Friday, March 8, 2013

Integration? Dual posting? What?

I'm integrating this blog with my other blog - I have too many bits and pieces of me floating around, LOL! It can be found here:

Trying to write regularly at two places, when keeping up with one is often neglected, seems silly.

Maybe I should consider dual postings? What do y'all think?


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Plans, they are made for changing...

It's been a long and internally argumentative couple of months. The worst darn arguments are the ones with myself - I can never win no matter what side I take :)

After the measly return on the SUV sale, I had to sit down and do some real soul-searching. Being mechanically inept, there is no way I could save enough money to acquire a solid mechanical RV that I would also have reasonable space to live in. Oh yes, it's possible that if I spent every non-working waking moment that I might happen upon "the" deal online somewhere. As an experienced dream-chaser, I realize that activity could consume the next few months of my life and then at the end I may still not have what I needed vehicle-wise and cash-wise. My nine-month plan is now a two to three year plan, in order to pay off debt, set aside a reserve and be able to afford to pay cash for a decent and mechanically sound RV that I will be confident about when I finally do get to drive off into the wild blue yonder.

I'm still paying the mortgage on my farm, my primary residence, and that won't end until sometime early next year. So I sat down and made plan number 4,289. If I have to be here in the Sunshine State, and I have some things to accomplish while I am here, where did I want to live while doing it? What could I afford now that would also help me accomplish my goals of RV living a few years down the road? Off I went in search of low-cost Nirvana, and, with any luck, I have found it. A little studio with all utilities in a sleepy, artsy, bike and dog friendly old-style beach town. Yes, it's a bit long of a drive to work, but it is manageable in the little new gas sipping vehicle. It's close to the library, parks, and should my budget allow for it, several restaurants and sea-side pubs. There's a nice public beach with showers and picnic tables, and even a couple of playgrounds for the grandkids to use if they mosey on down with their parents. I did some figgerin' and with a few good sales of excess 'stuff' I could afford to live while I wait for the farm sale.

This decision entailed heading back to the farm to orchestrate the fund raiser. I took the first real vacation I've taken in some while (layoffs really don't count because you're too wrapped up in finding another job to really enjoy them!) My little farm welcomed me in and of course, broke my heart. There is just no way to give up what you thought would be your 'forever' home without losing a little piece of yourself. Thanks to some infinitely thoughtful neighbors, the property is mowed regularly and she sat there on the curve of the road looking as beautiful as she did the day I first fell in love with her. I confess, I spent the first two days crying and railing against the inequity of it all. I had a small pity party. Then I got to work. I culled the big things that I would no longer need with my change of lifestyle, be it studio living or RV living. I sold all of my 'farm' accoutrements and got a fair dollar for them. Then I went through the house and focused on furniture that I no longer needed nor could haul back down in a Honda Fit. I sold two bedroom suits, end tables, and an armoire. Then back to the outside, where I sold my dog kennel and some power tools. After those irreversible deeds were done came the fun part of 'what do I NEED' to cram in the Honda? That turned out to be simpler than I thought. But boy, do I have a lot of sh!t!! I still have a half of a basement to go through before the sale concludes, not to mention the remaining furniture and housewares. There is still a lot of work to do, but I'll be returning to work remotely from the farm in late fall, and will remain until the closing so there will be cold evenings and brisk mornings in which to get that accomplished if all things follow suit as I hope they will.

Since my husband died, it seems my life has been comprised of a lot of loss on top of loss. Sometimes I feel like one of those boxing clowns from my childhood, made of plastic that had a sand weighted bottom, and when you whopped it a good one, it laid nearly to the ground but would slowly return to upright position. If the whallop is a good one, it takes me a little longer to return to the upright position. But so far, thankfully, I've always returned upright.

This week, as the buyers examine the property and my home, I have a ball of emotions rattling around inside of me, threatening to choke me. Pride about the beauty of my little farmstead. Failure to complete what I started. Sadness to let yet one more thing that connected me and my husband go. Anger that my job changed its stance after six years on remote workers causing me to face this dilemma. Fear about starting all over, yet again. Jealousy that others have the time and money to do with the property what I could not do. And yes, even a tiny bit of relief that all of that care-taking and fretting about repairs and maintenance won't rest solely on my sometime incompetent shoulders. When tears have managed to overwhelm me at various times, I've tried to think of all of the people on this planet that never even had a home, and to be thankful that I had a little piece of pure joy to live on. I've tried to remember how many people have not had a job in months, or in some cases, over a year and to be thankful that I've been allowed to romp across the country, trying on places for size, and still be gainfully employed most of the time. I think of all of the people stuck in urban blight that have never smelled newly mown hay, never watched deer in their yard at a hundred paces, never watched a family of young turkeys pass through the morning sunlight, never had barred owls hunt in their lawn, never seen the rise of thousands of fireflies into the sky at dusk - all memories that I have that only time can steal from my internal camera.

And the conclusion that I have come to is this: When you have a lot, there is a lot at risk. I've had an awful lot over my lifetime - love, health, wealth, intense happiness, healthy children and grandchildren, but most of all - great personal satisfaction. So I choose to be thankful of what I did and do have, and try to press on.

To quote an aging songwriter..."There I go. Turn the page."


Sunday, April 29, 2012

On Cars, Culture and Aging Gracefully

So this past week I took the first step to begin simplifying my life and down-sizing a bit. You learn a lot about yourself when you car shop if you're paying attention (smirk)

My goal was to trade in my SUV, take the cash, and buy used, since all the online guides told me my vehicle was worth decent cash. Lies. All lies. Yes, because it was 0 percent finance, for once in my life I actually had some equity. But when gas is kissing 4.00 a gallon, SUV's aren't the vehicles flying off the lots - everyone is unloading them and taking home little baby cars. And that was my first purchase - a 2007 Mini Cooper S. After my initial let-down on a cash buy, I asked to see the cheapest vehicle on the lot. We never made it there, as a nice pick-up caught my eye, then a plain white van (both over priced in my opinion) and we circled back to the front. There they were, the Mini's. In a neat little row, small, low to the ground and, well, cough, cute as hell. I sidled up to one and whew, it was a stick. Saved! But oh no, there was the cutest one, in British Racing Green Metallic, that was an automatic. And this one sported the lowest price. Hrm. The test drive ensued during which I learned of the awesome gas mileage, the great suspension,high quality craftsmanship, etc. After the gymnastics of finance, managers in and out of the office, and learning about the three for free drive opportunity, I bought it. Now, transferring the contents of an SUV into a Mini is um, a learning opportunity. I recently helped my daughter move and still had some of her things in there. Tools, books, CD's, cloth shopping bags, a comforter set my mom recently recycled to me and a tricycle for my grandson. Hey, I didn't go there to BUY a car, just to see what mine would sell for. First lesson here - I carry around way too much crap in my vehicle. Second lesson - cars are like puppies, RUN AWAY. This cute, responsive, purring little driving machine came with a total cost of ownership that a middling income person like me should never attempt, especially when I'm trying to simplify. Special oil. Premium gas. A history of breakdowns with scarily high costs once the warranty evaporated. One good research online proved to me that I really couldn't afford this car. And I haven't even mentioned the disturbing fact that I, a previously responsible, no ticket driver, apparently have an alter ego lurking inside of me that only expresses itself when sitting in the driver's seat of a small performance vehicle that idles at just the right vibratory purr to make me think I have relatives in the Andretti family or something. What the heck??? Yes, that little car was a hot sexy mess and would get me in trouble probably in more ways than one. So back it went and I retrieved my sedate SUV. Whew.

In the interim, I got credit approval at my credit union, and sat down and actually thought out the criteria that matters for a replacement vehicle . Sexy, exhilarating and sporty did not make that list. Fuel efficiency, ease of repair, tow capability and reliability did make the list. I ended up with a little 2008 Honda Fit with only 20K miles, a bumper to bumper warranty for the next 80K miles, flat tow capable, a vastly lower insurance and monthly payment cost and incredible gas savings. These are all things that will complement the move toward my real life. Third lesson - for heaven's sake don't impulse buy a car. And if you do, TAKE IT BACK. They really don't shoot you when you return it. Not even in the foot or somewhere non-life threatening. Even if you go elsewhere to make your final purchase. Trust me.

Fourth lesson - I am spoiled in ways that I have no idea I am spoiled in. My SUV had auto headlights, heated leather seats, sound system controls on the steering wheel,remote start and other little nifty gadgets. Wow, I miss them. Huh? I wasn't even conscious of the fact that I used them so much. I wasn't really aware that many cars don't include those things. I mean, yes, I was AWARE but never gave it much thought before. I didn't drive a Cayenne or an Escalade, just a Saturn Vue. It met our needs when we lived in the mountains and in remote areas with occasional inclement weather. It hauled a LOT with its fabulous tow package and AWD. The cargo space trucked big dogs in cages, hundreds of pounds of dirt and more hay bales than I ever expected. But no doubt, it was a luxury vehicle and I took that luxury for granted. I'm learning that I take a lot for granted. That is sobering. It makes me wonder how much I really know myself.

When my husband died suddenly, I moved to a very remote area and lived alone for the first time in twenty seven years. I hauled wood, learned to make a fire, ran a chain saw, wrangled a weed eater, drove my first riding lawn mower, and learned a lot about who I was inside. I battled ticks, wasps and field mice. I killed my own snakes when I had to. Got hit by tornadoes. I discovered weather radios, below zero weather and emergency preparations. I had a clear picture, I thought, of what kind of stuff I am made of. Yes, I can rise to the occasion when called to do so. Now that I've had to move back to the city to earn a living and spent nearly a year under the barrage of that mind set, I worry I've lost the person I had become. I feel the fear that followed me around on the farm the first six months hovering again over my shoulder as I work towards this mobile lifestyle. Our culture promotes things getting easier and more comfortable as we age. The fact that everything we could need is within a fifteen minute drive and that we are protected behind a gate with a guard is a siren song to the over fifty crowd. You can be near more stuff to buy while someone else protects your stuff you already own! Adventure is sold as a comfort-wrapped cruise to somewhere else rugged.

Which brings me to culture and aging gracefully. Our culture teaches me that I should start relaxing now, and defines that for me. Why do I feel the need to kick against that cultural imposition? What is driving me to shuck off a stressful but moderately financially beneficial job and throw myself out there to do something completely different without all the 'luxuries' like 401K, insurance and a retirement luncheon? What will my response be to that lack? How will I handle the possibility of at the end of a six month tour with a campground, not having any place to work next? And that's considering I can translate my life experiences into something a campground will find fitting for them in the first place! Thinking ahead to advanced aging, seventy and beyond, how will this lifestyle impact that? While there may be exceptional eighty year olds still driving cross country to Quartzsite that make the news clips, what is the reality going to be? When I am ready to find a partner, will I be more successful on the road than staying put in one place? Will my mobility be a blessing or a problem when taking care of aging parents falls on my shoulders?

The reality is that you just can't plan for everything, because as a friend once told me, the unplanned happens when you're busy making plans. You can only move forward, think, but not too much, and work with what happens. And that dear readers, is aging gracefully.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gimme some cheese with my whine, yeah?

I'm not a whiner. I hate it. Listening to it especially. But lately I've experienced my own inner whine. It's annoying, rather like that lone mosquito that somehow gets into the room and circles your head like a buzzard lookin' for a roadside snack...drives you nuts! I usually suck it up when I'm feeling whiny. Give myself a good talkin' to on the inside. It sounds about like this:
Whiny-self: This (insert issue here) SUCKS!
Bootstrap-self: Shhhh. There are lots of positive things going on, suck it up and move on girl.
Whiny-self: But, but..I'm (insert adjective here: frustrated, broke, angry, etc.)
Bootstrap-self: So whatchya gonna DO about it, besides whine?

And that's usually followed by a big sigh and some kind of action. I have a noisy and very active mind, with some kind of internal conversation occurring most of my waking hours. I use positive thinking, reality checks and the like all of the time to keep things moving forward. But there are simply times that I think you have to vent. Getit off your chest. Express it, and then move on. Otherwise it builds up inside and just hangs around there waiting to manifest in the health of your body or your mind, or maybe both.

I have been really wrestling with what type of set up I should pursue for my full-time living rig. The reality is that right now, I'm not a trailer-towing kind of gal. I don't want to add to the learning curve of nomadic living the additional lessons of towing in wind, sway bars, trailer brakes and whatnot. Right now, that's simply too much for me to change at one time. Part of my new attitude is accepting that hey, maybe I can only do so much at a time, and choosing my battles conserves mental and physical energy. Because I've been up in the air about what combo of vehicles, trailers or bikes to buy, I've done the big 'nothing'. Paralysis by analysis. So today I am going out to find the actual worth of my SUV and begin to make actual decisions.

The hammering of the stress of my job has really made me hit the ads regarding workamping. Can I do it sooner? Am I fooling myself that changing my living arrangements and job structure will simply trade one set of stressors for another? The reality is that I'd like to go hang out with someone who is doing it, and see for myself what it really is like. I know that hosting in a national forest will be vastly different than hosting or working in an RV park setting. And I realize there are jerky asinine people that also camp, they are not just confined to the big business world or on the road next to me swearing, cutting into traffic and flipping people off. I have mused over the snakes, coons, spiders and frogs, along with ticks and skeeters, that will be some of the natural inhabitants of the new way of life. I've thought about the thoughtlessness of people when they are staying in a place not theirs, and the types that will care how they leave a place and the types that will not, and will use the outdoors as their personal cesspool just as they would their own places. The big picture is that there is no nirvana that I can drive towards that will solve every problem. Yes, I might can recharge under the stars between jobs with just the wind and the creation as my companions, but everywhere I go there will be people of all types and attitudes. The only constant I have control over is how I react and interact with them, and how much of their negativity I keep with me or let go and ignore. So yeah, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" is back on the table as the reality check.

Thanks for dropping by and reading. If you're interested in the former life I wrote about, you can check it out here:>


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Work - Life - Balance

Nearly ten years ago I walked away from the Fortune 100 corporate environment in technology to follow love and dreams. Started my own business with the thought that I'd have more time for real life activities...ha! Circumstances altered that path and for a while, after starting over in another state, I worked multiple temporary part-time jobs in other arenas besides the one that I cut my corporate teeth in. But the technology sector was where I knew my strengths and soon I was back in that field, but in a much smaller company. I thought the smaller size might make it more tolerable, might give me more satisfaction. I will say that being in a company where the owner walks up to your desk and asks how things are going does make a big difference. Talk about pressure! In the larger corporate environments, you are but a cog in a wheel - perhaps a well-paid cog, but people can come and go and not much changes. Not so in a tiny company. That lesson was hammered home again this week when our only qualified full-time Project Manager was abruptly fired for a conference call statement made in a moment of unthinking - a statement that cost the company a very large project and a big chunk of the projected revenue for the year. Now, in addition to my regular workload, I have inherited management of one of the projects as well. Hello twelve-hour work days without a lunch. Welcome back stress, someone I've been trying to avoid. Oh, and I have a few confessions to make: I like to do a good job. Quality is important to me. I have high personal standards and I expect others to have the same. I know people make mistakes, so when a mistake is made, admit it, own it and fix it. In these economic hard times, being employed is a gift in my opinion. I know so many that are not employed. I try to treat my employment with value; even though I seek to leave it in the near future I intend to do a good job until I do so.

And therein is the rub. For the short-term, I can handle this additional workload even though it comes at a cost - less time, more stress, more responsibility, less dollar-per-hour earnings (salaried workers don't get overtime). But how long do I give it? I figure it will take thirty days to locate, interview and hire a new PM.

LOL. I started this post back on February 29th. Needless to say, the 12 hour days turned into 14 hours or more, no lunches, working on Sundays and a complete aversion to computers once my work day was finally complete. I have a new thankfulness for Shabbat – a day I am commanded not to work. I was asked to put off my vacation plans and did so. Therefore, no trip to the farm to weed out items to sell or to keep and store, no time to revel in the spring in the countryside, no photo journal opportunities….and there still isn’t a PM hired (although I did apply for the position).

In the interim, I’ve turned fifty. Eldest Child turned twenty-four. Days have blurred together until I finally admitted that I. Can’t. Do. It. All. So contrary to my nature, I took bill-paying monies and popped for a two-night stay on the beach with Eldest Child to celebrate both of our birthdays. It was great. I buried myself in “The Hunger Games” trilogy (via my Kindle app on Android), lolled in the sun (and got burned), walked on the beach, and visited small amounts of my favorite Tequila, Tarantula Azul. It was heavenly. I also did a lot of thinking. I met some folks who frequent RV sites for the summer since they are retired. Learned of some awesome places up north that I’d love to spend some time workamping. But I have had absolutely zero time to even DREAM of my dream, much less put any active work effort towards implementing my REAL LIFE.

There are some benefits to being in Florida in the spring time. There are the gorgeous sunsets and huge, golden full moons. There are the opportunities (even if untaken) of fabulous star views above the gently splashing waves. The gentle scents of plumeria that make walking the dog just before bed a delightful sensory experience. New sand hill crane fledglings, rather like ducklings on stilts.

But spring in Florida also colors me with sadness and longing for my dead husband. It was our time of year to snatch up ‘local’ places for a weekend and take moonlit strolls on the beach; to spend countless hours looking for my favorite shells; to sit on a balcony with a cocktail and people-watch, making up stories of who they were or why they were here. Spring and fall are the two seasons that make the lack of a partner a painful thing, the awakening and the tucking in times of the earth.

However, I am not certain that I will ever consider a partner again. I simply don’t trust people any more. People seem unable to just be. Unable to just be themselves rather than a hyped-up version. Unable to just sit, and be still. And I feel disconnected from others because my lifestyle dreams, desires, eating habits, beliefs…are all so out of step with what is taken for ‘normal’ these days. Should I ever get to the point that I consider a partnership, I can’t even begin to fathom where I’d look, or where I would find the energy to burrow into someone’s mind to get to know their dreams, their desires, their passions. So, like other things, this thought just simmers on the back burner. I guess I just don’t want it to go unattended, like a simmering pot that suddenly burns dry and turns acrid and has to be tossed out.

I don’t want that to be me.

Fifty doesn’t seem to feel older; but I do hope that it begins to feel wiser. I want to regain the one thing that is mine, and that is time and space to care for me. This post is the beginning of that attempt, once more.

Have some matzo brie over a camp stove, and kick back for me.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Champagne taste on a water bottle budget...

Sunday was a very fun day.  A full-timer met me at the LazyDays showplace for a little knocking around, education and temptation.  Whooooeee.  I insisted on only canvassing the used area, thinking I would be safe.  Oh hell no.  I ooohhed and ahhhed over all the buttery leather trimmings, beautiful cherry cabinetry, finely wrought multi-toned flooring...and immediately forgot all of the goals that are driving this change.  Those little things like, oh you know, wanting to be DEBT FREE, lower my costs so that I can live instead of working all of the time, get myself out of the place where others are the primary drivers of my life-those things that are truly important.  By the time I left the lot three hours later, I was already calculatin' in mah head just how I could wrangle those payments.

Thankfully, after about 24 hours away from the formaldehyde fumes and the glitzy glam rigs, my pragmatism returned.  And my dearest and best friends waited it out before yammering at me about how ahem, things like buying to unwise limits got me into this fine predicament. They didn't even have to yell at me at all - which is a vast improvement over the last few years on my own.

So now I have some framework for what size living quarters I think I could handle, provided there is some outdoor space to relieve the friction of a small living. I know where I think I would like things positioned for full-time living in a rig for the time being.  From what others have explained, most likely that will change some after a time and I'll learn to change or to make changes.

I've done some smarter calculatin' and I believe with some well-timed decisions I can actually be debt-free by January 2013 and have my rig as well, paid for in cash. Nope, it won't be an Isata or the like, although I do admire their designs.  Most likely it won't be an Aspect either, although they have a very user-friendly floor plan.

It is hard for me to be patient.  But I know that there will always be rigs for sale at good prices.  All of them will not sell before I get my ducks all in a row (even if I have to keep reminding myself of these facts).  I've also turned my thoughts back to a towing vehicle and trailer.  There are more moderately priced options in that category.

It is difficult to change the way you make decisions.  Slick brochures and encouraging salespeople count on you to be swept up in the moment.  The ability to focus on what one truly needs can get lost in all of the hype.  I'm hoping that this baby step will lead to more and larger steps in the right direction.  For today, I am proud of myself.

Be well.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Personality Quirks

Well, I am so delighted to discover that the feeling I've had for most of my life, that 'alien other' thing, is related to a personality type!  Apparently we INFJ types are only 1-4% of the population, depending on which expert is expounding on the topic.  Whew, saves me from therapy costs.  The reason I feel out of kilter with others most of the time is simply because I AM out of kilter with others.  For years I have jokingly said that not only am I marching to a different drummer, but that drummer is in another band entirely and may even be on another field, coming to a  town near you...

I'm also feeling another load lifting; the load of  self disappointment and personal failure from having suffered writing-interruptus disease.  I wrote another blog for a short time and then I just quit. Part of that was due to the actual grief of my husband's death catching up with me and sitting smack on me. Depression has never been an acknowledged part of my internal make up. In fact, it took others pointing it out to me, so unfamiliar was the experience. I've actually been called 'Pollyanna' or 'the Eternal Optimist' by friends and family. There are worse name-calling experiences out there, so I'll keep these.

The other part of it was, well, I'm not sure yet. Fear? Lack of time? Procrastination?   I'm still working through this in my head (that's the place INTJ's spend the majority of our time anyway.)   Whatever it is or was, I accept that I stopped and started, then just stopped.  I accept that it may happen again  in the future.  It is difficult at times to both narrate life and to live it as well.  Sometimes the living gets in the way of the narrating.  The interesting thing is that I also stopped writing in my personal journals.  Hah!  Surprised are you, that one is writing for the world and also writing for self?  I'm not sure if other INTJ's maintain the constant conversations in their heads or not, but I have to write mine down to lower the level of noise banging around in there. Many days I probably would wear a "tilt" sign on my head were I a pinball machine instead of a person.

There is another burden that I am working through at this time, and that is yet another death.  The death of the dream of Sunflower Solace Farm.  Admittedly, it was a super-sized dream that I fully intended to manage in a bite-sized fashion, over years of time. The farm dream was long in the  mindscape in my head.  But the trigger, the sudden unexpected death of my husband and the mental inability to remain in the home where he died shot me out into the next stage of the dream very prematurely. So while my logical brain understands that decisions made under extreme circumstances will often fail, the striving emotional part of me is really struggling to come to grips with walking away from the place where my soul found solace, beauty and strength after the pain.

And then to top it off, there is the whole issue of learning to live with the pain of loss and the acceptance that it has changed who I am and how I perceive myself, as well as how I interact with others. I need some flux to weld the two forms of my life together so that I can continue to move forward.

Be well all.