Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Rich Beyond Measure

    This last year I have made a conscious choice to live well below the poverty line. I am lucky, for me it is a choice. Why in the hell would anyone choose to be poor? I think "Poor" is a relative term. I have enough money, mostly, to make it through the month. I admit, I couldn't do it without a little support. I am making less than half of what I was making a year ago, but it is enough to pay my mortgage and put food on the table. I am not telling this to garner any kind of sympathy or pity, but because it has been a revelation (or revolution, more like it).
     I lost my job about a year ago, and it took time to find new employment. In that time I discovered just how little money I need to be happy, and how much more I value my time. To be able to spend time with my grandchildren has been a wonder. To hear the happy cry, "Oma's here!" Followed by the thunder of little footsteps never ceases to lift my heart. That is something that is so far beyond monetary value there are no words. I will never be the grandparent that showers them with gifts, but with a little clever thought I manage to be the one that gives them gifts that they remember. And I give my time. As much of it as I can.
     Having time has given me a freedom that I have never had. Freedom to write, build, create, salvage, and sometimes just to sit and do nothing. Okay, that last bit does not happen very often, I am not good at sitting still. But I can do it if I want to.
    Choosing to live below the poverty line has given me an appreciation for my life that I think most people are too busy, and too worried about material gain to see for themselves.  How many people in the world do not have basic comforts? I think about how many millions of people in the world head into the night with no bed to go to, hungry, cold, frightened, and with no prospects on the horizon. I have a solid little house that keeps me warm and dry. I am buying it, so there is never the fear that my rent will rise, or the landlord will decide to sell. It is mine, and mine alone to do with what I want. Yes, it has a few issues that could be easily remedied if I could hire a contractor to just come in and fix them. But I can do the work, I have a list, and I will get it done, eventually. I have wood to burn in my little woodstove, running water, a beautiful view, a comfortable bed, food packed into the cupboards (and the skill and means to make delicious meals). Here I sit, at a computer, a cellphone at my elbow, with electric lights, heat, running water, a cup of hot coffee, a hearty breakfast as soon as I choose to make it. In the next room I have a huge, comfortable bed, with clean, soft bedding, and an electric blanket to prewarm it for me. I have dressers, closets, and baskets full of clothes for all kinds of weather, and all kinds of situations. I have shelves full of books. I have dogs and cats to keep me company. I have a car that runs, and money to fill the tank. I have a job to go to that I enjoy, and where I am appreciated. I have all the tools I need to build my Fort, repair my house, create a garden, care for my property. I have piles of salvaged building materials, nearly enough to build a small house. How can I not be thought of as rich beyond measure?
    Add to my overwhelming abundance of material wealth the love and friendship of family and friends and it is more than anyone should ever aspire to. I know that if I do hit a bump in the road I have people in the world who love me, care for me, and will happily lend assistance if I need it. All I have to do is ask. How many millions of people in the world have no one. No One. It makes my heart ache to think of it. And how many people in the world have spent their life so focused on climbing the corporate ladder, amassing wealth, only to reach a pinnacle and realize that they are miserable and alone? Material wealth will not fill that aching void.
    Yes, sometimes I find myself fretting about having enough money to make it to the end of the month. Or a bit of the "robbing Peter to pay Paul," but every month it works out. I set my worries alongside a mother who has no money, no food, and hungry children, and it makes me ashamed that I was upset because I was low on coffee. Money is not the answer, my friends. It never was, and never will be. Accumulation of material wealth is nothing more than an illusion of happiness, a spiritual void, a promise of something intangible that will always remain just out of reach.
     I sit in my snug little house, surrounded by so much wealth I feel like a dragon in his cave full of hoarded gold. By choosing to be "the starving artist" what I have really done is open my eyes to just how wealthy I am. Love, friendship, comfort, food, heat, contentment, sanity. I am Rich Beyond Measure.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Next Year's Challenge

    It is no secret that I like to challenge myself. True, some days it seems like a challenge just to get out of the house and meet people face to face. Last year it was doing an Iron distance triathlon. I wanted to repeat the even this year, but it was cancelled, leaving me dangling as far as physical challenges go. An early season knee injury and elbow injury sidelined me for this racing season so I had to turn my talents elsewhere. This year I pushed myself to build a sanctuary, The Fort. It is nearly complete. It would be done if I didn't keep coming up with groovy new things to do to it. Just today I finished installing a wood floor with 1x6 clear vertical grain hemlock that I salvaged out of a scrap bin at a local mill. Just the back half of the space has wood floor, the front will have vintage linoleum once I can decided on the pattern I want to do.
    Anyway, about this time of year I like to look ahead to what next year might offer. What challenges can I find that will push my limits a bit? There isn't a local Iron distance triathlon, so that is likely off the table. I decided on two half-Irons instead, but that really isn't quite challenging enough. Well, except the challenge of remaining injury free through the coming year. What I found is something almost unfathomable: The Portland Bridge Swim. It is an 11 mile swim down the Willamette River, through the heart of Portland. 11 miles. ELEVEN MILES! The longest swim I have done to this point is 3.1 miles, but I came out of the water feeling good, though hypothermic, and with enough energy to get on my bike and ride around Mount Bachelor. But to swim 11 miles, that is almost lunacy. My kind of lunacy. Last night during my regular swim I started calculating just what I would need to do in order to get myself ready for such a swim. The amount of hours I would have to spend training borders on obsessive. Add into this my regular triathlon training and I will need to focus as intensely as I did last year for the Epic 250K.
    I love to set goals for myself. I need to set goals for myself, lofty goals. Not run of the mill goals. It does make it tough when I get sidelined or derailed, but that just gives me an excellent opportunity to practice my problem solving skills. Can I swim 11 miles in open water? I guess I will find out.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


    Nearly 20 years ago a friend called me an "Idealist." She meant it as a compliment, but also as a warning. She was trying to deflect me from what she though was a potentially hazardous path. She was right, and fortunately I took heed of her sage wisdom. I confess, I had to look up the word Idealist to really grasp what it was she was accusing me of.
    Idealist: A person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations (synonyms: visionary, wishful thinker, romantic, dreamer, Don Quixote) example: an idealist believes the best in everyone, regardless of how they behave.
    Damn. She was right. Guilty on all charges.
    Not only am I an idealist, I am gullible and naive as well. I joke that if you look up the word "gullible" in the dictionary, you will find my picture there. I will believe what you tell me, until you give me reason to think otherwise.
    Oddly, these traits have led me down the wrong path on more than a few occasions. I am trusting, to the point of idiocy sometimes. But for all the times these tendencies have left me burned and ragged, I have yet to reach the point of being jaded, or suspicious.
     I was once told that life would beat these weaknesses out of me. I do not find them to be weaknesses. They are a foundation of my strength. The ability to believe in the good of the people around me lets me see the world with loving eyes. It helps me be brave and bold, to not hide cowering in fear of what might happen. It lets me meet strangers and think of them as potential friends, instead of a threat or an enemy. This give me power over fear. It gives me a loyal heart that is strong and true, even in the face of adversity.
    Yes, I have been led down the garden path and had the shit stomped out of me, metaphorically speaking. But all it has done is made me stronger.
    I am, and always will be an Idealist. Despite, or maybe because of, the people in the world who are not who I wish they could be. I chose to see the best in people. And if they let me down, I chose to walk away. The world is full of good, we just have to see it. And if all else fails, I always have my dogs.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Weathering a Storm

    A storm has blown through  here that has lasted several days. High winds and heavy rain. My little house sits on the edge of farmland, so the southern wind has a nice, straight shot at my home. Yesterday the wind did not let up. It would hit my house with an impact that could be felt through the structure, and my house is built like a bunker. I baked cookies, burned candles, made smudge sticks from recently harvested greenery. I did a morning workout, and an evening workout. I made delicious yam and black bean chili. I was hunkered in, and enjoying the feeling of security despite the storm that raged outside
    Last night, about 8:30, I had just finished my evening core workout when I heard a loud thump. It was not the first of the evening. I had already been outside with a flashlight several times, checking my magnificent, mature trees after hearing mysterious sounds. This was different. Loud. Palpable. Visceral. It set the dogs to barking. I went out and found the tall, dead tree on the southern edge of my property had come down. It was a snag that I had kept as a wildlife tree. It was home to nesting birds from spring through summer. Now it was down in a heap, with parts of it lying on the roof of the tiny house that is inhabiting a small piece of my driveway. Damn. I checked the wee house, inside and out. It seemed relatively unscathed. It didn't hurt that the tree was so rotten inside that it was like getting hit with a giant, wet sponge.
    This morning, first thing... okay, first thing after a big cup of coffee, I went out to remedy the situation. Happily, the wind had died down, it hadn't rained during the night, and it was relatively warm. Perfect working weather. I was surprised at the amount of debris, and the lack of real damage. My little car took a hit on the nose, right where the hood latch is. I don't know if I will be able to open my hood, but that is a problem for another time. The wee house did get a bit bruised, but I managed to tidy up and fix the basics. There will be more to be done in the next few days, but I need to pick up a few supplies first.
    As I looked at the fallen tree, sad at the loss, I wondered how I was going to manage to cut it up and haul it away. Then it hit me - why not leave it where it is? My hugelkultur (mound garden) is formed over a large piece of this very same tree. A twenty foot log that was too big to move, and too rotten to use for firewood. Looking at the massive trunk, knowing it would take a Herculean effort to clean it up, I decided it will be another mound garden. A beautiful berm that will delineate the eastern edge of my garden. It is nearly perfectly placed.  I think I may plant it with perennial flowers, succulents, and magical herbs. It will be as much a decorative garden as a practical one. I am already envisioning ferns and mosses on the back side, that will get little sun. The front side will be the herbs, succulents, and sun loving flowers that will get a nice blast of sun from mid-day til sunset.
     It is not the storms of our lives that define us. It is how we weather them, and how we decide to deal with the wreckage and detritus washed up on our shore. We cannot control the elements, we cannot control chaos that sometimes swirls around us, but we can control how we choose to handle it all. We can control ourselves.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


    Here I am, stepping into the 21st century and finally writing on my very own laptop. I can't say I am a huge fan yet, it feels weird, awkward, an somehow insubstantial. Yes, I will get used to the flat keyboard, and the delicate little keys. I adapt to the mouse, and learn its subtleties. I will grow accustomed to sitting with a laptop actually in my lap. For the moment though I am feeling a bit of a curmudgeon and a ludite.
    I finally broke down and got myself a laptop for the express purpose of having a portable means to write. For years I have vowed "this will be the year I will get published." I am tired of promising myself, and falling through on that promise. Yes, I write here, and on a few other blogs in a regular basis. So, in that sense I am published. Yes, I had a slew of short stories published with an online biker magazine, years back. So, I am published. Just not how I want to be published.
    Building The Fort this last year, as a refuge, fortress of solitude, my own private space, made me eager to turn it into a sacred space for creating. The real reason I bought a laptop was so I could sit out in my beautiful Fort, with its colors, light, and vibe, and write without distraction. I haven't quite finished the Fort though, it has final touches to be done. Yes, this is an excuse for not being out there right now. Instead I am in my dining area, playing with the laptop, getting my fingers accustomed to the feel of the newer technology.
    I do wish I was in the Fort right now. There is a storm blowing around the house that is loud enough that even inside my snug, bunker-like home I can hear the winds howling. I can only imagine how fierce, personal, and immediate it would feel out in the Fort. For now, I will just satisfy myself with a few minutes with the laptop, getting to know one another.
    Being always inclined to anthropomorphise inanimate objects, I will need to find a name for this new tool, this new addition to my household. Maybe Harold. It feels ike a Harold. Give it time, the proper name will come. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015


    My energies have felt very aligned and balanced today. It may be from having spent the evening with a like minded soul. We talked so much of parallel visions of the perfect lifestyle: off-grid, cabin on the edge of the woods, a lake for swimming, the forest for playing. That there is another soul in the world with a similar childlike delight in rope swings, treehouses, blanket forts, and jumping in puddles. There are not many of us, the world is always trying to shush us, force us to conform. So we hide away, become hermits, living in our own worlds away from the jaded, hostile world. He and I have been dancing around the mutual attraction, brief conversations, the pleasure of a growing connection. Yesterday we finally managed to slip away from our busy lives and find an alternate universe where the rest of the world faded away to silence. I know he doesn't have much conversation with people away from his work, and his words spilled out and tripped over each other as his thoughts flowed unabated and uncensored. Talking into the wee hours I was struck with the humor of hearing this man talk with the unabashed exuberance, enthusiasm, and randomness of child. It was a relief to be able to spill out my own, similar thoughts without worrying that I will hear, "Relax," "grow up," "get real."  Add to that having physical contact, a warm touch that has been lacking in my life for a while, and it made for the perfect combination of release, and re-energizing. Today has been a great day for quiet thoughts, reflection, relaxation, and dreams wandering without borders. I needed this, more than I realized. It is a good day.

Herbs and Magic

    Feeling very Witchy today. I cut green boughs to make some simple, fragrant adornments for my beloved little home. I wrapped cinnamon sticks in purple silk ribbon, and made small sachets with celestial fabric, cloves, and chai tea, hung them on my bundle off evergreen boughs to add a simple, homespun festiveness to my space.  Then I clipped herbs and juniper to be made into smudge sticks in the next day or three.
    I am fantasizing about my greenhouse, and what can be done with it. I want to grow herbs with magic properties for magickal gardens. I sat with Cunninghams Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs for an hour, making a list, and pondering ways of making it a viable business. Anyone can grow herbs, but to imbue them with a spark of power will let me leave my mark. It brings my mind always back to a greenhouse. Making it a sacred space, not just a functional workroom. I can see it made with vintage windows, and cluttered with tools, handthrown ceramics, bit and bobs that will bring spirit into the space. It will have a brick pathway that will link it to the patio that is growing from the house to the Fort. I can see this in my mind's eye, just as I can see a small booth at a farmer's market.    
    Feeling the energy flow, taking a gentle day, is more tiring than hard physicality. All I want to do is sip tea, browse seed catalogs, sketch out a few totem designs, and sink into myself. I have spent much of the day with my nose in a book, just for pleasure, not for any other reason. I don't allow myself time like this very often, but today it is fitting.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Life Is About Choices

    It is that time of year. The sun inches towards the southern horizon. The days getting shorter, the nights longer. It has been colder than normal. My job has me out in the cold. I dress for it as best I can, but by day's end I am chilled to the bone. The cold and dark fatigue me like nothing else. I feel worn out, exhausted, bedraggled. Like something the dog dragged in, rolled on, chewed up, and drooled all over. Yesterday was freezing and damp, a near lethal combination. After work I knew that heading straight home would be a death knell. I went to the pool, got in a solid 55 laps, then hit the jacuzzi. The hot water was my carrot on a stick for the swim: no swim, no jacuzzi. I vowed to sit in the near scalding water until I was so overheated I felt sick. It worked. I was still radiating heat when I got home.
    Nevertheless, the cold, dark, grey days make it hard for me to function. All I wanted to do today was huddle around a space heater, stoke the woodstove, and drink copious amounts of hot beverage. Yes, I did do too much of that. But I managed to get in a decent 2 hour workout of cycling, legwork, and Yoga before making myself a gigantic lunch.
    I needed to get outside, I had a roof to fix for a friend, and at least it wasn't raining, yet. Finally, I bundled up and headed out. I was surprised at how temperate it felt, at least in comparison to the last few days. My mood elevated immediately. The roof repair was quick, and just enough to get my circulation moving and my spirit elevated. I shuffled some of my salvaged building materials, taking stock, pondering projects, talking to myself. "Hey, where did those windows come from? I don't remember getting windows..." and my mind is off building a greenhouse. I tidied up for a few minutes, and then in typical ADD/OCD manner I was on my knees setting more stone and brick for my patio. Funny how my focus narrows when I am working on something that interests me. Raking leaves? Not so much. Playing with rocks? Hellz yeah.
    Working on fitting together a mix of field stone, river rock, brick, and tile reinforces a few things I already know about myself: I love making cool shit; I love surrounding myself with beautiful things that bring me joy; when I am working on something that fascinates me I cannot pull my attention away, or do anything else with any kind of focus; and finally, I am absolutely incapable of making a random design. That last point actually makes me laugh at myself. Try as I might, I cannot do random. I have to organize things into some kind of pattern, even if it is abstract, I have to see a pattern. I worked on my patio until it was almost dark, then had to pull myself away to get firewood in for the evening.
    This time of year I have two choices. I can force myself to be active, functional, and creative. Or I can sleep too much, get fat, and have to rely on a little, pink pill to keep my mind from climbing on the hamster wheel of depression and anxiety. Even if I am spending a bit more time huddled around a heater, swaddled in a dog hair covered, oversized, polar fleece bathrobe, binge watching episode of Poirot on Netflix, and sucking down vast quantities of tea or black coffee, I am still not relying on that pink pill. I don't plan on needing them, though I have a stash on hand (just in case).
    Life is about choices. "Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made. If you want a different result, make a different choice." I choose active, functional, and creative, with maybe a bit of heater hugging, tea drinking tossed into the seasonal mix. My life. My choice.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Brief Ramble

    A brief Ramble, set off by my last post. I truly believe the reason for my current and future state of contentment and health (mental, emotional, and physical) is because I stopped looking for love and affirmation outside of myself. I have learned to be great company for myself. I enjoy my days in solitude. I have fantastic conversations inside my head (and with my dogs, but that is another matter entirely). I have done so many projects in my little corner of the world to surround myself with cool shit that brings me joy. When I am unhappy with a situation I find a way to change it. If I can't change it, I learn to look at it from another perspective. I choose to live a simple life, a happy life. I have learned that I have the power to control many aspects of my destiny. My hand is at the tiller, I control my path. Too often it is easy to let life pull us along, blaming our woes on everything and anyone, feeling the victim. We can go through life, unhappy, stuck in situations that make us miserable, or we can take charge and make the changes we need to make. No, I don't believe that I can make life all rainbows and kittens by wishing it so. And yes, life still has disappointments, stress, anxiety. But it is how I choose to handle all that comes my way that makes a difference. I have simplified my life on almost every level. I love myself. I love where I have taken myself over the last few years. I don't need anyone to make me complete, make me whole, a yin to my yang. I am complete, whole, amazing, capable. I really do Love My Life.

Four Years Ago, The Gate To Hell

    Thanksgiving weekend, four years ago, I was in the middle of life changing chaos. Self inflicted chaos mostly, but chaos nonetheless. For the first time in my life I was living totally alone. My sons were grown and making lives of their own, which made me lonelier than I had imagined. I missed having a houseful of teenagers geeking over video games and still playing with Legos. I was in the middle of trying to buy my own home. My very own house, that I already loved. Going through the process alone, with no partner or significant other to shore me up through the ordeal. Thanksgiving weekend was supposed to be my moving weekend. I was packed, most of my stuff was in storage in anticipation, boxes were everywhere. I didn't even have enough kitchenware to contribute a dish for a potluck dinner I would be attending. I had lined up several strong, willing victims to help me move. I had given my landlord 30 days notice at the beginning of the month and the rental house I was leaving was scrubbed, repainted, and ready for the next tenant. I had already changed the address on my driver's license. But the deal wasn't done yet. Glitches and hitches in the inspection and appraisal had brought everything to a screeching halt, and threatened the whole process. It would be weeks before I would have the keys in my hand, if the whole deal didn't fall through. My stress level was over the top.
   Add to this the fact that I had finally brought about the long-needed dissolution of a toxic relationship, and was still reeling from the backlash. No matter how badly you need to extricate yourself from someone who makes you miserable, after a decade of having them in your life, you go through the stages of grief, over and over. Thanksgiving Day, a long phone conversation, while I was maniacally scrubbing the kitchen, listening to the negativity and complaining coming over the line, I knew I had made the right decision. My head knew this, my soul knew this, just as you know someone is dead, but parts of you think they will walk through the door and all will be back to "normal."
    For the first time in nearly two decades I was not hosting a holiday dinner. It made me feel even more removed from the rest of the world. I felt so alone and lonely, as if the rest of the planet was moving along without me, leaving me as a remote, desert island in the middle of a vast river of humanity.
    The stress and grief made me lower my guard. Even though I was still working out religiously to help stave off the bulk of depression, my eating habits had fallen to hell. I was at the heaviest I had ever been. I stopped weighing myself when I hit 245. Yeah, you read that number right  Two-hundred and forty five pounds.  Holy hell. This added to my feelings of isolation and dejection.
    An interesting point, looking back, with 20/20 hindsight. As tough as it was, as miserable and stressed as I felt, it really was only the beginning. I was heading into six months of the worst time of my life. I have suffered depression over the years, but it was nothing in comparison to what was coming. Later I would be diagnosed with severe depression, borderline bi-polar, reactive attachment disorder, anxiety, and insomnia.
    But that Thanksgiving Day, for some reason really stands out in my mind as a turning point. It was a day full of bitter disappointment, isolation, depression, anxiety, and stress, stress, stress. But it was also the day  my resolve to keep moving forward was made concrete and absolute. Winston Churchill said, "If you are going through Hell, keep going." I would learn to put one foot in front of the other. If I couldn't walk, I would crawl. I would move forward inch by agonizing inch. I would not give up my dream of owning the little house that was destined to be mine. I would learn to love being single, and living free and alone. Heart would mend, Brain would balance, Spirit would soar wild and free.
    It has been four years, and every Thanksgiving I think back on that day. That singular day that stands out in my memory as a Life Lesson. I walked through Fire, fell into the darkest Abyss, but kept moving forward even when I felt like giving up. Now, for the last three and a half years I have been 85 pounds lighter, single, vegetarian, no meds, content, happy, Free. I am fitter and stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually than I have ever been at any time in my life. I can look back and see that day as the Gate to Hell, and even knowing the fire I would pass through, I would still walk into it, eyes wide open, knowing I would come through cleansed by the flames.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Gentle Dance

    I make no bones about it, I am inclined to jump in feet first, "Leap Before I Look Girl." This is fine when I am just interested in play, which has been my M.O. in the world of relationships for quite some time now. I haven't felt I had the time, patience, or interest in anything serious. Honestly, I haven't had what amounts to a "serious" relationship in about 2 years. And it wasn't all that serious. Since then I have had a mutually beneficial FWB agreement that worked fantastic for about a year. Then, I decided to just dabble, play. I have not had time nor the inclination for anything more than the occasional friendly encounter. As a matter of fact, I stopped putting out any feelers, vibes, or whatever you want to call it. I finally reached a point when I just decided to open myself to The Universe, and let whatever comes come. In all honesty, I came to a quiet understanding with myself that in all likelihood I would be single the rest of my life. This may still be true, but suddenly there has been a shift. An oh so subtle shift. Subtle, and yet it seemed to send a tremor to the core of my earth.
    Now, I am content to take time, go slowly, allow myself to be wooed and courted. And it seems to be a reality. I had almost forgotten what it like to meet someone in my day to day life. Meet and begin to know and understand. It starts so quietly, simply, casually. It is nothing, until you stand close and feel the hairs on your arm rising as if wanting to touch the strong arm that is so near. Then it is the smiles, greetings more exuberant with each day, eye contact that last longer than is necessary. Curious, this slow build up. I had forgotten what the mating dance can be like out in the real world. A clever ploy to make sure we exchange numbers, he was sly, shy, and charming. Then, a hug, standing in the pouring rain. A full body hug. Then a goodbye as we both got back to our respective obligations. Simple, platonic (almost).
    Now, the light touches as we talk. I touch his arm. He touches my hand. I am at work, he is a customer, it is professional, mostly. He reaches across the counter and holds my hand. My brain scrambles to near dysfunction.
    We talk of so many things, sharing brief glimpses of our souls. There seems to be a core compatibility. Shared dreams, parallel experiences, mutual understanding.
    Still, it is platonic (mostly). A fledgling friendship with the warmth of chemistry. It is interesting, this gentle dance out in the real world. Total strangers a few months ago, with a chance meeting, neither looking, and yet here we are. I do not know where it will go. Maybe nowhere. Or maybe somewhere new. Somewhere I have never had the chance to go. That place where I am The One. Not The Girl On The Side. Not The Runner Up. Not The Default Partner. Not An Interesting Diversion. Maybe this time, when I was not looking, when I had decided that I don't care if I am alone (because I am very good company for myself). Maybe, this time? Who knows? I have zero expectations. But the gentle dance is interesting.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


    Fire. Even as it destroys it enthralls. Sunday. A day long hyper autumn cleaning and organizing, nearing OCD levels. I made myself stop at 6:30 so I could get in a solid workout. I spent an hour on the bike, grinding through a double set of gearing pyramid, followed by 5 minutes of Tabata sprints. Then an hour of upper body and core work with resistance bands, hand weights, kettlebell, and medicine ball. I topped off my day with a nicely vegan dinner of green lentils, quinoa, and rice, with a side of yam, and a cup of Rooibos tea. I had just finished eating, was sipping my tea and pondering a much needed shower when my pager went off. I checked the text from dispatch: Structure Fire. Okay, chances were high that we would be recalled before we got out of the station, but then you never know.
    I sped towards the station. Coming up the crest of the hill I saw It. Across the field, flames leaping into the night sky. Damn, this one was close. I would lie if I said I didn't get a surge of adrenaline. Just enough to make my heart beat a little harder, not enough to make me nervous. I did press the accelerator, just a little. At the station, my usual small band of brothers. Big Ed was already climbing into the Tender, we were going to need a lot of water. We pulled on bunker gear, climbed aboard my beloved Engine 485 with Cap'n Eddie at the wheel, and headed into the night with lights and siren announcing our approach.
    It was a short ride. We were first engine on scene. The house was fully engulfed at this point, so it was going to be all defensive and fought from the outside so we didn't need to donn airpacks. Captain Jim tells us to grab the 2-1/2" hose, Cap'n Eddie will man the pump, so it's me and Joe on the line. I admit, I am much fitter than Joe. We pull the crosslay, I grab the nozzle and run up the driveway with Joe on my heels. The fire is so damned hot I actually got a blister through my gloves. The heat is amazing. I'm cursing myself for not pulling my hood up all the way, it is just around my neck, but my helmet is doing its job and keeping me from really feeling fried.  We get the hose stretched back to the corner, it is fucking hot. Fire is hot. Fire is also mesmerizing.
    I call for water and watch the hose swell as the water rushes up the hose at 100psi. I kneel and brace myself, knowing just how much power comes out of the 2-1/2". It is not a hose to easily handle solo. I yell at Joe to back me up. I open up. The pressure pushes me back, but I know its coming so I'm braced and ready. As much water as is flowing, it is still one hose, and a lot of fire. I feel ineffective against such a creature. And g'damn, it's hot. I'm aware of a bulky figure joining us on the hose, almost unrecognizable through the smoke, Paul had come in his own truck. He braced me from behind, a strong, solid guy to have at your back. I yell a greeting to my friend.
    It wasn't long before we were joined by Station 9, with Station 3 hot on their heels, and Station 1 just moments behind. Funny thing though, and I've noticed this at other fires; I notice the arrival of other crews, but my focus is so intent on the job at hand that the rest of the world kind of falls away. With our District out in full force it didn't take long to bring the fire under control. We turned our hose over to another crew so we could go grab water and a quick break, the work was just beginning.
    What most people don't know about a fire is that dousing the flames is just part of the job. Then comes overhaul, the mop-up. Rubbish hooks and pike poles, tearing down sections of wall and roof to get to hot spots. Looking for smoke, because as they say, "Where there's smoke..."  Tear down, rip up, spray with water. Poke around, climb over debris, find coals, spray with water. I worked until I was exhausted, then worked some more. Tear down, rip up, spray with water. The Chief came back and watched Paul and I work. There was a back corner that just kept smoldering, I was beginning to take it personally. I kept tearing shit up, Paul would soak it down. I climbed over piles of wet, black, charred debris, digging with my pike pole, finding coals, having Paul pass me the hose, and soaked that fucker. Then I tore down the remnants of the roof, with its layers of old cedar shingles and covering of newer asphalt shingles. Tear down, rip up, spray with water. Finally, the smoldering stopped. I had won. We had won.
   One highlight of the evening was when we all stopped to watch the truckees with the Ladder Truck, up on the ladder, extended over the skeletal remains of the house. With sheer water power, shooting a master stream, they knocked apart the chimney to remove it as a potential falling hazard. As the chimney fell, a cheer went up. Our crew in action. Yes, we love what we do.
    Finally we cleared the scene and headed home to Station 8. Engine 485, being first on the scene, had been used to her fullest. Damn near every hose and tool had been pulled off of her and now had to be cleaned and restored before we could go home. As always, being the big happy family that we are, crews from the other stations came by to lend a hand. Hoses washed and reloaded, engine washed and water tank refilled. I was so tired at this point that I couldn't lift my arms above my head. It was 2:30am, Monday morning. Someone brought cookies. They tasted like manna from heaven.
     By the time I got home I felt as if I had completed an Ironman. I was tired from head to toe, in ways that no simple workout can ever duplicate. I was wet, cold, and reeked of smoke and sweat. Yeah, I loved it. The hot shower was glorious. Shampooing twice to get the smell out of my hair. Scrubbing my whole body twice with bodywash to remove any potential carcinogens. I ate a simple meal of tea, a bowl of rice, a vegan protein smoothie, a multi-mineral, and an electrolyte capsule. My alarm would be going off in 3 hours, work would be tough enough, the least I could do was refuel my body as if I had done an Ironman.
    One of the best decisions I have ever made was listen to that inner childhood dream and become a firefighter. True, I have only been on a few structure fires. Most of my calls are simple medical calls. I tell people that my super power is Hand Holding. But no matter what the call is, I love that I get to go. I love that there is something I do that makes a little bit of a difference in the world. And besides, I get to ride in a Fire Engine!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

When Things Go Wrong

    At the pool this evening, after a long day, letting the water wash the stress from every cell. Lap after lap, the Zen of swimming. Stroke, stroke, breathe, stroke, stroke, breathe. So mellow. So smooth.
    Let me insert here a small quirk about the pool where I swim. It is standard 25 yards long, but only about 4 lanes wide. There is only one lane roped off as a dedicated lap lane. The lap lane doesn't have a line on the bottom, has curved corners where the walls meet the floor so it messes with depth and distance perception. It is also where the heated water enters the pool so it has a hot spot in the shallow end. None of the lap swimmers like swimming in the lane. When I got into the pool I had the place to myself, so picked the second lane, with no lane divider, an the blue tiled stripe on the bottom. Where I always swim.
    Then a father and tweenie son get in the pool. Tweenie gets into the roped off lap lane, dad gets in the lane on my other side.  Using a large, neon pink ball to play volleyball with my lane as their net. What the hell?! True, they stopped slapping the ball back and forth when I would get close. But several times I had to pull my start because I thought the ball was about to get airborne. They were oblivious to my glaring stink-eye, maybe the goggles masked the fury. I let this go on for a bit, getting riled and furious.
    Finally, I stopped, and tried to be diplomatic, "Hey, you know that isn't good pool etiquette?"
    The dad, Mr. Oblivious, "What?"
     I speak a little louder, "Tossing the ball back and forth over a lane when someone is lap swimming is really poor pool etiquette." I even add a hand gesture. No, not  that  hand gesture.
    He sputters a bit, as if in disbelief, "We stopped when you got close."
    All I can do is shake my head, give a grunt of irritation, and get back to my swim. No longer mellow. No longer smooth. I am nearing volcanic. The internal dialogue starts to roll, unimpeded. Playing back what I said. What he said. What I wish I had said. What I still could say. They keep playing for a few minutes. Then thankfully move their game to the other side of the pool, relieving me of the arduous job of being the net.
    I keep swimming. My brain is playing the situation on endless loop. Am I in the wrong for not having taken the roped off lane to begin with? No, tweenie took it over the minute they got in the water, and showed no desire to leave it. I really don't like that lane. It has a hot spot, and I get too close to the wall, and it sucks, and I am whiny. I don't want to move over and look like I am giving into their boorish behavior. I want to be on the just side here. Endless loop. Stress. Confrontation. Anxiety. Anger. This swim sucks.
    Yes, this is where my brain goes  When Things Go Wrong.  I felt myself on the hamster wheel of doom. It was up to me to get a grip, rein in the brain, and get on with my swim. This is where I had an epiphany: All too often on Race Day, or just in Life in general Things Go Wrong.  Bad shit happens. Life goes awry. Relationships go south. Jobs go away. Flat tires. Sprained ankles. Falling branches. Mud puddles. Dog poop on your shoe. The difference between a good day, and misery, is how you deal with it. Don't dwell. Let it go. Choose to stop the endless loop. Move forward. If you can't move forward then side-step. Do what needs to be done to rectify the situation. Your race, or life, is in your hands. This was actually an excellent opportunity to practice a vital race day skill: Getting Back on Track After Things Go Wrong.
    The first thing I did was get into the lap lane. I would concede that point. Yes, the hotspot is annoying. Tough shit, I wanted to swim. I had to silence the rant in my head. It wasn't going to go down easy. I tried thinking of a few favorite songs, but none of them had the right tempo for my stroke, and it was just screwing with my timing. I tried thinking of what to make for dinner. Nope. That wasn't doing it for me, either.
    So I narrowed my focus even tighter: Stroke Mechanics. I could control what my body was doing. I was in control of every aspect of arm movement: smooth entry, long reach, good catch, high elbow pull, palm facing back, long follow through, thumb grazing my thigh. Now my mind is sliding into the near meditative dialogue that often accompanies my swim when I am focused on technique. Stroke, stroke, breathe. Suddenly I am enjoying my swim. My rhythm has returned. I am mellow. I am smooth.
    The endless loop is broken. The simple fact that I recognized where my brain had gone When Things Go Wrong let me take the steps to change the pattern. I have had ample opportunity to practice this particular skill, and I get better at it all the time. It really is a vital tool in the race day kit. It is so easy to let one incident completely blow apart a race, turning a joyful adventure into a pit of black despair. Life is too short to waste on what if, if only, I should have. We hold the power to change our race even When Things Go Wrong.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


    It is a weirdling sort of day. Torrential rains yesterday washed the world clean. Today the wind flirts with both sun and heavy rain. Not a day to be working out of doors, so I have attempted to turn my energies indoors. The garage is in dire need of a gutting and reorganization so that I can build racks for the building materials accumulating in my backyard, under the trees. That is an onerous task. I made a few feeble attempts, and then was drawn into sorting through boxes.
    Why do we pack around boxes full of the detritus of life? I have boxes that came here with me during my move nearly four years ago. Boxes with dubious labels like, "Misc crap from desk."  Really? What was I thinking? But these are boxes I have peered into on occasion and then closed up, with the thought that I would deal with them "later."  I think that today is this often uttered "Later."
    I have worked my way through four boxes so far. It is mostly a martyr-worthy purging of paper: ancient tax forms, titles to vehicles long gone, multiple copies of course handouts for classes I will never teach again, notes for projects from a past life. It is a job that needs doing. so far, 90% of what I have sorted is destined for the burn pile. The other 10% is memorabilia worth holding onto a bit longer.
    Blended into the 90% are mementos from my past. A past so far removed that it seems to have belonged to another person. There are some things that made my eyes sting with a hint of regret, like the love letters between me and my then new husband who was away at boot camp. They were sweet, naive letters. But they reminded me of a good marriage, a good man, and the sad truth that people just change over time. We both changed, and decided we would part on good terms. We are still friends, but the letters reminded me of that innocence of youth that is long gone.
    More mementos from a relationship that is best tossed on the burn pile. I was surprised to find and scraps left, I thought I had purged them long ago. There is a satisfaction to knowing that these are the last dregs of a time that since I can't purge it from memory, at least I can turn them to the ashes they they need to be.
    There were also so many bits from my last 20 years or so. A life that was fun, educational, and made me many friends. But it is a life I have removed myself from almost entirely. It is time to lose the reams of research material, scribbled notes, sketched designs. I won't be revisiting that world any time soon, and if I do, I deserve a fresh start.
    Of the 10% that will be kept there are some that bring sad memories. I found the AKC papers from my dearest Torc, who was taken from me too soon. But then I found the adoption papers for my beloved Hugo, who never would have come into my life if I hadn't lost Torc. It is the balance of loss, love, and life. The give and take. The dark and light. There are folders with drawings made by my sons when they were young. A handmade birthday card from Sean. Photos, old band posters, mysterious film negatives. I admit to the sense of pride when I found the original loan papers, and real estate listing for my snug, little home. Buying my first home, all on my own, was a life changing event. And I found a printed copy of a novel manuscript of mine that I thought was long lost after a computer crash erased the file.
    Sorting through my past, rifling through it like a tattered library, or an archaeological dig. So many emotions to sort through on a blustery, grey day. I think I need to stop for tea. Earl Grey, I think.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Full Moon

    The Full Moon. Bright beyond belief. I stand on my back porch as She beams down upon me, her silver light dappled through my majestic Willow. The starkness of light and shadow, clear enough to see my world around me. The only sounds are a distant dog yelling at the night, and a nocturnal bird creaking a rhythm from a nearby nest. I let the silver light bathe my face, upturned as if to the sun. There is no warmth, but the radiance warms my soul, nonetheless. I let my hopes, dreams, wishes soar into the heavens, flying on the moon beams as if lifted by a breeze. A glorious night.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Solar Powered

    I have come to the realization that I am solar powered. A potentially rough fate for a native born and raised Oregonian. Today the rain came. A dark day, rain coming in sheets. I ate a nice, pre-workout snack, then failed to find the motivation to put down the novel I am engrossed in, change from fleece robe to workout gear, and get in my usual Sunday morning two hour workout. Yes, it makes me feel a bit of a failure. The rain promotes snuggling in bed, under a warm blankie, with a steaming cup of coffee, and a good book. Which is exactly what I did for an hour or so.
    Normally, I would have managed to pull a workout from deep inside, but today I had to brave the elements and head west to my Grandparents' property. I have written about it often enough this year, I have spent a lot of time and energy out there. My Grandparents are gone now, Grandpa died two years ago, Grandma left us last December. This left their home, dubbed The Art Farm, in the hands of the family to get cleared up, tidied, and ready for the real estate market. This weekend was an art sale. The selling of some of the vast collection of art assembled over the decades, as well as my Grandma's massive inventory of paintings. Pearl Wright, my beautiful grandma, was a prolific painter. Her work is bold, graphic, and coveted. The number of paintings she left behind is staggering. I have no idea how many hundreds are out in the world, in private collections, but in her own home, in the upstairs that was her gallery and studio, there are hundreds more. Canvases of all sizes, including some that are taller than I am. She is a driving force behind who I am, and where my inspiration for many things comes from.

    Driving through the downpour, heading to her home for what is likely one of the last times, I felt my need for sun all the more. Although, in reality, the granite sky with its weeping clouds was much more fitting for my frame of mind. I haven't quite come to terms with the idea that The Art Farm will not be ours much longer. It has been such a cornerstone of my life. I can't remember a time when we didn't have access to the steep, forested terrain dotted with small artist studios like small moons around the big house that was the center of that universe. I inch towards the edge of knowing, realizing that it will be gone soon. But my throat tightens and my eyes burn just enough to make me back away from that abyss. It is not a place I want to visit as we head into winter rain. I want to revisit the heat of summer. Those torrid, humid days that I spent hauling load after load of brick, concrete block, and lumber. The hazy days of foraging and salvaging out a place from my childhood. I want the sun. I want The Art Farm. I want my Grandma. Instead, I have the rain, and beautiful paintings, and materials to build my own art studio. The Fort has been my homage to Grandma. But I still want the sun.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


     As the days shorten, and cold grey days are on the horizon, I do everything I can to shore up my faltering spirit. It is that time of year when all I want to do is eat copious amounts of carbs, drink vast amounts of tea, crawl under my down comforter with a book and shut out the world. In other words; it is time to hibernate. I have learned that I am solar powered. Despite my need to avoid the sun for melanoma reasons, I crave the heat and the sun. As the days shorten and temperatures drop I cast about for any weapon I can use to battle off the inevitable winter melancholy that is always hovering nearby, waiting its chance to possess my soul.
    I blow the dust off of some of my motivational training books, and prowl the library for new ones. Currently on my night stand is "The Triathlete's Training Bible." I am prepping Body and Brain for winter training sessions that will sweat the melancholy right out of me. Barely into the book and I find; "What you believe, you can achieve." It feels fitting for the path my life has taken over the last few years.  I am not one to believe in the woo-woo concept of books like "The Secret" that preach visualization to obtain wealth and power. But I do know that if you have belief in yourself you can follow any path you choose. Too many people live miserable lives because they lack faith in their dreams, or fear failure if they chase after those dreams. I have been held back by fear. Sometimes I still am. It is not easy to face an uncertain future alone. It is frightening to choose to live on the razor's edge of poverty so that I can live my life without being shackled to someone else's idea of success.
    I have made a conscious decision to try and keep chasing after the vision of how I want my life to be. "Everything that is, or ever was, began as a dream." I can see so clearly in my mind's eye where I want my life to go, where I want to be, how I want to live my life. There is a clarity to my vision. There are also whispers of doubt. My demons sneaking in on the cool, autumn breeze. They know that winter is their season. I know that winter is their domain unless I fight to wrest control from them. I hold my dreams before me like a light to chase the shadows. This is going to be a rough winter, I have no doubt, but I believe in my dreams, and have to hope that they will sustain me.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Self Care

   I have a friend who introduced me to the term "Self Care." It is a good concept, one I need to heed. Each of us has different needs, needs that only we know. I think many of us, me, for example, are very good at ignoring needs, pressing forward despite fatigue, aches, pains, stress, lack of sleep. Although I am very good at listening to my body and brain, I am not always good at hearing what it is telling me. At least when it is telling me to slow down, rest, take it easy. I don't do well with "take it easy."
    Because of my tendency to often push past the point of fatigue and excess, I do need to be more cognitive of other forms of "Self Care." In the last few weeks I have felt myself moving at a steady pace towards a meltdown, a dance with melancholy, a glimpse into the abyss, the return of my demons. It is a combination of many things, including the pressure to be all things to all people, and taking on a physical workload that would challenge someone half my age. But I take it willingly... take it on the chin, occasionally. This is where I need to take my own Self Care seriously.
    I know for a fact that I will not get enough sleep on almost any given night. I know that I will push myself physically, far beyond the point of being achy and short tempered. Lately I have had moments when I feel as if I could fall asleep standing, even in the middle of a workout. I have also had several episodes of a sudden wave of pressure/pain that flows from the base of my neck, across my shoulders and down my arms all the way to my fingertips. A wave of fatigue that saps all the strength and energy from my muscles, leaving my arms feeling like tingling lumps of clay. The third episode was so weird and uncomfortable that for a brief moment I wondered if I was having a heart attack. I had a quick vision of Cap'n Eddie pulling into my driveway in our Rescue Rig, coming through the door with the AED and oxygen kit, saying, in his gravelly but kind voice, "Hey Kid, what the hell is going on?" I felt my pulse, strong, slow and steady, as usual. Not a heart attack. I googled the symptoms and found a whole forum discussion going back to 2011 of people with the identical symptoms, but never a single diagnosis even after every test on the planet. Most chalked it up to over-use and nerve inflammation. I'm cool with that. Not a heart attack, not MS, not Lupus, "Not A Tumor."
    Okay, back to Self Care. Like I said, I am inclined to not know when to stop. I can't help it, it is genetic. You should meet my Mom. There is a woman who does not know how to slow down. At 75 she can damn near outwork me. She and I have done some jobs together, lately doing a lot of salvage. I have to make her take it a bit easy, I remind her, "Mom, you are the brains, I am the brawn." I have only really been this way the last 5 years or so (I credit reclaiming my life, dumping toxic shit, and taking control of my destiny), she has been this way as long as I can remember. Dear gods I am rambling.
    Self Care. I know that if I am not getting enough rest that I need to make sure my nutrition and fitness are on track. Yes, I know that "not enough rest" and "fitness" seem to be a bit at odds, but honestly, I need my workouts. I need to keep my body fit, relatively flexible, and trained. Workouts are what always save me from the darkness that tries to encroach with seasonal regularity. If I am not working out daily, I am not happy with myself. It is my drug, my primary antidepressant. I keep the temple strong to protect the spirit within.
    When I am under strain it is all to easy to let my eating habits slide. True, I don't keep undesirable food in my house. But I damn sure keep really good chocolate, well-aged cheese, and I bake like a goddess. All of which are great in moderation... In Moderation. My idea of moderation has been slightly askew these last few weeks.
    Do I sound a bit obsessive. Yeah, just a bit. But I know how to keep myself on track, and sometimes it is a very delicate line, a mere tightrope. I have felt the darkness peering over my shoulder, heard my demons' sibilant whispers. Time to take a stand, here now, before they can get even a toehold. Self Care tops the list of weaponry. Regain my focus, continue my training, dial in the nutrition, add appropriate supplements. Get Brain, Body, and Spirit all dancing to the same rhythm instead of haring off in all directions.
    Self Care means not only listening to Brain, Body, and Spirit but actually hearing what they are telling me. We know what we need, what keeps us stable and happy. Self Care.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Rains Will Come

    I dread the coming of winter, and yet I am yearning for a few days of rain. Rainy days when I can spend time with an autumn house cleaning and clearing out of the detritus of living a life of chaos. Lately I have been saying, "From here on, every sunny day is a gift. The rains could start tomorrow and not stop until July." For those who have never lived in this neck of the Pacific Northwest, you may think that this is an exaggeration. It is not. Although the last few winters have been drier and warmer than most (Yes, I believe in climate change, climate shift, and harsher climes acoming) , I can remember many winters when the sun barely made an appearance. In my college days I kept track on a calendar; 44 consecutive days of rain, and few dry breaks that particular winter. And my Grandpa always said, "Don't cut your hay until after the 4th of July," because he knew damned well that the rainy season would often last through June. So I know it could happen. The rains will come, and they may well stay. Yes, we really need a colder, wet winter for snow pack, and to fill our lakes and reservoirs. The farmers need rain, the forests are dry as tinder boxes, we still have wildfires that won't subside until the rains come. We need a long, wet winter, as much as I hate to voice that particular concept, and the potential for melancholy that it will bring.
    For now though, the dry, sunny days really are a gift. Each day gives me another block of time to salvage materials for future projects, or continue weatherizing my little homestead, or finish up The Fort. Other projects on tap can be done once the rains begin. The ground is dry and hard as concrete so I need some rain to finish digging out for the stone patio, sidewalk to and stonework around The Fort. I need the ground to soften up so I can dig the trench to run power and water to The Fort. Building my brick, wood-fired oven can be done in cooler weather, and mortar will cure better in the damp. But, I really want enough dry weather to finished getting the greenhouse up so I have some dry storage for my salvaged building materials.
    Speaking of my greenhouse, today, as much as I would love to stay home, read, nap, and bake, I get to salvage some windows, glass, metal roofing, and hopefully some pressure treated material. I also will get more concrete block and fire brick for the outdoor oven.  And, hopefully, the last bit of material to build the porch onto The Fort. I will also get a fabulous clawfoot bathtub, that will be installed in my bathroom when I finally get to do my bathroom remodel.
    Ohdeargods, The List just keeps growing! But despite the fatigue that borders on burnout I have a ridiculous enthusiasm for the projects that keep popping into my head. As long as the weather holds I will keep charging ahead, working hard until I crawl inside for dinner and sleep. Today I get to gather more materials for my homestead, the home I love, my sanctuary. The rains will come, and when they do I will rest a bit, but only a bit. For now, there are epic things to be done. The fun just keeps coming.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


    This is a bit of a cross-over post. It could easily go into my training blog, but since it is a bit more random it will go here with the other random ramblings. The last few weeks... okay, months really, have been so busy and physically demanding that my body is presenting with the same weirdo symptoms I would have from over-training and physical burnout: chronic fatigue, muscle weakness and soreness, lowered immune system, difficulty sleeping, strange dreams, altered appetite, short temper, and a general overall achy, whiny, cry-baby feeling. It is possible that I am just starting to dip into the first shadowy bits of seasonal affected disorder, or "My Melancholy" as I much prefer to call it (it does sound more romantic, and less plebeian).
    The last few weeks especially have been rough, and the last few days have been on the cusp of miserable. Last week I was stricken low by what had to have been a stomach bug. I slept 28 hours out of 36, and was incapable of doing much more than sit like a blob during the few hours I was awake. Okay, I did make it to drill at the station, but it was a sit and blah-blah-blah meeting instead of an active, training drill night.
    Today I have a scratchy throat, fatigue, and muscle weakness. I sanded some cedar boards for the Fort this evening after work and felt rather feeble. I was hanging with a sick grandson on Thursday, confident in my strong immune system, and now have been proven over-confident. As I said more than a few times last week when wrestling my way through the stomach bug, "I don't have time to be sick." Tomorrow is another day to head out to The Art Farm and glean a truckload of brick and block, and hopefully more building materials. The sudden resurgence of necessary trips out to the family property was not on the agenda, my plate was plenty full already... overflowing, actually. But the property has sold, closing is in about a month, so any salvage to do needs doing now, not later. So everything else screeches to a halt while I tend to the immediate.
     Yes, I have been putting in crazy long days lately as I try so hard to get the homestead buttoned up for winter. I do go a bit overboard when I get a chance to glean building materials. My projects will have to wait a few days, as much as I hate to do that. There is so much to do, and never enough time. I do push myself hard, but if I don't get the work done it isn't going to get done. Too poor to hire someone, too independent to ask for help, too single to even imagine a partner.
    Truth be told though, I prefer working alone. I love the Zen of hard work. But lately my body is paying the price for my overzealous nature. I have been forcing myself to actually skip workouts. You heard me right:  Skip Workouts.  Me, skipping workouts!  You know it is some serious shit when I am only getting in 3 or 4 training sessions a week. I am forcing myself to look at the hard physicality of my current projects as a form of CrossFit type training. Hell, people pay good money to carry rocks in a CrossFit club. Me? I do it for the rocks. But between the scraping and sanding of house painting, the hauling and stacking of brick and concrete block, and the cutting and hauling of a bunch of seedling plum trees, I have gotten some hella bodacious workouts done. Yes, I am griping a bit about feeling used up, worn out, fried, and frazzled, but the work has got to get done. And remember, my work is play... really, really hard play.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Work Is Play. Play Is Work.

    As I was putting the finishing touches on the paint on the south end of my house, I was lamenting the fact that this past summer has been All Work and No Play. Then I realized how much fun I have had working on my various projects, especially The Fort. And how much work I put into my play, as in triathlons. The early season knee injury benched me for the summer as far as racing goes, but it let me focus my vast amounts of energy on my little homestead. Turning my ugly, ill-used storage shed into an epic Fort (aka writing studio/guest house) has been an adventure all on its own. I mean, c'mon, how cool is it to build a fort? I have piles of rock and brick to build a stone patio, a walkway out to the Fort, a small patio at the Fort, and a stone fire pit. It has been a massive amount of work these last six months or so, but I have enjoyed every minute of it.
    With the impending rains of autumn on the horizon, the Fort has been on hiatus these last few weeks as I scraped, sanded, repaired, epoxied, scraped, sanded, weatherized, primered, and painted the weather beaten south end, and south-east corner of my home. It has been in dire need of attention really since before I even knew this place existed. Now it is weather tight, clean, and the cedar siding has been repaired and renovated so it will last for another decade or more. I did it all by myself, as usual. With neurotic attention to detail, as usual. And it looks fabulous.
    To add to the list of Work/Play, yesterday was a day of salvage. I spent a lot of time this last spring salvaging materials which went into the Fort, and the soon to be built patio. Now I am getting an opportunity to add to my dwindling supply of materials. Concrete block, brick, windows, and various boards. Yesterday, with the help of my Mom, and the loan of a truck from my uncle, I got a nice load of concrete block, red brick, hard fire brick, and boards. It was a helluva load. I dropped my Mom off, I figured she had done more than her fair share of the work (I tell her that she is the Brain and I am the Brawn) and came home with the load. I admit, I was already damned tired, but it was a race against approaching darkness, and a promise of heavy rain.
    First I had to unload a multi-paned glass door, heavy for tired aching, muscles. Then came a real treasure: 9' long, rough cut boards a solid 2" thick, and ranging in width from 8" to 14". These boards could be 100 years old, with saw marks, and darkened with age. They will be the ceiling for the sleeping area of the guest house I plan on building next year. Next was 25  1"x6" cedar fence boards, likely the back wall of my soon-to-be-built greenhouse. But carrying these boards, and stacking them carefully on sawhorses made me begin to feel whiny. The arthritis in my hands and elbows, from years of rough sports, was screaming bloody murder. And the real work hadn't even begun.
    I had a truck load of block and brick to be unloaded and stacked. Whiny doesn't even begin to describe the thoughts bouncing around inside my head. But it had to be done. Funny thing though, as usual once my body gets warm, my energy starts to flow unimpeded. Despite the pain in my hands and elbows, every block and brick I moved from the front of the truck bed, to the tail, then hopped off to unload and stack, every block went onto a mental checklist: landscape blocks and pumice fire bricks for Mom, cinder blocks for me, patio blocks for Mom....
    I off-loaded the first half, then backed the truck up near the corner of the house, closer to the backyard where most of these will be used. That is when I really got my second wind (or third, or fourth... this late in the day it was hard to tell). Concrete block, to be unloaded and stacked with OCD neatness. These will be the foundation of my greenhouse. I admit, halfway through unloading this bunch I was beginning the mental litany that is not all that different from when I do an endurance swim and am counting down remaining laps. "Almost there. Just a few more. Almost there..." My shoulders were burning, but in my mind's eye I could see my greenhouse taking shape.
    After the concrete block, there was still a pile of brick. Not as heavy, but I was getting a bit tired. Even so, as the light waned, and rain clouds thickened, as I ignored the sharp pain in my hands, lifting and stacking, I was envisioning the brick oven that I have been wanting to build. red brick, lined with hard fire brick, it will be a thing of beauty. In my mind I also saw brick lined raise herb beds next to the stone patio.
    I was down to the last dozen or so bricks, the light was nearly gone, when the rain hit. Big drops, quickly soaking me, but it had held off all day. I laughed aloud at the elements, and thanked the gods of the elements for giving me the perfect day to add to my wealth.
    Tired, dirty, wet. I wanted herbal tea, a hot shower, and yoga to stretch out tired muscles. For a moment I decried my lack of herbal in the cupboard, then chided myself, I have an herb garden overflowing. Shears in hand, flashlight held in my teeth, I braved the rain to snip lavender, bee-balm, rosemary, mint, catmint, and sage. I checked for bugs hiding among the leaves before tossing the handful into boiling water, I let it steep while I took a much needed shower. Finally, wearing the comfiest clothes I could find (I do love running gear), hot tea at hand, I sprawled on my yoga mat to stretch abused muscles. It was a long, glorious day.
    Every bit of salvaged material brings me that much closer to completed projects. That much closer to realizing dreams and goals. A greenhouse to grow herbs and rose starts to sell at the Farmer's Market for a nice injection of cash. A guest house for my Mom when she visits, or needs to come live with me yet maintain her independence. The Fort has likely increased my property value by $10K, and a well built guest house will add even more value. So, every day that I can haul home these bits and pieces, pieces of the giant puzzle/project that is my homestead, is a fabulous day. And guess what? Sunday, I get to do it again.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Summer Has Passed Me By

    The summer is coming to an end, and I dread it the way we dread an old friend moving to the far side of the country. Yes, it has been a brutally hot summer for this region, and wildfires are burning all over the Northwest. The majority of the locals are praying for rain and the cooler temps of autumn. Yes, we need the rain, we are in a drought. Yes, I agree, a few good days of rain would do us all a world of good. But I am not ready for summer to pass me by.
    And that is the point: I feel that summer has passed me by. Last winter I had glorious plans of what would happen this summer.  Of course, the first dream was a repeat of my race of last season, the Epic 250K. With the cancellation of the event, that dream was derailed, and it took me a bit to regain my focus. I switched gears, went from training focused to play focused; hiking, races with my friends, climb a g'damned mountain, and capping it with a half-Iron in September. Well, my knee injury during the first race of the season caboshed those plans. I still haven't run, even my cycling has had to take a back-burner while I recovered. So, no races with friends, no hiking, and no mountain climbing. All my plans and schemes were dropped on their heads. Now, here it is, the end of August, and I am feeling as if I were deprived of so much. I did not get to go out and play like I had planned. I am struggling with a combination of post-season depression, injury caused depression, and the dread of winter looming.
    This time of year is always a bit of a struggle for me, I won't lie. As one who likes/needs to have plans, and always looks ahead, I know what is waiting. Cold, dark, wet. To counter this I am pushing hard to finish my Fort. The space that started as a whim. Actually, the project that started as a need to replace rotten siding on the south end of the building. It has taken on a life of its own. I am just a few weeks out from completion, I think. This space, my Fort, my Fortress of Solitude, my studio, has come to be a beacon of hope to help me power through the dark days of winter. It will be my workshop. No, not for messy projects. It will be Brains studio. It will be my writing space. Not connected to the internet, no distraction of Netflix, no workout gear staring at me from across the room. It will be where I go to think, write, read, decompress, meditate. Brain and Spirit will reign supreme in their own private retreat. It will not be a party space. It will not be open to the public. Yes, it will make a great guest house, which was its original purpose, once the whole project got underway, and before I decided it was turning into an epic space.
    So now, as autumn looms, with winter close behind, I have to make a valiant push to get the project finished. Even as I continue to train for races that won't happen, building Body to keep Brain and Spirit sheltered is more important at this time of year, just for my own sanity. I still feel as if summer has passed me by, but it has been a crazy busy season after all.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Simple Life

    There is immense satisfaction with the simplicity of my life. Getting off work, putting in a shoulder burning swim, home to the exuberant greetings from my two goofball dogs. We play in the yard for a bit, Sadie wants nothing more than to fetch her Kong, Hugo wants his back scratched. I get to unwind even further. Then a quick sampling of the seasonal abundance of my little homestead. The Green Gauge Plums are ripening, I climb a ladder up into the foliage, my beloved Hugo puts his front feet on the lower rungs in anticipation. He and I share a handful of the sweet-tart deliciousness. Hugo loves plums almost as much as he loves apples. Silly dog. Then I put in a bit of time with tape measure, miter saw, and salvaged materials building the platform that will be the diminutive, built in "dining table" in the Fort. The sun is setting, time to harvest dinner. The Sungold tomatoes are at their peak; warm from the sun, sweet and tasting a bare hint of pineapple. The yellow crookneck squash are finally coming into their own and are delicious when sliced thin and sauteed in butter. A cluster of White Himrod grapes from the vines I planted my first spring here will be dessert. The grapes have gone insane this year, and make a beautiful, wild, green sculpture on the rebar arbors I made. I wander my property for a few minutes, admiring fruit and foliage, the sunset is a rich orange and it bathes everything in a celestial glow. I feed my animals, cook my dinner, ponder tomorrow's work on the Fort. Life is simple, rich, sweet, and satisfying. I love my life.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


    I am introverting with a vengeance these days. The new job has me on the fly, face to face, constantly interacting, problem solving, socializing, talking, soothing, charming, joking, on stage for all the world to see. All the things that drain the energy from me. I get home feeling absolutely bled dry of all my social skills. All I can do is turn on a BBC murder mystery, "Midsomer Murders" being the current obsession, with its genteel carnage, soothing voices, charming characters, quaint settings, and sweetly haunting music, then put on my workout gear and sweat until I feel some of my psychic energy begin to replenish. I feel my sanity on the verge of making a run for the border, and I am doing all I can to keep it from becoming an expatriate, enjoying sunnier climes. Most people can't, don't, or won't understand this. It does make me come off seeming like an angry, irritated, irritable asshole. I have been accused of this more than a few times. "You are so grumpy, I just stay clear." It is not grumpy. It is being overwhelmed to the point of near shut down. I wish I didn't feel the constant need to explain myself, or apologize. But I do. I know how I must appear to everyone: antisocial, monosyllabic, hostile. It is sheer protective mechanism, I can assure you. Fortunately my dogs understand, and don't talk to me when I get home. I want to apologize to the world, but I won't. I shouldn't have to.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Zen of Swimming

    The difference a day makes. A bit of sleep, healthy food, and a long swim always seems to sort me out. The zen of swimming settles my mind like nothing else I have ever known. My mind can be a hamster on a wheel when I enter the water, but a few laps in and Brain has settled down and starts putting the jumbled fragments of my chaotic thoughts into a cohesive pattern. It is likely the perfect combination of controlled breathing, rhythmic movement, and increased oxygen flow through Brain and Body. With my head under water all external noise is blocked, all I can hear are the bubbles of my own expelled breath as they rumble past my ears. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe.
    The last few days I have felt my stress level rising. Despite all my best efforts. Despite practicing calm, peace, harmony. Despite my recent sabbatical from the internet, most of it, anyway. Last night was the crescendo. As with all my meltdowns, major and minor, Brain starts circling around one point of anxiety. A dog chasing its tail, circling, circling. Never stopping. Never catching the tail. I have so many tricks in my bag, weapons in the arsenal, all designed to help prevent a tumble into the bleak. I was pulling out a few of my favorites. The tools with handles worn smooth from frequent usage. I was managing to keep things in check to a degree, but panic was sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear. Panic is such an asshole.
    Yesterday I was getting weepy over song lyrics. Trigger songs that I love, but when I am melancholy they stab at my psyche. "Like a break in the battle was your part in the wretched life of a lonely heart." My life is not wretched. I am rarely ever lonely. But there are times when I think how much easier life would be with someone to share the load. That is when I do have a lonely heart. I have shouldered the burden alone for so long that I doubt I could surrender it, even to a willing and able victim. But there are days, brief moments, when the burden seems to crush me beneath its weight. I stumble, stagger, then rise up, stronger than before. This is the difference one day makes.
    In the cool, clear water, bubbles rumbling past my ears. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. There was sudden clarity. I regained my focus, laid out a plan, found my cadence. No more floundering, not at the moment. Today I gathered my strength, shifted the burden a bit, and got back on my way. All because the Zen of Swimming let Brain get it all sorted. Sorted and back on track.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Artistic Floundering

    The anxiety of "starving artist" is hovering about like a swarm of gnats. Nothing too painful yet, just an annoying buzzing that threatens my peace and harmony. I admit, I have not been focusing any energy on money making endeavors, not short term money anyway. I did have the nice influx of cash at the end of June, from a very labor intensive job. That money has gone, of course. Now, underemployed, I am holding onto the idea that I don't have to spend all my days working for someone else, doing something that I wish I didn't have to, just to make enough money to survive by the skin of my teeth. I hate the idea that all my physical and mental energy has to be spent to line the pockets of someone else.
    I have discovered that I don't have the temperament to make a living with any artistic endeavor. I am too emotionally invested in everything I do. Any problem that arises feels like a personal attack, a slap in the face, an assault on my fragile ego. To have to put a price on art seems somehow vulgar, painful even. For the amount of time I spend creating something, there is no way I will make even minimum wage, and yet I feel as if I have to apologize when I ask for payment. I do not have the confidence in my worth. Too many years of being undervalued in almost every aspect of my life has left me with a gaping wound where an ego should be. Why does does the ability to make an honest living with my talents bring me face to face with my own feelings of inadequacy? It isn't fair. I have made so many attempts over the years to hawk my wares, only to be made to feel as if I am not worth a few dollars. I have heard it said that you are only a failure if you give up. That may be true. But how many times do I need to fail in order to finally succeed?
    Now, as bills come in, and I see them side by side to money owed to me, it is hard not to feel angry and bitter. This is why I can't be an artist. I do not have the ability to stand up for myself, demand what is owed to me, feel confident in my own worth. It is all good and well to have people shower me with praise for my level of skill, but that sure as shit don't pay the bills.
    Yes, this is a Pity Party, table for one. I am trying to dig deep into the heart of my own feelings of inadequacy. Hoping to find an answer within myself, not have to look to an outside source for validation and approval. But really, that is what being an artist is; your worth and validation is based on how other's value your work. There has to be a spark of self-promotion, ego, vanity. That is not my spark. My inner fire is so far removed from the realm of self-promotion that I panic at the idea of having to ask for money. I need to find a way to tap my own Fire. There has got to be a way for me to walk my own path, be comfortable in my decisions, and still manage to make a living doing something that I love. But I am floundering. I need to focus. I need to regain my footing. I need to find my way. Damn, I need sleep. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tattoos and an Attempted Public Shaming

    The woman interrupts me, as I give her the home improvement advice she had requested, "Can I ask you something? I know it's not any of my business, but why did you do that to yourself?" She asks with an ingenuous smile, pointing at my tattoos. "You are such a pretty woman, why would you do that to your body?"
    No, it isn't any of her g'damned business. I feel my friendly, customer service smile get tight, hard, and a trifle less friendly. The implication is that I have made my self less attractive, ugly even, I won't rise to the bait. "I like tattoos," I answer simply.
    "But how will you feel about them when you are ninety?" This is such a pat question.
    Fixed smile still firmly in place, "When I am ninety, I'm pretty sure the last thing I will be concerned about is my body art, or what people will think of me."
    I want to tell her that I already don't care what people think of me, or my tattoos, but I keep myself in check. I am practicing calm, picking my battles, and this is not worth the energy. I know that nothing I say will change her mind about her close-minded opinion that I have somehow violated my body by adding tasteful, Celtic art to the outer wrapping.
    What I do wonder, in cases like this, is just what makes people think they are justified in being critical? It really is a case of attempted public shaming. Of course I was not shamed. I love my tatts. But it is just another example of why I choose to isolate myself from society. Pick my companions. Live a life of relative solitude.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Write. Edit. Write.

    This year I have been so focused on life, projects, training, family, that my writing has fallen a bit off the track. I know I need to be writing consistently, even if it is just a few brief words. I had a college writing professor that said, "If you only write three words, that gives you something to edit." He was a firm believer in editing, paring down, removing extraneous words. He also said that there was always one perfect word to use as a descriptive. He frowned on using words like "very."  "He is not "very sad," he is distraught." Amazing how 35 years later I can still remember these things. But he was an integral factor in how my writing style has grown. I still edit and pare down my writing. I think I would never be able to write a very lengthy novel simply because I do not like long, flowery descriptions, or overly detailed bits of trivia. I like to write simply, and to the point, and then edit it even further. I have decided to try to write, if not daily, at least far more frequently than I have been this last year or so. And not just jotting down my physical training and nutrition escapades in my training blog. I need to get back to the deep, probing writing that I do best when I am having a mental meltdown. I need to learn to be as capable of soul searching, and vivisection of my psyche when I am feeling hale and hearty. So, let the experimentation begin. More writing. More probing. Less lunacy. Okay, I won't go overboard, I kinda want to keep the lunacy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Media Vacation

    The news has gone through another spate of horror these last few months. Okay, since the beginning of the new year. Our country seems to be falling into chaos and violence, even more so than usual. The Us versus Them mentality is reaching an all time high, with groups of all kinds breaking into opposing factions. I even see this among my friends on social media. It weighs down my heart in a way that is physically painful. It is possible that I am just feeling hyper-sensitive, allowing it all to build up to the point that my spirit says, "No More!"
    I have been a news junkie most of my adult life. I like to know what is happening around me, and around the globe. I read global new, financial reports, politics. I tend to avoid sports and Hollywood gossip. My first real news blackout came after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It broke my heart. I cried for hours. Let me say here, I am not inclined to cry over news, but that was too horrifying for me to assimilate. I cut myself off from the news for over a year. Oh, it has a way of trickling in, but I kept my head down and my guard up. The problem is, I have a need to know. A need to know just how rapidly the world is spiraling into decay. I am not sure why I want to punish my psyche, but it is like the proverbial train wreck. I just can't seem to look away.
    But a few days ago I decided to take a break. A mini-vacation from social media. So much in-fighting seems to be going on between friends and acquaintances. The angry debates over gun control, police actions, abortion, religion, politics, and bridge hangers, and culminating with a poached lion. The killing of the lion seems to have sparked a wildfire that has spread uncontrolled. I even fell into it with posts trying to drag people into seeing a wider picture of grief and man's inhumanity to man. That is when I knew I needed to just back away. I make it a personal policy to promote love and peace, not hate and violence. I have since deleted my posts. It is not that I fear offending people, or of expressing my views, but I feel that by posting inflammatory messages we are feeding right into the hands of those controlling the masses. If we are so busy fighting among ourselves over the rights and wrongs of hunting, or basic rights, then our attention is turned away from the major issues that are wreaking havoc on our planet, our home. The only place we have to live is being destroyed right under our noses and yet we mock the few people who try to rally the hue and cry against mega-corporations who are plundering the planet with no regard for the damage they are leaving behind.
    As you can tell, even taking a break from news and social media, I cannot turn off my fear. I wish there was a way to channel the energies spent on arguing and finger-pointing and aim them towards the groups behind the curtain. The few powerful entities pulling strings behind the scenes. But that is a pipe dream. I wish I had the power and pull to begin a revolution. A peaceful revolution based on love; love of Gaia our Earth Mother, love of each other, love of all living things, and mostly love of self. If we can shine a light into the dark corners, then the darkness can't remain.
    Instead, I will turn myself away from the barrage of negativity. I will focus on the loving, peaceful aspects of my life. Maybe I can find a way to let that energy flow out and away from myself, and it will help shine some light into dark corners. If nothing else, limiting my time on the internet has given me much more time for living.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Two Lists

    A few months back I wrote two lists in the little book that has become a combination journal, spell book, and To-Do list. In a sense, these were To-Do lists, but not in the home improvement sense. These were about life, living, sanity, and health. I haven't shared these lists with a single soul. But I read them over and over. I keep them in my mind and heart as I move through life. Even now, I hesitate to share them. But I feel as if by listing them here, for any and all to see, that it will make them even more tangible. I don't fully believe that if you think hard enough on an idea that it will manifest, but I do believe that we have control over our destiny by controlling how we perceive the journey that is life. The two lists are these:

What I Want
Self Employment
Alternative Income
Self Reliant Home
Become Debt Free
Another Ironman
Train Harder

What I Need
Moderate Income
Task Completion
Self Reliance
Spiritual Reconnect

   These two lists made me realize just how little I need to be content. The two lists are different, but only by degrees. Mostly they speak to me of my very basic need for physical, mental, and spiritual health. All else is unimportant if any of these three things are absent.
    What inspired me to sit and write these? It was an item near the bottom of the Need list: Spiritual Reconnect. I was feeling as if something very vital had slipped away while I wasn't looking. And I felt empty. I knew I needed to find that spark, the spirituality that makes me who I am. I can say that just the acknowledgement that it was missing opened the pathway for its return.
    No, just writing these lists has not made all my dreams come true. But I have become deeply aware of just how much control I really do have over the course that my life takes. Even when things feel out of control, I know that my hand is still firmly on the tiller, I just have a rough bit of sea to sail through.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My Manifesto

    If you hadn't noticed, I am a punk-rock hippie chick. I am a tree hugging, animal loving vegetarian. Peace and Love, No H8. Zen. Calm. Chill. Mindful living. At least I am trying. I have vowed to myself to promote what I love, instead of bashing what I hate. Life is too short for anger, hate, petty grievances, whining, sniveling, blame games, violence. Life is too glorious for unhealthy choices, thoughts, attitudes.
    The older I get the more I value peace and love. The older I get, the younger I feel. The younger I feel the less time I want to spend doing things that drag me down, leave me drained. As I shed myself of the negative things that leave me drained, my energy wells up, spills over, an endless tide.
    At any moment in any day there is the option to hit the Reset Button.
    People talk of "Baggage." It is the eternal excuse. I have decided to stop carrying Baggage. I choose to think of past mistakes, trauma, abuse, misuse, betrayal as endurance training. Obstacle course training. It is CrossFit for the psyche. The harder the training, the better the end results. So I carry no baggage. I own my past. I accept full responsibility, and credit, for the health and fitness level of my psyche, spirit, and heart. My body, my training, the endurance event that is life. I am ahead of the pack, and stretching my lead.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Fort

    Life is so busy. I am working rabidly on several projects that have nothing to do with business, writing, or self employment. Well, not really anyway. My current pet project that is absorbing all my time is The Fort. My Fort. My Fortress of Solitude. It has many names, and many driving factors behind it. What is this glorious structure that has captivated my every waking thought? It is the 10' by 20' outbuilding on the southeast corner of my property. A storage shed, with a gambrelled roof. What, until a few months ago, was a a repository for a bunch of junk that had sat in there collecting dust, cobwebs, and mice droppings every since I moved in three years ago. Much of it was remnants from a past life, random things that I would never use again, and knew needed to just go away. And now, they have... gone away, that is. I cleared the space, gave away a mountain of gear, and hauled a truckload to the dump. It was cathartic. And motivating.
    Strangely, what started the whole process was when I noticed that the bottom 24" of siding on the south end of the building was water damaged and needed replacing. At some point, some brainiac decided to insulate the back section of the building, poorly, trapping moisture against the siding and contributing to the rot. All evidence pointed to a pot growing operation, including fragments of foil tacked to the walls. What this meant was that in order to repair the siding, before more damage could occur, I needed to remove the insulation. I had known from the moment I saw the insulation that it needed to be torn down, but shuddered at the thought of such an onerous task. But, it had to be done. And I finally felt I had the time to do it. And yes, it was as gross, or grosser, than I had imagined, with mice nests and food stashes throughout.
    Okay, all that being said, once the space was cleared of junk, and the insulation removed, I could see the space for what it could be; a comfortable, livable, viable space. A guest house, cabin, playhouse (for me, not kids), studio, Fort. And it would be mine, all mine. And yes, I have done all the work myself, by myself, for myself. And am loving every minute of it, well, almost every minute.
    I will not bore you with the details of all the onerous tasks of reflooring (I put my foot through the floor in one section), stringing wiring and outlets for electricity, properly insulating and hanging a vapor barrier, installing the first of many windows, resealed the skylight. I will say, that slithering about, on my back underneath a building with 12" of clearance (I was so glad I am slender) while installing support stringers between floor joists, in the company of spiders and centipedes, was every bit as much fun as it sounds.
    I have glorious plans for multiple windows to let in natural light. There will be small "kitchen" counter that will be tiled with hand glazed tile, have a small sink, and a convenient GFI outlet for a coffee pot. A small closet will hide the composting bucket toilet. It will be well lit, snug, and relatively self contained. A perfect studio space.
    I did realize, as I was sweating away stapling roofing felt to the ceiling, that this is like a "Sampler House." The perfect place for me to practice a variety of skills in a no pressure situation. I have hung several windows, learned the basics of wiring, notched OSB for a tight fitting floor, crawled around underneath a building adding support, and reacquainted myself with insulation. Soon I will be sheathing walls, installing rigid insulation on the ceiling, framing and building my closet/toilet, building and tiling my "kitchen", and laying commercial tile on the floor. I am getting to teach myself new skills, and practice existing skills. It is an adventure all unto itself. And I am proud of my progress.
   My Fort. My Fortress of Solitude.