Do we dare join the ski patrol when we do not ski? When we were living in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in the late 1960s, Don entered the house we had purchased and made an announcement! While teaching at New Mexico State University that day, a student had told him about a meeting for people wanting to be on the ski patrol. It was to be held in Ruidoso, New Mexico, the following Saturday at the ski area. Thoughts ran through my head. “Is he crazy? We have neither one ever skied. Our children are 2 and 3, too little to enjoy this!” When I shared my concerns, he talked me into getting a babysitter for a day and going to the meeting the following Saturday. Explanations consisted of “there is no snow right now. They will not be testing us to see how we ski this weekend. We can see how much a cabin might cost us to make it easier for traveling back and forth on the weekends that we have to be there.” He was determined and also said, “If you do not want to do this, then I will do it alone. There will be lots of cute bunnies on the slopes.” That was mean! Saturday arrived. We went to the meeting and learned that we would all have to go through EMT training that would be offered free for everyone planning to patrol. That sounded like training that might be helpful to have at any time in our lives. I was in! We met families that owned cabins in Ruidoso that day. One invited us over following the meeting to look at a paper they had at home listing rentals.
I liked their entire family, and we accepted their invitation and thought about the possibilities of a cabin. Arriving at their cabin, I perused the newspaper and showed Don what I had found. On the first call, I was horrified by the cost of renting a cabin for the winter. On the second call, I asked, “How much are you renting your cabin for this winter?” She hesitantly responded, “Well, we do not have a cabin for rent, but will you hold on?” Me: “Definitely.” When she returned to the phone, she invited us to come to meet with them about renting the cabin.” We went and loved it. It was a two-bedroom small log cabin, kitchen with cheerful red and white tablecloth on the table, living room with a fireplace, rustic! The woman told me a story while we were in the kitchen about her and her husband coming home to find a bear in the cabin. She shooed it out with that tablecloth. After her story, I asked the scary question, “How much will you want for rent? We will only be here on weekends and are sharing the cabin with another couple.” Both she and her husband responded, “$60.00 a month.” We could definitely do $30 a month each! Surprised, we quickly agreed and told them how much we would take care of their place. The next morning, the telephone rang, and I answered. It was the owner of the cabin. She said, “Hello, Susie, I need to talk to you about something.” I thought, “Oh no, she wants a larger amount. Then, to my surprise, she continued with, “We would like to lower your rent to $45.00. You see, we have a light that we leave on outside. It comes on and off automatically. The charge for that runs about $15 a month. Would this be okay?” Me: “That is not necessary. We can pay you the $60 and pay for the cost of the bill for the light.” She would not have it. She said they had never rented and really liked us.
Now about skiing! There was a small ski area, Cloudcroft, close by. We went to that small ski area, took a lesson, and began our life of skiing. Cloudcroft opened before Sierra Blanca in Ruidoso opened. Perfect timing. When Sierra Blanca opened, we began our life on the ski patrol. We loved that ski area, the employees of the ski area that were mostly Native Americans from a local reservation, and our friends on the ski patrol! We all learned to ski. Helping many that came through the Ski Patrol Station that had gotten hurt was also rewarding. By both Don and I working one hour a day, our whole family skied free. Our two children, Dawn and Johnny, loved going to the cabin and spending time with other children whose parents were on the ski patrol with us. They began skiing at ages two and three. They initially began skiing with them between my legs. Next, they left me, went up the beginner’s lift, and could come down the baby slope. The is when we put them in ski school. Ahhh, my first day to practice my skiing by myself. I took the lift up the mountain and began down a slope I felt like I could handle. That is when I heard someone crying. It sounded like Johnny. I almost panicked but followed the cry and found him. He had left the class and found me!!!! Well, that was the end of ski school for him. He always skied with me until Dawn joined us. Then we three skied. And we all got better and better. We were on the ski patrol for two winters and then took a break while Don got his Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. Returning to New Mexico in l970, we went back on the ski patrol and rented another cabin. As I got a job and life became more hectic, we eventually stopped renting the cabin, and then we let go of our beloved ski patrol. Don had decided to run for U.S. Congress.
I walked into the new arts center wanting to learn about macrame and walked out teaching macrame! Can I do it? With Don out of school and with no money to get started, I needed money. I learned there was a new building downtown that had recently opened where they sold art supplies. I did not have a job yet, and our children were now five and six, so I decided to see the art gallery one morning while they were in school. After looking around to find something for children to do at home, I asked the lady behind the desk, “Do you have any macrame books?” She said, “Yes, we do. It is becoming so popular.” I walked over and picked out some books about doing macrame and then retrieved jute to practice with. When I got to the desk, she said, “Would you consider teaching macrame here?” I hesitantly replied, “Certainly I would. What are you thinking?” She said, “We need a beginners’ class. Perhaps you could teach one in the evenings once a week. If it really goes over, we could have two a week.” I took on the persona of someone that knew what they were doing and replied with, “That would work perfectly for me. Let’s begin with one for beginners and meet once a week. We just recently moved here, and I do not know many people.” She said, “Oh, do not worry about that. We will do all of the advertising and have them sign up to attend here. Give us a call in a few days and tell us what supplies you want them to have to begin the class.” As I walked out of the art gallery, I was ecstatic! This was going to be perfect. Don could watch Dawn and Johnny while I taught a class. I had not ever done macrame in my life, but I did not lie. One book I purchased was about how to begin doing macrame. That was the first item I had the participants purchase plus some jute… just like me… and we met in a beautiful room designed for classes to be held at this beautiful venue for art supplies. I made about $260 a month during that first class of eight sessions. I made more the following class offering another beginners’ class and an intermediate class. Practicing at home, I got better and did bigger projects, winning a blue ribbon at the county fair and the state fair.
Do I dare attempt a job for which I am not qualified? When we arrived in Portales, where Don was going to teach after completing his Ph.D., I took my resume to the Dean of Student Affairs and said I knew there were problems I could help him with. Eventually, he called me about a position. I turned down three jobs the Dean of the Student Affairs called and told me about. My last boss in Iowa City at American College Testing told me to stop taking the kind of jobs I normally took; he said not to take anything below an executive position. The Dean telephoned the fourth time and said that I would be very interested in this position. He asked that I come for an interview. I laughingly said that I would not do it because he did not know my value. He ignored me and continued talking until I became curious. After arriving for my meeting with him, I watched as he pulled my resume from his drawer. I also watched his expressions change as he discovered that I only had an AA degree in Business from OU. He wanted someone with a Master’s Degree in Sociology or Psychology! I suggested he let me volunteer for whatever the job was that he called me about to help him. I also asked why he called me to meet with him if he had not looked at my resume? He said that he noticed that I could get along with people in high positions and the hippies of the day young people. Disappointed that I had no degree, he turned my suggestion of volunteering down. I left, and he called again in a few days, asking me to meet with the lady over volunteers. I went to that interview about volunteering. It turned out the position was to work for a drug prevention program connected to the university. It had problems, and they wanted me to close it down in six weeks. I told the nice woman that interviewed me that I could try to do what they wanted. You see, I thought volunteering to shut down this program where they had been looking for a Master’s Degree person to run the program would help me practice being an executive.
The lady I met with explained that they were going to be losing their funds in six weeks. I suddenly got the bright idea to say, “If I can keep the funds, can I keep the position of Director?” The response was, “Yes, but you won’t be able to keep the funds.” I learned the funding was $21,000 a year. I asked where they acquired their funding and if I could talk to them. She said, “It’s in Santa Fe, but they will not give it to you.” Me: “Will you give me a chance and let me go talk to them?” Hesitantly, she said that I could do that. Two counselors had been working there, plus a secretary, but one counselor and the secretary had already quit. Thus, it would be the one counselor and me. She felt that I could close the records and the books. I accepted the position of Director for the University’s Prevention Center. Now here was my surprise. I thought I would be volunteering. Frances, who was interviewing me, then said, “How much do you want to be paid?” I was stunned. I thought I would do this for free and had been setting all sorts of requirements for my taking the job and working for nothing. I muttered out a low amount and left to see what I could do. The other employee quit the next day. He was mad that he did not get the job! The counselor who quit had a caseload of 20. I told each of them that I liked people but had no training. They all kept coming. It was just me. I did go to Santa Fe and meet with the Director of the Funding Agency. They doubled the money we received from the state for the next year rather than take the money away in six weeks. With no other mental health program in town, people from our community came to our center. The Dean and I hired a real counselor to work with me with the new funding, and it all began. He made me keep my 20, and he took the new ones.
Eventually, with more money coming in, we grew so big that the Dean asked me to leave along with my program. I called and got papers to apply for a non-profit corporation. We developed our own Board of Directors for what would be known as Mental Health Resources, Inc. We did, in fact, completely separate from the university. Not knowing how to do anything helped me. Can you believe that? I did not hire a lawyer to get our non-profit status. I did not know to do that. I did it and thought everyone did it this way. I had no idea that most groups hired a lawyer to acquire non-profit status until a man came to our center and asked who we hired to get our non-profit status. Another thing that I had never done was write a grant. Again, I wrote my first one by reading instructions and simply answering the questions. I was also counseling and developing programs for first offenders and their parents, plus other programs to help people. This required more staff. Serving on many state committees, I thought about who needed help, such as prisoners returning home. What programs would I have wanted to attend if I needed that help? Looking for additional funding sources, I went to the Law Enforcement Assistance Agency to programs designed to help prisoners. I added to my own education plus training while working with new ideas for our center. And I began being asked to do programs in schools, speak, and work with the state mental health/drug abuse/mental retardation association to develop and get a law passed at the state level to help mental health situations in all areas. I loved my position, my job, and the many lives we were touching. When I learned there were funds for an abandoned building in the middle of downtown to be refurbished, I wrote a federal grant to acquire the only funds available. New Mexico only had enough money for one building to be refurbished and made into a mental health facility. We got it. When I left ten years later, we offered seven counties a comprehensive mental health center, had 168 employees, and a $1.8 million budget per year. I left to enter the marriage that created even more pain than Don’s death. For ten years, I loved my position, my work, and all we accomplished.
Decided to start my own nutrition business and help people health wise. I have already written about this, and it also was a success even through a bad marriage. Then I changed and it was again time to let go.
LESSON: Sometimes, when we step off a cliff and try something we have never tried before, we might land standing tall. If we do not, we can usually remove ourselves from the situation and take a different path. Practice replacing fear with love – love and faith for both its negative, which we learn from and the positive experiences that bring passion forth.
GIFTS: My creativity soared in the above four situations.
I learned to ski so well that I could have been on the Ski Patrol that serves the mountain rather than taking care of people in the patrol’s first aid station where the ski patrol brought problems. I suddenly realized the ego wanted me to pass the test to pick up and take large people in the sled down the most difficult slopes. Putting my ego in check and my masculine side in check. Knowing I could succeed, I declined the final part of the test and was happy with what I had been doing. I loved snow skiing, as did our whole family. I did smile when I could ski right past all of the ones still standing at the top of a ridge looking down the slopes was able to whiz by and head down the steep slope and its moguls.
Teaching macrame meant that I had to stay ahead of my students. It kept me on my toes. I created wall hangings and even a hanging lamp that actually won the New Mexico state fair.
My creativity and not knowing I was not qualified to be doing something brought about increases in the numbers of clients and innovative programs to help people of communities I lived in and others.
Having no signs of preparing me for any of these activities above, they just appeared, and I stepped forward. I thanked God many times for what came forth. However, I began having signs to guide me when I began wanting more spiritual answers about life. That is when I committed to Self and God to pay attention to what I was being shown. Perhaps I have always been presented with signs, but I did see them or take the time to notice or was not awake enough to notice. Paying attention made life even more of an adventure!