Friday, February 20, 2015

Pruning Apple Trees

    I was pruning my old apple trees today and it struck me just how much the task is  great analogy for my life. Up on a ladder, precariously perched, wrenching muscles as I try to cut branches too thick for my tools, hair tangled in branches, getting poked in the eye. Honestly, I don't really know what I'm doing. I am totally winging it. Lopping, hacking, cutting away dead limbs, thinning out the excess. Trying to get to healthy growth. Hoping that maybe I am not doing more harm than good. No way of knowing if this will bear fruit, or not. Balancing on the "this is not a step" step, leaning too far out, straining, the voice in my skull screaming at me that I am going to fall and break myself. The dogs are milling about below, and I know that if I fall they are the only ones who will notice. And what good will they do as I lay broken and berating myself for my own stupidity? They will jump on my head, drool, slobber, and generally make nuisances of themselves. But none of them knows how to call for help. "What is it, Lassie? Timmy fell down the well?" Nope, not my lunkheads. Then, if I manage to not fall off the ladder and split my skull, very likely I will step off and into dog shit, trip over the cut branches, and fall face down in the mud.
    Then the sun flares in my eyes, and I feel a soft breeze on my cheek. The calm solitude of my life washes over me for a moment, erasing cares and loneliness. I know that even if I don't get many apples, I will get a lot of blossoms. The bees will be happy. I guess I can be content with that.

Despite The Sun

   Thankfully the weather has been good, because I am definitely going through a rough patch. It always happens at this time of year, and I do all I can to head it off at the pass, but it doesn't take much to derail me. In this case, a very minor case of a broken heart. No, nothing dramatic, just the end of a friendship that was fun while it lasted. The downside comes about in the form of a constant, nagging question: Why am I never The One? In this particular case we both knew that we were not cut out to be partners, soulmates, or even a long term situation. We had been open and honest from the first moment, which is a new and wonderful experience for me. But having it come to an end, knowing he has moved on to someone that he deems a potential life partner, and possibly "The One" has left me just a little bereft. Why am I never The One? There is not a single relationship in my life that I can point to and say "of all the people in the world, he found me and fought to keep me." No one makes gallant efforts to woo me, and keep me. I am always that Girl on The Side, the girl to make merry with while waiting for someone more suitable. Second choice after being rejected by numero uno. The rebound. A stopgap measure. It makes me question my desirability, especially as I have gotten older. I've cried about it before, feeling left behind, not good enough, not the right fit. I don't cry about it anymore, those are wasted tears, Honestly, of those that have cast me aside, allowed me to drift away, or downright abused my love and loyalty, not a one of them deserved me. I know this. I know they were not the right fit, and could not have satisfied me. In the end, no matter how I might have tried, I would (or have) walked away. That knowledge doesn't make me any less lonely during the brief moments when I am too busy to feel lonely. Yes, Pity Party For One.
    I know this feeling will pass. My heart will take a day or two to stop aching. I have built my armor well, it is durable with nary a chink. Someday though, I would like a chance to set aside the armor. Let myself go unprotected. Feel the warm breezes of freedom on my soul. Let my heart wander free and off-leash. But not today. Not tomorrow. Possibly not ever.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Birthday Health

    Once again, my birthday has come and gone with little, really no fanfare. My birthday weekend also, unfortunately, coincides with Valentine's, giving me that extra little twist of the sucks-to-be-single-knife. I had held out hope that there might be a last minute invite for a rendezvous, a chance to dress to the nines in tall boots and short skirt, maybe have some sushi, but it didn't happen. Though I didn't log in to write a woe-is-me-I-am-so-lonely entry. Well, not really anyway. Okay maybe, just a little. I knew it was unlikely that anyone would surprise me with glorious Valentine's or birthday plans, so I made plans of my own. No, nothing glorious, glamorous, or covered in chocolate.
    Instead, for Valentine's Saturday I went on a 5 hour hike up in the Columbia Gorge, that was a real quad burner, and visually stunning as well. Birthday Sunday I went to my first group bicycle ride. called a Gravel Grinder. You guessed it, a long ride on gravel roads. Needless to say, a few miles in I decided that neither gravel nor group rides were my thing, so I turned around and went solo for 3 hours. I spent a glorious morning riding through the Spring-like weather, letting myself get nearly lost on narrow roads winding through rolling farmland. I have gotten quite good at Valentine's and birthdays alone, as long as I try to not think too deeply on just how alone that can make me feel. I had expected some sore muscles come Monday morning, but apparently I am even tougher than I think I am.
    Again, I am swerving near the brink of a pity party. About 10 years ago I made a vow to myself that I would be healthier on my birthday than I was on the previous birthday, year after year. This is a challenge that gets a bit tougher every year, as I inch towards being so ridiculously fit and healthy that I just about can't stand my own smug superiority. You should hear the conversations that go on inside my head, I can be a self-righteous little bitch to myself sometimes. Seriously though, once again I have managed to up my game. Four months ago I competed in a 250 kilometer triathlon. I swam and biked further than I ever had before, and I ran well after. No, I didn't get a qualifying time, but it was still an accomplishment I could not have done a year before. Now, today, I know that I could easily step out my door and do a half Ironman and just think of it as a strenuous workout. Yes, I'd be a bit sore for a few days, but nothing that would be debilitating. I have held onto a diligent strength workout throughout the winter and am a stronger swimmer, cyclist, and runner than I was a year ago. No, I'm not quite at the level I was in September, but I can get back there pretty quickly when I need to. I am 5 pounds lighter than I was last year at this time, though I am 7 pounds heavier than I was on race day. I am keeping decently lean, but not tweaking about it. I am eating even healthier than I was a year ago, remarkable as that may seem. So put physical health in the Plus Category.
    Mentally might be just a bit dodgy. It is February after all, one of the toughest months for me (see paragraph one for a partial explanation...). I am single again, or still, I'm not sure which really. Also, I am unemployed for the first time in almost 15 years, and then I chose to be a stay at home mom. Being unemployed is messing with my head just a little, I veer from enjoying the freedom and loving the chance to start a small sideline business, to having an absolute spaz attack over finances. Money is tight, and getting tighter, and that does not bode well for my mental health. On the flip side I am getting plenty of sleep for the first time in my life, as well as enjoying not having to deal with idiots out in the real world. So at this point my mental stability is kind of a crap shoot day to day, today being one of the less than stellar moments.
    So, final tally on Birthday Health: Physically fitter, leaner, nutritionally dialed in versus Mentally a bit of a lunatic. Since I am always a bit of a lunatic, I say that once again, the Birthday Health Challenge is a Win. Dear gods, what will I do for next year?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Business Not So Usual

    I have been officially unemployed now for 30 days. Holy shit! Really? Time flies when you don't have a routine. It has been weird, not having to set my alarm and spend the bulk of my day away from home toiling for someone else. I can't say I am making the most of it though, I have been sleeping more than I should, and spending far too much time goofing around online. Some of the goofing is actually market research for my self-employment. The past few evenings I have been working on my business proposal to the State to get hooked up with their Self Employment Assistance Program. I have hit a bit of a snag. Well, a conundrum actually. Originally I had planned on using my "vanilla" business idea of repurposing and refinishing furniture as the ideal plan to lob at the State. I don't doubt that I could make okay money at this, but it would be labor intensive, and the cost of bare materials could be high. But as I have been delving into the market research for my other, totally not vanilla, business idea, I have realized that it has the potential to be a decent money maker with minimal actual upfront costs. The idea? Fetish gear. Yes, hand tooled leather bondage gear. I have ample experience with leather work and leather tooling, and have been keenly searching for a line of marketable items, as well as a reasonably untapped market. What did I find? The thriving, underground Kink communities around the world. There is an entire world out there that most people are basically unaware of. I knew it was there, and have been wading the shallow end of the pool for a bit. It was a chance outing in Portland, and the last minute walk up Burnside and past Spartacus (a fetish wear store) that made the lightbulb go off in my brain. I had wanted to do tooled leather corsets but knew just how costly and time consuming they would be, so had shelved that idea. Walking past Spartacus I suddenly thought of hand tooled leather manacles, collars, ankle restraints, matched sets, the combinations are endless. It sent my mind into that frenzy of design that hits when I come up with an idea. I set things in motion, found an online community to start getting my name out there, doing market research, testing the waters so to speak. It took a while to finish the first prototype wrist restraints, and they are lovely. I need to perfect my technique a bit, streamline the process, tweak and tune. I posted pictures and have been getting amazing feedback, including a number of people wanting to know if I make them for sale. So far so good. Now comes the tough part, selling the idea to the State without it sounding quite so kinky. It is a fairly untapped market, the responses I have received are proving that to me. But how to tone it down? Make it a bit more "vanilla?" I will sleep on it. Hopefully it will come to me in a dream. But I think I am on the cusp of something rather awesome.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Journal

    Today was the family gathering to celebrate the life, and mourn the passing of my maternal Grandmother. She was an amazing woman, and I could tell you hundreds of stories, and the thousands of people who's lives she touched could tell you thousands more stories of how she was a beacon of creativity, love, and acceptance. I could tell these stories, but instead I just want to tell one. It is about what I found, today, by sheer happenstance.
    The big, wonderful, artistic house was filled to the brim with family. Aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren. It was a hoard. I admit, we are a tall, handsome, witty, intelligent brood. A creative, artistic, eclectic, eccentric bunch of square pegs in round holes.
    After a few hours of mingling, hugging, reminiscing, catching up, and laughing I was feeling a bit worn out. We introverts can only handle so much socializing before we must sneak away for solitude to recharge. I slipped away, up the stairs to the second floor that had been my Grandma's space. At one time it was her studio and gallery, as well as bedroom, and living space. The walls are hung with a dozen of her paintings, a small sample of her vast work. She was a prolific and talented painter. I had the place to myself.
    Feeling almost sacrilegious, I sat in her chair and let the tension ebb away. I glanced down and saw the corner of her address book peeking out from beneath a box of tissue. I recognized this little book, the cover painted with a bold, colorful, graphic, abstract design. I remembered seeing this book at my Grandma's elbow for nearly as long as I could remember. It was so familiar, and yet I don't think I had ever touched it. I picked it up to get a closer look at the art she had painted on its cover. Several pages from a small notepad fell out. Pages with names and phone numbers, just as you might expect from an address book that was over 30 years old. I opened the book to replace the smaller pages. My eyes lit on the page covered with cursive writing:
    "2/13-3/2  '87  I am on this thing called a vacation. The idea is to lay in the California sun and rest. Reality sets in. Traveled thousands of miles. Almost got in a snowstorm. 3 days of flooded streets and nightmare driving in Scottsdale Arizona. Saw some art and not such a beautiful landscape as seen in Arizona Hwys. I loved every minute of it--wouldn't change a thing."
    The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention. This was not an address book, it was a journal. My Grandma's journal, that no one, and I mean No One knew was a journal. All these years it had been in plain sight, kept close at hand, and none of us knew what it was. In reality, why should we know? A journal is a private thing. We were all better off thinking it was merely and address book.
    I page through, reading excerpts. Some of it was reminisces of her childhood, of her father, of the Indians that visited them on their farm in Pocatello. Some of it was free flowing writing. Some was of her struggles to get her paintings into galleries, to get her name known as an artist. Some of it is so private that no one needs know, except maybe the women who are her descendants.
    "$150,000 isn't hay. Who needs that much? Me! If I had it I could promote my paintings and get in some galleries. I'd hire Andy to be my bookkeeper and Randy to be my agent. Henry's Dark Private Reserve."
    This was written in 1987. A time when I know her life was in some turmoil. Her kids were grown and gone, and she was striving to make a name for herself in the art world. It was a chaotic time for her. Someone suggested that there must be other journals. This one is small, and does not have many pages. I think that maybe this is a one off. One of a kind. Her one and only. Her writing to come to grips with all that was transpiring mentally, physically, professionally, emotionally. And it was in my hands.
    I read excerpts aloud to some chosen few, and promised to transcribe it word for word and get copies to the few who should see it all. I am going to read it cover to cover. I think I stumbled onto a true treasure. A glimpse into the mind and heart of this amazing woman when she was on a vendetta to make the world sit up and take notice of her talent. This is one thing I will cherish.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hit The Wall

    I admit, I have hit a wall today. I am sure it is the cumulative effect of weeks of long days at a job I knew was ending, the strain of the holidays, the death of my grandmother a few days ago, the actual ending of my job, the cold weather, and an uncertain future. The downside of being borderline manic/depressive is the crash that comes after riding mania for weeks on end. It is abrupt and often brutal. Fortunately I am still able to look ahead at the exciting possibilities, and to know that they are a breath away from being reality. I am weepy and lethargic, but not curled into a fetal position crying uncontrollably. One advantage of having spent endless days in the abyss is the ability to recognize it from a distance and make heroic efforts to prevent a fall. It is easy to fall on the platitude that we all deserve to take a day off now and then, take some down time, relax, be lazy. That is for normal people. I am not normal.
    For the better part of the month of December I was able to fixate on the light at the end of the tunnel. Work kept me frenetically busy up until just about a week ago, and then there was still much to do to close up shop, and fill final orders. It was a busy month. Then yesterday, finishing up with inventory, closing up my office space, deleting cookies and browsing history, packing up the last of my things, then Exit, Stage Left, No Fanfare. It was freeing and exciting, and somehow a letdown. Now that it is done I feel a bit adrift, for today at least. I had a friend over for the afternoon, and it was so great to have someone to talk to. Then when she left the house seemed so quiet. Yes, I love my solitude and the quiet, but over the last few months I had grown accustomed to having children in the house, and other adults to talk to. At work I had friends to talk to, vent to, tell my wild ideas, and laugh. I find that I miss it. It will take some adjusting.
    I know that I need to work up a sweat, get in a solid workout, but I can't seem to find my motivation today. If you know me at all then you know that this is definitely not the norm. My workouts are like my religion, and I am devout. To skip a workout makes me feel ashamed and a bit dirty, as if I have indeed sinned against myself. here it is, 8:30 at night, and I am wrapped in my giant bathrobe to ward off the bitter cold of the winter night. Deep inside is a voice shouting to me to get moving, sweat, exhaust my body, but the voice is being muffled by the shadows that seem eager to draw me into their midst. I know better, know that I need to fight against the darkness or it will win. Some days though, it is a tough battle. Days like today.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

    Here I am, on the cusp of a new year. Midnight is 25 minutes away, and with it the first moments of 2015. It has been an odd ending to what has been an exciting and adventurous year.
    Having my job come to a close was more emotionally draining than I had expected. It was an odd combination of fear of the unknown, sadness and a sense of loss, coupled with sheer exhilaration at all the possibilities now opening up before my like an exotic flower. I have not been sleeping well these last few weeks. At first it was because of the zaniness of internet retail during the holiday shopping season. As that was winding down and there was time to breathe, I began to feel the looming loss, which did its best to keep me sleep deprived. As if that weren't enough, suddenly Brain kicked into high gear with myriad of possibilities. My mind went into overdrive thinking of exciting, creative avenues that I am now free to follow. Suffice to say, I need to get caught up on my sleep. Now I sit on the edge of the new year, unemployed, or, as I prefer, self-employed, I am ready to leap into the unknown, and I am fucking excited. Exhausted, drained, a little sad, but excited as hell. So excited that I actually skipped several parties I was invited to, and had all intentions of attending, because I went into a flurry of cleaning and organizing in my desire to be able to start working on a prototype for a new business venture. Yes, I am being a bit secretive. Let's just say I think I have finally figured out an untapped market for creations that will let me use some of my mad skills.
    This last year has let me push myself physically farther than I would have imagined just a few short years ago. And has also let me imagine how much further I can go. I have not seen the limits of my strength, and am eager to keep pushing my boundaries. I love pushing myself, finding a limit and pushing against it until it is no longer limiting. Yes, this does keep me sore and tired a good bit of the time, but I love every minute of it.
    Nine minutes until midnight. Yes, home alone, just me and the dogs. Yes, I did get in a good, sweaty cycling workout, and make myself a beautifully healthy dinner. My festive splurge was herbal tea and dark, organic chocolate. Home alone, but not lonely, I am great company.
    Funny, now that I am not required to live by an alarm clock or work schedule, I am in a hurry to "get things done." That's what Brain keeps telling me, "C'mon, let's Get Things Done!" I want to rush through getting my home and workspace organized, rush out to buy supplies, design, draw, cut, tool, stitch. I want to dive in and get busy. I am so excited by the prospect of where I am heading that I am scatterbrained, hyperactive, distracted, attention deficit. It is making me a bit crazy.
    Three, two, one... Happy New Year! And it will be. Happy, New, Exciting, Adventurous.