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Archive for the ‘Career changes’ Category

This post is long overdue.  I started a draft many weeks ago titled “Countdown to Kentucky,” but gave up on finishing it when I had to throw my countdown calendar out the window and resign myself to being here in suburbia much longer than I’d planned, when it became apparent the final projects were progressing more s-l-o-w-l-y than originally allowed for.  As usual, I underestimated the time and energy needed for several of the most complex, labor-intensive portions.  How does anyone know how long a certain job will take from start to finish?  All we can do is throw a dart on the wall and aim for it, which is what I did.  So I aimed too low.

I’m still counting down, but the target is softer now, made squishy with humility.  First it shifted four weeks to the right of my first departure date, and now another week or two is inevitable, if I want to get everything done.  And I do.  Though I would dearly love to be at the Farm already instead of here.

Truth is, aiming at leaving early (my original date was May 16th) has helped me accomplish an enormous amount of work in a ridiculously short period of time, much more than if I’d had a more “realistic” departure timeline.  I call this working better under pressure.  Scare yourself into thinking you only have a week to build a spaceship, and you will probably get at least the launch pad poured by Friday, all by yourself, which would be a monumental achievement by any measure.  This pretty well describes what I’ve been up to since March 26th, after my household goods were all packed in the trailer and taken away, leaving me free to concentrate on the landscaping projects.

My “Daily Notes and To-Do Lists” notebook charts the course of these final efforts, and it is truly amazing to look back through the days/weeks/months and see what I’ve gotten done.  It makes the list of work remaining look really, really small, which is such a good thing.

The moving trailer was picked up on Monday, March 26th; on March 28th two pallets of block and a yard of gravel for the last terrace wall were delivered, and I spent the day moving more than a half-ton of concrete by hand from the driveway to the edge of the backyard.  The Final Landscaping Projects phase had begun in earnest.

I’ve kept a rigorous schedule since then, fueled by my passion to get everything done and focused on the mid-May departure date.  My day – every day of the week – begins at 5 am with coffee-making and a shower, then out the door walking the dogs by 6:30, then back home to breakfast for the three of us.  I’m lacing on workboots and grabbing my gloves by 8 am, just as though I were working on my old landscape crew.  I knock off around 6:30 pm to take the dogs for their second walk of the day, then it’s shower and eat something and check email and update status on Facebook and finally drag myself to bed.  Blog posts take too long for me to write at this pace.  A simple sentence or two and a progress photo on my facebook page has been about all I can manage.  But it has paid off:  I am down to the last of it now, and the things completed outnumber the things left to do by a long shot.

I’m still not done yet, though.  As far along on the list of things as I am, I’m still here; the dogs and I are still here in San Diego, walking the chaparral canyons for exercise instead of hiking up the farm road or running through the lush pastures of the farm; making improvements to this little suburban home instead of setting up our livestock operation in Kentucky.  I dare not even plan the final trip, having already forfeited a non-refundable ticket for what I thought would be Bear’s return flight after helping me drive out there and unload, purchased when the best guess I could come up with was it would all be done by mid-May.

Ah, well.  This is life, this is but a small glitch in the Big Project, this is nothing, really, in the Big Scheme of Things.

In truth, it is a test of my strength, and fortitude, and determination.  I planned to do these renovation projects on the house and yard before I left and it is important to me to finish them and leave this little place in good condition when I go.  So I am in limbo here; working joyfully on hugely satisfying projects I’ve had to postpone for years and finally have the time to do, but aching to be gone, to be planted on the Farm, rising every morning with an even longer list of projects to throw myself into.

This strange and frustrating moment where I am stuck between my two lives will end soon.  I’ll survive project limbo, and one fine day I’ll pack the dogs up into the little Toyota pickup with the last of my earthly possessions in a Uhaul trailer behind, and drive east.  Probably through tears, a little sad to leave it all behind.

So don’t let the lack of blog posts make you think I’ve given up on the Big Project:  it’s just a trying time, and every minute’s precious, and I’m keeping an abnormal work schedule to get through to the end of it all here so I can finally make the move.

Back to work I go…

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I don’t know if it is traditional to take a photo of one’s first sunrise of retirement, but my dear friend Liz reminded me to do just that about a week before my big day.  She probabably caught the idea from a recent TV ad for retirement planning but hey, it’s a good idea, don’t you think? 

Capturing the dawning moment of the rest of my life – what a splendid tradition to participate in.  Thank you Liz, for motivating me to pack my camera and tripod down into the chapparal canyon behind our house on that morning walk with Skeet.  It’s not the most perfectly-composed photo, but the best I could do with the delayed-shutter function and a befuddled dog tangling her leash around my legs.  I shall be able to remember that morning forever now.

To refresh the story (which I have let languish far too long):  I have finally reached my 24 year mark with the Navy, and chose to retire at my current paygrade of Lieutenant instead of accepting the promotion to Lieutenant Commander, which would have obligated me for another two years of service.  Why turn that promotion down and retire now?  Because I am no spring chicken, son; and it is high time for me to start the farming enterprise I have been planning for so many years, out in Kentucky on the little farm we bought five years ago. 

Farming is hard work, yes it is.  And I’m not getting any younger; ergo, there’s no time to waste. 

This will be a solo (ad)venture for me for the first few years, as Bear is still gainfully employed in his civil-service position and wants to run with it to his second 20-year retirement.  (He finished up with the Navy in 2000.)  So he’ll stay here at Bear and Thistle West for a time, babysit the underwater mortgage until the housing market starts recovering, and keep the lights on at 637 Redlands.  It’s a non-traditional plan but we hatched it together many years ago and it still works for both of us, so I will soon be Kentucky bound to start my herds and flocks and raise a few chickens too.

Soon.  Not tomorrow, though I would have liked to have been there by now.  However, as my official title is She Who Builds, Landscapes, and Paints Walls, I can’t leave until all the building, landscaping, and wall painting projects are complete.  Mind you, I’ve been working on most of these projects for the past couple of years, and I would have liked to have had them all done by now.  But they’re not, and so I must stay to finish them, and set the Bachelor Bear up for many years of low-maintenance, stress-free home life.

My labors of Hercules, as it were.  There aren’t twelve of them, and they’re not treacherous, but I can’t have my reward (move to the Farm) until they’re done.  And how long, you ask, will these suburban labors take me to finish?  I’m hoping only a couple of months.   So please bear with me as I blog about retaining walls and condo renovation and re-setting flagstone walkways and other non-farm tasks; bit by bit I swear I’ll get this pile-o-work done and get myself and my dogs out to Kentucky where my beautiful farm and the work of a lifetime awaits.

Hoping to travel out in March, before the pastures really start growing, and in time to till up a garden spot.

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Gone so long

I’ve been gone so long from here, I can’t even navigate my WordPress dashboard anymore, there’ve been so many changes.

Yikes.  Time to get the old canoe back in the water and start paddling again.

I am tempted to proffer a phrase by way of explanation for my absence, naming it “writer’s autism” that has kept me from conversing here.  Seems I have suffered from nearly a year of it now, a confounding affliction best described by the common definition of the word autism which is:  self-absorption…characterized by lack of response to people and actions and limited ability to communicate. 

That definition really sums up the last year of my life.

And what a strange, ugly, chaotic, whirlwind of a year it has been.  I am not surprised it left me blog-speechless.  In fact, I feel quite lucky to have survived at all, and grateful just to be done with it.  Never mind all the unwritten emails and blog posts; Real Life proceeds without all of that and the communication hiatus may have, in the end, done me some good.  Maybe a lot of good, who knows.  Sure, I would like to have chronicled the portage just to have made some notes on how hard it was, but most of the time I was just staring down at my own two feet plodding, endlessly plodding, through the riverside brambles, my neck and back aching from the weight of the canoe on my shoulders, my legs bitten to a pulp by the hordes of mosquitoes.  The last thing I wanted to do, really, was to focus my attention on my discomfort.

So I’m done.  After 24 years, I’m done with jumping into a uniform every day and doing a job I had long ago lost my passion for.  There is a saying among career military folks, a salty bit of advice about how long to stay in; essentially we tell ourselves we’ll keep doing it until it isn’t fun anymore.   When it stops being fun, the saying goes, it’s time to leave. 

I had to pay back 10 years for my Officer’s commision, so I really couldn’t leave as soon as I would have liked to, but it was soon enough.  I’d say I made it out by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.  Scraped out the door without getting hit by it, and the last scramble wasn’t all that graceful, but the Good Lord be praised, I AM DONE.

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