Saturday, December 3, 2016

Winter Hauntings

    Feeling haunted lately. People, places, things from my past. Demons come back for a friendly visit. Maybe it is the holidays and all they represent of family and friends, love, giving and receiving. Festivities to dress for. A home to decorate and fill with the smells of sweet and spice.
    All this makes my mind wander to the past. A tree to decorate with handmade ornaments. Stockings to stuff on Christmas Eve, sneaking them into darkened bedrooms after the children are asleep. The thrill of Christmas morning, eager to see the reactions to gifts bought with more love than money. How can I not let my mind wander back to those joyful times?
    Now, Christmas morning is sleeping in, hot coffee, feeding the menagerie. No stockings, no presents, not even a tree. But is this the reason for the haunted feelings? The Ghosts of Christmas Past? No, it is more than that. I don't quite know what. But it is more than that.
    Heading into the dark, cold days of winter is never easy for me. Never. No matter how I prepare myself, there is the feeling of dread. Would it be any different if I weren't a loner? Maybe. Might be worse though. When my natural instinct is to withdraw and hibernate, the last thing I would need or want is someone underfoot trying to force me out of my winter shell. I don't know. I don't even know where I am going with this train of thought.
    I do know my demons have been visiting at odd hours. Sometimes it is in the middle of the day, when I am at work. Sometimes randomly in the evenings. More often than not though it is in the darkest part of the night, stirring me from slumber, to play sledgehammer serenades on my brain. Little imps.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Riding Ahead of The Curve

    Now that the election is past, I am hoping that the chaos between friends will settle back to something resembling normal. Okay, I am sure it will be a new normal. Things have been said between some that cannot be unsaid, though I am hoping time will heal wounds.
    Looking ahead, I have no idea what the eventual ramifications will be. But that can be said of any action, on any given day. No one, not one of us, can know what tomorrow will bring. Sure, we all have our lives planned out to some degree. We know, mostly, when to get up, when to head off to work, when the clock tells us it is time to go home. This is but a bare structure. Ephemeral. Subject to change without notice. Because of this, I try to keep my spiritual books balanced. Also, because of this, I try to think ahead, possible scenarios, what to do, what to keep on hand. I don't want to be caught off-guard and in a lurch. On a motorcycle we call this "riding ahead of the curve."
    Riding Ahead of The Curve. What does this mean? It means being prepared for what you can't see. Keeping eyes up, head on a swivel, and looking as far up the road as you can see. It is easy to get caught up in the immediate here and now, only seeing what is immediately beneath your wheels. It is just as easy to get carried away by all the possibilities of what we can't see, what is beyond the curve. We do not know what the next four years will bring, or the ramifications it will have on the years to follow. But that can be said of every election, just as it can be said of every decision in our lives.
    Am I disappointed with the outcome? Yes. Am I stressed and anxious? Yes. Am I freaking just a bit? Absolutely. But there is not jack shit I can do about it. I fact checked. I waded through the murk. I didn't allow myself to be swayed by memes and rumors swirling about with the intent of firing people's base emotions. I voted. There is nothing I can do now to change the events of yesterday. What I can do is manage how I will react to them. I know I can't change the past. Nor can I do much to change the events that will come about on a national and international level. What I can do is remain calm, not panic, keep doing what I am doing to keep my life moving forward. That is all any of us can do, on any given day, under any circumstance.
    I think much of this election was based on fears and frustrations that have been going on so long that we have internalized them to the point that we don't even realize they are there, It is that internal sense of impending doom that we can't seem to shake. The feeling of living on the edge of a deep, dark abyss. I don't know that our world is any better or worse off than it was 10 or 20 years ago, or 40 years. But now with the immediacy of the internet, and the herd mentality of social media, we are all the more aware of every little event that transpires around the world. We see, in gory detail, small events from the other side of the globe, that we would not even have known about a few years ago. But now they are in our faces, in all their macabre glory, over and over, with increasingly emotional posts as people react and over-react. We have become a world full of drama. fear, and maybe too much information and not enough knowledge. We are all living with a level of PTSD from the barrage of images we see every single day. And we are unable to do anything about it. The frustration level builds to boiling point. That is where we have landed. Now, we have a number of years to see just where it is we have landed, and what these decisions will mean to all of us over time.
    So, for now, I will keep on doing what I am doing. Keep calm. No Panic. Move forward as best I can, and wait to see what will happen. It is all I can do.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Time? Money?

    I don't think anyone on their deathbed thinks, "I wish I had more money." But I guarantee that most people think, "I wish I had more time."  No one really knows when their time will come. It may be today, tomorrow, or 50 years from now (I am hoping for 50 years...). Of course I have had plenty of time that I wished for more money. Who hasn't? Living paycheck to paycheck, one small setback away from financial disaster can be stressful. But the last few years I have realized just how much more I value my time. Almost two years ago I lost a job that I loved, and payed well. They closed the department, so I was out the door. It was a great job, but a lot of hours.
    Once I was unemployed, after many years of 40+ hours a week, having time to spend on myself and with my family was a revelation. My income was cut considerably, but I was happier. When I found a new job the pay was lower, and I made the decision to not work 5 days a week. Despite continual pressure from the employer I have staunchly insisted that I stay part time. Why? Because time. Time has become so much more vital to my well being than money. Yes, I am poor financially. But I am rich in time. Time for myself and my family. I think a lot of people think I have slipped my gears by choosing to live on the edge instead of pursuing the almighty dollar.
    I spent far too many years working hard to make money for someone else. I slaved, sweated, stressed, and burned myself out for the benefit of someone else's bank roll. I have never made great money at any job, and the few times I tried to force the issue I was shot down. Never payed what I was worth, so always feeling like I was less valuable, Now I know better. I am priceless. I am more valuable than any dollar amount. I won't be tempted by dollar signs. I would rather live at what is considered poverty level and have some freedom. No, not totally free, I do still have to spend several days slaving, sweating, stressing, and burning myself out for the benefit of someone else's bank roll, but it is more on my terms than their's.
     A few days ago a plan came to fruition. A financial boon that I set in motion several months ago, What amounts to a federal grant that will allow me to take every penny and throw it at my debt for the next year. I estimate that I will be completely out of debt, except for my mortgage, in 9 months or so. Can you imagine? Debt free? I am about losing my mind with glee. Debt free will give me a level of freedom that I have never had. All my adult life there has been some level of debt hanging over my head. Yes, my debt is minimal compared to most, but then so is my income. Now I look ahead, planning where my meager income will go. Excited to be able to pay off student loans, my two credit cards, catch up on all bills, pay off the IRS. Yes, I am freaking a little bit. It seems too good to be true.
     Where does this leave me? With Time. Time to spend as I choose. Time, which is far more valuable than any material possession. Time to play with grandchildren, time to spend with family, time to work on my house, time to train my body and my mind. And in the end, isn't that what we all really want? Time?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Actions. Reactions. Changing The Cycle.

   It is no secret that I do not handle confrontation well, I don't hide the fact. Hell, I can't hide the fact. I have one of two reactions: Either I get angry, soft spoken, clinical, and almost cruel; or I shake, want to vomit, get tongue tied, and can only think of how to extract myself from the situation. Yes, classic Fight of Flight reaction. In an extreme. Adrenaline fueled, exhausting, neurotic extreme.
    This last week I have had several instances that triggered the second response, Flight, in an extreme. The custody battle of the Tiny House. No, there really wasn't a battle, legally I had no rights, but it was an unexpected and harsh confrontation that has had me stressing my brains out. I haven't slept well, waking in the night with anxiety and scenes replaying in my head on endless loop. My digestion has been wrecked. Mostly I have wanted to hide in my bed with the lights off. I felt violated, wronged, intimidated, and harassed. I knew today would be, hopefully, the final chapter, and I was dreading the confrontation. That changed Friday. I had an epiphany.
    Swimming clears my head as nothing else does. It is the Zen-like quality of lap after lap. The scenery doesn't change, the only sound is my own breath bubbling past my ears, I count strokes and laps. It has a brain numbing quality, but it is meditative, calming, and mind clearing. I realized that through the whole saga of the Tiny, there was one constant: The tragic and unexpected loss of my friend Bryony. That was the triggering event, the Big Bang, the catalyst. Boil it all down, and there you have it. I let my own financial stress and sense of loss blind me to the facts. This is not about ownership of any material goods. It is the sense of loss at the heart of it that manifested in what, at the time, seemed a righteous indignation that these people would come on my property, and lay claim to what had in my mind become something of a potential shrine to my lost friend. As I swam, all the facts started lining up, filling in the blanks, and becoming a clear pattern of bad behavior on my part. Yes, I take responsibility for my actions.
    I told myself that fault and guilt were not on me, but on the actions of the people invading my home and letting accusations fly. I realized, as I swam, that if I can't control someone else's actions, I can control my reactions, which in turn can shift all behaviors involved. I came to the realization that I needed to look at the core issue here, and act accordingly. The core issue? The loss of my friend. That is where all the emotion was coming from, that deep ache, the broken feeling inside my chest, the desire to lash out and retaliate. And who was I dealing with, who was this person confronting me? The mother. Yes, the estranged mother, but the mother none-the-less. I realized, that as dysfunctional as their relationship may have been, now there was no chance that there could ever be any kind of resolution. This woman would have to live the rest of her life knowing that she would never be able to reconcile in any way, never really know the fabulous person that she had shut out of her life, never have a chance to say, "I am so sorry."  And that is a tragedy heaped onto a tragedy. I love my children with all my heart, and cannot imagine what it would be like to have them estranged from me. It would shatter me.
    So, this was my epiphany:  I lost a friend, but she lost a child. I can think of no greater loss than the loss of a child. It would ruin me. So, despite all I know, all I have been told, all the trauma behind the life and times, I would treat this woman as I would wish to be treated. I apologized for my unkind words, and told her with heartfelt sincerity, "I am so sorry for your loss." I truly meant it, every word. I can't change the past, I can't fix past traumas and abuses, but I can change how I chose to react. Instead of perpetuating anger, hostility, and drama I chose to be calm, spread understanding, peace and love. And then we talked, like rational adults, and parted on decent terms. No, we will never be friends. Hopefully we will never meet again. But my fear of accidental run-ins, or retaliations is now non-existent. I feel at peace.  I don't know if it is what my friend would want, but I can hope that they would be pleased that I stepped outside of the cycle of stress and anger, changed patterns, and altered bad behavior. I feel good about what I did, proud of myself for not letting the actions of others feed into my own negativity. I choose Peace and Love, It has to be so.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Blanket Fort, Book, Tea, Nap?

    Suddenly, Autumn. It seems like just yesterday it was too hot and sunny too work on the west side of the house. The last few days, grey and stormy. Today started with a nice break. The sun was shining, things were drying off, I went out and picked some grapes for breakfast. An hour later it is dark, the wind is whipping the trees and ripping leaves off, and rain is slanting sideways past my windows. Yes, just last week I found myself saying, "I almost wish we could have a few rainy days so I could have a little down time." I really said it, and knew I would live to regret the words. Today I am barely functional. Not in a bad way. Just in a lethargic way. It is an "Eat carbs, read, and sleep" kind of day. I am still in my fuzzy, leopard print bathrobe, or "Housecoat" as I prefer to call it (sounds a little less coma inducing). Today feels like Blanket Forts, Earl Grey tea, and easy reading science fiction.
    I know that in a few hours I will suddenly get hit with a rush of hyperactivity linked to my chronic need to feel like I accomplish things on my days off. Last Sunday was such a bust, because of the psycho-drama that mentally and emotionally threw me down a ravine. I got nothing done all day Sunday. Now, here I am, a few days later, still not managing to get anything done. Hell, I even skipped my morning workout (freaky, I know). Now, it is barely past noon, all I have managed to do is make breakfast and feed the animals, and I am ready to crawl back in bed for a nap. Admittedly, I have not been sleeping well the last week or so, again, thanks to the recent psycho-drama that was foisted on me.
    I shouldn't feel so bad about wanting to catch up on sleep. "Sleep is the Golden Chain that ties our health and our bodies together."  I have rarely slept well, in my entire adult life. If I make it through the night only waking 3 or 4 times, that seems like a good night's sleep. I can't imagine sleeping soundly through the night. "I have always envied people who sleep easily.Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed." So maybe a plan to nap, rest, recover, recuperate, is not such a terrible, or slovenly idea. Yeah, it does grate against my nature. I can't quite allow for a day of total lassitude. But for now, maybe it is okay to allow myself the chance "To sleep, perchance to Dream."

Sunday, October 2, 2016


    Sometimes I think I am a magnet for psychos. Just like kittens and stray dogs, the crazies seem to find me. Maybe it is because they know I am non-confrontational, as well as disinclined to fight against unfair demands. I just try to keep them calm, then disengage and escape as soon as possible. It makes me feel like I surrender to their aggressive, intimidating tactics. Give up without a fight, It is humiliating and degrading, But yet, I know that there is no "winning" with sociopaths, people without scruples. People who are, in and of themselves, so devious and manipulative that they suspect that everyone else is the same. They can't believe that I am not trying to outsmart them, or cheat them, or somehow take advantage of a situation. They cannot imagine that I would do something just because it is the right thing to do, or that I want to help a friend. They want to know what's in it for me? If I try to convince them that I am not out to profit from a tragedy, they think I am somehow running a scam. Because that is what they would do.
    We all react in ways that mirror our own personalities. I assume that people are trustworthy, honest, and will honor an agreement. Because that is what I would do. Sadly, I think I am in the minority. Today proved my point to the Nth degree. It was a brutal, stressful lesson. One that will likely cause me stressed out sleepless nights for a while.
    I hate that people come into my life and damage my trust. It has happened more than a few times over the years. I fight back from it, try to return to my previous gullible, trusting self. But each time it is a little harder. It makes me feel violated. I think that this kind of emotional and psychological attack is worse than a physical attack. Physical, I could fight back, and would fight back. Emotional or psychological, I retreat and do my best to shield my inner psyche from the assault. I still come out of it feeling shellshocked, drained, physically ill. Today was spent trying to just regain a sense of balance, get my churning gut under control, reduce the tension in neck and shoulders that was causing a headache that made me feel like my scalp was being peeled off. There was a level of PTSD involved. Reacting and over-reacting. Shaking that took hours to subside. There is a reason I live where I do, trying to limit my contact with horrible people. Twice this week, the horrible people have come to me. Come to my house. Tainted my sanctuary. Invaded my life.
    Hopefully, I have set things in motion to make them leave me alone, These horrid, crazy people that have sucked me into their petty universe. It is easiest just to acquiesce, so they will leave me alone. I will take the high road. Disengage and walk away. I can't let their crazy infect my sanctuary. But g'damn, it is so hard to shut it out.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


    Grief is a mysterious affliction. Painful, hot and cold, waxing and waning, swells up from the deep to grab you by the ankles and drag you under the dark waves. I have lost people, friends and family, over the years. Old age, suicide, motorcycle accident, cancer. Crossing the bridge after a long life is a well earned rest, I think. Suicide was shocking and not shocking, coming after a life time of severe mental illness. Motorcycle accidents are tragic, but oddly, we know it is part of the risk of riding. Cancer... well cancer is a motherfucker, and it sucks, but you see it coming and manage to have yourself a bit prepared once all the options and alternatives have been exhausted. Fuck Cancer.
    But this latest loss. Sudden and unexpected, unfair and unjust, undeserved and out of the blue. I can't wrap Brain around it. I am in denial, which I do know is one of the stages of grief. But I'm not here to fall into the easy analytical aspect of how the world of academia says we should work our way through our grieving process. I want to rant and rave. I want to fall into the dark abyss and wallow. I want to curl into a fetal position and cry until I can't breathe, I want them back. I want to go back in time to Saturday so I can warn them to check their insulin, eat right, and get some rest. I want to sit up through the night watching them sleep so I will be able to interject myself between them and Death as he walks through the door draped in dark robes and armed with a scythe. If I could have been there, I know the signs, I am trained to see and understand the signs of low blood sugar. I am trained in what to do to fend off diabetic issues. If I could just turn back time a few days. I don't think that is asking too much to save the blithe spirit of my friend. I am trying to find inspiration in all of this, knowing that is what they would want.
    Funny, my use of the term "blithe spirit" came without thinking, and just to make sure I wasn't delusional I double checked the definition and this is what it said: Joyous, merry, or happy in disposition: glad; cheerful. "Everyone loved them for their blithe spirit."

 And to research a little deeper, the term "blithe spirit" comes from a Shelley poem titled "To A Skylark." Fitting for our poet, Bryony.
This is what one university English professor writes:  "The word "blithe" is an Old English word literally meaning 'carefree, happy and lighthearted.'
"Spirit" of course would mean 'an incorporeal supernatural being.'
(quite fitting for our Bryony, I think.)
Shelley begins his poem by saluting and greeting the skylark by calling it a "blithe spirit," because the skylark is a bird which is rarely visible and only its melodious song is heard by people. The sweet song of the skylark reveals to Shelley that unlike ordinary mortals like himself it is absolutely carefree." (again, more fitting than I might have anticipated.)
    I won't say my friend was carefree, they had more than their fair share of the burdens of life, and understood all too well how harsh a place the world could be. But it was how they chose to live that makes me think that they reveal to ordinary mortals like myself that they were, if not carefree, they were free. They chose freedom to live life as they wished, flying in the face of ordinary restraints. So, here I am, taking inspiration. Finding appropriate symbolism in a chance phrase. I want and need there to be some meaning behind all of this. So, I choose, at this moment, to think of my friend, a blithe spirit, a carefree, merry, joyous Skylark singing their song for all to hear, though rarely seen, Fly my friend.

Monday, September 12, 2016


    I lost a friend Saturday night. I didn't find out until late Sunday, when I was cold, tired, and hungry after spending the better part of 5 hours at a Life Flight landing zone waiting for a patient to arrive. I got home, heated a can of ravioli (Annie's organic cheese ravioli in a non-BPA lined can... it still tasted like canned ravioli), and slumped at my computer to veg out while eating mindlessly. Right there, in my Facebook feed, "Passed in the night from complications of diabetes." Let me put you straight, this was a vibrant, sparklingly incandescent person who knew of their health issues and was very conscientious. There had not been previous episodes or incidents. This came out of the blue like sucker punch. Only 33 years old. Loved and lusted for. Likely envied for their quick mind, wicked wit, and poetry skills that I have watched blossom over the last 6 years or so. I remember dancing at the E Club, hot and sweaty, singing loudly along with 4 Non-Blondes to "What's Going On." Every since, I have thought of them every time I heard that song. Now it will be a song to bring a touch of tears to my eyes.
    Life has taken on a surreal quality in the 22 hours since I read those words. I keep expecting to hear that it is some huge and horrible mistake. Oddly enough, I spent the better part of yesterday morning working on their tiny house, which is really just a shell with the interior barely roughed in. I have been doing repairs, and had been given free rein to take over the construction and make it liveable space. I sat on the bed frame, with a cup of coffee at my elbow, and made up a long list of the projects I hoped to complete over the winter. I had planned to text them the list, knowing how excited they would be. Going out on a long medical rescue had kept me from sending the text. I am relieved, on one hand, since I would have been texting to the ether. I am also saddened, wanting to think that they would have gotten the text anyway. Oh well, hindsight.
    I haven't cried yet. I think it is because I still don't really believe they are gone. There is a monthly poetry gathering later this week that they were an organizer for, that is now being turned into a memorial and remembrance. Funny, I just remembered, I was at Queer Poetry Night the very first time they stepped up to the mike to publicly read one of their poems. It was beautiful, funny, sexy. They were both confident and shy, and altogether charming. It was at the beginning of their blossoming, changing from small town misfit to big city inspiration and rabble rouser.
    I watched them grow and change, and felt a certain envy for the way they had come into their own. Being their own damned self with every fiber of their being. Okay, now the tears come, in a torrent. The world lost a beautiful, unique, inspiring, intelligent, hilarious, ludicrous, loud, charming, sensitive, extroverted introvert. We lost a spirit that could not be dimmed despite having been given a rough road to travel. And travel it they did, not merely traveled but paraded, stomped, danced, skipped, and cartwheeled. I lost a friend who I could trust with my deepest secrets, and who made me laugh, feel less like a hermit, and who made me want to sit up late talking of all things and nothing. We shared victories and losses, dreams and delusions, fantasies and reality. I thought we had all the time in the world.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


    I stood under my Apple Ent and watched the storm come blowing in across the fields. The smell of rain was heavy in the air. The wind brought in a temperature drop. I knew the rain was coming so had been out working to clear up the detritus of my current projects. Power tools needed to be stashed safely, hand tools brought in and hung on appropriate hooks. I raked up as much of the paint chips as was humanly possible, bagging them and handfuls of earth, rocks, and leaves along with the paint.
    I stood watching the storm come, protected by my eldest apple tree. I watched, with my dogs hovering near to hand, until fat drops of rain made little dust spurts in the plowed field to the south of me. It got so dark it felt like a solar eclipse. Too dark for a late summer afternoon. Too chilly for an August day.
    But we need the rain. I hope it rains hard enough to wash the dust of summer off of my world. My property has the look of a fallout zone, coated in grey and brown dust from the plowing and dusting of lime that has been going on in the fields around me. One of the few curses of living in farmland. I spent part of my morning washing my backyard, rinsing away the heavy layer of grey that had dimmed my world to the spectrum of a black and white photograph. One amusing aspect of the recent dusting is how it has made spider webs stand out in stark contrast. It is a good thing I am not an arachnophobe or I might pack up and move at the sight of the thousands of webs covering nearly everything. I did have to rehome a number of spiders while scraping and sanding the house. The little fellas really like lurking under the lap siding. I made sure they were safely moved into my over-zealous camelia bushes.
    The rain may have been a false start. A bit of premature ejaculate. Big fat drops leading to not much of anything. Could very well be a metaphor for life if I want to get philosophical, Instead I think I will take this opportunity to bake some bread and do some long overdue housework since my time of late has been taken up with outside tasks that are far more entertaining and  satisfying than sweeping up dog hair. Or I might pour myself a cup of coffee and look over the sketches and measurements for phase 3 of the cedar deck, and ponder the construction and framing. Or, I could make a cup of double bergamot Earl Grey and do nothing. Nah, life is too short to sit and do nothing, Bread baking it is. Might as well take advantage of a cool, dark day, though there will be more than enough such days in a few short weeks. But I think I will make that cup of Earl Grey.

Too Much To Do

    Summer always seems to flash past in a blur of activity. Some years I am racing every other weekend, some years I am working like a fool to improve my little piece of property. The last two years have been of the home improvement type. I know it isn't as exciting as the racing summers, but they are very satisfying. I have been working like a fiend. Putting in an 8 hour day at my job, then racing home and working until sunset on my little hermitage. It is wearing me out.
    The last few weeks I have been feeling that oppressive presence that heralds the coming of the dark, cold days of Winter. I know I still have a month or two of decent weather as we head into Autumn, but the feeling is still there. It is a demon that rides my shoulder, whispering, "I am coming." Every year I feel it and every year I try to get my life in order so I can face it down with power.
    This year I have taken on a few monumental projects that will be a challenge to finish up. Paint the house, rebuild the deck, build a greenhouse, finish the last bits of The Fort, build a small tool shed. The deck is nearly done, but the last section is waiting on me getting that dorner of the house painted before final assembly. The house painting is a labor of love. Serious labor. Scrape, sand, prime, scrape and sand some more, prime some more, paint. I have the back half about 80% done, but haven't even started on the front yet. Today, it is cool and damp so painting will have to wait. I am almost thankful that the weather changed, giving me a break from scraping paint in the hot sun. But it is good weather for deck building, so I tell myself.
    What I really want to do today is stay inside and watch the grey clouds slip past, and the cool wind play with the trees. But life is too short for such indulgences. Besides, there will be plenty of days ahead when I am all but forced to sit inside and watch the rain and wind.  Okay, enough ruminating, time to get outside and get shit done.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Regain My Enthusiasm

    I have come to the conclusion that I am not temperamentally disposed to working in customer service. The shame of this is that it is something I am ridiculously good at. The reality is that it stresses me to the point of shattering, and drains me dry. I have reached a nadir in my current employment, dreading certain days, knowing that it will press me to near breaking by the time I can escape back to my shaggy little hermitage. I have become over-reactive, to the point of meltdown over minor issues. Today I ended up having to retreat to my car, put in earplugs, and pour over the journal of ideas that I keep handy while I fought to keep from dissolving into a mess of tears. No, it wasn't pretty.
    Analyzing, as usual, I realized that my over-reactive tendencies have been barely managed for a number of years now. I hesitate to use the phrase PTSD, because I don't dare compare my life to the rigors faced by vets, police, full time emergency responders that have caused many to slip into hellish existences haunted by their past experiences. But I spent far too many years living under a blanket of stress from work and my personal life. I think it destroyed my ability to manage what is likely normal stress for most people. It has made me almost fearful of the idea of having to have a full time job where I have to actually be in contact with others of my species. I just can't handle day to day stressors like I used to. Largely, I think, because I don't want to have to. I don't want to meekly have to take it on the chin. I want to be able to erupt, say "No," and walk away from things that make me unhappy. I think I have earned that right.
    Funny thing though, I can be at the scene of a fatal car accident, helping to pry a badly injured patient from the car, and not have the feeling of insurmountable stress that I get from dealing with customers and management on a day to day basis. If anything, it is the exact opposite; under real, traumatic stress, I am calm, decisive, and in control. I just can't handle the little, petty shit anymore. I've had to deal with too much of the little, petty shit in my life, and I have had enough.
    Today, fortunately, is my Friday, and a half day, I fought my way through the tasks that had to be completed, then fled the scene before I committed any act that could not be either denied, nor covered up by judicious use of a recip saw, a deep hole, and quick lime. I escaped to the serenity of the state park along the river, and the trail that has become my favorite run. The sky was grey and sullen, a fine drizzle turning the summer coating of dust to a caked layer of mud. The run, combined with the fresh, cool, damp air cleared my head. I do my best thinking when I am working my body. Swim, bike, or run, my brain goes into overdrive. By the time I left the woods to stretch out in the open meadow, I was formulating A Plan. Yes, whenever I am trying to realign my life, and come up with a plan to save my sanity and soul, I do see it capitalized: A Plan. 
    I know, I do this with regularity, and it rarely manages to make it off the drawing board. But it makes me feel better, and that is all that matters when I am this close to slipping back into that grim hostel that was my home for too long not that many years ago. I will say, that during the major meltdown of my life I did come up with A Plan (to buy my own home), and I did just that, despite having a major nervous breakdown... or because of it... or the breakdown was caused by the buying process. Oh well, chicken and egg, you know. I have had some moments over the last few years when I have had to give myself a shake, make some plans, and give something new a try. No, I haven't had any great successes with my various schemes, but I keep on trying.
    Winston Churchill said, "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm."  I just need to make A Plan, and maintain my enthusiasm.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


    It has been a bizarre week of ups and downs. For weeks I have been fighting against a melancholy that is more grey than black. Not a trip into the abyss, more like watching a home movie version of a trip. It is hard to describe, and I don't quite understand it myself. I have been thinking that maybe it is more physical, as if I am fighting off some malaise, since it has manifested more like a case of extreme exhaustion than the emotional drain of depression.
    As I have been pondering this weird manifestation of whatever the hell is sapping my energy, the world has continued on despite my lack of involvement. As I hide in my hermitage, feeling sorry for myself, events have transpired that make me want to grab myself by the collar, give myself a shake and a slap upside the head, and scream, "Get over it!"
    Last week, a friend finally lost his long, hard fought battle with cancer. He lived far longer than the doctors predicted. He lived long enough to see both his children marry, and to meet his first grandson. He was a good man, flawed, as we all are, but with a good soul. We used to armor up and fight, way back when, and he was a good teacher. We have sons that are close in age, and close in size, and I remember how he and I laughed the first time we put those two big boys into armor and let them fight with hard, rattan weapons instead of the padded versions they were used to. Suddenly, they were much more cautious with each other, as they realized just how much they could hurt each other.
    Also last week, a friend lost her beloved canine companion to cancer. It was sudden and unexpected, but had metastasized to her heart. There was nothing to be done but make the tough decision. It is a brutal choice to have to make. It was nearly two years ago that I had to make the decision to end the pain of my beloved Tonks, my big, hairy girl.  It still hurts to think about, and my friend losing her dog to fucking cancer makes me hurt for her, and brings my own pain back to the surface. Fuck cancer.
    Monday was one of the good days. I got to run a 5K along our hometown 4th of July parade route, then watch the parade with my grandkids. That was a joy, as always.
    Wednesday started with my pager rousting me out of bed. A 35 year old man, felled by what was likely a massive heart attack. We worked on him for a long time, but there was nothing to be done. He was 35. Thirty-five!  Fuck no.
    The news has been filled with the violence that is tearing our country apart, and terrorism that is shaking the entire world to the core. I can't even log in to get my email without feeling overwhelmed by the tragedies that are happening with daily regularity. It is overwhelming.
    As I feel sorry for myself, with this grey malaise that I can't seem to shake, I have to make myself take a good look at my little corner of the world. I hold myself and my life up to the light, seeing it all for what it is. I can feel empathy and sympathy for the tragedies that are going on around the world, but can be glad it has not personally touched me. Yes, I am poor, skirting the edge of poverty, but my bills are mostly paid. Mostly. I am poor but I eat well, have a car that runs, a good roof over my head, a garden planted, fruit trees, grapevines, berries. As I hold myself up for inspection, comparing my minor woes to those who have lost loved ones, I chide myself for being so damned delicate.
    I think the real root of this malaise is my lack of progress towards.... something. I feel like I have stalled. Dead in the water. Low energy equates to zero motivation. But what am I motivating to? I have no fucking idea. It is just like trying to maintain a high level of training for triathlon, when there is no triathlon to train for. Without some sort of endgame it is hard to keep any kind of focus. Without focus, how can I know what needs to be done? I don't know where I am going, so how can I chose a path? Is that the key? There is no destination? No destination does not mean that I can't enjoy the journey. But I need to let go of the idea that I must go from point A to point B. I need to allow myself to putter about, relax, read a book, write when I have words that have to escape, paint when the need for color arises, build when my hands need to be productive. I just have to step back from the intense level of go go go that I tend to force myself in to.
     Maybe I need to shut out the news of events I have no control over. Focus on the here and now of my own reality. Maybe I am just rambling incoherently because I am sleep deprived and deranged. Maybe I am just blowing smoke, again, to try and make sense of things that make no sense. Maybe my reality has absolutely nothing to do with anything but the babblings inside my own head. Maybe it just is what it is, no explanations needed. Maybe. I don't know.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Physical Manifestations

    Now comes the physical manifestations of melancholy. It is as if Body, knowing Brain and Spirit are managing to dig their way out, is telling me, "Fuck no, not yet."  It is strange to be in the grip of something tangible yet ethereal, held prisoner by demons that know how to eke out every drop of misery from every corner of me. It is easier for Brain and Spirit to claw their way out of the abyss, sometimes it is a case of mind over matter. Yes, I am good at blowing smoke up my own ass. I can talk a good talk, raise my own spirit from the dead, or near-dead. Body is not so easy to convince. Body is stubborn when tired and achy. I do tell myself that it is okay to take a rest day, after all, I do push myself hard. This has been different, for this time of year. Maybe it is just that I managed to glide through the late winter and into early spring without too many missteps. That is my usual time for a meltdown. This year, somehow, I managed to avoid any untoward episodes, kept the demons at bay, and came through the dark days relatively unscathed. I may just be having a delayed reaction.
    I have been trying to find the keystone to this particular episode, and can't quite pin it down. I know it is partly dissatisfaction with my job, combined with a severe shortage of cash this month, and a few other issues that would be minor in and of themselves, but added to the morass they become major hurdles. Being strapped for cash has made my diet switch from heavy on the fresh fruit and veg to a bit heavier on the home-baked (and delicious) carbs.This isn't the best plan for a body that is already feeling a bit askance from having my training interrupted with illness and injury. I have been on antibiotics several times this spring, and that may have kicked me into an imbalance as well. So nothing feels quite right. My whole being feels unbalanced, awkward, heavy, apathetic, sluggish. I have been so tired these last few weeks I feel as if I am drugged.  I try to work on projects, of which there are an overwhelming abundance, but I can't manage to wrap my brain around them, much less muster any enthusiasm.
    Work is kicking my ass on almost every level, and feeling especially intrusive on my delicate, introverted psyche. There is nothing I can do about work though, since there isn't exactly and army beating down my door to hire me as a Hermit In The Woods. On that front though, I am thinking through some good ideas for extra income, if I can get Body to stop being so damned pouty. As it is, I'm not even keeping up with my household chores, much less having any excess energy to launch a business endeavor.
    I just have to get Body through the next few days. That should see me through the worst of it. I hope. I keep managing my workouts, though those are slipping a bit, and taking my vitamins like a good girl. I confess, I have added the little pink pill, citalopram, back into the mix in an attempt to push myself back on track. I'm not sure what else I can do at this point, except keep on keeping on.  Sometimes, that is the best I can hope for. Now I think I will curl up with a book and a cup of herbal tea. That I have the energy for.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Little Magic

    Yesterday felt like the culmination of too many days/weeks/months of trying to find my way. This morning I woke feeling that Thing still lurking just over my shoulder, a ponderous presence, an explosion waiting to happen. I felt hungover, and with melancholy calling my name. Breakfast was an antidepressant and two cups of black coffee. I know, sometimes I like a good self pity wallow, I think it is good for the soul. But this had gone on far too long, with no payoff, no end result.
    Knowing there was not much to be done at this point I decided on a seriously ass-kicking workout to start my day. Then, if I did nothing else all day at least I would have accomplished something. Wednesday afternoon is my time with my grandson, and he is a bit of a devil. I get to act like a kid, with reckless abandon, and no judgement. Spending time with him always makes the day brighter, it also kicked my melancholy hangover to the curb. I had to leave him about 5pm, since Wednesday is also drill night at the station. Lo and behold, I get home and find out there is no drill tonight. Suddenly I have a free evening. Normally this would mean getting in an extra workout, but since I kicked my own ass all morning, then spent an hour in the pool the the little granddevil, I really did have free time. Weird. Okay, I never really have Free time, there is always something that must be done. So I started a pot of vegan chili and wandered outside.
    I have been slowly building a greenhouse. Bit by bit, out of salvaged material. I have a couple of old windows that are getting a fresh coat of paint so I decided to finish them up so maybe I can install them tomorrow. As my hands worked, painting and throwing the Kong for my silly little pitbull, my brain finally slipped off the hamster wheel of doom. I have been so focused on trying to think of One Good Idea that I forgot that what I Do Best is a little bit of everything. For decades I have dreamed of being able to make a living doing a number of different things, things I love to do. I don't know when and why I lost track of this idea, but I have been skirting around it forever. Recently I have come up with half a dozen really good ideas, none that is a huge moneymaker, but all of which have decent potential, and combined could be just what I need to do.
    A few weeks ago I read an article on finding your path. One question it asks, that I hadn't really formed an answer for is: What's one thing you dream about that you've never told anyone? Today I found my answer, like a clarion call, "Magic." I dream of magic. Magic, and the Fair Folk, and dragons, and talking animals. I want magic in my life, and I want to bring it to other people. I used to make Dream Pillows, and little magic bags, and Pookas (Welsh house fairies), and little dragons. I was "Here There Be Dragons." I loved that. But I couldn't find a way to make money with it. Now though, I think I can make it work. If I shift my focus a bit, change the inventory a tad, have a wider array, and a different marketplace. I think I can do this. Maybe. Maybe it is just another pipe dream, but what I really want is Magic. That Thing is no longer lurking, the explosion turned into an epiphany, the melancholy backed off a few steps. Maybe that is my Magic.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Something Has Got To Give

    I can't get past this chronic feeling that something has got to give. That here is something just over the horizon, waiting or lurking. I have been tiptoeing along the edge of an abyss, one that is familiar and yet not. I know change needs to happen, but what that change is I can't quite nail down. I have been spending much of my waking hours, and some of my dream state as well, mulling over what I want/need/should do. I have slipped into a feeling of suspended animation. I can't seem to get anything done, because there is so much to do. I can't seem to make decisions, because there is so much that needs to change. There is a great pressure in my chest, in my skull, in my heart, that feels as if it will explode upon the world, either in a fantastic maelstrom, or a gory mess.
    It is no secret that I try to force change, often well before it is time. But right now I feel as if I don't make a change I will be stuck in this state of lethargy, torpor, stupor, hibernation, until it is too late to make a change. I will become shadow of myself, a specter, going through the motions of my life without actually living. I am tired of where I am at, and since I am not a tree, I can move. But where do I go from here?
    No, I am not talking about anything as simple as moving from one residence to another. Besides, I love my shaggy little house, it is my shelter from the ravages of the world. What I am talking here is a move of greater significance. A need for a spiritual shift, a creative convergence, an artistic alluvium. I need to drag myself out of my current rut, the quagmire I am wallowing in that is stifling my desire to build and create. The muck of stress that holds me in its pervasive grip, and tries to suck me into the mire of self pity and melancholy. I can't give in, but I am finding myself nearly helpless to fight my way out.
    I tell myself I am just having an off day, off week, okay, actually an off month or two. My triathlon training has faltered, my nutrition has suffered, my projects are lying unfinished, my garden is barely planted, my house is in chaos. Every night I psyche myself up, "Tomorrow I am going to jump into working on..." fill in the blank with a dozen different ideas/schemes/projects. And every morning I can barely drag myself out of bed. I want to sit with a book and a cup of tea, all day long. All damned day long. The first few times I told myself I deserved a day of rest. But this has become a habit. Yeah, sure, not a habit that has been going on for more than a few days, really, but too many days nonetheless.
    It all comes down to that feeling that something has got to give. Something is hanging over me, a ponderous, massive, unknown Thing.  I can't put my finger on it. Try as I might I cannot figure this out. Search and research, analyze and over-analyze, over-thinking to the point of obsession, and I still cannot wrap my Brain around an answer, solution, or even a direction to go. I am floundering, and it makes me want to curl up in my room and hide from reality. Something has got to give. For now, I will just have to sleep on it, again. But I am losing my mind, again. Maybe tomorrow I will at least get something done.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


    Throughout my life I have had times of dissatisfaction. Nothing tangible, just a vague feeling, like an oppressive weight hanging in the air. A need to change, throw life into chaos, shake the snowglobe. An indefinable itch that I can't seem to locate well enough for a satisfactory scratch. Sometimes it feels like a faint power vibrating inside my marrow, an undischarged jolt of static electricity. A desire for a madcap dash into the unknown. In times past this has led me to make major changes in my life. Dramatic upheavals that have altered my path, pushed me in whole new directions. I don't foresee that at this time, there are too many aspects of my life that I am satisfied with. I love my little house, so won't do anything to jeopardize that. Besides, a girl's got to have a roof over her head, it might as well be my own. But all other tings are subject to change.
    I do fantasize about what it would be like to have zero responsibilities. Be able to take off at a moment's notice for an adventure, be it simple or otherwise. But then I come back to how much I do love about my life. My colorful home, my beloved family, my loyal dogs, the trees I have planted with my own hands that are bearing fruit, The Fort, the greenhouse under construction. So many things I have done to make my corner of the world be exactly what I want and need. And I have done it myself, for me, just how I want. My hermitage, my sanctuary.
    Much of my life is exactly what I could want. But there is still a need for change, a desire to alter my path, find my True Nature. I could say it is my job. The need for money that keeps me tied to the Real World. A job that, though not terrible, is still stressful, underpaid, and feels like a waste of my talents. But that comes back to not putting my little house in jeopardy. Yes, I live on the edge of poverty, but it is by choice. I chose to have less financial gain so I can devote more of my time to my own endeavors. I have made the conscious choice to put less valuable energy into the wants and needs of others, and more into my own. But what are those? What are my needs? What endeavors? Money is not the issue, except for the tool that it that makes life comfortable.
   What is it in the air that has me retreating into books of magic and fantasy?  It is not as if I expect to accomplish Great Works. It is not as if I were hoping for my Happily Ever After. Is it merely that there are so many horrible things happening in the Real World that I am escaping into the realms of fairy tales and fantasy? That does not feel right either.
    Is it because I feel like a Seeker on a Quest? Looking for my purpose, my grail? A bit of Parcival the Fool, I think. Naive, gullible, the eternal optimist? Maybe my role as Seeker has nothing to do with what lies at the end of the quest, but with the quest itself? I do find myself most content when I am seeking knowledge, even if it is just for the knowing, and not for any concrete reason. I love to search and research. Is this my Destiny? My Path? The simple need to learn of anything and everything? That still does not feel right. Close, but not quite.
    Whatever the cause, this feeling of Impending Something has been riding me like one of my demons of old. Though not quite as noisome. It does have nearly that same prescient aura that would precede a trip to the edge of the abyss, though without the feeling of impending Doom. The same, but different. Those were times of wild, manic change and growth. This feels slightly less manic and wild, but no less pressing. Another time of growth and change? A new Path to traverse? Changes that need to be made, but what are they? They invade my dreams, both waking and asleep. If I think of myself as a Seeker, I will continue to seek. Knowledge, for the sake of knowledge.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A New Endeavor

    The oppressive heat and humidity, combined with yesterday's exertions, have kept me relatively inactive today. I've been drinking iced tea and reading, mostly. But I can't let a day go by without doing something productive (other than housework). So, I opted for working at my computer. I have started on a task of intimidating magnitude. It is something I have pondered and planned for quite some time, but procrastinated because it is an intimidating endeavor. I have wanted to take the bulk of the postings on this Blog, my Random Ramblings, from the very beginning, and compile them into book form. The diary of someone fighting to find their own path through a lunatic world. As I copy and paste my earliest writings from over 5 years ago, it gives me chills despite the heat. Reading between the lines I am in awe of some of my foresight, and proud of the strength I had as I fought my way through some brutal changes. But it is taxing. Even though I won't let myself stop and read every post, I am catching enough words to make me falter occasionally. The raw emotions; fear, anger, joy, loneliness. My stubbornness and determination to forge my own life shine through on nearly every page. It is revealing, a little heart-wrenching, exhausting, and uplifting. I kind of amaze myself sometimes. I hope I have the patience to see this through, it is a bit tedious, kind of like cleaning out an attic. The attic has a lot of little treasures, and I have to keep dusting them off and getting them organized without getting too swept up in all the details. This will be grubby, sweaty work. But worth it in the end, I think.

Day of R&R

    Lethargy has set in today. Not in a bad way, per se, but in an "I deserve a rest day," kind of way. Yesterday I played hooky from work (well, actually I requested a day off and found someone willing to work my shift) and got to spend a long morning with my fellow firefighters burning down a house. Burn to Learn. Yeah, it is as fun as it sounds. There is s certain twinge of insanity involved in climbing into heavy clothing, intentionally starting a fire, playing with said fire until it finally manages to escape the attempts to tame it, then standing around in record breaking heat to watch it burn. We left the our station at 7:30 in the morning, and were back, slightly dehydrated, exhausted and pleased by 1:00 in the afternoon. By then temps outside had reached 99, which is a bit ridiculous considering that a few days ago it was 65 and raining. Welcome to Oregon's spring. This did leave me with a free afternoon to get in a 90 minute workout at the pool, a trip to a local greenhouse for plants, and home by 4:00. I figure I did enough yesterday for a whole weekend, so spending the of my time reading and chugging iced tea while outside temps soar is totally justifiable. Right? Anyway, mostly I wanted to scribble a few words so I could post a cool picture. Not my usual m.o. for my blog, but what the hell, neither is taking a day off.
(yeah, that's me on the right.... rocking the shiny new turnouts)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Plotting and Scheming

    Plotting. Scheming. Maniacally organizing my tool room. Nothing may come of it. But then again, something might. I need to figure out a path, even a meandering one, that will lead me forward. One of my biggest flaws, or most epic traits (depending on perspective) is that ideas flow so fast and free that practically bubble out of my ears. There are so many things I want to do, and yet feel like a kid in a massive toy store being told, "You can only pick one."  I know that isn't quite true. I don't have to limit myself to doing just one thing. But I do need to try to narrow it down to just a handful. I don't want to, but I get so overwhelmed by everything that I want  to do, and everything I need  to do, that sometimes all I manage to do is get in a couple of hard workouts in. No matter how scrambled Brain feels, I can always manage a workout, or two.
    I could make a list. Or lists. 'Though I've tried that before and all it does is remind me of all the things I want to do, and all the things I need to do, and still gets me no further down the path of getting shit done. Oh sure, I get plenty of stuff done. My day to day existence requires a certain amount of functionality. I workout, cook healthy foods, clean up after myself (mostly... okay, kind of half-assed cleaning anyway), feed the animals, clean up after the animals, workout again, get to bed at a not unreasonable hour, spend time with family, spend time at the fire station, and still have a few projects that are mostly done. Mostly. Here I have to insert the confession that Task Completion is not one of my stronger traits. I lay this at the feet of always having to many projects in the works, too many irons in the fire, and never enough time in a day.
    One path that must be traversed is creativity. I need to be creating things. All kinds of things. Writing, art, construction, home improvement. This is the path I wish would lead me to an alternative source of income. I would love to make a living creating Stuff.  All kinds of stuff. My fantasy would be to have half a dozen different avenues, each bringing in a bit of money. Just think, six different creative disciplines, each making a few hundred dollars a month. That's all I would need. I don't think that is asking too much of myself. That would let me be the scatterbrained artist I am inclined to be. It would give me the ability to work on what was consuming me at the moment, not what I "should be" working on. Now I just need to figure out how to get myself moving successfully down that particular path of creative freedom. Back to the plotting and scheming.

What To Do?

                        "If you do not like where you are, change it. 
                                   You are not a Tree."

     I woke up this morning with that strange unrest that hits me now and then, usually in late Winter, when I am feeling like a malcontent. Oddly, this has been a growing feeling over the last year or more. I think It came about after my Grandmother died. That set a series of changes in motion that were inevitable; weeks spent at her property cleaning through the detritus of an interesting and artistic life, time spent with my mother and aunt who have interesting lives, fantasies of the "what ifs" that revolved around the property lovingly called The Art Farm, the acquisition of so much salvaged building material, the building of The Fort with some of the aforementioned salvage. All these seemingly small things that add up to a realization that I still can't decide what I want to be when I grow up.
    I have moved through the bulk of my adult years doing whatever job I happened to get that paid tolerably well, that I was good at, and that fit around being a mother. Being a mother was the full time job that I took seriously, excelled at, and let define who I was for the better part of 20 years. I know this is typical. Get married, get pregnant, have babies, put all else on hold. Then the children grow, the marriage dissolves, and here I am with no formal education or training, a work history of what really amount to menial jobs, and to top it off; a serious lack of desire to be a paid lackey.  I hate to think I am ever typical, but can we say, "Empty Nester?" Not really. Not in the sense that I don't know what to do with myself with no kids in the house. To the contrary, I am busier than I ever have been, but something is lacking.
    I know plenty of people who think it is because I am single, and have basically remained so for a very long time. Yes, there were various relationships over the last 15 years since the dissolution of my marriage, but I haven't cohabitated with anyone other than my sons before they launched themselves onto the world. The reality is, I Love Living Alone. Really. Solitude is my dearest friend, silence being a close second. I can't even imagine having someone around that I had to talk to every day, it would drive me batshit crazy. This is one reason I am single; most guys don't get it. They do not understand that I don't want to chat every day, or text, or "hang out." It's nothing personal, but it makes men feel unnecessary, and unneeded. No one likes not being needed. So, my sense of disquiet and unrest is definitely not linked to my romantic life, or lack thereof. I am a hermit by choice.
    What I keep coming back to is "What do I want to be when I Grow Up?"  Nothing? Everything? I want to do it all, on my schedule. The other day I said, "I wish someone would pay me just to be Me." It is the truth. I am the square peg in the round hole. At work I am a rabble-rouser, voicing my jaded opinion on today's lack of respect for the working class. I feel like an old coot when I say "I remember back when good insurance was paid for by the company... when raises were available... when paid holidays were the norm..." These days every company seems to want to cut every corner possible to make a little extra profit that goes right into the pockets of the owners, never into the pocket of the underpaid over-worked employee, who is being asked to do more and more with less and less. Egads, you've got me monologuing like a cheesy super-villain.
    Back to the question: What do I want to be when I grow up? Maybe I just don't want to grow up? This question, asked when I was still in school, I always said "Veterinarian." Always. That was the dream for years. I wasn't a great enough student to make it into pre-med, and I knew it, so the dream fell to the wayside. In my late 20's I got to be a Veterinary Technician, and it was a great job, but I realized that I am too emotional. It was a heartbreaking job on so many levels. Plus, there is still the aspect of being at the mercy of an employer. In my early 20's I wanted to be a musician, and I was. Sort of. Bass player in a punk band that morphed into a rockabilly/surf band. That was fun, but I knew there was no money in it.
    One dream from my childhood that became a reality is being a Firefighter. I love it, but it is not a career. There is no money in it, it is all volunteer. The pay is in the satisfaction.... and getting to drive a Fire Engine. I am too old to make it a paying career, and would I want to? No. Go back to the reason I couldn't be a Vet Tech, too emotional. It would break my heart over time. But, I get to drive a Fire Engine, and help when and where I can.
     This all still leaves me with the question. Last year I sat in The Fort and wrote two lists:
What I Want:
Self Employment
Alternative Income
Self Reliant Home
Debt Free
Another Ironman
Train Harder

What I Need:
Moderate Income
Task Completion
Self Reliance
Spiritual Reconnect
To Write

    I am revisiting these lists. A few things have changed. Many have remained the same. Most are long term goals. Some are Lifestyle. Some are day to day challenges.
    Also, on the page with What I Need are these scribbled notes:
"Bring Art into everyday Life."
    These are all goals. Ways and means to move forward with Life. Changes. But I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Seams To The Outside

    It is a seams-on-the-outside. barefoot, silky boxers, and Pink Floyd kind of evening. When I have reached the point that seams in my clothing, wrinkles in my sock, or any fabric not satiny smooth against my skin feels abrasive, irritating, and almost-but-not-quite painful. The point when most sound becomes incomprehensible and cacophonous. In times past, this kind of mood was a prelude to a tiptoe along the edge of the abyss, a visit from my demons, a precursor to sleepless nights. Now it is the aftermath of a morning being where I don't want to be; working for someone else.
    I am not quite sure when I became incapable of working a regular job, 40 hours a week, filling the coffers for someone else. Giving away my valuable time so someone else can pursue their dream. I think it has been a gradual awakening. It began at the office job that was an emotional black hole, and a huge trigger for what I affectionately refer to as "My Nervous Breakdown." (My Mom hates that phrase, by the way). But what that job had going for it was that I was left alone in an office about 75% of the time. All alone. Key word: Alone. Yes, the other 25% was intolerable, and I felt like I was watching the clock tick away my life in a soul-sucking dead end.
    The final Awakening was when I got laid off from a job I loved. It was the understanding that as long as I was at the mercy of someone else for my paycheck and job security, that it was all just bullshit. There is no such thing as job security, you are a prisoner of  the whims of another, be that owner, manager, crazy coworker. You are at the mercy of their perception of your value, of their perception of the economy, world stability, gross national product, whatever.
    Today, after leaving work, Brain was running hamster circles on the wheel. Work has a way of raising my stress level, even though it isn't that stressful of a job. But there is a weird, underlying current of chaos that I shouldn't have to deal with at my pay grade. I won't go into the nagging details, the seemingly petty grievances. Leave it be said that it took 30 laps at the pool before Brain quieted, and another 30 before Body was released from the leaden stress that permeates my muscles some days. When I swim it is as if the cool water eventually rinses away the cloying, oily residue of work, letting Brain clear, and Spirit unclench.
    Once Brain stopped spinning its wheels, relaxed, and let the thoughts flow, I came back to the thought that haunts me: I need to stop working for someone else. I need to find a way to free myself from the bonds of servitude. There has to be a way I can make just enough money to pay the bills without prostituting myself to an employer. I don't mind a few days working with people, but I can't manage more than a few without losing my mind.
    So, here I sit, in UnderArmor boxers, my favorite running shirt that also poses as pajamas, no shoes, and Pink Floyd filling the background. I am listening to my favorite Floyd album, "Animals" and my favorite section Dogs:  "Gotta admit, that I'm a little bit confused. Sometimes it seems to me as if I'm just being used. Gotta stay awake, gotta try and shake off this creeping malaise. If I don't stand my own ground how can I find my way out of this maze. Deaf, dumb, and blind you just keep on pretending that everyone's expendable, and no one has a real friend." All the lyrics on the album are even more relevant to me today than they were 35 years ago when I first heard them. Back when I was naive in thinking how grownup I was, and before I had the understanding of the world that makes me appreciate the genius of the reality behind the words. I have listened to this particular track countless times in the last year or so, the angst of trying to find your place in a cut-throat world, in the backstabbing rat race, of being forced to either run with the pack or get chased in the flock. And besides the poignant lyrics, the guitar is infectious.  At the end of the album, when the Sheep rise up against their oppressors, "Bleating and babbling I fell on his neck with a scream. Wave upon wave of demented avengers marched cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream." ......Okay, I can tell I'm tired. Not only are my eyes dry and scratchy, but I am starting to have to suppress a giddy giggle as I think on the image these lyrics raise behind my eyelids. Enough rambling on the genius of Roger Waters, time to drag this boxer-clad ass to bed. It has been a long day, my dogs are telling me it is time for sleep. Maybe Brain will come up with a money making scheme while we sleep.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Her Legacy

    The last few weeks I have been helping with the final clean up of my grandparents' property getting it ready for the closing date of the sale. The cleanup began in February of last year, and I have been it since the beginning. The property was sizable: 30 forested acres on the foothills of the Coastal Range, with a large main house, the spacious Hill House, a pottery studio with a one bedroom apartment, plus multiple large outbuildings, all filled with Stuff. My grandparents' moved on to the property in 1972 and started building up a small artist commune on the fringe of society, and 5 miles from the closest town. There was so much stuff left from decades of artists coming and going, seminars, classes, tours, and just the lifestyle of the artists in residence. We filled three 30 yard dumpsters. Yeah, stuff.
    But until this last week it felt as if the place would always be a family place, part of my history that would always be there for me, with that familiar feel. As the closing date neared, the reality began to hit. This was not going to stay with the family, it was time to let someone else shoulder the responsibility. But the knowledge of what a physical and financial burden the property is, doesn't help me escape the "What if..." fantasies. Over the last year I have rolled so many ideas through my brain, unfortunately, the reality is that they all pretty much start with, "If I had a million dollars." That is the cold hard truth. Brain knows, Heart can't accept it.
    Now, the end is here. I didn't find a million dollars. I couldn't come up with A Plan. So the Art Farm now becomes part of the past, and is now the fantasy of a new family, strangers. I can't go and scavenge bricks. I can't wander the place finding random bits of sculpture and pottery to drag home and find a niche for. I can't dig plant starts from the massive perennial garden. I can't wander through the house, with the familiar sights and smells. The house is empty. The sculpture and pottery are mostly gone. The garden will bloom without us. The new family will bring their own decorating style, and it will no doubt suck compared to my Grandmother's eclectic awesomeness. It is time to let it all go. And it is depressing.

    I did not sleep well in the days leading up to the end. I had strange dreams and insomnia. I realized that, although it is a relief to pass on the burden, my heart is grieving the loss. I will get past it. I will nurture the plants that I brought home. I will put pottery and sculpture in my own gardens as a visible, daily reminder of Grandma and her awesomeness. I will pass her love of beautiful things to my children and grandchildren, as she did to her children and grandchildren. It is her legacy. Not the house, or the property, but the love of art and beauty, vivid colors, and that surrounding yourself with creativity and art makes for a beautiful life. That truly is her legacy. But I will miss the Art Farm.

Plan of Attack

    I realized yesterday that I have been focusing too much on what I can't do, instead of what I can, and how far I have come over the last 4 years. I have been down on myself because my fitness level isn't what it was 1-1/2 years ago when I did the 250k. Well, no shit. True, I have been having a lot of trouble with pain from injuries and arthritis, not to mention that nasty (and very painful) little bout with cellulitus that required 10 days of antibiotics. True, I've been having a lot of fatigue the last month or two that has made my motivation slip, I think part of this is residual from the infection and antibiotics. So this is me, pulling myself up by my boot straps, slapping myself upside the head, giving myself a good shake, and yelling, "Get over it!!"  Yeah, it's like that.
    I have been approaching a lot of my leg training as physical therapy in an attempt to be able to run again. This will continue, and get a bit more intense. I've been spending about 30 minutes after each swim (so, three days a week) doing leg work in the water. This has been great. I'm really trying to strengthen my hip abductors and pelvic girdle to give me more stability when I run and cycle. I have been cognizant of stretching in an attempt to loosen up my hips, to decrease my chances of more IT Band issues. I have to interject one thing here, cycling makes for tight hip flexors. I mean stiff, tight, old lady hip flexors. I also have a good, solid leg routine that I do 2-3 times a week of weights, strength training, body weight work, and plyometrics. I am adding to this routine with more stability work to try and better activate small muscles and kinetic chain. Because I don't workout enough, I need to add more. Really though, more dryland training is needed if I am ever going to be able to run at anything more than a hobble for 5K.
    I am back in the running shoe market. Damn shoes. I have some that I really love, but with chronic foot pain I think I need to add more padding than my beloved minimal shoes offer. Especially on pavement. No, I don't plan on running on pavement much, but it is a necessary evil. Even on trails I think that increasing the cushioning in my shoes won't be a bad thing. Honestly, I can't even begin to tell you just how much my feet hurt. Getting older sucks. Now I know why old people move so stiff and slow, it is because everything hurts.
     I am adding meditation to try and move past the aches and pains that are from a body well used, as well as continue a search for supplements, diet tweaks, and physical therapy to reduce the pain as much as I can. I need to be able to function, and a body that hurts doesn't want to train. You wouldn't believe the conversations I have with myself trying to convince me to work past the pain. No, I am not talking about injury pain, just the day to day discomfort that has increased considerably this year.
    That is the current plan of attack. Basically keep doing what I am doing, but do more of it. Remind myself of what I can do and how far I have come, not what my limitations are.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Wild Geese and Art Farm

    I dreamed of wild geese. Canadian Geese, to be precise. A pair, in a partially flooded field. I have no idea what it might mean. In Tai Chi there is a movement called flying wild goose, or it can be flying redtailed hawk, depending on which animal you resonate with. I had always thought it would be the hawk. These days though, I realize that maybe it is the wild goose. The goose is family oriented, very loyal, and a creature of habit. They are protective of their young and their territory.
    These days I am much more family focused than I have been. Family time is more important to me than anything. I spend what time I can with my grandchildren. I have been able to spend a lot of time this past year with my mother and aunt as we have worked to get my grandparents' property cleaned up and sold.
    Speaking of which, today was the last day that the family place is still the family's. By this time tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, the property will change hands. I have spent three days this last week making trips out there to help with final cleaning. Today was the last time I will walk the property and soak up the vibe of my history. It is a sad day for me. I am grieving quietly for the loss of a place that was more than mere property. It is the end of an era. The Art Farm is now just a part of my past, my history, memories of childhood.
    Maybe this is why I dreamed of wild geese? Family, yet transitory. The place does not make the family, since we all migrate from place to place throughout our lives. Family is not a place, it is a place in our soul. No matter where we go, as long as we have a soul, we have our family. But I will still miss the Art Farm.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


    There is no doubt that I am at my most creative when I am at my darkest. I know this is true for most creative people. Pain, anguish, mania, and anger feed creative energy. The birthing process is painful, bloody, and exhausting. The closer I get to finding mental and spiritual clarity, the more difficult it is to find those brilliant bursts of mania fueled scribbles. Those moments when the words flow at lightening speed, when my fingers can barely keep pace. I look back on my writing from several years ago an am frankly amazed at the gush of witticism that spewed forth from my brain. I would not go back to that mindset if you paid me though. I had plunged into an abyss, writing was very often my lifeline to the light.
     My Grandmother was a brilliant and prolific painter. After her death we were preparing for a sale and showing of her work. I mentioned to my Mom that the volume of work was staggering. My Mom replied, "Because there was a lot of anger there." We hate to think of our beloved, benevolent, serene elders in such a light. But you can see it in her paintings if you look; the bold brush work, deep dark colors, red predominant. Later in life she did a series of fantastic abstract women. For my Grandmother maybe was a lifetime of feeling caged by her generation, and shackled to aspects of life that were too banal. Or that she got her start later in life. But that is sheer speculation on my part. I do not say any of this to disparage her, or anyone else. It is just a fact, and a common truth among artists. Creativity so often comes from suffering.
    Now, my dilemma is to find a way to create from a place of peace and calm, instead of turbulence and anxiety. A year ago I came to the realization that I needed to work towards harmony and a spiritual reconnection within myself. I wrote a list of list of Needs. Top on the list were: Self Reliance; Independence; Solitude; Spiritual Reconnect; Harmony; Health; To Write. A simple list, but not so simple an achievement. But I move closer with the passing of time. I keep these thoughts at the forefront of my actions. I think on what I am doing, where I am, where I am going, and if it is moving me towards my Needs. With this comes the need to pay the Piper, the loss of my Mania and Melancholy that has been such a source of energy for me. I have to find a way to tap into alternate, healthy energy sources so I can feed my fire without burning myself into an empty hull.
    The price of creation can be high. But I know there is a way to let that payment feed back into my spirit. I just have to find it and tap into it. That is my path. That is the way I must follow. I will follow the light, and let it feed my spirit.

Safe Haven

    I avoid writing about being alone. I think about it quite a bit, but steer clear of putting the words in print. Don't get me wrong, I am rarely ever lonely. Once in a while, for maybe an evening I will regret not having someone in the house with me, in my bed, there for breakfast. But the feeling is fleeting.
    When I think of being alone, it is in a pragmatic way. The thought that I might be alone the rest of my days, while a tad unnerving, isn't depressing. Instead it is more about planning for my future and how I will manage when I am older. I think that is a driving force behind people wanting to be in relationships as they get older; they do not want to grow old alone. Many people are afraid of being alone. I watch my mother, who is 75 and single for almost half her life, go about her independent life, and I sometimes wish she had a partner to help her at least with the heavy lifting. But she is happy, and loves her life. So who am I to wish otherwise for her? I watch her and see myself in 20 years: independent, happy, strong, assured. Then I look at the ten years after that and know that at some point she will come to live with me.
    Where does this train of thought lead? That I need to be working towards turning my little corner of the world into something more akin to a commune. I used to joke about it, and some friends will remember the term "Women's Country." I have espoused the notion of a piece of land, large enough to support multiple small cabins, with one large community building, a community garden, shared responsibilities among a small, tight knit group of friends (most likely single women). This has been a fantasy of mine for most of my life. It has evolved from an idea of an artist commune to something more practical. Now, I look at my little piece of land and know just how much more I could do with it.
    The building of The Fort was the first step. My 200 square foot studio space that I created from a shabby storage shed. It lit a fire under me to build a second space, a cabin or guest house. I loathe to say the over-used term "Tiny House" but that is what it would be. I have loved small, single room spaces for my entire life. Three decades ago I clipped an article from Country Living magazine that had a photo spread on several turn of the century single room cabins. Glorious little homes, with wood stoves, porches, ship-lap siding, and the architectural stylings of an 1890's farmhouse. I craved one with every fiber of my being. But the idea of raising a family in something so small dimmed the fire for the time being. I never stopped looking at small structures. From A-frame ski retreats to tiny log cabins to Victorian wash houses and maid's quarters, they are all fascinating to me.
    Okay, I am rambling. Back to the gist of today's pondering. Now, having scaled my idea of a commune back a notch or two, with the knowledge that I will not likely ever own a large tract of land, I look at my own property. True, it is just under half an acre. But a hell of a lot can be done on half an acre. The spot I have chosen for the new micro house is by the apple trees. It is a clear, level stretch of ground that is not really in use for anything but shady lawn and a place to hang my hammock in the summer. It is the same area I will build my brick bread and pizza oven this summer. A guest house, or my own retreat. I have thought it could be my own home while I let someone else rent my house, or a place for a kindred spirit to share a Fried Green Tomatoes friendship.
     With a bit more living space, a bit less clutter, and a lot more specific use of land for planting, I am slowly progressing towards my own commune. Start small and build. Add more grape vines, fruit trees, berries, a small wind turbine, a greenhouse, and potting shed.
    I may remain single the rest of my days, if I so choose. But I will make my home my safe haven.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Annual Birthday Assessment

    This is intended as my birthday post, I'm a wee bit late, as I seem to be time warping this month, and am amazed that February is more than half over already. About a decade ago, I've lost track of exactly when, I made a vow to myself that every year on my birthday I would be healthier than I was the previous year. The more years that pass, the more difficult this becomes. Not because I am losing the desire, or slacking, or throwing in the towel. To the contrary, it is because I am damned healthy, and the fitter I get, the smaller the gains are. I keep tweaking my life and lifestyle, dialing it in, seeking perfection, always aiming high.
    I will start with the physical aspects. This year one of the easiest, most visible gains has been in the swimming pool. I know, it just goes to show what a jock I am. I have been increasing my swim fitness to a level higher than it was at my peak for the 5k swim of my long triathlon. I'm easily swimming 2+ miles every time I am at the pool, which is at least 3 times a week. On my birthday I cut it short, aiming for 1-1/2 miles so I could get to dinner with my boys and their families. I swam that 1-1/2 at a goodly pace, Olympic distance Tri pace, and it felt good. As I climbed out of the pool I realized that 1-1/2 miles = 54 laps, on my 54th birthday. Accidental though it was it seemed appropriate. Today I hit the pool and went for steady rate distance, getting in 100 laps in 1 hour 40 minutes. Not too shabby. One goal this year is to swim the Portland Bridge Swim: 11 miles down the Willamette River. I have a lot of training to do. One benefit is that swimming hard lets me eat damned near as much as I want.
    I am being consistent with my triathlon training, despite not being able to run for a while due to injuries, and what seems to be the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in several joints in my feet (those bastards hurt like hell, by the way). But, I am religiously keeping up with strength training and plyometrics, in conjunction with cycling workouts at least 5 times a week. My current weight is hovering around 162, which has been my happy weight now for almost 2 years. Oddly, I am at the same weight I was in highschool. at 5'10" this gives me a BMI of 23, which is considered "normal." One of the few times I like being called normal.
    I will say, this last year my arthritis has reared its ugly head more and more. Hands, elbows, ankles, and feet being the most noticeable targets. I still avoid pain meds for the most part, just popping the rare Nsaid if something is really hurting. I notice that there is a weird ache that lives in the long bones of my arms, especially along the full length of the ulna. The same weird ache lives along both collar bones and likes to remind me of it when I swim. I do look at other people and wonder what it would be like to live relatively pain-free. But it is a reminder of a life well lived, I think. And as long as I can manage it with nutrition and exercise I plan on doing what I do until I'm 100 or so.
    One key in much of what I have been yammering about has been the continual tweaking of my diet. Honestly, I hate the word "diet" as it always conjures up images of proscribed foods and gimmicky fads. I have been vegetarian now for about 2 years. In the few years before that I was rarely eating meat. I am mostly dairy free, cheese being the only exception. I rarely eat wheat, avoid all processed foods, and consider high fructose corn syrup to be the devil incarnate. My original reasons for giving up wheat and meat was quite simply to attempt to get my joint inflammation under control. It seems to help, and it has rid me of the chronic heartburn I had for 20 years.
   The one thing that has me most pleased this year is that I am free of all prescription meds. I had kicked the anti-depressants to the curb over a year ago, but was still reliant on a sleep aid. Honestly, I think this is the best sign of continued great health that I could have. Yes, being fit, strong, slender, and might I say, sexy, is all good an well, but feeling of sound mind is far better. It is a gift to feel stable, relaxed, and confident. Of course there are days when I let the lunatic out into the sunlight, but now she is more of a Muse, a companion, and half of the balance of light and dark, Yin and Yang.
    This last year I have built some cool shit, had some fun, damn near wrecked myself on a trail run, gimped through the summer, enjoyed my life as it is, made plans to keep increasing the pleasure of my life, added to the value of my home, set goals both small and large. I have built a solid foundation of health and wellness in all aspects of my life, and I aim to keep building, bit by bit. I can only imagine where I will be this time next year.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


"The Planet does not need more successful people. The Planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, story tellers, and lovers of all kinds." ~Dalai Lama~

    I have come to the realization that "successful" is a relative term. I have known it for a long time, but only recently been able to come to terms with it within my own life. College? Career? Wealth? The big house, fancy car, designer wardrobe? In our material world of conspicuous consumption, where degrees, career, and wealth are worn like a badge of honor, and the key to the hanging with the popular kids, I shy from these as if they were a venomous snake.
    It hasn't always been the case. There have been many times that I felt the tug of envy and desire. Thinking how much easier life would be if money was never an issue. Not feeling a twinge of embarrassment at my beat-up, third hand car when parked next to the latest and greatest shiny new thing. Seeing the big house, with tidy yard, and knowing that the residents never have to crawl under their own home to try and fix a leaky pipe. They just hire a plumber, and money is no object.
    A few years back, at a cocktail party of all things, I was asked several times, "So, what is your degree in?" And had to fight the desire to punch them in the face and say, "Hard knocks." I left feeling angry, bitter, resentful, and ashamed that it seemed so important to this room full of people, all with degrees and "successful" careers by the way, what university I did or did not attend, and what I had decided to be when I grew up. At that moment it made me feel as if I was seen as trying to move into a social sphere in which I did not belong. Or as I put it at the time, "A blue collar girl in a white collar world... the girl from the wrong side of the tracks." In retrospect, I choose to think that my obvious intelligence and wit made them assume that I had a high level of what they would consider a proper education. Ha ha. Fooled them. I am just naturally wicked smart and hilariously funny. Now I can see it. Now I don't care that I don't have a degree, or what would be considered a proper career. Now I appreciate my vast and weird knowledge, my intuition, and natural gifts.
    I won't lie, I still feel the pressure of lack of funds, frequently. But instead of envy when I see that shiny, big car I feel the smug satisfaction of my fuel efficient, hippie chick, old Honda Civic with the half-Ironman sticker and uber-geeky bumper sticker. When I see the big house I think "big mortgage," and feel pride in my handyman skills and low monthly payment. I see the wealth in the stacks of reclaimed and salvaged building materials in my yard.
    I am content with my life, as atypical and anti-establishment as it is. I am not defined by what so many see as "success." I am not a career, wealth, college degree. I create with my mind, build with my hands, heal with my heart. I am a Dreamer, Artist, Writer, Empath, Healer, Peacemaker. Mother, Grandmother, Treehugging Hippiechick Hedgewitch. We need more people in the world that understand the true meaning of Success.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Winter Quirks

    I have a secret to share. It is an interesting quirk about my winter weirdness. Every winter I develop some random OCD issue. Something I am never really aware of until it has been going on for several months. Four years back it was taking my own bags to the grocery store. I would have a full on meltdown, tear inducing anxiety attack if I didn't have my own bags. That was a particularly difficult winter, by the way. One winter it was an aversion to water.
    This year it is nothing quite so dramatic. I have a shirt, an old shirt, one of my favorite cold weather race shirts. It has developed into somewhat of a security blanket it would seem. I sleep in it every night. I wear it most days that I am not at work. I am wearing it right now. I make sure to wash it when I am working out, so I can be distracted from the fact that I don't have The Shirt on. It is a winter wear Champion brand running shirt. Silky, not too snug but form fitting, has the little thumb holes on the extra long sleeves. It doesn't have tags, I make no secret that I cut the tags out of all my clothes, but this shirt never had them to begin with. I paid about $5 for it at Value Village 4 years ago or so, and have looked for another every since. I love this shirt. It is very often the base layer under whatever other shirt I decide to wear.  I don't wear it to work very often, but I put it on as soon as I get home. I pack it in my swim bag so I can slip into it after a swim. I don't wear it for workouts, but as soon as I am done I am snuggled back into the shirt. It is like a cocoon, or armor. It shields me from discomfort, anxiety, the cold. It is this winter's OCD focus. Not bad, compared to past winters.
    I make no secret that I am a creature of habit. Habits so strong that they border on compulsion. I pack the same thing for lunch nearly every day that I work, and have done so for years. The foods have changed over the years since my dietary restrictions and needs have changed as well. I eat a well rounded diet, but it tends to take the form of very specific foods. Every night I drink a cup of herbal tea. I have the same routine every morning and every night, almost to a tee. I always put on my left sock and left shoe first. Always. I put in my left earring first, and if I don't I can't manage to get the right one into the hole.
    I have learned to make habit work for me in some areas. Especially in fitness and nutrition. I workout largely because it is a deeply ingrained habit. I have worked out regularly in one form or another, nearly every day for the last 20 years. The older I get, the stronger my habits become. I think that if I were ever to develop dementia I would continue on with my habits because my body is so tied to them it doesn't need my brain very much.
    So, habit or obsession. Quirk or compulsion. Every winter the need is a bit stronger and deeper. The more I understand myself the more I can look at it with humor, and the less dramatic it all seems. For this winter I have my favorite shirt, like Linus with his blanket, that keeps me sheltered from the darkness of winter. I love my shirt.