Women in the Second Half of Life

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Girls Running With Horses: a watercolor from my Ft. Wayne, Indiana art school days.

Today, I’m finally taking a break from my writing, poking my head above ground to see what’s been happening while I’ve been hiding on the farm working.  I’ve missed bopping into town to visit my friends (which I will do tonight at the Spring Artscene in Rockford Illinois to see the opening of Roni Golan at the gallery at Emmanuel), surfing Facebook, the Twitter-sphere, and of course my favorite blogs.  This morning, Lynne Spreen at her Any Shiny Thing blog triggered a slew of conflicting thoughts. It was about women in the second half of life, staying on the hamster track (turning wheel) or taking it easy.

Am I retired? I guess you could say that, although I don’t think of myself that way. Yes, I’m collecting Social Security, to help pay the bills until I can sell my first book.  Travel, yes. Putz in my garden, yes. Read for days on end, yes. Kick up my feet in a silent house and just muse about anything and everything, yes.  But retired? Never.  At 63, I’m just getting started.

Maybe, you’ll say, I’m a late bloomer.  Actually, I do most things backward.  The only kids I raised were two twelve-year-olds starting about ten years after I went through menopause.  I didn’t settle down until I was 45.  Not by choice, but by circumstance.  I moved 50 times before that, but not since.  I still hope I never have to move again.

I am a proud, card-carrying feminist.  I believe in girl power–have since I was ten when I protected all the other girls on the playground from the taunts and harassments of the boys by kicking the offenders in the ankle with my pointy flats.  I was the tallest in the class and they were terrified of me.  I still sometimes terrify some men–thank god not my husband–but those who fear powerful women.

Now, a bit about women and power.  Yes it’s nice to have corporate power, though I never had that.  I ran a not-for-profit and several of my own one-person-dog-and-pony-show businesses.  But I was never in charge of a lot of people. Well, except when I just took charge, which I have a tendency to do, because I’m a visionary and an organizer and well, I guess I just think I know what to do when everyone else seems to be hesitating.

I’m not usually quite this upfront with my pushiness, but hey, I’m leaning in.  Anyway, at 63, I guess I care less about how many people like me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still care.  I just care a bit less.

Financial power is the piece I’m still hoping to achieve.  The power to do what I want, when I want, help who I want, travel where I want.  That sort of thing.  That’s the power I can get down with.  Freedom from at least that worry–for at least a while.  I’ve learned nothing lasts forever, and sometimes not for very long.  So I enjoy it while I can.

About other women and retirement, I have two things to say.  First, do what feels right for you.  Everyone is different.  Sure we have commonalities.  And it’s fun to discuss all the pros and cons.  But in the end, its our decision, our choice.  Follow your gut and don’t be so damn hard on yourself! (I’m talking to me as much as anyone else.  That inner critic is the toughest voice to silence.) Secondly, if you only help one person with what you’re doing in the second half of life, you’ve made a difference, and probably in a way that no one else on earth could have done.  So Ladies, do what feels good.  Rest, play, work.  If it’s the right kind of work, if feels like play anyway.  Just be sure to get eight hours sleep every night (or at least most nights) and eat an apple a day.  That way you’ll have lots of years to change your mind and continue the debate and squeeze it all in.

And thanks, Lynn for giving me the idea to vent on one of my favorite topics–women.

If you have a different viewpoint, or just more of the same, I’d love to hear it.  Leave a comment and I’ll respond as quick as I can.  I still have a few pages to finish on my YA.

Starting Over

A young foal standing next to her mom.

Just getting started.

My website LeafRiverWriter.com crashed a few weeks ago. With the help of BlueHost tech support, I was able to retrieve my blog entries, but the design elements and widgets are lost. I’ve decided to take my lemons and turning them into lemonade.

I’ll be redesigning my entire website, refocusing it on what I love to do and to write about: HORSES.

Don’t panic if you’re not a horse person. I’m hoping to find a community of people (or perhaps gather a new one) who just loves horses. You won’t need to know anything about horses to enjoy it  because it’s not about “how to…” although you may learn a few tidbits in that area.

In my future blogs, I’ll be talking about what it’s like to “live with horses” and why I do it.

Having a horse on our property, we’re responsible for everything from finding or raising hay (we do the later) to scheduling hoof trimming every six to eight weeks (longer gaps in the winter because their hooves grow slower in the cold), maintaining their environment (mending the barn and mowing the pasture), along with keeping their stalls mucked out takes more time, physical work and education then boarding a horse at someone else’s facility.

So why do I do all that if I don’t ride my horses anymore? I’ll be writing about that too.

Living with horses is a lifestyle that grows out of my spirituality, a connection to earth and all living things. An expression of that belief is my art.

A close up picture of a horse's left eye.

Maggie’s watching and waiting.

Horses are included in my quilts, photographs, watercolors and clay sculpture surrounded by archetypes from Women’s Spirituality and nature up close. That art will appear in my blogs as well as on my art website TrotTownStudios.com (a site which is also in the process of being redesigned.)

This new vision of my social media presence will take time as I accumulate new computer skills from Lynda.com, so I’m asking for your patience. More importantly, I’m saying stay tuned. Lots of good stuff is coming.

BEST LAID PLANS

Never enough time to write.

Never enough time to write.

Throughout this last winter and early spring, I was able to write everyday, not just for an hour or two, but four to six hours each and every day.  I’d hoped to maintain that pace throughout the summer. Sometimes, we can’t control how our time gets used.

Being a vegetarian, and living on twenty acres, it only makes sense that I keep a large garden. Last year we were able to freeze,  and dehydrate enough vegetable to get us through most of the winter. This year, I planned to keep the weeds better under control and rework the watering system so that it would work more effectively.  Last year was so dry, the tomatoes struggled and we weren’t able to harvest enough to put up salsa or spaghetti sauce.

The garden keeps me busy weeding, watering and harvesting.

The garden keeps me busy weeding, watering and harvesting.

This year, we had plenty of rain early on which made it harder to manage the weeds.  Twisting my rib out of place (probably from overdoing pulling and whacking the weeds) put me out of commission with pain spasms–three or four times a minute for days.

I found a chiropractor with magic hands to relieve my pain. However, the neck adjustments dislodged my ear crystals, causing my world to spin and making me nauseous. I’ve had this vertigo before and remembered some of the moves the audiologist used to relieve the symptoms.

Unfortunately, the cure also requires not bending over and sleeping in a sitting position for two or three weeks.

I don’t sleep well on my back–especially when sitting up. I’ve been unable to work at all for over a week now. Today is my first day back to the computer, making a little progress on my manuscript.

Doing nothing or resting or being at less than full-tilt activity feels unnatural to me. My life requires daily maintenance. A lot of it. I’ve been working hard to bring some much needed organization to my life, but with these disruptions, those projects have been left half-finished.  I tell myself, “There’s always tomorrow.” It helps keep me sane, but just barely.

Now, the heat and humidity ranging around 100 degrees is making any work outside impossible until it begins to cool off around 9:00 p.m.  I know 2/3 of the country are suffering, with many people suffering much worse than I.  At least we have air conditioning, which is better than last year when we were out of power during the heat streak.

 

Time to relax and enjoy the sun set

Time to relax and enjoy the sun set

I tell myself to “go with the flow.”

Worrying about what didn’t get done only drains the energy I need to heal, and to maybe get a little writing done.  Sometimes I can make it work–like today. A little progress on the manuscript and this blog. I need to celebrate the small successes.

How are you dealing with the heat?  Or anything else that is disrupting your Best Laid Plans.  I’d love to hear from you.

Horses and hay and a house of cards

Maggie beats Charlie to the barn
The house of cards on which I stand is wobbling.  Will I fall?  I am hiding here in this beautiful place, trying to write. Will I finish the edits to my two books before the life of my dreams falls apart?

The most recent card to fall was the rain last night. I allowed myself to be convinced it would only rain a little bit, not enough to hurt the hay if we cut it.  The best time to bale the hay had passed. Maybe the storms would completely skip over us, like they have before. Against my better judgement, I said yes– okay, cut it.

Charlie is heading for the barn before it rains.

Charlie is heading for the barn before it rains.

If you were in the Midwest last night, or are in the East today, or if you watched the news, you know what happened.  IT POURED!

So now, 70% of my hay crop–what I use to feed my horses throughout the winter–is ruined.  It’s soaked, beige-gray in color. Useless.  And if the wet hay lying in the field doesn’t get baled soon, it will ruin any hopes for hay crops in the future.  The wet muck will smother the plants beneath if it doesn’t get removed–possibly kill them.

Today the sun is shining, but will the hay dry enough to be baled? On Saturday it’s supposed to rain again, maybe for another two days.  I believe the weatherman this time.  Granted, he’s been wrong 80% of the time in the past, no maybe 90%, when weather he claimed was a sure thing failed to materialize. So today is the only chance we have to get the hay up.

After eighteen years of growing our own hay, this is the worse outcome ever!  Horse hay is not supposed to get wet once it is cut.  Rain turns it into cow hay or, of even less value, compost.  I’m worried I won’t have anything to feed my horses through the winter.

Where is everybody?

Where is everybody?

Having no hay would be the first card falling for me–the house of cards on which I stand.  The bad economy has been devastating for us these last five years, like for so many others.  I’ve been barely holding on.

Now I feel like I’m slipping.  I’m even having dreams where I am so overwhelmed, I decide I actually want to move. But it was only a dream. Wasn’t it? Will one rain storm put my way of life in jeopardy? The first of many cards to fall?  I hope not.

If circumstances became so bad that I had to move, it would mean giving up on a life-long dream.  Living on this land has been a dream come true for me.  I’m not ready to let it go.

If I had to, it would mean moving all that I have accumulated in these past eighteen years of living in one place. The disruption would be so great, it would put the screeches on a promising writing career.  I’m editing two books, one of which has already won multiple awards at writers’ conferences.  I have feedback for a rewrite.  Now all I need is the time and focus to finish it.

I have a window of opportunity here–with editors and agents.  I don’t want to screw it up.  I fear that I might.  Okay, I said it. That is my biggest fear right now.  Not that I wouldn’t survive, but that I wouldn’t succeed.

So, I’ve lost one card of the foundation on which I stand. That’s it. I can’t take any more right now. No more problems. Please. I just need some time, some uninterrupted time, so that I can finish the editing process.

I’ll keep you posted to let you know if the Universe is listening.

Is anyone listening?

Is anyone listening?

Sometimes I wonder if anyone out there in the internet world is listening to me.  So, if you are there, please leave a comment. It would cheer me on greatly.  A Follow-me by E-mail would be nice, too.  Thanks for listening, whoever you are. When times are hard, it helps just to be heard.