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.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Cleanse and Purge, Preparing For The New Year

    I am already taking steps towards making 2015 a productive year. Today, having the house to myself, and a cancellation of my plans for sushi and shopping with my friend, I kicked into high manic mode and started cleaning and purging. There is so much clutter involved when you have a houseful of people. It can't really be helped unless everyone is as OCD about clutter as I can be, especially at this time of year. Before I moved into my snug, little house, I made a goal to rid myself of 50% of everything I possessed. Granted, when you have lived in one house for 5 years, with teenagers, it is easy to accumulate way too much crap, so riding myself of the bulk of that 50% was actually pretty easy. Since I moved I have continued to have bouts of purging (I sound bulimic), and I still have too much stuff. I would love to reach the point where I have very little that must be stored in boxes and bins. I want to get down to bins of seasonal decor, fabric, and craft supplies only. I have a cedar chest that has mementos, mostly of my sons' childhood, and that can remain untouched. But how much "stuff" does one person need? Not as much as we all seem to think we do. I still have things stored away that I haven't needed since I moved in 3 years ago, I think it is safe to say that I don't need them.
    Funny, it just occurred to me that I just hit the 3 year anniversary of buying my little house. Three years ago, the weekend before Christmas, I spent the first night in my own home. It was freezing cold, the house had been unheated for months, and the central heat did not work. It was so cold that I shivered all night long, and barely slept, but I was so excited to be buying my very own home, that I picked out all by myself, and financed all on my own, that the cold was worth it. That was a rough winter, I hit the lowest I have ever been, but the entire time I poured all my energy into making my house into my very own, colorful home. My sanctuary. A dream come true. Oh the difference a few years can make!
   Okay, enough dawdling at the computer (well actually I am taking a moment to eat some baked winter veggies to refuel for more work and a workout), time to get back to work. I love my home, I love my life.

2015, Leap of Faith Year.

    Another year is coming to a close. I have to say that 2014 has been one of my best years ever. My demons took a backseat, and only came out to play a few times. When they did arrive, their attempts at derailing me seemed half-hearted and feeble. My inner strength seems to have been increasing alongside my outer strength. I do think that having solid fitness goals has helped keep Brain on track. This really is no surprise as I have always known that if I keep Body strong it helps shelter and defend Brain and Spirit. Keeping my life simple goes hand in hand with keeping Body strong. Limiting emotional distress caused by external forces (i.e. unsatisfying and/or toxic relationships) has been key in maintaining stability.
    I can't say that the year has been without its obvious stress points. I have had a houseful since mid-August, and that has been a bit mind-blowing. But I made the offer, and it is coming to an end soon. It has given me an opportunity to get to know new family, and renew the bond with my son. So despite the obvious chaos and stress of small children and extra dogs, it has overall been a good thing, though I think we all are ready for a change. Soon though.
    2014 was a year of physical challenges, self-imposed and intentionally intimidating. I came through in the absolute best shape of my life. Strong, fit, long and lean, rising to the challenge, and ready to do it again. I trained hard all year, sometimes to the exclusion of all else, and I am ready to do it all again. I am already stronger than I was last summer, intentionally letting my running and cycling ease off to focus on strength training and core conditioning. Soon enough I will be back in the wind, focusing on speed work, building my aerobic base, and increasing endurance and stamina. It is going to be a great race year, culminating once again with the Epic 250K in September.
    October of 2014 did bring a shock when I was called into the boss' office and informed that they were closing my department at the end of the year and I would be out of a job. Yes, I broke down and cried once I left his office. I am single, have a mortgage, and fall into the category of "less employable." I know that is a bit defeatist sounding, but statistics show that women in their fifties are "the new unemployable" no matter how fit and awesome I am. Also, I do not have a college degree, and my work history has been varied, and often blue-collar. I know I am a great generalist who can learn almost anything and excel at it, but most companies want specialists with college degrees whether the degree means jack shit or not, they just want that sheepskin. After a day of oh-my-gods-what-am-I-gonna-do I got down to brass tacks and started formulating a plan. Of course at first I started looking at the jobs listings and came to the early conclusion that I didn't want "same shit different office." I don't want to keep working 40 hours a week making money for someone else while they pay me less than I am worth. If I am going to struggle on the edge of poverty I want to do it on my own terms, for my own desires, to create my own works, to make money for myself. I have chosen to look at unemployment as a golden opportunity to build up a few business concepts that will make me a decent supplemental income so that I can actually retire in 10 years instead of being forced to work into my 70's to make ends meet on a meager Social Security income. Yes, I do know that I will have to rejoin the workforce at some point in 2015, but I want to be able to do it on my terms, and hopefully less than full time.
    On a side note, one of my first thoughts after getting over the shock of pending unemployment was the joyous thought, "Oh my  gods, just think of how much time I will have to workout and train!" Hell, maybe I can pretend I am a professional athlete long enough to get to the start line rock solid and in absolute peak condition! This excites me more than you can imagine.
    The first weekend of 2015 will add another notch to my belt, I begin Fire Investigation 200. An area of firefighting that has intrigued and interested me far longer than I have been with the department. With bunker gear in one hand and a notepad in the other, I am beyond excited for class to start.
    Another fun part of 2014 has been finding a part-time relationship that fills the physical and emotional void, and helps keep Brain, Body, and Spirit on track more than any past relationship has managed. In the past, relationships have been a trigger point for most of my deepest adventures into the abyss. Too much emotional energy was spilled out into the void with very little return on my investment, which left me a hollow shell of what I need to be. Now, through one small leap of faith, and an oddly random nudge by fate, I have slipped easily into an affair that has none of the guilt or emotional drain that I have felt in the past. Instead it is mature and satisfying on both sides, since we entered into it with eyes wide open, knowing our own and each other's parameters, limitations, and desires. Up front, no bullshit, no lies, no grief, no guilt. There are never any recriminations for lack of time. No insecurities if we don't communicate for weeks at a time. And when we do have time the world falls away and the focus is only on us. It is strange, non-traditional, and exactly what I need. Funny how things work out when you stop trying to force the issue, decide what it is you truly need and want, and then put that out into the world. I am not one to have a traditional relationship, they are too demanding of my time and energy, too needy, and cause me too much stress wanting to make everyone happy. I have found what makes me happy, and that is enough. Oddly, it is inspiring me to start a new blog soon, of freedom found, and the joys of getting what you want, no matter how off-beat, nontraditional, unconditional, wild and crazy, more than a bit kinky, and on my own terms.
    As Fun as 2014 has been, I am so excited for 2015. Life is what You make of it, no one else can take the blame or the credit, it is all on You. As of January 1st, 2015, I will be unemployed and free to start a whole new chapter in the rollercoaster that is life. I have already started writing the introduction, and can barely wait to start on page one. 2015 will be exciting, exhausting, educating, alarming, sexy, fun, difficult, deviant, daring. It will call on me to do something I am good at: Leap Before I Look. 2015 will be the Leap of Faith Year.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Steady Nerves

    My pager went of at 21:25, unconscious older male. I threw on my basic black class C's and jacket, and flew out the door. Despite the fog I made good time getting to the station and was given the driver's seat in the Rescue Rig. It is no secret, I love driving Code 3. Just a minute into the drive dispatch said the family had started CPR, I knew what we were heading into. This was going to be my first CPR case. "They're doing CPR, so we grab the O2 bag, med bag, and start compressions as soon as we get on scene?" I asked Cap'n Eddie over my shoulder. He grunted affirmation and asked me what size gloves I needed. As I drove up the steep, winding road I did a quick mental/spiritual check: Everything okay? Yeah, I was calm and focused. There was a family member waiting for us at the end of the driveway with a flashlight, a great boon on a foggy night. I pulled up to the house, stomped the emergency break, and actually remembered to chock the tire before I opened the compartment and grabbed the O2 bag, Joe grabbed the med kit, and Eddie had the AED defibrillator. I was first in, calling out to the people in the house, quickly seeing a woman kneeling next to a very still man. "Let me take over," I said gently, dropping my bag and kneeling next to the man, my CPR training very clear in my mind. I started nice, solid, deep compressions while Joe and Eddie started getting out the rest of the gear. During class we were told that when you start compressions you will feel and hear the sternum and ribs pop and crack. I did. It was a little unnerving, but not unexpected. I know it is better to do continual compressions at 100 beats a minute with no break for oxygen if there is only one person with hands on the patient. I did it by the book, with the Bee Gees song "Staying Alive" playing in my head as the perfect speed and rhythm for compressions. I stopped briefly to feel for a pulse, there was nothing. I got right back to it. Our duty officer arrived just as Joe got oxygen on the patient, I heard his voice, registered that he was there, but my focus was narrowed down to the man under my hands, and the feel of his chest under my palms. 20 compressions then "Okay Joe, two quick breaths." 20 compressions, "Okay Joe." The paramedics arrived, speaking quietly to me, reaffirming my feeling that what I was doing was not going to make any difference to the patient, but was what the family was needing to see. "You're doing perfect," I heard several times. Then our other Rescue unit arrived, and I was relieved by one of my former classmates. Now I got to step back and be the observer. The paramedics ran an EKG strip, there was no pulse. He stepped over to talk quietly with the family. The decision to end resuscitation efforts was made and time of death was called. We quietly gathered our things and got out from under foot.
    Stepping out into the brisk night air, my mind was still clear and focused. I looked inward to see how I was feeling. I knew I was okay. A small, nervous Blue Heeler came up to me, her eyes worried, her body language showing her concern. The dogs always find me. I kneeled down and gave her scratches, murmuring my condolences, telling her it would be okay. Oddly, it is her worried, furry face that overshadows the ashen, slack face I had kneeled over for a few eternal moments. The dogs always find me and work their way into my heart.
    We finished packing up our gear, I backed out of the driveway, and drove back to the station. We talked about the case. Eddie showing his gruff concern for me. I knew I was all right with the incident, it was a good first call of this nature. I know there will be more, many more, over the years. I also know there will be some that will effect me deeply. This was a good opportunity to see just how I would react. All of this is new, and no one knows how they will react until they are already elbow deep into something. So far I have faced each situation calmly, with good focus, steady nerves, and no unnecessary adrenaline screwing with my mind. I really love this.
    Next month I get my first class in Fire Investigation, a whole new adventure. A fabulous way to start the New Year. I am excited.