About Pam Collage Art by Pam Writing Life Manifesto

Part One of this two-part blog post can be found HERE)

I’m not gonna quit.

At least any time soon.

I am choosing to keep the golden handcuffs on.


Sort of.

Allow me to explain.

Just an hour from my home is Amboy, Washington,  a beautiful small town in the Lewis River Valley. Teeming with lush old growth forest of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, it is an area that has captured my imagination of what could be should we ever decide to own a property outside of the city. I used to fantasize about selling our house and moving away from Portland and was always prowling real estate listings in that particular county. But then I realized I am a lifelong bonafide city girl. I like to visit the countryside; I do not want  to live away from all the city life conveniences I have come to enjoy and rely upon.forest

So I have kept this little dream about owning some kind of property in the forest, a getaway property. A small cabin maybe? But small, affordable cabins in pristine forested land is actually hard to come by. At least for what we can afford. Besides, how could we possibly manage owning two properties?

And then there’s the spooky wilderness. I love the wilderness by day. I get nervous in it at night if no one else is around. That’s why I like camping so much. We are surrounded by other campers which helps me feel safe. And we always leave too early … I am almost never ready to leave the forest and head back to our urban-dense homestead. How many times have I said to Jerry as we drive out, “I wish we had a place all our own in the forest, a getaway place.” Yep, me too, he always says. I love how compatible he and I have remained 27 years into this marriage. I think it’s working out.

Stay with me… there is a point to all this. A great big, golden handcuff point…

On my hardest shifts at work I try to escape the drudgery of it all by imagining myself in the forest. I daydream about the smell, the earthy, mossy scent of a massive grove of cedars. I  picture the slender limbs of vine maples clustered upon  beds of verdant green ferns. As I push and shove and haul 2,000 pound doughs around the proof room, I secretly long for a real-life place to escape, a place to recover from the chaos of city life and demanding work schedules, a place to heal and rejuvenate. The forest is good medicine for me.

Enter my friend and coworker Nancy. She had been telling me about her recreation site at a private campground called Lake Merwin Campers Hideaway. It’s in the Lewis River valley, the very area I have eyed for the last couple of years. Camper’s Hideaway is a 36 acre campground with 1500 sites. Members own their site and develop it with a camper trailer. Many add decks and sun porches making their camper site appear almost like a cabin. As she showed me around her site and her neighbors, my imagination began to soar.

Campers Hideaway

Our Hideaway site includes a spacious deck and sunroom with a woodstove. Look at all that luscious forest greenery!

It’s affordable. It’s accessible. It’s a community of campers in the woods.

The next week Jerry and I were out there. We found a site ideal for us, right on the perimeter of the camp meaning it is very private and is surrounded on two sides by gorgeous state forest land. I wondered and wondered…. is it worth it to choose to stay on at a job that has sucked the vitality out of me to have my dream of a place in the forest?


Here you can see how the enclosure is built around the camper trailer creating an almost cabin-like atmosphere.

Jerry left it up to me. He did not pressure me either way knowing that I am the one who will carry the brunt of whether I stay on at Nabisco so we can afford the site or if I leave for a lesser paying job with an easier schedule and forego owning a little place in the woods.

It was actually not a hard decision at all.

And that is why  I have resolved to continue working at Nabisco to help pay for our place at Camper’s Hideaway. We should have the keys in about two weeks.

There is more to this decision than just a getaway place. Conditions have eased up considerably at work. I have been at the plant nearly three years. It was a season of about eight months that nearly did me in.  But now the schedule has returned to normal. I am rested. I am sane. And when I am rested and sane I am able to think more clearly and see with greater clarity. I am able to actually enjoy the people I work with and the great humor that often breaks out out on the floor.

One coworker often pranks me to the point that we are in helpless hysterics with me doing the Don’t-Make-Me-Pee-In-My-Pants dance.  (You know who you are!!)  I have slowly been developing genuine connections with some of my coworkers. I am finding my tribe within the Nabisco camaraderie. Like one coworker who is an amazing artist. She invites a few people to her art studio every month for a wine and painting party. She has an art studio and is a prolific artist as well as a full-time factory worker. She inspires me. Dont-look-back

With a saner work schedule I have been able to recall how my coworkers  rose to the occasion to support my family when Jeremy had cancer. Several coworkers, whom I barely knew at the time, organized a raffle and sold tickets for a whole month. Many people donated prizes for the raffle and many more bought tickets. When my son was presented with the raffle money, he and Jerry and I were speechless. The generosity was in the thousands… the thousands! I remain deeply grateful for the outpouring of care my coworkers demonstrated to my family during that difficult time.  In the midst of what can be a brutal workplace are many workers of Light.

As soon as our offer for the site at Camper’s Hideaway was accepted, serenity filled my inner being. Peace – and her sister Joy – came inside. I have been missing the two of them for quite some time. I’m so glad they are back.

It was cool talking to the owner of the site. She is an artist and a writer. She said the previous owner was also an artist. “I don’t want to sound weird,” she said, “but this place has tremendous creative energy. You just feel it the minute you get here.”

There is even a small out building that I could convert into a creative studio. Imagine!

So is this what it means to wear golden handcuffs? To remain entrapped to a miserable job because you can’t free yourself from the lucrative paycheck and benefits?

Yes. And no.

Yes, because it is true. I need to stay on a job that’s not my favorite in order to afford this little place in the woods. And no, because I am not a prisoner to this job nor any job. I can quit. I can stay. I can look for another job. I can return to the hospital. I can make it work and stay on a few more years. I Have Options. I get to decide what to do with the resources that are in my life. I choose to work in a healthy partnership with Jerry so that together we are making wise decisions we can sustain for the long run. Owning a getaway out of overcrowded Portland is an option we get to exercise together. It is something we can share with not only one another, but with our children, our future grandchildren (future!) as well as our friends.  We can barely afford it if I make less money. We can easily afford it with me working at Nabisco. At this stage of our lives, we want to avoid the barely-afford-it category.

When I wrote about the harsh schedule and the toll it has taken on me nearly every commentor  advised me to Run. I’d tell me to run too, based on that blog post. But that was only part of the story, granted it was the hardest, darkest part of my work story, and yes, I can in no way sustain that kind of chronic stress again. And I won’t. I have now had ample time to rebuild my inner resilience. I have strategies in place to protect my vitality should our company ever work us to the bone that way again. I have turned a corner in my workplace.

Plus,  I now  have a hideaway in the woods, a place to retreat to where the forest can work it’s healing magic upon my body, soul and mind. Because it is in a camping community, or Glamping,  as some like to call it (Glamorized Camping = Glamping), I feel secure enough that I can even go by myself. My tree-hugging hippie 22-year old daughter can also enjoy the space and I won’t fret knowing that there is year-round onsite management.

So there you have it. The saga of my  workplace struggles and how I’ve decided to stay. It doesn’t mean I’m staying for a lifetime. It is just for  a few short years to help pay for our Hideaway place. I’m still young enough that there could always be a job change in the future if I decide to leave.

I realize that many must make vocational decisions in order to pay the rent and keep food on the table. I am mindful of the privilege I possess where I am making a decision to afford a getaway while also helping pay monthly bills. I am so done with feeling guilty for my privilege. I work hard, and so does my husband. We have worked hard to stay together for 27 years. Our partnership is the foundation of what gives me such privilege. A stable marriage is a treasure, hard won and hard kept. I am incredibly grateful for mine for all kinds of reasons. That’s another blog post for another time, how my  marriage really works and makes it in the real world, stormy times and all.

FindwhatmattersI made some new art last night. The message on it, Find What Matters to You, sums up
what drove me to this decision. It matters to me to retreat to the forest as often as I can whenever I can. Having our own Hogeweide Hideaway means I can do that. I look forward to new inspiration for art, writing and Life as we spend time at our getaway in the forest.

What do you think? Am I crazy? Have you ever had a new plot twist show up in your life that affected a major decision? 




Golden Handcuffs, Part Two — 9 Comments

  1. Glad to hear you have found a haven to refresh oneself. But also glad you decided to stay a little longer. Hope our schedule keeps to something a little more tolerable Pam. You’ve found some of what we found when we bought our travel trailer. Stay positive and moving forward.

  2. This is such good news! Bravo for finding a solution that will bring you joy and revival.

    Gordon and I have been looking for a little get-away spot too. We’re drawn to central Oregon and found a wonderful little house up on a hill at Prineville reservoir. But there’s not much opportunity for nice long low impact walks unless we get in the car and drive down to the lake. Though the house seemed perfect, especially the huge windows, beautiful view and tons of natural light, I really want to be able to walk out my door and just keep gently rambling. I have RA and fell down the stairs last fall which resulted in my having to use a cane to walk. It really put a crimp in my mobility, so being able to get outdoors and easily go for walks is pretty important to me. So I am reluctantly letting go of “hillside hermitage.”

    But we are not giving up! Tomorrow morning we are going down to the Detroit Lake area to look at a little cabin in the woods. It looks intriguing. I know it will not have the wonderful natural light factor, due to the forest setting, but it looks like we would be able to walk right out the door and off down a pretty tree lined path into the woods. We are on a tight budget so the houses we’re looking at are super cheap and small, which suits us just fine. My family is an endangered species anyway. We all fit neatly into tiny homes with nary a complaint. Give us a fireplace, a cup of tea, a good book and good food and we’re in heaven. I can see myself doing my artwork at either house and I can definitely imagine Gordon playing his violin on the deck in the rugged juniper terrain of the Prineville house or the soft mellow woods of the Willamette National forest house.

    I’m so happy to read about your decision to have the best of both worlds too. A home in town and a lovely little get-away in a beautiful setting that renews your soul. It is possible with some sacrifice and determination! I know it will be worth it for you and Jerry and your family. I’m wishing you dreams come true, dear Pam.

  3. Congratulations and welcome to the neighborhood! We looked at Camp Merwin too, it looks great. And I’m glad you found clarity on the job question. If you’re going to work you might as well get something you value out of it, beyond regular meals.

  4. Totally excited to hear about your new retreat place! Especially since you’ve been talking about this sort of thing for quite a while now. We’ll have to come hang out in the wood with you guys the next time we can make it up to the lovely NW for a visit. Also, I’m really resonating with what you are saying about resilience. This seems to be a key word for me right now, and is popping up in lots of different places and conversations. It’s actually a pretty big topic of discussion in environmental ethics — “resilience” is compared and contrasted with “sustainability.” The idea is that sustainability is just trying to see how long you can hold on to the status quo, while resilience is about creating a thriving ecosystem that can adapt to changes in the long term. Seems like this concept is very applicable to our lives as well.

  5. Oh wow, that really does sound perfect! I really know what you mean about the woods calling too you. One of the most life-changing dreams I ever had was about going to live in a house in the woods that felt like the whole earth was breathing and drinking and resting. Have you ever had a dream that seemed so profoundly real that it became a part of you that you can return to any time you try? It’s lovely. I hope I someday get to have it as regularly in the real world as I do in my mind.

    By the way, how’s you native plant garden coming? I love wild gardens; I’ve always wanted to do a shade garden with bleeding hearts, maiden hair and licorice ferns, and wood sorrel under evergreens. I wonder if a spray-mister on a drip irrigation system could recreate the micro-environment beside turbulent water where these things love to grow?

  6. This made me smile for a lot of reasons… mostly because I love you and your style. I am super excited about your getaway spot… a house that I really wanted to buy was on the road up to campers hideaway, it’s such a beautiful area!! Can’t help but think this will be perfect for you, and am wondering why I didn’t think of it for you before!!!
    Here’s to us bringing the boat across lake merwin to see you!!
    P.S. Text me… I am showing two mobile numbers for you and I don’t know which to use! Ha

  7. <3 I've enjoyed your last two blogs Pam…It feels like you are telling my story as well as your own. I am incredibly happy that you are not leaving, I wouldn't want to be shackled by these golden handcuffs without you around. (to help me rinse the cocoa outta my eyes! LOL)
    Love you!

  8. yes! an honest post about what it takes to live. I recently lost my father, a great man. and he always prayed for “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.” this post is exactly what we need to read; there are options. the choice that’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another. and living your passion while working to make it possible is a beautiful balance. congratulations on the amazing place. I love it! you’re such a blessing.

  9. I love your writing. So many details go in to your writing and into your decision making of keeping your job. I am sure in time to come you will be so happy to be in your new forest. Keep writing and being artistic. Love Ya

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