Saturday, November 15, 2014

Prepping For Winter

    Heading into winter I always have a foreshadowing of dread, not knowing if it will be relatively smooth sailing, or tempestuous and brutal. By this time of year I try to have my ducks in a row, a plan of action, the ways and means to confront and manage the inevitable melancholy. This year brings a few added challenges. I have had house guests since August, my son and his family, and their two dogs. As you might imagine this adds a bit of strain, since my house is small, and I am an introvert who craves silence, order, and solitude. We are managing. I am having to readjust a lot of my carefully structured, slightly neurotic, OCD routine that has kept me relatively sane the last two years or so. Knowing how easily I tread the edge of the abyss, especially in the dark of winter, has forced me to adopt a regimen that to outside eyes probably seems every bit as crazy as the inner turmoil such a regimen helps manage. It is a fine line, balancing inner crazy with outward neurosis. Right now is rather challenging, but I have done well, for the most part, and nutrition, exercise, and trying to maintain some order have helped me stay upright and moving forward.
    Last winter was one of the easiest winters I have had in over a decade, due largely in part to finally having a job that makes me happy, working with people who are upbeat, and being surrounded by the gleaming chrome of hundreds of motorcycles. I love my job. Last week my office mate and I were called into the owner's office for a meeting with him and the GM. Knowing this is never good I had a million scenarios play through my head in the few minutes it took to walk from my work area to the boss' office. We were informed that they are closing our department, and we will be out of jobs by the end of the year. I can't say I didn't see this coming, but it is a brutal blow nonetheless. We were told, in no uncertain terms, that after having reviewed our resumes, and already having laid off a number of other folks, there was no other positions we were qualified for. None. I can't say we didn't see this coming. We have had a string of problems with internet feeds, website issues, changes in corporate regulations about internet sales, all of which have effected out bottom line. We had finally managed to get everything smoothed out, about 10 days before the announced closure of our department. Of course, we were not given any opportunity to defend our jobs, it was a done deal before we even walked into the office. All things being equal, I think I am allowed to be a little pissy about the fact that I finally get out of a seven year stint at a miserable job, working with miserable people, for a company that was always on the verge of closing their doors, and start a fun job, with fun people, for decent pay, with a company that should be rock solid, and I get laid off after a year and a half. I want to throw a tantrum and scream at the universe, "This is just NOT FAIR!!" It has been a rough ten days, as we work through the shell shock of feeling pole-axed, while having to keep up our level of customer service, and wear a facade of cheer. I can't even imagine the rollercoaster of stress and emotion that I will be riding for the next eight weeks as we approach the closure of a department we have worked so hard to keep viable. Honestly, I am fucking pissed. I don't want to job hunt. I don't want to risk ending up in another office job with miserable people. I love my job, and hate that it is being taken away from me.
     Being me, the eternal optimist, I am trying to put a good spin on this, especially going into winter when I know I am one mis-step away from finding myself in the fetal position on the floor, feeling as if my world is in absolute tatters. I will be job hunting, of course, but not with any real vigor for now. I am getting paid decently well, and have full medical benefits until Christmas, at least. I will take full advantage of this. I am grateful to have an eight week head's up so I can be budgeting now, instead of hitting the end of the year broke and with bills to pay, and suddenly being on unemployment. My next few paychecks will allow me to get ahead on bills, and stock up some essential supplies. I had already started paying down the few debts I have, even paying off one credit card the week before I found out I will soon be jobless. If I can get to the end of the year with a little money set aside to offset the 40% decrease in income I will have on unemployment I will allow myself the luxury of a little down-time. Time to get caught up on home projects, my writing, and maybe start working towards a sideline business that can supplement my income. I have a lot of ideas swirling around in my skull. I know that as long as I have "A Plan" I am more likely to stay positive. No, I don't want to have to job hunt, it is a self-esteem killing, soul-sucking endeavor that can make anyone feel unwanted and worthless. If I allow myself to take my time, search for a job that will be less soul-sucking than most, all the while working on creative avenues that will have either monetary or spiritual benefits, I may just survive the winter. But it will be tough. Very tough. All I can do at this point is try to be prepared for what may come. It is going to be a rough winter.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Apathy Will Be The Death Of Us All

    Some things are hard for me to put into words. Emotions and insanities are easy, they flow from me unimpeded at times, and at times I think the only thing that prevents me from spewing forth truths so raw and bare that they might see me landed in a ward under lock and key is the love and respect I have for my children and their well-being. Even in my deepest morass I still manage to put my children's safety above all else. It is not emotions or my state of mind that I have wanted to splay out in black and white, not this time. Lately what has preyed heavily on my mind is the emotions and state of the world. The insanities that have become so commonplace in the world we live in. That is the crux, that is what I have tried to come to grips with; just how commonplace insanity has become in our little corner of the Universe. I make no secret of the fact that I have been on a news blackout for the better part of a year and a half, every since the horrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. An event that left me emotionally reeling with the thought, "They were just babies," ricocheting around inside my skull, getting louder and more chaotic until the cacophony ringing in my brain nearly brought me to my knees. It brought me to tears, that is a fact. So I went on a news blackout. I was a news junkie, poring over crime reports, business news, world events, until I was near to overflow. Sandy Hook broke the levy. I made myself turn away. True, it is impossible to block out the comings and goings of the world, information leaked in like cold air around an old, double hung window. I absorbed just enough to keep my finger on the pulse of the world, barely.
    What is this backstory leading up to? Simple. The world is going to shit. it is in upheaval. True, it is always in some state of unrest, but like the proverbial snowball rolling down hill, it is picking up speed, and getting bigger, deadlier, and more out of control with each passing moment. Am I an alarmist? Yes. I want to beat the drums, light the signal fires in the watch towers, raise a hue and cry. Why? Why now? Why not now? All my life I have seen panic inducing world events. Over and over the world has watched with bated breath as one horrific scenario after another builds to what is surely the next world war, or environmental crisis, only to fizzle out and fade away with little or no lasting effect. But it seems as if each event is just a little larger than the last one. Now, what I see going on around the world seems so much more deadly and apocalyptic than anything in the past, and it covers the gamut of catastrophes on a number of stages. War in the Middle East, yes, there is always war in the Middle East, it seems to be a way of life, but events over the last few years have eclipsed the skirmishes of the past. The genocide in Africa is horrendous and yet barely makes the small print in the evening news. Current environmental disasters like GMOs, fracking, honey bee die-off, drought, dramatically severe weather around the globe, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster dumping radiation in an already over-taxed ocean make me look back at the environmental disasters of the past, like the Exxon Valdez oil spill with almost wistful nostalgia. In the Great US of A obesity, cancer, and auto-immune diseases are on the rise. Illiteracy is being helped along by easy access to the internet and its shameless abuse of gossip-rag headlines. Critical thinking and penmanship are going the way of the carrier pigeon; shot to death in vast droves. The rich are getting richer the poor are getting poorer. Oh, and by "rich" I don't mean millionaires with a little too much time and money on their hands, I mean gluttonous gazillionaires who are accumulating the world's wealth the way a hoarder accumulates piles of newspapers, and to the point where they are not only manipulating world governments, but in full control of the Powers That Be, and are not at all concerned that world knows it.
    Again, where am I going with this? Just this: Why is the world so apathetic about the shitstorm that is bearing down on us like a category 5 hurricane. Hell, we aren't even boarding up the windows. Why aren't we? What the hell is wrong with everyone? Why have we become so g'damned apathetic? I think we have become desensitized. First off, we have been getting slapped with news of gloom and doom as long as I can remember, and it has slowly escalated. Each disaster, each war, each end of the world event has managed to fade away, or get made into a pay per view movie. It is the Boy Crying Wolf, and it feels as if the entire world has now turned a deaf ear to the call to arms. Our world is under attack from virtually every angle, politics, religion, law, finance, greed, gluttony, apathy. We are constantly being fed a series of End of The World blockbuster hit movies and best selling novels that have an entire generation actually looking forward to the apocalypse as a viable alternative to the world we live in. Many are hoping and praying for an asteroid to hit, a plague to strike, aliens to land, or the current populist favorite; the Zombie Apocalypse. Now, instead of factions rising up against the travesties we are being assailed with, we have factions who are just hunkering down, stocking up supplies, and prepping to ride out the storm with the hope of being among a handful of survivors. When did we turn from activists to reactivists? The world has given up on the idea that we might be able to make changes, steer the world back on course, improve our chances, heal our planet. We are desensitized and apathetic. It is the worst tragedy of all. It is as if no one even cares anymore. In the end, I think that apathy will be the death of us all.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Social Anxiety

    Social anxiety is a strange beast. It is not one that it always by my side, but it does make frequent appearances. Tonight I should be at a party, an epic party, and it's just over my back fence. I was all primped, dressed up and ready to go and just could not make myself hop the fence to join the laughter. Instead I threw the ball for my young dog for a bit, then came inside, took off the epic boots, slipped into sandals, and spent the evening working on my bicycle. I have gotten considerably better with my anxiety over the last few years. I know racing has helped immeasurably, forcing me to travel alone to strange places, surrounding myself with strangers, and attempting something I know will be difficult. That is part of the allure of triathlons and trail runs, as well as part of the challenge.
    On the one hand, I really did need to work on my bike. I have had the sexy, new Vittorio Rubino tires for almost two weeks and needed to get them put on before my long ride tomorrow. I also needed to clean and oil the chain and derailleur. It was calming, Zen-like work. On the other hand, I can hear the live music and laughter drifting through the cool night air and wish I had been able to join the crowd. When I am in the mood I can jump into the chaos of a party and enjoy myself immensely. When I am in reclusive, anxiety mood I know I would feel the outcast, and have to force any interactions. I made the right choice for the evening, even if it makes me just a little sad to wonder at the might-have-beens.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pleasant Diversion

    It has been a strange week, a difficult week. I keep finding myself skirting the rim of melancholy, and diving into my bag of tricks to try and maintain my equilibrium. So far it is working, barely. Triggers keep getting bumped, and I have to struggle to keep from falling.
    It is not often that I talk specifics, but let me indulge myself just a bit. Lately I have been surrounded by people getting married. I kid you not, they are everywhere. This is making my subconscious launch an attack on my psyche, sending me a barrage of happily-ever-after dreams, which dredge up middle of the night woe-is-me loneliness. Between my subconscious, and in your face Facebook posts it has been thought provoking, and a bit dismal. This week I came to the conclusion that where relationships go, especially the last 15 years or so, I think that I am just a pleasant diversion. I seem to attract people who are hung up on their past relationship, to the point of near obsession. Is it because I am a good listener, and willing to openly discuss their marital woes? Or do I just seem to stumble upon people who can't seem to let go of destructive, toxic relationships? I am not sure. But as I listen to tales of damaged histories, epic battles, raging bitches, and current interactions, I do my best to keep an open mind, analyzing and arbitrating as is my nature. Eventually I reach that point of critical mass when I realize that once again I am just a pleasant diversion, a safe haven for a brief respite from the battle. It is a curious position I find myself in. Oddly, I can look far back in time to my very first boyfriend and see that even then I was in the same role, as I heard him on the phone to his ex, Anita, on his 17th birthday, he was crying. He did admit that Anita was his best friend's wife. Four years later, yes, it took me four years to extricate myself from that particularly toxic relationship, and I hook up with my older brother's best friend, who, not surprisingly, is still hung up on his ex who he just called The Girl. Yes, I got to overhear phone conversations in that relationship too. And so it goes. My marriage was the one exception to the rule. My most recent breakup, well, it was 6 months ago, was no different. He is back with his "Psychobitch" ex-wife, no surprise there, though I had pissed him off when I told him I knew he was still hung up on her.
    So, here is the question, or questions: Are damaged, broken men, still hung up on their ex-wives attracted to me for some unknown reason? Or, am I attracted to that type of broken person, hoping that the power of my love will heal them? Or, are most men hung up on raving, psychobitch exes? I am beginning to think that men are attracted to women who mistreat them, and that they get a perverse enjoyment out of the abuse. I am also convinced that one of my fatal flaws is that I am too nice, too nurturing, too easy to live with. Maybe I just don't present enough of a challenge? But, the point is moot. I am in as much of a relationship as I care to be in. We see each other rarely, have a great time when we do, part ways on good terms, there is no guilt over conflicting schedules or cancelled dates. It is almost as if we have a verbal contract to enjoy as much as the other has to offer, and expect no more than can be freely and easily given. And, I don't have to compromise my easy, giving nature.
    So, there it is, one of this week's trigger points, the sore spot that is like a fresh bruise waiting to be bumped. Now I will move on, I don't have the time or energy for prolonged pity parties, preferring to analyze, criticize, and move on. And once in a while it is nice to vent, air my dirty laundry, and then get back to the business of living a chaotic, active life that leaves me so very little time for such petty nonsense.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Full Speed Ahead

    I have had so little time to sit and catch my breath, much less jot down a few scrambled sentences> Life is propelling me at a breakneck pace, and even as it wears me down, I love every minute. Not long ago I was asked, "What do you do for fun?" I was stymied. There really isn't anything specific that I do "for fun." I don't play games, I don't go to movies, I don't dine out, I don't go to concerts, or dancing, or sightseeing, or, or or... For a moment I felt a bit tragic, and then I realized, I don't do anything "for fun" because my life is so entertaining and fun that I have no need to seek it out in another form. I enjoy my life so thoroughly that there is no need for outside stimulation. And my days are filled with pleasure whether I am washing my fire engine, drilling with my station, on a 60 mile training ride or a 2-1/2 mile swim, painting my house, planting my garden, visiting my grandson, or playing fetch with my dogs. Simple pleasures abound and fill my life.
    Case in point, today was a training day with the fire district, a Burn to Learn. Yes, we burned down a house. Room by room, we set fires, made entry in full gear, played with water, let the fire build and then knocked it down, watched as the fire crept up the wall and sent demonic fingers across the ceiling. Watching the smoke build into a black mass so dense it seemed as if I should have been able to grab a handful, like cotton candy. I did reach into it with my gloved hand, feeling the heat, and watching the vapors eddy around my hand. Feeling the heat, almost painful even through our gear, and knowing that if we let the fire get out of control that we were totally surrounded by easily combustible materials. We controlled the fire, kept it in check, managed, almost tame, but it wanted to escape and run wild. It was essential training. And it was more fun than anyone should be able to have and still call it "training." After we had lit and extinguished fires all through the house, and the structure was becoming dangerous, it was time to let it go. The speed at which the house became fully engulfed was astonishing. The heat radiating from the inferno was nearly unbearable even 100 feet away. I was glad of my protective gear, even outside watching the blaze consume the old house. Returning to the station we washed down the Engine and Tender, and even that is fun for me.
    What do I do for fun? I live my life. Full speed ahead.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Minor Mania

    Minor Mania has been my companion of late. It is distracting, leading me hither and yon, preventing me from focusing on anything for any length of time. This has effected my endurance training more than anything. I know, one would think that mania would be the perfect workout companion, but it is not. I am too distracted to keep my head in the game. I can't concentrate on form, technique, or training drills. Mania is intruding on my training time, luring me off to work on several projects at one time, flitting from task to task, keeping me occupied for hours, until I force myself to stop in order to get in a 2 hour workout before bed time. It is cutting into my sleep, as I find myself mopping a floor at 10:30 at night, when I should be in bed asleep, attempting to get at least 7 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep leaves me with less than optimal energy for my evening workouts. Last night, what should have been my long swim, was a struggle. Yes, it was a friday evening, at the end of a long, tough work week, so being tired is not surprising. But I was too tired to swim my full 2 miles, and I only had energy for one set of power pyramids (50 yards easy, 50 yards hard, then 100/100, 150/150, 200/200... it is pretty demanding). I did get a good night's sleep last night at least, since it is the first day of a glorious 3 day weekend. But I skipped my morning cycling workout so I could get outside early to work on my Bronco, then I was planting trees, then working on the Bronco, then pulling weeds, then planting, then hacking blackberries, until 8:00 pm. Yes, I did get in a 90 minute cycling workout, but I should have done 2 hours this morning as well. Tomorrow I will get out for a 50 mile ride, that should help remove me from the temptations to let my attention wander to tasks that need to be done. I will say, I am taking full advantage of Manic Mode, accomplishing major tasks on the To-Do List, regardless of its impact on my training. Tomorrow, after my bike ride, I hope to begin work on my Hugelkultur mound garden, Yes, I could just say "mound garden," but honestly, I just like saying "Hugelkultur." It is one of those words, like "Fartlek," yes, I could say "speed play," but "Fartlek" just sounds so much more entertaining. Now I sit, sipping my rosemary tea, trying to unwind, knowing I need to get some sleep to recover from my amazingly busy and productive day, but I am having a tough time shutting down Brain and Body. That is one downside of Mania; no Off Switch.
    I could take something, I do have a little white pill that will put me to sleep in a matter of minutes. But I won't. I weaned myself off of all meds. No more pharmaceuticals. No sleepy pills, no happy pills, not even pain relief. I am clean, and happy with being clean. I maintain my balance with whole foods nutrition, exercise and clean living. Don't scoff, I feel amazing. On that note, I will shut off this electrical distraction with its stimulating videos of cats doing silly things, dogs being rescued, and flash mobs dancing in rail stations. Time to let my body rest and recover, I have a 50 mile bike ride in the morning before I can continue on with my Minor Mania.

Friday, May 23, 2014


    "Home is where the Heart is."
    I know I mention my beloved little home quite frequently. It is my sanctuary, my escape from the world, my shelter from the storm of humanity, and it is also a the cornerstone of my freedom. Yes, it does tie me down, take my time, make demands on me, and yet it is so much a part of my freedom that I doubt I could ever give it up, or even share it easily. I know, it is a small, simple house. A 1958 Ranch on 1/3 of an acre, surrounded by farmland. I have wonderful, mature shade trees, including one of the largest and most magnificent Birch trees I have ever had the pleasure to know. There are 3 mature apple trees, the largest and gnarliest of which I have dubbed "my Apple Ent." There is also a Green Gage plum, an heirloom variety that is absolutely luscious. I leave a ladder under the tree when the fruit is ripe and every evening after work I climb the ladder, gorge on plums, and toss some down to my eagerly waiting dogs. It is a peaceful, pleasant, uncomplicated place. My corner of the world.
    I bought the place, or more correctly, I managed to get the bank to buy the place and I send them a monthly tithe to live here, 2-1/2 years ago. I moved in over Christmas weekend of 2011. It was the best Christmas ever. The first night I stayed in the house it was so cold from having sat vacant and unheated for so long that I could barely sleep. It was like winter camping indoors. The first 6 months were filled with all the fun things of owning a home; every surface had to be cleaned and painted, floors were scrubbed, cupboards dismantled and reassembled, pegboard torn down, finding a place for everything, purging myself of unnecessary possessions, reveling in my freedom and independence.
    So here I am, my third summer quickly approaching, and I have been hit with yet another Manic Nesting Phase. It comes and goes, my desire to build, repair, plant, paint. With the coming of the sun I feel the urge to plant. My first spring here I planted 2 Stanley Prune trees, a Texas King Fig, 3 grapes (2 White Himrod, and a red seedless), and herb gardens overflowing with varieties of sage, mint, lavender, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and tarragon. I grow heirloom tomatoes every year, and have a small raised bed in the back for salad greens and sugar snap peas.
    This year I am adding more permanent plantings. I have 3 new apple trees awaiting their new places of honor. With the climate extremes we are seeing I wanted cold hardy and heat tolerant varieties. I settled on 2 heirloom trees: The Early Rambo (no relation to Stallone) that ripens in August, and the Roxbury Russett which ripens in October. Both are good for fresh eating, canning, and cooking. The Roxbury is great for storage, lasting up to 6 months. For my pollinator I opted for a Golden Delicious since they are a nice all around apple. I also have raspberries, and tomatoes ready to go into the ground, and the plants I have started from seed; heirloom sweet pumpkins, Blue Kuri squash, slicing cucumbers, and a profusion of sunflowers. I want to get my strawberry bed built, but that may not happen yet.
    As geeky as I am being about gardening right now, one epic addition will be my mound garden, aka Hugelkultur. It is a way of building up a raised bed on a foundation of logs, creating a self feeding garden that holds moisture for weeks on end, is highly productive, and easily maintained. It is going to look fabulous when it is covered with the lush vines of my pumpkins, and with sunflowers popping up between the vines.
    I am continually working towards being more self reliant. I want to eat off of my own land, to literally enjoy the Fruits of My Labor. I am making slow but steady progress to self-sufficiency. I know I will always need an income, so will never be truly self sufficient, but I can produce more and more of what I need, lessening my dependency on the rest of the world. Next year I will hopefully have my chicken coop built so I can get a small flock, and maybe, just maybe, I will get my bee hive. So many plans for the future! This is a main reason that I so love my little house, I see it as my ticket to freedom and independence. It is so much more than a mere house. It is my shelter, my sanctuary, my home, my sanity.