Winter Solstice 2014

Happy winter solstice friends, family and readers,

I hope everyone had as heartwarming of a year as I did. My friends and my family has gone above and beyond and helped me more than I ever expected. I feel truly humbled and extremely happy to write this. The last two years can best be summed up by two tarot cards I drew last new years. One was for 2013 one was for 2014. My card for 2013 was the 8 of arrows, struggle. My card for 2014 was the 9 of arrows, dedication.

Tarot Reading 2013

Over the last year I went from slowly dying and saving money to buy a house in Pittsburgh to quitting my job and working on being happy now. I vowed to spend my savings on things that made me happy and in becoming who I truly am – a woman. In August I went on a bike trip to remind myself of who I was and to start telling other about who I am.

Along my trip I had great responses and lots of support. I don’t know where I’d be without all my friends and family. The people near and dear to me stood by me and offered more support than ever. They picked me up when I fell and urged me to keep moving forward. Thinking of them and their unwavering love and support makes me feel free to do and be who I am no matter how scary that seems.

This past year was hard, but rewarding. I struggled but I found myself. I kicked depression and started meditating and being more mindful and present. I haven’t given up on anything but fake me. I left the bike shop world for good and am about to try to get a job working with mentally challenged adults. After that I plan on going to grad school to become a counsellor. My life is coming together and next year is setting itself up to be an even better year than this one.

Planned for next year is a solo backpacking trip to kick it off. After that I have an appointment to get hormones on the 9th of January. Second puberty here I come! I can’t wait to have my body fit my view of it. The next two years will be an exciting long awaited feminizing of myself. All the while I’ll be continuing to find my trueself and find love and happiness within myself instead of in others. As Arcade Fire says, “it’s never over” but that doesn’t mean that everyday it isn’t getting better and better.

States that begin with an I, and some that don’t

Captain Andirus and myself recently went on a trip out to some of the I states. Crossing through Ohio and West Virgina, we finally made it out to visit Anthro Cook, Majesty, The Durn and an unexpected trip to Madison. The trip was quick fun and relieving to finally see this farm of sorts that Majesty works on. Everyone seems to be doing pretty well, everyone was very welcoming of the new me, oh and I can’t forget all the delicious food.

Our first stop is Anthro Cook who now lives in Champagne Illinois with his wife who both work at University of Illinois. They got lucky and found a program that hired the both of them for the same department. They live in a pretty nice house in suburbia right now until they feel out where they’d want to buy a house. Champaign/Urbana is very nice, wide streets, nice campus, but there isn’t a hill in the entire place. No, not even a little one, it is flat flat flat. This is where my dad went to town and while he loved the program he was in he hated the town. I think the town has improved somewhat since, but it certainly hasn’t gotten any hillier since then.

And of course can’t forget the most important part about Illinois, corn. Like the Morrow Plot the second oldest continuously used crop rotation plots, first planted in 1876. Corn matters so much here that then built the library underground because the didn’t want to shade the Morrow Plot.

Morrow Plot

Anthro Cook caught us up on life in Canada, South Carolina and expressed much more glee in living in Illinois, not nearly as cold or racist. And he obviously didn’t and never disappoints with the food and cooked us both delicious food that filled us to the brink every day. It was great to see him, hopefully it won’t be another three years before the next time.

Next stop was outside of Iowa city, The Durn’s house. A favorite, awesome anth professor of many and his equally radical wife who was managing editor of Voices of Central Pennsylvania (progressive magazine in SC). I also hadn’t seen them in 3 years and was happy to know that I was one of the several students The Durn had hoped would visit him. He was on some medication for a recent brain surgery and was a bit slower moving. But he gave a couple of impassioned rants and his wife made up for him by being super talkative and a great tour guide of their property. The property was very cool and large. They are working on bringing back some prairie land from invasive species and planting some fruit trees and a nice garden. We had a great time with them, spending our first night drinking with them and some other middle-aged ladies, wasn’t even a tad weird rather it was a great great time.

After a night and day at The Durns we finally saw Majesty, who (to our relief) wasn’t starving or beaten down but happy and upbeat as he planned his housing situation for the winter in Iowa. The stories of Versaland got scary the closer we got, describing a Lord of the Flies type farm with everything but the pig heads on sticks. The following day we saw the school bus Majesty was living in and all the trailers and all the trees that had worked to plant at Versaland. We met their fearless leader, The G Man, and all the other guys staying on the farm.

The farm was very nice, with a lot of cool projects being headed up by The G Man. The two other farm workers were very nice and friendly and The G Man was very intense but cool, the type of person who would buy a school bus and let Majesty live in it. Sadly our schedules didn’t align so we only spent a little time with The G Man but he certainly has a bunch of innovative projects going on there, and most of them are right up Majesty’s alley.

Versaland Parking

Bus

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Our furthest destination was Madison, Wisconsin. This is where Big S went to school and I completely understand why she tried to go to grad school there too. The town is very spacious and not at all cramped like State College. There are tons of bike lanes and even more people biking around. I swear they even have more trees than Dark Forest, or at least just as many. And then we stayed at Nottingham, a coop on the edge of one of their two huge lakes. The place is beautiful, so beautiful. I even considered moving there for a couple of days, especially after hanging out with the people at Nottingham and after being offered a job at a bike shop that was a huge version of the shop in my basement.

On the way home we stopped at Anthro Cooks again, and made it back home to Pittsburgh the following night. What a whirlwind of a trip, I must say that Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin have it going on. Though Illinois is really really really flat, and most of Iowa isn’t to hilly either.

Book Review: The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter

My Mom gave me the book The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now a few months ago. After getting the courage to read it the whole way through I discovered a great deal and it has propelled me to move forward with my life.

The book is by psychologist, Dr. Meg Jay. She seems to have wrote the book after realizing how many of her clients had misunderstandings of what their twenties were all about and found themselves caught in ruts unable to move forward with their lives. My Mom gave me the book to help me get out of the ruts I was in and to get the most from my twenties. She is really into reading and understanding these things through books and has given me books before about finding out what I want to do with my life. I haven’t gotten around to reading most of the books she gave, but I’m happy I made it through this one.

I started reading this book and put it down after a chapter because it freaked me out too much. At the time there was a couple of other things haunted my thoughts and the last thing I needed was to think about how I wasn’t seizing my twenties. After a long hiatus I finally picked the book up and was able to read it all the way through despite the stresses it brought me at times.

The book talks about people’s twenties by examples of Dr. Jay’s clients. They each have something holding them back or making them unhappy. From working crappy jobs to dating crappy people. Dr. Jay explains a great deal of the twenties and how to enjoy them and make a good solid life for yourself.

One of my favorite clients is Ian, the bike mechanic. He doesn’t want to enter the real world (much like myself) and instead is working a job he doesn’t get satisfaction from. He in particular helped me realize that I need to break out of this rut and move on with what I actually want to do.

Ian viewed himself as being in an endless ocean, he didn’t seem to know where he came from and what he did enjoy doing and didn’t have any idea where he wanted to go in life. I felt much the same way, I had tried community organizing and hated it and found myself lucky enough to know how to work on bikes and be able to use that as a backup job. That backup became a real job and I found myself in the very same ocean. Until I had the courage to look at what I had wanted to do before, what I enjoyed as a kid and still enjoy today.

I spent the weekend in my home town stewing about all of this. I talked to old friends and professors and began realizing what I actually want to do with my life, counselling. This is something that I enjoy doing with friends and have been passionate about for a while. This book was instrumental in this realization and it will assure that I take steps towards this goal.

Before all of this I figured I was feeling things no one had felt before and related only to other people trapped in the same situation. But that isn’t true. Everyone who is thirty made it through their twenties and I’m sure they loved it but I’m sure it was also hard for most of them. My Mom reminded me of this fact when she once again told me the story of how she worked at a bank after college. It wasn’t until she took the leap into joining what is now called AmeriCorps that she broke into doing what she enjoyed. I finally understood this story and how difficult (and fun) being in your twenties really is for just about everyone.

Moving up, err down in the world?

The bike shop I worked at just got kicked out of our space because the liquor store is expanding. Our bowling alley shaped space has been traded in for a much smaller box size room. Technically we did move up, there were 4 stairs to move up to get to our new space. We moved all of the stuff for the front end on Tuesday and Wednesday leaving the other room empty and desolate.

It also highlights how much space we had and how we actually needed a bit less and needed it a bit better organized. Here are pictures of the old space coming in from the front door.

The new space is a lot cozier and homey feeling. It’s also way better organized, you don’t have to pace back and forth just to sell a bike. Instead you can walk around a small circle, but don’t even have to do it that much! I’ll try and take picture of the new space soon.

Though we aren’t quite yet finished moving in. The mechanic’s area still needs to move. It was thought that we could move it before we got kicked out of the old space (The end of December) but it’s becoming clear that just isn’t as plausible as we thought. I’m going to be going in early the next few days to help out move, hopefully we have the place moved in a week or two.

Shop Children

Some bike shops have shop dogs, cats and the last one I worked at had shop squirrels for a couple of months. But the current shop I work at has shop children. They don’t live at the shop just nearby, but one of them, Ernie, did spend over 8 hours at the shop for 3 days in a row. During those days he even tidied up the place a bit, cleaning of bikes and learned how to work on them a bit.

The kids are all BMXers and I believe they started hanging out at the shop after meeting my coworkers at the BMX park. It started slow with them coming and hanging out only briefly but now it has intensified. There are 5 kids in the gang, but they rarely are all together at once. There age range from 13 to 19 or 21. With all but one being from 13 to 15 years old. Most of them are quite entertaining though sometimes they are overwhelming and hard to handle.

They all like us very much, one has even asked a couple of us if we could adopt him. It is nice having them around, they make the shop time much more enjoyable. Especially when they do silly things like Ernie did:

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It’s nice also seeing all of us making a positive impact on their lives. They all really look up to us and we are able to teach them things. Sometimes it’s just how to work on their bike sometimes it’s about other things. I’ve even had the pleasure of showing Ernie how to solve the first two layers of a Rubik’s cube (he was so excited by solving them he went out and bought a cube the next day and figured out how to solve in by watching some videos online.

Having these kids around has reminded me how I hope to work with kids in my future, it’s fun for me to teach them how to do something, especially when they are already interested in it. But for now I just enjoy having them around, they make work go a lot faster and almost always have a positive attitude.

Life plans

Recently I’ve become increasingly frustrated working at bike shops. The work is skilled labor that is seasonal (at least up north) and the pay is mediocre. On top of that sales at my store are down and my hours have been cut to compensate for other’s failures to sell bikes.This along with many other recent happenings have opened my eyes to working with my hands not on bikes but on houses.

When I was still living in Philly I wanted to emulate my landlord/roommate, Half Dreadlock, She had bought the house we lived in and had begun fixing it up, charging us rent that covered the fixing it up part and the mortgage. I figured I could work on houses in at least the same regard as she did and was excited to save up my money to buy a house.

Then my desire began to grow stronger. My landlord explained how he bought houses fixed them up and rented them. Explaining that at the very least I should buy a house and rent out part of it to cover my housing and utility expenses. This was already my goal but he expanded it when we had a longer conversation a second time. This time he asked me, “If you don’t mind me asking what do you see yourself doing with your life?” I replied, “I have no idea.” He through around a bunch of ideas from hydroponic farm to working for the city as a sanitation worker (apparently you can retire after 20 years work with a pension). But the idea that clicked the most in my head was becoming an electrician. The work is skilled labor with your hands, you get paid well and can make over 50k a year. And I’d be able to work for myself once I had enough experience.

Then I went back to Philly and was talking to my old roomies. Half Dreadlocks had just begun expanding her house buying and was about to buy one and looking at a second property. We were talking about work and my work desires in the future when she brought the guy she was buying a house from, “Crazy Dave.” He began working on houses when he was in school for a PhD in physics. He worked for his landlord for some extra money, then one of his landlord’s friends, then some more landlords. Shortly after that he dropped out of school and 15 years later he found himself with over a million dollars in assets, owning 12 properties in Philadelphia. He decided to sell all of them and move to Oregon to work on a sustainable farm.

I began to get excited, realizing this is what I wanted to do and told Half Dreadlock that I may start working for my landlord very soon. She urged me to continue working at an over the table job until I got a mortgage (apparently they are impossible to get one without such a job).

I tried to put the idea on the back burner saying I’d do it after I bought a house, but hours went down and I began working for my landlord. I haven’t done much work but it’s interesting work, very labor intensive. He is very eager for me to work for him more, hoping that I take charge of all his houses and the work being done on them. Essentially being his property manager. I’ve told him I’m just looking for part time work right now but assuming the pay is better than my current job I’m sure I’ll work for him more. What is very cool is that he really wants me to learn a lot, including showing me a house that he wanted me to do the plumbing and electrical work on. I think he recognizes my youthfulness and drive to do good hard work for little money. Meanwhile I recognize his ability to teach me everything I would need to know about working on houses.

It’s all very exciting, I have a current goal of working for my landlord part time, eventually moving to full time. I also plan on buying a decrepit house fairly soon and fixing it up. After I gain my experience I plan on doing freelance work, and being the cheapest of cheap assholes so I can retire early and start doing what I want. Which, the more I’ve been thinking about, is probably teaching kids how to work on stuff. So I feel like working on stuff my whole life will be great experience for that.

Trek of PGH

Trek was my second choice of bike shops, my first wasn’t hiring, but by the things I’d heard about Trek I was excited to work there. I started work a few days after moving in and after a few days quickly realized that the position of mechanic that I applied for (and the position I thought I was hired to do) was not the position I had. I talked to the service manager and he told me that they didn’t have enough money to hire a service writer and a mechanic so they hired me as a service writer. I immediately expressed my frustration, he was unable to resolve many of my concerns which began to disappoint me. More or less he said I was the low man on the totem pole and that there was potential to be a mechanic in the future, but probably not this year.

I called Smiles after work and told her the situation and she urged me to look for work elsewhere so I could actually be a mechanic. She told me what I wanted to hear and what I was feeling getting me even more frustrated about being led on and lied to about my current job. Smiles helped me figure out a plan to deal with this. I reapplied to one bike shop I had applied to before later that day and set up an interview with them.

The interview went really well but I started to realize they were looking for someone with more experience than me. I’ve only been working in shops for just over a year. I have a lot of experience working on bikes, just not in shops. The person they were looking for was someone who could help open a new store they are trying to open in one of the parks up north. While I was okay with trying to do that I certainly wasn’t prepared to do that. They realized that too and didn’t hire me.

I was crushed. I didn’t really really want to work there, but I did really want to be a mechanic. I got really stressed about my future, and then I decided to not worry about it for a week or so. I hadn’t told the people at Trek much at all and continued working with them through this time.

Then a week passed and I realized that I was starting to enjoy Trek. The place is really laid back and low-stress. There is a lot of down time to hangout and talk, the customers are pretty nice. We get lots of tip money (which we use to go bowling, and go on other fun trips), lots of alcohol both beer and hard liquor.

Basically the place seems to be the epitome of bike shops (at least in comparison to my last job at Keswick). People like they job but their job isn’t their life, it’s their means, it’s what they enjoy doing. I’ve been working here for 3 weeks and so far I enjoy it here. I’m not ecstatic about being a service writer, especially because that means I have to help out more on sales, but I must say I enjoy working here quite a bit.