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. 🙂


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.

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.


93 – home

I am finally home. Sitting on the couch with Corey last night was heaven. When he reaches out to put his hand on my arm, I am instantly safe and warm and loved and cherished, and all those things that come with loving and living with this man. DSCN5439

And yet, one of the hardest things I’ve had to do since we’ve been married was to tell the folks that I was working for in Alpine that I just couldn’t live two hours away from my husband. It was so weird to feel guilty about choosing my marriage and my home over my job, but I did. Was my marriage in danger from living so far away? Probably not–we’re both committed in ways that are inscribed pretty much at the cellular level.

I admitted when I told them that I wasn’t going to be able to stay that it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, it was that I just didn’t want to be away from him. And I was fully aware that, in the West Texas oilfields, people, mostly men, make that choice every day. The oilfield is never in your backyard–if it was, you wouldn’t have to work, now would you. The oilfield is somewhere else… and spouses and kids don’t get to come along. The choice to go is no choice is at all–if you want to make decent money in West Texas, you’re out in the oil patch.  

Drive through any West Texas town, and the signs are up on the restaurants and the stores, “Help Wanted.” Because everyone who can swing a hammer or follow basic instructions is out either on a drilling or a pulling rig or working or driving for one of the innumerable service companies that support the effort.  And restaurants and stores can’t pay what the oil companies pay.

But I’m not an oilfield worker. So, when an old friend in the high-tech industry came waving a job that would let me have my cake and eat it too–live at the ranch with my husband and work online–I jumped at it.

I need to work; I’ve proved that to myself already. I can design purses pretty well, and design and build furniture fairly well with help, and paint pretty badly and I can do housework until my eyes bleed… but it’s not enough.

I work. It’s part of who I am.  I’m good at it–and I have a deep need to contribute to the welfare of my family in ways that can only be accomplished by working. I tried to believe that it was just the isolation of living at the ranch that was hard on me, not seeing or talking to people. That was probably one element.  But the biggest was simply that I need to work.

So… I’m working. And I’m home. With Corey.

And if I get any happier, I’m going to have to sit on my hands to keep from waving at people. 

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!