122 – trying to tell me something…

There are times in this life when you feel like you’re doing the right thing. And yes, if you’re thinking, “Seriously?” even at the grand old speed limit of 55, I do wonder.

Last night, I got a message from a soldier, just out of Basic and on to his Army Initial thislittlepig-profile-pbTraining, about a column I wrote in the Fort Stockton Pioneer a couple  weeks back. His mama sent it to him. His message will be going in a frame on my wall.  It moves me to tears every single time I read it–and that’s not as easy as you might think! I work with words, I manipulate them every single day. But a few simple, heartfelt words on his part make me fall apart every time I read them.

And, last night, my oldest friend–someone I’ve known since I was in middle school–told me what she thought of This Little Pig, my first novel.  She grew up in the area where the book is set, knows the accents, the way the language is structured. Her comment on the book, and I quote: I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN!!!GREAT AWESOME SPECTACULAR …. JOB!!!! The only reason I’m not naming her is because she also wrote a review on Amazon, and they will take them down if they think you solicited them, which I most emphatically did not.

That alone would have made my night, but then she went through her Facebook address book and proceeded to share my book image and link with every single one of the folks we went to school with, individually, and tell them how great it was. People like this come along so seldom, and if I could have gone to her house last night and hugged her, I would have.

Oh, to hell with Amazon.  Kathy Whitaker Figueredo, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You remind me that old friends, the ones who knew us first, remain the most valuable throughout our lives. Hopefully we can see each other at that 40th high school reunion if they hold one in 2017!

Holy crap, we’ve been out of high school for nearly 40 years. Okay, I refuse to let that bother me. Yet.

Last night reminded me that I write because it’s what I do and because it’s who I am, and it’s who I’ve always been.

Kathy knew that–and she’s known me since I was 14. She says she told me in English class I’d be writing a book someday.

Hey, Kathy! You were right.

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115 – syndicating myself – adventures in working for me

This is about to get a little self-referential, so my apologies to those who just don’t care. You have my permission, both imp- and explicit, to bolt at this point.

Here’s the deal.  syndicateI’ve been writing op-ed articles for a couple decades. First to publish in the various towns I lived in over the years, in onesie-twosie style. Then, when I was managing editor of a community newspaper (The Madisonville Meteor) in 1999-2000, I wrote the editorials for the paper. We moved off to the DFW area, and I was lucky enough to snag a community contributor spot for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2002 or so, a commitment for four op/eds across the course of a year.

When I moved back to Texas a hundred pounds lighter and divorced, I talked the editor of the Fort Stockton Pioneer into letting me write op/eds in 2009-2010.  The editor (Pam Palileo, now publisher and editor) told me more than once that my articles got the best response of anything they’d put in the paper.

Fast forward five years–after leaving the area in 2011 and returning in 2014, once again, I’m writing for Pam, and it finally occurred to me recently that maybe other people would like what I’m writing. So… I am about to begin a journey that should be quite interesting.

Not quitting my day job, just going to work around it…not for the first time.  And, because I am nothing if not adventurous, I’m not going to even attempt to court the big syndicates.  For one thing, they want like half of what you make, if not more in some cases. While I’m not a marketeer, mostly, I sure as heck know how to write a proposal, since that IS what I do at my day job.

So, I’m about to start writing proposals in my spare time, as well. Only these will be pushing my skills, my abilities, my writing. I’ve been talking to friends who are in the biz, as well, with pleas to help me figure out how to do this, what to charge. The response has been enormous, and welcome!

This journey will entail a lot of things–and probably in overall detail, be quite boring for the general run of folks. But who knows?  Might be able to get a book out of it, if nothing else. 😀

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.

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.

98 – specialization is for insects

For the long-suffering who are nearly to my hundredth post with me on this exploration of my narcissistic, navelicious exploration of my not-so-tortured psyche, you know that the ttaadd in the title of the blog stands for the deliberately tongue-in-cheek trials and tribulations of the adult attention deficit–look, squirrel! set…

But in my current insomniac iterative process, as I was going over the order of business for tomorrow morning, it occurred to me that it was less about attention deficit (deficit being defined as “the amount by which something is too small,“) than attention fracture. Admittedly, part of the attention issue is span–but I am honestly capable of moving into that state of “flow” characterized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as a form of hyperfocus. I’ve done it for hours at a time in both work-related and personally-oriented activities or projects over the years.

However, at the moment, I have both the time and space for my mind to bounce from one focus to another… and am in a position where I can actually track that. I’m working part-time from home, and part of that commitment is tracking my time by project. And, since it’s part-time, I have the luxury of also working on things that are personally interesting to me in between, as my commitment to my work is four out of approximately sixteen waking hours, and not at a particular time, but of my own choice.

So this morning, I began with my usual Internet flippage, popping around various things that interested me… then did some database cleanup for work. Then I revised a resume and cover letter for a friend-in-law. Then worked on an afghan that I’m finishing up. Then some work-work, going through a matrix submitted by a bid writer. Then getting an experiment set up in free-motion quilting. Then back to the afghan.

Then lunch.  Then submitting a bio and a poem for publication for the writers’ group I’m in, then more work-work, to get a qualifications spreadsheet set up… and I won’t bore you with the rest–you get the idea. Tomorrow, throw in making bread, writing a quick qualifications letter for submission with the spreadsheet, plus job descriptions, and running for an hour, as well as the rest, except the afghan, which is finished. But I’m working on another one already, so keep it in the list. And I’m back to actively writing again, as well, more than just the blog. It’s an itch that needed scratching.

It seems chaotic, no? So does my workroom, which at one point today had a laptop on the ironing board beside the quilt squares, and another laptop directly opposite on a TV tray, and there is still the free-motion piece in the sewing machine ready for the next experimental pattern…

And oh, glory, I’m happy. And as unstressed as I can remember being in my adult life.

The quote in the graphic below is from one of my favorite characters and one of my favorite authors. It’s something Corey and I have discussed a time or two–specialization in any species can be and often is the death knell for their existence on this planet. The omnivores (like us) and the raccoons and the coyotes–we thrive on almost anything.

Just a thought.

Capture

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.