How I’m Doing

And what I’m doing.

I haven’t been blogging regularly lately. There are a few reasons for that. I thought I’d cover them — and bring readers up to date on where I am and what I’m doing — in this blog post.

There’s a lot here — including lots of pictures. It starts off kind of glum but works up to happier news. If you care, stick with it. If you don’t, skip it.

My Broken Relationship

I may as well start off with the cause of my wishy-washiness and general lack of motivation. I’ll try not to whine too much. You can skip to the next heading if you don’t feel like reading about the current state of this huge failure in my life.

If you read my “29 Years Ago Today” post, you know that my husband and I are splitting after a relationship of, well, 29 years. Although I saw it coming, I guess I was fooled a bit by him claiming (repeatedly) that he wanted to try to patch things up. So it was a bit of a shock in late June when he announced, almost out of the blue, that he wanted to throw in the towel.

I think it’s this shock that’s causing me the most grief. Trouble is, I can’t understand what triggered his sudden decision. And I simply can’t stop myself from trying to guess what happened.

And no, he won’t provide a satisfactory explanation. Communication is not one of his strong points — hence the cause for the split and my surprise at its suddenness.

I’m a pretty independent person. This is my fifth season living alone in Washington State while I work my cherry drying contracts. Before that, I spent plenty of time alone at home, at our vacation property, and at his Phoenix condo. He used to travel a lot for work and went back to New York to visit family quite often. And I, for that matter, also traveled quite a bit for work, especially years ago when I did a lot of consulting and training work. So I can, for the most part, take care of myself. And if I have a problem, I know how to get help.

So the alone part isn’t bothering me.

What is bothering me, however, is the uncertainty of going home to a house where there’s someone who really doesn’t want me to be there waiting for me to get out of his life.

He’s already contacted me twice, asking if I’ve “given any thought to how we’ll move forward.” I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. And when I attempted to reach him by phone, I got no answer. Instead, I got a text promising a call “tomorrow” and then another text the next day promising a call “later.” Like I was supposed to sit around and wait for him to call me. And not let my questions eat away at my brain while I waited.

It was around then that I began to refer to him as The Tormentor. (Kudos to my friend Jim, who came up with the right verb — torment — for what I was experiencing.)

I have obligations here that contractually bind me to Washington until August 20. I have numerous helicopter charters and other gigs scheduled right up through October 6. I can’t leave until after that. He knows this. How am I supposed to do anything in Arizona before then?

I emailed him and reminded him that I’d be home in October to clean up. I told him that thinking about our situation was making it difficult to get my work done. I told him that I’d already missed my book’s deadline by more than a month — more on that in a moment — because I simply couldn’t focus on the work. And asked him (again) not to contact me.

It took me a week to work that “communication” out of my system enough to get back to work.

Charlie the DogOf course, in the back of my mind, simmering like a pot of risotto, is knowledge that when I get back to Arizona in October, I’ll have to begin cleaning up the detritus of a 29-year relationship spread among three dwellings and a pair of hangars. I have to negotiate with The Tormentor on who’s keeping what. I know I’ve already lost custody of our dog, Charlie, despite the fact that I think I can give him a better home. Possession, after all, is 9/10ths of the law. But what else will I get — or be stuck with? And how much can I sell or throw away? And what will I do with my stuff until I land on my feet elsewhere?

Do you know how tough it is to keep these concerns on the back burner?

Anyway, it’s hard to blog when there’s crap like this stuck in your head.

The Book

Back in the late 1990s, I wrote a Visual QuickStart Guide for Peachpit Press about Mac OS 8. It was released at Macworld Expo in Boston and immediately sold out. It became my first bestseller.

I’ve revised the book for every significant revision of Mac OS since then. And, in most cases, my book has been in Apple stores the day Mac OS (now OS X) has been released.

I won’t lie: I work my ass off to get the book done on time. My editor, production guy, and indexer also work their asses off. We’re a great team and we get the job done, version after version, amazingly quick. It’s paid off, too. The book still sells remarkably well and, at 648 pages, is something I’m really proud of.

My RV OfficeThis time around, the book’s revision needed to be done in the summer. Not a big deal; the RV I live in during the summer, my “Mobile Mansion,” has an “office.” I have my 27-inch iMac, fully loaded with all the software I need to write and lay out my book based on the previous edition. Internet access is sketchy (and expensive) but workable.

Of course, I wasn’t expecting to be tormented by a soon-to-be ex-husband. My brain worked overtime on bullshit I had no control over, preventing me from thinking about what I needed to think about: my book revision. I missed one deadline after another, trickling in chapters that sometimes took days to finish. This from a person who could normally knock off two chapters for a revision every day.

It took a while to get back to work. And even then, I’m not up to speed. Yesterday I submitted two chapters totaling 28 pages; that’s the best I’ve done in a long time.

According to my progress report, I have 164 pages left. Some of those are index, table of contents, and intro pages, but I still have a solid 120 pages of real content to revise.

Many, many thanks to my editor and production guy. They’ve been extremely supportive of me in this difficult time. Yes, I missed the deadline. Yes, the book is very late. But they’re not nagging me. And I appreciate that.

I just hope I don’t ever have to drop the ball like this again.

As for blogging — well, when my head is clear enough to write, this book obviously has priority over my blog.


Of course, not everything is bad. My flying work this season has been amazingly good.

Drying Cherries with a HelicopterFor the first time ever, I had enough cherry drying standby contract work to bring on two more pilots. One worked with me for 25 days; the other worked with me for just 9 days, during “crunch time.”

You see, cherry season in any given area is remarkably short. My first contract started on June 6 and my last contract in that area ended on July 31. That’s less than 2 months. While it’s true that I’m still on contract until August 20, I had to relocate to a different area for that late season contract.

Rain on RadarThe busiest time for cherry drying pilots in the Quincy/Wenatchee area is from the beginning of the third week in June to the end of the third week in July. About five weeks.

It rained. We had rain one day that lasted all day long — from dawn until about 4 PM. It rained on everyone, everywhere. I flew a lot that day. A lot of growers without pilots lost their cherry crop.

There were a few other days of heavy rain. Every helicopter within 50 miles spent at least a few hours hovering over cherry trees on these days. I personally flew nearly 30 hours in June and July. The guys that work for me got a total of another 13 hours in the short time they were around.

A Helicopter on a BridgeAnd that’s not all. I also got a good charter client who has me fly him and others around to various locations around the state. He likes the helicopter’s off-airport landing capabilities because it saves him time over driving or using the company airplane. I did a bunch of flying for them, too.

And then there are the winery tours. And the helicopter rides. And the photo flights. For some reason, my phone is ringing off the hook this season. I am not complaining.

I flew so much, in fact, that I had to take the helicopter to Hillsboro, OR (near Portland) for a 100-hour maintenance while I was still under contract. I flew more than 100 hours since I left Arizona at the end of April — a period of less than three months! That’s never happened before. While it’s true that 12 of those hours was the time it took me to get from Arizona to Washington, it’s still a lot of local flying.

I’ve been earning more as a pilot than as a writer for the past three years. Now, when people ask me what I do for a living, I don’t feel weird telling them I’m a pilot. I am.

The Heights

My ViewOne of the very good things about my late season contract is where I get to live while I’m working: at the edge of a cliff near the top of a canyon with an amazing view. I never get tired of watching the rising sun creep down the opposite canyon wall every morning.

I’m living on a homesite with a house under construction right out my window. The owner of the home is building it himself. Because he’s not here very often, he likes having me here to keep an eye on things. He likes it so much that this year, he put in a gravel RV pad and 30 amp power — which was just connected today — so I’d be comfortable. I already have water and sewer hookups; until today I was on 110 v power.

My HelicopterThis year, my helicopter is parked on the property about 50 yards from the back of my RV. I can clearly see it out my back window.

The orchard I’m responsible for is right across the street. In the event that I have to dry, I can be on the premises within 5 minutes of a call. The orchard owners like that very much — especially since the orchard is 87 acres on hillsides and takes a good 2 to 2-1/2 hours to dry. The sooner I start, the sooner I’ll finish.

It’s very quiet here — unless they’re spraying the fruit or picking — and at night it’s so dark you can see every star in the sky.

Penny in the OrchardIn the evening, when it cools down, Penny the Dog and I go for a walk in the orchard. One of the owners told me I could pick their cherries and blueberries. Although fruit is not on my diet — more on that in a moment — I simply cannot resist fresh picked cherries or blueberries. So Penny and I go in with a plastic quart-sized container. We pick the small red cherries and yellow rainier cherries, which have very little market value but still taste great. And we finish up by walking down a row of blueberry bushes and picking the dark blue ones. The whole time, Penny is running around in the tall grass beneath the trees or avoiding the sprinklers or finding dead rodents to eat (don’t ask). And I’m getting a workout, climbing hills and sweating in the residual heat. Cherries and BlueberriesWe get back and I clean up the fruit and hit the shower. Then I spend the rest of the evening taking it easy — maybe sitting outside in the gathering dusk or watching something on one of the mobile mansion’s two TVs.

While it’s true that my early season campsite in Quincy is better equipped with 50 amp power, better water, and a more conveniently placed sewer hookup, I really like it here a lot better. I think I might stay until it’s time to go back to Arizona.

The Diet

I’d been wanting to shed some extra pounds for some time, but found myself eating my way through bouts of depression when I was in Arizona this past winter. As a result, I porked up to a number I’m too embarrassed to share here.

Captain MariaWhen I arrived in Washington I started exercising again and trying to watch what I ate. But when my pilot friend Mike came up with his helicopter for the 25 days he’d work with me, he told me about how he’d lost 80 pounds on Medifast. His wife had lost 70 pounds. I only needed to lose 35 pounds to get back to my goal weight — which is what I weighed in this photo from 2004. When my pilot friend Jim signed on, I did the same.

Medifast is not a diet for foodies. It’s extremely difficult for me to enjoy — no matter what anyone says about it. The food comes out of a box. You either add water and heat or you add water and shake. Or maybe you just unwrap it and eat it right out of the package.

It uses artificial sweeteners, which I hate. Fortunately, it doesn’t oversweeten. And there’s hardly any salt in any of the food — which is a great thing for hypertensive people like me.

Some of the food is actually quite good. I like the chicken soups (both kinds) and the chocolate pudding. The chocolate shake tastes amazing when made with leftover coffee instead of water. The crackers give you the ability to crunch something between meals. The chocolate chip pancakes are good any time of day that you don’t mind cooking up a pancake. And some of the snack bars aren’t bad at all. So there’s plenty I can eat. But there are more than a few meal choices I just can’t stomach.

To follow the plan, you eat five of these “meals” every day with one “lean and green” — basically a low carb green vegetable and plainly prepared lean meat. The meals have to be spread 2-3 hours apart. They aren’t large, but eating six times a day prevents you from getting hungry. My lean and green meal is usually some kind of grilled meat or fish with a salad. Easy enough. Fruit is not allowed. Actually, neither is the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 2 ounces of milk I put in my morning coffee. My big problem is drinking water — I can’t seem to drink as much as I’m supposed to.

The food costs about $300/month. That might seem like a lot, but when you consider that you’re buying hardly any other food and rarely eating out, it really isn’t bad at all. I’m saving money simply by staying out of the supermarket.

And it’s working. I’m down 20 pounds since I started 8 weeks ago. My clothes fit better — in fact, some of them are becoming loose. And my blood pressure is down so much I think I can drop one of my meds soon.

I might do better if I could just drink more water and stop eating cherries.

The Property

I’ve been looking for a new place to live for years. In 2005, I went on my “midlife crisis road trip” with the stated goal of looking for a new home. I got as far northwest as Mt. St. Helens. I should have gone a little farther, to the Wenatchee area.

This year, when it looked like business was really taking off for me, I started making some inquiries about properties for sale. I was shown a few inappropriate lots in the Quincy area before I started noticing some vacant land on a shelf beneath the cliffs in Malaga, right down the road from a winery I visit on my tours. I knew someone who owned a lot there and asked him who I could talk to about buying one. That’s when he told me that he and his wife had decided to sell theirs.

Ten acres of view property overlooking the Wenatchee/Malaga areas, including the Columbia River. Three minutes by air to Wenatchee Airport. More than 50% level enough to build on. Electric, water, and fiber optical cable on the property. And plenty of room to land the helicopter and build a hangar for it.

My Next Home?

The price was a little more than I was hoping to spend, but it really is perfect for me — especially with friends living just a half mile down the road.

When I first saw it, I still thought I had a future with my soon-to-be ex-husband. I told him about it. He said something vague, as he usually does. I later showed it to him. He liked it, but I could tell he had no interest in living there. It was all over by then.

But that was good for me. I could do what I wanted with it without having to tolerate his disapproving glares. You know — where he gives you a look that says he doesn’t like what you’re doing but never actually says anything about it? Those.

(Yeah, I’m still carrying a lot of baggage on this one. Sure hope I can shed it soon.)

The seller doesn’t want to sell until the first of the year — which is fine with me. I’m planning to put a storage building large enough to house the helicopter, mobile mansion, and my cars with some attached office space. I’ll probably live in the RV next year. Then, the following year, I’ll build a small house right at the edge of the shelf to take in the views. Lots of windows and shaded outside space.

Not sure if I’ll live here year-round yet. I’m thinking of traveling in the winter months, maybe with the mobile mansion. We’ll see.

Other Stuff

I have other ideas for my future here — other plans for personal growth and directions. I’m not the kind of person to settle down. The breakup of my marriage is probably the best thing to happen to me in a long time. It’ll force me to take on new challenges while giving me the freedom to tackle them without compromise or anyone holding me back.

I’m sad, though, that I can’t start this new chapter of my life with someone beside me, someone with similar goals and big dreams of adventure. It would be nice to have a teammate in the game of life.

More blog posts soon. Promise.

15 thoughts on “How I’m Doing

  1. As a veteran of a couple of divorces, I can tell you neither of them was a fun ordeal. One was just downright nasty. I was never with someone for 29 years, so I can’t really imagine what you are experiencing. But, I will tell you that 4 things helped me through them- 1) Never lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. This will be over eventually and your life will be so much better. 2) People who are going through this know exactly how to push the buttons of their ex and will continue to do so to make themselves feel better. 3) What goes around WILL come around. 4) You find out very quickly who our true friends are.
    All my best hopes and wishes to you during this trying time.

    • I don’t think he’s purposely trying to torment me. I just think he’s being really stupid. Not thinking things through from my point of view. But that’s obviously been one of our problems all along.

      I don’t expect this to be horrible, but until I get back to AZ, I don’t know what it’s going to be like. I prefer not to think much about it until then.

      And thanks for your moral support!

    • You know, my soon-to-be-ex and I looked at Lindal homes. Even got reeled in. They charged us $600 for a design for a 1200 square foot house that would have cost $120/square foot to build. This was for a vacation property where we definitely wanted to keep costs down. What bugged me most is that going in, they told us their costs were typically $60/square foot. WTF?

      So I’m leery about these things. But I’ll take a look.

      I should say that I have very definite ideas about what I want the house to be like. Small, open floor plan, HUGE windows taking in the view. But again, I’ll take a look at anything. Thanks!

  2. Maria,
    As a veteran of a recent divorce from the master of The Glare and a vague communicator to boot, I’m afraid that you are in for a long, unpleasant negotiation.
    We did a mediation rather than an adversarial divorce, which meant that we each had a mediation attorney advising us but had to sit down and negotiate directly. (Oh, did I mention my ex was a professional negotiator and attorney? Yeah. He knew all the tricks.)
    My mediation attorney was able to provide me with scripts and outlines to use so that my ex couldn’t fob me off with vague replies or brush aside important legal issues. Well, usually couldn’t.
    Most importantly, once my ex realized I was being coached by an attorney, he was too embarrassed to play games with me.
    In short, I can’t say enough about the value of having a good attorney (mediator or traditional) to continually reassure you about what reality and your rights are when your ex is trying to conduct the whole discussion based on what he thinks or wishes reality were. It is worth every cent you pay for this professional expertise.
    Good luck!

  3. Maria, Your property looks awesome. Although my longest relationship is by no means 29 years, I know the torment of which you speak. But what little I know of you, I know this, that you are strong, resilient, determined and what ever you set your energy towards will come. The sharing the life with someone part will come. Once your heart is open again and new things will bloom, I have no doubt. I look forward to taking you up on your offer and making plans sometime to come visit. And when you venture out of WA and need an open door and a really comfortable guest bed, you and Penny are welcome here in CO anytime. Your friend, Ronnie

    • Thanks, Ronnie. I actually excited about the challenge facing me to make a new home alone in a new place. It would be great to share my life with someone, but I’m not interested in getting into another relationship with someone who holds me back. Sometimes going it alone is the best way. And I will come see you in Colorado. You can bet on it.

  4. hi Maria,

    I’m sorry to hear about your recent travails, but glad you’re starting to think positively about the future, and smiling again. (I suspect Penny the Tiny Dog helps.) I wish you the best in the coming months as everything gets sorted out, and there are definitely worse places to relocate than Wenatchee!

    cheers from Tucson,

    • Thanks Ruth. I’ll get through it.

      What’s interesting about the Wenatchee area is that every single person I’ve spoken to who lives there absolutely LOVES it. I think that says a lot about a place. I’m really looking forward to making it my home.

  5. I’m really sorry to hear about your divorce. 29 years is, well, 29 years. It’s clearly going to take awhile to move through such a major transition but it sounds like you are doing a lot of good things for yourself and have a solid support network.

    On another note, I’m really PSYCHED to hear you are buying property in Wenatchee! View property of the Columbia FTW, right? Sounds like you have a solid plan for turning it into the dream residence for the next chapter of your life.

    • The marriage has been on the rocks since I returned last summer. He was so damn blah about everything and everything I did seemed to piss him off. Living with him was difficult, to saw the least. We got counseling and he told me he’d come to Washington, but then he made other plans and now things are getting ugly. Oh, well.

      Yes, I’m looking at 10 acres in Malaga. Wonderful views of the Columbia and East Wenatchee. Friends in a house 1/2 mile down the road. Enough space for a helipad, etc. Psyched to be starting a new life among such wonderful people. Can’t wait to get started! You’ll have to come visit when I have something set up for guests. Keep in mind, that might take a few years.

What do you think?