Writing on the Run

This is just one of the many positions I found my new writing desk in as we tried to figure out where we could put it while the kids were here. They’re coming tonight! I’m excited! When we bought the desk, we didn’t expect anyone would come down this year because of Covid. But everybody got shots in arms quicker than we knew and they are not afraid to fly! (I will wait to fly myself until full bar service is restored.) My six year old grandson is bringing his parents and we have a fold out twin bed for him plus the queen-sized bed. The room is small and it just fits those beds, a night table and a suitcase stand. There’s a corner television.

We’re leaving for Michigan soon after they leave, so I had already packed my current work in progress and other files until we’re back in Michigan. We just needed to move the desk from the guest room as it was in the only spot I could fold out my grandson’s bed. So first we tried to put it in our bedroom. But it was a little too long for the wall. I knew at least one of us would run into the sticking out sharp corner in the middle of the night. So Al positioned it like this until we could move a few things around in the living room. We decided it would stay in the living room, because it’s really heavy, and also I really loved that desk because of the large work surface.

Loved, past tense. Al had moved it within a few feet of the space I’d cleared for the now empty desk. My grandson could do his drawing there! I had all the supplies he needed: art paper, markers, stickers…then one of the sides cracked. It was a pretty sturdy desk, especially the expansive wood top. Had a nice subtle curve to it. It would have looked nice. But the sides weren’t super strong. Al could have fixed it but we had ten million things to do before the kids came in and also he just didn’t feel like it. We’d bought it for $100 at our favorite consignment shop, so it was not a great loss. It was one of those pieces of furniture you can break down pretty easily and that’s what he did.

I moved Ben’s art supplies to the coffee table:) But we probably won’t be home much. He can’t wait to go to the beach. And also the dinosaur park in Plant City, where they have over a hundred life-sized and realistically painted dinosaurs, which are his favorite. I’m so excited for my family to be here and then when they leave I can’t wait to get home to Michigan, where I can bring out my book-in-process again. It still needs a lot of work.

We have another big project waiting for us back in Michigan, so I’m not sure how many pages I’ll stack upon the hundred or so already finished. Although I do have an intact desk in Michigan, in fact, a very nice writing room I really love, there. If I could bring it to Florida, I would.

Another Adventure

I have always been a traveller, a wanderer, if only by reading. But I’ve had many real life travels, too, and today I’m heading off to another adventure. Luckily, there’s the Kindle now so I don’t have to pack actual books, which I love but I love having clothing options more. Our destination today is Seattle for a week.

We’ve rented an Airbnb condo five minutes from where my son and grandkids and super DiL live. Since our boys (and grandchildren) live quite a distance, we don’t often get to do typical grandparent activities like watching a soccer or T-ball game. This week we get to do both. I think this is my fifth or sixth time in Seattle.

When I was young and fearless, I hitchhiked to New York City, to Key West and Colorado. Those were magical trips. My eyes were opened wide to a very big world outside of my little town of Taylor, Michigan. It’s impossible to capture those moments again because I’m older now. I’ve tried anyway. New York City has changed since 1972 and Key West is far different than the tourist-free paradise it was in 1974. The Rocky Mountains are probably the same, which is weirdly comforting.

I doubt I’d hop on the back of the motorcycle of a and take a winding road high up the mountain side, in fact I’m certain I would not. That guy on the motorcycle cured me of hitchhiking forever later that night. Either him or the drunk who crashed his truck on the freeway in the rain with me and my friend in it. It’s fun to be young and carefree, but bad shit happens and travel is safer and more comfortable with a plane ticket and my trusty Kindle.

I’ll take some photos and store some memories of family and always wonderful Seattle. I’ll take writing break and refill the creative well. Most important, I’ll get my granny time in and see you next week.

Home Not Home

A few days ago I returned to Michigan from Florida. This photo is of my writing room, the place I missed the most. My husband took a six week leave of absence to spend time with me in our Florida home. I called this time our “practice retirement” although he doesn’t like when I say that. I’m not sure what his problem is with my characterization of our time in Florida. He’s a mystery to me, one I was unable to solve in six short weeks.

I have been retired four blissful years. Al was supposed to retire a few years ago, when we bought a sweet little condo in St Pete, but decided not to at the last minute. Thus I spent two winters alone in St Pete, falling more and more in love with it. Al assures me he is ready to retire (for real this time) by the end of the year. One of the things we are trying to figure out as we go forward is where to live. Michigan, where we both grew up and have lived our entire lives? Where our dearest friends and much of our families live? Or Florida, where we love taking walks on the beach? I feel less anxious in Florida. Michigan winters are misery for me, with the bad weather and worse driving conditions.

After six weeks, I know what I want: to live in Florida in a larger place. One with a writing room. Al is not so sure. And that is the heart of our biggest problem as a married couple. We can’t agree on this. The plan I see rolling out so perfectly appears not to suit him. We don’t have easy agreement. This bothers him less than it does me. He seems willing to take every day as it comes. He throws out suggestions that strike terror into my heart, like the one from last night. Why not sell the Florida place and keep our Michigan home?

We’ve been married 34 years but have not spent any significant time together in at least a decade, maybe more. Al has been working every day, including weekends, and I’ve been writing books. We are each happy in our own way. Yet we both yearn for something more. I want to travel more, to see my grandchildren (and their parents!) more. I want to spend lots more time with the man I married. If we could just agree on where to spend this time.

In Florida, I missed working on my novel and he missed having a sense of purpose. He wants to find something rewarding to do with the rest of his life. I understand that, because I derive great satisfaction from writing. Still, I assured Al I was ready to stop writing novels when he retired if our new life, whatever it turns out to be, makes it difficult. I will always write. But maybe not novels. I enjoy handwriting my morning pages with my favorite pen and notebook. I still love blogging after 17 years right here. I did those things in Florida. What I found was it wasn’t enough. In six short weeks, I learned giving up writing novels will not be so easy. I missed writing my book.

One of the methods I employ when writing a novel is to not worry about what happens next. In my first draft, I don’t plot or outline. Every day, when I am in the rhythm of writing, I know what I need to write that day. By the time I’m done for the day, I have an idea of what comes next. This is how I write books; it’s much more difficult to apply this to living a life. There are no rewrites in life. No revisions. No delete key.

Maybe that’s why Al dislikes my idea of “practice retirement” ~ these past six weeks brought up more questions than answers. The future is hard to plan. Maybe it’s like writing a book. You just take it one day at a time and edit as needed.

Long Distance Love

My son and his family are visiting from Seattle. It’s been so lovely to have them here with me, but I miss them fierce when they’re gone. I live about an hour from where I grew up. One of my brothers still lives in Taylor, our hometown, and the other lives in a neighboring town. My mom lives close to them. None of us strayed far from home.

My dad’s an adventurer. He traveled all the time for his job as a construction electrician. He’s seen the country and loves the sun. He’s retired now and lives in Florida. He and mom are still married. I admit it’s strange, but it works for them. They visit back and forth, but as they get older, it has become more difficult for Dad to drive up here for the summer or for Mom to fly down there in winter.

She was just there, as my dad has had a health scare, and needed surgery. She hated every minute of it but she’s his wife and she wanted to take care of him. They love each other, they really do. They just prefer different climates. I want to move to Florida full time as soon as Al retires, so I understand how Dad feels. My only thing is I am not going to move there without my husband. It comes down to this: I love him more than I hate the cold.

This visit my son told me that grad school was just an excuse to go to California. He got the advanced degree, married in Malibu and moved to Seattle for work. There, they started their family and formed a tight bond with several other couples who are married with kids. I see my grandchildren less than I’d like. The plan is to move to Florida and spend extended periods of time visiting Seattle and Traverse City.

And they’re good about visiting us. Especially in Florida. We’re in St Pete, only two hours from Disney World. Florida, for many of us, is “God’s Waiting Room” but for our grandchildren, Disney World is a little bit of heaven, too.

Good Tidings

I read, signed, and sent my contract for Lily White in Detroit to my publisher yesterday. Yay! Now I must knuckle down and do some work on the ending as I promised my editor I would. Maybe I didn’t mention that before…she loved my story, yes, but the ending fell a little flat for her.

But why? I already knew. It was an epilogue and a clumsy one. My critic partner Tom had already suggested I cut it, but I didn’t, because I had an idea for my character and her arc and I didn’t want to give it up. I still don’t. I have ideas of how to layer those last actions Lily takes to personal freedom into the story a little earlier.

Think I’ll put it in the chapter I was afraid to write, so didn’t. I should have been braver but sometimes a writer just needs her editor to give her a little nudge. It’s a pretty fair bet that if you are afraid to write something, you must do so. Immediately.

Meanwhile, I have a few weeks to make the shift from my St. Pete set next book to editing Lily White, because it’s my publisher’s annual holiday shutdown.

In other news I am still reading Christmas novels. Just finished Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah. I’d read a few of her books before, The Nightingale, Firefly Lane. So when I got a BookBub deal for her older Christmas novel, I took it. And loved it. It might be my favorite Christmas novel this year.

This has been a different kind of holiday, but I’ve really enjoyed it so far, and I hope you have too. I went to Florida, helped Al paint and furnish a guest room, saw my son Mike and his family for five luscious days. They all four fit in the new guest room just fine! Came back to Michigan and maybe eight or so inches of snow, but there will be much more up north when Al and I go see our other son and his family later this week. They live in the snow belt and routinely get way more snow than we do here.

Counting blessings here, my grandchildren are the best. I don’t see them as often as I’d like, so every minute we have together counts. It was so fun to play with Owen and hold little baby Julia in my arms as she napped. I’ve done that with each of them as babies, feed them, they fall asleep in my arms, and instead of putting them down for a nap, I just hold them and drink them in. Babies to hold, books to write, books to read…Christmas doesn’t get any better than this.