127 – mumblings from the mountains

Sitting looking at a smoke-hazed mountain outside my best friend’s back door. It’s beautiful, even in the fire-induced fog. The sun is trying to climb over it–she often doesn’t get actual sun on her house until upwards of 10 a.m. because it lies in the early morning shadow cast by that mountain.

Happy to be here, feeling a sense of accomplishment–a quilt that I worked on for almost a year has been given to the newlyweds, and the bride was my friend’s youngest daughter. The bride and groom are off now to Hawaii. Now a couple days just for us, the vacation we both sorely needed–and a quick visit with son John in Great Falls before we head back to super-heated but not-on-fire West Texas.

attic window quilt
attic window quilt

Got a nice, long visit with Kelsey and Brian and the kids the last week of July, got to know Miss Haley Leann a little bit better, and had tons of fun with Tyler.

Also took on a consulting job shortly before that, getting operations turned around at a restaurant in the 8000+ population town 45 minutes from the ranch. The same folks who own the ranch own the restaurant, and when their general manager asked if I’d take on the challenge, I couldn’t resist. That was July 17, and from there until we flew out to come up here for a week, I’ve been running with my ears laid back. It’s in much better shape now, with tons of help from Kels and Brian as well as Corey, who jumped in with the staff to do the massive cleaning that was the first step to getting the place back on track. It’s a 90-day contract, minus the time here in Montana, so as of October 16, I’ll be back to entrepreneuriality, if that’s a word. And November is NaNoWriMo.

Oh… and we bought a warehouse. 🙂

125 – happy insomniac

Up at 4 a.m. this morning. Promised Corey I’d never say 4:13 again. He finds that kind of precision funny. I would say I don’t know why… but I do, ’cause I find it funny when other people do it, but only when they add vague qualifiers to it, like “almost 4:13.” We are weirdly alike for two people that on the surface are not so much… But that’s probably what makes us work as a couple. At any rate, woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I figured I’d rattle off a few paragraphs.

Not a lot of plans for the weekend, other than to get into town in time to check the mail, pick up some ranch stuff, pick up some grocery stuff… get back home and work on the craft project that I’m up in the middle of–it’s a gift, so my lips are sealed. Am taking pictures.

My only other ambition is to get our van up and listed on a couple of websites. If you know anyone who might be in the market for an extended body 2002 Ford Econoline E350 cargo van, with a 7.3L diesel engine, let us know. It’s in good shape, two brand new tires and two good ones, just passed inspection a few months back. It’s very clean inside because we’re clean freaks. We stripped it down to the metal inside, repainted the inside floor and put it back together again. It does have a ladder rack for the top. The picture below is not a picture of THE van, it’s a picture of A van, same year model, same body type, frame, etc. I’ll replace it when I get a moment to get out and take pictures, if it’s not raining once the sun’s up this morning.

We had planned to kit it out as a weekend camping van, and it has room enough for a 2002-ford-econoline-cargo-van-058-p3queen-size bed in it, but we are just too busy to get it done… and enjoy just exploring the ranch on the rare weekend where we have time to just enjoy the weekend together. Plus, we like sleeping in our own bed now that we’re older. Camping, bluntly, kinda sucks.

But, I digress.

We’ll be listing the van for $6,500. Someone will want it just for the engine, according to my mechanically expert husband, who says it has 3/4 of a million miles of run-time left on it. Don’t know the mileage offhand, but I gather these engines run for decades. I know jack about engines, but know Corey wanted the van because of the engine, with eventual intent to tow a bumper-pull trailer, use the van for extra storage and the trailer for living space.

All I know is, rather than let it sit, someone who can use it ought to be using it. So if you know someone who might be interested, flag me down and let me know.

109 – love this old house

Moved from one house to another here on the ranch the week before Thanksgiving, and I’m not sure it’s possible to get much happier.

It’s a more spacious house than the converted bunkhouse we lived in before, and it’s a hugely more spacious yard for Daysie Dog, but that’s not why I love it.

As hard as we tried, we never really truly made the bunkhouse into ours. I honestly don’t know why.

Maybe it was easier in this place just because the kids got here the same week we moved in, and even helped us move the last bits and pieces and put the pictures up. Putting pictures up usually takes me months. This time they were up in the first week.

Honestly, I feel so at home that I almost feel guilty. We’ve spent a huge number of our spare hours for the last six months looking for what we hoped would be our “forever home,” the place where we will go when we retire, whenever that may be. Even took a week’s vacation to search this last summer. Got really close to putting an offer in on a place. Withdrew it. Too much work, too far away, too, too… whatever. It wasn’t right, so we didn’t do it.13-Living Room from Dining Room

Found another place in nearby Sanderson, and we were really intrigued. Well, “nearby” in Texas terms, about 45 minutes away. It had so many things we really wanted, but again, got spooked for a number of reasons and withdrew the offer.

Now I’m fully aware that the place we now live in, no matter how much I love it, will never be ours. It’s owned lock, stock and barrel by Corey’s employers. They supply housing for us in order to have him here, where they need him, day or night, weekend or weekday, not an hour away in town.

We do not own this house. We never will. This cannot be our “forever home.” (Talking to myself here, can you tell?)

So why does it make me feel so happy and so settled?

I honestly don’t know.

I do, however, have my suspicions.

I think part of it is that the bunkhouse was built to house the unrelated men who worked the ranch. This place, on the other hand, was built to be a home for a family.  There is history here, and it simply feels like a home and not a building.

I think another reason is because there was so much attention to detail in building this place. The beautiful stone tile floors you see in the picture above are throughout the house, except for the bedrooms, where there is carpet the same color as the caliche dust. Caliche dust is just part of the deal when you live on a ranch. It’s also open plan, very much like the house we someday had dreamed of building for ourselves.

It’s possible that another part of it is that I know, by the ranch owners moving us in here, how much they think of Corey and the work he does for them. It’s a big vote of confidence, this house–and well-deserved. He’s an amazing man, and he both thrives and excels in this work and home environment.

It may be that it’s because there’s a separate office, with a door, where I can walk away from my virtual job and keep it separate in ways that were just impossible in the bunkhouse.

It may be because there’s a dishwasher. Which does, indeed, make me just as happy as I thought it would.

It’s also vaguely possible that I just have an itch to move every so often, and this scratched the itch. Good Lord, I hope that’s not it.

Whatever the reason, I feel truly at home for the first time in a long, long time.

Let’s see… Corey’s 45 this year, if he works until 72, we could live here for, oh, 27 years.  I can see that.

I just went back and counted. I’ve moved 27 times since the year I entered kindergarten in Black Eagle, Montana. I was married for 27 years to my ex-husband before I bolted… Coincidence?

Well, yeah. But still… kinda cool!

108 – welcome to TTAADD

As of today, I’m being published in print once more. Welcome to the blog if you wandered over here from The Fort Stockton Pioneer–you’re very welcome.

It’s been four years since I wrote for  a weekly newspaper, and a quick conversation with the publisher has me writing for them once more.  I couldn’t be happier about it.

I wrote for them during 2009-10, while I was in the process of divorcing, getting remarried, and moving three times. I was also watching my brand-new daughter graduate high school, and waving her off to the tender care of the US Army.  It was a time of much chaos.

Publisher Pam Palileo told me more than once, though, that my articles were the most popular part of the paper, and actually made me believe it. I often got stopped on the streets of Fort Stockton with the question “Aren’t you the one…” My first, last and probably only taste of fame…. 😀

I quit writing in 2010, and in retrospect, it was because I was so frustrated with having to hold my tongue about so many things. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was only about 30 days away from quitting my job of nearly three years with an oilfield services company, and going back to work for Cisco Systems.

The funny part is, had I known that was going to happen, I would have probably kept writing! Part of my frustration was that my professional position kept me from being able to say what I wanted to about the company where I worked. The few times I had, my hand had been summarily slapped.

I was also involved in the Chamber of Commerce through my position at work, as well as a number of other organizations. It put me in a place where I could only say positive things, never anything negative.  Basically, I felt like my hands were bound, and my mouth was gagged. No writer is comfortable in that situation, so I just had to stop writing.

Now… now, I’m free to write whatever I choose, as long as it’s not libelous. Should be fun!

106 – year of changing my mind

I am ordinarily a… decisive person. That’s probably the charitable way to put it. I make decisions quickly, tend to rely on intuition, and only change my mind when the preponderance of evidence that I made the wrong decision is so strong that I simply can no longer deny it.  Don’t get me wrong, I really do try not to jump to decisions without thought, and especially those where there is major impact to my home and marriage. I talk everything over with Corey ad nauseam. If you ask our son, John, he’ll tell you we talk pretty much everything to death. And we do. He used to protect himself on long drives with headphones.

But, about four months ago, after seriously talking it over with Corey first, I took a job as a managing editor in Alpine, two hours away from the ranch.  Literally three weeks after I started, an old friend came hunting me down to work for him, giving me the ability to work part time and to work from home. By the end of August, I was back home at the ranch, working in the virtual world again.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About six weeks ago now, we decided to purchase a building in a town about a half hour from the ranch, but we changed our mind.

At about the same time, I decided to start a new business, and pushed THAT off well into the new year, if not forever.  It was kind of tangled up in the business purchase, but was actually the first to be jettisoned.

We shot the idea of buying a building in the head just this last week. (Sorry, it’s hunting season in West Texas, and we live on a hunting ranch–the image was irresistible). So many reasons, none of which I’m going to go into because bluntly, they’re boring, and they matter only to us. But here’s the overall point.  I do not like this feeling that I’m being wishy-washy. I do not like it, Sam I am. I do not like it, nope, no ma’am.

That said – the decisions to revoke our previous decisions were all good decisions. There are a lot of reasons we didn’t need to take on that building, and I didn’t need to tackle starting my own company, and the obvious reasons why I wanted to be here at home with Corey.

Just not sure what’s provoking the initial, quite a bit more pie-in-the-sky decisions that calmer thought must then deny as a possibility.  *sigh* Time to declare a decision moratorium for a while. Except for a cup of tea. I’ve just decided I need another cup of hot tea.

97 – rainy days, fall and uncontroversiality

One of the best things about moving back to my most-loved state of being, better known as Texas, is that rain has, once again, become a good thing. Three years in Oregon left me ready for sunshine, but a West Texas summer has me back to my old rain-loving self. Waking up to the sound of the rain on the roof is pretty amazing when you live in the desert.

rain-roadThis morning is the biggest sign to date of the season changing, as well: When I woke, the temperature outside the house was lower than the temperature inside the house.

I began my morning as I usually do… padding around the kitchen in my sock feet making a cup of tea–and Corey began this weekend morning as he usually does, by not beginning it yet. He is sleeping the sleep of the justly tired.

It’s 6:30 a.m. as I type this, dark and chilly outside. The house is only barely warm-ish at 66 degrees inside, but I won’t turn the central heat on yet.

First reason is that smell of burning dust that you get the first time you turn a heater on after long inactivity. Second reason is that, due to the peculiarities with the way this old house is arranged, our bedroom becomes a preview of hell when you have the heater on.

Last winter, we closed the vents in the bedroom completely and left the windows open in the bathrooms to keep air moving through there. Did I mention this house has two bedrooms and four bathrooms? It was a bunkhouse for cowboys once upon a time… We love it, but one of the oddities is that our bedroom is literally in the center of the house, no outside walls or windows.

So, to keep from frying my beloved like a pig on a spit, I’ve left the heat off and am wearing a fleece jacket while I type this.

When I get cold, I go in the kitchen, open the oven door and warm my hands–I’ve got the oven on 200 to create a warm environment for bread to rise. One of the hazards of the cool night was that the bread dough that I put in a bowl to thaw and rise overnight did thaw, but hasn’t gotten warm enough to rise yet.

When the dough has doubled in size, I’ll portion it out into sandwich rolls and cover it to let it rise again. If you want the recipe, you can go to my post #37. I have made one addition since I wrote that up–I throw in a couple of generous handfuls of whole wheat bran at the flour stage. Makes the rolls a little sweet, a little nutty-tasting, and seems to keep them more moist.

In between warming my hands, I spent the first hour of my day as I usually do, strolling around the Internet. It replaced my newspaper habit–no paper boys come this far out from town, and the nearest towns with newspapers only publish once a week anyway, so I had to replace my daily paper habit with something.

I follow pig-trails of information through all the little twisty turns, following up on whatever interests me. For some reason, this morning’s peregrinations had me questioning myself about why I don’t write about the controversial topics–religion, politics, Oscar Pistorious, the abuse headlines coming out of the NFL, and so on.

That self-questioning follows hard on the heels of a book I’m reading on my Kindle–Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. Reading it was informative as all get-out, but it also left me a little sick to my stomach. Mostly it described how one guy used the blogging world, among other things, to create both negative and positive publicity for his clients.

But, this blog is is not exactly in danger of becoming a Drudge Report or anything like it. I have no ambition to even try to make it that popular, which is a very good thing since most days I get something like two hits. Not two million, two hundred or two thousand. Two. My highest hit day was something like 27.

So, if you’re reading this, you are definitely one of the select few. I kind of like it that way.

I write because I don’t know how not to. You read this because… I don’t know. Why do you read what I write? Inquiring minds want to know!

95 – retrospection, thy name is… useful

We took the three-day weekend of Labor Day together and went over to Big Bend National Park, hiked a couple miles on Sunday, enjoyed each others’ company. The flowers in the picture were one of many that were in bloom across the park. With all the rain this summer, the whole park was in bloom, especially with the cenizo–the purple flowers in the second picture.  The first picture is yellow trumpetflowers that we saw along the hiking path.

DSCN5606While I was wandering around in my computer files looking for something else while Corey slept in, I ran across my autobiography. I wrote it more than two years ago now, while I was still working for Cisco. Sixty thousand words that were all about me and the various people I’ve been throughout this life.

Much like this blog, it was a little disjointed, kind of all over the place. But here’s the deal…the all-over-the-place-ness that is me has met my match in this man who still tends to see life as an adventure–something to be loved and lived to the fullest.

And, with lots of drive time to discuss what’s next for us, we came to some interesting conclusions. The first time we tried out going mobile, living in a fifth-wheel trailer, the whole intent was for me to be working in the virtual sense, and much of our planning was around how to orient our travel around having an Internet connection throughout the weekdays and then move to the next spot we wanted to go on the weekends.

Cenizo in full blooomGetting laid off from Cisco changed the hell out of that plan.

However, there were a lot of good things about it. Like so much of what we’ve done in the past five years together, though, we did it in a hurry. We started the process in July of last year, and within 90 days or so, we were on the road. And that included stripping the fifth wheel trailer down to the floorboards and renovating it. We learned an awful lot during that whole episode, not least of which is that we actually loved the lifestyle.

However–the next time, we need to take more time. So, basically, we’re looking at 10 to 15 years out this time.  And we want to take it in stages. And we want to do it with a bumper pull trailer instead of a fifth wheel. And we want to get an older van, like an eight-passenger type, to pull the trailer. That would give us the vehicle that we need to get to smaller spaces.

At Big Bend, for instance, we wouldn’t have been able to pull a trailer into the Chisos Basin where we went hiking if it was over 24-feet long. But an eight-passenger van would have made it in just fine, and if it’s been modified for camping, could have been a comfortable way to spend the night, get up early and go hiking, and then head back home.

So, basically, rather than starting from the trailer end of things, we’re thinking about finding a used van and remodeling it using boat-building techniques to add things like a small 12-volt fridge and a propane stove and storage, etc. Then the next thing would be trying it out over the next few years going camping nearby, or visiting family, whatever. If it works for us, then when we’re ready, the next thing would be finding an older bumper-pull trailer and renovating it. And taking our time about it, doing it right, doing it well.

“Taking our time” is a new concept for us. Should be interesting.

It’s possible we’ll think about it so hard that we won’t actually do anything–we could end up talking ourselves out of it completely. But it sure sounds like fun from here.