123 – reaching for serenity

Serenity has always been something I’ve strived (striven?) for, which in and of itself is an oxymoron. You shouldn’t work for serenity, right? You should be able to simply sit, breathe, and serenity will just plop itself right down in your lap like a kitty cat and start purring.

Well, yeah, it hasn’t worked like that in my experience. It’s like most cats I’ve ever known, pet them one, then two times, and then the third or fourth time, and you never know which, all of a sudden you have a huge glove made of cat, and all four legs are stretched up your arm, all claws out, trying its dead-level best to see what your muscles and tendons look like under your skin. cateyes

Well that escalated quickly, didn’t it? And that’s exactly what happens when I reach for serenity.

And yet, I woke up feeling, well, serene this morning.  Maybe because I finally quit reaching, and started finding it in things I’m already doing.

Like activity at levels that I’ve honestly never even thought of…

I just hit three miles on my running yesterday. On 55-year-old, crapped-out knees, I ran three miles. Yesterday. Me. Admittedly my version of running… and an arthritic 70-year-old could probably beat me up the hill running backwards, but I don’t care. Because I’m doing it. For three miles.

And I got the copy edits completed on my second book of the summer yesterday… and it’s NOT perfect, and I let it go to the reviewers anyway. Because I’ve finally stopped letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. It’s never going to be perfect, but it’s good. And it’s going to sell. And if I can sell enough of “She’s Thinking Out Loud” and “This Little Pig” to hire a copy editor for the next book, I will be a happy, happy woman next year… ’cause I’d just as soon never edit my own work again. That is HARD. But it is done… and that makes me feel very serene.

And I got the design completed last week for a project that I’ve been thinking about for SIX MONTHS. That I can’t actually talk about yet because it’s a gift, but I’ll take pictures and post. That’s my afternoon’s work out ahead of me, and I’m really enjoying the thought of it, instead of dreading it. That’s helping the serenity bit, too.

And I was invited to read from This Little Pig at The Garage, in Fort Stockton, on June 11.  Which makes the whole thing a real-io deal-io, you know? And so many friends have grandmamosesstepped up to push This Little Pig all over Texas, out to friends everywhere. It’s been an amazing trip.

Some people just apparently do not blossom until they’re older.

Me and Grandma Moses.  Late bloomers, baby.  That’s her painting, “At the Bend in the River,” painted in 1948, when she was 88 years old.  She didn’t even seriously start painting until she was 78… I’m like 23 years ahead of that.  Just the thought of that makes me take a deep breath and smile.

Good company, at least, and some paintings are worth upwards of a million bucks. Something to think about when you come to get your signed first edition of This Little Pig at the reading, you know. Just saying…

And Corey Matthew Hannon, love of my life. That’s where serenity lives. Whenever I’m feeling like I’m going to jump out of my skin, I just go find him… and that kitty-cat look that you can see at the top of the page starts to fade from my eyes. I can feel it.

Time to go run. In the mud.

My favorite.  Like being five again… 🙂

101 – life is an adventure

We’re doing the last walkthrough this morning before signing the contracts for a building in Sanderson, about a half hour south of where we live. The town doesn’t have any amenities, and the population is under a thousand people. There are a lot of reasons why it’s attractive to us as a place to buy, beginning with the fact that there is no zoning in a town this small.

And, when I say “building,” I mean it. We’re not looking at a house–but a building with three office suites, one of which is usable now, plus a 1300 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsquare foot space that would make a very nice apartment (and no zoning means we can if we choose). There’s also a 44 x 40 workshop, which you can’t see in the picture, as it’s directly behind the building. Guess which part Corey’s in love with? 🙂

So, basically we’re buying a strip mall with a garage. No tenants at the moment, or possibly ever.  We haven’t decided whether we want to try to turn it into an income property. There are good things and bad things about renting out space for anything.

We’ve always trusted our instincts–possibly more than we should, but considering our lot in life continues to improve, I think we’re right a little more often than not. And, along the way, we’ve paid a little bit (OK, a fair amount… OK, quite a bit) of what I call “stupid tax.” Most of it was before we met–but we did get into a one-year lease when we went up to Oregon, and on reflection, that was a mistake.  And we paid for it.

But we learn–when I went to Alpine to take on the managing editor job, I only signed a three-month lease, which turned out to be a really, really good idea in the end. Who knew that, less than a month after I started, I was going to be offered a job that paid twice the money for half the hours and that I can work from home? I couldn’t even think about turning it down. It effectively doubled my salary, because one of my two editor paychecks a month was going to the rent and utilities. Here at home, of course, that doesn’t apply.

There are other things in the offing–am in discussions about starting my own business as a subsidiary of the business I’m working for now. Don’t know if it will work out in the end, but it’s something to think about really hard.

van

Also looking at a van much like the one in the picture. We had to get rid of the big F350 truck once we got to the ranch, for a number of reasons, but it basically bought the little Chevy Cruze I’m running around in now.

But with a building to renovate, plus some post-retirement plans to RV around the country with a bumper pull trailer someday, a vehicle that’s a tad bigger than the Cruze will be necessary.  We’ve been looking for one for months now, as we knew we’d need one. Not intensely, just looking. And we may have found one yesterday. Looks a lot like the one in the picture, but it’s a 2003 with a 7.3l diesel engine. The year model means no computers to futz with, which means that Corey can pretty much fix anything that goes wrong with it, which is very reassuring.

It will tow pretty much any trailer out there, albeit with gas mileage that is pretty sucky, but then they all are.  The key for us is that with that roof rack and the internal space, it gives us the ability to haul any construction materials we need right now… And the price is good.

Thinking about all this is much like standing on the diving board at Balmorhea. Scary, but a good scary. And the chance that we’re going to turn around and walk away from the building are approximately zero at this point unless we see something like a portal to hell behind one of the doors in this morning’s walkthrough. Corey will be able to look at the engine in the van and drive it this week Tuesday.  And becoming my own business again? Well, that will come when it comes. Or not.

Every one of these things could fall through–or they could all come true. Or any combination thereof.  You know, life’s an adventure, peoples… and we continue to live it at our pace and no one else’s.

96 – dreaming out loud

What my husband and I do best when we’re together on long drives, as we were this weekend, is dream out loud about what we want five years from now, ten, twenty years. It is one of the things I love most about this relationship, and something I’ve never had in my life before.

good thingsI’ve tried to remember whether the ex- and I thought about the future much. We made some serious missteps both personally and financially that might have been prevented with even one tenth of the discussion that Corey and I indulge in regularly.  Did we dream out loud? I don’t think so… but those 27 years have faded into blurs of gray, with a few high and low points that stick out in my memory.

One of them was one of us–and it could well have been me–saying, “We’re going to die in debt, so we might as well enjoy it while we can.” It was that attitude that put us into a house and credit card debt that we couldn’t afford. Added to my student loan balance, the overall combination was nearly a quarter million in debt when we filed for bankruptcy in 2004.

But this relationship changed that attitude entirely. The first of the big dreams that Corey and I reached for was to pay off all the debt that he and I brought to this marriage. The plan was to completely be out of debt, other than a mortgage, by 2015. We not only accomplished it, we did it a year ahead of time. Due to the enormous blessing of Corey’s work supplying the house where we live, we no longer have a mortgage. There is no “debt-free except…” We owe no one.

So I’m here to tell you, in a way that is neither sappy  nor Disney-esque… dreams can come true. But note the graphic. We worked our butts off for it, and we did not give up when it got tough, and it did more than once.

However, the determination to stay out of debt makes dreams about things like land and houses and RVs a little tougher to reach.  If you really want to not owe anyone, you must defer the expensive dreams long enough to be able to do them without going into debt. As a result, the ten hours of driving and dream-time this weekend ended with “It’s not the right time yet,” and a sigh. And that’s OK. It’s not easy, but it’s OK.

Do I worry about deferring things until it’s too late? Is time a factor? Sure–when you’re nine years older than your husband, and now that cashiers are starting to ask me for my AARP card, you genuinely do understand that time is a finite resource. But the question I always ask myself is whether, if I died tomorrow, I’d rather die debt-free.

And the answer is still yes.

It’s that important.

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.

 

83 – allergies and adventures

The gentleman whose dulcet snores are brightening his little corner of the motel room where I am tippy-tapping on the keys turns 45 today, and tomorrow is the first day of summer. We are in a Days Inn in Paris, Texas, nearly to the Red River up in the northeast. In about five hours, a realtor will meet us here to whisk us off to see a couple of houses. She may be a teensy bit dismayed at our choices, as her commission on them will be, well miniscule at best… but she appears enthusiastic enough over email. Or at least I choose to believe so.

It is 4 a.m. going on 5, and I am sitting here sucking down my second cup of hot tea and trying to hack, sneeze and whine as quietly as possible.  Don’t know whether it’s a summer cold or allergies, and not sure which to hope for, honestly, but since the treatment is effectively the same, it’s kind of a moot point for me.  Not for everyone else, of course, but can’t help that. And OF COURSE it starts on the very first day of our first real time together in six months. Whatever it is, hope it’s over quick. The feeling is much like having your face nibbled off by ducks out for vengeance for that “ugly duckling” crack. So, here I sit, wrapped in the inside-out bedspread, and hoping no other denizen of the motel has sat on it with their nekkid butt of late–but at this point, it feels like it would just be more exercise for my battered immune system anyway. Cooties! Squirrel!

Anyway… we drove up to my sister’s in Princeton yesterday, dropped off a few things, then up here. Drove through a couple small towns on the way, and they all have places for sale that look appealing.  Trying NOT to fall in love just yet – we have a lot of ground to cover, and starting with this morning’s appointments, I’ll be taking pictures… If my beloved children read this, you might want to take note, chickens, as mommy and daddy are about to spend your fairly laughable inheritance, hopefully to enhance their declining years. 😀 Back to bed.

72 – resolving old debt

Corey and I worked seriously hard over the last five years together to get rid of an awful lot of debt.  Here are some of the moves we made to do so:

  • We used the debt snowball system that Dave Ramsey made popular.  One debt at a time, make minimum payments to everything else, and throw every other dollar at the chosen one to get rid of it. Stop worrying about whether to take the lowest balance, or the highest payment, or the highest interest rate.  Just pick one and get started.
  • However, the completely defaulted credit cards that were hangovers from Corey’s previous marriage ranged from one with a $4,500 balance to one that was more than $15,000.  By the time we married, the debt had been sold to collection agencies three or four times. Every time you see the billing agency change, it means that the debt has been resold for pennies on the original dollar.  So, in other words, that $15,000 debt was probably purchased for a couple grand by the time it got to the 5th sale.  They were more than happy to work with us to pay back a smaller amount.
    • Two big gotchas:
      • If you have defaulted debt like that out there, the biggest mistake you can make is to start making payments to it again–it resets the debt clock, and you are on the hook for the whole amount once more. Don’t pay a dime until it’s time to sit down with them and negotiate.
      • Whatever amount you do not pay of the original debt will be taxed as income by the IRS.  On that $15,000 debt, we paid off $5,000 of it, and $10,000 of it was considered income by the IRS. Not joking–and the fact that it seems like they’re kicking you when you’re down and trying to survive is something you just have to get over.

Why didn’t we go with the consumer credit counseling services? Well, first off, Corey had a bad experience with one them the first time he tried to get out from under his debt load. The theory is that you pay the CCC service one fairly low payment, they talk to all your credit card companies, negotiate lower payments, reduced debt, etc. Evidently, they started making late payments almost immediately, thereby ruining his credit even further. Not saying it happens with all of them, but it did take it off the board for us.

There are lots of choices, and people who know more than we do about getting out of debt.  But it can be done.  And from this perspective, it is SO worth doing.  Good luck.

 

69 – never been here before

I’m genuinely staggering through this trying to shed all the old baggage I’ve collected.  Not trying to be “Nanner-nanner, I don’t have to work and you do,” about all this. I think, for those of you of my age, this is how people feel when they retire. Except, of course, that retirement implies an income, which I do not have…

Well, I’m here to tell you, this is HARD. I’ve begun to realize that I don’t know how to not be stressed out! I know that sounds stupid–but as my mama used to say, you’d miss a rock in your shoe if you had it in there for thirty years. There are so many things that have just never been part of my way of thinking. For instance:

Haven’t been debt-free since I was 20 years old.  When I married the ex, he came with debt, and we never climbed out. Took 65% of it on when I left him, and Corey came loaded down with all the debt from his previous marriage.  We climbed out of ALL OF IT, together, dollar by dollar, and bought and sold two houses in the process. That debt-free status is the reason why I don’t have to look for a job… and that is also kind of weirding me out.

Never been in a space since I entered the Air Force at 19 years old where I wasn’t working, going to school, or looking for work.  And, not to put too fine a point on it, there were more than a few times when I was doing all three. The very few moments when I wasn’t working or looking for work in the last three decades were when I was in school, first for my bachelor’s, then for my master’s.  And even then, started a partnership the last year and a half of my bachelor’s degree work.

Never had this kind of freedom.  I’m beginning to realize that I’ve been a reactor all my adult life. I’ve accomplished A LOT, but most of it was to the end of making money one way or the other. I didn’t go back to school at the age of 34 because of passion for a specific area of study–although I found it while I was there.  I went to school because I knew that, without a degree, I was going to be, at best, an executive assistant all my working life. Never occurred to me to get out of the race entirely, but that wasn’t a serious option on the pay my ex-husband made in the US Air Force. We work so much and so hard that we don’t look up and ask ourselves why we’re doing it because what’s the point of asking–we have to do it anyway.

Haven’t been able to sleep in for more than a day or two at a time for DECADES.  To genuinely not have to be at someone (or something) else’s scheduling demands is one of the weirder experiences of recent years. Seriously–the only time I have to be on anything resembling a schedule is when I have to keep my eye on rising bread dough. I’m finally beginning to stop panicking when I’m wide awake at 2 a.m., as I am right now. I can go back to bed if I get sleepy, or I can just go make myself another cup of tea.

Never trusted this much. The man asleep in the next room over is the reason that I can do these things and think this stuff and take this time to think and plan. He works HARD–but loves his ever-changing job, and this ever-changing landscape. Such an amazing thing, that he is so happy every time I sleep in of a morning. In the previous five years together, I could count on one hand the mornings he’s woken up with me still there–I’ve been up at four or five a.m. every morning of our six years together.  I still am… but now, I go back to bed. And when his alarm goes off at 7 a.m., I’m there.

And, when my alarm goes off, whenever that may be, if it even goes off at all, it will be time to stop looking back, time to scrape the barnacles off and see what’s underneath. Hopefully not dry rot and foot fungus. Pretty sure that it’s not going to be unicorns off-gassing rainbows either, but one never knows… 😀

lazarus long - creativity