103 – just got real

One of the more interesting things about getting older is getting to know yourself. I, apparently, have never met myself, and wouldn’t know me from Adam’s off ox.

So… if you’ve been reading the blog (and if not, why not, dang it?), you know that life has gone from real busy to bizZAY, from trying to keep myself occupied to trying to fit it all in… and I just had to offload one.  And as soon as I did, I felt totally unstressed again. It’s not the one you think, most likely.

Corey says life is never boring around me, and seems to feel that is a good thing.  So, for a quick recap of this non-boring life, over the last three months I’ve started two brand-new jobs, rented a place to live two hours away and then gave it back to them a month early, began talks with my current boss about starting a subsidiary or partnership, started my second novel, entered into an agreement to buy an office building with a shop, hiked through part of Big Bend National Park and this Wednesday, bought a van. The last three of course, with Corey. In a very real sense, actually, all of them were with Corey. None of this went undiscussed, I promise you.

I’ll also be available to sign “The Best of Critique Café” this Saturday at Fort Days in Fort Stockton, along with a number of the other writers included in the chapbook. One of my poems, “October Has Edges” is included in it, along with selections from all the other writers in the writing group that I also began attending again in September.

And, because there is a line where even good stress becomes too much, I had to stop SOMEthing.  And something more than one of the jobs, which I actually did leave in September.

So, I’m pushing off the idea of starting a subsidiary or partnership well into next year.   Lots of reasons, all making perfect sense. And the moment I talked to my boss about postponing that particular conversation with the lawyer, I felt as if a weight got lifted. I am back to unstressed, doop-de-do, dog-paddling around the pond again.

Why do I do it? Why do I load that one more thing on my plate until something has to give? Heck, I don’t know. If you figure it out, tell me please.  But I will say…

Life is never boring.


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.


82 – nearly home

Lots of design work built and completed… I’m trying to use my powers for good, these days, or at least to be of benefit to our daily lives. Corey and I put our heads together and designed, built and stained a coffee table, and then this weekend, I sewed a pillow for it–basically stuffed it with four of the cheap WalMart pillows to make us a long coffeetable-bothhassock. It’s a little lumpy and bumpy looking, but quite functional, which is all I was looking for. Took me only like an hour or two to put it together. Like everything I’m making these days, it’s washable–made it like a really long pillow sham, so the pillows can actually be removed, washed separately, and the cover can be washed.  Was going to add straps to tie it on to the top of the table, but the table grain actually snags the material enough that it doesn’t slide around easily, so for the time being, I’m leaving it as is.

Also decided to make me some tank tops that fit–the rant, of course, being that the ones that are the right size have spaghetti straps, which I hate, because my bras don’t, and that just looks stupid.  tankAdd to that the fact that for some reason women’s tank tops are made in straight lines–so from the underarms down, there is no give in the dang things–and I do not have a single straight line on my body.  It’s frustrating and annoying when you sit down and your shirt rolls up like an old window blind.  And, if you buy a men’s tank top, the armholes gape down to your waist.  For that matter, if I buy a tank top actually large enough to go around my butt, the top’s too big.  Being shaped like an hour glass with lots more sand in the bottom than the top has its hazards.

So, I bought four men’s t-shirts, as the price was actually cheaper than buying the equivalent amount of material, and bought some double-fold bias tape for the edges–please note, I’ll make my own next time.  The photo shows the before and after. Took one of my old t-shirts and sketched out the shapes as I wanted them to be on the big shirt, cut off the excess, then bound the neck, arms, and the slits in the sides at the bottom to accommodate my adiposity. Will be using the one I built as a template to make the next ones.

stainedglasspurse-flipsideTook the next purse I designed–the one I’m calling the stained glass purse–sold it to Corey’s boss (well, technically, his bosses bosses boss), then used the proceeds to buy me a real quilting machine.  The purse is shown here–and like the first one I built, it is reversible and washable.  I actually loved the way it turned out–and it gave me a lot of great ideas for the next thing, which is probably going to be a washable diaper bag.  I know people have to be getting tired of the plasticized ones, so I just need to think this out and keep talking to the friends of mine who’ve actually carried one, which I never have.  As far as the quilt design of the purse body–I don’t think I’ll try to work with quilt squares that small again.  Even using strip quilting techniques, which I did, there are more than 500 little 1.25″ squares in that thing.

But, it got me the sewing machine I wanted, and the bells and whistles on the Brother SQ9185 machine are just amazing, the biggest and best of which is that I can completely operate it by hand with a few push buttons. It also has a large work area, but still has the free arm, which is totally necessary when you’re working with purses where you may be continuing to sew even after they’re constructed. LOVE it so far… used one of it’s 130 decorative stitches to put a Greek key design around the t-shirt binding–was going to add a picture of that, but I’m wearing it. 😀

We’re taking off Friday for East Texas to look for that forever home… looking both at land and at older homes that need a fair amount of work but that are basically livable.  We’ll see… Can’t wait for ten days with my hubby, but trying not to get my hopes up about finding that place that’s right for us. We’re goal-oriented people–and this is that something we can work toward.  Doesn’t have to be perfect from the outset, and if it’s not right, then it just won’t happen.  Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself. 😀

73 – making it

Just ordered some minor quilting equipment from Amazon – a specific plate to make my sewing machine able to do something more than sew straight lines, and a free-motion foot.  Because I actually have time to think about all this stuff, I’ve realized that I’m reluctant to write–all I really want to do is make things.  I know it sounds silly, since you’re reading this blog, which means of course that I’m writing.  But, if you do read the blog, you’ve seen many of them goKels-MakingBread5-risenonce by here:  making bread, making crackers, making quilts, making afghans, making furniture. Creating things that I’ve been buying for years. I take great satisfaction in the fact that I’ve incorporated breadmaking into our daily lives.  It’s become easy for me.  Shocks me as much as anyone else.

Would I be doing this if I was working?  No, absolutely not.  One of the things I’ve found over the years is that I’m actually NOT a multi-tasker. If you read the research, you’ll find that humans (or at least, humans of my generation and prior) actually are not capable of doing more than one task at once and doing both of them well. I am really good at what I do when I work–but a large part of that is the focus I bring to bear, and that focus demands that I conserve my energy elsewhere.

Since I have the freedom to do so (and since I have to wait on the quilting stuff to be shipped in), I went out and gathered up yucca yesterday, getting more than one puncture for my pains. I want to make a basket or two–I learned how years ago, but never followed it up.  It was a very structured thing – bleached reeds, flat, oval, round, half-round, round.  All the same, all… sterile. While I was intrigued by the idea of it, there was just no time, no energy. And, bluntly, no budget at the time for the materials.  But I want to know if I’m good at it.  I want to know if that “flow” space that I get into when I’m creating other things is possible with making baskets.  I want to find out the same thing with free motion quilting–I want to know if I’m good at it.quilt-van

It’s so different to be able to follow the pigtrails of my thought process past the “I have to,” and on to “I want to.” I cannot even express how grateful I am for the chance I’ve been given to do so. Few of the things I’m doing are actually saving us money, I can promise you.  Most of what I’ve tried to make are things which are honestly cheaper, if in nothing but time, to buy. The amount it costs me to make bread, to make crackers, etc., these are pretty much a wash. When a one-pound loaf of bread is 99 cents, it’s hard to beat, pricewise, at least. But, in moving to convenience, to the manufacture of the food and other things that make up the warp and weft of our daily lives, we may have lost more than we know.  We’ve certainly lost a lot in terms of taste, as my husband pointed out the only time I’ve actually purchased bread in the last few months. 😀

halltreepictureThe exception, of course, is the furniture.  The massive hall tree we constructed probably would have cost in the thousands of dollars, seriously.  The biggest one we found was up in the $1200 range, and was less than half the size.  The entertainment center, bed frame, and closet organizer were probably a couple thousand in savings, as well. Plus, of course, the dining table cost us $30 and the chairs were free.

The other thing all this making has brought back to my life is music. I’ve never been able to listen to music and write. Anything with words affects the words that are coming through my fingers.  And yes, I’ve tried classical music.  Puts me to sleep.  When you look at what you’ve just typed, and it’s: lakkafaehf we’aq3=s lsl.kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk, you know you went to sleep mid-sentence.  Unless you have a cat, and then it’s the cat’s fault.

All things considered, even with the savings through the furniture building, I’m not allowed to be smug.  I have found that there are things that I’m not good at as I wander through each of these “I want to learn how to” processes. Such as the fact that I’m not good at cooking.  Oh, I’m very good at baking.  Just the whole cooking dinner thing is mind-numbing and annoying. Fortunately, Corey’s quite good at it. So, whenever possible, I just leave it to him. I’ll do the prep work, potatoes and such, and leave the dinner itself to him. Makes us both happy…

Now to get the man off to work, and to start figuring out how to turn green spiky stuff into a basket…

71 – writing on the couch

Getting myself all sorted out in this early morning…the first cup of tea is clearing the fog a bit.  Will be glad when the allergy season’s done.

An old friend’s email a few days back said, “This has certainly turned out to be a fortuitous combination of circumstances for you. You wouldn’t be doing a lot of this introspection or these other things had you not been so isolated.” By “these other things,” she means the playing I’ve been doing with baking everything from bread to saltine crackers (seriously–easiest thing ever).  She’s absolutely right. Easily available distractions like libraries, garage sales, etc., would have given me a way to shirk looking inside my own head.  I’m just as lazy as the next guy in those terms.

bloggingdemotivatorAnd the baking–once you’ve conquered a recipe and gotten into a routine, you go onto automatic pilot and start thinking. Well, I do. And part of what I’m thinking is that I have been a big whiny baby for weeks now  The mini-piphany that started all this was allergy-induced, and since then it’s just been one thing after another.

One other little shocker for me was that I found out that I’m not only not alone in my age- and circumstance-induced angst about what’s next, I may be part of a majority. Everyone’s got different reasons, but the baby boomers are either nearing retirement or over that particular edge already… and we are apparently ALL trying to decide what’s next.

A thought just occurred to me, as well.  I believe I expressed an ambition to Corey to be retired from the workplace by 55.

I turned 54 two weeks ago.


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