I reviewed my 2010 blog for the previous entry, and boy was it an eye-opener to see where I was ten years ago. Lots of changes have happened since then. A look at things, topic by topic.
First of all, it was the beginning of the end of my teaching career. Serious cuts due to budget issues significantly impacted my little mountain school, and that was the first of three years where we went through a lot of principals in the building. My left foot developed capsulitis in a metatarsal joint, which has left an ongoing legacy of arthritis there. My hours were reduced to part-time from full-time. I ended up unofficially retiring from teaching except for substitute work in 2014, after applying at a lot of other schools. I suspect ageism but (except for a couple of interviews where it was blatant) could never prove it. Changes in teacher evaluation meant that as a special education teacher, I was penalized for poor student performance on high stakes assessment scores when it really wasn’t their fault. It was pretty darn obvious when I looked at my evals. Dropping caseloads also meant that if I tried to keep working for this district after that year, I’d be traveling to other schools–a miserable prospect when one considers that there were 20-30 miles between buildings.
So I retired in 2014. 18 months later, the district called me back, first to fill in by doing special education evaluations, then to work quarter-time online as a PE and Health teacher as a long-term sub. The eval work lasted for six months, the long-term sub for two years. It was the third time I’d been asked to help with evals beyond my caseload. The long-term sub made renewing my license easier, but I’m going to let it expire in the fall of 2021. I’ve done some substitute work in Wallowa County, but not enough to justify the hassle or renewal expense, especially since I’ll be 64 years old by then.
I’d also signed up for tutor work through a private company, but except for one client, nothing ever came of it. I enjoyed working with that student and clearly turned his writing around, which was a joy in itself.
I’d had hopes for more–perhaps research, perhaps consulting, but none of the prospects ever came together. Oh well. It has landed me some editing work, and I’m happy with that.
In 2010, I was almost at the point of having 20 stories out and circulating. I’d earned placements in Writers of the Future and another contest, I’d written several books that I was shopping around to publishers, and was exploring the prospect of writing blogs about teaching. That didn’t go anywhere. However, in 2011 I started self-publishing. After one fling with a now-defunct micropublisher, I kept my books and published them myself. I now have the Netwalk series completed, the Goddess’s Honor series almost completed (last book out at the end of January), and a couple of standalone books out. One of the books that I fought to get my rights back to, Pledges of Honor, is the “little book that could.” It keeps on selling, and in 2018 was a Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off semifinalist. That makes me very happy. So that’s about 13-14 books I have out right now (depending on how you count a couple of compilations).
The upcoming book, The Ruby Project, is probably one that I’ll ship out to see if there’s any interest. It’s sufficiently different that I have hopes it will catch the interest of a regional press, if the first one I queried isn’t into it. I am excited about it because it’s a near-future agripunk story that has some interesting elements in it.
I’ve yet to break into any big short story markets but at this point I’m kind of “meh” about the prospect. I’m an old white lady who doesn’t necessarily write what is currently popular–and honestly, I’m not into arm-wrestling with 40-something white male writers who beat their chest and whine about being pushed out of the market, so they target older white ladies as easy prey to shove out. Short stories aren’t exciting me right now, anyway–I’ve got lots of things to think about on the novel front and that’s where my energy is going right now. I’ve gotten a couple of professional-level payments but I’m not beating down the door to get into SFWA. At this time, I use short stories as a world-building tool. That may change but right now I don’t have a compelling reason to divert my attention from book projects.
I’m going to keep writing but at this point I’m rather cynical that I’ll be anything but a small fish. I’ve gotten praise for my work, including from a New York Times bestselling author that I workshopped with, but praise is nothing new and it’s not earned me a damn thing except misery over rejections afterward until I get my head back on straight. It will take a stroke of lightning and sheer luck for me to make it big in writing, and I’ve somewhat resigned myself to the prospect that I’m one of those “almost made it” types. Now I focus on telling good stories, not selling to the big markets or trying to land an agent. If it happens, it happens. Perhaps if I hadn’t had those last horrible years of teaching where I lacked significant energy to put into writing things might have been different. I’ll never know, and it’s not worth crying over what might have been.
I don’t think I’m going to be skiing any more. My last year of a full season of skiing was 2014. 2015 was a low snow year and we were moving to Enterprise. I struggled with the foot and hip issues, and just could never get the rhythm going again. Last year we bought snowshoes and got some snowshoeing in. I’m sad, but one knee catches unpredictably, and I don’t trust it.
This almost deserves an entire post in itself. By 2010, Mocha’s training was to the point where I felt comfortable showing her. She responded positively to show life, and we had several great years with limited showing in the metro area until she developed a severe case of white line disease in January of 2014. That essentially took her out of commission until we moved her to NE Oregon in May of 2015. By then she was in significant pain from hock fusion, hoof issues, and the trauma of a drastically different change in life set her back for a while. She went from 24/7 stall life to living outside 24/7 and it was quite a shock to her. But between excellent pasture boarding care, excellent veterinary work, and excellent farrier work, she got past the pain and adapted. One discovery we made was that she needed a drastic change in shoeing because what looked to be the correct angle was in fact causing her pain, which we didn’t know until we x-rayed her feet. After a year of corrective farriery and several years of slow conditioning work, she’s now back to what she was in 2010-13.
We don’t do any shows beyond a local schooling show that’s a 4H fundraiser, but in 2018 they had Ranch Horse classes and we ended up as Ranch Horse Champions. Last year we were Reserve Adult Champions. She’s proven to be a good trail horse and road horse, even if she does silly stuff like adopting an elk calf as her baby. At almost 20, she lives in a big pasture 24/7 with a herd, and has no desire to go back to stall life (something she’s shown us several times). Heaven forbid I approach her with a blanket (she who used to be the Blanket Queen!) unless we’re prepping for a show and I want to keep her clean. The good grass she has here has put weight back on her and she’s happy.
We may take up barrel racing this year–it all depends on what happens with her soundness. At 20, you don’t take that for granted. But especially after reading my 2010 training blogs, where I see the seeds of her later problems, I think that with careful management she’ll be rideable for a few years more.
I’ve lusted after several young horses that have been raised at the ranch, but to date haven’t bought a replacement, simply because of expense. If the books sold better, that might make a difference. I have no idea how long we have together. She could drop dead tomorrow or she could keep on being a good riding horse for another 5-8 years if managed carefully. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have thought it likely, but life on pasture with good grass really has made a difference with her.
We had several tough years, family-wise and life-wise. I’m not going to talk about some of it because it’s private. 2012 was a particularly difficult year, because we lost several close friends, the son’s Crohn’s Disease progressed to significant surgery, the husband had problems with his blood pressure medications, and I was fighting with some difficult work situations. I was the skinniest I ever had been but it wasn’t a healthy loss. Once the stressors disappeared I gained weight.
One result of the tough times was buying the house in Enterprise, where we spend a lot of our time these days. We had dreamed of returning to this small community that we lived in briefly during 1981-82, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that it even seemed possible. We found a nice small house in town with a mountain view, and spent a year fixing it up before hubby retired. The timing was perfect as we bought at the bottom of the market and before all the local contractors got busy.
We cultivated a garden with a friend in Clatskanie for four years, until the back and forth (6+ hours) became too much.
The son has a serious relationship with a woman who has two kids. She and her daughter now live with him in the Portland house, and we’re really happy about that. Plus suddenly we’re kinda grandparents and that’s fun. I sell books, quilted goods, and jewelry at some local bazaars. Both of us participate in local volunteer work and enjoy it.
That’s pretty much it. In ten years, I’ll be 72. If I make it to that age, I’ll have outlived my mother and will be approaching my father’s age. Who knows what will happen? In 2010 I was very aware that at 52, my mother had 17 more years left.
I don’t count like that any more.