Washington is Nice Too

When we lived in Sacramento, we would head to Apple Hill every year to get our fill of fresh apples and baked goods at the apple farms.  I found a similar area in Washington outside of Spokane.  In Green Bluff, in addition to apples, they grow peaches, cherries, berries, plums, and pears.  We visited a few of the farms today for some you-pick peaches and apples.  It turns out we are at the end of late season peaches and the beginning of early season apples, but we couldn’t pass up peaches for $1.10/pound and apples for $0.75/pound.

We learned the proper way to pick a peach.  Pull down and it should come right off if ripe.  Do not twist!  Put the peaches in the box stem end down.  The farmer’s 88-year-old sister-in-law was adamant about this process.  I hope to be so opinionated and vibrant at 88.  Now I need to figure out what to do with 18 pounds of peaches (aside from biting straight into them and letting the juice run down my chin).

We also toured the Strawberry Hill Nutrition Farm.  It is a “nutrition” farm because it is beyond organic, focusing on healthy chemical-free soil.  Verne gave us a tour of his 4-acre fruit and vegetable farm and he gave us tips of growing healthy produce.  He plants nasturtium flowers with his squash to keep the bugs away.  He said marigolds will make the squash bitter.  He also had red painted rocks sprinkled throughout his strawberry field.  He said the birds will peck on the rocks and be unhappy with what they find, so they will leave your strawberries alone.  And his last tip:  play classical music for your garden.  It creates a stress-free environment for you, the plants, the birds, and the bees.  And yes, there was classical music playing as we wandered through the garden and I was completely stress-free.

Arches of green beans

One of many greenhouses

On our way out of Green Bluff, we saw this house flying three flags.  The flag on the right says “Come and Take It.”  I had not seen the black, white and blue flag before, so I looked up the meaning.  It is the Thin Blue Line Flag.

The Blue represents the officer and the courage they find deep inside when faced with insurmountable odds. The Black background was designed as a constant reminder of our fallen brother and sister officers. The Line is what police officers protect, the barrier between anarchy and a civilized society, between order and chaos, between respect for decency and lawlessness. Together they symbolize the camaraderie law enforcement officers all share, a brotherhood like none other.

In Spokane, we visited Michlitch’s spice shop.  As the sign indicates, they have everything but the meat.  We sampled a few spice blends and left with two for making sausage (German and Jalapeno) and two lemon blends for chicken.

We ended our afternoon at the Iron Goat Brewery in Spokane.  We learned that the brewery is named after the garbage eating goat sculpture in Spokane’s Riverbend Park.  The metal goat sculpture has a vacuum inside that allows the goat to “eat” small pieces of garbage as part of a creative solution to eliminating litter. The statue will inhale just about any piece of refuse that will fit into its mouth.  It was built for the World’s Fair in 1974 by Sister Paula Turnbull.

The beer was good!

Not a bad way to spend your Wednesday.

We Are Officially Retired

Shawn and I both had our retirement parties at work on Thursday.  I think the emotions of it all surprised both of us.  It is hard to say goodbye to people you have spent 5 days-a-week with for years.

My party was in the morning, and my team provided a great spread of bagels, coffee, and carrot cake.  I stood just inside the door to the conference room and got to hug or shake hands with everyone that came in.  It was like a wedding receiving line.  A few people stood and said some very nice words, and I learned that I touched their lives and careers in ways I was not aware of.  I received lots of cards and well wishes in retirement and a photo book with pictures of each of my teams.

The quilted background is a nice touch
And I feared only a few people would show up

Shawn’s party was in the afternoon.  HIs team went all out with a farm theme for decorations.  Dioramas with potato characters, a red barn door for a photo backdrop, and a pinata in the shape of a terminal.  Shawn may have enjoyed smashing the pinata a bit too much.

Shawn with his team

Shawn and I in our Idaho potato form

After the parties, we headed home to finish loading the last Pod.  We really thought we had everything gathered up and ready to go, but in the last week, it seemed like the few things we had left expanded like a wet sponge.  By some miracle, Shawn and friends got everything in the Pod and the RV.  We actually ended putting so much stuff in the RV that we could only access the bedroom and bathroom while traveling.

Special thanks to our friends and family: Warren, Jeff, April, Jordan, Dorian, Stepanie, Matt, and Malcolm for helping us pack.  We would have been working way past midnight without you.  After the last dinner at our favorite neighborhood Mexican-Italian bistro, we had to say our last goodbyes.

After a sleepless night on an air mattress in our empty house, we cleaned and vacuumed.  Then we realized we had lost one of our cats.  We figured Chuck snuck out while we were moving things into the RV.  We called for him and looked in all his usual haunts, but no luck.  After an hour of searching, we stood in the kitchen wondering what we were going to do when Chuck sauntered out from the depths of one of the kitchen cabinets.

Time to hit the road for Idaho…California is in the rearview mirror.

Thoughts on Retiring

Early this morning while lying awake in bed, I did some mental math and realized I would be retiring from my career in IT almost exactly 30 years from the day I started my first job out of college. It is a bittersweet experience. While I’m excited about the next chapter in my life and our big adventure moving to Idaho, I’m also sad to bring my IT career to a close and leave my work family. I have spent 40+ hours per week for the last 30 years solving problems, writing code, implementing systems, learning new technologies, meeting with customers, counseling staff, reading email, and attending way too many meetings.

To help me through this change, I started thinking about all the things I won’t miss, like those meetings. People compliment me on my copious note-taking in meetings. Here’s the truth, I started taking notes in boring meetings to keep from falling asleep and then it just became a habit. I began with legal pads and saved the loose leaf sheets in the project or customer files. I wasn’t able to cross-reference notes, so then I moved on to composition books. That way I always had all my notes with me and could refer to them in any meeting. The cover of each book is dated with the time period it spans. I’ve tossed most over the years, but I’m saving one as a career artifact. It also has the quilted cover I made which went on to inspire me to create QR Code quilts. As I end my career, I’m taking notes on an iPad. I tried a few note-taking apps and finally settled on Microsoft OneNote (let’s not even get started on the oxymoron that is a Windows app running on iOS). Blogging may become my note-taking replacement. To keep life from becoming boring, I must do interesting things to blog about.

The notebook cover that inspired the quilt
One of my QR code quilts

Here’s another thing I won’t miss: public restrooms. At one point in my career, I worked in an office suite with about 40 people. There was one pair of restrooms for men and women. Since there were only four women, we had it made. Our restroom was clean and orderly. One of my male coworkers told me how nasty the men’s room was. I just attributed that to men being sloppy and not having a mom or wife around to clean up after them. Now I work on a floor with about 40 people, but this time at least half are women. I can now relate to that male coworker. If you make a mess ladies, wipe it up! So no, I won’t miss the office restroom.

As you can see, the male to female ratio has changed over the course of my career. When I graduated from college, only 5% of my computer engineering class was female. As I moved into the workforce, that statistic was the norm. I remember one meeting in particular early on in my career. I was the IT analyst on a system implementation for the County’s Water Quality department. There were about 20 engineers in the conference room and not only was I the only woman, but I was at least 15 years younger than everyone else. It wouldn’t be until about ten years later that I was sitting in a meeting and looked around the room and realized it was the first time at the County that I was in a meeting with all women. Sure I was meeting with the Communication and Media Office which was all female, but it was startling to realize how few women I worked with on a daily basis.

Commuting. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I like to drive, so I don’t mind the time I spend in the car. In the morning I can use the time to plan my day or listen to an audiobook. In the evening I can use the time for problem-solving (in my case, the shower is the best place for problem-solving, but the drive home is a close second), or I decompress with loud music while cursing my boss…it all depends on the day. The part I hate and will not miss? Other drivers. Merge like a zip people! Is it really that difficult?

I won’t miss a rigid work schedule. I’m not a morning person. I don’t naturally wake up at 6 AM; it is a chore. There was one brief period in my career when I worked a 9/80 schedule giving me every other Friday off, and I was also allowed to telework on Thursdays and my working Friday. This was my perfect and most productive schedule. Monday through Wednesday I got my ass out of bed, got dressed, and was at my desk by 7:30. By Thursday morning, I was starting to drag, but my desk was only 20 feet from my bedroom, so I rolled out of bed and started my day (usually before 7:30). At lunchtime, I would shower and eat and then return to my desk to finish my day. I got so much done on those Thursdays and Fridays. The beginning of the week was spent in meetings determining the action items and the end of the week was for getting things done.

Then I became a manager. That meant 8-to-5 Monday through Friday and professionally dressed. Gone were the sweats and bunny slippers of my teleworking days. I’ve purged my wardrobe of most of my suits and heels and have just enough professional attire remaining to get me through these last few weeks at work. I will keep one pair of heels for weddings and funerals, but I see boots, tennies, and flip-flops as the go-to footwear in retirement.

Other random things I won’t miss:

  • Elevators
  • Parking garages
  • Badges
  • Expense reports
  • The community refrigerator
  • Windows that won’t open
  • Fluorescent lighting
  • Status reports
  • My boss’s boss
  • Elected officials

These are things I won’t miss about work, but there are so many good things and people I will miss…