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.

Women in the Second Half of Life

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.




No more glasses?

Over the holidays, as I prepared for the first of two cataract surgeries, eye drops, dark glasses, a ride to the surgery center and subsequent appointments, I missed the part about the reading restriction: only ten minutes an hour for three weeks following surgery.  No email, no facebook, no twitter (restricted because I get sucked in and go over the time limit).  No books.  No blogging.  No reading menus at restaurants, not even the big ones behind the counter.  I couldn’t even pick up a magazine when I was waiting for my appointment with the eye doctor.  Carrying my iPad was unnecessary, actually a dangerous temptation.  Until I developed cataracts (fast growing starting in the center, not from edges like most people) and needed eye surgery, I never quite realized how much I read.  I never thought about it.  Not until I couldn’t read.  It almost drove me crazy.

It’s been four weeks.  I’ve had the second eye surgery.  The first special lens the surgeon implanted is supposed to give me good mid-range to long distance vision.  It’s not very clear yet, I’m told it’s because my eye is too dry and still dilated.  Be patient, they say.  It’ll get better.  The second implant is supposed to give me good vision from mid-range to up-close reading, that is as long as the light is bright.  Don’t use the reading glasses, they say.  Make the eye work, so it can learn to see.  Be patient, they say.  It’ll get better.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I’m a writer and an artist.  My eyes are everything to me.  It’s hard to be patient when I have two books to complete, one in it’s umpteenth edit, the other written during Na No Wri Mo last November.  To make things worse, I’m a slow reader.  Always have been.  Something to do with how the muscles in my eyes focus on the page.

Before the surgeries, everyone I talked to, and I mean EVERYONE, said cataract surgery is a snap.  Almost no discomfort the first day they said, and by the second, I’ll be seeing like never before.  I’ll love it, they said.  As usual, I’m the exception.  The first eye, my right, felt like I had glass in it for the first day and leveled off to the “uncomfortable” stage the day after surgery.  The second eye felt like shards of glass were sticking in my eye the first day, and reduced to gravel (maybe sandpaper) by the second day.

When I called at 8:00 p.m. the day of surgery because I couldn’t stand the pain any more, the nurses at the surgical facility were great.  They were very sympathetic, but informed me that pain medication taken orally wouldn’t help (I’d already found that out, because I had some leftovers from my knee surgery) and numbing eye drops would be toxic to the lens.  I didn’t want that, right?  The only choice to mitigate the pain was to keep my eyes closed as much as possible and use eye drops to moisten my eyes.  I had to keep both eyes closed, they explained, because if you have one covered and use the other for watching television, they will track together and irritate the closed eye.  So no television to distract me from the fact that I couldn’t read, for almost a month. I mean really read, like for three hours at a time, like what I did before surgery,   Have you ever tried to eat a salad with your eyes closed?  It doesn’t work very well.

I don’t mean to be going on about this.  I don’t like to complain.  It’s just that it would have helped if even one person would have told me that there could be problems with my eyes after cataract surgery, I would have been a bit prepared.  I’m sure you’re thinking (at least I am) that I’ve been struggling for only a few weeks, and I really have no right to complain, not with all those soldiers on the news coming home with head trauma and blown off limbs, not with all the gun shot victims from movie theaters and schools.

So why am I blogging about my eyes?  Well, the reason is because the experience taught me something.  Something I think is valuable.

When I had my knee replacement surgery three years ago, the healing process gave me compassion for people who must use walkers and wheelchairs to get around.  Now, after having surgeries on my eyes, I’ve been given a glimpse into the world of the blind and vision impaired.  I don’t know how they manage.  Really, I don’t.  I’ve only had to cope for a few weeks.  And, it’s been a real challenge.  Why?  Because when I feel out of control, I get grouchy, very grouchy.  I’m not good at asking for help.  I’m independent and a perfectionist, both good qualities for being a writer and an artist.  Not so good for getting older.

I just had another birthday, my 63rd.  I’m proud that I am active and vibrant at that age, though my damaged knees from years of abuse have slowed me down a bit.  But now, this eye thing has given me pause.  I’ve known for some time that there are adjustments I must make as I age.  Mind you, I intend to be active well into my late nineties.  Over the last couple of years,  I’ve been learning to be careful (with riding horses and climbing ladders to do house renovations, I never really was before), to move with intention, to use my time wisely, and to kick my feet up a little more just to relax.  I know my eyes will get better.  And if they aren’t just perfect, I will adjust.  That is the wisdom that age brings.  The knowledge that I will get through it, because I have so many times before.