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.



89 – does life ever stay the same?

Well, the answer to the title above is… no.

A month ago today, I did not have a job.  Right now I have two. When I interviewed for the job at the paper, I knew it would mean relocating to a small town two hours away from my husband. When I took the second one, I knew it would mean I could go back home. And, no small wonder, the paper took me up on my offer of being a virtual editor for the time being, while they search for a replacement. It is genuinely the first time I ever left a job and they said, “No, don’t leave.” It’s flattering, to say the least.

Luckily, the new company has me on a part-time contract. For now. So, if things work out and FedEx delivers what they’re supposed to, when they’re supposed to deliver it, I will be headed home today. I have to get a dual office set up and running in time to put a paper out next week and start a new job next Thursday.

There are a lot of things I will miss about living in Alpine.  There is nothing that I will miss about being alone. Home is always where Corey is–and I knew that before, but never tested it this hard. It is very nice to know that, should push come to shove, I can live without him. It is, however, starkly apparent that I do not want to do so ever again.

And because life is seldom without reminders, on my way home, I will be doing a stopover in Fort Davis, one of the most beautifully situated towns in West Texas, to take pictures of their football team and interview their coach. For the paper.

86 – beginnings and circles

Writing this in the Days Inn in Junction, Texas, early on a Thursday morning. Once I get my pooky together, I’m headed over near Austin for a web conference… for my new job.  I was hired on the spot at an interview Tuesday morning as managing editor of the Alpine Avalanche. It’s a weekly newspaper owned by Granite Publications. And, to add substance to the notion that what goes around comes around, I worked for them in 1999 and 2000 as managing editor at a different paper, The Madisonville Meteor. I also wrote opinion articles for more than a year and a half for another one of their papers, The Fort Stockton Pioneer in 2009-2010.avalanche

Part of the reason they hired me on the spot is because my amazing publisher and boss while at The Meteor, Hank Hargrave, and the also amazing Pam Bouray, publisher of The Pioneer, gave great references for me, which leaves me both flattered and humbled. Hank is now the owner/publisher of his own newspaper, The Normangee Star, in central Texas (and a new grandpa!). Pam I met when she was the new managing editor for The Pioneer, through Leadership Fort Stockton.  It’s an outstanding business leadership program run by the Chamber of Commerce in Fort Stockton that gets future leaders into one space, takes them through the infrastructure of the town on a three-month, weekly process, then to a retreat in the Hill Country to cement relationships with each other and the Chamber leaders.

Looking at that fast exposition of 15 years of my life–and yeah, I left out a lot–a lot of people might look at it and say that it means I’ve made no progress at all. I mean, it is a closed circle from managing editor back to managing editor, right? But here’s the actual completion of the circle–exactly 15 years ago yesterday, while I was the ME at The Madisonville Meteor, my mother died. I don’t celebrate death-a-versaries, and find those who do a little spooky, but when we lost Mama, the next couple years were honestly the darkest of my life. They set a pattern for me of running that I didn’t really break until I left my first marriage nine years later. All this is 20-20 hindsight, of course… but that I would be back in Texas, working for the same company, on my way to learn more about my new job and the future of that company’s efforts to combine print and web in ways that make sense…

I usually find the term “closure,” as used by shrinks and their ilk, annoying–but that may be because I never actually saw it before.  Do I know how all this is going to turn out? No. If I could tell the future, I’d be buying lottery tickets. Am I excited? Yep, I love beginnings, and always have.  It’s one of the many, many reasons I loved community newspaper work before–there is always something new. Is it all going to be sunshine and roses? No, there are hazards to anything, but at least this time, I’m walking in with my eyes wide open. Keep a good thought for me–if I have a dream where this is concerned, I would like Granite to be the last company I work for before I retire some decades down the road. It’s a small dream, but mine own.

For now… it’s time to get in the shower and get on the road, my chickens; I’ve got places to go, people to see!

84 – bugs and… bugs

Back to the “home on the range,” as I have the phone number programmed in my phone… and glad of it. It was an interesting trip… So, Paris (Texas) was OK–wouldn’t want to live there, but with all apologies to the people of the city, I don’t want to live in any city ever again. Close, yes… closer than we do now would be good. But in one? No thanks.  Too many people trying to breathe my air. Annoying people. And they all have cars. grapelandhouse

We saw probably two dozen houses, most of which we drove up to, said “no, thank you,” and kept driving.  Four we went through with realtors. The fifth we walked through ourselves, fell in love with, called the broker, even went to his house the next morning and signed a contract…

After much, much discussion, we called the broker back and asked him to withdraw the paperwork.

grapelandhouse2The biggest single thing that made us fall in love with it was the setting.  The biggest single thing that kept us from committing, I think, is that we actually like each other and love spending time together. I can contemplate, in theory, spending a week or more a month away from Corey… but when it comes right down to it, I can’t do it.  I struggle when I’m away from him just a few days, seriously. Hate it. And trying to both take care of and renovate a place that’s an eight-hour drive away from us here in West Texas was just too much to contemplate.

You can see more pictures of the house here, and with the cathedral ceilings and massive fireplace in the great room, Corey would have been worried the whole time I was there working on stuff.  The work itself honestly doesn’t worry me… but falling off a ladder when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and alone… well, having to make grown-up decisions SUCKS.

And, all this was accomplished while I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of the cold from hell, which of course turned into bronchitis.  So I basically coughed, sneezed and scattered tissues across motel rooms throughout East Texas.

BlackHeadCentipedeWHSp_C2104Anyway… so we took the shortcut across central Texas to come back, and stopped at one of our favorite towns, Junction, Texas.  It’s right on the Llano River.  I won’t say what hotel we stayed in, though honestly, the manager/owner was great, as were the staff.  The rooms were high-ceilinged, and the setting was gorgeous. I’m always up earlier than Cor, so as usual, I snagged my computer bag and headed down to the breakfast room. I’d probably been down there an hour, zoning out into the Internet, when I felt something prickle on my left leg, something moving.  I turned around in my chair so I could get to my left leg, pulled up the hem of my jeans, and something that looked an awful lot like the centipede in that picture was moving on my leg, about six to eight inches long.  I proceeded to do the Mexican Hat Dance trying to get it off my leg while screaming like a girl.  A lot.  The other occupants of the breakfast room were looking at me like I’d gone insane, until I finally got the thing jolted off onto the floor, at which time there was a mass exodus.

WHILE the hotel staff were catching the thing with too many legs and a bad attitude, another lady staffer walked in fairly breathless and a little pale and told the manager there was a brown tarantula the size of her hand on the front sidewalk. It was apparently critter day at the hotel, and no one thought to inform either the guests or the staff.

Oh, and I got a ticket in Fort Worth driving around the loop. I was going 79 in a 60.  It’s going to be expensive as hell. And well deserved.  Think someone’s telling me I need to stay the heck in West Texas?

Anyway… we’re back. The cough is subsiding, hopefully.  If it’s not gone in a couple more days, I guess I’ll hie myself over to a doctor and get THAT taken care of as well.  I’m glad to be back, bugs and all.

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.

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. 😀

74 – adventures in history

First viewThis country’s stark beauty often makes it seems as if your footprints are the first human ones in this desolate landscape–but then you find that people lived here long before the fences were put up to section off the land. It’s humbling–we live here, truly, we don’t just visit.  But we live here with air conditioning, and heat in the winter–and with comforts that the people who were here before could not have begun to conceive.

We had planned to drive into town yesterday, but Corey’s escalating frustration with the customer service (and the customers!) of the local retailers makes shopping with him less than relaxing, so I said I’d head that way today, instead. So, he suggested we drive down to the “Snake Ridge,” a few miles down the Big Canyon.

closer viewWhen we got there, he pointed out a spot halfway up the nearest canyon wall, and you could see what was obviously a human-built stone wall, snaking vertically up the canyon wall.  From a half-mile away, it didn’t look terribly impressive, but then he used the camera to zoom in on it, and you could see it was actually quite a structure.

DSCN4977So, since it was pretty much irresistible at that point, we climbed–as you can see at top right, it was barely visible–the only vertical line in the picture, about midway up the ridge, leading down through the rocks of the canyon wall.

As we got higher, it started coming into view (second picture) and then as we came up on it, you could finally see how big it actually was against the identically-colored background.

DSCN4983To give you some idea of the distances involved, I’ve also added the picture of the view back down into the canyon–way out there, where the roads meet, you can just see the truck–that picture was taken from the rock wall, looking back at the hike we’d just done.  There is no way for a camera to capture the immensity of the scale of this landscape, as hard as I try!

The wall was a nearly vertical line, but didn’t reach the top or bottom of the canyon wall.  It may have at some time in the past, but it effectively began (or ended) about halfway down the overall slope, as near as we could tell.  We tried to figure out what it was there for, and came up with two different theories–mine was that it was territorial – some family or tribe marking where their hunting territory ended, or began.

DSCN4984Corey’s theory was more intriguing.  One part of the wall had a quite large gap, and what could have been an old game trail running right through the open section.  He thinks that it was a hunting tactic–that hunters could wait at the gap for the game (such as aoudad, deer, or others) to take the easy way through, and give a better chance of killing one with a bow and arrow or spear.  I kind of like his idea better than mine.  We’ll never know, but it’s interesting to think about.

DSCN4986The last two pictures are pretty much gratuitous – one of me at the constructed wall, so you can get an idea of its size, and one of Corey.  Behind him, you can see another of what were undersea peaks a few million years ago. They are scattered down the Big Canyon every few miles.

This country continues to fascinate–and on occasion intimidate.  This East Texas country girl had her eyes on the ground looking for snakes, and her ears laid back listening for a warning rattle. Plus, anything that looked like a nice place for snakes to den up was given a wide berth.

Snakes or not, I love being able to explore as we choose–it’s truly a gift.