look interns or are open to learning disabled employees and various academic programs that help at-risk teens. I’ll also be getting up to speed on the YTP program, the services we offer, as well as the work I’ll be doing for the district. My office/closet needs a lot of help, too. Hoping I can talk them into painting it for me or allowing me to paint it. Because damn. Also, even after training I know nothing. Fake it til you make it?

New Beginning #2: Somehow or another I’ve gained a shit ton of weight and fell off the fitness wagon. So I'm back on said wagon once again and doing the Slim in Six program. I gotta be honest. It’s sort of boring. But I don’t need exciting, I need results and this is a nice low key program with sound nutrition plan and workouts that challenge me without crippling my old fat fanny. It’s a six week program and I'm augmenting the boring workouts with PLIYO and yoga. I have put together a small support group and we’re just trucking along. I need to lose about 42 pounds—though not all this summer, obviously. I do NOT want to go into my dotage being frail, inactive and watching family feud.

New Beginning #3: New school term! This time I am taking an elective and crossing off a bucket list at the same time! I am taking Spanish. It’s confusing and weird and wonderful and I am excited to finally learn another language. I have always wanted to and if I don’t do it now, I never will.

New Beginning #4: I finished the revisions on one book and sent it to my agent. Now I am working on another… a YA this time. I am NOT going to talk about it much because I love it and I am afraid to Jinx it. But I love it and I am glad to be writing something new again.

I knew this summer would be big and important… I just didn’t know how big or important it would be!