Life Stories  Feb. 15, 2009
"Life isn't about how to survive the storm but how to dance in the rain."

Re-Tool, Re-Wire,
and Re-Inspire

By Jacquie Scarbrough

With the New Year, I find myself making choices about the next chapter of my life. Since my recent retirement from WE CAN, the organization that I started, I am trying to design how I will spend my time, contribute to society, and even hopefully make some money for the next decade or so.

When I was in transition in the past, I’d go to the career office at my college, take personality tests, read books like What Color is my Parachute?, and employ exercises such as imagining my “perfect day.”

Recently, I re-read my past career musings. I was amazed at how many times I had set down a dream, in writing, and it came true. Even when I forgot that I wrote it! I believe that once you commit a dream to paper, you both consciously and subconsciously begin working to make it happen. So, I decided to write down my dreams again.

One exercise that helps me to define my dreams is to identify my qualities by writing down my gifts, values, and passions. Then I filter this list down to my top three in each category. From this process I learned that my top three gifts are problem-solving, creativity, and being a good writer and researcher. My top values are adventure, making a difference/being of service, and learning. My top passions are nurturing, learning, and creating.

My next question becomes: What are the callings that call for these qualities?

I think of journalism to satisfy my hunger to learn, discover, research, interview and investigate. But these qualities were also essential for me at WE CAN, when I was developing programs, working with clients, and creating a referral database. These qualities could also be applied to developing a project or program, or starting an artistic business.

The adventurous/explorative side of me loves to “think outside the box,” to try or create something new, and to travel. Volunteering or becoming involved in a career counseling program would seem to encase the qualities of nurturer, guide, making a difference and being of service. Creativity can lead me toward art, design, writing, or even starting a new program.

What does this exercise tell me? I see some callings peaking out. For example, I can imagine interviewing people about their “growing experiences” or their heroes and heroines. I can interview seniors about what has given meaning to their lives, or what they have learned about love and relationships, or how they have faced unexpected difficulties. I believe we should record the lessons of the past so that they do not die with an individual.

Perhaps in this internet age, I could reap the stories from seniors on the Cape and post them on a site so that others could read them and write history together. Perhaps each decade could express their wisdom for the next generation. When I had young children, I always thought I’d write a children’s book. I wonder if I could embed some of the wisdom I gather from these interviews into a children’s book and balance that with a goofy, fun one too?

I could also write about women in transition, as I am now. I certainly have been through transitions, have studied adult development, have counseled hundreds of women at WE CAN going through crises, and have studied life coaching. I could write a blog and respond to replies so that it would be interactive learning.

The most obvious calling is to find a paying job that utilizes my career counseling and coaching skills. Or perhaps I could help a new program get going so I could employ all those creative, explorative, research talents.

Other ideas that jump out at me are to design fabric. I have always collected patterns; primordial ones from Mexico and the Polynesian Islands, Celtic interlace, and geometric designs. I could print them on fabric, perhaps starting with just pillow covers and place mats, then see where that leads me. I could donate the profits.

It’s astonishing how you get what you wish for! After sorting through my values, passions, and gifts, I decided to let it simmer inside me for a while as I went on with my life. Sure enough, a fellow committee co-chair recently sent me a description of a new job at Cape Cod Community College. She told me to read it and apply because “This is you.” I read it and agreed: it was me. It encompassed those passions, gifts, and values that I had written about.

The job entailed counseling and advising Cape Codders over 50 who are in transition; working with people looking for a new career or seeking to upgrade their skills, or just wanting to continue learning. Helping people find service opportunities or trying to figure out what to do next after a lay-off. I researched the program, called Plus 50, and sent my resume to the college. I was interviewed, they offered me the job, and I took it!

I am now a Plus 50 Advisor. I also joined a new group that just started meeting at my church, recording elders’ stories. I began both my new job, and the elder story project, in January. Both new ventures fulfill the dreams I had written down just weeks before.

Jacquie Scarbrough lives in Harwich. For more information about Plus 50 go to www.capecod.edu
and click on Plus 50 under Index A-Z.



Irene Paine:
A Cape Codder in Montana

A few years ago, Irene Paine, a Wellfleet native and frequent contributor to local publications including the Cape Codder and Cape Women, left her Cape Cod home to live in Montana near her daughter.
Check out her blog at: 


We Are One . . . continued from colum on left:

I was doing fine until a woman beside me commented that “This is a Stephen King movie waiting to happen.” I glanced behind me to see nothing but a sea of faces. From my perspective the tunnel had no end and no beginning. I had to reframe the journey before I lost my ability to keep walking. So I told Corina that we were in the birthing tunnel, marching toward a new life. She liked that idea and encouraged me to focus on the beautiful blue sky that was awaiting us. When the tunnel turned a corner, to reveal its end, a cheer erupted from the crowd. As we emerged into the sunlight I felt like I had just done a fire walk, every nerve tingling with anxiety and anticipation. The crowd continued its flow toward the Mall.

The entire day was a mass of moving bodies, smiling faces, shivering shoulders and tear stained cheeks. The sea of humanity that showed up to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama was the most powerful affirmation of hope that I have ever witnessed.

This is why I spent endless hours campaigning for him in all kinds of weather, even though I wanted to watch a movie or sleep in an extra hour at the weekend. This is why I waved politely at the man who ordered me to “vote for the white guy” as I stood beside my African American friend, holding up my homemade “Obama Mama” sign. Despite our differences, we are all connected by our struggles and our dreams.

The petty insults were far outweighed by the kindness of the strangers who brought us trays of hot chocolate and coffee, or the people who slowed down to thank us for taking the time to “stand out” for change. This is “the price and the promise of citizenship,” the right to stand up for what we believe in and the responsibility to act upon our beliefs.

As Barack Obama took his Oath of Office I held my breath. History was being made and I was living it. I was acutely aware that mine was the only white face among an ocean of colored faces when he declared that “The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift; that noble idea . . . that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” These words echoed down the Mall as a wave of unity surged through every one of us. We cheered, cried, and reached up into a flawless blue sky.

As our new President delivered his speech I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, making sure that my boots remained on the folded newspaper that served as a welcome barrier between me and the frozen earth beneath me. Never before had I felt so cold, so cramped, so hungry and so desperately tired. I spent five days driving and walking more than I have ever done before. Being a part of this life-changing event had pushed me way out of my comfort zone. But I’d do it all again, in a heartbeat, for the chance to be among a crowd so united in spirit and so full of joy.

In the silence between the words you could literally hear a pin drop. In that moment, President Obama’s voice was circling the entire globe through television and computer screens, and on radios and cell phones. His words, witnessed by so many millions, were creating a paradigm shift that will change how we perceive one another forever. They were strong enough, wise enough and compassionate enough to give us the faith that yes, we are one, and together we can overcome any obstacle if we have the courage to try.

Bearing witness to Barack Obama becoming President has given me permission to breathe deeply again. Despite the uncertain nature of our future, I feel safe now, confident that we are in good hands. I also feel inspired to face the hard work and the challenges that lie ahead. I know they won’t be easy. They never are. But I am not alone in my journey—I am accompanied by the determined hearts of all those people I met and hugged on the National Mall on that cold, remarkable day in January.

Nicola Burnell is the editor of this magazine. She lives in Harwich with her two teenage sons. Send comments or your own stories if you were in DC too: Nicola@capewomenonline.com

WE ARE ONE – Yes We Are!

Nicola Burnell reporting from Washington, DC

I became a US citizen in January, 2005, so that I could vote in the 2008 presidential election. After 18 years of feeling mute and disconnected by being labeled a “Resident Alien,” I was anxious to add my voice to the chorus of millions screaming for change in America.

On January 20th, 2009, I was among the 1.8 million people gathered on the National Mall, in Washington, D.C. Like everyone around me, I had to bear witness to the inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama. I needed to be there to understand exactly what “You are the change you’ve been waiting for” really meant to me.

Being a self-employed single mother of two teenage boys has its own challenges. But when I dare to contemplate the realities of this flailing economy—the darkening of stores I have been frequenting for years, the empty homes I drive by daily, and the loss of so many lives to war—I am tempted to collapse into fear and desperation. Then I think about how I felt standing amongst all those strangers on the National Mall. I recall the relief I felt when President Obama asserted that “We gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.”

I was one of those pioneers who “packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.” When I left England I had just turned 22. I was gloriously oblivious to the fact that my journey across the Atlantic Ocean would initiate a series of challenges that have tested every nerve in my body. Yet it is these same challenges that have given me the strength and the belief that no matter how tough life appears, there is always reason to hope for a better future. This is the energy that I felt embracing me from the moment I arrived in Washington.

My initial exposure to this magical crowd was at the WE ARE ONE free concert held at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, January 18th. The advertised line-up of Hollywood celebrities and some of my favorite musicians was just too good to miss. Accompanied by my two sons and friend Corina, I huddled with complete strangers to keep warm for over five hours.

In our rush to drive to Washington in time to get to the concert we had forgotten to eat breakfast or lunch. A woman overheard my comment that I was hungry and divided her apple among the five of us. When another woman heard me complain about being cold, she handed me the scarf from around her neck. I felt humbled by their generosity and compassion.

The magic continued the next day when a total stranger handed us silver tickets to the inauguration as we sat on a bench in the Holocaust Museum (thank you Gene Williams.) By this time the crowd had swelled into every nook and cranny of the city.

As the sun set and bright lights illuminated the Capitol Building, we joined throngs of curious onlookers meandering up and down the Mall to watch newscasters broadcast from their heated portable studios. We bought commemorative pins and t-shirts from street vendors exercising their own version of economic stimulus. Braving the masses in the Metro, we chatted to passengers about the excitement hovering in the air as we stood, our bodies jammed together from head to toe, unable to move a millimeter in any direction. You would never have guessed that I am claustrophobic!

As I tried to sleep the night before the inauguration, just a few blocks from the White House, I listened to people chanting “Obama, Obama” in the street below. There was no silencing their passion and enthusiasm for the historic event that was about to occur.

We were up and out the door by 5:30am Tuesday morning, flowing with the crowd down 17th Street, toward the Silver Gate on the Mall. Time seemed to stop as people swarmed into line from all directions, moving as fast and focused as ants. When we were ushered into the mouth of a tunnel I tried not to think about the possibility of a panic attack.

continued on next column . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

P. O. Box 720, North Eastham, Cape Cod, MA 02651
Telephone: (508) 255-5084
© Copyright 2009 CapeWomenOnline
All rights reserved