goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Learning Along The Pathway

When I was growing up my Dad would often drive into town and pick up the Sunday New York Times. As I got older I enjoyed reading not only the magazine but I started perusing the classified, looking for my “someday” job and apartment. Oh, the dreams I had of what could be……and then life took another pathway.

I’ve had a checkered past. I earned a degree in geography and urban planning, but  my first job out of college was for the Tennessee Supreme Court in the court administrator’s office. They were starting a judicial PLANNING division and so, since I had a degree in urban PLANNING, I was hired. It was fun but as I realized I was getting further from my education, I looked for and moved to the planning job.  For three and a half years I actually worked for a planning and engineering company and really enjoyed it. But again……life took another pathway.

There was a death in my husband’s family. His mother asked us to move to Connecticut to take care of the estate issues. We lived in the house rent free and would until it was sold. One of my tasks was to determine the market value of the property and in doing so, we listed it for sale and boom! we needed to move within a couple of months. I was looking for work as a planner but we were in the middle of a recession then and jobs were scarce. So… life took another pathway.

I started working as an real estate agent for the broker who had listed the house. While I did well, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Showing houses was a challenge because I did not know the area well and there were no apps with a talking GPS (hey, no cell phones at all)  in those days so I had to rely on paper maps, all the time portraying an image of competence to the buyers.  That was stressful enough but the part that made me more uncomfortable was listening to a homeowner extol the cost of the renovations he had made when it looked like a piece of incompetent amateur construction.  And then Baby #1 was born and I no longer wanted to put in the long hours needed in that kind of sales position.  Once again…. life took another pathway.

 

When I told the broker I was going to let my sales license go he persuaded me to start an appraisal division of his company. I built the reputation and business started coming in nicely and then I needed to hire some staff. The broker told me he was moving to California and was selling the real estate business, including the appraisal division. I said no way, it may be your name but it was my blood, sweat and tears. He very much understood and so, I soon owned it. I got a partner who had the bookkeeping kind of background and so we went on, growing during the 1980s real estate boom to 12 employees. (Although I planned longer, I only was able to take off one week when Baby #2 was born.) And then there was another blip in the financial market and property values started to decline. Where there is no room for a second mortgage or a current home value did not support getting the mortgage refinanced, there are no appraisals. We closed the business and…… life took another pathway.

By this time I had had baby #3 and no income. My husband got laid off. We ended up moving from Connecticut to Tennessee where I stayed home with the baby. Then my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer and after surgery, radiation and chemo I got a job at Vanderbilt Medical Center, working for one of my husband’s eye doctors. I had looked for a managerial position at Vanderbilt and when HR asked me what salary I wanted I thought about what I had made in the good years in Connecticut and then made a “cost of living” adjustment and said $30,000. They laughed…too high apparently. Anything lower would not help the family so I changed my resume to administration instead and ended up taking that first position as an AA for $18,000. I figured if I was not going to earn enough money I might as well not be in charge of anything. And so….. life took another pathway.Image result for vanderbilt university medical center

After five years of learning eye health jargon, things changed when the doctor in charge left. My position was eliminated but I was not, so HR moved me to another place in the hospital. The boss was, to put it nicely, a challenged individual. I left and move over to the university side of Vanderbilt to the Department of French & Italian. More new things to learn and master. And then my husband died and there I was a widow with a young child. Graham entered my life and I sure made him work to woo both of us. And there I was again….my life took another pathway.

My kiddo and I joined Graham when he went on sabbatical to Colorado for six months. I thought a start together in a neutral location would be good. We made friends and when it looked like he might be offered a job there I started looking for work. I had a sweet sweet double interview with the statewide blood bank and they offered me a position for a beautiful salary. I came home from that interview to be told we were moving back to West Virginia.  Ha ha…guess what….. my life took another pathway.

Looking for work in the Rust Belt was a challenge. I finally was hired as a practice manager for a financial adviser. Since it was a start-up I accepted a lower than desired salary with the promise of bonuses that would boost it to the sky (dream on, eh?). That never happened. After three years of building that business into something sustainable, I asked for a $10,000 raise and he basically countered with 50 cents an hour. I resigned. This time, definitely my choice…..my life took another pathway.

I started to build up my book selling business that I had been running on a small scale for about 12 years to provide additional income. I was able to match that prior salary for the next two years while having the time to also get involved in the farm-to-table movement and helping build The Wild Ramp. All the time, we were planning for my husband to retire when my kiddo left for college and so……my life took another pathway.

We moved to Oregon just about four years ago. I applied to about 50 jobs, making sure each cover letter and each resume was custom tailored to each specific job. I never heard from 46 place, but had four interviews. One had the grace to tell me I was overqualified and they were sure I would be bored and quit. I countered with an comment (I had nothing to lose)  that at this age I would love a job I could do with one hand behind my back. But no job was offered. (Ageism is one more hurdle to getting a job that needs to be fixed.  Date of birth information can no longer be asked, but they can and do asked for education information, including year of graduation. I think you agree, most of us complete high school at age 18, so extrapolation is easy.) So feeling ready to do anything….. life took another pathway.

I took a summer job as a farm hand. Yes, me. I never ate so much ibuprofen in my life but I did it and learned a lot more. In all my effort with The Wild Ramp I had probably visited 100 farms and had heard their stories. Now I got to get a (very small) taste of the life farmers live.  And the experience confirmed something I already suspected: I am not a farmer. But I need my farmers (we all do) and respect them highly. And so, taking a plunge……my life took another pathway.

I started up the commercial food processing business, Can-Do Real Food, to support local farmers by preserving their surplus produce by canning and dehydrating. (This gives the farmer another income, provides consumers a way to have a taste of the local summer harvest any time during the year, and reduces food waste.)  When we moved to Oregon I learned to can, so I had one year of canning at home. Other people have forgotten more than I have learned but it has been a pretty amazing experience. You can read more about it at the Can-Do Real Food blog. 

In the past year I had been dealing with a knee that has been injured but there is nothing surgical that can be done to fix it. It forces me to walk a bit wonky which has now affected my hip joint on the other side. I am in a new world of hurt and so…..I suspect my life is about to take another pathway again.

Through all these years (63 and counting) I have received continual education. The first part is one we all are fed K through  12. The next was the narrowing down of a field of study (college). And since then, through work and seminars and conferences and self teaching, the learning has continued and increased.  I urge everyone I love to never stop exploring, never be afraid of change.

I know jargon related to the legal profession, the medical profession, the academic profession, and now food processing (and government regulation thereof).  I wonder what’s next!  Whatever it is, I strongly doubt I will ever live in New York City!

 

 

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Almost There

fishing-hooks1My sister, upon hearing the story, asked repeatedly, “Didn’t you know then?”  No, no and no. When a scam artist, especially one who has been operating for over 40 years plays you, you are hooked on his line. Nothing stands out to wave a red flag. I’m mixing metaphors but you get the picture.

I think I told the story already but I’ll recap it: To get ready for our move from West Virginia to Oregon we scheduled a trip a month before we expected to make the big move. We connected with a realtor in McMinnville, explaining we wanted to rent for a year to be sure we were in the right place before purchasing a house. We asked her to help make the appointments for the 10 or so properties I had pulled from Craigslist and that we would work with her in a year when we would buy something.  She assured us she would help.

But she never called any of the properties so we only got into the one that I had called directly. We met the owner there on a Sunday afternoon. We had gone to the church we expected to attend that morning , so we were dressed nicely. Another family with three small children also were at the house. Graham and I looked at each other, figuring we were the better risk; the rental would be ours.  And sure enough, he offered to get it ready for us in the month and I wrote him a check for first, last and security, about $2450.

About three weeks later Graham was knocked out of his chair when he read the online edition of the Portland newspaper that it had been a rental scam. Two friends met and each shared the exciting news that their adult kid was renting a house nearby…it was exciting until they shared the address. And then they went to the police.fraud-alert1

Okay, I’m not recapping, so I’ll shorten it now. Jerry was caught. His name was different than he had told us. He went to jail, posted bail. Court hearings were held bi-monthly to try to arrange full restitution to all victims. Each month his attorney reported some inability to follow through. The judge told him the next hearing it was put up the money or go to a jury trial. Jerry did not show up.  When he was apprehended he was put in jail with a bail too high to pay. And there he sat.

In the fall we were notified that there was real person involved with the name we had been given for the check and we appeared in court for that person’s plea bargain hearing. He is out on probation and is supposed to pay full restitution but golly gee, can’t get a job.  We’re not holding our breath.

So today was Jerry’s plea bargain hearing. He was facing a jury trial so a plea bargain was at least a known. A jury of his peers may have thrown a heavier book at him after all.

So, now Jerry is going to prison for 11 years. The $15,000 bond will be prorated to all the victims, as it is not the full amount that needs to be repaid.  The rest of the outstanding money will be supposedly  paid when Jerry gets out of prison (and gets a job hahahahaha). Of course, the other guy is supposed to pay restitution, so perhaps he will be able to since the amount he will be responsible for will be lower.light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel

So, that is the story…not quite finished. But at least almost there. I want to share a couple of impressions I got sitting in court listening to pleas and sentencing about six times in the past 15 months.

We have a lot of people in our society who want what they want when they want it. They don’t think about making a plan to achieve a goal. Hell, they probably make few if any long term goals. They don’t think about how their actions affect anyone else…until they get caught. I heard a lot of apologies, even from sociopathic Jerry. Yeah, he’s sorry. He’s sorry he got caught.

The judge today was a new person. I liked her. She talked loudly and clearly and simply. She told the person what she thought, good bad or indifferent. She told Jerry she didn’t believe he would ever learn anything but perhaps, in prison, his effort to scam people would be limited to others in prison. The prior judges had seemed to be way too lenient setting up an action plan after listening to the defendant’s sob story.

Many of these people seem to be in a revolving door, unable or unwilling to earn their living, make their way, follow simple rules.  The rules are not meant for them.

If you know anyone who is in this kind of rut and I am offending you, please explain your perspective. All I know is how this event affected us, and we were in the best financial position of all the victims and yet that loss of $2450 for all this time has stopped us from something important. Many of the others have still not recovered and have had to move in with family, thereby affecting more people.  uneven_scales_sm