Friday, July 02, 2004

As luck would have it,

on Tuesday last I attended a party at the offices of my former boss, Assemblywoman Dion Aroner. She's now a powerful California State lobbyist with tastefully appointed offices in Berkeley's chic Fourth Street Avenue along the Bayfront.

Because of the difficulty of parking anywhere nearby, I left my car about a block away from the site. As I did so I noticed that the car that pulled in behind me was that of the executive director of a very effective and successful program for emotionally disturbed teens. Ken Berrick has been a longtime supporter of Dion's so we've met before on many occasions though not often been in contact recently. We chatted idly on the walk to the party -- and in the process he mentioned that he'd been considering an intensive psychological/educational program for the troubled teens of Richmond. The interest had been heightened by his discovery of a great program being conducted by someone in New York. "Geoffrey Canada," I asked? "Yes," answered Ken. I'd just seen (African American Harvard educated) Canada interviewed on the Charlie Rose show a week or so ago and had been intrigued as well. We chatted for a few minutes about this exciting work ... Ken was obviously excited. It was a conversation that held great promise but was quickly extinguished as we approached the party and someone snagged him as we neared the site -- and engaged him in another conversation as I continued on.

After a few canapes and a margarita and after re-connecting with many friends of long-standing, I left to meet Dorian for supper together before another evening of watching the Richmond city council meeting on cable, my Tuesday night ritual.

The thought of Ken and his thoughts along the path melted away in the rush of busyness, but returned in the night as I lay awake playing over the Canada study in my relentlessly busy brain.

Slip to two days later. I logged on and clicked my way into the Seneca Family Programs website, wrote a short email to Ken telling him that I was keenly interested in his idea about emulating some of the Canada program in Richmond. Told him in a paragraph about my frustration around the ill-fated Barbara Alexander Academy, my interest in Washington, D.C., SEED boarding school that had just graduated its first class of 21 poor black kids (after four years of heavy educating) -- all of whom have been accepted at colleges across the nation, including Stanford. These are not the highly motivated and exceptional kids, but children chosen by lottery from one of the poorest communities in the nation. I'd met with SEED's creators while working for Loni. One of the two innovators called about a week ago to tell me proudly about their graduating class, and to let me know that SEED will be adding two schools to their program over the next few years; one in Oakland in 2006 and another in Richmond in 2007. All the fascination with education and troubled kids surfaced for me again, and I wanted to encourage Ken to pursue the Richmond possibility.

Told him in my email about the NPS job offer, but that I really wanted to explore the possibilities of helping Seneca to move into Richmond before finalizing that. "After that, I have a date with Al Zheimers, a guy who's been waiting in the wings for some time now!" (grin) I figure a good two years more before I slow down enough for him to catch me.

Within an hour Ken returned my email message (but by phone). The old excitement that I'd heard in his voice as we walked to the party was still there. "I'm thinking of both Emeryville and of Richmond as possible sites. I agree that we need to sit down and talk, Betty. How about the afternoon of the 14th in Dion's Berkeley office -- from two o'clock until four, maybe?"

This morning:

Rick Smith from NPS just called to say that he is on his way to the regional office and wanted to confirm whether or not I'd actually accepted their job offer (to start on July 12th).

"Have another possible job offer, Rick, with an exploratory meeting just two days later on the 14th. Would you have any objection to waiting a bit before we tie things down?"

"Oops! We'll need to sweeten the pot, maybe?"

"No. Just need some time to hear what this means, and whether or not it's a better fit for my abilities."

"Sure, Betty, we can wait."

"Would it be allright if I come in for a couple of days next week to do some volunteer work -- just to get a feel for the work?"

"Of course. Take your time. We can wait."

So you'll just have to keep tuned. With only a couple of years left, I'd sure hate to find myself doing something uninteresting and where my years of such varied experience is not utilized fully. Time is precious now, and spending it wisely is more important than ever before.

Who says that options cease with age? Apparently not anyone we know.

Keep forgetting to mention the young African American man with whom I've been working for several years now. Mentoring Eddrick Osborne is a labor of love. (You might want to look up his campaign website.) He's bright and receptive and dedicated to the political process and to a continuing role in public service. He's running for the Richmond city council in November and is finding broad support throughout the community. Gave him a copy of now-retired Congressman Ron Dellums' autobiography to read. It's called "Lying down with the Lions" and traces Dellum's rise from the "Hood" of Oakland to national prominence in Congress. His seat is now occupied by Rep. Barbara Lee, a former member of his staff and one who is destined for greatness as well. I see Eddrick as having high potential for that kind of leadership. He's 35 with a lifetime ahead to make his mark. I'm loving the fact that there is the chance to influence just how that contribution will be made.

So much to do -- so little time ... .

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Call came today to finalize my position with the NPS.

My answering machine spoke it's message as I came in from dropping Dorian off at NIAD for her art classes. "Betty, would you stop by some time today to drop off your resume? And, you'll need to include your academic stuff." Did so a little while ago, after editing it to include the last place of employment, "Office of Assemblywoman Loni Hancock of the 14th Assembly District, Field Representative." Since I met the NPS people while representing Loni, this one had to be a slam dunk, right? Nope. Not so.

Stopped by with neatly-typed resume in hand and presented it to the director of the Rosie project. "We're bringing you in as a park ranger (classification), Betty." That apparently has some criteria that my resume -- impressive though it may be -- just doesn't have. Rick Smith scanned the 4-pager with all its interesting accomplishments and achievements then asked for my academic credits. (Gulp!)

Since I married at 19 and spent the next 25 years raising a family of four kids, there had never been time for formal study.

My first job of any significance was with the University of California at Berkeley, where I was brought on by a friend who was hired as chief administrator for a research project. Though I had no "resume," I was not only hired immediately but was married to the Principal Investigator six months later! UC personnel figured that they simply didn't have the right boxes for me to fit into in the job application, but took a chance. Told Rick that I'd entered into a ten-year non-traditional doctoral study project by being married to Bill and being exposed to the world of the academy.

Since that time I've experienced more of life than most and learned from every new challenge. Told Rick that -- if they want to hire me -- he'd just have to convince his personnel department that I am a one-of-a-kind-talent-who-can't-be-quantified-or-measured-by-ordinary standards! Crazy? Sure, but that about sums it up. The poor man then asked for the name of my high school so that he can secure whatever records are still there. (Got those little boxes to fill in, donchaknow.) Weird? Right. Let's see, that would be about 62 years ago. How relevant would such records be? The bureaucracy is such a slave to those little boxes, isn't it? How could a grown man with advanced degrees allow himself to be influenced by anything so stupid? Judy Hart, the CEO and Head Ranger, holds her degrees in English Lit! She told me so today, laughing all the while.

He's apparently set aside the fact that he's been working with me for about three years, during which time we've sat together in meetings with historians, engineers, park rangers, architects, politicians, museum directors, etc., in planning operations for the new national park. The reason they offered to me, specifically, the position was because they'd obviously been impressed by the quality of my participation in their projects, right?. Otherwise..? Wassup?

It appears that they have to confer and get back to me after they've received my Castlemont High School transcript(!)

Meanwhile, I've had time to re-read my resume and find it a pretty good sketch of where my "professional life" has taken me, with or without advance degrees. Have never felt more ready for next steps in a new direction. Being a Park Ranger is a little far-fetched, but what the hay ...!

Monday, June 28, 2004

Life's adventures continue ...

Just about the time that I figure that my dzi beads have lost their power, that age has caught up with me at last, that the string has run out and that my rabbit foot is no longer operative; guess what? Not so. Cradled the phone a moment ago from a brief conversation with Rick Smith of the National Park Service. It was a job offer "starting immediately!" ...and I hadn't even applied. I'll become a staff member of the Rosie The Riveter Memorial National Park. Had been working with that team as a representative from my state office for several years, so have some familiarity with the assignment.

He said, "...we'd like for you to start ASAP. We can do a 60-day emergency hire, then the job will have to be posted and you'll need to submit your resume for consideration with others who might apply once this is posted. Oh, and the criteria includes a Bachelor's Degree" (which I do not have). I laughed and said, "'ll have to accept the equivalent. Anything I'd have learned that far back would hardly be relevant to anything today. Math probably involved an Abacus, if I recall correctly. A bachelors degree from 60 years ago would be meaningless. Who's running this crazy government agency anyway?" Then it was HIS time to laugh! Two months is surely enough time to make myself invaluable,right?

On Saturday I met with my attorney/broker to finally complete my income tax forms, and to explore the possibility of refinancing that small commercial building I own in Berkeley (yes, finally reached that point). It was disheartening to find that home loans are attainable at very low interest rates, but that commercial property is very hard to refinance. My present mortgage carries an interest rate of 11.5%. That comes to $36.21 a day. Must DO something, says I (to which he agreed). But what?

Gave serious consideration to selling my condo and moving into senior housing nearby with Dorian. It would have meant deeding all of my assets into my Living Trust, or turning all over to my kids now in order to qualify for senior housing. Not an attractive alternative but perhaps sensible -- given my chances of continuing to be independent.

But now I'm called back to work and in a new field where there is lots to learn and much to do. And, it improves my financial position dramatically at a time when I'd begun to believe the next "incarnation" would not be happening.

So ...

Will start this new chapter in a day or so, and now I need to toss out these sack cloths and ashes and get back to work!